Rubio Rubin, just 18, shows plenty of promise on U.S. national team debut

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LONDON — On Friday night at Craven Cottage against the No.3-ranked team in the world, 18-year-old striker Rubio Rubin was thrown in at the deep end by Jurgen Klinsmann.

[ RELATED: Player ratings for USA ]

It was sink or swim time, and in his own words Rubin did “fine.” He’s being modest, it was one of the best debuts from a U.S. teenager in recent memory.

After making nine appearances for FC Utrecht in Holland’s Eredivisie this season, Rubin has been in the past couple of U.S. national team squads but earned his first cap in London among hostile surroundings where a cacophony of Colombian noise filled the air in West London. That didn’t put Rubin off.

“Nah, I wasn’t nervous at all going into the game,” Rubin said nonchalantly. “I just wanted to go out there and do my best, work hard for the team. I wanted to work to get a win today but unfortunately that didn’t happen today. If I played 10 minutes or 90 minutes I am always going to do my best as possible. Coach called me in to start and it didn’t change anything. I just go out there and do my best.”

[ RELATED: Three things we learned from USA vs. Colombia ]

This kid is confident and twice came close through headers either side of half time and was integral in winning the USA’s penalty kick for their only goal in the 9th minute, as Rubin provided Jozy Altidore with a perfect foil as they started up top together. That delighted the USA’s head coach.

“I saw an 18-year-old kid, Rubio Rubin, show that he is coming through the system which is exciting to see,” Klinsmann beamed. “We saw individual performances that were just fun to watch.”

[ RELATED: Altidore could have had “four or five goals at World Cup” ]

Rubin is looking forward to developing a close partnership with Altidore and on this showing the 18-year-old is ready to take up a more prominent role with the USA. Speaking to reporters after the game, Altidore revealed that he’s always talking with Rubin after coming through the Dutch top-flight himself. Their bond was evident against Colombia.

“Jozy and I have been practicing this whole week with each other and just seeing how we play,” Rubin said. “He knows how to play with me and I know how to play with him. Everything is not perfect right now but if we continue to play together we are going to bond and that just happens over time.”

Rubin’s big moment to score a memorable debut goal, which would have put the USA 2-0 up, arrived in the 47th minute as Alejandro Bedoya got the ball on the left flank and he picked out the Oregon native at the back post. But as Rubin stooped to get in front of Colombia’s Pablo Armero, he sent a spectacular diving header just past the post.

“I just played behind the defenders back and right when the ball was going to be played, I went in front of him [Armero] but unfortunately I kind of mishit the ball a little bit,’ Rubin explained. “It was an unfortunate chance that I missed, I wish I could have put it away.”

That missed chance aside, Rubin showed so much promise for a teenager starting his first game up top and he put in a great shift for 67 minutes until he was replaced by Bobby Wood. In the lead up to Colombia’s goal you could argue that he could have shielded the ball better, but that’s something he must learn from occasions such as this. That said, with the likes of Chris Wondolowski, Aron Johansson and others failing to take chances up top over the past six months, there’s definitely a chance for the American forward to fastrack his way into the national team.

Klinsmann wanted his young players to get a taste of a hostile atmosphere against a great team on foreign soil to help aid their development. Rubin was a big winner from this match against Colombia and he enjoyed his special night among a sea of yellow in West London.

“Yeah, there were a lot of Colombians out here today. It was like a home game for Colombia,” Rubin smiled. “I didn’t even believe how many Colombians are living in London. It was definitely one of the biggest matches I’ve played in.”

On this showing, he will get to play in plenty more for the USA.

Dortmund hammer Freiburg but gain no ground on Bayern

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Borussia Dortmund moved back within one point of Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich with a 4-0 win against Freiburg on Sunday.

[ LA LIGA: Real Madrid win to stay within striking distance of 2nd ]

Dortmund went ahead in the 11th minute when 19-year-old Jadon Sancho scored from the six-yard box after a run by Marco Reus. It was Sancho’s 11th Bundesliga goal this season.

Dortmund added three after the interval with goals from Reus, Mario Gotze and Paco Alcacer with a penalty.

[ MORE: PSG crowned Ligue 1 champions with five games left ]

In the day’s other game, Hertha Berlin was held 0-0 at home by bottom side Hannover, which ended an eight-game losing streak.

On Saturday, Bayern beat Werder Bremen 1-0.

With four rounds left, Bayern leads with 70 points, Dortmund has 69 and Leipzig is third with 61.

La Liga: Real Madrid win to stay within striking distance of 2nd

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: PSG crowned Ligue 1 champions with five games left ]

Real Madrid 3-0 Athletic Bilbao

Karim Benzema bagged a hat trick (WATCH HERE) — his 19th, 20th and 21st goals of the league season (second-most, 12 behind Lionel Messi) — to send Real Madrid to a comfortable victory over Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu. The result also keeps Los Blancos within four points of capital rivals Atletico Madrid in something of a battle for second place behind runaway leaders Barcelona.

Benzema has scored 10 goals in his last seven La Liga appearances, a run in which Madrid have complied a 5W-1D-1L record. Benzema failed to score in Zinedine Zidane’s re-debut as Madrid manager, but has scored eight goals in five games since.

Sunday’s game marked the 300th league appearance for midfielder and 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric in a Real Madrid shirt.

Getafe 3-0 SevillaWATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Sevilla’s hopes of returning to the UEFA Champions League following a one-year hiatus took a serious hit on Sunday, as Pablo Machin’s side was hammered by Getafe, the side which now occupies fourth place, two points ahead of them. Getafe continue to enjoy their meteoric rise through the Spanish ranks, as they were competing in the second division this time two years ago.

Two of the three goals the scored on Sunday came from the penalty spot, as Jaime Mata and Jorge Molina converted in the 35th and 45th+4′, respectively. Molina completed the scoring eight minutes into the second half.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Valencia
Levante 2-2 Espanyol
Villarreal 2-1 Leganes

PSG wins French league after 2nd-place Lille fails to win

AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain clinched the French league title without kicking a ball as second-place Lille could only draw 0-0 at Toulouse on Sunday.

Lille had to win to have any chance of catching PSG, but PSG is now 16 points ahead of its only rival with five matches left after this weekend.

After failing to clinch the title in the past three matches, drawing one and losing two, PSG can celebrate the eighth title in its history ahead of its home game against Monaco later Sunday.

It is PSG’s sixth title in the last seven seasons, with only Monaco in 2017 breaking PSG’s dominance.

Although the title was long expected from a side scoring 92 goals in 32 games so far, it took longer than it should have.

PSG could have won it three games ago, but drew 2-2 at home to Strasbourg when a win would have clinched it.

Then PSG needed a draw at Lille last Sunday, only to lose 5-1 in the club’s heaviest defeat since Qatari investors QSI took charge of the club in June 2011.

A win away to Nantes would have sufficed, too, on Wednesday night only for PSG to lose 3-2 .

The 10 goals conceded in those three games made for PSG’s worst defensive record during a three-game spell since 1985.

Also Sunday, striker Kalifa Coulibaly scored twice as 13th-place Nantes beat 17th-place Amiens 3-2.

Later, Saint-Etienne needed a draw at Reims to move above Marseille and into fourth place.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Klopp hails Liverpool mettle in face of “proper banana skin”

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Jurgen Klopp knows that more than a few clubs would’ve slipped up Sunday at Cardiff City, given the hosts’ desperation and the visitors’ midweek triumph, but his Reds stood up to the test.

[ RECAP: Cardiff 0-2 Liverpool ]

Liverpool beat Cardiff City 2-0, scoring a pair of second half goals to go back atop the Premier League before Manchester City plays its final match-in-hand of the season in a midweek Manchester Derby.

“It was prepared to be a proper banana skin and we knew that, the boys were unbelievable,” Klopp said after his team kept a second consecutive clean sheet.

He insists that he’s not feeling pressure as Liverpool may need to win every one of its matches and get help to capture its first Premier League crown.

“I only know about me and I didn’t feel it (the pressure) we have to do it like we do it. We cannot change it. The boys try really with all they have, we only speak about the things we have to do. Their attitude is outstanding and it’s a tough season but a very positive one as well.”

Liverpool has two banana skins left, a visit from Huddersfield and trip to Newcastle, closing out the league slate with Wolves at Anfield.