After losses to Colombia and Ireland, USMNT’s concerns, as they are often have, lie in the defense

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The 2-1 loss to Colombia on Friday was understandable.

The 4-1 loss to Ireland on Tuesday was unbearable.

And the quandary in which Jurgen Klinsmann’s United States men’s national team finds itself is unfortunately quite predictable.

[ IRELAND-USMNT: Player ratings | Match recap ]

The USMNT again left goalkeepers out to dry, and its supporters learned what it’s like when a superhero isn’t bailing them out. Brad Guzan and Bill Hamid were largely fine between the sticks, but neither pulled a Tim Howard.

Or a Kasey Keller. Or a Brad Friedel. The fact is that while the US has produced a stunning amount of quality goalkeepers, the defense has rarely rose to meet that level. The US has kept just four clean sheets this season, only two since April, and one was against Azerbaijan.

Consider:

– Matt Besler (right), who looked so impressive at the World Cup, brought his second-half Sporting KC form to Ireland and was way out of position when David McGoldrick beat him with a through ball for Anthony Pilkington’s opener.

– Fabian Johnson had been Mr. Versatility for Klinsmann, but looked out of sorts defending on Tuesday. He was part of some good dribbling and combination play moving forward, but poor defensive moments included the giveaway that led to Ireland’s second goal.

source: Getty Images– Geoff Cameron had a few hard luck plays, including the ball that deflected off the Bostonian to give Ireland a 3-1 lead, and Klinsmann would benefit from either keeping him outside or playing him at holding mid.

– Timmy Chandler is a feast or famine player for the States. He was very, very hungry on Tuesday.

– Jermaine Jones, a career midfielder, has been playing in the center of the defense for his past few appearances before being sent home for the MLS playoffs.

– Greg Garza has looked pretty good and is likely the future of the left back position, but was roasted by Shane Long on the rush that led to Ireland’s third goal.

[ MORE: Mexico shocked by Belarus ]

And, again, it’s nothing new. Carlos Bocanegra worked his way back into the side after being left out for a while because the States had few options (and perhaps he shouldn’t have been left out in the first place). Try “Player X” at outside back was the cry even leading up to the World Cup, and there still has even been a spot for Oguchi Onyewu at times despite his club struggles the past few years.

The US needs answers in the back. While both Ireland and the US were playing second-choice players all over the park, the alternatives aren’t there to fall back on. John Anthony Brooks is still on-again, off-again for club and country, DaMarcus Beasley is strong but aging and Omar Gonzalez still needs to find consistency. Same goes for Michael Orozco. DeAndre Yedlin is better as a winger, like Fabian Johnson.

You can see why Clarence Goodson was ticked off to miss the roster for World Cup, but so were a load of other guys. The States have used 26 players in the back this year alone. Twenty-six. But that’s quantity, not quality, and fans are starting to look ahead and hope several of Garza, Shane O’Neill, Erik Palmer-Brown, Dillon Serna, Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers can become the fixtures the side used to have in Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo (even Eddie Pope!).

FA Cup: Chelsea survive trip to Hull, advance to 5th round (video)

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With their 2-1 victory away to EFL Championship side Hull City, Chelsea joined Leicester City, Sheffield United and Norwich City as Premier League sides to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

[ FA CUP ROUNDUP: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance ]

Frank Lampard‘s side got off to a flying start courtesy of Michy Batshuayi‘s deflected finish in the 6th minute, and the Blues were well on their way to a first half of total dominance.

Hull looked more prepared for a fight after halftime, but it mattered very little after Fikayo Tomori was gifted a free header two yards off the goal line. Ross Barkley‘s free kick was well placed at the back post and there was nothing that anyone could do to stop it.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Hull pulled the game back to 2-1 in the 78th minute, and they were more than a little fortunate in how they managed to do so. Kamil Grosicki smacked a free kick with plenty of power and got the deflection of all deflections to wrong-foot Willy Caballero and find the back of the net.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

FA Cup roundup: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance (video)

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round (early) action…

[ MORE: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

West Ham United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion

West Ham were the lone Premier League side to be knocked out by a lower-division side on Saturday, as David Moyes‘ side failed to find the back of the net and were beaten 1-0 by EFL Championship leaders West Brom.

Conor Townsend scored the game’s only goal in the 9th minute, and though the Hammers controlled possession the rest of the way, they created very little in terms of scoring chances and finished the game with just three shots on target. West Brom finished the game with 10 men, but West Ham could do nothing with their 18-minute advantage following Semi Ajayi‘s second yellow card in the 72nd minute.

Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United

Sheffield United’s dream season continued with a comfortable 2-0 victory away to Championship side Millwall. Both goals came inside the final half-hour, but the Blades were unquestionably the better side even before breaking the deadlock.

That came in the 62nd minute, when Muhamed Besic placed a stunning curler inside the far post for 1-0. Not long before full-time, in the 84th, Oliver Norwood drove his effort hard and low and into the corner to make it 2-0.

Burnley 1-2 Norwich City

Norwich and Burnley were largely inseparable for the majority of Saturday’s clash at Turf Moor, save for a four-minute period early in the second half in which Norwich scored twice and booked their place in the fifth round.

Grant Hanley made it 1-0 in the 53rd and Josip Drmic added to the advantage in the 57th minute. Erik Pieters pulled Burnley back to within a goal in the 73rd, but that’s as close as the Clarets would get.

FA Cup fourth-round scoreboard

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur — FULL RECAP
Newcastle United 0-0 Oxford United
Portsmouth 4-2 Barnsley
Coventry City 0-0 Birmingham City
Reading 1-1 Cardiff City

RB Leipzig beaten, Bundesliga title race thrown wide open

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BERLIN (AP) Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Bundesliga leader RB Leipzig 2-0 to throw the title race wide open on Saturday.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Frankfurt defender Almamy Toure scored a brilliant goal just after the break and Filip Kostic sealed the win in injury time to deal Leipzig its first defeat since a 2-1 loss at home to Freiburg in October.

Borussia Monchengladbach cut the gap at the top to two points with a 3-1 win at home over Mainz, thanks largely to goals in each half from French striker Alassane Plea.

Bayern Munich has the chance to cut the gap to one point with a win at home over Schalke in the late game.

[ FA CUP: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

Borussia Dortmund is just four points off the top after its 5-1 win over Cologne on Friday.

Also Saturday, Union Berlin defeated Augsburg 2-0 at home, Hertha Berlin came from behind to win 2-1 at Wolfsburg, and Paderborn moved off the bottom with a 2-0 win at Freiburg.

FA Cup: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay

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Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur played to a virtual stand-still for nearly 60 minutes before Jose Mourinho’s side broke through with a moment of true quality from Son Heung-min and Giovani Lo Celso, but finished right back where they started after Saints hit back late to force a replay in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Prior to that, Lo Celso put the ball in the back of the net and briefly thought it was he who had put Spurs ahead, but the Argentine was denied his third Spurs goal on the basis that the ball hit Son on its way through traffic, and the South Korean was in an offside position.

Spurs’ best chance of the first half chance came and went just minutes later, with Lucas Moura in disbelief and Angus Gunn the hero of the moment. Dele Alli played Lucas into open space inside the penalty area and, with the goal gaping to Gunn’s left and right, Lucas looked to place his right-footed shot inside the far post. Gunn was up to the challenge, though, and pulled off a sensational left-footed save from close range.

Seconds later, Saints had a surefire scoring chance and were denied in equally spectacular fashion. Danny Ings used his chest to control a free kick into the box and looped it goal-bound over the head of Hugo Lloris, only for Japhet Tanganga to make the last-second headed clearance in front of an open net.

[ MORE: Mourinho in favor of PL’s winter break, but says timing all wrong ]

Saints were the first to go ever so close to a goal in the second half. Michael Obafemi crossed from the right side and found Ings inside the six-yard box, where he redirected the ball ever so slightly, but not enough, to send it inches wide of Lloris’ right-hand post.

Following a spell that was all Saints to start the second half, Spurs broke the deadlock through Son in the 58th minute. Lo Celso drove through the heart of Southampton’s midfield before playing the ball to Son near the top of the 18-yard box. He took a touch to set up the shot and fired a left-footed arrow inside the far post.

The lead lasted just shy of 30 minutes, close but not quite over the finish line. With 87 minutes on the clock and a full head of steam over the preceding quarter-hour, Southampton got their hugely deserved equalizer. Sofiane Boufal arrived near the top of the box as Ings’ cut-back ball arrived and the Moroccan international hammered it home.

The two sides will meet again for their fourth-round replay in two weeks at the Tottenham Hotspur. The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.