Three things we learned from USA’s heavy defeat to Ireland

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The USA were taught a lesson by the Republic of Ireland’s reserve team in Dublin on Tuesday. No joke.

[ RELATED: U.S. player ratings vs. Ireland ]

Of course, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side weren’t at full strength either but they were slack in defense and gave the ball away cheaply all night as 2014 ended on a sour note for the U.S. national team.

Yes, there were plenty of changes to the team which performed admirably against Colombia last Friday in a narrow 2-1 defeat, but the performances levels dropped off alarmingly as another collapse occurred in the second half at the Aviva Stadium.

Here are three things we learned as the curtain came down on the USA’s 2014 season.

Possession matters, as late collapses continue

Following the USA’s 2-1 defeat to Colombia last Friday, I sang off a pretty similar hymn sheet regarding the U.S. giving up late goals at an alarming rate. Well, it happened again against the Republic of Ireland. The USA lead Colombia 1-0 last week and lost 2-1. They were beating both Honduras and Ecuador 1-0 at half time in October and drew both those games after coughing up equalizers in the final five minutes. Against Ireland they went in level at the break with the scores locked at 1-1 but then fell apart and gave up two more goals late. That is now 11 goals in their last 11 games which have come in the 80th minute or later for the USA.

[ RELATED: Defensive issues remain for USA ]

You can point the finger of blame at individual players for mistakes, but both backlines against Colombia and Ireland were vastly different. It is the mindset that needs to change. Not only to defend better, but to keep the ball from the opposition. It’s an old adage that rings so true. “If the opposition don’t have the ball, they can’t score.”

Time and time again the USA gave the ball away cheaply — the U.S. misplaced 24 passes in their own half — as they tried to build from the back but the ball kept coming back at them. Center back Geoff Cameron was the most successful at doing so but the link between defense and midfield just wasn’t there. In truth, it hasn’t been there for quite some time and simply has to change if the U.S. are to kick on.

source: Getty Images
Besler looked tired and jaded as the USA collapsed late in the game.

Some players have huge question marks over their heads

The likes of Timmy Chandler, Chris Wondolowski and even Fabian Johnson should start to get a little nervous when it comes to their USMNT future. Wondo was hooked off at half time after several poor touches, even though he redeemed himself by setting up the USA’s long goal with a beautiful cushioned header. Was that enough to get the ‘boo boys’ off his back? As for Chandler he looked nervous, got caught out by Anthony Pilkington’s runs, was hesitant to join attacks and gave the ball away cheaply.

His days with the USA could be numbered, and shockingly Fabian Johnson could be nervously looking over his shoulder. After performing so well at the World Cup, Johnson had a bit of a nightmare against Colombia last Friday and gave the ball away in a horrendous area for Ireland’s go-ahead goal in the second half. Johnson will have time to turn things around, but needs to play regularly at Borussia Monchengladbach. There are plenty of others in that boat as Matt Besler looked tired and jaded at the back, with his poor post-World Cup form continued. Speaking of tiredness…

After a busy 2014, the U.S. players need a break

Quite simple this one. The players are beat up, especially those guys who ply their trade in Major League Soccer. Recently I spoke with Besler in London who has just gone about a year straight playing professional soccer at the highest level in MLS and with the USA at the World Cup. If you look around the U.S. team, there are plenty of guys like him. These recent friendlies highlighted plenty of chinks in the USA’s armor but the players were weak, vulnerable and looked tired. After several two-a-day sessions in London over the last week, the U.S. put in one final tired display of 2014 but is it good enough for these international caliber players to be lacking fitness?

Speaking after the late collapse to Colombia last week, this is the reason Klinsmann gave for his side continuing to wilt late in games. Hint: he’s guys might be tired.

“It comes down to many reasons. We have many players struggling after the World Cup to get back into shape, especially European players who lost starting spots,” Klinsmann explained. “Right now they are on their way back but it took quite a long time because they came late in the preseason. They are not as fit yet to play right away. Jozy, Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, John Brooks, Julian Green, all of them they have struggled. Other players have struggled with their form after the World Cup because it is a huge deal. Coming out of a World Cup you have to realize that 90 minutes is not always coming out of their legs… Some players you see them go downhill after 70 minutes and that is why we conceded a goal against Ecuador two minutes from the end and now again today [against Colombia].”

Man City vs Man United: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Manchester City vs Manchester United: Erling Haaland is set for his Manchester derby debut when the two-time defending champions host the rapidly improving Red Devils at Etihad Stadium on Sunday (watch live, 9 am ET on Peacock Premium). 

STREAM LIVE MAN CITY vs MAN UNITED

Haaland has taken the Premier League by storm with an absurd 11 goals scored in his first seven games after (ostensibly) choosing Man City over Man United before leaving Borussia Dortmund this summer.

Six weeks ago, Manchester United had not a single point from their first two games, including a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of tiny Brentford, but Erik ten Hag has since switched tactical course en route to four straight wins, including a 3-1 victory over PL leaders Arsenal last time out, to set up this hugely intriguing showdown on Sunday.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Man City vs Man United

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Manchester City vs Manchester United live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 9 am ET, Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Key storylines & star players

Despite a pair of disappointing draws (Newcastle and Aston Villa), it’s been an unbeaten start to the 2022-23 season for Man City, who still lead the PL in possession (66.4 percent per game) while also becoming an unstoppable offensive force from last season (14 goals in their first seven games) to this season (23). That’s not to say it’s been easy as Manchester City go through a tactical shift of their own to better appeal to the big Norwegian’s poaching abilities. Though they have been forced to grind out results a few times already this season, it’s highlighted a newfound spontaneity for a side that’s been as regimented as any in the world. Will that freedom be what ultimately lands Pep Guardiola his first Champions League trophy since 2011, and perhaps a third straight PL title (and a fifth in six years) to boot?

As for Manchester United, the Ten Hag era has been a wild roller-coaster ride already, short as it’s been. The back-to-back defeats were one thing, but the abject performances were the real cause for discontent. While picking up the four straight victories, the Dutchman has also settled on a midfield setup with Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen operating in (effectively) a double pivot with Bruno Fernandes the most advanced of the three. It has brought defensive stability, of course, but more importantly the change has revealed a deadly counter-attacking side. Each of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Fernandes have scored twice during the winning run, with new boy Antony also getting in on the fun on his debut. With space in behind (and the proper service from deep), Ten Hag might just have his first winning formula (albeit quite unlike him).


Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Kalvin Phillips (shoulder), John Stones (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Aymeric Laporte (knee)

Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Harry Maguire (hamstring), Marcus Rashford (thigh), Brandon Williams (undisclosed), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE, Donny van de Beek (knock), Martin Dubravka (knock)

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WATCH: Lionel Messi spins gorgeous free kick goal past Nice’s Schmeichel

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Lionel Messi got the better of Kasper Schmeichel with an outstanding free kick as Paris Saint-Germain outlasted Nice 2-1 on Saturday at the Parc des Princes.

The world’s greatest scorer was fouled to set up a free kick just inside the arc. Nice, of course, got into a wall and former Leicester City keeper Kasper Schmeichel arranged it to his liking.

As he does so many times, however, Messi spun a free kick just over the wall. The ball, which came so close to taking a slight turn off a leaping wall member (actually, did it?), tumbled down and right into the side netting to give PSG a 1-0 lead before the match was a half-hour old.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi scores relentless Groningen goal ]

Gaetan Laborde tied the match before halftime, and Nice’s revamped roster looked set to hold tight for a point (The club’s signed familiar Premier League names Schmeichel, Ross Barkley, Aaron Ramsey, and Mario Lemina).

Even that wouldn’t be enough, though, as Kylian Mbappe came off the bench to replace young Hugo Ekitike to finish a Nordi Mukiele assist for a 2-1 win.

PSG has eight wins and a draw this season, good for a two-point lead on second-place Marseille. Messi has five goals and a joint-league-best seven assists, tied with Neymar. Mbappe and Neymar are tied for the league goals lead with eight.

Lionel Messi free kick goal video

USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi defies xG with relentless goal (video)

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USMNT forward Ricardo Pepi’s goal while trying to will Groningen back into an eventual 4-1 loss to AZ Alkmaar on Saturday will not be one of the expected variety.

The 19-year-old striker, on loan from Augsburg, ran onto an audacious long pass from 20-year-old defender Neraysho Kasanwirjo but had plenty of work to do with AZ leading 2-0.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez scores audacious overhead goal ]

Pepi sees one defender fall in a race to the ball, then bodies up AZ’s Sam Beukema a little outside the six-yard box.

Hand-to-hand combat sees both players hit the turf, and Pepi probably could won a penalty.

But the World Cup hopeful spins while on the pitch and snaps a shot past charging AZ goalkeeper Hobie Verhulst to make it 2-1.

Video after the jump.

Ricardo Pepi
fotmob.com

Ricardo Pepi goal video: Fantastic start to Groningen loan

Pepi now has a goal or an assist in his first three Eredivisie outings, not unlike his fantastic start to life in a USMNT shirt.

His goal contributions have taken a dive since his first two USMNT matches — World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Jamaica — and he only has one assist from the following 10 outings in a U.S. shirt.

Still, Pepi is clearly one of Gregg Berhalter’s favorite options for the upcoming World Cup, and his performances will be measured against Union Berlin’s Jordan Pefok, FC Dallas’ Jesus Ferreira, and others.

In a tournament where every moment matters, his work for this scrappy finish will be well-noted by the USMNT staff.

Josef Martinez scores vicious overhead kick in Atlanta United loss (video)

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If this is the last goal of Josef Martinez’s (likely) final season with Atlanta United, it will be very appropriate.

So for Martinez, even in a losing effort, to go airborne for an overhead kick that is a simply sensational feat of athleticism and power, well, it just feels right.

The 29-year-old Venezuelan forward joined the Five Stripes in 2017 in what seemed a massive capture for the club at the time and now seems downright gargantuan, but he’s fallen out with current manager Gonzalo Pineda and was even suspended for a match last month.

[ MORE: West Ham beats Wolves | Klopp reacts to latest setback ]

Martinez has nine goals and four assists in an injury-abbreviated 25-game season, giving him 111 goals in 156 appearances for ATL UTD. The former Torino and Young Boys striker is still being capped for Venezuela and would leave with an MLS Cup, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and Campeones Cup as well as a boatload of individual honors.

Atlanta lost 2-1 to New England on Saturday and returns home for their season finale next weekend versus New York City FC. The Five Stripes won’t make the playoffs unless at least two teams decide not to field teams, so if the NYCFC game doesn’t go well, let’s pretend this one was his final appearance for the club.