Player Ratings: Some good, some not so good in Chile’s 3-2 win over the U.S.

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A free-flowing January friendly in Chile started off well for the United States men’s national team before devolving into an all-too-familiar result: a blown lead.

While losing a second half lead or three isn’t the end of the world — the bevy of substitutions in friendlies provide lots of slop — allowing 9 goals and scoring zero over their last five second halves is a big concern for Jurgen Klinsmann.

[ MATCH RECAP: Chile 3-2 USMNT ]

Klinsmann opted for a 3-5-2 to start, a formation that provided some offense early and often but was anything but strong in the back. Let’s take a look at how each participant fared.

Starters (1-10, with 1-minnow, 5-average, 10-World Cup winner)

Nick Rimando – Made a couple of brilliant saves in the first half and had a heck of a time organizing his defense, but his work on the second Chilean goal was ugly. It’s easy to forget that Tim Howards don’t grow on trees. 5

Matt Besler – Beauty of an assist on Brek Shea’s early goal, and really calmed down in the latter stages. Couldn’t react on the first Chilean goal and, while you’d like to give a mulligan due to Jones’ newness at center back, Besler had some poor moments. 5

Jermaine Jones – Watching Jones play center back has a lot of Looney Tunes/Tasmanian Devil qualities to it. Jones lost his man on the first Chile goal and was out-jumped on what could’ve been a second (ruled out for offsides). Made some athletic plays as usual, but he may want to burn this match film. 5

Steve Birnbaum – Faded down the stretch but looked good for the better part of an hour, especially considering it was his first USMNT cap. Throw in doing a job in an unfamiliar formation and a decent scoring chance, and he was okay. 6

Brek Shea – He’s infuriating. Gifted with great size, pace, attacking instincts and a rocket for a left foot, Shea made Klinsmann look like a genius with his sixth minute goal. But he had a number of lackadaisical moments on-and-off the ball, and his petulant tackle late in the game could’ve easily landed him a red card. He didn’t show the defensive acumen to have, really, much defensive responsibility at all. 5

Mix Diskerud – His movement and assist on Jozy Altidore’s goal earned him a trip to high-five country, but there weren’t too many more standout moments for the New York City FC midfielder. There also weren’t glaring errors. 7

Clint Dempsey – His pace looked a touch slow , a bit like a veteran who hasn’t played since the MLS Cup Playoffs. Nothing too much to be worried about, as his link-up play with Altidore was good to see. 6

Michael Bradley – Klinsmann had him in a more comfortable, set back role, but the head coach must’ve smirked when Bradley lashed a shot off the cross bar in an advanced role late. 6

DeAndre Yedlin – Gave Chile nightmare moving forward, but also gave the opponents reason to be excited when was defended. Certainly wasn’t bad, though his raw nature shone through when he had a chance to score on a 1v1 in the first half. Was instrumental in the second U.S. goal, but also played a role in the second and third goals conceded. 6

Jozy Altidore – He continues to score goals with a USMNT jersey on, and Toronto FC fans should be plenty excited to see what the big man does in MLS. Made some strong, instinctive hold-up plays and the goal was super solid. Looked dead tired by the time he subbed out, and for about 20 minutes before that. 6

Bobby Wood – His poor club form was not fixed on Wednesday. Wood struggled to be a part of the play and may’ve made Yedlin’s missed cross look worse than it was by not going hard to the back post. Pulled after 45 minutes. 3

Subs

Lee Nguyen – Picked up a quick yellow and found the real estate pretty congested for most of his time on the pitch. Couldn’t put the game on his own terms, like we saw with New England this summer. 5

Chris Wondolowski – Flashed a good header across goal but the chances were limited by the time he subbed into the match. 5

Wil Trapp – Looked lost on Chile’s third goal and didn’t have a wondrous debut. That said, you can forgive jitters and ineffective play from an otherwise promising 22-year-old. 4

Gyasi Zardes – Like Trapp, he faced several, “This ain’t MLS” moments, but he looked more comfortable than the Crew midfielder. Created a dynamic chance late that almost fooled Herrera into giving up what would’ve been a huge equalizer. 5

Ranking the Ballon d’Or finalists

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The Ballon d’Or finalists for 2019 were announced by France Football on Monday, and there has been plenty of discussion not only about players included in the shortlist or those that missed out, but who deserves to win the highest award in the game.

So, who does?

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With seven players from Liverpool, five from Man City and the usual suspects in Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi all nominated, some stars left out include Harry Kane, Neymar and N’Golo Kante to name a few.

Below we rank the finalists, 30-1, in terms of who we think are the best players.

Feel free to do the same in the comments section below.


30. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
29. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)
28. Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)
27. Marquinhos (PSG)
26. Donny van de Beek (Ajax)
25. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham)
24. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)
23. Riyad Mahrez (Man City)
22. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)
21. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
20. Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona)
19. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
18. Sergio Aguero (Man City)
17. Dusan Tadic (Ajax)
16. Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
15. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
14. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)
13. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
12. Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)
11. Bernardo Silva (Man City)
10. Alisson (Liverpool)
9. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
8. Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)
7. Frenkie De Jong (Barcelona)
6. Kylian Mbappe (PSG)
5. Raheem Sterling (Man City)
4. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
1. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool)

Xhaka slams “bulls***” criticism of Arsenal

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Arsenal have been targets for a lot of criticism recently.

Granit Xhaka is usually at the center of it.

The Gunners captain came out all guns blazing after they lost 1-0 at Sheffield United on Monday, as he addressed Patrice Evra‘s comments that Arsenal are “babies” and always will be due to their mentality.

“We have to stop about mental [strength] bulls*** like this. For me, it is the same whether you play home or away – you have to win and show big character and a good game and not to always find the same excuse,” Xhaka said. “A lot of people they speak too much. It is not the first time he has spoken something about us. I have a lot of respect for him as he was a great player but you have to be careful what you say. But it is not only him – a lot of people speak a lot of bulls*** about us. It’s always the same.

“For me it is strange as they were in the same situation as us, they were players as well. Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not always good but every week they speak bulls*** like this every week. I tell you the honest truth, I’m not interested in what people say and speak. We have to speak in our group to improve things and work hard and not listen to these people.”

Xhaka and Arsenal have only lost twice this season, 3-1 at Liverpool and 1-0 at Sheffield United.

But aside from being fifth in the table and two points outside the top four, pressure is being placed on Unai Emery and his squad as they’ve narrowly beaten Bournemouth, Burnley, Newcastle and Aston Villa so far. Their performances aren’t instilling confidence in anyone that they can seriously push for a top four finish this season.

Has much changed under Emery in the past 15 months? Nope. This is pretty much the same Arsenal team making the same old mistakes and looking vulnerable away from home. Nothing new here. Sure, some new players have arrived, but David Luiz, Pepe and Sokratis have all been hit and miss so far and it has been left to Matteo Guendouzi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to try and rescue the Gunners each and every week.

Emery was supposed to change their style of play, develop them into a stronger team defensively and improve their chances of challenging for trophies once again.

None of that has happened, and it doesn’t look closer to happening. That is why the critics are circling around the Gunners. Monday was the perfect opportunity to prove their mentality had changed and they are a stronger, more balanced team under Emery. They aren’t and something drastic will have to change for them if Emery is going to win over the fans, and pundits, once again.

Ronaldo not ready for retirement: ‘Age is just a number’

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Cristiano Ronaldo reassured Juventus supporters and his legions of fans worldwide that at 34 he’s not ready for retirement yet.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule

“Age is just a number. It does not mean that at 34, 35, 36 you are at the end of your career,” Ronaldo said at a news conference ahead of Juventus’ Champions League match against Lokomotiv Moscow on Tuesday. “I can show that with my performances, how I play, the way I play, the way I still feel good, sharp, thinking about the game, more mature. This makes the difference.”

In the second season of a four-year deal at Juventus, Ronaldo had sparked concern among his fans when he said in an interview published a few weeks ago that he was starting to enjoy seeing himself “outside of football, so who knows what will happen in the next year or two?”

Ronaldo recently scored his 700th goal as a professional while on international duty with Portugal and has been nominated for a record sixth Ballon d’Or award – which would break his tie of five with Lionel Messi.

But Ronaldo said he’s more interested in winning a treble with Juventus.

“We want to win Serie A, we want to win the Cup, the Champions League,” he said. “Juventus should think big. … We are going to try to win all the trophies, we know it will be difficult, especially the league and the Champions League, but I think it is possible. Everything is possible.

“In terms of individual, I have nothing to say as this is individual. It is not the most important thing,” Ronaldo added. “The most important is the collective awards. If you win the collective awards you have more chance to win the individual awards. … The Golden Ball is for me in second place.”

While retirement may not be on Ronaldo’s mind yet, family time is a big part of his life now.

“To win games, to score goals, to enjoy myself, to arrive home and see my kids happy and say, `Congratulations daddy for scoring a goal.’ That makes me happy,” he said. “This is my motivation to come to train, for the games, to entertain people and the fans with my passion.”

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

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AndrewDampf

Carragher apologizes to Evra over Suarez t-shirts

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Jamie Carragher has apologized to Patrice Evra after Liverpool wore t-shirts in support of Luis Suarez in 2011.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The day after Suarez was banned for eight games by the English Football Association, who found him guilty of racially abusing Evra, Liverpool’s players put on t-shirts with Suarez on the front and back during their warm up in a Premier League game against Wigan Athletic.

Carragher and Evra were both analysts for our partners at Sky Sports in the UK on Monday Night Football for the clash between Sheffield United and Arsenal, and discussed the current problems with racism in the game.

“There is no doubt we made a massive mistake; that was obvious,” Carragher said.

Liverpool’s former vice-captain asked Evra how he felt regarding the situation with Suarez, and the former Man United, Juventus and Monaco left back revealed his disgust at the way the situation was handled.

“When I saw it I was like, this is ridiculous. This is unbelievable,” Evra said. You put your own club in danger when you do those things. You always have to support your player because he is from your team but this was after the ban. If it was before and we were waiting for the sanction, I would understand. What message do you send to the world? Supporting someone being banned because he used some racist words.”

Click play on the video above for the full discussion between Carragher and Evra.