USA 2-0 Panama: Much improved performance sees USMNT snap winless streak

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The U.S. national team snapped its frustrating five-game winless streak with a 2-0 victory over Panama at StubHub Center on Sunday, giving Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT just its second victory since the 2014 World Cup.

[ Follow: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

The stars of the show turned out to be two players who’ve not participated in many January camps and friendlies in recent years as USMNT regulars Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey only returned to Major League Soccer within the last 18 months. Their respective club situations aside, it’s a very welcome sight to see, the USMNT’s two biggest stars kicking off an hugely important 2015 with strong performances.

The first chance of the game fell the way of Panama in the 14th minute, as Eric Davis got behind the USMNT backline and squared himself up with Nick Rimando, but the American goalkeeper made himself big and made the save.

[ PLAYER RATINGS: Bradley, Dempsey star vs. Panama, but who else improved their stock? ]

The USMNT enjoyed a fruitful spell of possession in Panama’s defensive third right around the 20-minute mark as Jozy Altidore won a free kick on the edge of the penalty area, Gyasi Zardes provided a pair of quality crosses into the middle of the box from the left and Michael Bradley’s in-swinging corner kick cause Panamanian goalkeeper Jaime Penedo all sorts of trouble at the near post.

Panama nearly broke that spell with a great chance of their own as Blas Perez got onto the end of a through ball 10 yards from goal, but Brek Shea was quick to dive in and block Perez’s shot.

Michael Bradley put the USMNT on top with an olimpico in the 27th minute. Delivering a corner kick from the left side of attack, Bradley’s superb set piece delivery continued as his shot floated and floated toward the back post, eluding the heads of defenders and attackers a like, forcing Penedo to backpedal and backpedal, and nestling itself into the upper-90 for the game’s opening goal.

[ WATCH: Bradley’s olimpico puts the USA up 1-0 ]

Clint Dempsey, perhaps with only his second or third touch of the game, double the USMNT’s lead in the 37th minute. Gyasi Zardes made a surging run through the heart of midfield, slipped a perfectly weighted through ball to Dempsey as he split the Panamanian backline. Dempsey’s first and second touches were a tricky piece of footwork to skirt one defender and the goalkeeper, and roll the ball over the goal line.

source: Getty ImagesPerez had a golden opportunity to pull one back for Panama in the 41st minute as he suddenly found himself one-on-one against Rimando after a slip by Matt Besler, but Perez smashed his shot well wide of the near post.

As the game opened up a bit, the USMNT counter-attack came to the forefront as Bradley nearly bagged a brace in the 43rd minute. Atidore made a driving run with the ball down the left wing, crossed to Zardes at the top of the penalty area. Zardes chested the ball down, into the path of the late-arriving Bradley who took a powerful shot on the half-volley from 20 yards out. The shot stayed low and Penedo did well to trap and hold the blistering shot.

[ THREE THINGS: What we learned from USA 2-0 Panama ]

The game’s second half provided a pace familiar to that of the first half, but was seriously lacking in terms of quality, connection of passes and chances created.

Klinsmann looked to his bench in the second half, handing USMNT debuts to FC Dallas Matt Hedges and D.C. United midfielder Perry Kitchen, a second USMNT cap to Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil, and an additional 15 minutes of game time to New England Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen.

The USMNT now takes a break until March 25 (Denmark) and March 31 (Switzerland) as players return to — in many cases — their MLS clubs for preseason and the start of the 2015 season. The 2015 Gold Cup is 109 days away.

LINEUP

USA: Nick Rimando (Sean Johnson 46′), DeAndre Yedlin (Matt Hedges 72′), Jermaine Jones, Matt Besler, Brek Shea, Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud (Perry Kitchen 72′), Gyasi Zardes, Clint Dempsey (Luis Gil 81′), Miguel Ibarra (Lee Nguyen 79′), Jozy Altidore (Chris Wondolowski 46′)

Goals: Bradley (27′), Dempsey (37′)

Berhalter made almost as much as Ellis in first few months

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NEW YORK (AP) American men’s soccer coach Gregg Berhalter earned nearly as much from the U.S. Soccer Federation in his first four months as women’s counterpart Jill Ellis took home in 12.

[ MORE: Messi says Barcelona is “home,” but he “sees weird things happening” ]

Berhalter, hired on Dec. 2, 2018, had compensation of $304,113 from the USSF in the year ending last March 31, according to the tax return released by the federation on Wednesday. That figure included a $200,000 signing bonus.

Ellis, who became women’s coach in May 2014, had compensation of $390,409 in the fiscal year. She went on to lead the Americans to their second straight World Cup title, was voted FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year, then left in October. Any bonus she earned as a result of the title likely will be listed on the next year’s tax return.

Her base salary was raised to $500,000 in late 2018, a person with knowledge of her contract told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the USSF has not announced that.

The USSF has said she was the highest-paid women’s coach in the world.

Tab Ramos, who was the men’s under-20 team coach before leaving in October to become coach of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo, outearned Ellis with compensation of $460,772.

Ellis did earn more than Earnie Stewart ($291,667), hired as men’s general manager in June 2018, and Dave Sarachan ($241,869), interim men’s national team coach from October 2017 until Berhalter was hired.

[ MORE: Guardiola will not leave Man City: “Truth will prevail” ]

Jürgen Klinsmann, fired as men’s coach in November 2016, was paid $1,475,000 on Feb. 1, 2018. He received $3,354,167 in the year ending March 31, 2018.

Bruce Arena, who replaced Klinsmann and led the men’s team through its failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup , was not listed on the latest return. He received $1,249,348 in the year ending March 31, 2018, which included what was listed on that return as a $300,000 settlement.

Earnings were listed for several of the players on the U.S. women team, including Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd (both $313,390), Crystal Dunn ($312,142), Lindsey Horan ($304,142) and Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher and Megan Rapinoe (all $304,140).

Their salaries ranged from $164,642 to $171,140 and include $100,000 for time with the national team. The remainder is what the federation pays for the time with clubs in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Bonuses were from $133,000 to $146,000 and include per match fees and the payment for qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.

Women’s national team players have filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the USSF that is scheduled for trial starting May 5 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The top two salaries of the administrative staff were chief executive officer Dan Flynn ($899,440) and chief commercial and strategy officer Jay Berhalter ($779,765), the coach’s brother. Flynn retired in September and the federation said Jay Berhalter is leaving at the end of February.

Messi says Barcelona is ‘home,’ but he ‘sees weird things happening’

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Lionel Messi is not sure what to make of recent allegations that Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is responsible a social media campaign which set out to criticize the club’s top players while also aiming to rebuild his own reputation.

[ MORE: Pep’s not-so-subtle warning to Barcelona: “Don’t talk too loudly” ]

Messi once again called Barcelona his “home,” though he also admitted that he “sees weird things happening,” presumably referring to statements made in recent months and weeks by members of the Barca hierarchy, including Bartomeu and sporting director Eric Abidal.

For a club of Barcelona’s size and stature to be airing this much dirty laundry for the world to see is certainly weird, to say the least. Messi sounds like he’s desperate to remain at the club and finish his career there, though it’s beginning to sound as if certain individuals have other ideas — quotes from the Guardian:

“I was a little surprised because I was not present, I was traveling. When I arrived, I discovered it all bit by bit. The president told us the same things he said in public, the same things he said at a press conference — what was the situation, what had happened. And I cannot say more.

“The truth is that I see weird things happening. But, it was also said that there would be evidence. We will have to wait to see if it is true or not. We can’t say much and we have to wait and see what happens. Frankly, the subject seems strange to me.”

“I love Barcelona, although I miss Rosario very much.

“This is my home, I was here longer than in Argentina. I love Barcelona, the place where I live, Castelldefels, and I live a life that I like very much.”

Pep’s not-so-subtle warning to Barcelona: ‘Don’t talk too loudly’

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Manchester City and Pep Guardiola are currently neck-deep in legal troubles after UEFA handed the Premier League side a two-year European ban last week, leading a handful of clubs and figures from around the continent to delight over their current predicament.

[ MORE: Guardiola will not leave Man City: “Truth will prevail” ]

Guardiola’s message for those folks, including some longtime friends and former co-workers at Barcelona? Essentially, don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house.

Earlier this week, allegations were made that Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who voiced his full support of the punishment handed down by UEFA, was involved in a campaign to bash a number of key players and figures at the club while also attempting to boost his own reputation.

“I don’t know if they spy me, but they know me. It is not necessary to spy me. If they are happy we are suspended, I say to the president of Barcelona, give us two appeals. I ask right now the people trust what they have done. Don’t talk too [loudly], Barcelona. That is my advice because everybody is involved in situations. We are going to appeal and hopefully in the future we can play Champions League against Barcelona.”

Players ‘absolutely dead’: Mourinho finds no faults in Spurs’ performance

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Jose Mourinho can find few, if any, faults in Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-0 defeat to RB Leipzig in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday, as he is simply making do with the very limited and exhausted tools presently at his disposal.

[ MORE: Spurs fall under nonstop pressure from RB Leipzig (video) ]

“[Lucas] Moura was absolutely dead, [Steven] Bergwijn was absolutely dead, [Giovani] Lo Celso was absolutely dead,” Mourinho said as he ran through the list of players forced to play all 90 minutes despite desperately needing a reprieve.

Given his side’s current injury list — Harry Kane, Son-Heung Min, Moussa Sissoko and Juan Foyth are all out, while Lo Celso, Erik Lamela and Ben Davies have only just returned to the team in recent days — Mourinho was emphatic in stating his players “did everything they could do” — quotes from the BBC:

“What do you mean by ‘the real Spurs?’ Come on, let’s be loyal to the boys and tell them they did everything they could do.

“Lamela — you know how many training sessions with the team? Zero. Direct from injury to recovery with physios and then direct to 20 minutes in the Champions League.

“There are two perspectives — an amazing group and amazing guys, but another side you see how we are at the moment. It’s a situation like going to fight with a gun without bullets.

“You can say we had luck in some moments, but a great goalkeeper made two magnificent saves. I’m not worried with the 1-0. We can go there and win. What worries me is that these are our players for the next however many matches.

“Moura was absolutely dead, Bergwijn was absolutely dead, Lo Celso was absolutely dead. We are really in trouble. If it was just this game I’d say no problem but we have FA Cup and Premier League games.

“I know Lamela could only give us 20 minutes and I knew Ndombele could not play for 90 minutes. I tried to manage the pieces I had. Don’t tell me Lamela and Ndombele could have started the game, they couldn’t have started the game.

“Here we go, Chelsea [Spurs’ opponent at 7:30 a.m. ET on Saturday], drinking sparkling water with lemon. Saturday morning [looking at the interviewer — the game was moved for television coverage] — thank you very much for the choice.”

Tottenham’s recent “winter break” was reduce from 14 to 10 days when they were forced to face Southampton in a fourth-round FA Cup replay two weeks ago today.