Who were biggest winners, losers from USMNT’s March friendlies?


After two mixed displays in a 3-2 defeat at Denmark and a 1-1 draw at Switzerland, there are plenty of question marks surrounding the U.S. national team.

Jurgen Klinsmann mixed up his squad and formations over the two friendlies in late March, but which players stood out and who needs to do more to impress?

[ Player ratings | Three things | Altidore’s apology ]

Here’s a look at three in each category.

Big winners

Brek Shea – A stunning free kick to put the USMNT up 1-0 vs. Switzerland and a solid outing at left back and at left wing. A successful March for the Orlando City man as he career continues on the up and up as regular minutes for his club side is making a huge difference. Can Shea lock down the left back spot? On this showing, it is his to lose.

Alejandro Bedoya – The Nantes midfielder was the best player on the pitch for the USA against Switzerland, especially in the first half as he bossed the right flank and whipped in some delicious crosses. Klinsmann deployed Bedoya in central midfield against Denmark, but I think we now know (if it was ever in doubt) that his best position is out on the right.

Danny Williams – Making his first appearance for the U.S. for a year, Williams plugged the holes in midfield superbly. He isn’t a flashy player but sat in the center of midfield vs. Switzerland and stopped Inler and Co. dominating possession. The Reading midfielder is well and truly back in the USMNT picture as a real option for the Gold Cup as a holding midfielder.

Big losers

Aron Johannsson – Okay, so he scored against Denmark with a tidy finish… but what else did Johannsson do? Yes, his job is to score goals and he did that, but am I alone in always wanting more from the Icelandic-American? The fact that he was injured for the second game means he missed an opportunity to play in just his second USMNT game since the World Cup. The saving grace for Johannsson is that there aren’t many other forwards in the depth chart for the U.S. at the moment.

Timmy Chandler – Yes, he can whip in a lovely ball from the right flank, but sloppy defending allowed Denmark in too many times in the first friendly and he could have given away a PK for handball against Switzerland and also made a huge error in the first half to let the Swiss in. Jury is still out. Solid but we certainly haven’t seen Chandler’s club form replicate on the international stage.

Nick Rimando – I’d be very surprised if Rimando isn’t on the U.S. squad for the Gold Cup this summer, but he now has plenty of competition. William Yarbrough replaced Rimando at half time of the Swiss game after the Real Salt Lake goalkeeper struggled with his kicking in the first half. With Yarbrough and Cody Cropper breathing down Rimando’s neck, maybe he will be phased out over the next 6-8 months. That’s saying more about giving young guys a chance to shine rather than Rimando’s goalkeeping ability, as his reflexes and experience will never be called into question. But, father time is catching up with the 35-year-old and a young understudy to Tim Howard and Brad Guzan should be the priority for Klinsmann.

Quick mentions: Tim Ream – why didn’t the Bolton Wanderers man play more at CB? DeAndre Yedlin – a couple of sub appearances. Would have liked to have seen more, especially after no action at Spurs. Michael Bradley – his touches in the final third have been scrutinized, but why exactly is JK deploying him in an attacking midfield role instead of his preferred holding position?

After VAR drama, does new handball law need to change?

Leave a comment

The fallout from Manchester City and Tottenham’s wild 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium continues, as late VAR drama stole the show with Gabriel Jesus‘ strike ruled out deep into second half stoppage time.

[ MORE: VAR drama dominates

Jesus’ goal in stoppage time was ruled out for a handball on Aymeric Laporte after being checked by VAR, as the new laws brought in by IFAB this summer were interpreted correctly. The exact same thing happened as Wolves had a goal chalked out against Leicester during the opening weekend of the season.

But do those new laws need to be tweaked?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The new rules state that if there’s a handball in the box from an attacking player which either a) leads to the ball going into the net or b) leads directly to a goal being scored, then it will be called a handball.

However, the same law states that if a defending player handles in the box then it is down to the referees discretion to decide whether or not it was a deliberate handball.

As you’d expected, Man City midfielder Ilkay Gunodgan has strong feelings on this law change, and our broadcast crew discuss whether or not this law needs to be changed in the video above.

The overall feeling is that the law needs to tweaking to state that handballs in the box by either attacking or defending players are treated the same and called a handball.

Watch Live: Sheffield United v. Crystal Palace

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sheffield United host Crystal Palace at Bramall Lane on Sunrday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Blades fans will enjoy their first home game back in the Premier League.


Chris Wilder, the lifelong United fan who is now their manager, will be emotional and fans of the Yorkshire club will create a heated atmosphere for opponents to visit this season.

In team news Sheffield United are unchanged from the team which drew at Bournemouth last week, with club captain Billy Sharp on the bench.

Crystal Palace bring in star man Wilfried Zaha who starts up top


Zidane says Bale will stay at Real Madrid

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Gareth Bale is staying at Real Madrid.

The Welshman was not wanted by manager Zinedine Zidane, who stated that publicly on many occasions over the summer.

But Bale started and grabbed an assist as 10-man Real beat Celta Vigo 3-1 in their La Liga opener on Saturday and it seems like Zidane is ready to brush all of this Bale talk under the carpet.

“He’s going to stay and we all have to think of that as a positive thing,” Zidane said. “The injury to Eden Hazard was bad luck for us but it didn’t change the plans we had for Bale in this game. Gareth and everyone else here is going to show this shirt the respect it deserves.”

After his move to China broke down at the last minute amid conflicting reports blaming Bale and the club for the collapse of the deal, his future at Real has seemed pretty much dead in the water.

Adding in a serious injury to Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard picking up a knock, and all of a sudden Bale is needed again. But for how long?

He was linked with a loan move to Bayern Munich but Philippe Coutinho moved to Bavaria instead, and Bale wasn’t chased by Premier League clubs during the summer due to his huge wage demands. With the transfer window across many European countries closing at the end of this month, he has run out of options to leave a club where the hierarchy and fans don’t want him.

Bale, 30, is now stuck at Real and he has another three years left on his contract. It will be interesting to see how this plays out for the man who has won four Champions League trophies at Real, yet has become the main villain at the Santiago Bernabeu as fans lambast him for playing golf and not learning to speak Spanish fluently during his six years in Spain.

Ibrahimovic scores twice, 10-man Galaxy ties Sounders 2-2

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Carson, Calif. (AP) Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in each half and the LA Galaxy tied the Seattle Sounders 2-2 on Saturday night despite playing nearly the entire match down a man.

The Galaxy’s Daniel Steres was sent off in the sixth minute for the denial of obvious goal opportunity.

Ibrahimovic tied it at 1 for the Galaxy (13-11-2) with a header in the 45th minute. In the 65th minute, he was taken down by Kim Kee-hee while going for a header in the area and converted the penalty, making it 2-1 with his 20th goal of the season.

LA defender Jorgen Skjelvik scored an own goal in the 82nd minute when he inadvertently deflected goalkeeper David Bingham’s attempted clearance into the Galaxy net.

Raul Ruidiaz opened the scoring in the 42nd minute for the Sounders (11-8-7). Harry Shipp hustled to round up a loose ball and fed it to an open Ruidiaz, who slotted it home.