Three things we learned from USMNT’s comeback win vs. Peru

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The U.S. national team beat Peru 2-1 in a friendly on a balmy night at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. on Friday.

[ VIDEO: Watch Altidore score twice ]

Jurgen Klinsmann’s side went behind to Daniel Chavez’s deflected early strike but in the second half they came flying out of the traps as a nine-minute double from Jozy Altidore turned the game on its head and help dissolve some of the negativity following the Gold Cup disappointment earlier this summer.

[ MORE: Recap – USA 2-1 Peru ]

Here’s three things we learned from the USA’s spirited comeback win, as they head to Gillette Stadium on Tuesday to take on Brazil in their final warmup before the huge Confederations Cup playoff against Mexico on Oct. 10.

CENTER BACK CONUNDRUM CONTINUES

Ever since the World Cup last summer the U.S. has failed to get a settled partnership at center back. That continued on Friday. With Omar Gonzalez and John Brooks starting against Peru, neither looked particularly comfortable and on Peru’s first goal you could see Gonzalez’s unease at having a Peruvian attacker running at him with five-yards of pace. The LA Galaxy man mysteriously dropped off and then turned his back as Daniel Chavez’s shot hit him and looped over Brad Guzan to give Peru the lead. Was Gonzalez to blame?

It was perhaps no surprise to see Gonalzez replaced at half time but the man who replaced him was a little shocking as Ventura Alvarado (who had a rough Gold Cup to say the least) came on in his place. What on earth does Geoff Cameron have to do to play in central defense for the U.S.?

He arrived at half time but played out of position at right back. This is a man who has excelled for Stoke City and started all four games of the current Premier League season at center back, plus has been handed a new long-term deal by the Potters this summer. Somehow he cannot find a place in Klinsmann’s defense as a central defender. Cameron missed the Gold Cup due to Stoke requesting that he rested this summer but he must surely start vs. Brazil on Tuesday. Tim Ream, another center back who was shunted out of position to left back, put in a solid shift and maybe Ream and Cameron should be starting together in quite possibly the only central defensive partnership Klinsmann has yet to try out. If experimentation is the name of the game ahead of the Mexico game next month, then why not, right? Both Alvarado and Brooks were guilty of giving the ball away early in the second half, then Matt Besler did well in the air after replacing Brooks for the final 30 minutes of the match. Brad Guzan did have to pull off a stunning double save with the score at 1-1 and 30 seconds later Altidore scored the game-winner. All of those center back changes inside 90 minutes proves one thing: Klinsmann still has no idea who his best central defensive duo is.

PACE OF ZARDES, YEDLIN CAN BE DEADLY

All night long DeAndre Yedlin and Gyasi Zardes gave Peru plenty of problems out wide with their pace. Zardes, in particular, soared down the left flank several times at the start and end of the first half forcing Pedro Gallese into two good stops after racing clear of his marker. Yedlin also caused some problems down the right as Klinsmann played with two out-and-out wingers from the start in a flat four across midfield in a 4-4-2 formation. As you can see in the video below, Zardes and Yedlin created chaos and combined to tee-up Altidore’s game-winning goal in the 68th minute as Yedlin first ran at Peru, then Zardes got off a shot which was tapped home at the back post.

However, the only issue with these two is that Zardes is usually a striker and Yedlin is usually a right back. That means that both men use their pace expertly to get in dangerous positions but at times either the final ball or cross into the box was not quite good enough. That will come with time but the main thing is that their pace is dangerous and if they actually play in front of two regular full backs (Ream at left back and Michael Orozco at right back both prefer to play centrally and failed to support their wingers going forward in the first half) then they can develop a relationship and work in tandem with a full back down the flank. They have the raw athleticism but if Zardes and Yedlin — 24 years old and 22 respectively — can hone their attacking skills and pick the right pass in the final third, you have two very strong wingers who will frighten most teams. Positive stuff.

ALTIDORE HANGS IN THERE

Ending things on a positive note, Jozy Altidore has now scored five times in his last three games and the Toronto FC forward finally looks to be shaking off his fitness concerns which have plagued him for the past six months. Altidore, 25, was left out of the USA’s squad by Klinsmann for the knockout stages of the Gold Cup and the U.S. missed him. Now he’s back and despite a few giveaways, looked sharp against Peru as his clever flick in the box won the penalty kick which changed the game in the 59th minute. Altidore saw that spot kick saved but he tucked away the rebound and he was in the right place at the right time nine minutes later to complete the turnaround. Wearing the captain’s armband for the night in Michael Bradley’s absence, Altidore proved, once again, how important he is to this team and with 29 goals from 84 matches for the U.S., his record at the international level speaks for itself. A job well done for Altidore, as he’s hung in there after a tough period.

Burning question: What is the best formation?

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be asking some burning questions we have when it comes to the beautiful game and the first one focuses on something we all love to debate: formations.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Each day we will release a burning question, as now seems like a good time to take stock of where the game is at and take a look at what we love and what we’d like to change as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Next question: What is the best formation to use?


Most coaches will tell you when asked that formations do not matter. We all know they do.

3-4-3? 4-4-2? 4-5-1? 4-3-3? 3-5-2? 4-1-4-1? 4-3-2-1? 4-2-2-2?

Which formation do you think is the best? Does a formation depend mostly on the players you have at your disposal or your preferred style of play? Most likely it is a combination of both but coaches often have a preferred formation and stick with it no matter what. Their philosophy and ideas mean everything to them.

I’m torn between 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 but I’d probably just about go for 4-3-3 because it is so well balanced. In an attacking team like Man City or Liverpool it works really well because essentially it gives you four defenders back at all times with one deeper central midfielder, two center backs and one full back sitting back.

When teams are under pressure the 4-3-3 then turns into more of a 4-5-1 formation with one central striker saying high and the two wingers tracking back and providing cover. Speaking about cover, 3-4-3 allows one center back to push forward and always have two center backs in defense, while full backs are able to push forward which is particularly important in the modern game. My main problem with 3-4-3 is that often you don’t need three center backs if teams sit back.

4-4-1-1 is solid and flexible as the player in the No. 10 position essentially becomes a striker but there just seems to be more danger from wide players when teams are set up in a 4-3-3 system because their first thought is to attack and they have the added cover of a central midfielder tucked in halfway behind them.

Simply put, I love 4-3-3. You may love something totally different, so let us know in the comments section below which formation is your favorite.

Chelsea’s Willian eager to stay in Premier League

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Chelsea and Brazil star Willian has revealed he is eager to stay in the Premier League, even if that’s not with Chelsea.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Willian, 31, has revealed that contract talks have stopped for now during the suspension for the coronavirus pandemic, and his future is uncertain as his current deal at Chelsea expires this summer.

The likes of Tottenham and Arsenal have been linked with a move for Willian, who almost joined Spurs in 2013 but instead joined Chelsea in a last-second change of heart.

Willian told ESPN Brazil  that he wants to stay in the Premier League and he feels he is now at his peak.

“My wish is to stay in the Premier League, but I’m not ruling out playing in other leagues,” Willian said. “I’m going to play until the end of the season and then see what happens. I’m very used to life in England. I’m not thinking about going back to Corinthians at the moment. My aim is to stay in Europe. I feel that I’m at my peak at the moment. Players improve throughout their careers and I think I’m currently at my peak.”

It is not secret that Mourinho and Willian get on very well, which will intrigue Tottenham’s fans…

“I got on very well with Mourinho, learnt a lot under him and we’ve remained friends,” Willian said. “We still message each other a lot, but I don’t see him often. I haven’t managed to meet up with him since he came back to London.”

His form for Chelsea has been a little erratic this season but Frank Lampard has spoken fondly about Willian time and time again and it is quite clear Chelsea would like to extend his stay at Stamford Bridge for at least another season.

With so many young wingers around (Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount to name a few), Willian can help ease them into the first team but there’s no doubting plenty of Premier League clubs will be eager to snap him up on a free transfer this summer, or whenever the transfer window reopens.

Tottenham would seem like a particularly good fit for Willian. He would link up with Jose Mourinho, the manage who bought him to Chelsea, and his experience would be vital at Spurs as they aim to finally secure some silverware. Tottenham need to prioritize buying new defenders but if Willian is available for free, you can’t turn that deal down, even if he turned Spurs and Daniel Levy down in 2013…

Arsenal would make sense too but you’d have to say Tottenham are the frontrunners given the connection between Willian and Mourinho. Of course, he could stay at Chelsea, but with Pedro also out of contract it does feel like a changing of the guard as Lampard will put his faith totally in new signing Hakim Ziyech, Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi next season.

With $2.7 billion reserves, FIFA has ‘duty’ to aid virus-hit soccer

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FIFA says it has a “duty” to use its vast financial reserves to assist a football industry ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic wiping out games and creating unexpected economic hardship in the world’s biggest sport.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The spread of COVID-19 has impacted the wealthiest clubs, with Barcelona and Juventus players taking wage cuts; those in smaller countries, with Slovakian champion Zilina entering bankruptcy; and national football federations, with Uruguay furloughing hundreds of staff.

Having amassed reserves it last reported at $2.745 billion, FIFA has the resources to give much-needed financial help to the game at many levels. Now the organization has provided more details around the need agreed two weeks ago by FIFA President Gianni Infantino and his vice presidents to explore a “support fund” for the sport.

“FIFA is in a strong financial situation and it’s our duty to do the utmost to help them in their hour of need,” world football’s governing body said in a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“FIFA is working on possibilities to provide assistance to the football community around the world after making a comprehensive assessment of the financial impact this pandemic will have on football.”

FIFA is exploring the mechanism to provide the financial lifeline to the football industry with the six regional confederations and member associations to ensure there is an announcement “in the near future.”

“The football community around the world is experiencing, to a greater or lesser extent, serious financial problems on account of the coronavirus outbreak,” FIFA said. “This threatens to disrupt and impair the ability of FIFA’s member associations and other football organizations such as leagues and clubs to develop, finance and run football activities at all levels of the game, including professional, non-professional, youth and grassroots.

“It is foreseen that in many parts of the world a considerable number of persons involved in football including both men and women players will be left in extremely difficult economic conditions.”

FIFA already operates a “Forward” development program to redistribute its wealth to member associations. In the 2015-18 cycle, investment dedicated to the scheme was $1.079 billion, of which $832 million had been approved and committed to member associations, confederations or regions, according to the last published financial results.

Premier League TV schedule: April 4-5

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We have 16 hours of Premier League programming coming your way this weekend and here is your TV schedule for April 4-5

This Saturday and Sunday we will have eight hours of programming coming your way each morning from 6 a.m. ET to 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN on your TV.

With the current 2019-20 Premier League season suspended until April 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have a lot of programming treats planned for you in the coming weeks and will keep up fully updated with a TV schedule posted every single week.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]

Remember, during the season you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today, Sky Sports News, NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Below is your full Premier League TV schedule and stream links for Saturday and Sunday as we have classic matches, Goal of the Season, Behind the Badge, a focus on Liverpool v. Man City and much more coming up.


FULL TV SCHEDULE FOR NBCSN

Saturday, April 4
6-6:30 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – Matt Le Tissier [STREAM]
6:30-7 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – John Barnes [STREAM]
7-7:30 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – Sol Campbell [STREAM]
7:30-8 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – Ryan Giggs [STREAM]
8-9 a.m. ET: PL Goals of the Season: 2001-02 [STREAM]
9-10 a.m. ET: PL Goals of the Season: 2002-03 [STREAM]
10-10:30 a.m. ET: Classic Match: Liverpool v. Tottenham, Feb. 2015 [STREAM]
10:30-11 a.m. ET: Classic Match: Chelsea v. Man United, Feb. 2012 [STREAM]
11-11:30 a.m. ET: Classic Match: Tottenham v. Chelsea, Jan.  2015 [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET: Classic Match: Man United v. Arsenal, Aug., 2011 [STREAM]
12-12:30 p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 1 [STREAM]
12:30-  p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 2 [STREAM]
1-1:30 p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 3 [STREAM]
1:30-2 p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 4 [STREAM]

Sunday, April 5
6-7 a.m. ET: PL season in review 1998-99 [STREAM]
7-8 a.m. ET: PL season in review 1999-00 [STREAM]
8-10 a.m. ET: Match of the Week, Man City v. QPR, May 2012 [STREAM]
10 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET: Match of the Week, Everton v. Liverpool, Nov. 2013 [STREAM]
12 p.m. – 2 p.m. ET: Match of the Week, Chelsea v. Arsenal, Oct. 2014 [STREAM]