Player ratings: The good and bad from USMNT’s WCQ opener

10 Comments

The U.S. national team is off and running in its qualification bid ahead of the 2018 World Cup after a 6-1 hammering of CONCACAF minnows St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday in St. Louis.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

As always, a handful of players stood out on the night, a handful were generally “meh,” and the rest were just kind of there. The good, and the bad, from an all-around professional performance…

Brad Guzan — GK — 6/10: The no. 1-a or 1-b USMNT goalkeeper faced two shots all night long, one of which found the back of the net through little fault of his own. Suffice to say, it was a very uneventful night for the Aston Villa shot-stopper.

Tim Ream — LB — 6.5/10: The USMNT held just over 83 percent of possession in this game, which meant defensive duties were very few and far between for anyone along the backline. We’ll have to judge Ream’s contributions going forward more than anything, and since that’s not exactly his forte as a center back being played out wide, well, what’s there to be said?

Matt Besler — CB — 6.5: It was just nice to see Besler anchoring the USMNT defense alongside Geoff Cameron once again, a sure sign (we hope) that Jurgen Klinsmann realizes his best partnership at center back and will be rolling with the two for the foreseeable future (Matt Miazga’s potential for excellence excepted).

Geoff Cameron — CB — 7/10: Scored a goal and defended for 64 minutes against a side that, to that point, held less than 18 percent of possession. Translation: there was a whole lot for Cameron to do Friday night. Neither half of the USMNT’s best center back partnership was injured, which is all that matters on this night.

DeAndre Yedlin — RB — 7/10: Here’s what we know about Yedlin: he’s dynamic going forward as a right back and he still has some learning to do defensively. On Friday, both of these things were on display, though the former more so than the latter. His assist for Bobby Wood’s equalizer showed a bit of class in the final third perhaps unexpected from the 22-year-old.

[ FULL RECAP: USA 6-1 SVG — USMNT thrashes minnows after early deficit ]

Fabian Johnson — LM — 8.5/10: Scored a goal and (second-)assisted on two more; would have had another assist if Bobby Wood had finished his one-on-one chance early in the first half. It’s pretty clear that Johnson offers the USMNT most as a wide midfielder, but the problem remains that a suitable replacement at left back (or right back) is still missing.

Michael Bradley — CM — 6.5/10: We’ve seen it once, we’ve seen it a thousand times — the Bradley-Jones partnership, at least as a two, simply does/will not work against quality competition. The opening minutes highlighted these struggles once again, as neither (very good on their own merits) midfielder provided protection for a defense that found itself defending attackers in acres of wide open space. Reminder: Jones will be four months short of 37 years old when the 2018 World Cup kicks off.

Jermaine Jones — CM — 6/10: See: Bradley, Michael, above.

Gyasi Zardes — RM — 7.5/10: Zardes bagged the USMNT’s fifth goal on Friday, the third of his still-young international career. It was a well-taken goal, and Zardes was pretty regularly a handful up and down the right wing all game long. The aspect of Zardes’s game which still needs some work — the defensive half — wasn’t put to the test very often, so we’ll hold off on given the 24-year-old higher marks until he shows out for 90 minutes against a stronger opponent.

[ MORE: Zardes reportedly the subject of $3-million bid from England ]

Jozy Altidore — FW — 8/10: Altidore scored twice, the 30th and 31st goals of his international career. The first was the product of a devastating set-piece routine that St. Vincent and the Grenadines struggled with all game long, and the second showed a bit of composure and creativity inside the penalty area. All in all, it was a good night from Altidore, though it much to do with the quickly built chemistry between him and his strike partner on the night.

Bobby Wood — FW — 8.5/10: (Disclaimer: it was only St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but…) For too long, the USMNT has been completely disjointed between the midfield and forward(s). Bobby Wood might just be the answer to that problem, as he’s so effective dropping off the forward line, linking play between the two units and making intelligent, dangerous runs thereafter. He might just be the perfect strike partner for Altidore.

[ MORE: Donovan, on U.S. roster: “Where’s Dempsey?” ]

Subs

Darlington Nagbe — LM — 6/10: Nagbe is officially cap-tied to the USMNT, which almost feels worthy of a 10/10 rating on the night, but I’ll refrain. As far as international debuts go, Nagbe was fine — nothing spectacular, nothing overly worrisome. He’s a good player, and he’ll be good for the USMNT.

Matt Miazga — CB — 6/10: Speaking of a cap-tying worthy of a 10/10, the New York Red Bulls center back, who also holds a Polish passport, is now and forever an official member of the USMNT program. Miazga really had very little to do, considering the USMNT’s possession percentage actually increased from 82 percent after he entered the game. Just like Zardes, he’s good and will be good.

Jordan Morris — FW — 6.5/10: Of the three subs, Morris spent the least amount of time on the field (22 minutes), but was the most lively and involved. Morris is probably better suited playing alongside a quicker striker, a la Wood, than the burly Altidore, but he brings some of the same qualities to the underneath striker’s role as Wood, so he remains an option off the bench no matter who’s already on the field.

Xhaka slams “bulls***” criticism of Arsenal

Leave a comment

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’

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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.

Italy women’s team awarded for ’emancipating’ female game

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) The Italy women’s national soccer team was awarded the Foreign Press Association’s Invictus award Monday for promoting and “emancipating” the female game in the country with its run to the World Cup quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Sheffield United beat Arsenal with stellar defensive display (video) ]

Head coach Milena Bertolini and forward Barbara Bonansea were given the award during a ceremony at the Rome-based association.

With soccer dominated by men in Italy and few opportunities for girls, Bertolini recounted how she had to dress up as a boy to play as a kid.

“Now things are changing, thanks to the Italian federation’s school programs,” Bertolini said.

Bertolini and Bonansea lamented that female players are still not considered professionals and therefore are not permitted to earn more than $33,500 per year by Italian law.

“It’s not about the money, it’s a question of rights,” said Bonansea, who also plays for Italian champion Juventus.

[ MORE: Referee officials explain VAR decision on Rashford goal ]

While Italy’s men’s team is a four-time World Cup champion, the women had not played in a World Cup for two decades and entered as a prohibitive underdog during its opening match against Australia in France in June. But the Azzurre came back from a goal down for a 2-1 win courtesy of Bonansea’s two scores , with her second coming in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

“That goal shaped our World Cup, both in terms of results and in terms of promoting women’s soccer in Italy,” Bertolini said. “The strong emotions on the field were transmitted to everyone who was watching. I still get goosebumps now just thinking about that goal.”

The Azzurre went on to win their group then beat China in the first knockout round before losing to eventual finalist the Netherlands.

In a country of 60 million people, a total of more than 20 million spectators watched Italy’s five matches on RAI state TV, setting audience records for women’s soccer game after game.

The Invictus award is dedicated to “promoting the positive effects of sports in terms of integration and emancipation by the vulnerable sections of society.”