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

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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.

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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.

VIDEO: Breaking down some celebrated Premier League derbies

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The kickoffs aren’t coming back soon, so we’re finding solace in anticipating the biggest matches on the Premier League calendar.

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Certain rivalries are circled on the fixture list when it arrives each summer, the sort of games that seem to level the playing field regardless of the gulf in class.

Is Arsenal struggling? No better way to bounce back than Spurs.

Liverpool sliding a bit? It’ll snap back to form when Everton hits Anfield.

PST lead writer and editor Joe Prince-Wright has prepped up for several of these derbies over the years, and here’s a cheat sheet for those new and a tasty summation for those missing their hated foes.

Liverpool-Manchester City

Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur

Liverpool-Everton

Manchester City-Manchester United

Chelsea-Tottenham Hotspur

Bournemouth’s Howe takes voluntary pay cut, first PL manager to do so

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Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe is the first Premier League manager to take a pay cut due to the coronavirus suspension.

Howe joins Bournemouth chief executive Neill Blake, first team technical director Richard Hughes, and assistant manager Jason Tindall in taking “significant, voluntary” pay cuts.

Howe is the longest-serving manager in the PL. He started with Bournemouth’s academy in 1994 and spent just a few short seasons away from home (Portsmouth and Swindon Town) during his playing career.

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The club has also furloughed employees throughout the organization. From a Bournemouth statement:

There is no script for moments like this. No tactics and no set plays to find a winning formula. But as a board we are continually looking at ways to ensure the future of the club and our employees is protected when the season returns.

We have also advised a number of staff across all areas of the club that they will be temporarily furloughed, as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

These measures have been taken to safeguard the financial stability of the club during what is such an uncertain period, not only in football but for businesses in all industries across the world.

Surely Howe won’t be the last during this uncertain time for clubs and businesses all over the world.

Ex-Marseille president first coronavirus-related death in Senegal

Pape Diouf
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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) Pape Diouf, a former president of French soccer club Marseille, died Tuesday in Senegal after contracting the coronavirus. It was the West African country’s first COVID-19-related death, according to the health ministry. He was 68.

Diouf, who was president of Marseille from 2005-09, had been treated since Saturday in intensive care in Dakar, health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr said.

Senegal President Macky Sall wrote on his official Twitter account that he had followed Diouf’s health closely after he was admitted for treatment.

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“I pay tribute to this great figure in sport,” Sall wrote. “I pay tribute to the medical staff at Fann Hospital who spared no effort to save him.”

Relatives said Diouf was meant to be moved to France. He had recently traveled to several countries in the West Africa region.

In its most recent count, Senegal has reported 190 cases of the coronavirus, with 45 of those having recovered.

Diouf was a charismatic and popular leader who was close to the fans and players at Marseille, the only French team to win the European club title.

“Pape will forever remain in the hearts of Marseille people and (is) one of the great architects of the club,” Marseille wrote under a photo of Diouf.

Shortly before his time at the club ended, Diouf signed Didier Deschamps as the new coach and Deschamps won the French league title and League Cup in his first season in charge. It was Marseille’s first league title in 18 years.

Deschamps, who coached France to World Cup success two years ago, described Diouf as “a man of convictions, a spirited man, passionate about football” adding that his “sudden and brutal death deeply saddens me.”

“I could measure his popularity, which was immense with the Marseille people whose hearts he had won,” Deschamps said on L’Equipe’s website.

The French soccer league called Diouf’s death “a moment of immense sadness for French soccer.”

Diouf was born in Chad to Senegalese parents. After arriving in Marseille at the age of 18, he became a sports journalist and then a players’ agent.

Diouf was not afraid to take risks in signing unheralded players, such as the diminutive Mathieu Valbuena from third-tier side Libourne in 2006 when he was 21.

The 1.67-meter (5 feet, 5 inches) Valbuena went on to prove Diouf right, and all the doubters wrong, playing 52 times for France.

“A great man with a great heart,” Valbuena said. “We were hypnotized by his speeches, he had a lot of charisma.”

Diouf was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal in 2012, one of the country’s highest honors.

Pugmire reported from Paris. AP reporter Babacar Dione in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

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

Report: Griezmann plus cash could finally get Neymar back to Barcelona

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Neymar’s long-rumored return to Barcelona hasn’t quite reached the point of exhaustion, but it’s close.

A new report has said Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain may be coming to terms with what’s been a fairly obvious swap deal for some time.

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According to Sky Sports, PSG would send Neymar to Barcelona in return for French hero Antoine Griezmann and money.

The $167 million price tag attached to Neymar is significantly more than the $110 million on Griezmann, and there’s no doubt the former is more of a gamechanger at this point on their careers.

While Neymar gets both the #whenhealthy and #whenavailable tags to his rep, he’s scored 18 times with 10 assists in 22 matches across all competitions this year.

Before the full phrase ‘Ligue 1’ exits your lips, he’s scored against Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Celtic, Galatasaray, Liverpool, Anderlecht, and Red Star Belgrade in his three seasons with PSG.

Griezmann is a full year older than Neymar and, while one of the world’s elite attackers, he’s a step below the Brazilian’s tier. He’s also said to want to keep finding his way at Barca, with Gerard Pique and others ready to lend support.