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.

[ 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.

Burnley – Sheffield United stream: How to watch, team news, prediction

Burnley - Sheffield United stream
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Burnley and Sheffield United jockey for potential Europa League footing at Turf Moor on Sunday (Watch live at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The eighth-place visitors and their ninth-place hosts open the day a win back of seventh-place Arsenal.

Seventh is currently set to be a Europa League place thanks to the European ban handed to second-place Manchester City, who is protesting the ban.

Eighth would also be a UEL spot with all four FA Cup semifinalists currently in the top seven. Arsenal could still finish outside the top eight and win the FA Cup, which would leave seventh as the last qualifying place.

STREAM BURNLEY – SHEFFIELD UNITED LIVE

Team news

Burnley – Sheffield United Prediction

Burnley can scrap with anyone but Blades have a bit more depth and comfort with their XI. Sheffield United 1-0.

Chelsea’s Pulisic reacts to Eden Hazard comparisons

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Last week, Frank Lampard compared Christian Pulisic’s potential to that of the finished products shown by Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Raheem Sterling.

After another terrific performance for Chelsea in a 3-0 defeat of Watford, he was asked about being compared to Chelsea royalty: Eden Hazard.

“Obviously he was an incredible player for Chelsea,” Pulisic said. “He’s a world-class player. I’m not trying to compare myself to him just yet. I’m just trying to be my own player and hopefully the fans like that guy.”

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch — His day v. Watford ]

Pulisic drew a penalty and had the pass before the assist on Ross Barkley’s late goal to salt away the win and fourth place in the Premier League for another few days.

The Blues had lost late to West Ham United at midweek, and Pulisic admits the boys were fired up to avenge the setback.

“We needed that one today,” he said. “There was a little extra bit of energy because of that loss. We wanted to come out and prove a point today.”

Finally, Pulisic was asked what he’d be doing if he was home in the States on the Fourth of July.

“If I was home in the U.S. I’d be having a barbecue with my family and enjoying Independence Day.”

Stock answer. Only way he could lose points with us today.

Chelsea cruises past relegation-worried Watford

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Chelsea got goals from Willian, Ross Barkley, and Olivier Giroud in a comfortable 3-0 defeat of Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

USMNT star Christian Pulisic drew a penalty for Willian’s goal and helped set up Barkley’s third goal in his fourth-straight start in 10 days.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch – USMNT star shines again ]

Chelsea moves back atop Manchester United for fourth place, one point behind Leicester City.

Watford’s 28 points are one point better than two of the bottom three, with Aston Villa holding a match-in-hand and set to visit Liverpool on Sunday.

[ MORE: Pulisic reacts to Hazard comparisons ]


Three things we learned

1. Chelsea holds serve in top four fight: Wins for Manchester United and Leicester City meant the Blues could finish the day in either fourth or fifth. The decisive performance was a welcome one for Chelsea boss Frank Lampard following a late loss at West Ham earlier in the week. The Blues meet Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, and Norwich City before Liverpool and Wolves make for a dangerous final two league fixtures.

2. Pearson plans for midweek: Norwich City looks as down-and-out as any club right now, so it’s not likely a coincidence that Etienne Capoue and Troy Deeney came off the pitch with the score line 2-0 and 26 minutes to play. Watford will aim to find points in its home ground against a poor Canaries side on Tuesday.

3. Kante limps off: While Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have remained fit and available to Lampard, the manager won’t be happy that N’Golo Kante’s injury-hit season saw a possible concern with a 78th-minute sub for Billy Gilmour.

Man of the Match

It was either Pulisic or Willian, and we’re going to go with the Brazilian if only because CP gets a lot of run in these parts.


Chelsea – Watford recap

Christian Pulisic came out of the gates in lively form and within minutes Olivier Giroud had an odd-angled chance to head toward goal.

The Blues were all over Watford for the first 20 minutes, Pulisic, Willian, and Giroud very involved in the display.

Giroud put the Blues on the board with an experienced, spinning strike in the 29th minute. Getting the ball off a Ross Barkley feed, the Frenchman hit a cushioned low shot across his body and just inside the far post.

Pulisic played a role in the second goal, dribbling to the end line and getting manhandled by an out-of-his-mind Christian Kabasele on his cut back toward play. Penalty, Willian. 2-0.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

The second half was mostly Chelsea, too, and Willian forced Foster into a terrific 68th-minute save and corner kick to the Blues.

Watford had their moments late, including a Danny Welbeck effort that Kepa Arrizabalaga did very well to save.

Pulisic had a shot blocked in the 90th minute, and Will Hughes couldn’t convert a Welbeck-inspired play at the other end.

Instead, the American would settle for a “hockey assist,” slipping the ball to Azpilicueta inside the 18 before the Chelsea veteran set up Barkley’s exclamation point.

Pulisic Watch: In-form Chelsea star shines on Independence Day

Pulisic Watch
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Chelsea’s in-form American winger stayed that way, as Christian Pulisic won a penalty and looked lively throughout the Blues’ match with Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

[ MORE: Chelsea 3-0 Watford ]

Here are the moments he was in focus in his fourth-straight start for Frank Lampard, as the USMNT star had another brilliant performance on his nation’s Independence Day.

[ MORE: Pulisic reacts to Hazard comparisons ]


8th minute: Pulisic comes out of the gate in lively form and cuts between a pair of defenders before finding Mason Mount, whose cross is blocked out for a corner.

10th minute: Pulisic plays Giroud wide, and the Frenchman’s first touch is a bit wayward. A cross back towards Pulisic is cleared before it reaches the American.

15th minute: Pulisic is one of three players to hit the deck trying to get on the end of Reece James’ delightful cross from the right.

19th minute: Pulisic takes the ball from Willian and finds Giroud, whose shot is saved by Foster and winds up with Willian. His cross doesn’t reach the American and Giroud fouled a defender anyway.

30th minute: Moments after Giroud put the Blues up 1-0, Pulisic nods a high cross back toward the far post but Foster rescues the ball without much worry.

42nd minute: Pulisic won a second penalty kick of the restart when he cut back at the end line and was run over by Christian Kabasele.

[ MORE: Arsenal beats Wolves ]

47th minute: Cuts inside and tears into an ambitious shot that has too much pepper on it.

48th minute: He’s at it again a moment later, moving the ball left to Cesar Azpilicueta for a half-cleared cross.

56th minute: Pulisic works a 1-2 with Mason Mount but the ball doesn’t quite get back to the American thanks to Michael Dawson.

85th minute: Protests wildly for a penalty after Kabasele takes him down in the box once again. VAR doesn’t change anything and Pulisic is set to go 90 minutes for the third time in 10 days (He went 72 minutes in the fourth encounter during that time span).

90th minute: Azpilicueta slides Pulisic into the left of the box, but the American’s shot is blocked.

Stoppage time: Takes a short pass and gives it to Azpilicueta in the box, getting a “hockey assist” when Barkley slots home. Pulisic then nearly wins a corner with a pressuring run down the left.

Stat line: Three shots, one on target, one blocked. One-of-3 dribbles completed, one penalty won. Passed at 89 percent (33-of-37) with two key passes and 9-of-15 duels won. Four fouls drawn and three tackles (SofaScore).