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.

Watch Live: Burnley v. Leicester City

Watch Live: Burnley v. Leicester City (Lineups and stream link)
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Leicester City looks to build a nine-point cushion on fourth-place Chelsea with a win over Burnley at Turf . Moor on Sunday (Watch live at 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Brendan Rodgers‘ Foxes can go level on points with second-place Manchester City by beating the hosts.

[ STREAM: Burnley v. Leicester City ]

Fifteenth-place Burnley opens the day two points clear of the Bottom Three, losers of four-straight matches.

Jay Rodriguez and Chris Wood start up top for the Clarets against the second-stingiest back line in the Premier League.

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Burnley

Leicester City

PL Sunday Preview: Leicester travel to Burnley; Liverpool put perfect record on the line against Man Utd

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With eight Premier League fixtures on Saturday, two more remain in Matchweek 23.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Burnley v. Leicester City  — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Burnley are free falling and there doesn’t seem to be a safety net in sight.

The Clarets, who are two points removed from the relegation zone, head into a tough three-match window without striker Ashley Barnes. Recuperating from a hernia surgery, the 30-year-old is set to miss bouts against Leicester, Manchester United and Arsenal – to name some.

But quite possibly more alarming than that is the team’s recent form. Losing seven out of their last nine, just two points divide Burnley from the drop zone. Sean Dyche‘s team are clueless in the box, scoring one goal in four league bouts. Trouble looms over Turf Moor.

But even then, Dyche, who has made Burnley a force to be reckoned with in the past, believes his side are still a threat.

“They are a good side,” Dyche said about Leicester. “We are on a tough run of form, but I don’t think they are naive enough to think it is turn up and get the business done. We are not a million miles away.”

Can Burnley pull a Southampton and stun a top-four bound Leicester?

“We weren’t at our best [against Southampton] and we didn’t have the energy and intensity that we would have liked,” Brendan Rodgers said ahead of Sunday’s early match.

“We work twice as hard and that’s what we’ve done after every setback. We still have a lot to improve on.”

The Foxes had a rare full week to train, so one can bet that Rodgers is serious about his word.

INJURIES: Burnley —  OUT: Barnes (hernia), Gudmundsson (hamstring) | Leicester City — OUT: Ndidi (knee), Amartey (ankle), James (match fitness)

Liverpool v. Manchester United — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Manchester United are a part of the exclusive anti-Liverpool club for more than the obvious reason.

Yes, the North West Derby is one of the league’s most heated rivalries, with countless flashbacks in its 203 meetings during its over 100 years of history.

But these two, star-studded squads led by Jurgen Klopp and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, respectively, also have a permeating rivalry of their own. The Reds, who have yet to taste defeat this season, have dropped points to only United.

It can be argued that Sunday’s bout may be Liverpool’s most complicated and least favorable, despite maintaining an immaculate record at home. This is the “big one” that many didn’t particularly circle on the calendar.

“It’s a very, very important football game,” Klopp said. “Very important. We have to learn how to deal with games like this in the right manner. We haven’t done bad in the past but we can still improve.

“Old Trafford [a 1-1 draw in October] was a good example, [we were] not at our best because of their quality. We have to make it more likely we’re at our best.”

Solskjaer had his tactics in place last time around; a small injection of final quality and the team would have crushed Liverpool’s aspirations of matching the Iinvincibles or Manchester City’s points record.

“The last two performances [against Liverpool] at Old Trafford we have drawn twice and been close to winning both games, so we’ve got some games to look back at and that will give us loads of belief… if we perform to our best we have a chance to win,” Solskjaer said.

Sunday presents itself as the final chance for United to pull the upset, and reaffirm why they’re a part of the exclusive club to begin with. But Liverpool are slowing becoming invincible themselves.

INJURIES: Liverpool —  OUT: Lovren (hamstring), Clyne (knee), Keïta (groin), Milner (hamstring) | Manchester United  — OUT: Tuanzebe (hamstring), McTominay (knee), Pogba (ankle)

Serie A roundup: Immobile nets hat-trick, Lazio runs over Sampdoria (video)

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Lazio’s record-extending 11th straight Serie A win highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Lazio 5-1 Sampdoria  

Like Lazio’s season, Ciro Immobile continues to make strides with each passing day.

The 29-year-old’s hat-trick powered Simone Inzaghi’s side past Sampdoria 5-1, extending his goal count to 23, nine more than Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaka.

 

Lazio, who are three points behind top-of-the-table Juventus and one behind second-place Inter Milan, were up three goals by the 20-minute mark. By the 65th minute, Immobile reached the three goal mark, converting from the spot.

“We would need too much time to count his records,” coach Simone Inzaghi said on Immobile’s magnificent run of form. “We are talking about an extraordinary team player. He has shown that so many times. Immobile has been doing extraordinary things for four years, I’m not surprised.”

Full of confidence, Lazio turn one of the most challenging corners of the season, as they take on rivals AS Roma defend the Italian Cup against Napoli.

“We’ll enjoy this 11th win but we have to already be thinking about the next matches,” Inzaghi said. “We know what a derby means but I can’t allow myself to think about Roma.

“We play Napoli on Tuesday, we know what the Italian Cup means for us, what it meant last year, we have it on our shirts and we will fight for it again.”

When it comes to Sampdoria, things are going from bad to ugly, quick.

“Tonight I’ll add salt and pepper and I’ll eat them alive,” Sampdoria coach Claudio Ranieri said of his players.

“Lazio was too good for us, you could clearly see the difference between the two teams, but it was without doubt the worst Samp performance since I’ve been here.”

Elsewhere

Sassuolo 2-1 Torino

Napoli 0-2 Fiorentina

La Liga roundup: Casemiro’s brace earns injury-riddled Real Madrid win (video)

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Casemiro’s heroic performance against Sevilla highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Madrid 2-1 Sevilla

Real Madrid’s goalscoring hero on Saturday wasn’t Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, or even Sergio Ramos.

With two crucial goals in the second half, Casemiro single-handedly earned three points at the Santiago Bernabeu, days removed from cathartic Spanish Super Cup win against arch rivals Atletico Madrid.

With Bale, Hazard, Ramos injured, Benzema on the bench far from match-fit, and Federico Valverde suspended, Los Blancos were in dire need of someone to lead the way, and place pressure on struggling co-leaders Barcelona, who are now under Quique Setien’s tutelage.

By the time the first 45 minutes came to a close, the overall impression was that it would take a miracle for the home side to earn much-needed three points.

That all quickly changed in the second half as the Brazilian midfielder chipped Tomas Vaclik after a picture-perfect backheel from Luka Jovic. Madrid were edging Julen Lopetegui’s side, and Casemiro foreshadowed what was to come.

With the score level, the Brazilian leaped inside the box and headed home a lofting ball from the right flank, catching Sevilla’s defense completely off guard.

Casemiro’s brace came just five minutes after Luuk De Jong‘s left-footed goal in the 64th minute.

League leaders with 43 points, Madrid prepares for their Copa del Rey bout against third-division side Unionistas midweek. Sevilla, on the other hand, host Levante in the same tournament.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 2-0 Atletico Madrid

Osasuna 0-0 Real Valladolid

Levante 0-1 Alaves