Everton 1-1 Crystal Palace: Post, crossbar very unkind to Toffees

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Everton and Crystal Palace traded haymakers for 90 straight minutes at Goodison Park on Monday, with the two sides ultimately splitting the points after a 1-1 draw. Roberto Martinez’s Toffees will feel hard done by, though, having hit the frame of the goal not one, not twice, but three times on the night.

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In a bit of perfect symmetry, Romelu Lukaku marked his 100th appearance for Everton by scoring his 50th goal for the club (above video), rescuing a point for the home side after Palace so nearly completed another classic smash-and-grab away from home.

Palace’s best chance of the first half came and went in the 16th minute, when U.S. national team goalkeeper Tim Howard made a reaction save of Connor Wickham‘s header at point-blank range. Yannick Bolasie whipped the cross in from the left wing, and Wickham flicked the ball on, but Howard was positioned perfectly at the near post and made the save with his chest.

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Lukaku went so close to putting Everton into the lead in the 21st minute, but the big Belgian striker’s shot found only the front side of the far post. After a quick one-two with Ross Barkley put him into space, Lukaku made a quick turn and cut inside to put the ball on his favored left foot. His shot from the top of the 18-yard box had beaten Wayne Hennessey but found only the woodwork.

It was Wickham who nearly gave the Toffees the game’s first goal when his wayward headed clearance went horribly wrong and nearly found the back of his own net. Barkley whipped in a low, flat free kick from the left wing and Wickham rose as the first defender in the penalty area for Palace, the ball skipping off the top of his head and making its way to the far post where it hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced downward, missing the goal line by mere inches.

Lukaku combined with Tom Cleverley to create another very-nearly chance in the 66th minute. Barkley played the ball to Lukaku at the top of the Palace box, where he backheeled the ball to Cleverley in a bit of space. Cleverley hit a first-time volley with his right foot that was always dipping away from Hennessey, but the Welsh ‘keeper did well to spring across the face of goal and get fingertips to the ball to tip it over the bar.

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Palace found themselves on the back foot for much of the second half, but eventually broke through against the run of play in the 76th minute, when Scott Dann rose above the crowd to head in Jason Puncheon‘s corner kick.

Lukaku unleashed a brilliant strike only to hit the crossbar two minutes later. The 22-year-old fired a dipping, swerving volley, which had Hennessey beaten all the way, from just outside the penalty area with that same left foot. Alas, it was the Toffees’ third time clanging the ball off the frame of the goal.

On 80 minutes, Everton — and Lukaku — got their very deserved goal to equalize. Gerard Deulofeu broke down the left wing and hit a low, stinging cross to the far post, where Lukaku was waiting, shielding the nearest defenders with the full frame of his body, making the finish a simple tap-in from three yards out.

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Left back Leighton Baines made his return to first-team action as a 62nd-minute substitute after more than 10 months out injured (last appearance for Everton was Jan. 13, 2015).

With the draw on Monday, the Toffees climb two spots, up ninth in the Premier League table, a point behind Palace, West Ham and Liverpool who are all level on 23 points at sixth, seventh and eighth in the league respectively.

Study: MLS improves racial hiring, slides in gender hiring

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A diversity report shows improved racial hiring practices for Major League Soccer but also highlighted a continuing decline in gender hiring efforts.

The annual report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida on Wednesday gave MLS an A with 93.9 points for racial hiring in 2019 for its highest score in 15 years.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

But the gender score of 72 points for a C grade fell for the third straight time, down from 76.8 points in 2018 and 81 points as recently as 2016.

The overall grade for MLS was a B at 82.9 points, falling from a B-plus and 85 points in 2018.

TIDES director Richard Lapchick, the lead report author, called lower gender hiring numbers across men’s professional sports a “systemic problem.”

Online: http://tidesport.org/

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

Medel: Chile players decline friendly over civil unrest

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Chile had already canceled a home friendly with Bolivia this international break, and now the players will not play Tuesday in Peru either due to unrest in their country.’

A nationwide strike and protests against the government, spurred by a rise in metro fares, have Chile on edge.

[ MORE: USMNT-Canada preview ]

La Roja stars Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal both posted lengthy messages on their Instagram accounts, saying that the decision was made “in response to the social moment in our country.”

They urged both protestors and law enforcement to turn away from violence.

From Mega.CL:

“We are soccer players, but above all people and citizens. We know that we represent a complete country and today Chile has other priorities much more important than next Tuesday’s game.”

Chile is ranked No. 17 by FIFA and 22 in Elo Ratings.

Slumping USMNT big favorites v. Canada

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Let’s start with two statements which might be a bit controversial given the tone and tenor of the United States men’s national team program.

  1. The CONCACAF Nations League very much matters to Gregg Berhalter’s era and the program in general, even if the coach’s job is not in jeopardy and the tournament is in its infancy.
  2. The USMNT are the oddsmakers’ heavy favorites to win (nearly +500), even given the current injury problems, and it will be shocking but not surprising if they lose to the Canadians.

Point No. 1 might be a bit surprising, but this is a competition with silverware and Berhalter hasn’t won any of it yet in his tenure as USMNT boss. It’s also relevant because losing to Canada twice in a month after not losing to them since the Billboard No. 1 single was the sensual “One More Night” by Phil Collins.

And even without Christian Pulisic and a raft of injury excuses, plus taking into account Canada’s sincere re-emergence on the CONCACAF scene, the USMNT has no business losing a meaningful match at home to a team that, while improved, has far more holes than the hosts.

If you remember from October, Berhalter didn’t call upon his men to press an inexperienced Canadian back line (I just realized I’m still angry about this). There is literally no way he’ll do that at home.

If John Herdman keeps his backs the same as the one that shut out the Yanks at BMO last month, he’ll have Kamal Miller, Derek Cornelius, Steven Vitoria, and Richie Laryea out there. Three of the four aren’t full-time starters for their MLS clubs (Vitoria is an every week man in Portugal’s top flight). Goalkeeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade) is capable of stealing a result, but shouldn’t have the chance if the Yanks pressure the ball on Friday.

The midfield and attackers are where the U.S. will have its hands full. Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David beg speedy and/or smart defenders. John Brooks being in the mix should help in both counts, plus he’s the best passing back in the pool right now.

Whether the match is cagey or comfortable will come down to the midfield. Scott Arfield is going to make it difficult on the Yanks, but Alfredo Morales plays with a nasty streak and will not be as bullied as his peers were in Toronto.

The one thing to fear is how bamboozled Berhalter was by Herdman’s plan in Ontario. This isn’t to pile on the coach, who is known for his tactics but hasn’t seen them deliver against too many opponents of quality. Herdman may be the novice in terms of overall club experience, but he’s got a better handle on the international game.

If the Yanks look out-foxed and unprepared on Friday, that’s a big problem.

How will the USMNT line up versus Canada?

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No Christian Pulisic.

No Tyler Adams.

No Timothy Weah.

No Michael Bradley, Matt Miazga, and no Zack Steffen, either.

Ugh.

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Still, the United States men’s national team will be favored to get a home decision over Canada on Friday as the CONCACAF Nations League begins its final two match days of the group stage.

How will Gregg Berhalter line up his team without so many key components?

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan is probably going to get the start here, and he won’t kill the team, but we’d love to see Sean Johnson get a chance to improve on his 100% clean sheet success rate across two tournament caps for the U.S.

Back line: It would be insane if Sergino Dest didn’t start at one of the full back spots given his election of the USMNT over the Netherlands. Also insane would be not starting a finally-healthy John Brooks.

After that, it seems likely Berhalter will opt for Aaron Long to pair with Brooks. If his left back option is Dest, then it’ll be DeAndre Yedlin at right back (or Reggie Cannon). If Dest is on his preferred right side, than Daniel Lovitz may get a look over Tim Ream on account of the speed in Canada’s attack.

Midfield: Might Berhalter pull back an attacker and use a four-man midfield against the Canucks? Weston McKennie and Alfredo Morales will take two spots, and it seems pretty likely Jackson Yueill will get the chance to be a deep-lying playmaker with McKennie and Morales running their shorts off to make his life easier. We suppose Berhalter could opt for Wil Trapp over Yueill. It’s possible. A little too possible.

Attack: Josh Sargent is going to get the center forward spot, and it would be wild if Jordan Morris doesn’t join him. Then it’s down to Tyler Boyd or Paul Arriola, exciting versus a bit safer. And Arriola would give him more of a midfield presence than the forward-thinking Boyd.

Here’s how we think Berhalter starts in Orlando:

Guzan

Yedlin — Long — Brooks — Dest

Yueill

Morales — McKennie

Morris — Sargent — Arriola