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Player ratings: Who fared well in the USMNT’s win over Iceland?

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The United States defeated Iceland 3-2 in a friendly match in California on Sunday, as the USMNT started 2016 on a positive note.

[ RECAP: USA 3-2 Iceland ]

Jurgen Klinsmann had a young, MLS-heavy roster at the January camp, as the starting XI consisted of ten players from Major League Soccer.

Four players earned their first cap for the USMNT, as Kellyn Acosta, Jerome Kiesewetter, Tony Tchani, and Ethan Finlay all featured for the first time under Klinsmann. Below, we take a look at how the team fared in a solid display against Iceland.


GK – Luis Robles – 6 – In his first USMNT appearance since 2009, Robles had no chance on either of Iceland’s goals. Unfortunately for Robles, he likely won’t see any action in a competitive match.

LB – Kellyn Acosta – 5 – It was the 20-year-old’s first cap with the national team, and he was partly at fault on Iceland’s first goal. However, he showed promise moving forward and is a player for the future.

CB – Michael Orozco – 6 – Orozco’s deflection left Robles helpless on the first goal, but he redeemed himself with a goal of his own in the second-half. Still not a top-choice center-back.  

CB – Matt Besler – 6 – Besler is a consistent performer but the U.S. defense was a bit shaky at times. Much more comfortable with his preferred partner Geoff Cameron.

RB – Brad Evans – 5 – Evans wasn’t necessarily busy in the first half and was replaced at halftime. Hard to judge his performance on a short day at the office.

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LM – Lee Nguyen – 6 – Nguyen was strong in his 1st start for the national team, showing some pace and getting in good crosses to the box. He should become a more familiar face with the USMNT in 2016.

CM – Michael Bradley – 8 – Bradley had two assists and controlled the U.S. attack. A very strong showing from the captain as he will once again be the USMNT’s most important player.

CM – Jermaine Jones – 6 – Jones was decent on Sunday, but at 34-years-old is reaching the end of his international career. This could be his last run with the U.S.

RM – Ethan Finlay – 7 – Ethan Finlay was excellent today in his first cap, very involved in the attack and dangerous with the ball. He showed why he scored 10 goals and 13 assists for the Crew this season.

FW – Gyasi Zardes – 4 – Zardes missed a huge opportunity to score early in the match, and looked a step off today. We all know he has plenty of talent, but he needs to finish his chances to stay a regular starter.  

[ VIDEO: Jozy Altidore scores USMNT’s first goal of 2016 ]

FW – Jozy Altidore – 7 – Not only did Jozy score, but he also looked great off the ball against Iceland. He admitted he wasn’t at full fitness after the match, but he made plenty of runs in behind the defense and looked a danger. A good start to 2016 for a very important U.S. player.

Subs

RB – Steve Birnbaum – 8 – A goal and assist off the bench in just his second national team appearance, Birnbaum will be delighted with his performance on Sunday.

RM – Darlington Nagbe – 5 – Nagbe missed his only opportunity on goal, wasting a great cross from Jerome Kiesewetter. Still looking to find his feet with the national team.

CM – Tony Tchani – 6 – Tchani got his first cap for the United States on Sunday after missing out on a call-up from Cameroon a few months back through injury. An interesting player but likely won’t see any big minutes in the midfield.

FW – Jerome Kiesewetter – 8 – The 22-year-old was dynamic in his USMNT debut, bombing down the wings and taking on defenders. Remember this name…

FW – Jordan Morris – 6 – Morris came on for a late cameo off the bench and was busy in the box. The new Sounders star will look to follow up a breakthrough 2015 with a big year in 2016.

De Gea limps off for Spain ahead of Man Utd-Liverpool tilt

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Here’s the good news for Manchester United supporters: David De Gea played incredibly well for Spain in its EURO qualifier on Tuesday as La Furia Roja clinched a place in EURO 2020.

The bad news? The performance was truncated, with De Gea limping off the pitch and replaced by Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga in the 60th minute.

[ MORE: EURO qualifying wrap ]

De Gea appeared to injure himself while attempting a goal kick of all things, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be wondering what fresh hell awaits him next.

Perhaps that’s simply the fact that Liverpool visits Old Trafford on Sunday in a match that Solskjaer previously said was perhaps ideal for his reeling Red Devils.

Solskjaer would turn to Sergio Romero should De Gea been unable to play at the weekend. Lee Grant is United’s third goalkeeper with Dean Henderson on loan to Sheffield United.

United was already going to need a lot of help to beat back the unbeaten Reds.

EURO qualifying wrap: Spain earns place in stoppage time

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Spain clinched a spot in EURO 2020 via a last-minute equalizer, but the rest of the picture only got murkier thanks to dramatics in Romania and Switzerland.)

[ MORE: How should USMNT line up? ]


Sweden 1-1 Spain

A Marcus Berg header had Sweden on the verge of a significant home win against nearly unbeatable David De Gea and Spain, but Valencia forward Rodrigo delivered a stoppage time goal to give Robert Moreno’s men a place in EURO 2020. But Sweden can breathe a little easier thanks to a stoppage time goal across the continent.

Bad news for Manchester United, though, as De Gea’s strong day ended early due to injury.

Romania 1-1 Norway

New York City FC’s Alexandru Mitrita added another beauty to his collection in scoring for the second successive qualifier, but it wouldn’t stand up thanks to former Crystal Palace striker Alexander Sorloth‘s stoppage time equalizer.

Switzerland 2-0 Republic of Ireland

Terrible from the Irish, who trailed after 16 minutes and then went down to 10 men when Seamus Coleman was shown a red card in the 76th minute. Former West Ham man Edimilson Fernandes put it to bed in stoppage time as the Swiss out-attempted Ireland 20-9.

The Irish are tied for the lead in the group with 12 points but that’s about where the good news ends. They do not have an automatic spot in the playoffs while Denmark does and has 12 points. Switzerland has 11 and has also played one fewer match.

Ireland will need to beat Denmark next month and hope for help on the out-of-town scoreboard when Switzerland meets Gibraltar and Georgia.

Finland 3-0 Armenia

Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki continued his fine year with a pair of goals after Fredrik Jensen staked the Finnish side to a lead in Turku. Group J second place side Finland has a five-point lead on chasing Armenia and BNH.

Elsewhere

Faroe Islands 1-0 Malta
Gibraltar 2-3 Georgia
Greece 2-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Liechtenstein 0-5 Italy
Israel 3-1 Latvia

Lloyd: Coming off bench at World Cup “rock bottom of my entire career”

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The upper echelon of the USWNT player pool, especially the veteran generation, just swims in a different competitive gene pool.

Comments from a recent podcast featuring Carli Lloyd are the latest evidence of this, as the USWNT legend calls not starting regularly at this summer’s World Cup “the worst time of my life.”

[ MORE: How should USMNT line up? ]

She says she was happy to be a part of it and happy for her teammates but doesn’t back down from the “worst” diagnosis. Yeah, you read that right.

“I’m not going to lie and sugarcoat it,” Lloyd said on Julie Foudy’s Laughter Permitted podcast. “It was absolutely the worst time of my life. It affected my relationship with my husband, with friends. It really was rock bottom of my entire career. But somehow, you see light at the end of the tunnel, and I can honestly say I’m having more fun now playing than I ever have in my career. I think I just learned a lot throughout it.”

To be fair, Lloyd hasn’t backed up anyone in almost a decade and has since won a Ballon d’Or. Not many elite athletes get used to being second (or fourth) fiddle, especially on a major stage like that.

The personalities on this team are as big as any produced by Ronaldo’s Brazil or Zidane’s France. Some may laugh at this, but it shows what a tremendous job Jill Ellis did in marshaling the team to two-straight World Cups, the first with Abby Wambach in a sub’s role and the second with Lloyd.

It also shows the marvelous competitive nature of Lloyd and the resilience of players who know they’d start for any number of teams in the world. Lloyd says in the podcast that she believed she was playing at near her best level despite being moved from midfielder to forward.

Obviously no player prefers a sub’s role to starting, but — wow — if it isn’t bewildering to hear Lloyd talk about her supporting role at age 37 being the worst time of her life. Different types.

Liverpool’s Alisson, Matip return to training

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Premier League leaders Liverpool have been handed a huge boost ahead of their massive clash at bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Remember: Liverpool are eight points clear atop the table and United sit in 12th, so Jurgen Klopp‘s men are keen to rub salt further into the wounds of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s Red Devils.

Alisson and Joel Matip both returned to training at Melwood, with Alisson recovering from a calf injury which he suffered on the opening day of the season.

The Brazilian goalkeeper has been missing after limping out of the 4-1 win against Norwich City on Aug. 9, and his return to full fitness will bolster this already stingy Liverpool defense. Adrian has performed admirably, albeit with a few errors, in Alisson’s absence but it is now time for the superstar goalkeeper to return to action.

As for Matip, the towering center back suffered an injury against Sheffield United and missed Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League win against Red Bull Salzburg and their narrow Premier League victory against Leicester City.

Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren have both come in for Matip but neither have been solid enough and the former Schalke star will slot straight back in alongside Virgil Van Dijk and bring a steadying influence to the entire defensive line. Matip has been sensational this season, just as everyone expected Gomez to take his starting spot.

Another situation to keep an eye on is the fitness of Mohamed Salah, as he trained on his own at Melwood. Salah was caught with a rash challenge by Hamza Choudhury at the end of Liverpool’s win over Leicester and suffered an ankle injury.

Klopp was incandescent with rage about the foul on Salah and it appears the Egyptian winger is in a race against time to be fit for the clash against Man United, although he is reportedly looking good to play at Old Trafford on Sunday.

With the fitness of Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw Anthony Martial, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and others a constant struggle for United in recent weeks, Solskjaer hasn’t had much help in that department.

Having Alisson and Matip back is great news for Liverpool and Klopp.