AP Photo/Moises Castillo

USMNT player ratings from a shameful, history-making loss in Guatemala

Leave a comment

No, it’s not just a bunch of zeroes…

The United States men’s national team sacrificed a 21-year winning streak against Guatemala and again put its 2018 World Cup hopes in jeopardy with a clunker in Guatemala City, losing 2-0 on Friday.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

How bad was it? Let us count the ways the Yanks’ first loss to Guatemala in 21 years let us down:

  1. Poor defending
  2. Poor passing
  3. Poor possession
  4. Poor shooting
  5. Extremely poor tactics

But, hey, Tim Howard was back. Onto the ratings:

Starting XI

Tim Howard — 4 — Wasn’t much he was going to do on either Guatemala goal, but those were also the only times he was really challenged. Would’ve loved to see Superman steal a point, but even one fantastic save wouldn’t have been enough for this impotent attack.

Edgar Castillo — 5 — Some good tackling, but not a lot going forward. Something to build on.

Omar Gonzalez (Off 66′) — 4 — Poor. Just not as poor as his CB mate.

Michael Orozco (Off 59′) — 2 — After totally losing Ruiz on the second Guatemala goal, Gonzalez glanced over at Orozco while chasing the striker as if to say, “Center back… you’ve played it recently?” Awful night. He’s not even playing for his club team, but Jurgen Klinsmann apparently thinks Matt Hedges is the singer of an indie band.

Geoff Cameron — 6 — Penny for his thoughts as he found himself at right back with a CAM in his preferred CDM role and two monumental disappointments at CB. Whoops. Funny how it all tightened up once he moved central.

Mix Diskerud (Off at HT) — 3 — If this were little league, Mix would get credit for working super hard (and probably a popsicle). This, however, is a World Cup qualifier. Out-of-position or not, Diskerud was poor.

[ OLYMPIC PLAYOFF: U.S.-Colombia recap | 3 things ]

Michael Bradley — 4 — Really struggled with his distribution, and his touch was off all night. Not a good night for the States’ best player.

Alejandro Bedoya — 6 — One of the lone bright spots for the first 70 minutes, he has to wonder where the form of, well, every one of his teammates went.

DeAndre Yedlin — 4 — Playing in an advanced position, Yedlin was essentially invisible. Slotted back at RB later in the contest, he was a bit more comfortable.

Bobby Wood — 5 — The only service he received was long balls. Hard to fault the Hawaii islander.

Clint Dempsey — 4 — Created a couple strong scoring chances, but you knew this wasn’t a vintage Clint night when he hit a beautiful chance to pull the Yanks within one right at Motta. Looked disinterested at times, but managed to inject some life into his match in the final 20 minutes

Substitutes

Darlington Nagbe (On at HT) — 5 — Started a very good bit of play that should’ve led to a Dempsey goal but failed to gain momentum and disappeared as the match dragged to its conclusion.

Gyasi Zardes (On 59′) — 5 — Lively enough. Given the garbage casserole around him, he made his case to start on Tuesday.

Jozy Altidore (On 67′) — 5 — Wish he was 90 minutes strong, but also wish he would’ve beaten Motta for that late goal. Great save, but still.

Guardiola: I’m staying at Man City and I love this challenge

Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

This year’s managerial merry-go-round tells us that nothing should surprise us, and there are few high-profile jobs that feel safe from changes at any given time.

Manchester City is one of them, but upheaval at old club Bayern Munich and uncertainty at Barcelona have had many linking Pep Guardiola with an early exit from the Etihad Stadium.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City v. Chelsea ]

But as Chuck D warned us so long ago, don’t believe the hype; Guardiola says he’s very happy at Man City and not quitting on the project or the season.

“We don’t have a joker in our pocket,” he said. “I know, all around the world, people are saying the Premier League is done.”

“But if people think I am going to resign for these results, they don’t know me. I like this challenge. I love to be in this position. If the club wants me next season, I want to be here 100 percent.”

Few would be surprise if Man City went on a wild run of wins, especially once Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane return to the team. The reason folks think the Premier League is over is the idea that Liverpool would lose nine more points than City seems so unlikely (though they do meet again).

Milan hoping to woo “great champion” Zlatan next week

ALBERTO LINGRIA/AFP/GettyImages
Leave a comment

Serie A mainstays AC Milan are trying to woo Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to the San Siro.

The full-court press makes sense, as it will take some financial sacrifices for Ibrahimovic to join the side given Financial Fair Play problems in Milan.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City v. Chelsea ]

Coach Stefano Pioli called Zlatan “a great champion” while admitting he has to focus on the table and not transfers, while former AC Milan CEO Adriano Galliani issued a glowing call for the Swede to return to town.

From Football-Italia.com:

“It would be romantic if he returned. But I have a rule, I don’t talk about teams I’m not involved with anymore. I’m only a fan of Milan now. Still, his arrival would enrich Italian football, similar to when Cristiano Ronaldo came to Italy.”

Man, they know how to speak this guy’s language, don’t they?

Sky Sports says Ibrahimovic’s agent will meet with Milan again next week in the hopes of convincing him to take a lower wage deal, and the 38-year-old showed he’s willing to take one for the team during his stint with the LA Galaxy.

The move makes too much sense, with Milan’s 11 goals well below its expected goal number. They need a finisher, and Zlatan sure does that. And if lower wages means Zlatan gets to play mercenary for five months while proving he’s got the goods for a big wage for 2020-21, that’s an easy concession for the striker.

U.S. U-17 keeper Odunze learning from Schmeichel at Leicester City

Plumb Images via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Leicester City’s huge secret was told to the world at the U-17 World Cup in Brazil, where imposing goalkeeper Chituru Odunze made several big saves in the United States’ quick exit from the group stage.

Odunze, who turned 17 last month, joined the Premier League outfit from the Vancouver Whitecaps last season, and is already getting some first team training time.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City v. Chelsea ]

This is all good news for a USMNT program which has a long history of goalkeepers shining at the top levels in Europe, including Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, Tim Howard, and now Zach Steffen.

Odunze admits to being pleased at the tests provided by Jamie Vardy and the Leicester attackers, but says he’s learning more from the expertise on show from a trio of wise first team goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel, Danny Ward, and Eldin Jakupovic.

Schmeichel is a Premier League winner, Jakupovic a former regular PL starter with Hull City, and Ward helped Huddersfield Town to promotion during a loan from Liverpool. From The Leicester Mercury:

“They’re all really good role models at the club, and they sort of take you under their wing. They’ve taught me to calm down and be confident in my abilities,” Odunze said. “Of course, there are little pieces of technical information they give me while we’re training, but a lot of the lasting information I get from them is mental.”

The 17-year-old has a monstrous frame, so learning from Schmeichel and company at such a young age while getting tested by the Foxes’ electric attackers is a great combination. He is 2W-2L at the U18 Premier League level.

Premier League Preview: Manchester City v. Chelsea

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester City and Chelsea both defend their slimmed title hopes when they meet Saturday at the Etihad Stadium (Watch Live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

City is hoping to avoid a second-straight loss after dropping nine points behind prohibitive title favorites Liverpool last match day, while Frank Lampard‘s Blues know a loss could see them drop as many as 11 points behind the Reds.

And, of course, a win will give either side the table advantage over the other.

Ederson and David Silva are available again for Man City. Christian Pulisicis in contention to play” for Chelsea after missing the international break with the United States.

A Champions League match day follows this one, with Man City meeting Shakhtar Donetsk in Manchester on Tuesday and Chelsea in Spain to meet Valencia one day later.


Injuries/suspensions

Manchester City: OUT — Bernardo Silva, Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane. QUESTIONABLE — None.

Chelsea: OUT — Ruben Loftus-Cheek. QUESTIONABLE — Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi.


Probable lineups

Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Fernandinho, Mendy; Rodri, Gundogan, B.Silva, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Aguero.

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Tomori, Zouma, Alonso; Kovacic, Kante, Mount, Pulisic, Willian; Abraham.


What they’re saying

City’s Pep Guardiola on Frank Lampard’s young managerial career: “From my experience, experience doesn’t count much. I would say that when you know the club it is a good advantage and Frank Lampard knows Chelsea perfectly and everything behind the scenes – media, fans, players – so that is good. When I arrived (at Barcelona) not many people trusted me, honestly. Few, few people. Maybe the president, sporting director and not many. “Maybe Frank was similar at Derby. It was a big club, he didn’t take results in the beginning and people said he didn’t have experience. Look now.”

Frank Lampard on being above Man City after 12 matches: “For us to be in that position is something I am pleased with, I actually want more as well. I look at ourselves and don’t consider others, only where we could have got more points too, and there are times where we could have done. At the same time it is nice to be up there and around it. It’s a great test tomorrow, head to head to see where we’re at. It won’t be the end story, anyone can go to Manchester City and lose, they are such a strong outfit. That is what Pep Guardiola and the club have built over recent years. So I won’t be making huge judgements win or lose tomorrow without a doubt.”


Prediction

Could go either way, couldn’t it, but it feels more likely we see a vintage, defiant bounce back effort from City that looks a bit too easy given Chelsea’s strengths. This is the first big league test for Chelsea since its narrow loss to Liverpool on Sept. 22. We see the six-match winning streak ending via a 3-1 final score.