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What now for USMNT following 4-0 win against Guatemala?


U.S. Men’s National Team fans alike were left dazed and confused following their team’s unconvincing performance against Guatemala last Friday.

[ MORE: USMNT knocks off Guatemala in must-win WCQ matchup ]

However, Jurgen Klinsmann’s group came out and turned things around significantly on Tuesday, when the USMNT captured a dominating 4-0 victory against the same Los Chapines team.

[ MORE: Player ratings for USMNT-Guatemala ]

Despite the win though, the elephant in the room remains the same for the U.S.: where does the USMNT go from here?

It’s a loaded question really. While the Americans currently sit second in Group C for CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the fact of the matter remains that the team was handed a more than favorable draw to begin with. Tuesday’s win may have masked the bitter taste from a few days prior, but anyone that has seen the nation’s progression (or lack there of) over recent years will still be concerned.

Let’s take a look at some of the storylines that still plague the U.S.:

Who steps up scoring when Dempsey is gone?

Jozy Altidore notched his third goal of WCQ against Guatemala, but this is a recurring issue that the U.S. has faced for some time now. Other than Dempsey and Altidore, Geoff Cameron, primarily a defender, is the only other American player with more than one goal throughout qualifying thus far. The emergence of Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris in the future is something that the Americans will surely be banking on, but while the two have shown flashes of brilliance at times in their young international careers, it’s simply too soon to definitely say that either is a viable option moving forward.

The U.S. has struggled for some time in the search for their Robert Lewandowski or Zlatan Ibrahimovic. While both players are a tad unrealistic to emulate, you see my point. Chris Wondolowski, Terrence Boyd and Aron Johannsson are just a few of the names that have come and gone for the Americans, with nobody truly making an impact at forward.

Defense still a major concern

Guatemala simply isn’t a very good team. That was what was so troubling about the 2-0 loss just days before last night’s win. A poorly contested header off a corner kick, followed by a goal conceded from a goal kick that went the length of the field are plays that should be seen as worrisome for the U.S.. The injuries to John Brooks, Matt Besler and Fabian Johnson were immense, so this situation is a bit tricky to assess, however, Klinsmann’s tactics have done the team no favors at times.

On Tuesday, there was a noticeable difference at the back with DeAndre Yedlin and Cameron playing at right back and centerback, respectively. While Cameron prefers a defensive midfield role best, centerback is still a very real option for the Stoke City player as the U.S. looks to bring in a new generation of defenders over the next few years, including Matt Miazga, Tim Parker and Cameron Carter-Vickers. Finding a consistent back four should be Klinsmann’s number one target before the Hexagonal (assuming they qualify).

Bradley best with Beckerman at DM

While Michael Bradley isn’t necessarily the most creative midfielder in the game of football, he is one of the U.S.’ most valuable players, especially in the midfield. The Toronto FC man has been a staple of the American team dating back to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but there have been noticeable differences in his game over the years.

Tuesday was a prime example.

When Kyle Beckerman is playing a holding role behind Bradley, the captain makes better decisions and doesn’t force as many mistakes as he does when he has to handle more of the team’s defensive capabilities. Bradley is at his best when he is buzzing around the pitch, picking the ball up in the defensive half and then distributing it to the wings or carrying it up himself. With the 28-year-old still firmly established as a core member of the team’s midfield, it’s essential that the U.S. finds ample cover for him to maximize his play.

Klinsmann Era must be seen out barring WCQ collapse

Pundits and die-hard supporters have been calling for the German’s head since the U.S. bailed out of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which was played on American soil. If there were ever a time for the U.S. to have fired Klinsmann it would have been following the disappointment of Gold Cup, or more so after the CONCACAF playoff that saw the Americans fall to rival Mexico.

One thing that can’t be denied is that Klinsmann’s tactical decisions have been head-scratching on many occasions throughout his tenure. Klinsmann will forever be remembered for not taking Landon Donovan to the 2014 World Cup, but in reality, he has bigger fish to fry at this point in his coaching career,

At a time where the U.S. and many other CONCACAF nations are struggling to find consistency, Klinsmann has to do some serious soul-searching over the coming months. While the Copa America Centenario will be seen as a massive tournament because of the competition that it brings to America the bigger goal at hand will always be World Cup qualification. Klinsmann’s goal, and it’s certainly a challenging one, must be establish an identity in the team. The Guatemala win showed that the U.S. is capable of getting wins when the chips are stacked against them, but it shouldn’t take a do-or-die scenario to instill that kind of urgency.

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Gomes return gives Everton boost despite defeat

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Everton lost the first game of a gauntlet four-game swing, losing 3-2 at Arsenal despite leading inside two minutes of the match. But while Everton left the Emirates without any points, it gained a massive boost with the return of Andre Gomes.

The Portuguese central midfielder, signed from Barcelona, made his return to the field on Sunday off the bench in the 59th minute for his first game since suffering a gruesome injury on November 3 against Tottenham. Gomes appeared to break his leg after a sliding tackle from behind from Heung-Min Son, but in less than four months, Gomes is now back in action.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

“I need to thank everybody. The team, they were great, my supporters, Evertonions, and also in general football supporters, everyone has been wonderful with me,” Gomes said after the Arsenal match. “(It) gives (me) confidence when you feel like you have the support of the people. I just pushed myself to the my limit, I wanted to be back as soon as possible, and I’m glad I have the help of everybody around me.”

This is huge for Everton and head coach Carlo Ancelotti. Without Gomes, and the oft-injured Fabian Delph (though Delph started against Arsenal), Everton really lacked pace and power in the center of midfield. Morgan Schneiderlin is a decent passer but doesn’t have the pace required for the Premier League, and then Ancelotti was dropping Gylfi Sigurdsson further back in midfield to play alongside Schneiderlin or Delph.

With Gomes back in contention for a starting spot, Ancelotti can play Sigurdsson closer to the opposing goal and partner him with either Delph or the still-young Tom Davies, who can do even more running to win the ball back and get it to Gomes.

“He did really well without problem,” Ancelotti said post game. “(He was) very strong in the tackle. The player is really important for us and he will play next game.”

Looking forward, it’s also huge for Everton to get Gomes back because they’re in the middle of one of the season’s toughest stretches. After facing Arsenal today, Everton hosts Manchester United, visits Chelsea, and then hosts Liverpool on Monday, March 16 in the Merseyside Derby.

Galatasaray wins bonkers derby over Fenerbahce

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Goals. Fights. Red cards. Yellow cards. Horror tackles. Passion in the stands.

The Intercontinental Derby in Istanbul today had just about everything.

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For the first time this century, Galatasaray defeated Fenerbahce in the Turkish Superlig, winning 3-1 on the road. With the victory, Galatasaray moves into a three-way tie for first place in the league. As mentioned above, the game featured 12 yellow cards, VAR reviews, two red cards, and countless other dangerous plays that the officials let go with just a warning.

Max Kruse put the Asia-based Fenerbahce in front off a penalty kick that was confirmed by VAR, but Dutch defender Ryan Donk equalized for the European-based Galatasaray in the 39th minute off a bullit header in the box from a corner.

With both teams trading chances, the tempers exploded in the 77th minute after Henry Onyekuru was taken down on the left side of the box. VAR confirmed that decision as well and former Atletico Madrid star Radamel Falcao powered the penalty in to give Galatasaray a huge lead.

Five minutes later, as Younes Belhanda was coming off the field as a substitution, a scuffle that he started with Deniz Turuc ended with both players getting sent off. Awkwardly, Ahmet Calik had come onto the pitch for Belhanda, but Belhanda’s actions just before he left the pitch meant that Calik wasn’t officially in the game yet and the substitution was cancelled. Calik eventually entered as a sub for Radamel Falcao, while both teams were reduced to ten players on the pitch.

In the 89th minute, Fernando Muslera dived to make an outstanding save on a powerful free kick from Mehmet Ekici, and eight minutes later deep into second half stoppage time, Muslera played provider. His long pass from inside the box found Onyekuru in space and the Nigerian dribbled forward, rounded Fenerbahce goalkeeper Altay Bayindir and scored before going into a slide celebration in the corner.

The game had a couple of Premier League connections. Former Fulham midfielder Jean-Michael Seri and Falcao, formerly of Manchester United, both started for Galatasaray. Goal-scorer Ryan Donk played a decade ago one season for West Bromwich Albion and Sofiane Feghouli played recently for West Ham. For Fenerbahce, Mauricio Isla also played one season for Queens Park Rangers.

Watch the highlights from this wild and crazy – and totally on-point – derby below.

Ziyech’s Chelsea contract details confirmed

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Chelsea has confirmed the contract details of talented midfielder Hakim Ziyech who will join this summer.

The London giants announced on Sunday that Ziyech has signed a five-year contract with Chelsea, beginning on July 1 this summer when his transfer from Ajax is completed.

On February 13, Chelsea and Ajax came to an agreement on a transfer fee for Ziyech, reported to be in the region of $43 million.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

“I am delighted and proud to have signed for such a huge club as Chelsea,” Ziyech said in a statement. “I am looking forward to next season and hope we can achieve great things together.”

Chelsea was intent on signing Ziyech ahead of the competition and made Ajax a deal they couldn’t refuse.

The left-footed playmaker has been a star for Ajax and in the UEFA Champions League for the last few seasons, helping lead Ajax to the Champions League semifinals last season. So far this season, he’s scored eight goals and recorded four assists between the Dutch Eredivisie and the Champions League.

Ziyech’s arrival this summer surely spells the end of time for Pedro and William as attacking midfielders at Chelsea. The Dutchman, who usually plays as a right winger, cutting inside with the left foot, could create a great combination with Christian Pulisic, Tammy Abraham, and Mason Mount moving forward. Chelsea could also certainly sign another one in that position, to keep a deep squad in case of injuries and/or fatigue.

Arteta vows to keep Aubameyang: “Our most important player”

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Arsenal completed a hectic week with a hectic win prodded by its two top performers of the season.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice and Bernd Leno made key late saves as the exhausted Gunners outlasted Everton 3-2 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was effusive in his praise, relatively speaking, for both players. He said that Leno “saved” Arsenal, and went long on Aubameyang when asked how important the player is to the club’s future.

“Incredible,” Arteta said. “The amount of work he’s doing. Before I had my questions, (but he’s) shown the commitment that he’s shown to his teammates and the club. I wasn’t sure if he wanted to do it, or do it physically. So it’s either you want to do it or don’t.

“He’s our most important player. Stats wise, there’s no question. As much as I can and the club can, we will try to convince him to stay with us.”

Arteta also appreciates the effort his men put in against an energetic Everton side three days after outlasting Olympiacos in Greece.

“Coming back from Europe, three games in seven days, conceding a goal in the first minute, the way we reacted, the way we played for 60-65 minutes was exactly what I wasn’t from my team,” Arteta preened. “The resilience some of the players showed when they were absolutely knackered and kept going and going. This was exactly what I wanted. … Everybody was looking at me, saying ‘I’m cramping. I’m doing this, doing that.’ We could only change two players. I tried to condense the midfield and have a little bit more energy.”

Leno was very happy with Arsenal’s effort.

The Gunners have been much better since Arteta implemented his system, even if their 270-minute shutout streak died in the first minute on Sunday.

“You could see that our power was at the end,” Leno said. “We were fighting. You can see how happy everyone was after this game because we deserve this and we have to keep going.”

Aubameyang praised his keeper.

“We are always happy to have him. He saved us a couple of times at the right moment. We’re proud of him and we know that we can count on him. He gives us more energy to push.”

The ninth-place Gunners are four points off fifth place and, of course, still alive for a Champions League berth through the Europa League.

Staying in the Champions League is probably their only path to keeping Aubameyang, and Arteta’s description of the Gabonese star doesn’t try to disguise the need to keep him in North London.