Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The morning after: Boiling down the USMNT loss to Argentina


It still stings, you know.

The United States men’s national team was overwhelmed by Argentina in a 4-0 loss at the Copa America Centenario semifinal in Houston on Wednesday, a reality check for Jurgen Klinsmann’s crew (and all of us).

Poring through the fallout from the loss can leave someone just as overwhelmed as the Yanks on the pitch, and I find it useful to channel William of Ockham’s oft-summoned principle for problem solving. To sum it up succinctly but not perfectly; among competing answers, choose the simplest.

[ MORE: Match recap |Three things]

So, which of these is working harder to prove a position, and which is a sad exhalation of fact?

A) Facing the No. 1 team in the world, the United States lost 4-0 and never looked in the game because it’s coach didn’t use the right players, neither committed to high-pressing nor parking the bus, and didn’t show its true class on the night.


B) Down three regular starters including two formation-critical midfielders, the United States was outclassed by a team of players who regularly compete, thrive and even win the UEFA Champions League, and went to a World Cup final two years ago.

Yeah. I’ll take B. Not Billy Madison honking on a woodwind after Eric Gordon whizzes through a performance, but closer than we’d like.

[ MORE: Player ratings — one or two bright spots … maybe? ]

That’s not to say that Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure atop the USMNT has been anywhere near a success, or that he hasn’t shown maddening inconsistency in lineup, substitutions and at times tactics, but here’s what I believe Tuesday night’s event was not: Killed by the coach.

Landon Donovan made an astute if not clairvoyant point in our talk Monday:

“Where the drop-off is, this team has been playing together the same 11 or 12 guys for 4 games,” Donovan said. “And that’s where it hurts. Not only is it a continuity issue, but it’s also a fitness issue. Whether it’s Zusi or Pulisic or Nagbe or Besler, they’re not going to be as sharp. That’s going to make a difference, as will fitness and they aren’t going to be as confidence who’s been running nonstop for four games.”

Beckerman was overwhelmed by the speed of Argentina, and it’s likely the same would’ve been said for one of Klinsmann’s other two defensive midfield options: Perry Kitchen hadn’t played a minute in the tournament. His other choice would’ve been to break up a dynamic center back pairing and move Geoff Cameron into the middle but, as we saw Wednesday, Cameron and Brooks likely saved the Yanks from a Mexico-Chile score line.

Zusi was arguably fine, but had played a bit more in the tournament. Wondolowski was terrible, like Beckerman answerless against the speed and technique of Argentina.

Now starting Wondolowski and Beckerman was not the world’s best idea, to be sure, but would slotting Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic — the two seemingly most-desired candidates on the bench — have made a big difference? Simplified: Would starting two men with only substitute appearances for their country have turned the tables against Argentina? Probably not, and it’s absolutely cool to criticize Klinsmann for not giving them a start in at least a friendly to prepare for this possibility. To fault him for not starting them Tuesday?

[ MORE: Klinsmann, players react ]

The tactical idea, perhaps, was that when the U.S. got to counter attack, Wondolowski would’ve been an adequate hold-up man as Bradley, Yedlin and Johnson joined the attack and Beckerman, Brooks and Cameron held position. As it turned out, Wondolowski was downright terrible.

Alexi Lalas said after the game that, rightly or wrongly, this game would provide a referendum on Major League Soccer. He’s right, and the referendum is wrong. Expecting MLS to be on par with the best leagues in the world is foolish, and American club soccer has grown exponentially in the past few decades.

HOUSTON, TX - JUNE 21: Gyasi Zardes #9 and Fabian Johnson #23 of United States react after being defeated by Argentina 4-0 in a 2016 Copa America Centenario Semifinal match at NRG Stadium on June 21, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Gyasi Zardes and Fabian Johnson (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

However, awaiting that relatively nascent league’s competition with the world’s best is a daunting expectation. At the risk of counting a one-off as undebatable truth, the Yanks’ best players on Tuesday played for Hertha Berlin, Stoke City and Borussia Monchengladbach, and their key absences either play in Top Five world leagues (Ligue 1 and Bundesliga) or spent the majority of their careers there (Jermaine Jones).

One TV analyst said, “Argentina has great players, but so do we.” That was tough to stomach, given that La Albiceleste rolled out regular for Barcelona (2), Napoli, Inter Milan, Everton and Manchester City while keeping Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria on the bench. Great, but so do we? Holy smoke.

Online, the argument was made that the U.S. looked much better in defeating Spain in 2009 at the Confederations Cup, but that ignores some major plot holes: Besides Landon Donovan, the Yanks’ difference makers were all at better stages of their careers at bigger clubs. Clint Dempsey was 26 and with Fulham, Tim Howard 30 with Everton, DaMarcus Beasley 27 with Rangers, Michael Bradley 21 with Gladbach. The list goes on and on, and the U.S. needed a miracle to get out of its group after being convincingly thumped by Italy and Brazil, remember?

[ MORE: Hyndman joins Premier League’s Cherries ]

It’s depressing to just say, “We’re not good enough yet”, especially as American sports fans who expected the 2002 World Cup quarterfinalists or subsequent knockout round sides to be the weight that carried them over the tipping point.

It’s not nearly as bad as Tuesday appeared, as the Yanks are between generational highs. Take a look at the ebbs and flows of Mexico through a down generation and back up to this cycle’s golden group, Chile result aside. In the pipeline are MLS-developed players at their own clubs as well as Chelsea and Porto, showing progress for the system, and talent on the books at Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Bournemouth. Life is going to get better, and really soon. There are even points to be made about how the team would look if Aron Johannsson, Jozy Altidore, Terrence Boyd and/or Joe Gyau weren’t injured.

Just don’t expect a “tactical shift” to lift the Yanks to a 3-2 win over Chile or Colombia on Saturday. Instead, hope for some breaks and progress.

Southampton outclass Aston Villa

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Southampton outclassed Aston Villa to win 2-0 at St Mary’s on Saturday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

In-form Shane Long struck early and Stuart Armstrong sealed the win in the 94th minute as Villa never looked likely to draw level.

With the win Southampton move on to 34 points for the season and are in the race for European qualification. Villa are just one point above the drop zone.

3 things we learned

1. Saints almost safe: Ralph Hasenhuttl said he will start sorting out a new contract for himself and his players when they reach 36 points. They are now on 34 as they showed just enough class to get past Aston Villa. A clean sheet will delight Hasenhuttl as his team never really looked like conceding against a poor Villa outfit. Saints have played well in recent weeks without getting the points they deserved but on Saturday they dug deep to grab all three points. With a favorable run of games coming up, Saints are finally looking up the table.

2. Sky is the limit for Djenepo: He is one of the most exciting players to watch as the Mali international dribbles and wriggles his way towards goal. He could have scored a couple but set up Long’s goal and his potential is limitless. He is still just 21 years old and has a huge future in the game.

3. Reina, Grealish are Villa’s big hopes: Jack Grealish did his best to get Villa going, as he has done all season, but he had no real hope from his teammates as Villa were pretty wretched. Late on they chucked everything at Saints but even then they couldn’t break through. Pepe Reina made several fine stops from Southampton’s players at one end, even though his loose passing at the back put them under severe pressure. Villa head to Wembley next weekend to play in the League Cup final against Man City and that is a free-hit. Their main aim is to stay in the Premier League and they are now just one point off the bottom three.

Man of the Match: Stuart Armstrong – He finished off his lung-bursting run in the 94th minute to slot home Saints’ second and the Scotsman was tireless in linking together midfield and attack. Long and Ings set the tempo and Armstrong and Djenepo back them up so well.

Southampton almost took the lead early on as Will Smallbone, making his Premier League debut, saw his shot deflect onto the post and out.

The hosts did take the lead soon after as great work from Moussa Djenepo down the left saw him cross for Long who bundled home the ball. VAR checked the goal for handball but it stood.

Saints continued to dominate as Ryan Bertrand‘s header set up Ings who bundled his way through on goal but Pepe Reina produced a top save to deny him, then Djenepo fired over from Long’s cross.

Villa did improve a little as half time approached with Mbwana Samatta scoring from an offside position and Grealish trying to get on the ball as much as he could.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Jack Stephens flicked just over from a superb Ryan Bertrand free kick and then Stuart Armstrong rounded Reina but sent his shot into the side-netting.

Reina denied Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg‘s volley at one end while at the other Samatta’s deflected shot looped just over.

Substitute Che Adams fired just wide late on as Southampton were a threat on the break as Villa poured forward in search of an equalizer.

A frantic finish saw Adams have a shot cleared off the line at one end then Villa flashed a shot wide at the other. Reina then came up for a late corner kick and Saints cleared, leading to a wonderful ball for Adams who set up Armstrong to slot home and send St Mary’s wild.

Wasteful Sheffield United splits points with Brighton

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Sheffield United failed to find the finishing touch more than once in a 1-1 draw with relegation-threatened Brighton and Hove Albion at Bramall Lane on Saturday.

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Enda Stevens gave the Blades a lead with a delightful goal, but Neal Maupay quickly answered for the visitors.

Sheffield United improves to 40 points, behind fifth-place Spurs on goal differential.

Brighton’s 10th draw of the season pulls it four points clear of the bottom three.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Three things we learned

1. Blades fail to take advantage of Spurs stumble: If Chris Wilder‘s men fail to qualify for Europa, let alone the Champions League, they will point to results like this one. The hosts had all of the ball and gave up just one big chance, but switched off on one set piece and only collected a single point.

2. Misfiring forwards don’t help the cause: While Blades did have plenty of possession, they managed a single shot on target between starting forward Oli McBurnie and Billy Sharp, as well as substitute David McGoldrick.

3. Norwood impresses in the center: Well-traveled Oliver Norwood sprayed the ball all over the pitch on Saturday. Norwood had 100 touches for the hosts while completing seven of 14 crosses and 12 of 18 long balls. Despite all the big launches, he passed at 88 percent in the center of the park.

The Blades opened the scoring in the 26th minute as Stevens smashed a clinical shot home after a clever short corner routine.

Brighton answered when Lewis Dunk flicked a free kick onto the path of Maupay for 1-1.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Stevens would only last to halftime thanks to injury.

Mat Ryan and his defenders needed to come up big several times in the second half, including an 88th-minute scramble in the heart of his box.,

Palace rides Van Aanholt free kick past messy Newcastle

Crystal Palace v. Newcastle United recap and video highlights
Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images
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Patrick Van Aanholt starred against his former derby rivals as Crystal Palace beat Newcastle United 1-0 on Saturday at Selhurst Park.

Palace snaps a three-match losing run with the win, moving 13th with 33 points.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Newcastle stays on 31 points in 14th.

Valentino Lazaro took a straight red card for a take down of Wilfried Zaha deep in stoppage time and will miss the next three games.

Three things we learned

1. Van Aanholt shines bright:  The Eagles’ fullback hasn’t been at his best too often this season, but he was marvelous on Saturday even apart from the free kick goal. Playing against his former Northeast rivals, Van Aanholt passes at 85 percent, completed five of eight crosses and two of four long balls. He was credited with six key passes and the creation of two big chances (via Sofascore).

2. Same two stars for Newcastle, the rest passengers: Martin Dubravka made eight saves to keep Newcastle in the match, and the attack only went so far as electric winger Allan Saint-Maximin. Newcastle has badly needed a difference-maker in the midfield, and it’s no surprise the midfield is a mess without a real January energizer. Sean Longstaff has been a shell of the man linked with a $35 million move to Manchester United this summer.

3. Scrappy affair: Referee Peter Bankes handed out plenty of yellow cards — five for Newcastle, two for Brighton — and there wasn’t much consistency as to what merited a mere whistle and what registered as a caution. Palace had 15 fouls to Newcastle’s nine despite the discrepancy in cards.

Man of the Match: Van Aanholt, who got the better of his only rival for the honors with his free kick goal.

Dubravka was as busy early as Palace was wasteful. Jordan Ayew and Christian Benteke failed to strike with force from 18 yards before the keeper palmed away a strong Scott Dann header off a corner.

Palace keeper Vicente Guaita was then troubled by a Joelinton rip from distance, and Newcastle had a corner and a chance to breathe.

Benteke missed a sitter on a perfectly struck free kick, Newcastle bailed out in the 21st minute.

Joelinton and Benteke seemed intent on competing for least clinical striker, with the former then bungling a chance to cross for a streaking Miguel Almiron.

It took ex-Sunderland man Van Aanholt to put Newcastle to the sword with a delightful 45th-minute free kick.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Ayew should’ve had it 2-0 in the 48th minute when Van Aanholt’s cross found him near the back post, which he struck.

Gary Cahill then headed a Van Aanholt free kick off the side netting from close range.

Dominated for 68 minutes, the Magpies saw two bits of danger through Danny Rose and Fabian Schar in the 69th. The latter led to a pair of corners.

Dubravka again got the better of Ayew after Zaha and Cheikhou Kouyate set up a brilliant chance. Wasteful.

Burnley batter Bournemouth amid VAR drama

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Burnley beat Bournemouth 3-0 at Turf Moor on Saturday as Sean Dyche‘s side continue to surge up the table amid plenty of VAR controversy.

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Matej Vydra, Jay Rodriguez and Dwight McNeil scored but Bournemouth had two goals chalked off by VAR as the second incident resulted in them thinking they had made it 1-1 to conceding a penalty kick.

With the win Burnley move up to eighth on 37 points, while Bournemouth remain just two points above the relegation zone.

3 things we learned

1. VAR steals the show: This was a game which was decided by VAR as Bournemouth had two goals ruled out. Philip Biling’s handball meant that King’s goal was disallowed and it looked harsh on Biling amongst a slew of bodies inside the box from a corner. Then the big moment came in the second half as Wilson scored to make it 1-1 but VAR intervened as Adam Smith had handled at the other end of the pitch. The goal was chalked off and a penalty kick awarded and that was the game. Bournemouth were livid as it looked like a heft chunk of shoulder from Smith but VAR had spoken.

2. Bournemouth running out of time: Howe’s side are playing well in games but are being knocked back at key moments time and time again. The VAR calls were harsh but Howe’s side never looked dangerous enough in attack and had Ramsdale to thank for not being four or five down. With Chelsea and Liverpool in their next two and Spurs, Everton, Man City, Leicester and Man United still to come, where are Bournemouth’s points going to come from? They’ve shocked plenty of big boys in the past and their five-season stay in the Premier League now depends on a few more of those.

3. Surging Burnley so underrated: Sean Dyche’s men are now in eighth place, three points off the top five and fifth could mean Champions League qualification this season. Imagine that? After just staying up last season and a slow start to the opening half of this season, Burnley have taken 13 points from the last 15 available. They have gone from relegation candidates to European hopefuls and they have stuck to their gameplan and played to their strengths which is huge credit to Dyche.

Man of the Match: Dwight McNeil – Vydra was a pest and Ramsdale did well to deny him on multiple occasions but McNeil was brilliant, whipping in superb crosses and he smashed home a beauty late on after another mazy run.

The first big chance of the game arrived as Matej Vydra charged in from the left and forced a fine save from Aaron Ramsdale.

Bournemouth thought they had taken the lead through King but the goal was chalked off for VAR as Phillip Billing handled the ball before it found King.

Harry Wilson got on the end of Josh King‘s cross at the back post but his header was punched away by Nick Pope.

Burnley battled to get back into the game as Bournemouth looked more likely to break the deadlock. Jack Stacey was denied by Pope and then Burnley launched a counter but Vydra was denied once again by Ramsdale.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

At the start of the second half it was third time lucky for Vydra as Bournemouth gave him plenty of space and the Czech Republic striker cut inside and finished calmly to make it 1-0 and make it two goals in two Premier League games after a 17-month wait for one.

Bournemouth thought they had equalized soon after as the Wilson’s combined with Callum setting up Harry to slot home, but VAR checked the goal for a possible handball by Adam Smith in his own box and the goal was taken away and a penalty awarded to Burnley.

Rodriguez slammed home the penalty to make it 2-0 as Bournemouth’s bench couldn’t believe it and referee Mike Dean had to give them a telling off.

Rodriguez almost made it 3-0 late on but Ramsdale denied him at point-blank range with Burnley dangerous on the break as Bournemouth chucked men forward.

Vydra almost slid in for another and Dwight McNeil hit the inside of the post with a fine curling shot and then smashed home a beauty to seal the win in style.