Getty Images

Three things we learned: England v. USMNT

5 Comments

LONDON — England beat the U.S. men’s national team 3-0 at Wembley on Thursday, as Gareth Southgate‘s much-changed side started strongly and held the young Americans at arms length for much of the contest.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Match recap ]

First half goals from Jesse Lingard and Trent Alexander-Arnold set England on their way, while Callum Wilson scored a debut goal to make it 3-0 in the second half. Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood had great chances to score in each half, but Dave Sarachan’s USMNT didn’t really get going in front of almost 70,000 fans at the home of soccer.

Here’s what we learned from a rough outing for the USMNT as Wayne Rooney said farewell to England with a win.


PULISIC LOOKS A LITTLE JADED

In the build-up to this game, Christian Pulisic just didn’t seem too happy. He met with various media outlets in the UK to discuss how he is the future star of U.S. Soccer and how the hopes of a nation are on his shoulders and so on and so forth, which is nothing he hasn’t heard before. But maybe it was the fact he was an unused sub for Borussia Dortmund in their big 3-2 win against Bayern Munich before the international break, or maybe he, like most U.S. fans, is struggling to get excited about this program right now.

Pulisic — who was playing for the U.S. for the first time since May and just the second time in 13 months — could have been the hero for the USMNT at Wembley. In the 24th minute he was clean through after a mix-up in the England defense but when faced with Jordan Pickford one-on-one, his strike lacked conviction and Pickford saved well. Pulisic then switched off for England’s first goal, just moments later, as he allowed England to find Lingard on the inside left channel and the Manchester United winger curled home. He played on the right in the first half but drifted inside in the second half and got on the ball more, with a few more clever flicks and crosses, but his touch looked off and he didn’t have that spark we’ve seen time and time again.

There is no doubt that this is still Pulisic’s team moving forward, but the USMNT’s 20-year-old sensation seems a little jaded right now. After several injuries early in the 2018-19 campaign, you can understand why.

Ahead of the game Pulisic told Pro Soccer Talk, among other U.S. outlets, that a new head coach should be “someone who has a plan and someone who has an idea of how we want to play moving forward.” Right now the lack of direction is clear for the USMNT as Dave Sarachan has done the best he can on an interim basis, but Gregg Berhalter’s impending arrival should be sped up as quickly as possible. Pulisic and the other USMNT youngsters need to know what the plan is moving forward.


3-5-2 BEST FIT FOR THIS USMNT SQUAD

Antonee Robinson going down with an untimely injury ahead of this game could have changed Dave Sarachan’s tactical plan considerably. Away at France in June the USMNT played in a 3-5-2 formation and looked solid in a 1-1 draw. Yes, they suffered tough moments defensively but they stood tall and grabbed a draw. Against an England reserve team, they never really looked in this. Before Pulisic had his big chance England could have had at least two goals and they got behind DeAndre Yedlin and Jorge Villafana way too easily.

The two USMNT fullbacks may not be totally to blame for that as Pulisic and Weah ahead of them did not dig in and do their defensive work in the first half. Julian Green looked totally off the pace in support of Bobby Wood in what turned into a 4-4-2 formation at times. Tyler Adams (somehow left out of the starting lineup) alongside Wil Trapp and Weston McKennie in central midfield would give the U.S. a better balance, while Robinson and Yedlin down the flanks as wing backs allows them to be at their attacking best without worrying about tracking back too much. Against the so-called elite teams, a 3-5-2 formation should be the go-to setup for the USMNT moving forward.


ENGLAND SHOW WHY ROONEY WAS RIGHT TO RETIRE

Wayne Rooney came on after 58 minutes for his 120th and final cap for England and was given a wonderful reception by the home fans at Wembley. Before the game England’s all-time leading goalscorer was given a guard of honor by both sets of players as he walked out onto the Wembley pitch with his children and was applauded. Rooney has more caps than the entire England starting lineup put together, as the magnitude of his service over the years was clear for all to see.

The way this England reserve side performed in this game, especially in the first half, proved why Rooney was right to call time on his international career in August 2017. The pace and power of Sancho, Lingard, Wilson and Alli ripped the U.S. defense apart and if you think that Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane are in reserve, it shows you the incredible depth of England’s attacking options. None of them are quite like Rooney, and his unique skillset is still valued in the game. But Southgate’s young Three Lions side are now about pace and power rather than the cerebral beauty of Rooney’s passes and touch.

Every time he got the ball England’s fans urged him to shoot, and Rooney came close twice late on, but in the end this night showcased exactly why he stepped away from the Three Lions after 13 years of playing for them. A legendary career came to an end at the appropriate time.

Celtic win Scottish Cup to secure unprecedented domestic treble-treble

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Celtic came from behind to top Hearts 2-1 in the Scottish Cup final, completing an unprecedented “treble-treble.” They are the first team in Scottish top flight history to win each of the league title, Scottish Cup, and League Cup in three straight seasons.

After a scoreless first half, Ryan Edwards put Hearts in front in the 52nd minute, pouncing on a messy backheel from Sean Clare and scoring the first goal Celtic had conceded all competition.

That jumpstarted the Glasgow giants, with an Odsonne Edouard double leading the way. His first came from the spot in the 62nd minute, just sneaking his penalty past Zdenek Zlamal for the equalizer before he won it with eight minutes to go. The moment came off a powerful Mikael Lustig header from near the halfway line that sprung Edouard free on goal, and the 21-year-old buried the one-on-one.

The victory gave Celtic its third major domestic trophy of the campaign for the third consecutive season, marking the historic achievement. Earlier in the season they had secured the league title by an eight-point margin and beaten Aberdeen 1-0 in the League Cup final, all despite losing manager Brendan Rodgers midway through the year to Leicester City, with Neil Lennon taking over and leading the finish.

Celtic has now won the Scottish Cup a record 39 times, with 50 league titles and 18 League Cups to go along with it.

Derby sued by Middlesbrough over alleged financial transgressions

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Middlesbrough has opened legal proceedings against playoff finalists Derby County over what they allege to be a breach in the Football League’s financial rules.

Boro owner Steve Gibson is taking action over what he believes to be Derby County’s intentional circumvention of financial sustainability regulations by posting an $18.6 million profit last season despite Derby owner Mel Morris selling the club’s ground Pride Park and then leasing it back.

Derby, however, has maintained its innocence, with the club even providing a written offer to all other clubs to review their books, an offer which Derby alleges Middlesbrough declined to take advantage of. “Middlesbrough were offered by us in writing to come with their advisors to go through our submissions for profitability and sustainability, [but] they declined.”

Gibson also attempted to force Derby to submit their financials to an independent inquiry, but all other Championship clubs voted it down. The Middlesbrough owner went after Aston Villa in late April, with Tony Pulis confirming the owner is “not happy” over “rules being broken.” Gibson attempted the same maneuver, hoping to force Villa to submit to an independent financial inquiry, but the other Championship clubs also turned that motion down.

Reports of Morris’s financial troubles with the club came to a head around that time in March when a report suggested Morris wanted out of the club, looking for a buyer after suffering losses of nearly $3.8 million per month as Derby owner. At that point Derby sat seventh in the Championship table and fell to ninth by the end of the month. Now, having recovered to earn a playoff position at the death, they now sit in the playoff final, set to play Aston Villa on Sunday for a spot in the Premier League.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Man United after Portuguese duo, Spurs want Lo Celso

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the Premier League season complete and the offseason officially upon us, Premier League teams are shopping to keep up with those around them and plug holes that might need improvement.

Manchester United is reportedly after a trio of Portuguese players, and there is significant news regarding two of them.

According to reports in Portugal, central defender Ruben Dias is on the verge of a new contract with his current club Benfica which would bump his release clause from its current $67 million to a whopping $112 million, making it that much more difficult for the Red Devils to pursue the 22-year-old this summer. Currently, Dias is signed through 2023, but the club wanted to boost its ability to control the market with Dias connected to the biggest clubs in Europe.

Dias, a Benfica youth product, played the full 90 minutes in 32 of Benfica’s 34 league matches this season, a fixture at the back for the club as they won the league by a two-point margin over rivals Porto. While Benfica’s main asset was its blistering attack that scored 103 goals, the most in the league by a massive 29-goal margin, the defense conceded just 31 on the season, second-fewest behind Porto’s 20.

Part of that sparkling Benfica attack, 19-year-old Joao Felix, is also reportedly wanted by Manchester United, but the club announced Friday that there had not yet been any official submissions for his services. “No offer has arrived,” Benfica executive Domingo Soares told Portuguese television channel TVI24. “There is talk and rumors. It’s true that top European clubs have expectations, but no proposal has arrived to us.”

Felix appeared 26 times for Benfica on the season, including starts in the final 19 games of the year once he earned his permanent place in the team in early January. He scored 15 goals and assisted nine others, earning comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo for his style of wing play that sees him like to drift centrally.


Tottenham is preparing for the possibility of Christian Eriksen to depart the club this summer, with a move to Real Madrid heavily reported. They are reportedly keeping a close eye on Real Betis midfielder Giovani Lo Celso, who had a fine season with the Spanish club after moving permanently from Paris Saint-Germain.

The 23-year-old proved his value with an outstanding 16-goal haul in 46 matches across all competitions, a gluttonous tally for a midfielder. Lo Celso was on loan at Betis this season, but the club activated a clause in the loan to secure him permanently this summer for a modest $25 million. According to Spanish publication AS, Tottenham would be willing to pay up to $67 million for the Argentine, a sizable and immediate return on investment for Betis despite owing PSG a 20% sell-on fee for any outgoing transfer.

Lo Celso has been slighted in his career to this point. Proving valuable in his time at PSG, he started 33 league games in 2017/18 and scored four goals with five assists in a deeper midfield role, but was still considered surplus to requirements the next campaign. He was left on the bench for most of Argentina’s disappointing 2018 World Cup journey despite the attack constantly crying out for his creative abilities, and subsequently loaned out to Betis, where he flourished.


According to reports in Italy, Napoli has already rejected a $100 million offer for defender Kalidou Koulibaly from Real Madrid. Koulibaly is yet another defender linked with Manchester United, as it’s no secret the upgrade needed along the Red Devil back line, so the price tag will come as a blow, as will interest from other top clubs. Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has previously said publicly that he has turned down massive bids from clubs for his Senegalese defender, but never specified the club.

The 27-year-old signed a five-year contract last summer that runs through the summer of 2023 and contains a whopping $168 million release clause. Napoli appears to be using that as leverage, although any return even remotely close to that would be a significant gain for the Italian side that secured him from Genk for just $8 million back in 2014.

Koulibaly was a reported target of Jose Mourinho before his dismissal at Old Trafford, and it could be difficult again if the price tag is that high. With a number of top defenders on the market this summer, including the aforementioned Ruben Dias as well as Matthijs de Ligt, clubs may be forced to look elsewhere for a defensive replacement.


Arsenal and Manchester United are reportedly targeting Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, as the 25-year-old Ghanan international anchored the Atletico Madrid defense well last campaign and could be on his way out, especially if Atleti faces an overhaul this summer.

Partey played it cool when asked about his future, noting that anything he says can and often will be used against him by the media. “It’s hard for me to talk about transfers because the next minute it will be like ‘Thomas is trying to leave’ but for me playing football is what makes me happy,” Partey told BBC Sport.

“I don’t know what the future holds for me but as long as I play and they are happy with me here then there is no need flirting with others.”

An Atletico Madrid youth product, Partey has made 130 appearances for the club, including a 32-game league season this past campaign. Atleti finished second in the table with 76 points, eight above third-placed Real Madrid and 11 behind the champions Barcelona. They conceded just 29 goals, the least in the league by a significant margin.

Juventus goalkeeper Szczesny to have offseason knee surgery

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny will undergo knee surgery this offseason, but he will be available for the final match of the season against Sampdoria, manager Massimiliano Allegri confirmed on Saturday.

The Polish international has been the first-choice goalkeeper for much of the year for Juve, but has occasionally ceded time to 26-year-old Mattia Perin.

Allegri said that Szczesny will need “keyhole surgery,” likely another term for an arthroscopy, lending belief that he is either struggling with a torn meniscus or just generally needs his knee cleaned out. Given that speculation, it’s unlikely the surgery will cause him to miss any time at the start of next season. The 29-year-old has been a warrior for most of his career, staying clear of serious injuries throughout his time with both Arsenal and Juventus.

Juve has already confirmed its ninth straight Serie A title, but the club has limped down the stretch of the season, without a win over its last four matches. Prior to the late-season slide, Szczesny had been the goalkeeper to secure the best results, with Perin between the sticks for both of Juve’s two losses on the year and Szczesny dropping just four points all season, but the Polish international has been the one in goal for the four-game slide that includes three draws and a loss.

Allegri also announced that Cristiano Ronaldo will be held out of the season finale on Sunday and will not make the trip with the squad for the road game, instead resting for international duty this summer. “It is right for others to play now,” Allegri said.

“After that, we can all go to the beach, I’ve been told to put sun cream on my head. Now let’s go for a drink,” Allegri said, joking about his extremely short hair to end the press conference.