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USMNT player ratings in 3-0 win over Panama

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The United States began the Gregg Berhalter era in winning fashion, topping Panama 3-0 to end January camp. The squad comprised entirely of domestically-based players as is usually the case in winter camp, and they performed well against a weak opponent.

All the positives taken from Sunday night must be put into perspective, which tonight was the incredibly poor quality of the opponent. Panama really struggled to create anything dangerous, and were poor in possession, losing the ball in bad areas that allowed the United States to create build-up opportunities. Still, a number of players stood out for the hosts, and it’s worth pointing out who performed well.

Zack Steffan – 7

Steffan had almost nothing to do the entire first half, but he was there to provide a big save in the 55th minute after Zimmerman lost his man at the far post.

Nick Lima – 8

Lima was the focal point of the most interesting Berhalter tactical approach, as the right-back tucked into the midfield for a solid portion of the match. Lima popped up everywhere, and created problems for the Panamanians. He wasn’t jumping off the field in the first half, but he was utilized well in the unique role. When Berhalter began chopping and changing after the hour mark, he left Lima on for a reason, and it paid off, winning the ball with a huge tackle with 10 minutes to go and delivering the assist for Zimmerman’s goal. That was the biggest moment of the match, as Panama was breaking with an eye towards an equalizer, and he flipped it to a second goal. Massive moment in a massive performance.

Aaron Long – 6

While Long was less positive on the ball than his central defensive partner Zimmerman, the captain was clean at the back, and while he didn’t have much to do for long stretches, he was never caught out of position. He also made 6 ball recoveries, while Zimmerman had just one.

Walker Zimmerman – 6

In a game where the defenders weren’t under a ton of pressure, the big moments stand out even more. Zimmerman was at fault for the 55th minute Panama chance that was only snuffed out by a big Steffan save. He lost his man, and when a deflection saw the ball come to Edson Samms, Zimmerman was late to recover. Zimmerman was solid in possession, advancing the ball forward more effectively than his center-back partner Long, but Zimmerman’s brief national team career has been blighted by glaring mistakes at the back, and today proved that in the moments under pressure, he still has work to do. His 2nd half goal saved him from a 5 rating, showing once again his imposing presence in the air, but his defensive continuity still needs lots of work.

Daniel Lovitz – 7

The Pennsylvania product was dangerous throughout the first half, and while the U.S. was unable to reprise its wide proficiency as well in the second half, it was enough to open eyes. With Ebobisse fading down the left, Lovitz was a positive on the overlap. He also provided strength in defense, with two successful tackles and six recoveries. A very solid showing for a player who could potentially make noise at a position of need.

Michael Bradley – 7

For those who want the United States to hit the full-on reset button, know this: based on tonight’s game flow, Michael Bradley isn’t going anywhere. Berhalter gave the team clear tactical instruction to flow every build-up through the USMNT veteran, and he was the engine for the hosts in every sense. While he was still somewhat locked into a deep-lying midfield role, and he wasn’t tested on the defensive end, what he showed was promising as the United States will need a leader and a rock as they steam towards the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying.

Corey Baird – 6

While he was less effective than Lovitz on the wing and struggled in one-on-one play, Baird was a good presence along the right and helped the U.S. attack with width in the first half. He’ll be happy with his debut appearance for the national team.

Djordje Mihailovic – 8

Mihailovic scored the opening goal, and of course gets big marks for that, but his game was so much more than the goal. The 21-year-old Chicago Fire academy product popped up all over the field, and created a whopping four chances in the first half. Three of those were from corners, but it was important nonetheless. He was creative and unique, using his body to move the ball in innovative ways to keep the U.S. in possession. He nearly had a second on a powerful was blocked, before coming off on the hour mark for Sebastian Lletget.

Christian Roldan – 5

Christian Roldan was one of the few disappointments on the field for the United States amid a mostly positive first half. While Mihailovic and Baird were impressive in the U.S. build-up, Roldan was mostly invisible. His flubbed his one big chance in the first half, shooting from 28 yards out instead of threading through for Baird who had made a run clean on goal. Roldan seemingly picked things up in the second half and proved influential down the right flank, but was dispossessed badly on what nearly led to a Panama breakaway before Lima saved it on the second U.S. goal.

Jeremy Ebobisse – 5

The Portland Timbers youngster was spry from the opening kickoff, but he faded quickly after a clash of heads required lengthy treatment to tape up an open wound. Overall, he will be happy to have earned his debut, but there was little else to cling to before coming off after 66 minutes.

Gyasi Zardes – 5

Zardes was influential at the start of the match, switching between target man and left winger with Ebobisse, but mainly staying up front. He was strong up front, with good hold-up play and laying off for midfielders to take charging shots, and his wide play was dangerous. Still, he missed with both big opportunities with his head, the first a glaring miss with acres of space on the doorstep. If Zardes is going to play up front, he has to take those chances, and he should have had the U.S. up big in the first half. He failed again on a tough chance from a tight angle midway through the second half on the break, firing at the goalkeeper and then putting the rebound miles over the bar. He then faded completely in the second half.

Gregg Berhalter – 8

Maybe it’s an overreaction based solely on the lack of a clear plan over the past few years, but it was refreshing to see an obvious tactical layout before our eyes, and one that was executed to perfection. Berhalter had everything working for him: a month to prepare, a massive group of domestic players in the middle of an offseason, and an opposition that provided little resistance. Still, you can only play who’s in front of you, and in that sense, Berhalter passed the test with flying colors. This positive performance gives fans hope as to what Berhalter will do with the full player pool at his disposal.

Subs

Sean Johnson – 6; Had almost nothing to do.

Sebastian Lletget – 5; whiffed with his big chance in the 77th minute, and struggled to make an impact. Coming on as one of a host of substitutes in a friendly is a

Jonathan Lewis – 6; With a half-hour to show, on for Ebobisse, he was positive at times on the left, and did great work to produce Ramirez’s goal at the death.

Paul Arriola – 5; Only 15 minutes to make an impact, but didn’t have much to do down the right.

Christian Ramirez – 6; Didn’t have much time to make an impact, coming on in the 84th minute, but grabbed a tap-in goal anyways to maximize his stint on the field.

Wil Trapp – N/A; had just 6 minutes on the field, hardly time for a midfielder to show much of anything.

Report: USMNT keeper Steffen to be Man City No. 2 next season

Zack Steffen Man City
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United States men’s national team starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen will not be loaned by Manchester City next season, according to ESPN.

Steffen, 25, is set to back up Ederson for Pep Guardiola’s side next season after a year on loan to Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga.

Steffen needed the loan because he had not yet qualified for a work permit in the United Kingdom. Instead, he starred in plenty of games for promoted Fortuna before suffering a nagging knee injury. Fortuna was relegated to 2.Bundesliga on the final day of the season.

[ MORE: Man City sets a very Pep record ]

There were rumors earlier this year that Claudio Bravo might head for New York City FC in MLS in order to make way for Steffen.

The 17-times capped USMNT bolted for Freiburg in Germany after making his name at the University of Maryland. He returned to the U.S. and became a star with savvy penalty-stopping ability with now-USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter and the Columbus Crew.

Guardiola has usually given his No. 2 plenty of time to shines in cup matches, and City expects to compete for every trophy it can. If the club’s European ban is upheld, however, there will far fewer matches on the schedule for the serial Champions League qualifier.

Sheffield United – Chelsea preview: How to watch, start time, stream, prediction

Sheffield United - Chelsea preview
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Sheffield United – Chelsea preview: Frank Lampard’s Chelsea begins life defending third place on the Premier League table when it visits Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday (Watch Live at 12:30 pm ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues’ 60 points are one more than Leicester City and two clear of old rivals Manchester United.

Also of interest to Chelsea and USMNT fans: The Blues have posted a 20-minute video of every Christian Pulisic touch since Project Restart began earlier this Summer.

Sheffield United beat Wolves at midweek to pull within a point of sixth-place. If Blades stumble, there are three teams within a win of pushing them back beneath the Europa League places.

STREAM SHEFFIELD UNITED – CHELSEA LIVE


Team news

Billy Gilmour is a doubt for Chelsea while Mateo Kovacic is back in training and could be available to Frank Lampard. N’Golo Kante remains out and Jorginho may get a Starting XI recall on Saturday.

John Fleck, Luke Freeman, and John Lundstram are out for Sheffield United while David McGoldrick is a question mark.

What they’re saying

Blades boss Wilder to our own JPW after a 1-0 win over Wolves: “We like to think we’ve brought something in terms of our attitude and our performances to get the results that we’ve got. We had a stretched squad and really had to dig in to get a result. I don’t think you get the result and the performance tonight if you haven’t got something with the ball and I think we did have something with the ball and out of it everybody did a job and tried to stop a very, very talented side from gaining momentum and dominating us. Second half, especially, we looked and it felt like we were really desperate to go and get a winner. Regardless of how late its come, we’ve been rewarded for that attitude.”

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard on Christian Pulisic earning Eden Hazard comparisons: “Having played with Eden, he had special talent straight away and draws players towards him to open up space to others. Christian is more direct. He has the ability to break a line and run forward which is a great trait in the modern game. Why I shy away from it the other night is because Eden has been here and done it over a period of time to an incredible level. Christian has it in his hands to make a real impact over time. It’s great to see him [doing well] but there’s a lot of development to come. Christian is taking responsibility to change games.”

Odds and ends (Full matchweek odds here)

The Blades are +575 underdogs according to DraftKings, with Chelsea -167.

A two-goal game for Tammy Abraham was only enough for a Chelsea point at Stamford Bridge when the sides met in a 2-2 draw earlier this season.

Prediction

Chelsea’s had one more days’ rest than the Blades and that seems plenty given the congestion this time of year. Give the Blues a 2-1 win.

How to watch Sheffield United – Chelsea

Kickoff: 12:30 pm ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBC
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Man United’s fear factor, title hopes return

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Manchester United have regained their fear factor since ‘Project Restart’ arrived.

The Red Devils beat Aston Villa 3-0 to become the first team in Premier League history to win four consecutive games by a margin of three of more goals.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Manchester United is an attacking juggernaut once again with Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford firing on all cylinders.

They are 17 games unbeaten in all competitions and this run means they are two points off third place and one point off fourth-place Leicester (who they play on the final day) as their quest for the Champions League looks likely to be successful.

Speaking after the game, Paul Pogba told Sky Sports that challenging for the Premier League has to be the standard Manchester United sets for itself.

After the win at Villa, ProSoccerTalk asked Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for his reaction to those comments.

“I’m sure Man United will mount a challenge and get back to winning the league. When that is going to happen, that is up to every single person here and how quickly we can make this process go. We are definitely improving as a team, developing but we have to remember we’ve come a long way in one season. Let’s just take Paul’s words into the dressing room and expect and demand more from each other every single day,” Solskjaer said.

This team is brimming with confidence and hunger, as they’ve scored 100 goals in all competitions this season and have playmakers and forwards who are creating 10 or 15 chances every game and have a largely sturdy defense.

When Manchester United turn up to play an opponent, there is now an inevitability they will win. Solskjaer knows all about that fear factor from his playing days, but does he feel other teams now fear them again?

“I don’t know about how teams feel when they want to play us but we scored three today and talking about goal difference, the defenders have done their job. We created chances and could have scored three, four or five more. Of course, you are happy with the way we create chances but we need to be more clinical though,” Solskjaer told ProSoccerTalk.

“Coming into half time 2-0 up, I don’t think our performance warranted a 2-0 lead but I thought second half we played really well. Of course we had the game where we wanted. They had to press and leave gaps and space but it is not easy, there is game after game  after game. We have to keep doing the right things on the pitch and off the pitch.”

Manchester United could easily finish this season by winning eight of their final nine games and it is these results against teams they ‘should’ be beating that will make the difference. Yes, they have a long way to go to reach the levels of Liverpool and Manchester City but they are on that path and making progress.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired the fear factor around Man United disappeared. Almost overnight teams felt like they could beat them, and did, under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

There have been shock defeats under Solskjaer too, but this feels different now. This feels different to brief winning spells and FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League trophies won under LVG and Mourinho.

This Man United side is relentless and Solskjaer not only wants to keep winning, but keep scoring goals too.

“We could have scored many, many more goals and we keep keeping clean sheets. We go into every game wanting to win. If you win 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0, it doesn’t matter, you get the points. Hopefully the goal difference won’t be the deciding factor in the end because we should have had 10 more goals the last few games,” Solskjaer said.

With Leicester City to come on the final day of the season in what could be the pivotal clash in deciding whether or not the qualify for the Champions League, the hunger and belief is evident among the Manchester United squad based on Pogba’s reaction.

“We are really pleased with ourselves but know we have to carry on. We talked before the game, we talked in training that we have to carry on. That’s what Manchester [United] is it is a big club. We want to keep the level up, always, and the performance today and the past few weeks, they are very good and they are the standards of Manchester United,” Pogba said. “We didn’t win the Premier League and that is the goal. We didn’t win anything this year. We have to keep working and there is a lot to do. A lot.”

Pogba: Manchester United hoping to win FA Cup, Europa League

Aston Villa - Manchester United recap
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Paul Pogba and Manchester United are cruising through matches and sending a message to the Premier League.

The Red Devils won by three-or-more goals for the fourth-straight match, something that hasn’t been done in the history of the PL, and moved within a point of fourth place thanks to a 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa at Villa Park on Thursday.

[ RECAP: Aston Villa 0-3 Man Utd ]

Injured for most of the year, Pogba scored his first goal of the season in the win. He’s been looking tremendous in the midfield since returning from the coronavirus pause, and has even triggered hope that he’ll sign a new long-term deal with United.

Pogba was asked how he’s feeling about his time at Old Trafford and where it may run:

“Right now I’ve been injured for a very long time,” Pogba said. “I focused on myself to get back and help the team as much as I can. This year I have two goals, to go for the Europa League and the FA Cup so we focus on that.”

United faces Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinal and has one foot, well, most of its body in the Europa League quarterfinals.

The Frenchman says it’s good that the Red Devils are playing as well as they have been, but he’s not getting carried away with accolades.

ASTON VILLA – MANCHESTER UNITED FULL MATCH REPLAY

“We didn’t win the Premier League,” he said. “That’s the goal. We didn’t win anything this year so obviously we have to keep working. There’s a lot to do.”

Pogba thinks United can achieve all of their season goals regardless of what the top four chasers do, but cautioned that the Red Devils cannot ignore their poor start to Thursday’s win.

“We are our own enemy. We have to play not like we did the first 15 minutes but how we finished the game.”