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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.

USWNT opens Olympic qualifying with win over Haiti

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The USWNT was rusty, that much was clear. Vlatko Andonovski still made sure they took care of business.

Four different goalscorers delivered a 4-0 victory over Haiti to begin CONCACAF Olympic qualification, putting the United States in front of Group A early. Lynn Williams picked up a goal and assist, proving useful on an otherwise sputtery evening for Vlatko Andonovski’s attack.

Just 78 seconds into the game, Williams charged down the right flank and crossed to Christen Press at the far post for the opening goal. Williams’ assist came without the use of her left shoe which she lost while holding off a defender for the bobbling ball.

Despite the early lead, the United States seemed somewhat sluggish as Haiti built themselves into the match. There were few chances on net after the opening goal through the half-hour mark.

Haiti nearly caught the U.S. napping on a corner as the ball found the back of the net on 20 minutes, but the goal was somehow ruled out. It appeared to be for offside, but since it’s impossible to be offside from a corner, there must have been another reason for the official ruling. Nonetheless, it was a clear sign for the USWNT that they needed to pick up the level of play.

The U.S. continued to struggle after halftime, creating very little in front of net. There was a half-chance for Lloyd near the penalty spot but a quality tackle by Kethna Louis put that to bed. Then finally they put the game to bed on a corner, not coincidentally coming just five minutes after Megan Rapinoe entered the fray. Rapinoe delivered a corner to the doorstep where Williams headed in well under pressure, moving her upper body away from goal against the motion of her lower body to reach the delivery.

Another Andonovski substitute paid dividends however as Lindsey Horan scored, again coming off a corner. They played it short and Horan headed from a significant distance out, the ball squirting past the goalkeeper Kerly Theus and Louis who tried to clear off the line. It was clear that Haiti had begun to tire and the USWNT was taking advantage. Up front, Carli Lloyd had a poor game, unable to get involved in attacking play, but she found the scoresheet in stoppage time, bagging a header off a Rapinoe cross in the 93rd minute to finish out the scoring.

Emily Sonnett replaced Kelley O’Hara with 10 minutes to go for Andonovski’s final change, and the USWNT saw the rest of the match out. They have two matches remaining before the knockout stage, set to take on Panama on Friday before the group stage finale against Costa Rica on February 3. The top two teams in the group reach the knockout phase with the semifinals to begin on February 7.

Report: Chelsea may ask Abraham to play through injury

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Chelsea has so far come up empty in its search for a striker, so desperate times may call for desperate measures.

Tammy Abraham, who has been a revelation this season with 13 Premier League goals, went down with an ankle injury late in the 2-2 draw with Arsenal last weekend. The club has tried desperately to find a striker before the Friday transfer window closes, and while the Blues have been linked with Edinson Cavani and Krzysztof Piatek they so far have not had any success in finding a replacement.

Therefore, according to Matt Law of The Telegraph, Chelsea may ask Abraham to play through his injury against Leicester City this weekend. The match is a vital one as Chelsea, sitting fourth in the Premier League table, looks to put separation between themselves and Manchester United while also chasing the third-placed Foxes who sit eight points clear.

The thinking appears to be that Chelsea has a 16-day break between the Leicester City match and their subsequent game against Manchester United in mid-February thanks to the Premier League’s two-week break at the start of the month.

Earlier this month, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted regret for not resting a banged up Marcus Rashford, choosing instead to bring him off the bench in an FA Cup match against Wolves. Reports after the match confirmed that Rashford was carrying a single stress fracture in his back at the time of the appearance, and he was hauled off 16 minutes later with scans after the match showing his appearance against Wolves worsened the injury. He now he faces two to three months on the sidelines.

Abraham has also slowed of late after being so heavily used this season. The 22-year-old has logged a massive 2,359 minutes across all competitions this season, including 1,843 out of a possible 2,160 in Premier League play. Abraham scored his first 11 Premier League goals in his first 14 matches of the season, but has just three goals in the last 10 games.

Chelsea has Michy Batshuayi as a natural replacement for Abraham up top, but Frank Lampard has used him as solely a bench option the entirety of this season. Batshuayi has made 14 Premier League appearances this season, but has logged just 138 minutes across those matches. When used as a starter in cup action, Batshuayi has four goals in four domestic cup starts. Olivier Giroud is also on the roster, having made just five Premier League appearances this season.

Ed Woodward’s house attacked by Man United fans with flares

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Manchester United has been unable to reclaim the glory of the Sir Alex Ferguson days, and that has Red Devils fans up in arms. CEO Ed Woodward has taken much of the heat, with the executive unable to prevent the squad from degrading in quality and the team consequently has been unable to consistenly challenge for a top-four place, with his financial background not exactly a fit for his player recruitment position.

Some fans seem to have taken their frustration way too far.

A video emerged on social media claiming to show fans shooting flares at Woodward’s private residence, and reports from Sky Sports and The Daily Mirror corroborated that claim. The club then issued a statement condemning the incident.

“Manchester United Football Club have tonight been made aware of the incident outside the home of one of our employees.”We know that the football world will unite behind us as we work with Greater Manchester Police to identify the perpetrators of this unwarranted attack. Anybody found guilty of a criminal offense, or found to be trespassing on this property, will be banned for life by the club and may face prosecution. Fans expressing opinion is one thing, criminal damage and intent to endanger life is another. There is simply no excuse for this.”

The Sky Sports report claims that neither Woodward nor any of his family – particularly his wife and two children – were present in the home at the time of the attack. The Daily Mirror claims upwards of 20 or 30 fans were part of the attack on the house, with the caption “Ed Woodward’s gonna die” with three red circle emojis all in a Snapchat banner. Sky Sports also reports that red paint was sprayed on the gates of the home.

There are also reports of sickening chants during the recent FA Cup win over Tranmere Rovers, with fans singing about burning Woodward and the club owner Malcom Glazer in a bonfire.

Manchester United has reportedly looked to hire a Director of Football in recent months, but has so far stuck with Woodward as the head of recruitment. The squad has

PL Preview: West Ham v. Liverpool

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  • Liverpool has won 30 of its last 31 Premier League fixtures
  • West Ham is winless in its last 6 PL games against Liverpool
  • The Hammers have just 11 points at home this season, joint-low in the PL

Liverpool can go an obscene 19 points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a win over West Ham on Wednesday, with kickoff from London Stadium at 2:45 p.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Reds will be without Sadio Mane who pulled up in the first half of the win over Wolves. The news was positive, but still the argument could easily be made that Mane is the most important player in the Liverpool lineup, and replacing him will give Jurgen Klopp a headache. He could start Divock Origi on the wing in a direct replacement, but Origi is a striker by nature and would make things narrow on the left flank. He could also move Salah to the left and insert Xherdan Shaqiri on the right, but there’s no guarantee that the Swiss international will be fit enough to play.

Still, Liverpool will be massive favorites to build on its winning streak against a West Ham side limping into the match. The Hammers are vulnerable with a long injury list of their own, with just one win since the festive period. Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko, and Jack Wilshere are the most significant of the injured West Ham army, but certainly not the only ones. By the most recent reports, five players will miss the match with another two to be assessed before the match.

The Hammers are only out of the relegation zone thanks to goal differential, and with a brutal upcoming fixture slate that includes another against Liverpool plus games against Man City, Arsenal, Spurs, Wolves, and Chelsea through the end of March, West Ham will have to scrap for every point available.

Injuries/suspensions

West Ham: OUT – Ryan Fredericks (hamstring), Felipe Anderson (back), Andriy Yarmolenko (thigh), Arthur Masuaku (knee), Jack Wilshere (groin). QUESTIONABLE – Robert Snodgrass (knee), Lukasz Fabianski (thigh).

Liverpool: OUT – Sadio Mane (thigh muscle), James Milner (thigh), Nathaniel Clyne (ACL). QUESTIONABLE – Xherdan Shaqiri (calf).


Probable lineups

West Ham: Randolph; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Diop, Zabaleta; Snodgrass, Noble, Rice, Antonio; Lanzini, Haller.

Liverpool: Alisson; Robertson, Gomez, van Dijk, Alexander-Arnold; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Origi, Firmino, Salah.


What they’re saying

West Ham manager on being huge underdogs: “Everybody gets the chance to throw a punch at some point along the line, and sometimes you can get a lucky one. I’ve never gone into any game not expecting to win. Quite often, you don’t always win, but I really do expect the players to go out there, put a show on, and try and win. If that’s won by a set-piece, a flukey goal, I wouldn’t be bothered. That’s been my attitude throughout my whole career: I want to win. We’ll do everything we can to get points where we can.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on how West Ham will play: “It will be a rather defensive line-up [from West Ham]. If it’s four in the back or five in the back, I don’t know, but we have to be ready for a big fight. They want to strike back, they have a tough program coming up, everybody knows that. They have no points to waste, no time to waste.”


Prediction:

Liverpool is without Sadio Mane, and that’s notable in any Premier League match, but against West Ham it shouldn’t matter. The Reds have been utterly unbeatable defensively, and against a West Ham side missing Felipe Anderson, Jack Wilshere, and Arthur Masuaku plus a banged up Robert Snodgrass, an eighth clean sheet in the last nine matches is likely. The Reds put on a clinic in a comprehensive 3-0 victory.