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USMNT player ratings v. Costa Rica

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The U.S. men’s national team closed out its annual early-season training camp on Saturday with its second victory, defeating Costa Rica 2-0 in San Jose’s Avaya Stadium. While it was a second friendly against a fellow CONCACAF side without its full complement of players, the domestic-based U.S. squad showed signs of improvement, especially in the second half.

Following a first half in which the U.S. weren’t able to execute its game plan, the team came out of the gates like a horse in the Kentucky Derby for the second half, and rode that wave of energy to victory. Take a look below at some of the standouts – and those who missed an opportunity to impress – in a match that was the last chance for these domestic players to prove they belong with the foreign-based squad.

Zack Steffen – 6

Steffen didn’t really have much to do all game. He made one save, caught one cross and his worst moment may have been slipping on the grass, as torrential rain during parts of the match made the field a bit slippery, especially around the goal mouth. Steffen did play the initial pass in Arriola’s goal, so he’ll get credit for that, and by earning another cap, his chances of earning a work permit in England continue to rise.

Nick Lima – 6

Playing in his home stadium, Lima again showed that he may have a future for the USMNT as an outside back. The 24-year-old had a shot clang off the post and he delivered some good service from the right side. He’s certainly a player to watch for in the next year or two.

Walker Zimmerman – 7

Zimmerman, playing again with Aaron Long as a pair of tall, physical centerbacks, recorded a second-consecutive clean sheet. Zimmerman made numerous headed clearances and perhaps his only fault was being out of position on a counter-attack, in which he had to haul down David Guzman, which earned him a yellow card. All in all, a solid performance.

Aaron Long – 7

The New York Red Bulls centerback continues to raise his game to new levels, and along with Zimmerman he’s forming a good partnership. Long’s distribution was neat, especially in the second half, and he held Costa Rica’s attack at bay playing a high line. He got into the attack on a couple of occasions as well.

Daniel Lovitz – 6

The first USMNT player with the Montreal Impact had another solid, if not spectacular performance at left back. With Arriola bombing down the left wing, Lovitz often stayed back and provided support. Overall, he contributed to a clean sheet but didn’t truly stand out, which is the sign of a good defender.

Cristian Roldan – 6

Like most of the USMNT players, Roldan really came to life in the second half, becoming more dynamic, attacking right down the heart of Costa Rica’s defense and linking up with his midfield and forward teammates. Roldan hit the post and had another shot go wide, in a play where he probably should have hit the target. However, his work defensively, was impressive, helping the U.S. win the ball back a few times and start a counter attack.

Wil Trapp – 7

Operating in the deep-lying playmaker role, Trapp used his vision and long-range of passing to unlock Costa Rica’s defense over and over again. He found Arriola in space countless times and even Lewis in space late to set up Lletget’s winner. Trapp, who along with Zardes and Steffen know Berhalter’s style of play, looked very comfortable in his role, though I’m not sure it was enough to become a permanent starter over Michael Bradley. However, the competition is heating up.

Djordje Mihailovic – 6

It was a game of two halves for Mihailovic as well. In the first half, Mihailovic wasn’t nearly as sharp as he looked against Panama, and had a few turnovers. Of course, he was also getting hacked all over the pitch, which may have made an impact on him mentally. He seemed back to his creative, normal self in the second half, combining with his midfield partners and leading to some goal-scoring opportunities. His best chance on goal came on a cross from Paul Arriola, but Mihailovic poked it over the bar. Mihailovic was taken off in the 63rd minute, likely to avoid suffering a serious injury after being fouled six times.

Corey Baird – 6 

Baird, in his second start, was a good outlet on the right for the U.S., especially in the second half, providing width. His pace bothered Waylon Francis at times but he was never truly a threat on goal, finishing with one shot. He was offside on his last moment of action, a header on goal that sailed over the bar.

Gyasi Zardes – 5 

Zardes had a few good moments holding up the ball, and he worked hard defensively, but it was a missed opportunity for Zardes to prove that he belongs with the main USMNT group going forward. Zardes failed to get on the end of a lot of crosses from Arriola and Lima, and Zardes finished with just one shot on target. He was substituted in the 78th minute, prior to both goals being scored. Perhaps that’s a sign?

Paul Arriola – 8

Playing down the left wing, Arriola was a threat all game long, even delivering some crosses with his weaker left foot. Costa Rica’s defense could not handle his pace, and he took advantage of that deficiency as well as all the space provided to create many second-half chances. He finally got his just rewards for a hard-working performance with a goal of his own.

Gregg Berhalter – 8

Whatever Berhalter said at halftime got the team to come out of the gates flying for the second half. Berhalter continues to press many of the right buttons, and his substitutes Lletget and Lewis combined for the first goal, while Lletget set up the second one. The opponent doesn’t compare to a full-strength side, but it’s a sign that Berhalter knew where to make changes (left side of the field, in this case) and just about all his second-half decisions were perfect.

Subs

Sebastian Lleget – 9

Coming on in the 63rd minute, Lleget brought more dynamism to the game as a left central midfielder, attacking down the left with pace and power. He was a constant threat to Costa Rica’s defense and enjoyed a dream sequence, scoring a goal in his return to Avaya Stadium, where he suffered a devastating injury the last time he played in that venue. He then played a perfect, outside-of-the-boot pass to Arriola for the USMNT’s second goal. Man of the Match performance in less than a half-hour of action.

Jonathan Lewis – 7

Lewis injected more pure speed and dribbling ability into the game and attacking a Costa Rican defense that was already gassed down their right side from dealing with Arriola all game long. Lewis’ creativity helped with his second assist in as many games, and he nearly set up another goal as well. Terrific performance off the bench for the 21-year-old.

Christian Ramirez – 6

Ramirez only had 12 minutes on the field, but his flick-on header in the 88th minute allowed Lletget to dribble into space and set up Arriola for the USMNT’s second goal. A small play, but little moments lead to big ones.

Griezmann: Playing for Barcelona is ‘not the easiest’

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Over the summer, Barcelona shelled a whopping $135 million to land Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid.

It was a match made in heaven; the rest was supposed to be history.

Only that hasn’t been the case for the Frenchman in Barcelona.

Despite scoring a brace in his debut at the Camp Nou, Griezmann’s impact and influence on the field has quickly dwindled. In 11 league appearances with the Catalan giants, the 28-year-old has scored four goals and added three assists, signs that the World Cup winner is, in fact, struggling with his new team.

Speaking to Telefoot, Griezmann revealed that playing for Barcelona is not an easy thing to do, but that with hard work, his fortunes will turn around for the best:

“It is hard, I knew it would be, it is not the easiest place. This is a new team, a new club, new tactics, a new position. I have to work, try to understand my team-mates, after they will understand me too and it will work just like that… Critics will always be there. But I am good, I am proud of where I am. Only work pays off. I have to take confidence and it will all come just like that.”

This season, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has frequently deployed the Frenchman as a left winger, with the hope that he will link up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The positives form such an ideology have yet to be reaped, however. Griezmann is scoring a goal every 224 minutes, a career worst.

The 28-year-old, too, has played in a central role on a couple of occasions, specifically during the absences of Messi and Suarez, but it hasn’t worked out for a player that has made a career from roaming that part of the field.

The building clamor at the Camp Nou is borderline justifiable – mainly because it’s now evident that Griezmann is wrestling with adapting to the expectations and systems in place in Barcelona.

But the high-flying attacker has proven he’s worth the price time and time again, and now he’s on the record saying that he’ll do everything in his power to do so with his new club.

Real Monarchs beat Louisville City to win first ever USL Cup

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Real Monarchs scored three unanswered goals as they routed Louisville City 3-1 at Lynn Stadium to win their first ever USL Cup title.

Noah Powder’s goal in the 66th minute sealed the deal for the visitor’s, adding to the goals scored by defenders Erik Holt and Konrad Plewa in the first half.

Surprisingly enough, it was Lou City who got off to a superb start on Sunday night, though.

Only six minutes after the initial whistle, Lou City’s leading goalscorer, Magnus Rasmussen, scored the game’s first goal, breaking a record for the fastest goal in a USL Cup final.

The defeat brings an end to Lou City’s historic run of consecutive USL Cup-winning seasons.

On July 1, former Real Salt Lake defender, Jamison Olave, took over as the Monarchs interim coach following Martin Vasquez’s unexpected resignation.

Man arrested after English soccer player reports homophobia

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TRANMERE, England — A footballer in England’s third tier reported being subjected to homophobic abuse from the stands, leading to police making one arrest.

Wycombe goalkeeper Ryan Allsop told the referee of the abuse at halftime of the League One soccer game at Tranmere as his team won 2-0.

Tranmere says it is very disappointed to learn of a homophobic comment made.

In a statement, Merseyside Police condemned abhorrent incidents.

Police Chief Inspector Jason Crellin added that “hate crime has no place in our communities, and not least at a showcase sporting event attended and watched by many people.”

Brazil beat Mexico to win U-17 World Cup (video)

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Brazil became Under-17 world champions for a fourth time in dramatic fashion as Lazaro Vinicius Marques’ scored a 93rd-minute winner to edge Mexico 2-1 at Estadio Bezerrão on Sunday.

Brazil’s comeback started in the 84th minute when Kaio Jorge converted from the penalty spot, following VAR’s decision which ruled contact on the tournament’s Golden Ball winner, Gabriel Veron, inside the 18-yard box.

With Brazilian legends Ronaldo and Cafu in attendance, the host’s had the better of chances throughout the first 45 minutes. Without any luck, however, Brazil were unable to get the ball past Eduardo Garcia, instead hitting the bar on several occasions.

Then in the 66th minute, Mexico – winners of the tournament in 2005 and in 2011 – stunned the home crowd when Bronze Ball winner Eugenio Pizzoto’s cross into the box was headed into the back of the net by Bryan Alonso Gonzalez Olivan, breaking the deadlock between two sides that had met in the same game back in 2005.

What was going to be a stunning, underdog victory for El Tri, turned into a heartbreaking night for Marco “Chima” Ruiz and company.

Brazil, on the other hand, are now only one championship away from tying Nigeria’s record of five championships.