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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.

Zlatan, Blessing tally braces in cathartic ‘El Trafico’ draw (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less):  “El Trafico” lives up to all of its hype, whether it’d be in Carson or in the heart of Los Angeles. Loaded with goals, subplots, heated fan bases, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Carlos Vela, it’s tough to find another rivalry in MLS as fierce and as provocative as Los Angeles’. Because just when one thought spectators uncovered the climax of the story, a plot twist from nearby Hollywood’s archives is screened. Whether it’d be Ibrahimovic’s fastest goal in derby history, Latif Blessing’s unexpected brace, or Vela’s goal and subsequent benching, it’s evident that there was no shortage of storylines. Both side’s 3-3 draw, as well, had no shortage of goals. It was a spectacle on Sunday.

Three moments that mattered

2′ – 15′ — Zlatan records brace in 13 minutes — Zlatan’s record-setting goal, followed by a routine finish to record his second of the night.

45′ — Blessing’s vital, first-half goal for LAFC    — Along with Zlatan, Latif Blessing was the night’s other bright spot.

89′ — Vela scores his 27th goal — Vela to the rescue…

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Man of the match: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Goalscorers: Ibrahimovic (2′), Blessing (12′) Ibrahimovic (15′), Pavon (16′),  Blessing (45′), Vela (53′)

Serie A: Milan stunned; Roma draw in six-goal thriller (video)

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight.

Roma 3-3 Genoa

There were plenty of promising talking points in Roma’s season opening six-goal thriller against Genoa, but their draw certainly overwrote almost everything with red ink.

Edin Dzeko was one of the few highlights that remained in the clear. The 33-year-old – five seasons into his Roma spell -scored and assisted for I Giallorossi. Recent arrival, Davide Zappacosta, made his debut in the 78th minute.

Genoa, not necessarily impressive throughout the match, figured out a way to crack Roma’s defense. When they conceded, they’d respond. Stadio Olimpico saw six lead changes, with Christian Kouame’s diving header in the 70th minute splitting the points.

For a Roma that missed out on qualifying for the Champions League last season, the result is a low-blow right off the bat. For Genoa, who remained in Serie A by a miraculous goal, a six-goal thriller in Roma is music to their ears.

Udinese 1-0 AC Milan

Another Italian giant had a slow, first day at the office.

AC Milan, boasting a plethora of firepower, were outclassed by a well-prepared and structured Udinese.

Rodrigo Becão’s debut goal was the only difference between both sides. Milan, who are already three points behind favorites such as Juventus and Napoli, have plenty of questions to answer. The reported possible arrival of Angel Correa may certainly help on the attacking side of things, but Marco Giampaolo still has plenty of work laid out in front of him.

Banned from Europa League for overspending by Financial Play Fair Rules, Milan are expected to fully focus on the Serie A campaign, which they have yet to win since the 2010/11 campaign.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sampdoria 0-3 Lazio 

Cagliari 0-1 Brescia

Verona 1-1 Bologna 

SPAL 2-3 Atalanta 

Torino 2-1 Sassuolo 

WATCH: Zlatan scores fastest-ever ‘El Trafico’ goal

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If someone was going to set a record in “El Trafico,” it was going to be Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic has become the scorer of the fastest goal in the rivalry’s history, after scoring the opener against LAFC two minutes into Sunday’s bout at Banc of California Stadium.

The 37-year-old’s strike inside the box came two minutes faster than Carlos Vela’s goal from the penalty spot earlier this season. The Swede has scored eight goals against LAFC in six matches, making him the leading goalscorer of the young rivalry.

Mexicans abroad: Weekend roundup

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Scoring goals left and right, Raul Jimenez continues to bring smiles to Wolverhampton Wanderers supporters. Against Burnley,  the forward played hero with his last-second goal, earning Wolves a third straight draw.

In Spain, Diego Lainez registered his first minutes of the season, while Hector Herrera has yet to make his debut.

Diego Reyes is no longer a Fenerbahçe, as a move to Tigres nears. Lozano, now with Italian giants Napoli, awaits for his highly-anticipated Serie A debut.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.

Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers — Late into stoppage time, Jimenez converted from the penalty spot, and earned Wolves a valuable point at home against Burnley. It’s the 28-year-old’s first Premier League goal this season.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, West Ham — Chicharito was inactive this weekend due to a reported knee injury. On Saturday, West Ham edged Watford 3-1.

La Liga

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — For a second consecutive week, Herrera was an unused substitute for Diego Simeone’s side, who won 1-0 against Leganes.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis — Los Verdiblancos’ captain started and played 61 minutes in Betis’ 5-2 loss against Barcelona.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old recorded his first minutes of the season, playing the final 15 minutes in Betis’ loss to Barcelona.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo started and played all 90 minutes in Celta’s 1-0 victory over Valencia.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli — Recently integrated, Lozano didn’t suit up for Napoli’s entertaining 4-3 win against Fiorentina on Saturday.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven — PSV are inactive this week.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — Ajax are inactive this weekend.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Despite overlapping when attacking, Porto’s manager, Sergio Conceicao, continues to deploy Tecatito as a right back. The 26-year-old showed no problems throughout 90 minutes in Porto’s 2-0 statement victory over Benfica, though.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Logging in minutes won’t be a problem for Govea at the Belgium club, at least that’s been the case thus far. On Saturday, the midfielder started – for a fourth consecutive game – and registered 66 minutes.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Hector Moreno, Al Gharafa   The Qatari league is underway, and Moreno has made his debut. The center back started and played all 90 minutes in Al Gharafa’s 3-0 win over Shahania on Thursday.

Diego Reyes, Free Agent  Fenerbahçe released Reyes on Sunday. He is set to make a Liga MX return with Tigres after leaving for Europe back in 2013.

Juan Gerardo Ramirez Alosno, Roda JC — On Friday, the 21-year-old fullback started and played 66 minutes in Roda’s 2-1 loss against NEC Nijmegen.

Carlos Fierro, San Jose Earthquakes – The 25-year-old is slowly but surely finding himself in San Jose. On Saturday, Fierro logged nine minutes in the Quakes’ impressive 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Carlos Vela, LAFC – LAFC take on rivals LA Galaxy on Sunday.

Jonathan Dos Santos, LA Galaxy – LA Galaxy take on rivals LAFC on Sunday.