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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.

FOLLOW LIVE, Gold Cup: USMNT closes out group v. Panama

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It’s a fully-changed starting XI for the U.S. Men’s National Team as it closes out the group stage against Panama at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Omar Gonzalez and Matt Miazga start together in the backline, Jozy Altidore returns to the starting lineup up top, and Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis feature on the wings alongside Altidore. Ten of the 11 players now ply their trade in MLS, including the Gonzalez, who recently moved to Toronto FC.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT takes on Panama in Kansas City]

Hit the link above to follow along for the next two hours, and check back on PST for a full recap and in-depth analysis after the final whistle.

Must-See Goal: Wayne Rooney v. Orlando City

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I’m going to go out on a limb and say it. Wayne Rooney just scored the most amazing goal in Audi Field’s young history.

In the 10th minute of D.C. United’s match against Orlando City SC on Wednesday evening, Rooney noticed Orlando’s Brian Rowe straying way off his line. And so, with an audacious but accurate attempt, Rooney let fly from 65 yards and SCORED. Just check this goal out below.

[FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT v. Panama]

Rooney took advantage of a crazy bounce and with his literal first touch, unleashed a thunderbolt that Rowe couldn’t catch up to. It automatically becomes one of the top contenders for the MLS Goal of the Year, and should make it on every top ten countdown this evening and tomorrow.

Benfica: Atletico Madrid make $143 million bid for Felix

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The legend of Joao Felix appears to have reached full market value potential.

The 19-year-old Portuguese striker is coming off a breakout year for Benfica, and now the Portuguese giants have received an impressive $143 million offer from Atletico Madrid for Felix. The club confirmed the offer in a statement on its website, stating it was analyzing the deal. Felix has a $136.5 million release clause in his contract, but it appears the additional $7 million is in processing costs.

[READ: Kroos wants to retire at Real Madrid]

Felix was outstanding at Benfica last year, scoring 15 goals with seven assists in 26 league games and three goals and one assist in five Europa League game. Felix has already made his international debut for Portugal.

If confirmed, Felix would become the fifth-most expensive transfer in world history, and the second-most expensive transfer for a teenager behind Kylian Mbappe.

AFCON: Nigeria 1st team through to round of 16 at African Cup, joined by host Egypt

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CAIRO (AP) Former champion Nigeria became the first team to reach the last 16 at the African Cup of Nations after defender Kenneth Omeruo‘s second-half goal delivered a 1-0 win over Guinea on Wednesday.

The Nigerians were unimpressive in the first half in Alexandria but lifted their game in the second. Alex Iwobi‘s rasping shot was pushed away by Guinea goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone and Ahmed Musa almost set up Odion Ighalo on a counterattack.

The former Chelsea defender Omeruo did what the forwards had not been able to do when he beat Kone with a glancing header at the near post off Moses Simon’s corner in the 73rd minute.

Nigeria, which won the title in 2013, has two wins from two games in Group B. It beat Burundi 1-0 in its first match and now needs a draw from its last fixture against Madagascar to finish top and stay in Alexandria for the last 16.

There was more good news for Nigeria when Samuel Kalu came on as a substitute near the end. The midfield player collapsed at a training session the day before the first game, suffering from dehydration, and was hospitalized.

Coach Gernot Rohr rested captain John Obi Mikel against Guinea.

Elsewhere, Egypt also confirmed a place in the knockout stages with a 2-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ahmad Elmohamady and Mohamed Salah each scored in the first half to lead the Pharoahs to victory, the hosts second-straight win in the competition.

In the other match of the day, Uganda tied Zimbabwe, 1-1.