Three things we learned: Liverpool v. Tottenham

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LIVERPOOL — Liverpool went back to the top of the Premier League table with a crucial 2-1 win against Tottenham at Anfield on Sunday.

[ MORE: Fate playing its part?

Mohamed Salah‘s late header deflected off Toby Alderweireld and in to send Anfield wild, as Liverpool kept their title hopes alive and dealt a big blow to Spurs’ top four chances.

The atmosphere at Anfield was electric, as Liverpool’s fans went crazy after their late winner and at the final whistle.

Here’s what we learned from an epic, tense encounter.


STUTTERING LIVERPOOL SECURE HUGE VICTORY

“Oh well, there’s always next year!” Those were the words of the stewards to a few Liverpool fans seconds before Salah scored the winner in the final minute of the game.

Even though they somehow won this game, a familiar pattern is emerging for Klopp’s side, as they started off well but handed the initiative to Tottenham in the second half. Just like they did in draws against Leicester and West Ham, they took their foot off the accelerator when it looked like they would kick on and grab all three points. They started in electric fashion against Spurs with Firmino’s goal and both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane going close, but then the pressure seemed to get to them as they sat back in the second half. Spurs dominated and eventually broke through and grabbed a deserved equalizer. But Liverpool got the job done thanks to a late goal as they are top of the table. If Man City slip up in midweek Liverpool could go five points clear of City if they win at Southampton on Friday. That scenario is unlikely, but Liverpool have now put the pressure on their title rivals.

Liverpool’s last major speed bump is their home game against Chelsea in a few weeks. They do not have their destiny in their own hands, but they have given themselves a huge chance. With late winners in wild fashion against Everton and now Tottenham thanks to strange mistakes from opposing goalkeepers, there is a sense that fate is starting to play its part in Liverpool’s title push.


SALAH STRUGGLES, BUT DELIVERS

It just had to be him. Mohamed Salah was whistled by his own fans at times throughout this game, as his touch was off, he clipped balls out of play and generally struggled. Then he delivered a huge moment in the title race as his header at the back post somehow trickled over the line and in, via Toby Alderweireld, to hand Liverpool a crucial win. Salah is the main man once again, as he popped up in a pivotal area to lead Liverpool to a massive win.

The Egyptian isn’t at his best. Far from it. But this moment will do wonders for his confidence. The way he wheeled away in delight at Anfield showed just how much this means to him, and Salah is still the hero despite his recent dip in form.


TOTTENHAM DIG DEEP BUT TOP 4 HOPES IN RUINS

Spurs deserved at least a point for their second half display. Tottenham dominated the play and were happy enough to let Liverpool give the ball back to them. When they did, Eriksen and Alli probed and Harry Kane worked tirelessly to try and steal a yard from Virgil Van Dijk. Watching from the stands as he served the final match of his two-game ban, Mauricio Pochetino will be happy with the way his team fought their way back into this game despite the result. In truth, the longer the game went on there seemed to be only one team who were going to win this. That team ended up losing. They didn’t deserve to, but Lloris’ late mistake cost them dear.

Moussa Sissoko missed a glorious chance when one on one with Alisson and Dele Alli curled inches wide. Even a draw would have boosted Spurs’ top four hopes considerably, but this defeat means they are now just one point ahead of fifth-place Arsenal and have played a game more. For now they are still in the hunt with seven games to go and now have the boost of five of their remaining games being at their new stadium at White Hart Lane. Do not write off Tottenham. But losing late at Liverpool was a big blow.

Study: MLS improves racial hiring, slides in gender hiring

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A diversity report shows improved racial hiring practices for Major League Soccer but also highlighted a continuing decline in gender hiring efforts.

The annual report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida on Wednesday gave MLS an A with 93.9 points for racial hiring in 2019 for its highest score in 15 years.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

But the gender score of 72 points for a C grade fell for the third straight time, down from 76.8 points in 2018 and 81 points as recently as 2016.

The overall grade for MLS was a B at 82.9 points, falling from a B-plus and 85 points in 2018.

TIDES director Richard Lapchick, the lead report author, called lower gender hiring numbers across men’s professional sports a “systemic problem.”

Online: http://tidesport.org/

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

Medel: Chile players decline friendly over civil unrest

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Chile had already canceled a home friendly with Bolivia this international break, and now the players will not play Tuesday in Peru either due to unrest in their country.’

A nationwide strike and protests against the government, spurred by a rise in metro fares, have Chile on edge.

[ MORE: USMNT-Canada preview ]

La Roja stars Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal both posted lengthy messages on their Instagram accounts, saying that the decision was made “in response to the social moment in our country.”

They urged both protestors and law enforcement to turn away from violence.

From Mega.CL:

“We are soccer players, but above all people and citizens. We know that we represent a complete country and today Chile has other priorities much more important than next Tuesday’s game.”

Chile is ranked No. 17 by FIFA and 22 in Elo Ratings.

Slumping USMNT big favorites v. Canada

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Let’s start with two statements which might be a bit controversial given the tone and tenor of the United States men’s national team program.

  1. The CONCACAF Nations League very much matters to Gregg Berhalter’s era and the program in general, even if the coach’s job is not in jeopardy and the tournament is in its infancy.
  2. The USMNT are the oddsmakers’ heavy favorites to win (nearly +500), even given the current injury problems, and it will be shocking but not surprising if they lose to the Canadians.

Point No. 1 might be a bit surprising, but this is a competition with silverware and Berhalter hasn’t won any of it yet in his tenure as USMNT boss. It’s also relevant because losing to Canada twice in a month after not losing to them since the Billboard No. 1 single was the sensual “One More Night” by Phil Collins.

And even without Christian Pulisic and a raft of injury excuses, plus taking into account Canada’s sincere re-emergence on the CONCACAF scene, the USMNT has no business losing a meaningful match at home to a team that, while improved, has far more holes than the hosts.

If you remember from October, Berhalter didn’t call upon his men to press an inexperienced Canadian back line (I just realized I’m still angry about this). There is literally no way he’ll do that at home.

If John Herdman keeps his backs the same as the one that shut out the Yanks at BMO last month, he’ll have Kamal Miller, Derek Cornelius, Steven Vitoria, and Richie Laryea out there. Three of the four aren’t full-time starters for their MLS clubs (Vitoria is an every week man in Portugal’s top flight). Goalkeeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade) is capable of stealing a result, but shouldn’t have the chance if the Yanks pressure the ball on Friday.

The midfield and attackers are where the U.S. will have its hands full. Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David beg speedy and/or smart defenders. John Brooks being in the mix should help in both counts, plus he’s the best passing back in the pool right now.

Whether the match is cagey or comfortable will come down to the midfield. Scott Arfield is going to make it difficult on the Yanks, but Alfredo Morales plays with a nasty streak and will not be as bullied as his peers were in Toronto.

The one thing to fear is how bamboozled Berhalter was by Herdman’s plan in Ontario. This isn’t to pile on the coach, who is known for his tactics but hasn’t seen them deliver against too many opponents of quality. Herdman may be the novice in terms of overall club experience, but he’s got a better handle on the international game.

If the Yanks look out-foxed and unprepared on Friday, that’s a big problem.

How will the USMNT line up versus Canada?

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No Christian Pulisic.

No Tyler Adams.

No Timothy Weah.

No Michael Bradley, Matt Miazga, and no Zack Steffen, either.

Ugh.

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Still, the United States men’s national team will be favored to get a home decision over Canada on Friday as the CONCACAF Nations League begins its final two match days of the group stage.

How will Gregg Berhalter line up his team without so many key components?

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan is probably going to get the start here, and he won’t kill the team, but we’d love to see Sean Johnson get a chance to improve on his 100% clean sheet success rate across two tournament caps for the U.S.

Back line: It would be insane if Sergino Dest didn’t start at one of the full back spots given his election of the USMNT over the Netherlands. Also insane would be not starting a finally-healthy John Brooks.

After that, it seems likely Berhalter will opt for Aaron Long to pair with Brooks. If his left back option is Dest, then it’ll be DeAndre Yedlin at right back (or Reggie Cannon). If Dest is on his preferred right side, than Daniel Lovitz may get a look over Tim Ream on account of the speed in Canada’s attack.

Midfield: Might Berhalter pull back an attacker and use a four-man midfield against the Canucks? Weston McKennie and Alfredo Morales will take two spots, and it seems pretty likely Jackson Yueill will get the chance to be a deep-lying playmaker with McKennie and Morales running their shorts off to make his life easier. We suppose Berhalter could opt for Wil Trapp over Yueill. It’s possible. A little too possible.

Attack: Josh Sargent is going to get the center forward spot, and it would be wild if Jordan Morris doesn’t join him. Then it’s down to Tyler Boyd or Paul Arriola, exciting versus a bit safer. And Arriola would give him more of a midfield presence than the forward-thinking Boyd.

Here’s how we think Berhalter starts in Orlando:

Guzan

Yedlin — Long — Brooks — Dest

Yueill

Morales — McKennie

Morris — Sargent — Arriola