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USMNT player ratings from Uruguay draw

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The United States men’s national team did not shine in a 1-1 draw with Uruguay on Tuesday in St. Louis, but neither the hosts nor the visitors brought anything resembling an A-team to the party.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some decent entertainment along the way, and we’ll let you know who took their chance to stand out of a lesser soiree to get another look when the A-listers arrive at the front door.

Starting XI

Brad Guzan — 5 — The one-time surefire replacement for Tim Howard did nothing to say he should move up the pecking order, even in the wake of Zack Steffen‘s continued poor distribution choices in a U.S. shirt.

Reggie Cannon (Off 75′) — 6 — Just fine. Not a wide pest for the opposition as we’ve seen in the past, but he had to be a little more defensive with Long to his left.

Aaron Long (Off 65′) — 4 — A terrible international break for the Red Bulls star, who was front-and-center for three opposition goals in five days. Will the mauler rebound during the CONCACAF Nations League next month?

Tim Ream — 7 —  Ream was very good, bailing out Brad Guzan for first half spillage. Oddly enough, he made several incisive passes look easy — including one that led up to Morris’ goal — but sent Aaron Long running on easier sideways passes. Sports!

Sergino Dest (Off 70′) — 5 — Made his fair share of 18-year-old mistakes again but the flashes of brilliance, everyone, they are just… so… darn… bright. It will be a big blow for the USMNT if he ultimately chooses the Netherlands.

Jackson Yueill — 6 — Was neither incredible, nor poor, and hit a couple of eye-opening passes to free his wingers. But what he did do was show that we ought to see what he can do in the holding midfield role rather than keep giving 75-90 minute turns to Wil Trapp.

Cristian Roldan — 7 — Allowed to run his shorts off without the focus of acute attacking third responsibilities, the Sounders man probably had his best game in a U.S. shirt.

Sebastian Lletget — 7 — He’s better than most people realize, and delivered a number of creative passes and moments of vision which are becoming staples of his game. Hopefully we get the chance to see him interacting with a midfield including McKennie or Pulisic more often (or even show that he’s good enough centrally to keep Pulisic at his pulsating best position of wing).

Tyler Boyd (Off 65′) — 5 — A couple good crosses and 1v1 dribbles, but ultimately his sophomore call-up qualifies as a small slump.

Josh Sargent (Off 75′)  — 6 — The hometown hero did plenty of good at the ballpark of his favorite baseball team. Could’ve won a penalty if the referee used his eyes efficiently.

Jordan Morris (Off 85′)  — 7 (MOTM) — A really nice night for the Sounders star, who is working really well as a winger. Some terrific crosses and vision could’ve led to a goal before he bodied one home to tie the score late.

Jordan Morris scores past Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera . (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Substitutes

Corey Baird (On 65′) — 6 — Some decent moments on the wing, but still a mile away from being a starting-caliber option.

Miles Robinson (On 65′) — 6 — The Atlanta United youngster was barely troubled during his half-hour (ish) of time.

Daniel Lovitz (On 70′) — 6 — Same as Robinson.

Nick Lima (On 75′) — 7 — There are times when you think Nick Lima should be in a righteous fight with DeAndre Yedlin for starting right back status (when Berhalter isn’t using Tyler Adams in the spot), and Tuesday was one of them. Right place, right time for the late assist.

Gyasi Zardes (On 75′) — 6 — The anti-hero a national program needs. Yes, you’re in a lot of trouble if he’s your regular starting center forward, but he’s a match-up problem athletically and goes to the dirty areas to finish chances. Is there a place for him if Jozy Altidore, Josh Sargent, and Tim Weah are healthy? No, probably not (but he’ll be there).

Paxton Pomykal (On 85′) — n/a — Congrats on the debut, kid. Wish we could’ve seen more of you.

Benfica loanee Parks readies for playoffs with NYCFC

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Keaton Parks plays the kind of hard-to-quantify midfield role that sends both stat nerds and eye test takers to a very good place.

Barely 22, the New York City FC midfielder doesn’t stand out in any one particular area. Since arriving on loan from Benfica, the American shuttler (of sorts) ranks near the top of the club rankings in pass percentage and aerials won while chipping in tackles and successful dribbles.

[ MORE: PST talks public pitches, youth development with NYCFC director Reyna ]

He’s averaging near one key pass per game but has just a goal and an assist, due more to his responsibility in Dome Torrent’s system than a particular skill set (He has eight goals and seven assists across two-plus seasons between Varzim and Benfica B).

“In the midfield it really helps to play both sides of the ball,” Parks told ProSoccerTalk. “I take pride in doing that, and I love to make a tackle as much as getting in the attack and assisting or scoring goals. It doesn’t bother me that I’m not scoring or making all of the assists. I like to be the solid player who keeps the balance on the team.”

(Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images)

Parks has been an enigma to American soccer fans for some time in that he’s been in a celebrated club in Benfica but playing in a developmental role that’s near impossible to track without single-minded dedication to Portuguese football (Dramatic? Sure, but you try to catch every Liga Pro game).

But in moving to New York City FC to play under Dome Torrent, he’s had an easier transition than most due to his upbringing with Benfica, which annually ranks amongst the top possession teams in Portugal. Torrent, of course, left his last managerial gig at Girona in Spain to spent a decade-plus on Pep Guardiola‘s staff at Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City.

“Dome likes to play a possession style, a confident style,” Parks said. “I still have to fight for my spot on the team but the playing style I was used to right away.

“You can see the experience Dome has, and he mirrors a little bit of what Pep does, so it’s been amazing to be able to learn from him and see the experiences of the players he’s been able to coach in his career.”

NYCFC begins its playoff run on Wednesday against Toronto FC at Citi Field in Queens, and Parks says he’s feeling better after missing three matches with injury.

And while he’s focused on the playoffs — “We want to win the Cup and be at the top” — there is a question of what’s next for him, still on the books at a perennial UEFA Champions League club but very important with a CONCACAF Champions League club.

[ MORE: MLS Playoffs preview/predictions ]

“I’m just going to be looking forward to whatever club I’m at next, whether here or back at Benfica or wherever I am and also with the U-23s going into Tokyo next summer.”

He’ll, in theory, be an imperative part to Jason Kreis, ironically a former NYCFC man himself, and the Yanks bid for a first Olympic run in three cycles. The team should be powerful, and Parks is happy.

“I’m definitely excited,” he said. “We have so much talent on the team with guys playing first division all over the world. I believe we can make a run all the way to these Olympics.”
NYCFC and Toronto FC kick off 7 p.m. ET Wednesday at Citi Field.

MLS conference semifinal preview and predictions

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We’re not sure we should be allowed to make Major League Soccer playoff predictions after getting two upset bids wrong in the first round, but we go again anyway.

No, DC United did not outlast Toronto FC at BMO Field nor were the Portland Timbers able to get a win over Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto but… we got the other four right?

[ MORE: Dest choosing side this week ]

It gets trickier at midweek for the conference semifinals, as two of those six victors from the weekend face well-rested one seeds (We suppose they could be rusty, not just well-rested).

NYCFC v. Toronto FC — 7 p.m. ET Wednesday

Regular season:
TFC 4-0 NYCFC (April 29)
NYCFC 1-1 TFC (Sept. 11)

Toronto hasn’t lost since Aug. 3 (5W-6D) and is well-equipped to deal NYCFC’s possession system on a postage stamp pitch. NYC’s only loss in its last 11 was a throwaway loss to a desperate Revolution side in New England. TFC has a lot of experience in spots like this, but Dome Torrent’s done an incredible job with City. It’s a coin toss, but ultimately it feels like that coin lands TFC side up. 2-1 aet.

Seattle v. Real Salt Lake  — 10 p.m. ET Wednesday

Regular season:
Seattle 1-0 RSL (April 6)
RSL 3-0 Seattle (Aug. 14)

This one’s also close, as RSL has a number of players who won’t be bothered by the pressure but man is this home field advantage a real one. The Sounders only lost two home matches this season, and haven’t lost a home playoff match under Brian Schmetzer. Call it 2-0 for Seattle.

Atlanta United v. Philadelphia Union — 8 p.m. ET Thursday

Regular season:
ATL 1-1 Philly (March 17)
Philly 3-1 ATL (Aug. 31)

The Union are resilient, and Jim Curtin seeing success is an absolute joy. So deserved, but Frank De Boer is showing his mettle in making the tough decisions and Ezequiel Barco looks a terror. A side that is able to bring Tito Villalba and Pity Martinez off the bench is unfair. Atlanta, 3-1.

LAFC v. LA Galaxy — 10:30 p.m. ET Thursday

Regular season:
Galaxy 3-2 LAFC (July 19)
LAFC 3-3 Galaxy (Aug. 25)

Can hardly wait for this one. Bob Bradley and Carlos Vela look to send Zlatan Ibrahimovic packing after a riotous summer competition. LAFC is so, so good, and the lack of rest for the Galaxy is a problem. Still, betting against Zlatan seems borderline insane, and Jonathan dos Santos has big game mettle of his own. We’ll call it 2-2 and a place in penalty kicks, where David Bingham’s the difference for the Galaxy in a history-writing upset that takes El Trafico to the next level. Yes, we are predicting for storylines now.

Champions League preview: Chelsea, Liverpool hit the road

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Frank Lampard has a selection headache amongst his wingers as he tries to figure out Chelsea’s best avenue to break down Ajax on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League.

Youngsters Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic starred in the Blues’ weekend win, and Lampard also has Pedro and Willian available at Johan Cruyff Arena before a weekend visit to Burnley.

[ MORE: Dest choosing side this week ]

From ChelseaFC.com:

“Callum gave me that in his display from the start and Christian gave me that in his display coming on, and in terms of the wingers I have, Willian gave me that, Pedro gives me that so I have good selection problems when people come on and make a difference. That is what we are all about.

“The extra level that is the Champions League, the detail, the focus, concentration for 90 minutes, making the most of tiny moments, will be a test for all the young players, not just Callum.”

The good news for Pulisic in his bid to match wits with fellow USMNT (for now) player Sergino Dest is that he’s had experience on the UCL stage with Borussia Dortmund.

The other PL side in action is Liverpool, and the Reds will be expecting to get all three points in Belgium against Genk.

But Genk drew Napoli 0-0 at home on the second match day and the Reds will be wary of a slip-up.

“It’s a really good football-playing team,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. “They are organized and brave in their positioning. They don’t play with the pressing line too much but go for second balls, have speed and good midfielders and very active full-backs.”

Klopp will not have Trent Alexander-Arnold (illness) and Joel Matip (knee).

Other highlights…

— American manager Jesse Marsch hopes to lead Red Bull Salzburg to a home win over Napoli when he matches wits with Carlo Ancelotti.

Antonio Conte‘s Inter Milan could really use a result against tricky Borussia Dortmund in Italy.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Ajax v. Chelsea
RB Leipzig v. Zenit Saint-Petersburg

3 p.m. ET
Slavia Prague v. Barcelona
Red Bull Salzburg v. Napoli
Genk v. Liverpool
Inter Milan v. Borussia Dortmund
Lille v. Valencia
Benfica v. Lyon

Man City’s Guardiola issues Rodri update; Zinchenko also injured

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Man City boss Pep Guardiola expects to be without Rodri for at least a couple of matches after his heavily relied-on midfielder hurt his hamstring on Tuesday.

Rodri was removed from the match after 40 minutes, having partnered with Fernandinho at center back for the second-straight match.

[ MORE: Man City 5-1 Atalanta ]

A center mid and a fine one by trade, Rodri’s absence coupled with the still-hurt Aymeric Laporte leaves City significantly weaker in its heart.

“I think tomorrow we will know and hopefully it will be between 10 days if it is not broken,” Guardiola said. “If it is broken, it will be three weeks or one month.”

The club also announced before the match that Oleksandr Zinchenko had suffered a knee injury and will undergo tests.

City visits Aston Villa this weekend and then hosts Southampton in the League Cup and the Premier League before a visit to Atalanta in the Champions League.

That’s when Liverpool at Anfield arrives on the schedule, and the absence of Rodri would take some of the luster off of it for sure.