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USMNT Player Ratings from win over Ecuador

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Gregg Berhalter’s United States men’s national team extended its clean sheet run to 180 minutes under the new coach with a 1-0 defeat of Ecuador in Orlando on Thursday.

[ RECAP: USMNT 1-0 Ecuador ]

The longtime Columbus Crew coach handed notable chances to several MLS mainstays who stood out in January camp, but also re-introduced Christian Pulisic to the fold.

The results were mixed, but the win was deserved as the U.S. did not allow much danger to reach Sean Johnson’s cage.

LINEUPS

Sean Johnson — 6.5 — Had to catch, what, one ball? Still, nice for him to get a clean sheet.

Tim Ream — 7 — A couple of dicey moments, sure, but the man with the captain’s band stood out at left back not just for his assist but his aggression in pressing high up the left flank.

John Brooks — 6.5 — Not much to do, but effective when needed with a win-saving stop. Here’s hope the thigh injury isn’t a notable one. Intelligent and accurate in his passing out of the back.

Aaron Long — 6 — His passing was a bit off early, and that will need to be better at the back of Berhalter’s defense, but overall he was composed and well-drilled.

Tyler Adams — 7.5 — Given he was playing an unusual position with immense responsibility (right), Adams deserves a lot of credit for keeping his motor high over 90 minutes. He only attempted two dribbles, staying in his shoes and venturing wide and forward on occasion. A very promising sign for an ambitious move by Berhalter. That’s a lot of green over there, and green is good —>

Wil Trapp (Off 59′) — 5.5 — He’s not supposed to be the guy who stands out in a game, and should be known for doing the little things, but he’s still not standing out from the pack as someone who should keep Michael Bradley or Tyler Adams from the center of the park.

Weston McKennie (Off 68′) — 5 — Potentially scary injury aside, he will have much better days for the U.S. than this and certainly didn’t show chemistry with Trapp. Second guessing is easy, but flipping McKennie and Adams might’ve been the play.

Paul Arriola (Off 77′) — 6 — An energetic, productive night on the wing takes a hit due to his inability to finish the match’s best scoring chance (even if the save was legit).

Christian Pulisic (Off 62′) — 7 — Not at his sharpest, but still quite lively in producing many American attacks. Had an memorable moment working over Antonio Valencia near the end line.

Jordan Morris (Off 68′) — 6 — Still learning how to be a winger, but a decent and industrious effort for the Seattle Sounders man.

Gyasi Zardes — 7 — It was the goal that did the trick for him over 90 minutes, and it was good to see the Columbus Crew man score a USMNT for the first time since 2016.

Subs

Michael Bradley (On 59′) — 6.5 — Quick decisions and possession-aiding passes with precious few mistakes (See Opta chalkboard from MLSSocccer.com at right).

Sebastian Lletget (On 62′) — 6 — Has to be a bit more careful in his own half, but we’d like to see him get a start against Chile.

Cristian Roldan (On 66′) — 5 — Sloppy with the ball in a short stint.

DeAndre Yedlin (On 66′) — 6 — Busy and ready to produce chances from the right side.

Jonathan Lewis (On 77′) — N/A —

USMNT-Ecuador preview: Competition level rises

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Gregg Berhalter’s United States men’s national team has never allowed a goal, albeit with a bevy of MLS players in the USMNT shirt going against domestic-based players from Panama and Costa Rica.

Thursday’s opponent is Ecuador, and this is a proper international break. No, La Tricolor won’t present the same challenge as Chile, who visits Houston on March 26, but Antonio Valencia and Enner Valencia are a step up from the CONCACAF visitors of January and February.

[ MORE: Top 12 signings of PL season ]

The U.S. is unbeaten in its last three matches against Ecuador, winning two and drawing one. The last meeting was during Jurgen Klinsmann’s remarkable Copa America Centenario, as the Yanks navigated Jermaine Jones’ 52nd minute red card and both sides played most of the second half with 10 men in a 2-1, Clint Dempsey-inspired win.

Berhalter’s USMNT isn’t as young this go-round, with Michael Bradley, Tim Ream, and Gyasi Zardes among those who’ve featured for several American coaches.

It’s also the first time U.S. fans will see Christian Pulisic since his sale to Chelsea and loan back to Dortmund, likely playing attacking center midfield as the most important piece of the Yanks’ XI (with apologies to John Brooks).

What will be second-most in focus for U.S. fans is Tyler Adams as right back, a move which makes sense in Berhalter’s possession system where the RB is stationed as a center mid, but takes the 20-year-old out of the center of the park when the opposition has the ball.

This most likely says that Berhalter is unwilling to take Bradley out of his lineup just yet, because Schalke’s Weston McKennie is likely to start as is Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic. And it also isn’t a ringing endorsement of Newcastle’s DeAndre Yedlin, who Berhalter is calling a winger despite a distinct problem with his finishing touch.

But GB knows his stuff, and in some ways the Ecuador match is a logical progression towards a Chile which will put Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz, and a back line with more than 300 combined caps on the pitch next week. So handle Ecuador, and move forward.

PL Sunday preview: Liverpool in chase mode; Arsenal v. Man Utd

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By the time Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is complete, nearly all 20 clubs will have played 30 games in the 2018-19 season, signaling the official start of the run-in.

[ MORE: What did we learn on a wild PL Saturday? (video) ]

From the title, to the top-four, to the relegation battle, there’s still so much left to play for…

Liverpool v. Burnley — 8 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

From runaway PL title leaders and favorites, to staring a four-point deficit — with a game in hand, albeit — square in the face, the last two months have been anything but ideal for Liverpool. It’s not as if Jurgen Klopp‘s side has cratered and even lost a single game, so much as Manchester City have regained their brilliant, historic form of last season (three points dropped from their last 11 games) and managed to capitalize on the Reds drawing four of their last six. When 17th-place Burnley visit Anfield on Sunday, Klopp and Co., will have their hands full against increasingly desperate opponents who now sit just two points and one place clear of the relegation zone. There can be no looking ahead to Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League clash with Bayern Munich (0-0 after the Reds’ home leg).

As for the Clarets, Sean Dyche‘s side was the very definition of up-and-down since mid-January: three draws, followed by two wins, followed by two losses most recently. Prior to starting their potentially season-saving run just before the start of 2019, Burnley sat 19th in the PL table. After winning three straight to start the new year and eventually extending their run to eight games unbeaten (five wins), they had risen as high as 14th. Back-to-back defeats to fellow relegation battlers Newcastle United and Crystal Palace have since dropped them back into perilous danger as they head northwest to take on one of the Europe’s most prolific, irresistible sides on Sunday.

INJURIES: Liverpool —  OUT: Joe Gomez (ankle), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Dejan Lovren (hamstring) | Burnley — OUT: Aaron Lennon (knee), Steven Defour (calf), Jonathan Walters (achilles)


Chelsea v. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 10:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Maurizio Sarri‘s debut season in the PL has been one he, and many Chelsea fans alike, would like to forget. And yet, it’s the sixth-place Blues — of the three teams currently jockeying for fourth place — who control their own destiny, due to having a game in hand and trailing the Champions League places by just two points. Sunday’s opponent, sixth-place Wolves, will be anything but a pushover, which they demonstrated the first time these sides met this season: Wolves 2-1 Chelsea, in December.

Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota inspired Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side to the comeback victory at Molineux Stadium, and the prolific duo (17 goals and nine assists between them this PL campaign) will be desperate to complete the unlikely double over such a giant in their first top-flight season in eight years. Against all odds, it’s Wolves who have lost just once in their last seven league games (four wins), and the Blues who have lost three of their last six (three wins) and suffered a frustrating slide down the table. With a six-point advantage over 11th-place Everton, and Sunday’s game in hand, Wolves are merely a handful of results away from mathematically securing a top-half finish with plenty of the season still to run.

INJURIES: Chelsea —  OUT: None | Wolves — OUT: Ryan Bennett (suspension)


Arsenal v. Manchester United — 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com

The leading contestants for a top-four finish are set to face off in a titanic clash at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, with the added bonus of making a real push to catch and surpass a Tottenham Hotspur side suddenly spiraling out of control. Man United moved to within three points of Tottenham with their comeback victory over Southampton last weekend, only for those very Saints to do the Red Devils a massive favor on the back end: handing Spurs their third loss in four games.

Three points won’t come easy on Sunday, however, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side was pushed to its limits in the Champions League on Wednesday, only securing their passage to the quarterfinals in the 93rd minute against Paris Saint-Germain. Further complicating matters, United find themselves in the midst of something of an injury crisis (see below). On the bright side, Paul Pogba will be fit and fresh after missing Wednesday’s game due to suspension. On the brightest of bright sides, United remain unbeaten in 12 league games (10 wins) since Solskjaer took over for Jose Mourinho in mid-December.

Arsenal, on the other hand, will be considerably fatigued themselves after losing to Rennes in the Europa League on Thursday, and playing nearly 50 minutes with just 10 men. With dwindling hope of lifting the final trophy still in play for the Gunners, Unai Emery‘s main objective has become exceedingly clear: get the club back into the Champions League for the first time in three years. Three points would not only send Arsenal two points clear of United for fourth, but would also trim the gap between themselves and Spurs to just a single point with eight games left to play.

INJURIES: Arsenal —  OUT: Lucas Torreira (suspension), Hector Bellerin (knee), Danny Welbeck (ankle), Rob Holding (knee) | Man United — OUT: Alexis Sanchez (knee), Jesse Lingard (hamstring), Juan Mata (hamstring), Antonio Valencia (calf); QUESTIONABLE: Anthony Martial (groin), Nemanja Matic (leg), Ander Herrera (hamstring), Phil Jones (illness), Matteo Darmian (undisclosed)

Herrera, Lingard, Martial among debilitating Man United injury list

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Manchester United has a sizable 2-0 hole to dig itself out of when the Red Devils take the field against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday in Champions League play.

Making matters far more difficult, they’ll try to make up ground while missing a whopping nine first-team players who are either injured or suspended for the second leg of the Round of 16 match in the French capital.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer announced he would be without the services of injured midfielders Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, and Ander Herrera plus forwards Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, with defenders Phil Jones, Matteo Darmian and Antonio Valencia also unavailable. Paul Pogba is suspended, meaning Manchester United will be leaving 263 total appearances this season on the sideline.

“Not really, no,” Solskjaer said when asked if any of his currently injured players could find themselves fit in time for the match. “It doesn’t look like it. I don’t think we can risk Martial. He’s not been training yet, so I don’t think so.”

It’s likely that Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof pair at the heart of the Red Devils defense, as they did against Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday, while Scott McTominay could also see the field either along the back line or in midfield, with Solskjaer preferred the latter of late as he navigates this injury crisis. 23-year-old Andreas Pereira has also seen the field recently in a deputy role, and Romelu Lukaku will almost certainly lead the lines up front. Eric Bailly or Marcos Rojo could also be used at the back if Solskjaer wishes to rotate his defense.

This could also be a big opportunity for 25-year-old Brazilian midfielder Fred who has made just one start since the start of the new year, but he came off the bench for eight minutes in the match against Southampton and went the full 90 minutes against Crystal Palace in late February. With Pogba out, Fred would be a natural replacement for the Frenchman.

It is also possible that facing a 2-0 deficit and such a long injury list, Solskjaer essentially throws the PSG match and uses a completely second-choice lineup featuring youngsters like Diogo Dalot and Tahith Chong, deciding not to risk his healthy first-team players with such little depth remaining. With Manchester United sitting fourth in the Premier League table and looking over its shoulder at Arsenal and Chelsea, it’s not inconceivable that Solskjaer pragmatically decides to focus on just the league battle with such a handcuffed roster. Manchester United has a critical match against Arsenal on Sunday, making his decision to risk first-choice players – or not – even more important.

Martial hits out at Mourinho; Young signs new deal

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Ahead of Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford on Tuesday, Anthony Martial has hit out at Jose Mourinho.

[ MORE: Pogba dazzles in United win

Speaking to the media alongside his new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Martial acted as Solskjaer’s translator at one point as French media asked questions ahead of the UCL last 16 first leg.

When asked about the incredible change in results and performances since Mourinho was fired in December and Solskjaer was hired on a caretaker basis until the end of the season, this was Martial’s response.

“We have a coach who has perhaps got different intentions, a different approach and we are trying to do what he is asking us to do,” Martial said. “Perhaps it is easier for us now to play this style of football compared to the previous style of football we were asked to play. We are doing well on the pitch and we hope we continue to do well on the pitch.”

Ouch, that has to hurt Jose. But with 10 wins from 11 games in all competitions under Solskajer, the Red Devils returning to the top four and rampant attacking displays from Martial, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, can you really disagree with what Martial is saying?

Probs not.

As for Solskjaer, the man who scored the winning goal in the UCL final in 1999 for United, he is relishing the chance to lead them out against PSG in what should be another classic European night at Old Trafford. Keen to brush off talk about a win against PSG being key in gaining him the United job on a permanent basis, Solskjaer was focused on enjoying the occasion.

“It is both the supporters and the players who are looking for to this,” Solskjaer explained. “It has always been special. I want my players to go into this game confident and embrace the game… We’ve given ourselves the best possible opportunity because of the way we’ve come into this game. We’re confident and we’re looking like a team. If there was ever a time to go into big games, it’s now.”

With Neymar out and Edinson Cavani doubtful for PSG, the stars are aligning for United to take a lead with them to the Parc des Princes for the second leg in two weeks time.


Fresh from United signing Martial and Phil Jones to new contracts, Ashley Young is the latest to commit his future to the club.

Young, 33, was out of contract in the summer but has agreed an extension on his deal until the summer of 2020. The converted right back has flourished in his new role and has been one of United’s most consistent players over the past 12 months, as he has often captained the team.

The former Aston Villa and Watford player has now been at United for eight seasons and is a reliable and versatile player for the Red Devils.

Signing him to a one-year contract extension makes perfect sense, especially with Antonio Valencia‘s injury problems and his future at Old Trafford uncertain.

“Since I’ve come into the club, Ashley has been fantastic. His attitude and his experience around the place is vital for us because we have got a young team,” Solskjaer said. “We’ve got players that need some leaders in the dressing room and Ash is one of them so I’m delighted.”