Everton’s lack of scoring prowess has stolen the headlines as Marco Silva‘s men have wasted a wonderful opportunity to start the season off in style.
But it’s been easy to forget that the Toffees have been without the man they bought to help offset the loss of Idrissa Gana Gueye, perhaps their best player two years running, in the form of Jean-Philippe Gbamin.
Gbamin has not suitably improved, and is now set for another three months on the sidelines thanks to surgery on his hamstring.
It’s a sock to the gut for a team already wallowing in misfortune. Now sitting 18th, as close to 20th as they are to 10th, it’s difficult to imagine things getting much worse for a team that held so much promise.
Everton hosts West Ham to kickoff the Premier League weekend at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday.
BARCELONA, Spain — Lionel Messi has ended his mini-scoring drought as Barcelona finds its winning stride.
Messi curled a left-footed free kick over the wall and into the net for his first goal of the season to wrap up Barcelona’s 4-0 win over Sevilla in the Spanish league on Sunday.
The soccer great thrust his finger in the air before pumping his fist in celebration after scoring in the 78th minute. Messi had gone scoreless in his previous four appearances after being sidelined for five games with injuries.
Messi’s 37th goal in 38 career meetings with Sevilla was also his first since he won his record sixth FIFA player of the year award last month.
“We know how important Leo is for this team and what he means to us,” Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal said. “If he is playing well it helps us a lot.”
Luis Suarez put Barcelona on the winning path for a second time this week after netting with a bicycle kick in the 27th despite Sevilla having dominated the game before then. On Wednesday, the Uruguay striker had sparked a 2-1 comeback over Inter Milan in the Champions League with a superb volley before he added a fine second goal.
Vidal and Ousmane Dembele added two more goals against Sevilla in the next 10 minutes to turn what had been a tightly contested start into a demolition.
After a stuttering start to the season while Messi was out injured, Barcelona’s fourth straight victory in all competitions lifted it into second place and two points behind leader Real Madrid. Barcelona will host Madrid on Oct. 26.
Atletico Madrid slipped to third – one point behind Barcelona – after being held 0-0 at Valladolid, its third scoreless draw in four rounds.
“It was a complicated match and the score by halftime was a bit exaggerated,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “We had more firepower than they did. After scoring the first goal we created danger practically every time we reached their area.”
Barcelona finished with nine men after referee Mateu Lahoz sent off Ronald Araujo on his debut after making contact with Sevilla’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez with only the Barcelona goalkeeper to beat. Replays showed minor contact between the two players.
Demebele was then shown a direct red, for criticizing Lahoz’s decision by saying he was “very bad.”
NIGHT TO FORGET
The last time Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui came to Camp Nou, his Real Madrid team had been routed 5-1. He was fired a day later.
One year later, Lopetegui must have been at a loss to see his team trailing 3-0 at halftime after it had outplayed Barcelona in the first 25 minutes, largely thanks to Lucas Ocampos’ powerful runs down the right flank and on-target passes.
Sevilla’s Luuk De Jong, however, had a night to forget. After goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made an excellent save against his point-blank shot off a pass by Ocampos, the striker had three glaring misses.
Lopetegui looked on in disbelief when De Jong’s header off another Ocampos cross failed to go in – a minute before Suarez whipped in Nelson Semedo’s cross at the other end.
De Jong’s bad Fortune continued after halftime when he stole the ball to leave himself in a perfect position, only to hit the post. He has yet to score since joining Sevilla in the offseason.
“It was a painful and undeserved loss,” Lopetegui said. “We were missing our finishing touch. De Jong did a lot of things very well, just as the team did, but to win at Camp Nou you have to play well and have a bit of luck.”
Atletico’s three-prong attack of Joao Felix, Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata wasn’t able to unsettle the modest Valladolid.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone sent on Angel Correa and Thomas Lemar for Felix and Morata, but they only slightly improved the attack. Atletico’s best scoring chance came in the 82nd when substitute Correa hit the upright.
Valladolid striker Sandor Ramirez squandered his side’s only good opportunity in the first half when he sent a penalty kick, that he had earned, high over the crossbar.
“It was very hard game, they play very well as a tight unit,” Simeone said. “(It was) a game that ended in a draw that we didn’t want, but we gave it our all.”
Getafe fought back once Real Sociedad was reduced to 10 men to win 2-1 in San Sebastian, leaving Sociedad in fifth place just ahead of Sevilla.
Iago Aspas broke his seven-game scoring drought and gave Celta Vigo a 1-0 win over Athletic Bibao.
Espanyol fell second to last after losing 2-0 at Mallorca.
Americans Abroad: Pulisic assists, Yedlin starts in Newcastle win
Christian Pulisic‘s struggles at Chelsea took a positive turn on Sunday, as the 21-year-old came off the bench and assisted Michy Batshuayi in the Blues’ 4-1 win over Southampton. The American’s 10-minute cameo were his first league minutes since August.
Elsewhere in England, DeAndre Yedlin returned to Newcastle’s starting lineup, following his lengthy injury. With Yedlin going all 90 minutes, the Magpies pulled off an upset victory over Manchester United. In Stoke, Cameron Carter-Vickers continues to be a fundamental piece for the struggling Potters. In similar fashion to Americans in England this week, however, there was a happy ending for Stoke City and Carter-Vickers, who earned their first victory of the season, edging Swansea City 2-1.
Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.
DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle – It is safe to say Yedlin is finally up to speed, and Newcastle are reaping the benefits. On Sunday, Steve Bruce and company walked away from a passionate St. James’ Park with three points after getting past Manchester United. Yedlin started and played all 90 minutes in the Magpies 1-0 victory.
Antonee Robinson, Wigan – Robinson has been a fixture for the Lactics, and that didn’t change this weekend. The 22-year-old played all 90 minutes in Wigan’s 1-0 loss to Sheffield Wednesday. Still, a USMNT return doesn’t seem imminent.
Tim Ream, Fulham – The experienced defender started and played all 90 minutes in Fulham’s 2-2 draw with Charlton Athletic. 11 matches in, the Cottagers are seventh in the league.
Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — Miazga is up and running again. The 24-year-old defender started and played 90 minutes in Reading’s 1-0 to Bristol City.
Eric Lichaj, Hull City — On Saturday, the Tigers suffered a 3-0 loss to Huddersfield Town. Things aren’t looking up for Lichaj and company, who despite the woes, continues to register minutes under his belt as a through-and-through starter.
Geoff Cameron, QPR — With Cameron as a starter and playing all game, QPR picked up a 4-2 win over Blackburn Rovers after a two-game losing streak.
Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stoke City (loan Tottenham Hotspur) — There’s no way around it: Stoke City are struggling. And despite the struggles, the 21-year-old is putting together a formidable season. Over the weekend, he recorded seven clearances and three blocked shots in Stoke’s 2-1 win over Swansea City – their first victory of the season.
Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes’ weekend could have been better. The 24-year-old came off the bench and only played six minutes in Derby’s 2-0 win over Luton Town.
Weston McKennie, Schalke — McKennie’s season at Schalke’s has been quiet, to say the very least. The USMNT midfielder has yet to record a goal or an assist this season, which didn’t change on Saturday after 45 minutes of playing time in Schalke’s 1-1 draw with Koln.
Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — On Friday, Fortuna Dusseldorf fell to Hertha Berlin 3-1. Steffan was between the two sticks, and didn’t record no saves, while Morales returned from injury and played 19 minutes off the bench.
Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen — After recording an assist last time around, Sargent started and played 72 minutes in Werder Bremen’s 2-2 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday.
Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams is back and training with Leipzig, but his official return is yet to be determined.
Fabian Johnson, Borussia Monchengladbach — Johnson missed his four straight match with back problems.
Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — Chandler dressed but remained on the bench in Eintracht Frankfurt’s draw.
Khiry Shelton, Paderborn – It was done in an unconventional fashion, but Shelton is the latest American in the Bundesliga. On Saturday, he came off the bench and played 26 minutes in Paderborn’s 2-1 loss to Mainz.
Julian Green, Greuther Furth – Expected or not,Green is putting together a positive season in Germany’s second-flight. The 24-year-old started and played 79 minutes in in Greuther Furth’s 2-0 loss to Hamburg on Saturday.
Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest has yet to make up his mind on who he wants to represent at the national level, but that didn’t impede his productivity at the club level. The full-back started and played all 90 minutes in in Ajax’s 2-0 win over ADO Den Haag on Sunday.
Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — VVV-Venlo fell to PSV 4-1, and Wright started and played 87 minutes, earning his fifth start of the year. The striker has yet to score a goal this season.
Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — Payne was left out of the squad for the tfourth straight week.
Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah remains sidelined with a hamstring tear. There is no timeline on his return.
Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Siebatcheu is on the outside looking in at Rennes. On Sunday, the 23-year-old was left out of the French side’s 18.
William Yarborough, Club Leon – Back as Leon’s first-choice ‘keeper, Yarborough started, made three saves, and played 90 minutes in Club Leon’s 1-1 draw with Veracruz on Saturday.
Ventura Alvarado, Necaxa – Necaxa are atop of Liga MX after 13 games, and Alvaro has led the side as the captain. On Friday, he started and played 90 minutes in Necaxa’s 3-2 win over Morelia.
Matty Longstaff scored in the 72nd minute and older brother Sean combined to stifle a sloppy Manchester United midfield in a 1-0 win.
Manchester United has nine points, good for 12th, while Newcastle is up to eight points and 16th place.
Three things we learned
1. Man Utd woeful without Pogba, Martial: Most teams, to be fair, would look poor without two world class talents, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s men look absolutely idea-free up front. Marcus Rashford did little to nothing on the day, and in his defense his physical gifts are left for nothing without decent service. The side heaps pressure on the still-young center forward when it only gives him a pressure-packed possibility or two per game.
Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United is full of industry, but the Magpies have been wide open for business in the middle of the park. The fact that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had no answers for the Longstaff brothers, making their 15th and 1st PL appearance, should be massively alarming. It’s a great story for Newcastle given the combined 40 years between the academy products, but the Red Devils didn’t even look like a well-drilled unit of superior talent against one of the worst-performing teams in the PL this season. Not legendary, Ole.
2. Speaking of the Longstaffs: Steve Bruce made a brave move in starting 19-year-old Matty Longstaff alongside his brother Sean, the former making his first PL start and the latter chased by Manchester United in the summer.
It’s absurdly early for this, but Newcastle fans will freely dream of a decade of two brothers bossing the center midfield for them at St. James’ Park. It’s a story best told by clubs like Newcastle, even if the beautiful goal was produced by Saint-Maximin and Jetro Willems.
3. Differing fortunes for MLS men Almiron, Yedlin: Newcastle’s former record signing was bright again, but showed his battered confidence with two very poor moments. First he got behind the defense but took two extra touches to turn a breakaway into a blocked shot. Then his long dribble saw him cut right outside the box only to earn a deserved yellow card for diving rather than staying onto the ball. His potential and the flashes mean Newcastle has to keep him out there to work through it, but the Paraguayan’s faith in his finishing is shot right now.
DeAndre Yedlin, however, was plenty lively in his first and long-awaited start of the Premier League season after delay after delay in recovery from injury. He helped produced a terrific chance for Carroll, regularly got behind the Red Devils’ back line, and made a great sliding intervention a yard outside the six with 20 minutes to play.
Man of the Match: Matty Longstaff — On emotion, and just ahead of the team’s most consistent weekly performer in Fabian Schar.
Allan Saint-Maximin‘s long dribble provided an early chance for Miguel Almiron, but a less-than-ideal first touch pushed the Paraguayan out of line from goal and produced a mere corner.
A live wire, Saint-Maximin danced through three defenders before dragging a 12th minute shot wide from great distance.
The roster may be meant to develop long-term success, but his unorthodox decisions are — rightly or wrongly — putting a lot of eyes on short-term results. Because like it or not, the CONCACAF Nations League results affect their FIFA rankings, which matter to Hex qualifying places.
The U.S. was always expected to boss Cuba on Oct. 11 before a challenging match versus Canada at BMO Field four days later. The Yanks haven’t lost to Cuba since 1949, and the matches are usually quite one-sided.
Facing an improved Canada angling for a Hex berth is a different feat, even if the Americans haven’t lost to the Canucks since 1985. That’s a run of 17 matches which includes 10 wins.
That could well end this month.
Single matches have become as scrutinized as ever since Bruce Arena’s USMNT crashed out of World Cup qualifying in Couva. Arena has rebounded, rescuing the New England Revolution and putting them into a playoff spot, but the national team has been at sea since Berhalter took the reins of the club.
Now Berhalter is making a habit of calling up players who are not in form, or not the best at their positions amongst Americans in MLS. There was online buzz about Berhalter calling up Brenden Aaronson instead of some non-first team players in Europe, and that’s an interesting conversation, but really we should be asking what qualifies Aaronson ahead of a number of his peers (let alone those a bit older and more experienced than him).
As an aside, I’m thrilled for Aaronson and excited to see an 18-year-old prospect put on the shirt of the country. There’s always hope, and the U.S. and MLS are churning out better players than ever before. I just don’t get this selection now.
I want to reiterate that I’m not judging players against some sort of perceived “Eurosnob” standard, though I’ll raise my hand high in the air and acknowledge that while I really enjoy MLS and marvel at its incredible rise, there are at least a dozen leagues in Europe (including two second tiers) which are currently above it in top-to-bottom roster quality.
The issue I see with Berhalter’s roster isn’t about Richie Ledezma (please actually call the kid, okay?) or Eric Lichaj or Julian Green. It’s about the players Berhalter is picking from within his own backyard.
Go back to his first January camp and first match as USMNT boss: Nine of the 11 starters are still with the squad (Djordje Mihailovic and Jeremy Ebobisse are out).
Fourteen players are back from that squad, which did not include any European-based players. The MLS additions are Brad Guzan, Jackson Yueill, Jozy Altidore and Brenden Aaronson. The others are Tyler Boyd (Besiktas), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle) and Weston McKennie (Schalke).
That seems like a pretty high number to return from a side which is 7-4-2, with a 1-2-2 record against Top 50 sides. The win is a B team beating a Costa Rica B team. The USMNT has also lost to two teams (Jamaica, Venezuela) outside the Top 50.
It’s not like these players have shown an incredible amount in a U.S. shirt, but aren’t in a good fit in their club. Considering that the Yanks are not producing goals by the dozen, consider this:
The leader in “big chances created” in MLS this year is current call-up Jordan Morris with eight. Jozy Altidore is second, also a call-up. No sane mind has a problem with either of those players being on the roster.
But Corey Baird has created two, good for 60th in the league amongst Americans. He is credited with 28 key passes. That’s 19th amongst Americans. He has five goals and three assists, both good for the fifth-highest totals… on his team, which has the scored the second-fewest of any playoff team.
I literally feel bad for harping on Wil Trapp‘s continued presence on the squad, because it’s not his job to turn down call-ups, but this one is astounding. The Columbus captain has started just three of the Crew’s last six matches. Known for his familiarity with Berhalter’s system as well as his passes, Trapp is 40th amongst American MLS players in key passes. He is fifth amongst U.S. MLS midfielders in accurate long balls, and three of the four players ahead of him (Michael Bradley, Jackson Yueill, and Cristian Roldan) have been called up, too. So there’s some method to that madness, but still should that override a consistent series of pedestrian at best performances in the USMNT shirt?
Aaronson is another weird one, and not just because he’s an unfamiliar name at age 18 in MLS. We should absolutely note that he’s unlikely to play a ton, especially against Canada, so the argument here is more about Berhalter’s rationale than Aaronson doing some sort of damage to the team’s fortunes.
He’s been a part of U-23 camp as Jason Kreis prepares for Olympic qualifying, and there’s really no need to see him ahead of a number of players who aren’t in contention for the Olympics. And if in fact the U-23 pool is in play, then there are a number of players from that group worth considering over him.
He might be great, and this might be a bit of brilliance from Berhalter, but he’s also the 10th rated American midfielder under 20 inside of MLS, many of whom play a similar role as him (How Paxton Pomykal isn’t in this camp is beyond me). Even taking out Sands, Cerrillo, and Durking, there’s a series of players in a bit better form above him. Again, I’m not questioning Aaronson’s long-term prognosis, rather where he is now. You don’t want to see what happens when you toss 20- and 21-year-olds onto this list.
Fullbacks Reggie Cannon, Daniel Lovitz, and Nick Lima have all dipped 10 places or more amongst American players in MLS (WhoScored) since the last round of call-ups.
Here, without judgment, is a list of American fullbacks who rank higher in performance score this year than all three of those players on multiple stat sites, having played at least 20 matches (ages in parentheses)
Ryan Hollingshead (28)
Tommy Thompson (24)
Aaron Herrera (22)
Jordan Harvey (35)
Graham Zusi (33)
Donny Toia (27)
Justin Morrow (31)
Jorge Villafana (30)
Keegan Rosenberry (25)
I’ve written this before, but this round of call-ups seems to reinforce it: The only conclusion I can reasonably come to is that Berhalter is so confident in being able to out-produce his peers, as he did with a substandard roster in Columbus, that he doesn’t care what the metrics say.
I get Gyasi Zardes, who is presently a very decent bench option beyond Jozy Altidore and Josh Sargent. The majority of the roster is defensible, which is a low bar, but fine.
I just feel like Berhalter is about to hang his hat on how his side fares against a Cuba team which should be defeated by any combination of regular MLS starters, let alone the best available to him.
Then Canada, who is much improved despite its losses to Mexico and Haiti and Gold Cup (At least they scored against Mexico, amirite?).
Canada has a Champions League goalkeeper in Red Star Belgrade’s Milan Borjan, but very little in defense. Their midfield is going to be a batch of MLS players and Rangers man Scott Arfield. The one place they can burn you is with talented attackers Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Jonathan David (Gent), Junior Hoilett (Cardiff City) and others.
So it’ll be a bit concerning if his XI looks like anything other than this:
Yedlin — Zimmerman — Miazga — Ream
Bradley — McKennie — Lletget
Pulisic — Altidore — Morris
That’s still a lineup that beats Canada, maybe comfortably.