Three things we learned from Northern Ireland – USMNT

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Northern Ireland’s B-team scared the USMNT a couple of times but the Americans were by far the superior side over 90 minutes of a 2-1 win in Belfast on Sunday.

Easy Man of the Match Christian Pulisic won and converted a penalty in the second half after Tim Ream set up Giovanni Reyna’s deflected first-half as the U.S.

Niall McGinn scored a wild goal from an odd angle to bring the hosts within one with three minutes plus stoppage left in the game.

[ MORE: What’s become of relegated PL sides ]

The Yanks are now off until May, when they’ll face Switzerland ahead of the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal, which kicks off a wild summer and fall that includes the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying.

It will also include the Olympics should the U.S. U-23 team beat Honduras in a CONCACAF Olympic qualifying semifinal at 5:30pm ET Sunday.


Three things we learned from Northern Ireland – USMNT

1. Last USMNT match until May, and what do we really know? There’s no question the United States men’s national team is better, deeper, and more promising than it’s been in a long, long while (if not ever), but the pandemic has combined with the MLS’ non-European calendar and an even goofier and congested international calendar to give Gregg Berhalter very few chances to match up with A-teams outside of CONCACAF.

U.S. Soccer couldn’t do much about the fact that Northern Ireland kept most of its top players out of the match given the Norn Iron’s World Cup qualifiers sandwiched around the friendly, but it was a reminder that the Yanks will not often be able to measure themselves outside of their continent ahead of the World Cup (presuming they make it).

Berhalter entered Sunday’s match with 16 wins, three draws, and five losses in charge of the team, most of those against B-sides and all but six against CONCACAF opposition. Those half-dozen performances were, not surprisingly given the mix of players and opposition, a mixed bag.

And even if you want to drag some truths out of that, what can you compare it to, progress-wise? Dave Sarachan’s interim stint in charge of the team included a 1-1 draw with France, a 1-0 loss to Italy, and a 1-1 draw with Portugal’s B-team when a lot of these players were even greener in international and club experience.

It’s almost like you look ahead at the calendar and see a Switzerland friendly on May 30 before the Nations League final stage, the Gold Cup, the Olympics (hopefully), and World Cup qualifying. You’ll expect to beat most of the teams and measure yourself against Mexico. Everything else feels like a shoulder shrug and fingers pointing to how the gents do at their top clubs.

2. Pulisic is a boss, Reyna rewarded: The two goal scorers were rewarded for their industry and clever play. Reyna has looked exhausted at times for Borussia Dortmund and even in this game, but his willingness to push into open space to receive the ball and dribble into and out of danger is an asset. His deflected goal was aided by poor defending but he deserved it and it could help him kick back into scoring form for Dortmund. Shooting is funny that way.

As for Pulisic, he was far and away the best player on the pitch. Perhaps that’s not a surprise, but he could’ve won several free kicks and Northern Ireland hacked away at the Chelsea star, who was eventually rewarded with a penalty. Pulisic does have his injury concerns but his mentality doesn’t keep him away from contact and he’s going to be a CONCACAF killer. At age 22, he has 15 goals and 10 assists in 36 caps.

3. No closer to center back answers beyond John Brooks: This is a real worry for the United States men’s national team. While John Brooks has stayed healthy and is clearly the No. 1 center back in the pool, the questions of Nos. 2 and 3 are huge ones. Walker Zimmerman wasn’t healthy for this window and may be the answer for 2. Berhalter is giving Aaron Long every single chance to cement himself, and the New York Red Bulls man is a threat on set pieces and plays physically, but he’s not very good on the ball.

Then there are the kids. Chris Richards could and should grow on the way from 21-year-old to the 2022 World Cup, but he’s also played some right back at Bayern Munich. Matt Miazga is playing a lot at Anderlecht but is better on the same side of the pitch as Brooks. Mark McKenzie didn’t get a call despite moving to Genk. Cameron Carter-Vickers stayed with Bournemouth. Justen Glad is with the Olympic team. Miles Robinson? Erik Palmer-Brown?

While this isn’t exactly a case of the ol’ American football maxim of “If you can’t choose between your quarterbacks you don’t have your quarterback,” it isn’t too far off. Who is going to be the answer? And what happens if Brooks’ injury problems return?

Man of the Match: Christian Pulisic


Northern Ireland – USMNT recap

The USMNT burst out of the gates against a second-choice Northern Ireland side, feeding Christian Pulisic on the left.

The Chelsea star, playing in a formation Thomas Tuchel has been using in England, played Antonee Robinson down the left and the Fulham man’s pass through the six was absent receiver.

Kellyn Acosta gave away a dangerous free kick to the Norn Iron just outside the 18 and that was the tip of the iceberg. He was slow on the ball in a giveaway that allowed George Saville to spring Kyle Lafferty on a breakaway that the striker hit wide, and then gave the ball away again moments later.

The U.S. went ahead through Reyna, who took a square pass from Tim Ream and had some time to line up a shot that took a wicked turn to defy Celtic goalkeeper Conor Hazard.

The next chance came to Shayne Lavery of the hosts, and Steffen got low to slap away a shot after a Yunus Musah giveaway saw Matt Miazga and Tim Ream scrambling to cover the left of their 18.

Musah departed at halftime for Sebastian Lletget while AS Roma man Bryan Reynolds replaced Sergino Dest.

Reynolds probably could’ve won a penalty in the 57th minute but the referee was unswayed by the hand that moved the right back to the turf.

Brenden Aaronson couldn’t adjust to a wicked deflection of Antonee Robinson’s 65th-minute cross and the ball popped over the bar.

Lletget gave the ball away in midfield and Dion Charles flashed over the American goal from 21 yards.

Pulisic won his penalty with a dribble into the mix, cooly dispatching the finish. The Chelsea man then played Daryl Dike in on goal with a terrific pass but the Northern Ireland goalkeeper Hazard came up big.

Dike had another chance fed by Luca de la Torre that couldn’t find the goal and Pulisic then cued up a cross that either Dike or Miazga could’ve potted at the near and far post, respectively.

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Southampton hammer Bournemouth, reach FA Cup semifinal

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A South Coast derby was very one-sided in the FA Cup, as Bournemouth – Southampton ended in a lopsided 3-0 win for the visitors as they reached the semifinals in style.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Nathan Redmond was the star of the show as he scored twice, set up one for Moussa Djenepo and Southampton had two goals chalked out for offside by VAR.

Bournemouth now focus fully on their promotion push back to the Premier League as Jonathan Woodgate has them in the playoff picture.

Southampton have an FA Cup semifinal at Wembley to look forward to (just their third in 18 years) and Ralph Hasenhuttl will hope this win will boost their confidence in the Premier League too.


Three things we learned from Bournemouth – Southampton

1. Nathan Redmond stands in superbly for Ings: He has had a poor season, but Redmond stood tall when Saints needed him up top with Danny Ings out injured. The winger was played centrally and oozed class on the ball and was too much for the Cherries to handle with his direct running, which summed up his first goal. His assist for Djenepo’s goal was perfect and his two goals were very well taken. Redmond has played for England in the past and there are reports he could play for Jamaica in the future, and on this form he will be causing the USMNT lots of problems in the future.

2. Saints’ focus on FA Cup pays off: Ralph Hasenhuttl has prioritized the FA Cup this season after Saints had a great start in the Premier League and it has paid off. Big time. Saints’ form has dropped off dramatically in the league since January, but that was partly down to playing a full strength team in cup games to get past Wolves and Arsenal en route to Wembley. Saints should have enough quality to stay up in the league, and this win will give them a lot of confidence as Danny Ings and Theo Walcott will return after the international break too. A run to the FA Cup final four and Premier League safety would represent a great season for this young Saints side.

3. USMNT’s Carter-Vickers struggled: Bournemouth were all over the place at the back and USMNT center back, Cameron Carter-Vickers, had a tough outing with Che Adams and Redmond running at him. CCV, now 23, is out of contract at Tottenham this summer and it will be intriguing to see if Bournemouth make his loan move permanent by offering him a contract. At times he looked too slow to react as he scored an own goal which was chalked off by VAR. Although he’s having a good season in the Championship, the trickery and power of PL players exposed his, and Bournemouth’s, defensive weaknesses.

Man of the Match: Nathan Redmond – Stunning display. Scored twice, set up another and almost grabbed his hat trick.


Southampton thought they had taken the lead through a Cameron Carter-Vickers own goal early on, but VAR was used to rule Kyle Walker-Peters offside by a very small margin when he sent the cross in.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The VAR images showed that part of Walker-Peters’ arm was just offside. Ryan Bertrand sent an effort wide moments later as Southampton kicked on before half time.

Arnaut Danjuma then forced Fraser Forster into a good stop at the near post as Bournemouth grew into the game, but just before half time Southampton took the lead.

Nathan Redmond ran forward and played a perfect ball into Djenepo who slotted home clinically.

Seconds before the half time whistle blew Southampton doubled their lead.

Stuart Armstrong turned from a throw in and played in Redmond who ran towards goal, beat Steve Cook and buried his shot into the far top corner.

Bournemouth pushed hard to get back in the game in the second half as Jack Wilshere fired just wide.

One long ball forward then caused havoc as Armstrong and Che Adams created a chance as the latter smashed home from outside the box, but the Scottish winger was in an offside position.

Moments later it was 3-0 as Armstrong hit the post, then Redmond finished the rebound brilliantly.

Armstrong went close to scoring a fourth and then set up Redmond to clip the post as Southampton eased to victory.

Bournemouth ousts Burnley from FA Cup through Surridge, Stanislas

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First of all, it feels wild that Jonathan Woodgate has taken hold of his second Championship club given the 41-year-old wasn’t playing too long ago.

But the 41-year-old Bournemouth caretaker boss has to be thrilled that his first match in charge of the Cherries is an FA Cup upset of a Premier League side.

Sean Dyche isn’t one to make a lot of changes but his Clarets side Tuesday featured a number of unfamiliar names and Bournemouth took advantage with a 2-0 win at Turf Moor.

[ MORE: New York Red Bulls sign 14-year-old ]

Sam Surridge and Junior Stanislas scored with the visitors’ two shots on target and Burnley failed to score with either of theirs as the Premier League hosts exited the competition.

American center back Cameron Carter-Vickers made his fifth appearance on loan from Tottenham, going 90 minutes with seven clearances and 8-of-12 duels won.

Bournemouth is sixth on the Championship table after spending months in the automatic promotion places.

Eddie Howe resigned as Bournemouth boss after the Cherries were relegated from the Premier League this summer and Bournemouth hired longtime Howe assistant Jason Tindall in August.

Tindall lasted just 31 matches in charge of the Cherries, compared to Howe’s 99- and 355-match stints in charge of the club. Ironically, Howe and Tindall left Bournemouth in 2011 for a short stint at Burnley, who hired then hired Dyche.

USMNT players to watch on transfer deadline day in Europe

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Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images
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A number of Americans and USMNT players could find new homes by the conclusion of transfer deadline day in Europe.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Loans? Permanent moves? Loans with views to permanent moves?

Here are the names we’ll be watching through Monday, and remember:

For transfer deadline day on Feb. 1, you can watch Sky Sports News free on Peacock from 8 a.m. ET, plus we will have a special transfer Deadline Day show on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com from 4-6:30 p.m. ET.


Chris Richards, Bayern Munich

Bayern beat up on Hoffenheim’s back line on Saturday, and is being linked with helping them fix that problem on Sunday.

USMNT teen Chris Richards, 20, has been very good for Bayern II and is regular on Bayern’s bench, but needs minutes if he wants to get regular time on one of the best teams in the world.

Richards has eight first-team appearances for Bayern at center back and right back, and Hoffenheim is down in 12th place with the fourth-most goals allowed in Bundesliga.

ESPN’s Tom Hamilton says it would be a six-month loan for Richards.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United

This one feels inevitable, as Yedlin has been consistently linked with a move to Turkey and Galatasaray is one of the biggest clubs in the land.

There are plenty of USMNT players in Turkey and Yedlin needs some playing time if he wants to be a consideration for World Cup qualifying

He had been playing lately with the Magpies but was given no assurances about his future with a contract expiring this summer. Belief and a chance abroad are too good of a combination to pass up ahead of the summer.

Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls

Long’s name was amplified last week when it was connected to a possible move to Liverpool’s beleaguered back line, but that’s not the only option.

Long was on SiriusXM radio with Tony Meola and Brian Dunseth over the weekend and said he wasn’t anxious to leave the Red Bulls now but that he feels his future is in Europe.

He also said he previously expressed interest in a loan or training with Red Bull Salzburg or RB Leipzig, but that he was rebuffed.

The Bundesliga, Championship, and Premier League would all be interesting moves for Long, who is a strong aerial threat and leader but has not been in a pass-heavy system at RBNY.

Paul Arriola, DC United

Is Paul Arriola going to join Jordan Morris at Swansea City and, if not, will he go anywhere else?

The winger is trying to play down talk of a move given his status at USMNT camp after a long injury lay-off, but the links have not gone away and Swans could use more help out wide.

Double the U.S. talent at an American-held club? Swans have also employed Cameron Carter-Vickers on loan and Bob Bradley as manager in the past decade.

Bryan Reynolds, FC Dallas

FCD’s homegrown replacement for homegrown Reggie Cannon is very likely headed to AS Roma, according to multiple reports.

The teenager was widely-expected to move to Juventus but go on loan to another Serie A side, as Juve’s roster was full of foreign slots.

Instead, Roma has swooped in with a loan deal that includes an obligation to buy for around $9 million at the end of the deal.

Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC

Health has been an issue for the big forward, who won’t play for the USMNT on Sunday, but that hasn’t stopped interest from abroad.

The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio links Altidore with European interest, and the fee would obviously be much lower than the approximately $11 million it took Sunderland to pry him from AZ Alkmaar in 2013.

Altidore was limited to around 850 minutes this season, scoring twice with two assists for the Reds. He’s averaged better than a goal contribution every two matches during his time in MLS.

USMNT Abroad weekend preview

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Americans Abroad: It’s a big weekend for USMNT stars in Europe, particularly in Germany where a pair of barely-20-something stars — Tyler Adams from RB Leipzig and Josh Sargent from Werder Bremen — are set to face off on Saturday.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Gio Reyna signs new, long-term contract at Dortmund ]

Christian Pulisic should start again for Chelsea on Saturday when the Blues face Everton at Stamford Bridge. Pulisic has made three appearances (two starts, in succession) since returning from a hamstring injury, though he is yet to 90 minutes once again.

Weston McKennie and Juventus are working toward reeling in Serie A leaders AC Milan in their quest for a 10th straight scudetto, while Sergiño Dest and Barcelona sit 9th in La Liga and have some serious work to do to put themselves in the title race alongside Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid Real Sociedad.

[ MORE: Christian Pulisic remains out with “problematic” injury ]

Here’s a handy list of many of the top Americans abroad (ones to have featured for the USMNT semi-recently) expected to play or be in contention to play this weekend in England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands…


England

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — 3 pm ET, Saturday, at Everton [ STREAM ]

Antonee Robinson, Fulham — 11:30 am ET, Sunday, v Liverpool [ STREAM ]

Tim Ream, Fulham — 11:30 am ET, Sunday, v Liverpool [ STREAM ]

Zack Steffen, Man City — 12:30 pm ET, Saturday, at Man United [ STREAM ]

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United — 10 am ET, Saturday, v West Brom [ STREAM ]

EFL Championship

Geoff Cameron, QPR — 10 am ET, Saturday, v Reading

Duane Holmes, Derby County — 10 am ET, Saturday, v Stoke City

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Bournemouth — 10 am ET, Saturday, v Huddersfield Town


Germany

Bundesliga

Gio Reyna, Borussia Dortmund — 9:30 am ET, Saturday, v Stuttgart

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — 9:30 am ET, Saturday, v Werder Bremen

John Brooks, Wolfsburg — 2:30 pm ET, Friday v Eintracht Frankfurt

Chris Richards, Bayern Munich — 12:30 pm ET, Saturday, v Bayern Munich

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen — 9:30 am ET, Saturday, at RB Leipzig

Timothy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — 2:30 pm ET, Friday, at Wolfsburg

2. Bundesliga

Julian Green, Greuther Furth — 12:30 pm ET, Friday, at Sandhausen

Bobby Wood, Hamburg — 7 am ET, Saturday, at Darmstadt

Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — 7:30 am ET, Sunday, at Karlsruher


Elsewhere

Serie A

Weston McKennie, Juventus — 12 pm ET, Sunday, at Genoa

La Liga

Sergiño Dest, Barcelona — 3 pm ET, Sunday, v Levante

Konrad de la Fuente, Barcelona — 3 pm ET, Sunday, v Levante

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — 11 am ET, Sunday, v Bordeaux

Eredivisie

Richie Ledezma, PSV Eindhoven — Injured (torn ACL), out for the season

Uly Llanez, Heerenveen — 6:15 am ET, Sunday, at Vitesse

Luca de la Torre, Heracles — 2 pm ET, Friday, v Fortuna Sittard

Desevio Payne, Emmen — 12:45 pm ET, Saturday, v Den Haag

Belgian Pro League

Ethan Horvath, Club Brugge — 7:30 am ET, Sunday, at Royal Antwerp

Matt Miazga, Anderlecht — 2:45 pm ET, Friday, v Genk

Primera Liga

Reggie Cannon, Boavista — 10 am ET, Sunday, at Pacos de Ferreira