three things

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Three things from USMNT’s win v. Guyana

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Injuries, early inefficiency, and a newcomer making a statement were the biggest talking points of the United States men’s national team’s first match of the 2019 Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Christian Pulisic was back, but not on the score sheet, and was able to be rested over the final half hour or so, and the USMNT scored its 1000th goal in program history.

[ MORE: Player ratings ]

Beyond that, here’s what we’re thinking after the 4-0 win.

Ouch, ouch, stop that, ouch: Injury worries

Weston McKennie started slow but eventually played a series of sensational passes en route to an assist on the night.

His industry moving forward and backward were remarkable on the night, but Schalke’s Swiss army knife had to leave the match with a leg injury with a quarter hour to play.

That’s a problem for a side which also saw Tyler Boyd pull up following his bid for a hat trick and is also without Tyler Adams, Sebastian Lletget, and Duane Holmes in the midfield alone.

John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin are also missing from a U.S. side hoping to make a serious bid for another final at the Gold Cup.

Berhalter said the injury that cost McKennie the final 16 minutes was a cramp. Let’s hope so.

Tyler Boyd shoots his shot

No, he’s not the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver.

Yes, he’s inspiring a bit of hope for the American Outlaws.

The New Zealand-born 24-year-old likes to shoot, and boy did he in bagging a brace on Wednesday.

Capped five times by New Zealand but now cap-tied to the USMNT by participating in this match, Boyd scored twice and could’ve probably scored two or three more on the day.

The son of an Kiwi father and American mother, Boyd delivered the goods in front of both of them in Minnesota.

“It’s for my family,” Boyd said on Fox after the game. “I’m really proud to be able to represent this country. To do it on this stage is an honor and a blessing. Just a dream come true. It’s been years and years and years of work. It’s been my dream since (I was) a kid. I don’t have the words to describe it.”

Boyd was injured — more on that later — but it looked like it could’ve been minor. His creativity and desire for the ball will be needed moving forward, as he was a fine complement to Paul Arriola in industry and desire.

It still wasn’t good enough

Do not forget that Guyana is the 177th ranked team in the FIFA rankings  — a lofty 166th in EloRatings — and the Yanks simply didn’t have the quality or understanding to pile up the goals.

The Guyanese held the U.S. in check for the first half hour before Weston McKennie and Paul Arriola teamed up for a classy goal, and Bradley’s link up with Tyler Boyd for the second was even better.

But Zardes’ goal was a blocked shot that unknowingly pinged off his pace to the point that the American striker appeared dazed for the duration of the celebration. And Boyd’s good-looking second goal took a turn off a Guyanese defender on the way into the net.

As it stands, this looks like a team that wouldn’t beat Panama and might struggle against anyone should Pulisic go down (and especially if McKennie stays down).

Three things learned: Man United v. Chelsea

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An intense battle to finish in the top four of the Premier League saw Manchester United and Chelsea grind out a draw at Old Trafford, with Chelsea the happier of the two teams with a point.

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Juan Mata put United ahead but Marcos Alonso equalized after a mistake from David De Gea, as the top four battle remains intense with two games to go.

Here’s what we learned from a tense battle which summed up the tight race for UEFA Champions League qualification.


ANOTHER DE GEA HOWLER COSTS UNITED

By his own very high standards, David de Gea is having a horrible few weeks. High-profile mistakes against Barcelona, Man City and now Chelsea have seen the man who is so often United’s savior cost them dear.

De Gea, 28, is in the midst of plenty of speculation regarding his future as his contract situation rumbles on, and it would be a little too easy to point to that being the main reason for this poor run of form. It is a reason, but this poor form has arrived sporadically dating back to the end of last season as it surfaced during the 2018 World Cup.

The Spanish goalkeeper has been named United’s Player of the Season in five of the last six seasons for a reason. He is their rock in defense and among all of their problems, his stunning form was the one constant United could rely on. Not anymore. And that’s probably why United won’t finish in the top four this season, the main aim for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after he took over in December. At a crucial time of the season, United’s most reliable star has endured a nightmare spell and has probably cost them being among Europe’s elite next season. Whether he will be at United next season or not remains to be seen, but this is far from vintage DDG.


NOBODY WANTS TO WIN THIS TOP FOUR RACE

Tottenham and Arsenal lost in disappointing fashion this weekend, and neither United or Chelsea could make the most of their slip ups in the top four race. It’s almost like these teams don’t want to play in the UEFA Champions League next season…

The lackluster second half displays from United and Chelsea summed up this top four race. Teams are running out of steam and are inconsistent and whoever does finish in fourth will have limped over the line.

What their ineptitude does is set up the top four race for a thrilling finish to the campaign. With two games to go Tottenham in third are five points ahead of Man United in sixth, with just three points between Chelsea in fourth and United.

With Spurs in the UEFA Champions League semifinal against Ajax and both Arsenal and Chelsea in the semifinals of the Europa League, Man United could have the edge with their remaining games easier, on paper, than their top four rivals. But this draw for Chelsea puts them in a very good position.

Here are the games the four teams fighting for third and fourth have remaining:

  • Tottenham – Bournemouth (A), Everton (H)
  • Chelsea – Watford (H), Leicester (A)
  • Arsenal – Brighton (H), Burnley (A)
  • Man United – Huddersfield (H), Cardiff (A)

CHELSEA’S ATTACK STUTTERS, BUT SARRI COULD BE A SUCCESS

Gonzalo Higuain just couldn’t stay onside for most of the game on Sunday, let alone score a goal. We all know the Argentine striker loves to play on the shoulder of the last defender, but he yet again failed to offer that much in attack and Willian, Pedro and Eden Hazard couldn’t get going underneath him.

It looks like Chelsea are now favorites ahead of Arsenal and United finish in the top four, and coupled with their run to the League Cup final and Europa League semifinal, Maurizio Sarri‘s men aren’t doing too badly at all. If he stays, which is looking more likely, Sarri can turn things around at Stamford Bridge after a rough few months.

But the Italian coach knows his attack may well look very different next season with Eden Hazard likely to leave, Christian Pulisic coming in and the futures of Higuain, Olivier Giroud and Callum Hudson-Odoi still up in the air. Unless Hazard scores, Chelsea struggle to score and that is the main problem for Sarri to sort out this summer. For all of their intricate play in midfield and solid defensive outings (at least in recent weeks), Sarri must find a way to reignite Chelsea’s attack if they’re going to be genuine title contenders next season. They are the lowest scorers in the top six and still have a Diego Costa size hole in their attack.

Four things from the Manchester Derby

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Three more wins.

That’s all Manchester City needs to guarantee a second-straight Premier League title under Pep Guardiola following a 2-0 defeat of Manchester United on Wednesday at Old Trafford.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 0-2 Man City ]

How did City get there? A gritty first half stepped aside for a clear gulf in class.

That pregame fouling banter was more than a subplot

On Tuesday, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed that City is a kicking foul machine to limit counter attacks and Pep Guardiola responded by, and I’m paraphrasing, “We aren’t, but let’s talk after the game, bruh.”

Well, City snapped into those tackles with a little more vigor on Wednesday, willing to take yellow cards in exchange for some angry staredowns with United and its bench.

Sometimes the Manchester Derby doesn’t get the true derby vibe because neither side is known for snapping into the other with tackles, but Vincent Kompany‘s NHL-style open-ice hit to earn a first half yellow served notice that the physical play wasn’t going away.

Gundogan steps up at both ends, helps Bernardo open scoring

German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan was not at his best when City fell to Spurs in the UEFA Champions League, but he was versatile and vigorous on Wednesday at Old Trafford.

Neither David De Gea nor Luke Shaw covered themselves in glory on Bernardo Silva‘s opener, but Gundogan cued it up with a tougher-than-it-looks pass to the right side of the 18.

And with key piece Fernandinho on the bench with injury, Gundogan put forth a strong performance as a combination holding/defensive midfielder.

Zinchenko as Pep’s safer Sane

Follow me here: Twenty-two year old Oleksandr Zinchenko is not the elite-level threat presented by an in-form Leroy Sane, but he doesn’t have to be when Pep Guardiola wants to play it a little safe.

Sane attacking from the left was the key to Guardiola’s 2017-18 masterpiece, but the winger has been a less important piece given the MVP-level season of Raheem Sterling.

A capable center midfielder turned left back, what Zinchenko gives Guardiola is a relentless engine up-and-down the left who can dribble to start plays and pass as well as most on the pitch.

Just look at the matches when Zinchenko has not been available to Guardiola and witness the struggles at left back. The Ukrainian was linked with a move away from the Etihad before the season, but it seems more likely he’ll be choice A for Pep moving forward.

Pogba not enough, Rashford still stuck in rut

Both Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford are remarkable talents, but neither delivered on Wednesday relative to ability.

Pogba hit a delightful pass that could’ve been an assist if Jesse Lingard has his legs correct, and also won a few tasty free kicks, but was not the world-class talent we’ve seen so many times.

And Rashford will be a fine forward in the Premier League for a long time, but was again not the consistent force we’ve seen Romelu Lukaku be more often. Rashford has to get that experience to get there, but this was a big spot for him and he was not able to deliver the goods.

Extra things

— Raheem Sterling’s assist on the Leroy Sane insurance goal is a perfect illustration of how much he’s grown as a player. He saw the pass before we saw it on television, and still waiting that extra moment to give Sane time and the perfect weight. He’s my Player of the Year if City wins the title (Otherwise, Virgil Van Dijk).

— Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a good tactical move out of halftime to harry Man City in possession near the halfway line, but never found an answer to the introduction of Sane and Gundogan’s more than capable answer to Fernandinho’s injury.

— Jesse Lingard could’ve scored a handful of goals but his technical skills didn’t reward his utility and intelligence. He’ll sleep poorly tonight.

Three things learned: Man City v. Tottenham

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Manchester City edged out Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, as Pep Guardiola‘s men won their 10th straight Premier League game to return to the summit.

After Spurs knocked Man City out of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, the reigning champs responded with a resolute display and dug deep as Phil Foden‘s early goal kept their title bid on track.

What did we learn from a tight, tense encounter?


CITY RESPOND, FOUR WINS FROM TITLE GLORY

Manchester City have won 10-straight games in the Premier League, but this was one of the most nervous victories they’ve had. We learned a lot about this Man City side on Saturday, as the crushing disappointment of having their quadruple hopes dashed by Tottenham in midweek was put behind them and Guardiola’s boys delivered. Starting Foden for just the second time in the PL was a risk, but the 18-year-old delivered the game-winner and didn’t look out of place.

With a massive Manchester derby at Manchester United on Wednesday, Guardiola rotated his squad well and City did just enough to get past a resilient Spurs. It wasn’t a classic Man City display, and they showed some nerves in the first half when leaving Heung-Min Son too much space to hurt them on the counter. But all that matters is the victory, and City need to win four more to secure back-to-back titles. City’s display was all about grit rather than panache and they got their mentality right to take a big step towards the title. If they beat United, Burnley, Leicester and Brighton, they will be PL champs. It is as simple as that. But it never really is, is it?


DE BRUYNE’S INJURY A HAMMER BLOW

Kevin De Bruyne‘s return to full fitness has been a huge bonus for City over the past few weeks. Seeming him crumple to the floor in the first half after tweaking his left knee is the last thing Pep Guardiola wanted to see ahead of the final few weeks of the season.

De Bruyne, 27, could have just gone off as a precaution, especially with a massive game at Man United coming up in four days time. However, his reaction suggested it was another setback in a season of setbacks. De Bruyne has twice spent lengthy spells on the sidelines this season and the Belgian playmaker has been sorely missed by City. Guardiola will be hoping this latest injury is a minor one, and City’s fans will be waiting with bated breath to find out what the problem is.


SPURS WASTE CHANCES ON THE BREAK

Tottenham were dangerous on the counter throughout and Heung-min Son could have had a hat trick in the first half alone. Twice he broke free but was denied by Aymeric Laporte and Ederson, while Christian Eriksen was denied by Ederson as City’s defense was caught flat-footed but Spurs didn’t make the most of their opportunities. Lucas Moura had another chance on the break in the second half but Ederson came up big again, as this game had a lot of chances but unlike their heroic Champions League performance in midweek, Spurs didn’t take any of them.

With the defeat at Man City, Tottenham’s top four hopes have taken a hit. However, with three of their final four games at home against Brighton, West Ham, Bournemouth and Everton, Spurs will fancy their chances of getting maximum points to dovetail with their UCL semifinal games against Ajax. Whatever happens now, Spurs have hung in there admirably this season amid injuries, stadium moves and no money spent. If they reach the UCL final and finish in the top four, that will have been beyond Pochettino’s wildest dreams at the start of the campaign.

Three things: Man City v. Tottenham

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This will go down as one of the greatest, and most dramatic, games in the history of the UEFA Champions League.

In their quarterfinal second leg at the Etihad Stadium Manchester City beat Tottenham 4-3 on the night but drew 4-4 on aggregate and lost on the away goals rule, as their dream of winning an unprecedented quadruple is over.

Spurs will play Ajax in the UCL semifinals, and Man City were knocked out at the quarterfinal stage by a fellow Premier League club for the second-straight season.

After two goals a piece from Heung-Min Son and Raheem Sterling kicked off a wild opening 21 minutes where five goals were scored, VAR drama in stoppage time saw Man City score, as they thought they had won 5-4 on aggregate. But Sterling’s goal was chalked off and Pep Guardiola‘s men were beaten by Mauricio Pochettino‘s battling Spurs who were without top goalscorer Harry Kane but Son and Fernando Llorente delivered the goods.

Good news for neutrals: Man City host Tottenham on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a crucial Premier League game for both clubs.

Here’s what we learned from a wild encounter, which will go down as one of the most incredible 90 minutes in the history of European action.


HISTORIC START SETS TONE FOR INSTANT CLASSIC

Five goals were scored in the opening 21 minutes of the game, which set a new record for the quickest time five goals have been scored in a single Champions League game. Aside from that wild opening period, which ended in Raheem Sterling putting Man City 3-2, the entire game was played at a frantic pace which will see it go down as one of the greatest games in Champions League history. Both teams threw caution to the wind and just went for it.

This was playground football. One team scored, another went up the other end to score. One team attacked, the other then launched a counter. Guardiola and Pochettino will have been far from happy with the standard of defending throughout, but this was one of those games people will be talking about for years and was a real “I was there” moment for anyone at the Etihad Stadium.

Man City went 4-2 up, and thought they had it in the bag, then Fernando Llorente made it 4-3 after a lengthy check with VAR, and then came Sterling’s hat trick goal in the 93rd minute which sparked pandemonium inside the Eithad… only for VAR to correctly show the goal was offside.

This game had it all and it will be shown again and again for the next few decades.


STERLING, KDB SUBLIME BUT CITY’S QUADRUPLE DREAM OVER

Raheem Sterling is having the season of his life and has now scored four goals in his last two games, and on top of Sterling’s goals, the return to form and fitness of Kevin De Bruyne has been a huge bonus for Guardiola’s side despite their heartbreaking exit to Spurs. De Bruyne has now assisted on six of City’s last eight goals, with the Belgian midfielder taking games by the scruff of the neck and making up for lost time after his lengthy spells out this season.

City thought they had sealed yet another dramatic late win, one that would rival Aguero’s amazing last-gasp goal to win them the Premier League title in 2012, but it wasn’t to be. They dominated the game and beat Spurs fair and square in the second leg, but Aguero’s missed penalty kick in the first leg and slack defending from Vincent Kompany and Aymeric Laporte in the second leg ended their chances of winning a historic quadruple.

City’s Champions League jinx has continued for another season, and it was made even crueler by knowing they deserved to go through and thought they had before VAR denied them. Guardiola has long been a fan of VAR technology, but he must feel sick to his stomach as City once again came up short in Europe. He will hope that disappointment will now fuel them to complete the domestic treble, but it is likely this defeat to Spurs over two legs will haunt this group of players for at least the next few months, if not years.


SPURS, SON, DEFIED BELIEF

Losing Harry Kane in the first leg and Moussa Sissoko in the second leg hit Spurs hard in both games, but with Heung-min Son stepping up to score three of their four goals and almost adding a few others, the South Korean star and Tottenham didn’t really deserve to get knocked out of the Champions League.

This was the moment Son truly arrived as a world-class player. He has been criminally underrated in the past few seasons and has stepped up in Kane’s absence again, big time. Llorente, only on for the injured Sissoko, turned out to the hero for Spurs, as they dug deep and rode their luck at City.

As for Spurs’ run to the Champions League last four, for so long it looked like the “Spursy” tag would strike again in this second leg after they chucked away a 2-1 lead by giving up three-straight goals. But they did it. And they’re in the semifinals of the European Cup for just the second time in club history. This is Pochettino’s greatest-ever achievement as a manager, and many will forget that Spurs didn’t win any of their opening three group games, and were 12 minutes from being eliminated but rallied to beat PSV at home in their fourth group game.

Given their injury-hit squad, not playing at their home stadium until the final weeks of the season and not signing a single player in the past two transfer windows, Pochettino has worked miracles. They beat Man City, the favorites to win the Champions League, fair and square over two legs and despite Ajax’s young stars stunning both Real Madrid and Juventus in the last two rounds, Tottenham will be the favorites to advance to the UCL final in Madrid on June 1.

Write this Tottenham team off at your peril.