Pulisic, Altidore lead the way for US men’s national team as they move one step closer to Russia

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Teenage star Christian Pulisic scored with a brilliant touch to complete a field-length attack just eight minutes in, then split the defense with a pass that set up Jozy Altidore for the first of the forward’s two goals and put the United States back on track for next year’s World Cup with a 4-0 rout of Panama on Friday night.

Pulisic fed Altidore for a 2-0 lead in the 19th. Altidore converted a penalty kick with a chip in the 43rd after Bobby Wood was fouled, and Wood added a goal in the 63rd.

The U.S. ended a three-match winless streak in qualifying and with 12 points and moved two points ahead of Panama into third place — the last automatic berth — in the North and Central American and Caribbean region. Honduras has nine points going into its match Saturday at Costa Rica, which is second with 15.

Goal difference means the Americans put themselves in great shape to reach an eighth straight World Cup, almost certainly with a win Tuesday at Trinidad and Tobago and likely with a draw if Honduras fails to win Saturday. The U.S. is plus-five to minus-two for Panama and minus-seven for Honduras.

The region’s fourth-place team advances to a playoff next month against Australia or Syria.

“We could have finished better on the day and scored more goals,” U.S. coach Bruce Arena said.

Playing his first international match since he turned 19 last month, Pulisic was moved to central midfield from the flanks by coach Bruce Arena and sparked the attack from the opening whistle with pace and ball control seldom seen from Americans.

After Gabriel Gomez broke free from Omar Gonzalez and shot over the crossbar, Tim Howard’s goal kick was headed forward by Bobby Wood about 10 yards past midfield.

Altidore one-timed the ball ahead to on a sprinting Pulisic, and the midfielder reached back with his left leg to flick the ball ahead. Pulisic jumped to avoid Roman Torres’ challenge and used the outside of his right foot to play the ball forward. As goalkeeper Jaime Penedo came off his line, Pulisic used the outside of his right foot again to play the ball wide and jumped over Pinedo’s outstretched arm. At the edge of the 6-yard box and just 2 yards from the endline, Pulisic reached with his right foot to slot the ball in, completing a 112-yard U.S. move. Pulisic tumbled over as the ball rolled in for his eighth goal in 19 international appearances, his fourth in the hex.

Pulisic created the second goal when he played the ball between his feet and faked Michael Murillo on the left flank Pulisic broke ahead and fed Altidore, who split the center backs and redirected the ball in from 5 yards for his first goal of the hexagonal. At that point, Pulisic had played a part in 11 of the Americans’ 14 goals in the hex.

After Wood and Altidore failed to convert good chances, Wood drew the penalty kick when he exchanged passes with Paul Arriola along a flank, broke past Felipe Baloy, spurted diagonally into the penalty area and was pushed down by Armando Cooper. As Pinedo dived to his left, Altidore chipped the ball down the center for his 41st international game.

Hacked down several times by Panamanians, Pulisic was removed in the 57th minute and walked out to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 25,303 at Orlando City Stadium, which opened in February,

Wood added his 10th international goal off a pass from Arriola.

Panama was trying to move into position to qualify for its first World Cup. The Panamanians were 90 seconds from advancing to a playoff against New Zealand four years ago, when Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson scored late goals at Honduras, which dropped Panama behind Mexico and into fifth place.

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College football: No. 24 N.C. State topples No. 17 Louisville

Nyheim Hines ran for two touchdowns and Ryan Finley threw for another to help No. 24 North Carolina State beat No. 17 Louisville 39-25 on Thursday night.

Hines ran for 102 yards and had a 48-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter that helped set up a touchdown drive for the Wolfpack (5-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Finley threw for 367 yards and a 48-yard score to Kelvin Harmon, part of N.C. State’s 520 total yards on a night it never trailed against the Cardinals (4-2, 1-2).

Then there was the Wolfpack’s defensive front, which kept the pressure on reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.

Jackson ran for his second touchdown to pull the Cardinals to 32-25 with 4:10 left, then got the ball back with a chance to tie it. But linebacker Germaine Pratt picked up a deflected pass and returned it 25 yards for a clinching score with 2:52 left.

Irish to name starting QB on game day

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Thursday that he will wait until kickoff of Saturday’s game at North Carolina to name his starting quarterback.

Junior Brandon Wimbush, who has led the 21st-ranked Irish to a 4-1 start, is still recovering from the right foot strain that has been bothering him since Notre Dame’s 52-17 victory over Miami (Ohio) last Saturday.

Limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday, Wimbush has been sharing reps on the No. 1 offensive unit with sophomore Ian Book as the Irish prepare to play the Tar Heels (1-4).

Gators to honor Petty

No. 21 Florida will pay tribute to local legend Tom Petty during its game against Louisiana State on Saturday. The Gators announced Thursday they will play Petty hit “I Won’t Back Down” at the end of the third quarter at Florida Field.

Petty died Monday at UCLA Medical Center a day after he suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu. He was 66.

Born and raised in Gainesville, Petty once worked as a groundskeeper at the University of Florida as he tried to make it in the music industry. Usually backed by the Heartbreakers, Petty broke through in the 1970s and went on to sell more than 80 million records.

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin says: “Let’s celebrate together what he meant to the world of music and what he meant to this community.”

England 1-0 Slovenia

Harry Kane’s injury-time winner secured England’s qualification for next summer’s World Cup with victory against Slovenia – but this was a display designed to dampen any sense of expectation.

Kane, England captain for the night, bundled in Kyle Walker’s cross for his 11th goal in 22 international appearances to finally break down Slovenia’s resistance as they looked likely to hold out for a point.

It meant manager Gareth Southgate can now start planning in earnest for Russia but could not cover up the cracks in an England performance that was lifeless, uninspired and mediocre.

Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling almost broke the deadlock before Kane made his breakthrough, the hosts were also grateful to much-criticised keeper Joe Hart for some crucial interventions.

England and Southgate have achieved their goal. It was not, however, achieved in a manner that will start alarm bells ringing for any future World Cup opposition.

Elsewhere in the group, Scotland kept their qualifying hopes alive in dramatic fashion as a late Martin Skrtel own goal gave them victory over 10-man Slovakia at Hampden Park.

England through but no celebrations

England’s qualification for Russia was confirmed by that late strike from Kane but Wembley was hardly awash with joyous scenes at the final whistle.

And that was because, for the large part, this was a desperately poor England performance as they struggled to find a way through a well-drilled Slovenia.

England’s poor performance drew mockery and sarcasm from some sections of a dissatisfied Wembley crowd, clearly unimpressed by what they were witnessing.

Southgate said he was aware of the crowd’s discontent and the unhappy mood of England’s supporters meant there was an absence of the air of celebration that normally accompanies World Cup qualification.

The scale of the excitement – or lack of it – on offer was illustrated by the fact many England’s fans spent most of the second half amusing themselves by hurling paper aeroplanes at each other.

It was also an atmosphere tempered by the reality of England’s current standing apart from the elite of the international game.

England carry a forward threat in the shape of Kane and Rashford, who will be supplemented by Dele Alli when he is free from suspension, but the glaring lack of creativity elsewhere – especially in central midfield – must represent a real concern for Southgate.

Southgate has achieved phase one of the task presented to him when he succeeded Sam Allardyce, but on this evidence England will not travel to Russia accompanied by any serious weight of expectation.

Southgate’s England strictly B-list

England, as usual, have come through qualifying in relative comfort – but they have made very heavy weather of completing the job at some stages of this campaign.

The 4-0 victory margin in Malta was hugely flattering – helped by three goals in the closing minutes against exhausted opponents – and England came from behind to beat Slovakia at Wembley.

And this was a dreadful, lifeless slog that confirmed England’s strictly ‘B-list’ status in international football’s pecking order.

The team must make a huge leap from the workmanlike and largely uninspired efforts of this campaign if they are to make even a single bead of sweat break out on the brows of any potential opponents in Russia.

And those countries who travel with serious hope of winning the World Cup will certainly have no fears should they be confronted by this England side.

How many more chances for Oxlade-Chamberlain?

Southgate’s selection of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in Alli’s absence was a real show of faith in Liverpool’s £35m signing from Arsenal – and totally at odds with his poor form this season.

Sadly for Oxlade-Chamberlain, he was unable to repay England’s manager and it was no surprise when he was replaced by Jesse Lingard after 64 minutes.

There was no shortage of effort from the 24-year-old but he looked a player short on confidence and self-belief, still battling to come anywhere near fulfilling the promise he showed after he burst on the England scene as a teenager.

Southgate clearly has great belief in the midfielder, also starting him in the recent qualifiers in Malta and at home to Slovakia – but his struggles have been reflected in his failure to complete both of those games, as well as this meeting with Slovenia.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is now reaching a pivotal stage of his career where he has to start delivering for club and country. He showed no signs of making that transition at Wembley on Thursday.

‘We are not going to become Spain’ – what they said

England manager Gareth Southgate, speaking on BBC Radio 5 live: “As a young team and having to deal with the expectation and criticism of their performances, it is tough for them.

“They are giving everything they’ve got. They don’t have Champions League winning medals between them. We have to give them the belief and the backing to help them achieve.

“It’s not a relief, I always thought we’d achieve the objective [of qualifying]. Tonight highlighted where we are. We are not going to become Spain in the next eight months.”

Former England and Manchester United defender Phil Neville, speaking on BBC Radio 5 live: “England limped to qualification for the World Cup. The real work begins now.

“We will learn more when England play Germany and Brazil in friendlies in November than these types of game. There was not enough end product from players.”

My England starting XI

Gareth Southgate’s England have booked their place at the World Cup in 2018. Choose who you would pick in their starting XI in Russia – and then share it with your friends using our team selector.

New York Knicks: Michael Beasley is the most interesting player

Michael Beasley is one of the most interesting players in New York Knicks history. During his short time in New York, he’s left a lasting impression.

The New York Knicks have had some of the biggest personalities in all of sports as a part of the organization. Some that come to mind include Isiah Thomas, Latrell Sprewell, J.R. Smith, Spike Lee (at this point, he might as well be on the team).

Former Kansas State Wildcat, Michael Beasley, is one of the more unique players to ever wear a Knicks jersey. Beasley, was wildly regarded as one of the best college basketball players of his time, even if he only played one season.

Before that, Beasley attended six different high schools. He then went on to set a Big 12 record, averaging 12.4 rebounds per contest. Just a quick peak how good this guy actually was:

After being one of the most decorated college basketball players of the last decade, Beasley has seen his career be encompassed by extreme peaks and valleys. Nonetheless, his personality has never faulted; he will always be a once-in-a-generation personality.

During his tenure playing at Kansas State, Beasley set a lot of records. Jimmer Fredette, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and J.J. Redick are often regarded as the most exciting college players over the last 15 years, and Beasley is right there with them.

Before Kansas State’s game against in-state rival, Kansas, Beasley was feeling very confident in his Wildcats.

“We’re gonna beat KU at home. We’re gonna beat ’em at their house. We’re gonna beat ’em in Africa. Wherever we play we’re gonna beat ’em.”

Kansas, led by future pros, Mario Chalmers, Darrell Arthur and Cole Aldrich, ended up beating Kansas State by 14.

Beasley spent two different stints in China: one season with the Shanghai Sharks, and one season with the Shandong Golden Stars. In both of those seasons, he dominated play.

For the Sharks, he averaged 28.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game. For the Golden Stars, he was dropping 32 points and 13 rebounds daily. Sheer domination.

In his All-Star Game appearance with the Sharks, he came off the bench to score 59 points, setting the CBA record. For the Golden Sharks, he put up a pedestrian 60-point triple-double, with 63 points, 19 rebounds, and 13 assists.

Recently, Beasley has been in the news for some very outlandish statements. Scrolling through Instagram, I see Bleacher Report has posted a new story about Beasley.

Obviously, I’m interested in what this guy has to say, so I look at the picture, to see:

I would love to see Beasley be right. The hubris of this statement makes me like the guy even more. Comparing yourself to the best players in the game right now is an easy way to drum up a story.

Before this, however, Beasley made his debut in New York during a interview with SNY. After asking and answering a few questions about basketball, Beasley went on a complete tangent into the inner mechanisms of the human brain.

Poor Taylor Rooks has no idea what to do with Beasley. At 28 seconds into the clip, Rooks gives Beasley a glance that essentially means, “What are you saying?”

Beasley has been nothing but hilarious since joining the Knicks, and I, for one, am very excited for Beasley-isms throughout his time in New York.

U17 World Cup – Ten interesting facts about India coach Luis Norton de Matos

Goal gives you a lowdown about the current Indian U-17 coach, Luis Norton de Matos

Luis Norton de Matos is a former Portuguese footballer who played as a forward and is currently the coach of the Indian national U17 side. The 63-year-old has spent most of his life being involved with the game of football and is aiming to take the young Indian colts to a new high as they participate in their first ever FIFA U-17 World Cup. Here are some interesting facts about the Portuguese :

1) Born in Lisbon, Luis Norton de Matos began playing with local side S.L. Benfica. He was part of the Benfica junior team back in the 1971/72 season when they became National Champions.

2) Throughout his career which includes his youth team years Matos has played for a total of 8 football clubs, namely SL Benfica, Academica, Estoril Praia, Atletico CP, Belenenses, Standard Liege, Portimonense and Estrela Amadora.

3) The Portuguese played in the Belgian top flight with club Standard Liege, helping the side attain the second spot on the table in his second season. He would also win the Belgian Cup during his stint with them.

4) He scored his only goal for the Portuguese national side back in 1982 in a friendly against West Germany. The German side would go on to win the game 3-1.

5) The 1986-87 season with Estrela da Amadora was the season when de Matos decided to finally hang up his playing boots. It was the first and only time he played in the Second League. Failing the objective of ascending to the First League with the team, the Portuguese decided to call it a day.

6) Luis Norton de Matos admitted that he has a deep-rooted Indian connection. He said so as his great grandfather Arnaldo de Matos was born in Goa.

7) The Portuguese belongs to an affluent family with many locations in Portugal being named after his ancestors – such as Avenue Norton de Matos and Bairro Norton de Matos, the name of the neighbourhood where Académica, one of his former side was located.

8) Luis started his coaching career with second division Club Atletico in 1989. It was in 2005 that he got a chance to coach a team in the top-flight of Portuguese football, when he was signed as a coach by Vitoria de Setubal.

9) In the late 90’s, Luis also worked as football director at Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon.

10) In the year 2010 Luis Norton de Matos was appointed as the national team coach of the West African nation Guinea-Bissau. He would later also go on to manage SL Benfica B in the second division of Portuguese football. Under his tutelage players like Goncalo Guedes, Renato Sanches, Bernardo Silva and Victor Lindelof came to prominence.

Here Are The Most Interesting Guys Of The NL Playoffs

You may have checked out of baseball once your team’s season turned into a trash heap, but that’s okay! You’ve come back just in time for the best month of the year, as all the highest-stakes games with top-quality talent begin. Here’s a guide to the NL players you need to pay attention to as the postseason begins.

Kenley Jansen

If closing somehow didn’t work out, Jansen could have found work as as a horror movie villain, one who tortures his victims by telling them the exact way they’re going to die—three cut fastballs, maybe four on a bad day—then letting them helplessly suffer through. He is by all accounts a good and not at all sadistic character, but there’s no evidence of this on the mound. Jansen throws one pitch, a fastball that darts at just the moment when hitters commit to swinging, and that’s cruel enough.

The 30-year-old Jansen posted a microscopic 1.32 ERA with an implausible 14.36 K/9 in 2017; unlike most pitchers with overpowering stuff, he also has impeccable control. This season, Jansen notched 51 strikeouts before recording even a single walk, and finished with a ratio of 109-to-7. He relies almost entirely on a nasty high-spin cut fastball that reaches the high 90s. Despite his predictability, that pitch is nearly impossible to hit. This is because the pitch is nearly impossible to hit:

At 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Jansen’s imposing on the mound, and he’s not afraid to speak his mind in the clubhouse. After signing a big contract this past offseason, he followed through on his bold goal of being to the L.A. bullpen what Clayton Kershaw is to the starting rotation. As it turned out, this was not an academic thing; the Dodgers had the best record in baseball, but scored the fewest runs of any playoff team. Without elite pitching, none of this works. Only Cleveland surpassed the Dodgers in ERA and FIP; among Dodgers pitchers, only Kershaw surpassed Jansen in WAR.

Jansen only pitched in 68.1 innings this year, but just about every one of those outs was impeccable. This is what makes him such cruel fun to watch: Jansen’s cutter is the show, and the rest fades into inevitability and context. The end is already near; the fun is watching it happen.

Kyle Schwarber

There are moments when watching Kyle Schwarber is like watching Chris Farley, in the sense that it amounts to watching a beefy lad take a fully committed pratfall. At other times, however—in about 20 percent of his at-bats, as it happens—Schwarber puts his Gashouse Gorillas frame to work, with he result being a mighty blow that leaves crowds awestruck. He is both those players. That’s the fun of it.

Schwarber has had the most up-and-down year of anyone on this list. Schwarber played a key role in the team’s postseason runs in 2015 and 2016, smashing five homers as a 22-year-old in 2015, then going 7-17 in last year’s World Series win. The beefy lad followed all that with an atrocious start to his 2017 season, bottoming out with a .171 average that led to a short stint in the minors in June.

To say that Schwarber has turned it around in the second half of the season would be a bit of an overstatement, but he is entering the postseason playing his best baseball of the year so far. Schwarber put up an OPS of .954 for the month of September, and snuck above the Mendoza Line in the process, finishing at .211 with a relatively respectable OBP of .315. None of that looks terribly impressive, but there is also the sheer fact of this huge dude, and his ability to make mistakes disappear in a blink.

Schwarber is the ultimate high risk/high reward hitter—the kind who barely has more singles (42) than home runs (30). He’s large and imposing and strikes out a ton, but he’s also the Cub hitter who holds the most raw, game-changing power. Schwarber could completely bomb in the postseason, or he could shine as he has in his last two performances. Whatever he does in October—failure or success—it will likely be spectacular and extreme. It’s all he does.

Ryan Zimmerman

A first-round draft pick in 2005, Ryan Zimmerman has played in every Nationals season since they moved to D.C. from Montreal. Because of this, he still has as many last-place finishes as playoff wins. Zimmerman is a fan favorite almost by default, as there is no one who is more closely aligned with this team than him. This year, he cemented a place in Nats/Expos history by moving ahead of Vlad Guerrero as the franchise’s all-time home run leader and setting the franchise’s RBI record, but his place in team lore is already secure. No National will ever be more National than him:

The surprising part here is that, this year, Zimmerman has delivered much more than nostalgia. Bizarrely, 2017 might actually be his best season yet, as he’s set a new career high in homers while batting over .300 for the first time since 2010. After injuries shortened his last three seasons, Zimmerman is finally healthy again, and when Bryce Harper was out of the Nats’ lineup for 41 games, he was the team’s most powerful slugger. It’s an honor Zimmerman hasn’t held since the team was, well, bad.

Harper is still the superstar, but along with Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy, Zimmerman forms a sturdy backbone on a team trying to get over the hump—or, at the very least, win a playoff series for the first time. A healthy Zimmerman would argue that it’s too early to talk about storybook endings, but after doing pretty much everything there is to be done in the regular season, October is the last month for Zimmerman to conquer. It would be fitting if he were the first Nationals player to truly figure out the postseason.

Charlie Blackmon

Charlie Blackmon doesn’t do anything halfway. He’ll stretch triples into homers, crash into the center-field wall for a catch, and get himself ejected in a tight game if he doesn’t like the strike zone. “Chuck Nazty” is intense.

If the Rockies are able to stick around in these playoffs, no player will be better poised to go from regional hero to national star than Blackmon. A solid enough player in his youth, Blackmon became a dark-horse MVP candidate after turning 30, and has committed himself to a newly shaggy aesthetic over those two seasons.

Blackmon has become a cult hero for both on- and off-field reasons since debuting with the Rockies in 2011. He’s an outdoorsman who fishes for trout and has backpacked through Europe, and he still drives the same 2004 Jeep that he had in high school, even when the gas tank is running a little too low.

On the field, Blackmon is the Rockies’ undisputed leader, with an NL-leading batting average, an OPS of .exactly 1.000, and a solid glove. After taking a bit of time to really establish his talents, Blackmon is now peaking right as the Rockies are better than they’ve been at any point in his career. It says a lot about the Rockies that “better than they’ve been at any point in his career” means “favored to lose their wild-card game,” but if the Rockies can keep their October alive, Chuck Nazty is the sort of player who could wind up winning over a lot of fans.

J.D. Martinez

Arizona’s marquee midseason acquisition is a home-run machine, and “Just Dingers”’s power production somehow seems not to have peaked. Martinez, who we already swooned over last week, has 45 dongs through just 119 games this season (he missed the start of the year with a foot injury), with 16 homers in the month of September alone and a HOF-level season OPS of 1.066. In a lineup that’s built around mega-stud Paul Goldschmidt, Martinez is currently the hitter who needs protecting. He’s been that good.

To pick an example at random, Martinez has already hit four homers in a game against the Dodgers. That would be the team the Diamondbacks would face if they won their one-game wild card against the Rockies.

J.D. has also taken a winding route to get to these playoffs. He was bad enough at the start of his career to earn his release from the Houston Astros when the team was in full-bore tank mode. After back-to-back negative-WAR seasons, the move almost made sense. But the Tigers took a chance on him, and in Detroit, he shined as both a power and contact hitter for three-and-a-half seasons. When the Tigers fell apart, they flipped Martinez for some prospects. He’s since homered once every 11 or so at-bats, and generally become one of the best mid-season pick-ups of all-time.

The bad news: Martinez and Goldschmidt are the only two bright spots of an otherwise pretty anemic Arizona batting order. If the D-backs find success in these playoffs, it will be because J.D. keeps pulling his “Kid Who Only Hit Homers” tricks.

They’re a long shot, in other words, which makes them perfect for Martinez. He’s a player who has been dumped by the worst team in the game and then sold off by the team that helped him redeem his career. He does not, from the outside, look like anyone’s idea of a superstar. And yet his plate appearances in this second half of the season have an air of inevitability. Martinez is not just better than anyone thought, but better than he has any right to be. He’s playing out of his mind, and has been pretty much all year. It could stop at any time, but Martinez is well worth watching until that moment comes.