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Chile 3, USA 2: SBI’s USMNT Player Grades




When Mark Gonzalez buried the winning goal on Wednesday to seal Chile’s victory against the U.S. Men’s National Team, it was easy to come away from that friendly feeling like the U.S. laid another egg. Going five matches without a win and allowing nine goals in three matches will start making everything taste a little sour, but the first U.S. friendly of 2015 still gave Jurgen Klinsmann plenty to ponder.

My latest story took a look at some of the key things to take away from Wednesday’s friendly, such as the excellent play of USMNT debutant Steve Birnbaum, who didn’t play like someone making his first national team appearance.

Not on that list was the overall verdict on Klinsmann’s 3-5-2 experiment. I touched on that on Thursday on, basically calling it a successful debut marred by the fact Klinsmann only gave the new formation 45 minutes.

Now, with some time to digest the match, and more importantly re-watch it, I present SBI’s USMNT player grades for the Chile friendly:


NICK RIMANDO (6). Made some big saves, including some on plays that were ruled offside, but his work on Chile’s equalizer, which saw him beaten to his near post, kept him from generating the best grade on the team.

STEVE BIRNBAUM (6). Very steady debut for the national team newcomer. Made the plays he had to make, and aside from a sequence that saw him nearly volley in an own goal, he rarely put a foot wrong. Was not to blame on any of the three goals and did enough to merit more looks from Klinsmann.

JERMAINE JONES (5). Made some pretty glaring mistakes, both in terms of defensive assignments and losing possession in bad spots, but also covered a ton of ground and made a plethora of plays all over the field.

MATT BESLER (6). Two plays stand out for the Sporting KC man. The first being a delicious pass on Brek Shea’s opening goal. The second was Chile’s opening goal, which looked to be his fault (at least partially). Besler made up for that with some steady play defensively the rest of the match, particularly when the U.S. went to a 4-4-2 and he had to cope with having Shea as his left back.

BREK SHEA (5). Took his goal extremely well, but had very few bright spots beyond that. Was active in the first half in his wingback role, but looked like a chicken with his head cut off in the second half as a left back.

DEANDRE YEDLIN (4.5). Had some very good moments in the first half as a wingback, including his work on Jozy Altidore’s goal, but the second half was a disaster from a defensive standpoint. Could have pressured the ball better on the opening Chile goal, was beaten badly on the second goal, and just fell asleep on the eventual winner.

MIX DISKERUD (5.5). Made arguably the play of the match for the U.S. with his beautiful assist on Altidore’s goal, but was relatively quiet the rest of the day. Appeared to take a backseat to the team’s other attacking players, and looked to buzz around, even if he didn’t really have much influence on the match aside from the assist.

MICHAEL BRADLEY (6). Came very close to putting the match away with a blast off the crossbar, and was his usual industrious self throughout the match. Did have a few  turnovers, but had more of the ball than anybody else in midfield, and usually does well to win the ball back. Helped create some promising chances later in the match that Nguyen and Wondolowski couldn’t convert.

CLINT DEMPSEY (5.5). Tried hard to be active in the attack, but only had a few flashes throughout the match. Delivered a sharp pass that nearly helped Altidore draw a penalty.

BOBBY WOOD (3). Largely invisible, had no impact on the match for his 45 minutes on the field.

JOZY ALTIDORE (6.5). Very well-taken finish on the second U.S. goal, nearly drew a penalty later in the first half, and also provided the pass that freed Bradley up for his crossbar-rattling shot. Did turn the ball over at times as he forced passes trying to help the attack, but also put in an impressive amount of defensive work trying to pressure the Chileans in possession.

LEE NGUYEN (5.5). Moved well and put himself in good spots during his 45 minute appearance. Almost scored on one play, but saw his chance miss just wide. Encouraging showing.

WIL TRAPP (4). May have had the jitters that can sometimes come with a national team debut. Should have done better on the sequence leading to Chile’s winning goal.

GYASI ZARDES (6). His movement was excellent and passing sharp in his second-half cameo. Looked the part, and showed no signs of first-cap jitters.

CHRIS WONDOLOWSKI (NR). Didn’t do much, had a flashing header saved late in the match.


  1. I just wish that JK would play our best guys in their best positions. If that ever happened, we could probably play in a lot of different formations. I think it is not up to a national team coach to play guys in positions they don’t play on their club teams. The players are not with the national team enough to learn a new position just for national team games. The formation should be dependent on putting our best players on the field in their best positions and thereby maximizing quality and comfort. I believe in experimenting to constantly stay up to date on how the players are doing, but I think we should be using friendlies to work on Chemistry and confidence as well. I don’t think JK agrees. That’s why he plays Bradley as a CAM, Mix as an enforcer, jones as a center back, etc. or he’s just a crap field coach.

  2. One of the problems is JK’s insistence on playing Josie and Shea. These guys can do no wrong for him. Shea has not been playing consistently. Charlie Davis is a more inform player than Josie. JK continues to baffle me with his selection due to his favoritism. Some people say it’s just a friendly. I’m sure these were the ones who got excited when the USA beat Italy but demonstrate a nonchalant attitude when we lost to Chile. If the USA is going to reach the next level every game must be taken seriously. But how can it when the Coach doesn’t appear to know what he is doing or what he wants to accomplish on the pitch? I’ve not seen any progress since Klinsman took over. Every game including those that matters seems like an experiment. We have the talent but not the tactician to figure out what is best for the Team. Germany improved after he left. Bayern soured after he left. How long must we tolerate his excuses. He reminds me of Tiger Woods. It’s never his fault. JK take responsibility for the results and admit your are doing a lousy job. Gulati I blame you for this quagmire.

  3. altidores tap i shouldn’t elevate his score that high. The dude is atrocious, for a professional player he has one of the worst first touches I’ve seen, he cant hold the ball for more than 2 seconds and cant win a single ball in the air. I have no idea why ives defends this dude so much

      • Wow, short-term memory? I remember when people had pitchforks and burning torches with Altidore’s name on them because he ‘never’ scored for the USMNT.

        Altidore is serviceable, given our current pool of attackers. Big, strong, can lay off some nice balls back to midfielders, and when he has a little space can shoot. He’s never going to play for Real or Bayern. His first touch is spotty and probably won’t improve at this point. He’s a credible placeholder until the pool grows around him.

  4. Jones was a 3 at best, and the fact that he covered a plethora of ground was part of the problem. He had no discipline, no idea where to be, was at fault on the first goal… I can’t think of a single actual positive in the first half.

    But since he’s not a CB, he’s not the guy I’m blaming for that mess

  5. Can we finally give up on Bobby Wood at this point? He hasn’t done anything in the games he’s played to warrant a spot on the field. In past games, you could argue that he got in good positions, but his finishing was beyond terrible. In this game he might as well have not been on the field.

    Does Klinsmann have an ulterior motive for playing him? Trying to show him off in hopes that someone rescues him from 1860 Munich? Which if I remember correctly, he hasn’t been on bench in 4 months and hasn’t scored a goal in 18 months (roughly). Still trying to figure out how he warrants a call up other than being based in Europe.

  6. I completely agree with Jack on his Bradley comments. Bradley’s overrated at this point and writers and TV commentators both ignore his mistakes as if they never happen. They are quick to comment on a Jones turnover but let Bradley make one and we get silence.

  7. Is Yedlin more suited to play on the right side of the midfield? His defensive awareness worries me when he is at RB or wing back.

  8. The January Camp matches are usually ugly for a number of reasons…Out of season, inexperienced players, poor fitness, new formations, etc…
    The task of the coaches (and fans) is to learn from the performances and determine who can contribute to the team going forward. My take-away so far….
    1) Bobby Woods performances over the past couple matches have not shown to be USMNT worthy. Unless he shows something significant against Panama he shouldn’t get another callup until the next January Camp.
    2) Wondo does not need to be called up again. @ 32 there is no reason to bring him into camps any more. Give younger options who have a chance to contribute the option (Zardes, Agudelo,)
    3) The 3-5-2 formation is worth trying with a full “A” squad.
    4) Birnbaum, Zardes showed enough to warrant additional calls.
    5) Trapp looks to need a little more time to grow into this level. Hopefully the U-23’s will help.
    6) Shea & Yedlin are in need to matches if they are going to be useful. After the 1st half both were gasses and should have been subbed off.
    7) JK still needs a solid tactician for his staff to deal with the prep work & tactical changes.

  9. Bradley a 6?? C’mon Ives, he turned the ball over probably 50% of the time and had no influence on the game at all! That one shot that clinked of the cross bar was his only positive contribution of note and it just continues to amaze me how people make excuses for baby Bradley!

    • Just re-watched some of the match and Jozy’s second half would be a 2 at best. After the turn over the leads to Chile’s second goal, he makes the exact same turn over 2 minutes later. His movement is awful and everything just bouncing off of him right to Chile.

      Bradley runs around and completes some passes but it often lacks much vision. So many passes are to players with a defender all over them, which end up in a turn over.

      • Bradley may not be fabregas, but as usmnt players go his vision is way above average.

        He played a couple one-touch clipped balls to nguyen and wondo to set them up to score on their first touch.

      • Finally, somebody that agrees with me on Altidore. Totally overrated, and rarely criticized on this site. I saw him lose the ball numerous times while under little pressure. No excuse. What will it take for JK to start someone else up there? and I don’t mean Wondo. Lose his phone number. I would like to see Zardes get the start next time.

        In a perfect world, call in Juan Agudelo now that he has a team. Did it for Altidore and Shea. He’s far better than both Jozy or Zardes or Shea but I know he’s in no game shape. I also think JK doesn’t like him for some reason so I’d be amazed if he ever gets another look

      • Or better than Zardes for that matter? I’ve been watching that kid’s progress since I read he was assessed as hands-down the best college player in the country a few years ago. He’s the real deal – only playing at LA because he didn’t want to be away from home just yet. Back when he was in college, he also played for a local club team, which went to England one summer to play a couple friendlies against reserve squads. One of the guys who watched was the England coach, who knows everybody and has coached throughout the EPL. He was impressed and offered to get Zardes a look by anyone in the EPL. He stayed in college for his junior year, when he was uniformly assessed as the top college project, and then took a Galaxy home-grown contract outside the draft. And despite a pretty good core of attackers there, in just a couple seasons he has gotten decent playing time as well as solid recognition for performances. Outside of Green, he’s the U.S. attacker with the highest ceiling right now, and physically he’s more impressive than Green.

      • Ummm maybe because he can actually score without having someone else do all the work. Lets have a little contest. Juan and Jozy both are back in MLS. Lets see who is better and scores the most goals this year. I know where I’m putting my money

      • You loose all credibility when you say Aguadelo is “far better than both Jozy or Zardes or Shea”. Jozy has his faults, but Aguadelo has not proven to better than any of them. Jozy was better in both leagues that they both played in, Zardes is more prolific scorer, and Shea was a star in MLS a year before he left.

      • Rule #1 of SBI. The guy who hasn’t played recently enough to criticize is ALWAYS the greatest player of all time.

      • Juan A scored 7 goals in 14 games when last in MLS. He did not play a full season but joined midseason. 7 goals for Jozy is a career. Wait and see who lights up MLS this year.

  10. How about this 11 for panama?
    ———————–S. Johnson——————
    A few notes: Mixing it up with sean john in there, get him some starts, see what he can do
    Wanna see some hedges this camp
    No one else can really play left back so i guess we’ll stick with shea
    I want jones to play super deep, puting jones and bradley in the same line is a little misleading. I dont think jones can go forward as a center back, but how about a really deep defensive midfield destroyer?
    I wanna see what ibarra can do, give him 60 minutes and a chance

  11. sometimes i wish ives would be a little tougher on his questions and critical with his assessments. however, on this one i agree that the team and players deserve some forgiveness. not only did they play a tough team (call it third string if you want but they sure took their goals well) but this style of play is also markedly different from the long ball bunker defense that we came to expect under boro, sampson, arena, and bradley. with the all the embarassing schoolboy gaffs, they were still leading or tied for most of the games.

    real change does not come easily. a result like that is well worth it, if real change is indeed coming.

  12. I barely watch the MLS, so all I know of Yedlin is national team caps and youtube highlights. Yes I get that he’s rated as our fastest player which isn’t arguable, but I’m honestly asking without the hope of arguments; is he actually a good soccer player? Everything I’ve seen of him from the World Cup to last night is garbage. He has no idea what he’s doing when he’s facing a defender head on, and most of his short passes or crosses are terrible.

    Am I supposed to hope that he’s going to learn to play better and that’s why he’s such a big prospect? Or do people think that he is a talented footballer?

    Again, I’m just looking to see opinions, I’m not trying to hate on him because his speed is excellent and I really hope he shines at Tottenham

    • On the basis of his “garbage” world cup, Tottenham decided to spend $5m on him so I guess they disagree. I think his ceiling is Champions League right back. I’m not talking Real or Bayern but I think he could be the starting right back for a team that plays in the UCL from a Top 5 league. Not sure whether he’ll reach that ceiling but I think his future is pretty bright.

      I think his technical faults are somewhat overstated although I agree that there is a limit to how much a player can improve technique at his age. Tactical awareness comes through good coaching and game experience. His raw physical abilities are really good.

      • If Tottenham bought because of his World Cup, that is their mistake. He played well, but he didn’t even start a game and always came in at a time where the game was completely open — that is where he thrives, but that is only a fraction of the game. As Ryan says, he has a long way to go to play at that level.

      • But still they bought him. The professionals evaluated him, unbiasedly and decided to risk the money on him and his potential. I think that says something. I tend to listen to the professionals.

      • I think Yedlin probably has the goods to become a top player, but I’m not sure the financial arrangement really proves it. The amount Totttehnham paid is really peanuts for a talented young winger/fullback with World Cup experience, and there is almost no way Spurs can lose meaningful money given the price.

        Even if Yedlin busts totally and fails to crack the first team, they can still offload him given his age and CV for at most a $1-2 million loss, which is nothing in the context of Spurs transfer turnover. And if he succeeds, Spurs can make a very tidy profit.

    • Experimenting is no excuse for the team looking horrible. Especially when it is several games in a row with no visible progress to be seen or much to build on. I am not disappointed in the result, but I am very worried about everything else I see from this team. This coming from someone who was very much a fan of the Klinsmann hire — I love the things that he stands for (maybe except the fitness obsession), but I do not see them happening.

      • We performed well against brutal competition in the WC, I think JK has earned our patience until the GC (with a much improved mexico to beat) to see his plans come into action.

      • I guess we “performed well,” but that is debatable. I was not a fan of how we played. But I admit that the WC is an appropriate time to play for results. I agree with you that the Gold Cup will be the time for a much better evaluation of how this cycle is going, but it is off to an abysmal start. And I am not talking about the results, but just about everything else that is going on with the team.

      • +1. Ghana destroyed us, Germany ran us around in circles, and Belgium embarrassed us for 95% of the game. I wouldn’t consider that “performing well.” Maybe that’s the garbage line you hear during sex, but please don’t mistake it with actual good football.

      • Just because results don’t matter does not mean that we should b=not expect them to play well. Just because the coach is “experimenting” does not mean that we should not expect the experiment to work, at least somewhat. There is absolutely no excuse for this team to look as bad as it has since the World Cup. Hate to say it, but this team could still really use Donovan. Too bad he was run out of town. I would let that go if it was not so painfully obvious that it is true.

      • I think it’s fairly obvious that getting cut from the national team picture played a pretty big part in his retirement.

  13. Seem dead-on to me, other than Yedlin and Besler. Yedlin’s first 35 minutes were astonishingly effective – if he can some how harness that type of performance, refine it, and continue to build his technique and skill set, he may have what it takes to put in his bid for a starting spot on a solid European club.. Still not sure if I see it happening at spurs , though. Altidore let him down on more than one occasion with poor giveaways, one of which led directly to that electric goal down the left side. Definitely worthy of a higher grade. Evaluating Besler’s performance outside of the assist, he simply looked exceptionally mediocre, once again, which is exactly what he is. I thought his positioning was lacking throughout the match, and he was clearly most culpable on Chile’s first goal, NOT Jones – a simple rewind shows that it was Besler’s runner, and he half assed tracking back and got beat – MLS defender. Birnbaum was clearly the more reliable CB on the day – I sure hope we fade out Besler and Gonz sooner rather than later.

  14. @ Don Lamb – generally agree but on Yedlin, you overlook the fact that it was his pass that picked out Mix on Altidore’s goal. And it was not an easy pass, splitting the defense like that. No doubt, he totally switched off on both second half goals, but to say his only contribution was speed is unfair in my book.

    • He did well on that one play. That was his only contribution going forward despite other opportunities (including a 1v1 that he took very poorly). Mostly though, I was really disappointed in his defensive game (most of all when he was playing as a true outside back). He was easily one of the worst players on the field for the US.

      • The second goal was a simple wall pass where Yedlin simply didn’t follow his man. That’s something every defender should learn at 14-15 years old.

  15. oh, and Klinsmann gets a 1.5.

    – did he really think that Birnbaum, Jones, and Besler, along with Shea and Yedlin shuttling the entire flanks were going to be able to keep the ball. The team should have been playing much more direct against a Chile team that presses very high, spends a lot of energy chasing in a crowded midfield, and leaves themselves exposed at the back.

    – Jones in the back is ridiculous. especially a three man back line

    – not bringing Rogers and another outside back or two was plain stupid.

    – blaming the loss on lack of fitness is laughable.

    – once again, there was no plan (especially in the second half in the 4-4-2. The midfield was all over the place and clearly had no idea of their roles.)

    • “– blaming the loss on lack of fitness is laughable.”

      I wouldn’t go so far as to blame the loss on it, but do you really think this doesn’t have a very significant impact on the quality of the play?

      For the most part, I agree with your points, but this one seemed kind of weird to me.

      • Fitness should never be an excuse for a professional player’s poor performance. They should be able to manage themselves over 90 minutes, offseason or not. In my opinion, the effects of overtraining are much more significant than under conditioning. If you are a smart player, make the right decisions, and everybody performs their role within a team concept, etc. the team should be able to overcome “lack of fitness.”

        The fact is that they did not look very good from the first minute. The team looked unorganized and that is the coaches’ fault, not the players’ conditioning. Klinsmann’s tactics have been seriously questionable over his entire time in charge of the US team. Most of the good performances have come in situations where the team has been packing it in and counter attacking, which are tactics that the team was very familiar with from previous coaches.

        I thought Klinsmann was going to develop this team with a tactical revolution. Instead, it seems like he is more interested in running fitness bootcamps. I expect more. We are far enough into the process to see these effects, but I am just not seeing them.

      • A “tactical revolution” does not even mean that it has to be a real revolutionary development. It just means that he needs to get the most out of the players he has and find out how they can start controlling the game instead of always sitting back or chasing the game.

      • Well you are welcome to think you like about what a professional soccer player in his offseason *should* be able to do, but historical performance data overwhelmingly shows that a player in midseason form and fitness is far more effective and sharp than a player going in “cold”. Heck, why do you think a pick-up team of MLS All-Stars was able to defeat a team of recent World Cup winners from Bayern a few months ago? Sure it’s an oversimplified example, but there are countless others.

        There is nothing like the fitness that comes from playing comeptitve matches week-in, week-out. It cannot be simulated in the weight room or training pitch. This is common knowledge… disputed by nobody. Stated explicitly by pretty much every top manager who ever lived.

        Honestly, I really think people need to stop panicking about the results of these Nov-Feb friendlies. Historically, we have always been mediocre. It’s a poor standard.

        People are very quick to forget that there have been very good perfornances in peak times under Klinsmann. Of course we didn’t dominate against Germany, Ghana, or Belgium… why would we? They have materially better players than us– by a huge margin actually. But if you look at how we played in matches against teams closer to our current level… Mexico in the WCQ qualifier… Nigeria (a knockout round WC team) a week before the tournament…. and the entire summer of 2013. We played well. Very well. And these are the times we need to be peaking, and the teams we need to be beating with dominance.

      • I am just very unimpressed with they way that the team is playing, and the decisions that Klinsmann is making seem very questionable. That has nothing to do with results and it has little to do with fitness. Every game is something different, and it is usually sloppy and lacking in any sort of cohesion. Rosters and player positioning is all over the place.

        I am just a fan, so not saying that I have the answers or that I know better, but my expectations for this team and this coach are higher than what I have seen. As I said, I am just a fan, so none of this really matters, but I really hope it all adds up to something. I just can’t see that it is at this point.

      • Given that Chile’s players were only three games into their season, with arguably comparably levels of fitness, blaming fitness seems disingenuous at best. Also, the US have been conceding late goals for 8 months (all the way back to the world cup), in all different stages of seasons and fitness levels. Blaming fitness was a stupid thing for Klinsman to do.

  16. With the horrific showing by Shea at left back, I am even more puzzled as to Klinsey’s omission of Robbie Rodgers in this camp. There is little to no depth, once again, at this position. Seems like we should be developing someone other than Shea here.

      • Yedlin was marking a much more dangerous player, IMO. I still think Yedlin should have done better on all three goals, especially the first two, but I’m not sure Shea was threatened as much by comparison. Besler was also a lot more active in getting out to help Shea.

      • Part of that was Shea’s positioning as well. Shea was pinched in a bit more and would run out to the attacker. Yedlin was out near the touchline allowing Chile to pass into the gap in behind. That’s fine if you read the run and react but when you don’t, we saw what happens.

    • Sure Shea looked awkward and isn’t a good one on one defender but he did enough to get in front, slow the attacker up and wait for help. None of Chile’s 3 goals were Shea’s fault so I don’t really see how it was horrific. I like Rogers a lot but he isn’t scoring the goal Shea did.

      • With his skills and vision Rogers has far more to contribute to the offense than Shea will ever have. And that is true whether or not Rogers might have scored that particular goal.

    • Brek Shea is an enigma to me. His goal was fantastic. Things seem to happen in the USMNT. However, he always looks lost at sea for the majority of his playing time.

    • Yes to Robbie Rogers. We actually have some depth at left back, with Greg Garza seeming like the LB of the future, and FabJo can also play left back. They are probably #1 & #2 on the depth chart.

  17. Jones and Shea both a 5?! Jones was atrocious in the back and just as bad in his more comfortable midfield spot. Shea had a very nice goal and did the running that was required of him on the flank. Did not make a huge impact outside of the goal, but he didn’t make any mistakes either? I’d say a 3 and a 6 for those two.

    Wood wasn’t horrible, he just was not involved at all. 3 is harsh.

    Yedlin was horrible and showed how much of a defensive liability he is without adding anything other than speed to the attack. He gets a generous 3.

    I’d bump Belser and Birnbaum down a point or so too. They did not offer much coming out of the back (outside of the early assist), and did not exactly tear it up defensively.

    • The write up doesn’t mention Besler’s outstanding assist on the first goal. That along with a decent defensive showing in an unfamiliar place along side an inadequate Jones equals out to at least a 5 in my book.

    • I hate to say it, but I’d have to ding a little bit Rimando, too. He made couple of very good saves, to be sure. But in addition to being partially culpable on the last two goals, his general influence in keeping the back line organized was far below the standard we have come to expect from Howard etc., and most of the time Rimando looked as belwildered and lost as anybody. Communication amongst the rearguard was zero– I can’t count how many needless corners were conceded (Shea alone must’ve been responsible for 5).

      Obviously, this was going to be a challenge given the new formation/personnel and I’m not saying it’s time to put him out to pasture. But this game was the first time I’ve really seen Rimando exposed as “a notch below” in the USMNT shirt, after some very sharp performances in the last year plus. Maybe it would be better with some more competent, organized performances around him, but it was cause for some worry, in my view.

      • I’ll ding Rimando on the 2nd goal. He was caught cheating on the shot. The winner, though, was deflected by Birnbaum. It’s hard to fault a keeper on a deflection inside the 18, especially when the defender blocked his line of sight.

        As for communication, Rimando was constantly yelling at Shea, & Shea motioned he couldn’t hear him. Rimando was in Jones ear all 1st 45, too. I seemed like the back 3 were in scramble mode most of the game & unsure who would cover what space/player. IMO, Timmy would’ve struggled with that formation, too.

      • Maybe you’re right. Maybe not. The point is… he didn’t get the job done to the extent that will be required… deserves to be dinged along with the rest of the disorganized backline in this regard. If Howard had struggled to marshall the rearguard, I’d recommend the same. How much a keeper yells and gesticulates only matters to the extent it produces an effect… and while I sympathize with Rimando in the sense that Shea is probably not the easy guy to get through to, the fact remains that the result was not achieved.

        For me, Rimando deserves about a 4.5. I’m not calling for his head or anything like that…. it was an experimental job for the entire defense and they get some leeway in my book. But there is a ton of room for improvement (there usually is when you give up 3 goals), and I’d say anything north of 5 f is just too high for this performance. But ultimately, I’m much more interested in seeing how they respond at the next turn than anything else.

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