The road to London now seems to go through Mexico

3 Comments

We’ve covered the flaws in the U.S. under-23 team. And good luck fixing all that.

So now let’s examine the hole that’s Caleb Porter’s team just dug. Because his under-23s grabbed themselves a mess of shovels, started madly turning over the dirt and dug themselves a real lulu.

The United States definitely can beat El Salvador on Monday. It’s no slam dunk, for all the reasons outlined in the previous post. Still, there’s no reason Porter’s men can’t come shining through and extend the Olympic dream.

But that’s just it; this whole thing isn’t about showing El Salvador what’s what. Months of planning, training camps, new coaching hires, etc., weren’t all about overcoming a small Central American country on one Monday night in Nashville.

It’s about getting to London, of course. And the road to London just went underwater, suddenly much more difficult to navigate.  Here’s why:

Beating El Salvador only gets the United States into the semifinals, a stage that probably just became significantly tougher.

Best-case scenario for Porter and his team was to win Saturday, gain complete control of the group and switch on the cruise control by changing out eight starters. They could have rested the main men for that important semifinal ahead. (Both semifinal winners gain London 2012 berths.)

Now Porter has no choice but to put his best and brightest out there Monday – for the third time in five days, an absurdly demanding schedule. They will have four full days of rest before the March 31 semifinal in Kansas City. Still, fatigue becomes an issue, especially if their Group B opponent can comfortably rest its top talent in Los Angeles on Tuesday. (The full CONCACAF qualifying schedule is here.)

Speaking of that opponent:

It was always likely to be Honduras or Mexico. By finishing first in Group A, the U.S. under-23s could have maximized their odds of dodging Mexico in the money round. Now, if things go as expected, Mexico will finish first in Group B with Honduras placing second.

Because a U.S. win Monday would most likely leave Porter’s team in second place, that means … yep: Mexico and the United States would meet for a winner-take-all semifinal. Only one of the CONCACAF big boys will go to London.

That’s all assuming the United States can win Monday.

So it looks now like the road to London doesn’t just go through Monday’s dangerous neighborhood (the win-or-go-home against El Salvador). Now it also goes through Mexico’s talented assembly – more than likely, anyway.

Sanchez, Mkhitaryan transfer still up in the air

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The player-swap/trade/transfer between Arsenal and Manchester United still appears to be heading towards completion, but it was further delayed Friday.

Multiple reports in England state that while Alexis Sanchez seems set to move to Manchester United, Henrik Mkhitaryan has yet to agree to move the other way, as talks between the player’s agent and Arsenal continue. Mkhitaryan was seen training at Manchester United’s practice facility on Friday, and because the latest delay, both players would be unable to debut for their new teams this weekend after missing the Premier League registration deadline.

[MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Arsenal hosts Crystal Palace Manchester United travels to Burnley, both on Saturday at 10 a.m. (Watch Arsenal live on CNBC, Manchester United live on NBCSN, and both live on NBCSports.com)

The London Evening Standard reports that Mkhitaryan would command a $242,000-per-week salary but that as of Friday morning he had yet to undergo a medical for the transfer. Arsenal reportedly still wants a transfer fee included for Sanchez, while Manchester United would prefer to just swap the two players.

It’s also looking as if that won’t be Arsenal’s only business in the transfer market. While it seemed like a far-fetched rumor at first, the links between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal have only grown stronger in the past few days, and the Gabon international appears to be in the Gunners sights. It appears that Bordeaux’s young striker Malcolm is now off the table.

Vancouver adds versatile Juarez, formerly of Monterrey, Celtic

Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images
1 Comment

Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.

Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.

Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).

“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
Leave a comment

Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
2 Comments

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.