Quick halftime thought: a nightmare for Oguchi Onyewu

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U.S. fans love Oguchi Onyewu. They fell in love when he stared down Mexico’s Jared Borgetti in Columbus way back in 2005, en route to South Africa. As I’ve written before, he had that “I’m a bad man!” thing going, and we were smitten.

But his roster of really unsettling performances is growing faster than his list of good ones.

Onyewu just wasn’t up for the job at South Africa, losing his starting spot in the middle of the tournament. Some people might forget that the big fellow was seriously top of things last October as he got back in the lineup against Ecuador. Here’s what I wrote about him that nigh in the SI.com’s ratings.

His timing has never been better, as he was unimpeachable in the tackle and in aerial challenges. And Onyewu demonstrated a steady and heady sense of just how to employ all that muscle in his first start under Jurgen Klinsmann. One nitpick: he did get drawn out of position a time or two in the first half, which has always been an Onyewu bugaboo. But his overall body of defensive work and steely determination to get forward late (above and beyond in a friendly) more than made amends. All things considered, his impressive and memorable 90 minutes at Red Bull Arena might be the most significant take-away from Tuesday’s loss. Michael Orozco Fiscal, we barely knew ya.

Well, that looks like “one in a row” as I like to say. Because he’s having an absolute awful time of it tonight, his first start since then.

The handball for Brazil’s early spot shot? It’s a tough call, but a center back has to have a little better body control there. Period.

The second goal had his paw prints all over it. His botched clearance led to the corner kick. And it’s tough to say whether it was Onyewu or Jermaine Jones who lost his mark on the goal, but my best guess is that it’s Onyweu.

In the 40th minute, his water bottle of confidence looking completely drained, he handed Brazil a completely needless corner kick.

Overall, Onyewu’s passing is labored and, generally, just not good enough. It almost looks like the Brazilians are pressuring in a way that funnels the ball to Onyewu, and then stepping up to pressure. Either way, the Americans aren’t getting much going forward once the ball arrives into Onyewu.

By the way, this 2-1 deficit certainly isn’t all Onyewu’s fault; he’s just the one most culpable so far. If we’re being honest, Landon Donovan is having an absolute stinker, too.

WATCH: Pair of inspiring Academy videos from Men In Blazers

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Men In Blazers produced a pair of videos on two teens from rival academies that should give all young players a sense of gratitude and inspiration for their chances in American soccer.

New York City FC Academy center back Prince Amponsah and New York Red Bulls Academy destroyer Amadeo Chapru-Tate get the mini-doc treatment from Roger Bennett.

Amponsah comes from Ghana, and his family moved to the United States where their son found his way to the youth national team.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Chapru-Tate comes from Haiti, adopted by his parents after a three-year process. His first game saw him score an own goal, but that was not a sign of what’s to come for the 15-year-old.

Confederations Cup: Scenarios before final group matches

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Seven of eight nations remain alive for the knockout rounds after two-thirds of the group stage at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.

Only New Zealand has been eliminated, though the underdogs aren’t the sort of nations who will quit ahead of its group finale against Portugal.

That’s one of two Saturday matches, along with Russia versus Mexico, with two more on the docket for Sunday when Germany meets Cameroon and Chile duels with Australia.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

We’ve seen zany finishes at the Confederations Cup before, as the U.S. beat Egypt 3-0 and Brazil topped Italy 3-0 on the final day of group play in 2009 to send the Americans past Italy and into the knockout rounds despite a tournament-opening 3-1 loss to the Italians.

Group A

Draws will be enough to send Mexico and Portugal into the knockout rounds, with Mexico currently leading the group by virtue of a single goal scored (The two sides drew 2-2 in the opener).

We mentioned New Zealand’s status as a wild card, but hosts Russia will be under immense pressure against Mexico. The cynic will note that the tournament’s location could help the Russians beyond simple home-field advantage, while a bigger cynic may not that Mexico has been the beneficiary of plenty of officials’ whistles and non-whistles in recent years.

The safe bet is Portugal to win and Mexico to advance via draw or win.

Group B

No one’s safe, but Chile is feeling very good about its chances coming into Sunday’s match against Australia in Moscow. The Chileans battered Australia at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and a draw would give them a place in the next round.

The Socceroos need a two-goal win to pass Chile and assure a spot in the next round. A one-goal win could also do the trick for Australia if Germany loses and Australia outscores the Germans (who currently hold a one-goal advantage).

Germany knows it’s result-and-in for them, while Cameroon faces the longest odds. Not only do the Africans need to upset the Germans, but they need a two-goal win and help. If Cameroon won by one, it would fail to pass Germany.

Southampton to hire Pellegrino: “No last minute hitches expected”

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The Southampton Daily Echo says reports of Frank De Boer’s hiring at Crystal Palace were triggered by news that Southampton favors Mauricio Pellegrino.

De Boer has not been announced by Palace, but Pellegrino’s appointment could come first. The Argentine is expected to get the Saints job.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Pellegrino, De Boer and Patrick Vieira had been reported as options for Saints, and Pellegrino has emerged as the favorite.

The Southampton and Palace jobs are the only vacant seats in the Premier League, with Watford hiring Marco Silva and Leicester keeping Craig Shakespeare.

From The Southampton Daily Echo:

Palace are believed to have been told that Pellegrino favours joining Saints, and therefore they moved quickly to offer De Boer the job.

It removes the last remaining obstacle and gives Saints a clear run in negotiating a deal to make the 45-year-old Argentinian their new manager, with no last minute hitches expected.

Again, this is going to be a hectic time for Saints fans. That’s not because Pellegrino isn’t a promising hire; He’s a top prospect. No, we’re just worried for the amount of times Mauricio Pellegrino is going to be called by the name of former Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino.

Juve’s Kean could leave club over tractor dispute

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No tractors, no teenager.

Moise Kean, 17, broke into the Juventus senior team last season with a trio of Serie A appearances that concluded with a goal against Bologna on May 27.

He also made a token appearance in the UEFA Champions League against Sevilla, which all-in-all is a pretty solid debut for the century’s first birth to make an appearance in a Top Five league in Europe.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

About that contract, though.

Kean’s father, Biorou, says Juventus has broken a contractual promise to his family, and that could send the teenager into the transfer market. Biorou says that his son’s 18th birthday — Feb. 28, 2018 — could trigger Moise Kean leave town as “an adult.”

From Sky Sports:

“Juventus offered a contract of €700,000-a-year, which was fine, but the problem is they had also promised me some tractors for my agricultural business in the Ivory Coast, but now they say there is no budget for them.

“I own several hectares of land in the Ivory Coast which I would like to cultivate with rice and corn. I’m an agronomist. I asked for agricultural materials and they told me “no problem.”

Now, though, those tractors are not in the Ivory Coast, and Biorou claims that he never signed a contract with agent Mino Raiola. It all sets the table for further complains and a transfer, so it’s worth keeping an eye on this odd saga.