Clint Dempsey

Talkers from U.S.-Guatemala draw on Tuesday


Some U.S. fans may be spilling their beer in frustration at a U.S. World Cup qualifying bid being built on small, solid taps rather than one decisive sledgehammer blow.

But a 1-1 draw Tuesday in Guatemala leaves the United States adequately positioned after two matches in semifinal round World Cup qualifying. Four points and a tie with Jamaica atop the group isn’t a terrible spot.

What to talk about from this one:

  • Night of U.S. composure – and that’s not as easy as it sounds

Admit it, you were sure Jermaine Jones would twist off at some point, yes?

But Jones mostly kept his cool. So did his teammates, even when it wasn’t easy.

No one can be surprised that Guatemala got more of the referee calls. It’s a road game in CONCACAF, and that’s how the regional cookie crumbles. Still, it’s not easy for players to keep a lid on the frustration. Especially given that …

Some of the U.S. yellow cards were soft as warm butter. Michael Bradley’s early in the second half for time wasting was just this side of bizarre.

Meanwhile, there was way too much Guatemalan fouling; never did a match cry out for a persistent infringement booking or two like this one. I mean, what they were doing to Clint Dempsey out there, time after time, was absolutely criminal.

And poor Jozy Altidore. Yes, he fell asleep frustratingly as Michael Bradley squared one ball for him beautifully. But otherwise, no calls from the man in the middle were going his way, and that wasn’t Altidore’s fault. One PK shout needed further review. And he wasn’t to blame as a whistle went early, a potentially game-turning sequence that defined advantage clause.

  • U.S. midfield up for the job

Let’s just cut and paste this one, to save the weary fingers a few keystrokes in the future: “Michael Bradley was easily the most important and influential U.S. midfield figure.”

source:  Bradley linked the lines and provided more than his share of attacking push through midfield. He was always connected to Maurice Edu on the defensive end, ready to provide necessary cover.

Jermaine Jones moved reliably into attacking positions and covered ample ground along the right. Maurice Edu sat deeper, screening the defense.

I know that not everyone saw a good match from Edu and Jones.

Yes, Jones lost possession a few times. What can you say; the man is not Michael Bradley. On the other hand, Jones didn’t lose the ball in bad spots. He moved possession aggressively forward when possible and did the tackling and tracking without being, well, all Jermaine Jones about it.

Edu? As I said on Twitter during the match, people sometimes forget what that position is about, especially in a scrappy, shapeless contest like this one. He never needed to “make” the game for the United States; he just needed to make things tough on Guatemala coming into dangerous spots. So, mission accomplished.

  • U.S. set pieces need work

And how. Guatemala handed Jurgen Klinsmann’s men opportunity after opportunity on set pieces. By halftime the United States had been gifted five free kicks inside the attacking third – and any visitor must make defenses pay for that rate of fouling. But Donovan’s insufficient deliveries and one poor shot from Herculez Gomez let the hosts off the hook before the break.

More of the same in the second half. For instance, if Jones needs reminders as to why he should never stand over another U.S. free kick, he can look back at his ridiculous blast over the bar Tuesday.

Meanwhile, from about the same spot, Guatemala’s Marco Pappa kept his team in the World Cup hunt with a swell free kick strike.

  • Too much emotion from the hosts

Guatemala came out like a loaded spring, too emotional, too anxious, straining too hard to make something happen. It’s a fine balance, admittedly uneasy to strike. Underdogs must play with emotion; it’s really their best hope to unearth something special. On the other hand, too much emotion is counter-productive.

Too-frequent fouling isn’t the only danger of being overly keyed up; Dempsey’s opener demonstrated a further threat. Dempsey still had lots of work to do as he accepted Fabian Johnson’s pass just outside the penalty area. Dempsey’s nimble turn left one Guatemalan defender flailing, and one more quick touch to his right took another man out of the play.

Both Guatemalan players needed to get position and defend. Rather, they took big, sliding swipes and finished on their butts. Rather than keep their feet in a composed stance, they lunged rashly, leaving Dempsey with a clear view at goal and an unchallenged shot from 16 yards.

Yeah, he’s going to make that one.

Barcelona, Neymar make it formal: Signed into 2021

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 19: Neymar of Barcelona holds off pressure from Raheem Sterling of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League group C match between FC Barcelona and Manchester City FC at Camp Nou on October 19, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

T’s are crossed and i’s dotted on Neymar’s new contract, keeping him at the club through the 2020-21 season.

Neymar, 24, will make his 100th La Liga appearance with his next step onto the pitch.

Lionel Messi’s deal runs through 2017-18, and Luis Suarez’s goes through 2018-19.

[ MORE: Guardiola on Aguero omission ]

He’s scored 59 goals in league play, and has 91 total when you include all 150 of his matches in a Barca kit.

Neymar is on a similar scoring rate to last season, when he netted 31 times. The Brazilian also has 49 international goals in 73 caps.

Guardiola seethes at reports Aguero unwanted at Man City

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Sergio Aguero of Manchester City is congratulated by Josep Guardiola manager of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League match between Manchester City FC and VfL Borussia Moenchengladbach at Etihad Stadium on September 14, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Pep Guardiola is seething with reports that claim star striker Sergio Aguero is not in his plans for Manchester City’s future.

Aguero started on the bench for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League loss at Barcelona, inspiring talk that the Argentine star wasn’t long for the Emirates Stadium.

[ MORE: Conte on Mourinho, Pogba ]

Guardiola says that’s garbage, and that he simply needed more midfielders for his attack. Next time, just ask.

From the BBC:

“It was a tactical decision. I wanted one more midfielder, I tried to keep the ball in the Camp Nou and when you have the ball, Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez don’t.

“I spoke with Sergio and he was understanding, I thought in the last 30 minutes, with the Barcelona centre-halves tiring, he could help a lot from the bench. When Sergio decides to leave it will be his decision. Next time before you (the media) decide he is not in my plans you can call me.”

Still, not using Aguero is risky business.

The striker believes, rightly, that he’s among the most dangerous players in the world. Guardiola has said as much, too.

While few would put him in the class of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s difficult to imagine either being sat for tactical reasons against one of the best teams in the world.

Chelsea: Conte expects warm reception for Mourinho; Terry is fit

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  A fan wears a Chelsea scarf with the image of the club's former manager, Jose Mourinho before the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.

Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.

[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]

Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.

“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”

Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. Pogba is coming off a starring role in United’s 4-1 win over Fenerbahce, and Conte guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.

“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”

Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.

Canada vs. U.S. among top-notch CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

VANCOUVER, CANADA - JUNE 20:  Gershon Koffie #28 of the Vancouver Whitecaps brings the ball up field against Dax McCarty #11 of the New York Red Bulls at B.C. Place on June 20, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images)
Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.

No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.

[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]

The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.

Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.

Full schedule
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)

The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).

Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).