Tim Howard-August

Advice from U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard’s on defending free kicks: don’t foul in the first place

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KANSAS CITY – The United States back line has been the least of its trouble, a slip from Clarence Goodson here, or a slide there from Geoff Cameron notwithstanding.

Three of five goals conceded by the United States in five matches have come on direct free kicks. One of those was in the second half against Guatemala back in June, when Marco Pappa reminded everyone that he can hit a swell free kick, and that he change the game in an instant when handed a good dead ball situation.

Two months later, the United States went up a goal against Jamaica down in Kingston. But fouls from U.S. midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Maurice Edu provided the home team with two big opportunities to aim direct free kicks at Tim Howard’s goal. Sure enough, they converted both, spelling the difference in a 2-1 Jamaican victory.

So, the problem isn’t defending per se. It’s fouling in dangerous areas, which leads to free kicks, which … well, you can connect the dots.

I asked Tim Howard today if there was anything in particular the United States defenders and midfielders could work on to quash this alarming tendencies for fouling in dangerous spot, or if it was just an awareness issue?

“Yeah, just not doing it,” he said.

Howard recalled a run at Everton where something similar was happening, where too many free kicks and corner kicks were proving painful and costly. The manager addressed it by harping on the need to avoid giving away those chances.

“If you can drill it into people’s heads, they don’t do it,” Howard said.

“That’s just getting lazy, not concentrating, getting a little bit fatigued. I think it’s the easy way out of defending, to give away fouls in dangerous areas. I think, 25 yards from goal, the only way you should give away fouls is if the guy is clear in one goal. Otherwise you’ve got to trust your defenders, you’ve got to trust your goalkeeper. You just can’t give away fouls.”

source:  It’s a particularly prickly issue in this one because Guatemalan striker Carlos Ruiz is a peach at drawing fouls. And Pappa (right), as we know, can finish them.

“It’s tricky,” U.S. center back Geoff Cameron said,” because he looks to initiate the contact. But then if there’s too much contact, he’s looking to draw the foul.”

There’s one more issue to consider here, however, that works to the U.S. advantage. Clint Dempsey reminded reporters just before Monday’s evening workout at Livestrong Sporting Park that “home cooking” and CONCACAF tend to cook up well together. He pointed out the number of juicy opportunities on free kicks the other fellows tend to get when the Americans are visiting. But in fairness, he knows the Americans get a bunch of them at home, too. (They certainly did against Jamaica last month in Columbus.)

So, maybe it won’t be such a problem tomorrow, after all.

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
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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. The manager 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)
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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).

Report: USWNT star Holiday has brain tumor removed

Costa Rica v United Staes: Final - 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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World Cup champion Lauren Holiday has had a brain tumor removed, one month after giving birth.

Holiday’s husband, Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans, announced that his pregnant wife was diagnosed with an operable tumor in September, and Lauren Holiday has publicly thanked fans for support while requesting prayers.

[ MORE: UCL Final in United States? ]

The Holidays welcomed their first child earlier this month, and Jrue left the Pelicans preseason to help his wife.

The BBC added this tidbit:

Unbelievably as a three-year-old, she had open-heart surgery to repair a defect and went on to become one of the world’s most respected football players.

Get well soon, Lauren.

WATCH: FC Dallas rocket goal sends Guatemalan rainwater flying off net

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Carlos Lizarazo #22 of FC Dallas looks on during the second half of an MLS soccer game against Toronto FC at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
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Carlos Lizarazo’s ridiculous rocket shook rain off the net in an aesthetically pleasing CONCACAF Champions League goal on Thursday.

The Cruz Azul loanee struck a vicious shot for FC Dallas’ fifth goal, which boosted out of the No. 8 seed for the quarterfinals after a 5-2 win at Suchitepéquez in Guatemala.

[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]

Lizarazo, 25, had two goals in 10 appearances for FCD heading into the game, with both coming in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.