Can the weight of the World Cup moment be useful going forward?

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KANSAS CITY – No U.S. player or staffer could feel fantastic about the nervy way semifinal-round qualifying unfolded, about merging into the final pair of matches with such a small margin for error (even if the extra tension did help create an absolutely stirring atmosphere at Livestrong Sporting Park).

The veteran U.S. players and all the coaches have an understanding that qualifying is never easy-breezy, not even in the lesser of the two money rounds, this just-completed bugger of a semifinal stage. But the slog turned even more difficult than most expected, a semifinal round squeeze that left a few questions deserving of answers.

“We certainly didn’t want to put ourselves in this situation, but we did, and we came up with the right answer,” veteran right back Steve Cherundolo said after last night’s 3-1 win over Guatemala.

But in the end, could it all work to the U.S. advantage? Tougher matches are ahead in the final round, which begins in February.

(MORE: Quick look at final round CONCACAF World Cup qualifying)

Here’s what Cherundolo told me about it last night when I asked if two matches that required a result will add some steel, some calm in the twitchy moments surely to come, to this particular group? Said Cherundolo:

Absolutely. It’s great to see how guys perform under pressure. Tonight the pressure was on. Friday, the pressure was on in Antigua. It was a gutsy performance in Antigua. It wasn’t a good performance by any means, soccer-wise. But guys put in the work and that’s the most important thing in these games, making the most of the chances you get.”

As the players and coaches keep reminding us, every group is different in these World Cup qualifying cycles.

Cherundolo has been in these white-knucklers before, so the exercise is not so critical for him. But the weight of the moment is new, and can certainly be instructional to guys like Graham Zusi, Geoff Cameron, Michael Parkhurst, Danny Williams and Herculez Gomez, all starters last night.

In terms of international soccer, nothing they’ve done before this Friday-Tuesday set compares. Nothing close, in fact.

(MORE: Quick take-aways from Tuesday’s 3-1 win)

2-year doping ban upheld for Finland, CSKA Moscow player

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld a two-year ban for CSKA Moscow midfielder Roman Eremenko for a positive test for cocaine.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

CAS says the ban imposed by UEFA was “appropriate” and dismissed the Finland international’s appeal.

[ MORE: Vertonghen says Spurs need to “level up” like rest of PL contenders ]

The ban will expire on Oct. 5, 2018, when Eremenko will be 31.

Eremenko tested positive after playing in a Champions League game for CSKA Moscow against Bayer Leverkusen last September. The 2-2 result was not affected despite Eremenko scoring CSKA’s second goal.

Born in Moscow, Eremenko grew up in Finland and has represented its national team 73 times.

Webb says De Jong would have been sent off with video review

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NEW YORK (AP) Howard Webb says he would have given Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong a red card in the 2010 World Cup final if a video assistant referee had been in place.

The retired English referee showed De Jong a yellow card in the 28th minute for his karate kick into the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso. Hired in March to oversee video technology for professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada, Webb held a media seminar Friday ahead of its Aug. 5 launch in Major League Soccer.

Webb says: “Yes, it was a clear red card. It was a clear and obvious error on my part not to send the player off, and VAR would have been able to recommend a review to me, and I would have been able to make the right call.”

Now 46, Webb was a Premier League referee from 2003-14. He worked the Champions League and World Cup finals in 2010, became director of referees at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and started in March as manager of video assistant referee operations for the Professional Referee Organization.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City 0-1 Atlanta United (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Friday night’s effort at Orlando City Stadium wasn’t the prettiest for either side but Atlanta United will gladly take three points from the fixture as the Central Florida venue proved to be a fortress once more. The Lions were far superior in their attacking threats throughout the match, testing USMNT and Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan on multiple occasions. However, it was Hector Villalba that proved to be the difference when he blasted a long-distance effort to beat Joe Bendik in the 86th minute. Atlanta extends its unbeaten streak to four matches with Friday’s decision, keeping Tata Martino’s side in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, while Orlando City moves into fifth.

Three moments that mattered

36′ — Guzan stands tall, denies Rivas — Carlos Rivas thought he scorched this one (and he did…), but Brad Guzan acted like it was nothing as he held his ground to make the stop.

39′ — Spector gets ripped off by Guzan — The U.S. goalkeeper is at it again… What a save!

86′ — Villalba unleashes stunner to propel Atlanta — Sometimes it just takes one good hit as a striker.

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Man of the match: Brad Guzan

Goalscorers: Hector Villalba (86′)

Report: Man City adding Mendy to continue backline restoration

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Fresh off of completing a record deal to help bolster the club’s back line this summer, Manchester City is back at it with the Premier League season looming.

[ MORE: Alvaro Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

The Citizens are reportedly on the brink of signing Monaco left back Benjamin Mendy to yet another world-record fee — which will total over $67 million.

Confirmation of the deal has yet to be announced by either team, but L’Equipe is reporting that the Citizens are hot on the 23-year-old’s trail in adding to their pricy back four.

Manager Pep Guardiola and Man City have not been shy readjusting their defensive unit over the past year, adding expensive first-team choices John Stones and Kyle Walker.