Who will feel the sear of the Azteca grill on March 26, the United States or Mexico?


Jon Arnold’s extensive blog piece today at American Soccer Now is pancake stacked with goodies from soccer news south of the border that U.S. fans might like to know.

He’s got the bits and bytes on former Sporting KC man Omar Bravo, on former Red Bulls man Rafa Marquez, plus some Liga MX, some Herculez Gomez, some Copa Libertadores, some Edgar Castillo … lots of great stuff.

But the highlights of the ASN piece are links into the Mexican and Costa Rican rosters announced over the last few days for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers. (We told you the other day about the Costa Rican bunch named for next week’s World Cup biggie in Denver.)

Meanwhile, here’s something related that U.S. Soccer supports can chew on:

We keep talking about all the pressure on the United States ahead of next week’s contest at DSG Park outside Denver. It is Rocky Mountain sized, or something close to it, at least.

But what about our Mexican amigos? Talk about pressure!

Remember, El Tri seriously blew it on Final Round CONCACAF qualifying Match Day 1. They played to a disappointing scoreless tie at home to Jamaica.

The Mexicans can help atone with a win next week in Honduras. But as we saw in the U.S. loss, Los Catrochos are hardly and easy out, especially in San Pedro Sula.

Even if El Tri gets three points there, on March 26 pressure will hang in the air like the infamously nasty Mexico City smog when Mexico meet the United States at Azteca. That’s the same Azteca where Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. team upset Mexico last August.

Yes, that was just a friendly – a very different and far less threatening beast. Still, that result will not hurt the U.S. confidence going into the smog- and altitude-assisted cauldron that is Azteca on match day. And it will surely be on Mexican minds.

If El Tri can manage only a point March 26 – giving the team just two points from its first pair of home matches — José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre’s coaching job will certainly be in jeopardy.

And if the Mexicans fall to Klinsmann and Co.? Katy, bar the Azteca door! It is not being too dramatic to say that “Chepo” may not last the night as El Tri’s man at the helm.

Is de la Torre already showing shaky knees about it all, leaning on older guys he thinks he can trust? Hmmmm.

Depending on how the results fall in one week, the United States may not be the team feeling the sear of the Azteca grill.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.