Bryan Ruiz

Ticos Peligrosos: Snapshots of Costa Rica’s potential goal scorers

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Who will start in the U.S. defense? Captain Davis have us his “educated guesses,” but as Jurgen Klinsmann made clear in Thursday’s press conference, he wants to keep people on their toes. That means no hints for us and, by extension, no information for the Costa Ricans. Whomever is going to fill the gaps at left and right back, we won’t find out for a few more hours.

Regardless of who starts, the challenges remain the same. Costa Rica has a deep, rich, and diverse group of potential goal scorers, with these five the most likely candidates to give the U.S. a scare tonight at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park:

1. Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake)

The Real Salt Lake No. 9 has 30 international goals in 80 appearances. The rest of Jorge Luis Pinto’s team has 37 combined.

With earlier rumors he may miss the match subsequently dispelled, Saborio’s expected to be front-and-center in the Costa Rican attack.

Stat line: Three goals in as many games for RSL this season; 17 in 33 league appearances last year.

2. Bryan Ruiz (Fulham, England)

Ruiz will be familiar to American soccer fans not only from his CONCACAF exploits but from the season he shared at Fulham with Clint Dempsey before the U.S. captain moved on.

Fast, skilled, and versatile, Ruiz is capable attacking any weakness in the U.S. defense, be that creating for Saborio or putting his shots on goal. His 10 international goals are tied for second in Pinto’s squad.

Stat line: Two goals in 20 appearances for Fulham this season; Two in 27 games last.

3. Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew)

Amid speculation Costa Rica will set up conservatively in Colorado, it’s unlikely Arrieta will start. If he does, he’ll be the workhorse that opens things up for Saborío and Ruiz.

But Arrieta’s more than a worker bee, as his Major League Soccer goal totals can attest. He may have only two goals in his international career, but that’s in nine appearances. Arrieta’s been a late comer.

Stat line: One goal in three games for Columbus this season; Nine in 18 games after joining the Crew mid-way through the 2012 season.

4. Joel Campbell (Real Betis, Spain, on loan from Arsenal)

Raw but with tremendous physical talent, Campbell’s speed and shooting ability make him a potential game-breaker, whether he’s deployed as a wide man or a more traditional forward. Only 20 years old, he’s already been capped 20 times and racked up seven international goals, including one against Spain in Nov. 2011.

Stat line: Two goals in 20 Spanish Primera Division games. Last year, between two levels of French soccer, Campbell had four goals in 30 games.

5. Celso Borges (AIK, Sweden)

Borges is one of three players on this team that has scored double-digit international goals. At 24 years old, he’s racked up 10 goals in 46 international appearances.

Capable of playing striker as well as central midfield, Borges gives Costa Rica the potential of a late-arriving threat that can take advantage of the space created by Saborío and Ruiz.

Interestingly, all 10 of his international goals have come in competitive matches (none in friendlies).

Stat line: Eight goals in 29 games last year in the Swedish first division.

 

WATCH: Walcott compares Wenger speech to Pacino

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What if Tony D’Amato of American football was Antoine Dumond of the world’s game?

Theo Walcott says Arsene Wenger inspired him to make that comparison after a recent pregame speech, a fiery number that convinced the Arsenal attacker how badly his manager wanted to win the Premier League.

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Speaking to Arsenal TV for a series of questions on former and current teammates — and Wenger — Walcott shared a pretty funny tidbit:

“The manager did a speech the other day. I won’t be able to do the speech because it was that good.”

“It genuinely reminded me of the film ‘Any Given Sunday’. I actually said that to him, and I was little bit embarrassed.’ You remind me of that film, that speech,’ I didn’t know if he had seen the film.

“Just showing the passion and how hard, and how long it’s been as well. He really wants it, like all of his players.”

Here’s the thing, though: Walcott doesn’t give us the answer as to whether Wenger has seen “Any Given Sunday”. And how about you, Theo, do you see yourself in Willie Beamon or Cap Rooney?

CAS rejects Serbia’s challenge to Kosovo joining UEFA

Supporters of Kosovo's national soccer team raise Kosovo flag during their international friendly soccer match at Adem Jashari Stadium in Mitrovica, Kosovo on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Kosovo host Turkey for their second friendly match of the country's national football team. Turkey won the match 6-1. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Serbian soccer federation’s appeal against Kosovo joining UEFA has been rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The court ruled that Kosovo met the standard of UEFA entry rules because it is “recognized by the majority of the United Nations member states as an `independent state.”‘

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Serbia argued that Kosovo, which joined European soccer’s governing body last May despite not being a U.N. member, should be blocked.

CAS decided that because “there is no formal recognition of countries by the U.N.,” then acceptance of Kosovo’s statehood by most countries was valid for the soccer application.

European soccer federations voted 28-24 in favor of Kosovo’s entry to UEFA after Serbia led opposition to its former province.

Serbia and its allies, including Russia, have not recognized Kosovo since the Balkan republic declared independence in 2008.

UEFA’s decision led to Kosovo joining FIFA one week later, and being fast-tracked into a 2018 World Cup qualifying group.

Still, Ukraine hosted Kosovo in neutral Poland in October, because its government also does not recognize Kosovo’s statehood.

Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”