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.

 

Dempsey, Sounders steal a point on wild night in Portland

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The game in 100 words (or less): An entire game can change in the blink of an eye. For the Seattle Sounders, that blink came in the 44th minute of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers. Up 1-0 by way of Joevin Jones’ opener in the 27th minute, the defending MLS Cup champs were poised to head into halftime with a one-goal advantage and every belief imaginable that they’d been the better team for the entire first half. Blink. Brad Evans wrapped his legs around Darlington Nagbe, giving away a penalty and earning himself a red card, just like that, in the blink of an eye. Fanendo Adi stepped up to convert from the spot, but it still was to be a hard-fought 1-1 scoreline from Seattle’s perspective. Then, Dairon Asprilla got loose, completely unmarked atop the six-yard box, on a corner kick, and it was 2-1 after four minutes of first-half stoppage time. 45 more minutes pass, and the Timbers… blink. Clint Dempsey, 34 years old but fresh off the bench 40 minutes earlier, out-leaps everyone in the box and heads past Jake Gleeson to steal a point for Seattle.

[ MORE: San Jose fire Kinnear after 2.5 seasons ]

Three Four moments that mattered

27′ — Jones gets two chances, puts the second away — It’s a classic case of “I dropped my controller” from Alvas Powell, who just stops as Jones cuts across the penalty area. There’s no reason Jones should get a second look on this one.

44′ — Evans brings down Nagbe in the box, sees red — Goodbye, lead. Goodbye 11 versus 11. Things would unravel very quickly for Seattle.

45+4′ — Asprilla rises above to make it 2-1 — Seattle’s marking of Asprilla was nonexistent, and the Colombian showed off some serious hops to get his head to David Guzman’s corner kick.

90+4′ — Dempsey heads home deep in stoppage time — A costly turnover by Asprilla, a hit-it-and-pray cross by Roman Torres, and Dempsey snatches a point at the death.

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Man of the match: Cristian Roldan

Goalscorers: Jones (27′), Adi (45′ – PK), Asprilla (45+4′), Dempsey (90+4′)

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.