Richie Williams

U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team fails to qualify for World Cup after loss to Honduras

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For the first time in the history of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, the United States has failed to failed to qualify.

The U.S. needed a victory in Sunday’s quarter-final of the CONCACAF tournament against Honduras to clinch a berth to the semi-finals and to punch a ticket to the World Cup but it was not to be as Honduras shocked the favored Americans, 3-1. With the loss, the Stars & Stripes crash out of the tournament they previously qualified for on each of their previous 15 attempts. The win guarantees Honduras a spot in the World Cup and a semi-final matchup with Mexico, who defeated Guatemala 2-0.

The Americans dominated early on with first half opportunities from Shaquell Moore, Corey Baird and Joel Sonora but each effort was thwarted by Honduran goalkeeper, Cristian Hernandez. Los Catrachos broke the deadlock in the 42nd minute when Christopher Alegria unleashed a 30 yard blast to hand his country a 1-0 lead. Two minutes later the Americans responded when Christopher Lema linked up with Sonora, who unleashed his own long distance strike to tie the match 1-1 going into halftime.

U.S. manager, and former Red Bulls assistant coach, Richie Williams (pictured) hoped to inspire his squad at the break but just 12 minutes into the second stanza Honduras’ Alberth Elis received a diagonal ball from Brayan Velasquez, beat an onrushing Thomas Redding and dispatched a dink past American goalkeeper Jefferson Caldwell.

Elis was a constant menace and nearly doubled his side’s lead in the 66th minute when his strike from 12 yards out hit the underside of the bar but was ruled not to have crossed the goal-line. But the nail in the U.S. coffin was nevertheless delivered two minutes later when Kevin Alvarez unleashed a furious free kick from 28 yards out that Caldwell couldn’t parry. The win was Honduras’ first over the U.S. in eight meetings in the U-17 championship.

The U-17 defeat comes just one year from the historic letdown of the U-23 Men’s National Team’s failure to qualify for the Olympics. The loss raises questions about the state of U.S. soccer, and in particular, the Residency Program that has been the primary feeder for the U-17 squad over the last 14 years. Questions will also be asked of Williams’ failure to motivate his talented squad and his decision to sit one of his best midfielders, Junior Flores, during the quarter-final loss.

Columbus, NYCFC release new kits to mixed results

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Two Major League Soccer clubs have put their kits out there for the 2016 season. They’ve received a mediocre welcome at best.

Columbus was the first, and their kit makes a bold statement moving away from the traditional yellow and black that so often adorns their regular shirts. Instead, the kit incorporates the Columbus flag onto it. The release has seen quite a negative reaction on social media.

The kit was unveiled at the Columbus City Hall on Wednesday, featuring the traditional adidas stripes, although instead of the usual placement on the shoulders, the stripes come down the side of the torso. Recently, adidas has the tendency to copy general jersey patterns across its multiple properties, so look for this design with other clubs in the near future.

The negative reaction to the Columbus release isn’t terribly surprising considering fans often enjoy sticking to tradition, and backlash is common when clubs deviate from the norm. As an additional hurdle, the color contrast between red and yellow is somewhat stark, lending to the difficult reception. Add in the bright pastel blue shorts and…yikes.

While the club didn’t describe how they will utilize this kit during the season, it’s likely to be the primary (at least for now) as the club release says the kit portfolio also includes last year’s black kit, which is traditionally the away kit.

NYCFC’s release of their secondary kit was more positive, receiving a mixed response on social media.

As you can see, adidas again copied their general outline with the stripes down the side of the torso. However, the German clothing manufacturer did much better with the general design of these kits than the Columbus ones. I will give a bit of personal opinion here: I absolutely love these kits. The ripple effect accentuates the crest with a near-3D effect, and the colors mesh perfectly which serves to assuage the eye from being overwhelmed by a busy design. If there’s any criticism, it’s that without an outline, the Etihad logo tends to get in the way a bit, but that’s nitpicking. Well done NYCFC. Columbus…I’ll leave that one to you all.

Men In Blazers podcast: Romelu Lukaku Pod Special

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Rog and Davo break down Leicester City’s 3 – 1 win at Manchester City, marvel at Spurs going second in the table, and talk about the headlines surrounding the mid-table clash between Chelsea and United.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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FA Cup recap: West Brom survives with penalty win over Peterborough

PETERBOROUGH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 10:  Darren Fletcher of West Bromwich Albion celebrates with team-mate Saido Berahino after scoring his team's first goal during the Emirates FA Cup fourth round replay match between Peterborough United and West Bromwich Albion at ABAX Stadium on February 10, 2016 in Peterborough, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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West Brom is the last team through to the FA Cup fifth round with a penalty win over Peterborough United after a 1-1 draw in their replay at ABAX Stadium.

Down 1-0 10 minutes after the halftime break, Darren Fletcher scored the equalizer in the 71st minute, and that scoreline lasted through regulation and extra time. Fletcher missed a penalty in the shootout, but Baggies goalkeeper Ben Foster saved twice to put West Brom through.

[ MORE: Full schedule for every PL club ]

Other than the penalty shootout, things were quite even throughout the match. Posh actually lead slightly on possession, and had an 8-5 shots-on-target advantage as well. Jon Taylor was the man to score for Peterborough, putting them 1-0 ahead shortly after halftime. The 23-year-old midfielder also scored in the 2-2 draw at The Hawthornes in the original matchup.

West Brom will now take on Reading in the fifth round, a team that hammered Walsall 4-0 in their fourth round meeting. Reading currently sits 15th in the Championship table

VIDEO: Alejandro Bedoya scores extra-time winner for Nantes in Coupe de France

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JULY 01: Alejandro Bedoya of the United States controls the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Belgium and the United States at Arena Fonte Nova on July 1, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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With USMNT World Cup qualifying not far away, Jurgen Klinsmann will certainly look to club performances to find out which of his players are grasping club opportunities by the horns.

One US national teamer in great form is Alejandro Bedoya. The 28-year-old has scored four times across all competitions since January 23rd, and his latest is a massive one. Bedoya sent Nantes to the quarterfinals of the Coupe de France with a 118th-minute winner against Bordeaux.

Bedoya has been a lightning rod for Nantes the past two or three seasons, but something he struggled for occasionally is consistent game time. Not anymore. The American has started five of their last six league matches, and since returning from some time off due to illness, Bedoya has featured in the starting lineup in nine of 11 Ligue 1 matches. What’s more, he’s finished the full 90 minutes in seven of those.

Klinsmann has looked to Bedoya in the past for a combination of electricity and defensive ability on the wing. Now, he may bring both endurance and a goalscoring threat to international competitions, which would go a long way in raising his national team stock.