United States deny Canada’s redemption, win 3-0 in Toronto

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The much-hyped rematch of last summer’s Olympic semifinal played out with few of Manchester’s fireworks, with a late brace from Alex Morgan lifting the United States to a 3-0 victory over Canada in Toronto.

Played in front of a near-sell out crowd at BMO Field, the match was the second of a men’s-women’s set celebrating the 100th anniversary of U.S. Soccer. After the U.S. men defeating Germany earlier in Washington, D.C., the States’ women’s team completed the program’s centennial sweep, downing a rival that hasn’t beaten the U.S. since 2001.

It was a match that’d been widely been billed as a chance for Canadian revenge – a rematch of last summer’s meeting in Manchester, England, where the U.S. controversially defeated Canada in the Olympics’ semifinal. Various officiating issues before a 123rd minute winner from Morgan created a sense of anticipation ahead of Sunday’s match in Toronto, the nations’ first game since their classic at Old Trafford.

Sunday’s start failed to match the hype, but when the U.S. finally broke through in the 70th minute, the onslaught started. Morgan started the scoring by finishing from left of goal from 12 yards out. Two minutes later, Morgan doubled the U.S.’s lead, with Sydney Leroux closing the U.S.’s account in the 93rd minute.

The first half was defined by the teams’ combative play through midfield, conflict resulting in a lack of scoring chances for each side. Speculative forays toward opposing penalty areas were cut out before becoming chances, with Canada’s midfield able to strangle the U.S.’s talented attack.

Despite that slight advantage, the hosts finished the half without a shot, let alone a chance that tested Nicole Barnhart. The U.S.’s numbers looked better – three shots, two of which tested Erin McLeod – but without creating a clear chance on goal, the visitors were rightly taken into halftime scoreless. They didn’t register their first shot until minute 28.

If anything, it was Canada that came closer to the first goal, with Christine Sinclair blowing past left back Crystal Dunn  in the 42nd minute to get onto a ball through the right channel. Sinclair was momentarily alone approaching the byline before Barnhart charged out, smothered any chance Sinclair had to play back across goal, leaving the Canadians with what became an ineffectual corner.

The second half saw the U.S.’s chances improve. In the 53rd minute, a defense-splitting pass from Tobin Heath nearly put Morgan in on goal, with a lunging tackle from 17-year-old Kadeisha Buchanan all that prevented the U.S. forward from getting a shot off on McLeod. Two minutes later, Abby Wambach redirected a corner kick toward goal, but a block from Buchanan again prevented the U.S. from opening the scoring.

In the 70th minute, the U.S. finally broke through. A quick transition out of midfield saw Wambach play a ball from the left to Morgan, approaching the left side of the Canadian area. After dribbling around a twisted Emily Zurrer, Morgan slid a left-footed finish inside the far post, giving the U.S. 1-0 lead.

Two minutes later, a nearly identical finish doubled the States’ lead. After Heath forced a turnover, the U.S. midfielder quickly found Morgan behind the defense on the left. Another left-footed finish into the far side netting gave the U.S. a 2-0 lead before Canada had even registered a shot.

In stoppage time, former Canadian youth star Leroux completed the scoring, slotting home the States’ third goal. The Boston Breakers’ attacker celebrated amid booing fans, raising the U.S.’s centennial crest before holding a finger to her lips, shushing the derisive crowd.

The celebration was a point of controversy post-match, eliciting a label of “classless” from the commentating team on Canadian broadcaster Sportsnet. Leroux, a target of derision from Canadian fans since declaring for the U.S. in 2011, was booed after being brought on in the 74th minute. Scattered boos also accompanied her subsequent touches, with the relationship between Leroux and her country of birth becoming even more complicated after a controversial 20 minutes.

Gabriel Jesus confident he’ll return for Man City this season

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Gabriel Jesus bursted onto the Manchester City scene upon arrival, but an injury back in February has left the talented Brazilian sidelined ever since.

[ MORE: Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty ]

The lively attacker suffered a broken metatarsal last month against Bournemouth, which required surgery, but the 19-year-old remains confident that he’ll be able to feature again this season for the Citizens.

“I don’t know, I have no return prediction,” Jesus told SporTV. “But I hope I can still play some games this season.”

Initial thoughts were that Jesus would miss around three months, all but ending his first Premier League season. Now, Jesus is hoping that he’ll be able to pick up where he left off prior to the devastating injury.

“It’s good,” Jesus said on his road to recovery. “Thank God, the effort, not just mine, but from all the physiotherapists in Manchester, doctors and everyone. It was not easy for me.

“It’s my first injury. Not muscle injury, but it’s the first time something happens that leaves me out of games. So it was not easy.

“But I saw that, of course, no one wants this to happen, but it could be worse. So we operated soon, I decided to operate and give it time.”

In just his first four matches with Pep Guardiola‘s side, the young Brazilian netted three goals and even dethroned Sergio Aguero in the starting lineup.

CONCACAF chief Montagliani seeks World Cup entry for all co-hosts

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A joint-bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is looking more and more possible, and CONCACAF chief Victor Montagliani believes that if that does happen then all co-hosts should be granted a spot in the tournament.

[ MORE: Making sense of USMNT’s emphatic win over Honduras ]

With FIFA president Gianni Infantino looking to finalize World Cup expansion plans from 32 to 48 teams over the coming weeks, it seems as though Montagliani’s hopes could become a reality for CONCACAF and other regions planning on creating multi-nation bids.

“I don’t think we should be dictating how a confederation allocates their slots from a hosting standpoint. That’s up to them,” Montagliani said.

FIFA will conduct its next meeting on Thursday when Infantino and all six confederation presidents meet in Zurich, Switzerland to decide on World Cup expansion, which Infantino has been adamant about since taking the reigns of soccer’s governing body.

2026 could play an important role for the United States, as it is seen as a critical piece in a joint-bid with Mexico and Canada to host the World Cup.

Additionally, Montagliani has hopes of making a combined Copa America with North and South America a permanent fixture after recently holding discussions with South America’s FIFA vice president Alejandro Dominguez.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Friday night’s massive USMNT victory ]

However, one area that would be left uncertain is the future of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which is currently held every two years.

“If that is the case and we get that done, then we have to have a serious look — is it really tenable to have a Gold Cup?” said Montagliani, whose FIFA stakeholders panel faces tough talks on adding and subtracting dates when clubs must release players on international dates.

“Do we really need it [the Gold Cup]?” he suggested. “Is it just clogging the calendar for the players?”

Lukaku coy on Everton future, says “decision has already been made”

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Romelu Lukaku has made it no secret that he hopes to play Champions League football, and reality may be setting in that the opportunity to do so won’t come at Everton.

[ MORE: Everton loses Coleman to leg break during Ireland match ]

While the Belgium international hasn’t dealt his hand in regards to his future at Goodison Park, it seems as though the Toffees could be losing out on keeping their star striker.

[ MORE: UEFA qualifying roundup — Wales in trouble, Buffon hits 1000 ]

Last month, agent Mino Raiola claimed that Lukaku’s deal with the English side was 99.9 percent complete, however, the 23-year-old has still yet to ink a new contract.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s UEFA World Cup qualifier against Greece, Lukaku says that his future plans are already made up.

“The decision has already been made so I can’t talk about that,” Lukaku said of his future at Everton.

The former Anderlecht standout has had nothing but success since joining Everton, first on loan and then making a permanent transfer from Chelsea in 2014. Over the combined stints, Lukaku has bagged 83 goals in all competitions for the Toffees, but the young attacker says there’s nothing wrong with having “ambition.”

“There is nothing wrong with ambition. You have to embrace it and where you are as a footballer,” Lukaku said. “I’ve made a long way until now but the road is still long and I know I have to improve and get better. I want to help Everton as much as I can, as well as the national team. I think a lot of stuff can be achieved.

“Sometimes people will mistake things that I say but it’s just ambition that I have; I want to win titles and trophies and I don’t think people should take that as arrogance — people should embrace it.

“This is what footballers need to achieve if they want to become the best, and I think young kids need to learn that too.”

Making sense out of USMNT’s emphatic win over Honduras

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In the lead up to Friday night’s clash at Avaya Stadium, the U.S. Men’s National Team was faced with a must-win scenario. What came next though was a bit more shocking than most U.S. Soccer supporters could have possibly imagined.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USMNT’s win over Honduras ]

An emphatic 6-0 scoreline was how it finished in San Jose, California as the USMNT took down Honduras to lift itself out of the cellar of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but it’s how Bruce Arena’s side picked up the result that was so impressive.

After an extended layoff that began in the final months of the 2016 Major League Soccer season, Clint Dempsey has returned to both club and country with a vengeance following Friday’s performance. The artist formerly known as “Deuce” recorded a hat-trick in a span of 22 minutes to solidify an already convincing American lead, leaving Dempsey just two goals shy of Landon Donovan’s all-time USMNT scoring record (57).

Dempsey wasn’t the only bright spot though, as Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, Jozy Altidore and most notably, Christian Pulisic, turned in stellar performances that really left Honduras with no chance to find its rhythm in the match.

The 18-year-old Pulisic continues to be the talk of the town when it comes to the USMNT, and rightfully so given his club situation. There’s never been a U.S. talent succeeding at a club as big as Borussia Dortmund at such a young age, and Pulisic’s effort against Los Catrachos proved further that the young attacker could be the playmaker the Yanks have been looking for since Donovan’s retirement.

Meanwhile, another player that turned in a great performance was Jozy Altidore, and probably not for the reasons you’d normally think. The Toronto FC striker didn’t get on the scoresheet, however, it was Altidore’s hold-up play and vision that helped the U.S. dominate Honduras.

Altidore has long been a staple of the American attack, and an important one at that with his 37 international goals, which ranks third all-time for the U.S.. If the 27-year-old is able to replicate more performances like Friday night though, that makes the Stars and Stripes significantly more dangerous because of Altidore’s duel-threat ability.

The lone area the U.S. will look to clean up heading into Tuesday’s important qualifying match against Panama will be some of the team’s defensive letdowns. Jorge Villafana turned in a strong performance in his WCQ debut at left back, while veteran Omar Gonzalez had several moments of weakness in the heart of the American backline.

The Pachuca defender was caught out of position on several occasions and gave the ball away at times as well, but fortunately for the U.S., Honduras was unable to capitalize on those errors.

Overall though, the U.S. did exactly what it needed… and then some. The three points was all Arena’s group could have hoped for from the start after lackluster performances against Mexico and Costa Rica back in November, but adding six goals could certainly help down the road as well if goal differential becomes a key factor in the Hexagonal.

It’s difficult to say the U.S. is back because that’s a relative phrase that can be interpreted in numerous ways. The USMNT put in a stellar performance, albeit without key players like Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin defensively, while Bobby Wood and Jermaine Jones are two others that didn’t feature.

[ MORE: Three takeaways from USMNT’s emphatic win on Friday night ]

Only time will tell when it comes to how this team gels over an extended period of time, but it was certainly a dream start for the Americans as Arena Part Deux continues.

Up next, Panama.