Confederations Cup opener provides no reprieve for Mexico

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Away from CONCACAF opponents reticent to engage them, Mexico was supposed to thrive. At least, that was the hope headed into the Confederations Cup. Instead the all-draw Tri, 1-5-0 in World Cup qualifying, saw things go from meh to worse, losing 2-1 in their ConFed opener to Italy.

Andrea Pirlo opened the scoring with a dead ball strike that deserves its own post. Javier Hernández equalized from the spot, closing scoring in an entertaining first half. In the 78th minute, Mario Balotelli gave Italy full points and dashed early hopes a trip to Brazil would cure Mexico’s woes.

A one-goal loss to Italy, however, is nothing to bemoan, though the underlying metrics aren’t as encouraging. Italy outshot Mexico 6-3 in terms of attempts on target, 16-10 overall. Cesare Prandelli’s team also held the ball 59 percent of the time. While at times Mexico played like a team deserving of equal footing with the Italians, the final score said otherwise.

Whether that’s enough to reignite the Chepo de la Torre debate is another question. After his team’s home draw to Costa Rica to close its week of qualifying, the former Toluca-man’s viability has come into question. But with a tournament in Brazil coming over the horizon, a quick change would have been difficult. As Zac Lee Rigg notes, timing was on Chepo’s side.

Time, however, may not be. Mexico’s still a strong bet to qualify out of CONCACAF, but that’s a distorted standard that understates how this team should be perceived. That standard is the 2011 Gold Cup, where Mexico showed it’s capable of being one of the best teams in the world. El Tri are far off that standard now.

That team was also coached by Chepo, who, for whatever reason, has lost the ability to get such performances out of this group. With his team again failing to score from open play, it’s also unclear de le Torre can get goals. Mexico’s adrift, surprisingly so given their talent.

Especially at the international level, you can’t change the players, so if Mexico doesn’t come around over the next week, the Federación may have to change the coach.

2-year doping ban upheld for Finland, CSKA Moscow player

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld a two-year ban for CSKA Moscow midfielder Roman Eremenko for a positive test for cocaine.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

CAS says the ban imposed by UEFA was “appropriate” and dismissed the Finland international’s appeal.

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The ban will expire on Oct. 5, 2018, when Eremenko will be 31.

Eremenko tested positive after playing in a Champions League game for CSKA Moscow against Bayer Leverkusen last September. The 2-2 result was not affected despite Eremenko scoring CSKA’s second goal.

Born in Moscow, Eremenko grew up in Finland and has represented its national team 73 times.

Webb says De Jong would have been sent off with video review

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NEW YORK (AP) Howard Webb says he would have given Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong a red card in the 2010 World Cup final if a video assistant referee had been in place.

The retired English referee showed De Jong a yellow card in the 28th minute for his karate kick into the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso. Hired in March to oversee video technology for professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada, Webb held a media seminar Friday ahead of its Aug. 5 launch in Major League Soccer.

Webb says: “Yes, it was a clear red card. It was a clear and obvious error on my part not to send the player off, and VAR would have been able to recommend a review to me, and I would have been able to make the right call.”

Now 46, Webb was a Premier League referee from 2003-14. He worked the Champions League and World Cup finals in 2010, became director of referees at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and started in March as manager of video assistant referee operations for the Professional Referee Organization.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City 0-1 Atlanta United (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Friday night’s effort at Orlando City Stadium wasn’t the prettiest for either side but Atlanta United will gladly take three points from the fixture as the Central Florida venue proved to be a fortress once more. The Lions were far superior in their attacking threats throughout the match, testing USMNT and Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan on multiple occasions. However, it was Hector Villalba that proved to be the difference when he blasted a long-distance effort to beat Joe Bendik in the 86th minute. Atlanta extends its unbeaten streak to four matches with Friday’s decision, keeping Tata Martino’s side in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, while Orlando City moves into fifth.

Three moments that mattered

36′ — Guzan stands tall, denies Rivas — Carlos Rivas thought he scorched this one (and he did…), but Brad Guzan acted like it was nothing as he held his ground to make the stop.

39′ — Spector gets ripped off by Guzan — The U.S. goalkeeper is at it again… What a save!

86′ — Villalba unleashes stunner to propel Atlanta — Sometimes it just takes one good hit as a striker.

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Man of the match: Brad Guzan

Goalscorers: Hector Villalba (86′)

Report: Man City adding Mendy to continue backline restoration

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Fresh off of completing a record deal to help bolster the club’s back line this summer, Manchester City is back at it with the Premier League season looming.

[ MORE: Alvaro Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

The Citizens are reportedly on the brink of signing Monaco left back Benjamin Mendy to yet another world-record fee — which will total over $67 million.

Confirmation of the deal has yet to be announced by either team, but L’Equipe is reporting that the Citizens are hot on the 23-year-old’s trail in adding to their pricy back four.

Manager Pep Guardiola and Man City have not been shy readjusting their defensive unit over the past year, adding expensive first-team choices John Stones and Kyle Walker.