Confederations Cup Preview: Nigeria v. Uruguay

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After the all-out destruction that Spain has imparted on Confederation Cup darlings Tahiti, it will be nice to drink in a proper football match, which is exactly what we will get when Nigeria and Uruguay meet later today.

Nigeria come into the match having pummelled Tahiti 6-1 by virtue of a Nnamdi Oduamadi hat-trick, goals by Uwe Echiejile and Nicolas Vallar, and an own-goal by Jonathan Tehau. The Super Eagles did well to keep their focus on the match and get the job done following what were some unusual circumstances departing from Africa, where the team had been refusing to travel due to player bonus discrepencies.

But the mess got itself sorted, Nigeria made it to Brazil with one day to spare and mananger Stephen Keshi’s men looked comfortable in the victory, although it was difficult to tell how hard the players were taking it given their opponents’ talent and inexperience.

With the Tahitian hammering, Nigeria find themselves atop Group B on goal difference over Spain but would be foolish to rely on that cushion ahead of the clash with Uruguay. Keshi plans on making changes to his back four in an attempt to bottle-up La Celeste‘s strikeforce of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez.

With a result tonight, Nigeria will take their unbeaten run total to 19 games, with the last defeat coming 13 months ago when they fell to Peru 1-0 in Lima. South American opponents have proved difficult for the Super Eagles to overcome, having won only three times in 17 international contests.

A victory tonight, however, will render that history meaningless and would put Nigeria through to the semi-finals.

Uruguay comes into the match off a 2-1 loss to Spain where the scoreline was more flattering than the performance. Uruguay manager Óscar Tabárez will not have been happy with his side’s performance as they looked disinterested and slow for large portions of the contest. Cavani was completely ineffective while Suarez was relatively quiet until his thunderous 30 yard free-kick found the top corner in the 88th minute.

If Uruguay are to turn things around on Thursday they will need their midfield to dramatically improve it’s movement on and off the ball. Walter Gargano and Diego Perez have to do better in transition to close the gaps between the midfield and forward lines and to improve the link-up play with Cavani and Suarez.

If the Liverpool and Napoli frontmen can not get it done, expect the timeless Diego Forlan to come in and take the match by the scruff of the neck. “We knew before coming to Brazil that our most important game was against Nigeria and nothing has changed because we lost to Spain,” Forland said.

A victory for Uruguay will put them in prime position to advance to the semi-finals while defeat could mean curtains for Tabárez.

The match kicks-off tonight at 6:00pm on ESPN in the United States and 11:00pm on BBC3 in the United Kingdom.

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

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John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”