You pulled through guys… but you had us scared for a moment there.
Following the U.S. national team’s 4-1 comeback victory against Cuba on Saturday night, there are plenty of interesting narratives emanating from another comfortable victory (in the end) for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team.
Here we highlight three things we learned from the win over Cuba that saw the U.S. seal their passage to the Gold Cup quarterfinals.
Let’s break it down.
1. Chris Wondolowski must play more for the U.S. national team
Okay, so he’s scored six goals in his last three games against a weakened Guatemala outfit, Belize and Cuba… I can hear you haters already, but listen up. Wondolowski is a pure finisher, and his stock has risen dramatically during this Gold Cup. Arriving on the pitch during the second half, Wondo immediately made several intelligent runs in behind Cuba’s defense that weren’t spotted by the U.S. midfielders. Then he pounced after two fantastic passes from Kyle Beckerman and Edgar Castillo and finished with his usual aplomb. He did more during his short time in the pitch than Herculez Gomez did in the whole first half. He needs to play a bigger role in the World Cup qualifiers and the World Cup. Who would be better coming off the bench with the US down 1-0 with 10 minutes to go in Brazil next year? Nobody. The USA need a super-sub and an impact player. “Wondowlowski” is your man.
2. Defensive issues continue to crop up
Yes the USA are scoring bucket loads of goals – 16 in their last three games if your counting – but defensive mistakes are still happening. For Cuba’s opener Castillo got sucked into the play and exposed the whole U.S. backline by getting beaten to the byline. Then captain Oguchi Onyewu was slow to react and let Jose Alfonso nip in front of him to score. Sluggish defending cropped up, and these defenders playing this way means they’re unlikely to oust any of the USMNT regulars. For large spells the U.S. dominated Cuba, but defenders need to stay switched on. Look what happened away to Jamaica last month when Jermaine Beckford scored from a set piece to equalize late. Silly mistakes will cost the US if they keep cropping up between now and World Cup 2014.
3. Klinsmann is getting incredibly good at altering the approach mid-game
Poor ball retention, lethargic movement and a lack of pace all played a part in the USA’s pedestrian first half display. But whatever Klinsmann said to his side at halftime obviously worked as they came out rejuvenated and finished off the Cubans. The speed of play increased dramatically in the second period and the US were able to get the ball wide quicker. Brek Shea disappointed out on the left and his replacement Jose Torres offered much more drifting inside. Kyle Beckerman and Stuart Holden were more positive when in possession and Castillo and Joe Corona kept driving forward at every opportunity. Klinsmann must’ve urged his side to attack during his locker room chat at the half. The U.S. were more direct and the movement was phenomenal between Donovan and the midfielders in the second half. Cuba couldn’t handle it. More of the same please, Jurgen.
More: USA beat Cuba 4-1 to make Gold Cup quarterfinals
More: Wondolowski reveals hidden “W” in jersey, as misspelling does the trick again
The Tournament of Nations got underway earlier Thursday, with Brazil and Japan drawing 1-1 in Seattle.
While some in the crowd may’ve been waiting to see the United States women’s national team and Australia in the second game of the twin bill, they got an absolute treat from Brazil’s Camila.
[ MORE: Galaxy’s season-changing signing ]
The Orlando Pride midfielder is yet to scoop up 10 caps, but blasted this 25-yard goal home with a wicked outside bend.
The aesthetics are terrific.
Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.
The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.
Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.
[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]
Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.
Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.
Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).
Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).
Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.
Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.
[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]
While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.
Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:
The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.
“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”
Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.
We may see him on the field in August 2018.
ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.
FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.
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The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.
FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.