Honduras' Palacios fights for ball with Costa Rica's Ruiz during 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in San Jose

Breakdown: Let’s take a look at the Gold Cup quarterfinals


With the Gold Cup group stages over and the knockout round to begin this weekend, let’s take a casual glance at what lies ahead.

After the U.S. national team defeated Costa Rica 1-0 last night in Connecticut, the field for the final eight was set.

And this year’s Gold Cup has produced plenty of surprises, including Cuba’s stunning 4-0 win over Belize yesterday which saw them reach the quarterfinals for just the second-time in their history.

The Cubans needed to win by four or more to qualify, and scored the decisive goal in the final minute. Wonderful stuff.

So, who’s playing who? Well, on Saturday a double header takes place at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, with the Cuban heroes taking on Panama. That’s followed by Mexico taking on Trinidad and Tobago for a place in the semifinals.

On Sunday the USA face El Salvador, while a huge clash takes place between old rivals Costa Rica and Honduras. Both games will be played at the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.

Now that we know the match ups, what can we expect from this bumper weekend of Gold Cup action?

Panama vs. Cuba

Everything points to a blowout Panama win. But this Cuban side is certainly gutsy after that incredible last-gasp effort (watch below) against Belize. For the first-half against the USA, Cuba held their own and look dangerous going forward so Panama will have to watch out. However anything other than a resounding Panama win would surprise me, as they remain unbeaten in the tournament.

Mexico vs. Trinidad and Tobago

Mexico have been up and down during the Gold Cup but things are starting to come together for Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre’s side. Wins against Canada and Martinique have helped them recover following the defeat to Panama. T&T have Kenwyne Jones up front and will provide a difficult task for El Tri. Upset alert.

USA vs. El Salvador

Klinsmann’s men are cruising after three wins from three following last night’s 1-0 victory over Costa Rica. (watch below) But El Salvador have caused Klinsmann’s men a few problems in the past. Sacha Klejstan scored a last-minute winner when they last met in 2010, and the Yanks had to come from behind to win and tie in the two previous meeting before that. The Salvadorans beat Haiti 1-0 to secure their place in the quarters but the U.S. should win comfortably.

Honduras vs. Costa Rica

When these nations clash there’s often a scuffle and Sunday will be no different. Costa Rica have won 1-0 in the previous two meetings between the teams, and you should expect a tight game in Baltimore. Passion, pride and the will to make the semifinals should make this a pulsating clash between the Central American rivals.

College Soccer Update: Stingy Kentucky picking up speed; Cal Poly’s overhead wonder (video)

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Three-hundred thirty-two minutes and 26 seconds. That’s how long it’s been since an opponent has managed to put a ball into the goal behind the University of Kentucky men’s team.

It’s a statistic which not only makes an impression, but carries hope; Hope that the Wildcats will improve upon last season’s tournament work that saw them exit their conference tourney and the NCAA tournament early.

“If you go back to last year we had a really good run, but got knocked out in our conference tournament and then in the first round of the NCAA Tournament,” said fourth-year head coach Johan Cedergren. “Peaked too early and got a little overconfident.”

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The Wildcats are atop Conference USA with a 3-0 record in league play, having knocked off a strong New Mexico side this weekend. They’ll face Evansville and Ohio State the following two Wednesdays before meeting fellow CUSA 3-0 squad South Carolina.

It’s all according to plan for Cedergren, who is experiencing the senior years of his first recruiting class. One of those is goalkeeper Callum Irving, who is one clean sheet away from making program history for the most blankings as a Wildcat.

It’s helped having a versatile team to help out. Despite injuries to a pair of key backs, junior center back Jordan Wilson and senior holding mid Kristoffeer Tollefsen have combined with Irving to keep the side well-organized.

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“Over here you are very stat focused and Callum wouldn’t have these numbers without (Wilson),” Cedergren said. “And Tollefsen plays that holding mid role that is very hard to quantify. He made third team all conference last year, but he’s one of the best players and he’s playing at 75% percent.”

Cedegren also credits Hermann Award watch lister Napo Matsoso, who leads the team in shots, with keeping teams off-balance. And between Irving and the attack, the coach hopes that this season is the year the Wildcats will peak at the right time.

Three stars

  1. Oregon State — The Beavers opened PAC-12 play with a pair of 1-0 wins, knocking off UCLA with a Timmy Mueller (remember the name goal) before knocking off San Diego State by the same score. Next weekend? Cal and Stanford, both on the road.
  2. Nick DePuy, UCSB —  The 6-foot-4 junior forward has only been held off the score sheet thrice this season, and fired off 10 shots including three goals this weekend. Two were road game-winners at UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge.
  3. Chase Minter, Cal Poly — All three stars stay on the West Coast, thanks to Minter’s work setting himself up for this bicycle kick goal.

Other notes

— Creighton is back as the unrivaled No. 1 in the country amongst men’s Division I sides, claiming all 24 votes.
— Only one change in the Top 10, as Virginia moves up a spot to No. 10 and Elon falls three spots to No. 13. Leaping into the Top 25 after not receiving any votes last week is Oregon State. Kentucky, Butler and Syracuse move from receiving votes to Top 25.
— There s a single player who is in both the D-1 Top Ten in goals and assists, and his name will be familiar to those who read this space: Buffalo’s Russell Cicerone has eight goals and six assists after a 2+3 performance at St. Bonaventure on Saturday night.
— Also No. 1: Midwestern State (Men’s D2), Franklin & Marshall (Men’s D3), North Carolina (Women’s D1), Gannon (Women’s D2), Messiah (Women’s D3)

Samir Nasri rules out return to France squad; Likes MLS over Ligue 1

Manchester City's Samir Nasri celebrates after scoring during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park Stadium, Liverpool, England, Sunday Aug. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
AP Photo/Jon Super
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When Samir Nasri is done with his time at Manchester City, he doesn’t want a return to Ligue 1. We knew that. He’s said it in March, and again over the summer.

But his willingness to stay away from home goes for club and country, as he’s not interested in a return to the national team fold. Heck, they could hire his family and he’s scoff at the idea.

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Nasri played in Marseille from his age 10 year through 2004, when he headed to Arsenal. He also scored five goals in 41 caps before being removed from the French fold by Didier Deschamps.

That hurt.

From Sky Sports:

“Even if my dad is coach, I will not return,” he said on French television. “I’ve suffered with the selections… missing a World Cup destroys you a bit. After 2012 I wanted to stop but my father told me I had to play the World Cup. I tried to be good.

“I do not see myself returning to Ligue 1. I love the Premier League. I like my life in England,” said Nasri. “I see myself going to play in the MLS, to discover something other than France.”

That makes at least three times Nasri has proffered a “come get me… eventually” plea to American powers-that-be.

Nasri is a bit of a loose cannon, but he’s also the sort of player who could punish defenses in MLS if given the chance to operate as the focal point of an attack. Perhaps with Didier Drogba in Montreal?

No, his time at the Etihad Stadium isn’t nearing an end just yet but… Yes, please. Maybe Nasri is one of those “In the league but not at the risk of my favorite team” players, but yes, please.