U.S. national team sets new record after eight straight wins, but what does it really mean?

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Jurgen Klinsmann’s record-breaking side are on a roll.

But in the grand scheme of things, are people getting too excited about wins against minnows Belize, Cuba and Jamaica?

Some may argue you can only beat what’s put in front of you, and that’s true.

But it seems as if every four years or so, this same debate crops up as to how good the USA really are.

Simply put, we all know and acknowledge that the CONCACAF region is severely lagging behind in quality when you look at the likes of UEFA and CONMEBOL.

There’s no shame in admitting that. But it does provide the U.S. with a huge shock every time they reach the World Cup and come up against the world’s elite.

However Klinsmann’s tactic of playing top European nations in friendlies may bear fruit once the U.S. reach the World Cup in Brazil — come on, you’ve already booked your tickets and time off work next June, haven’t you? — next summer, and the fact that we’re already talking about the USMNT’s presence in that competition is a problem.

(MORE: United States nicks Costa Rica on a late goal)

Hexagonal qualifying is what it is. Every time the U.S. compete in it, they suffer one bad loss or tie and blame it on the conditions and environment in a Caribbean or Central American nation. The rest of qualifying, especially the home games, are a piece of cake.

But this is where the current Gold Cup success comes into play. After three wins from three, the USA are clear favorites to win it.

The pressure and winning mentality placed on the shoulders of players who aren’t guaranteed a spot on the World Cup roster is making everyone get better. Fast. Guys like Chris Wondolowski, Kyle Beckerman and Joe Corona don’t want to watch the World Cup from their armchair. They are desperate to be there.

As Steve Davis pointed out in the things we learned from last night’s win over Costa Rica, time is running out for some national team players who are making desperate attempts to impress Klinsmann.

In turn, Nats regulars like Michael Bradley, Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey are seeing the desire of their teammates to win the Gold Cup this summer and that’s has to be lighting a fire in their belly. Competition for places has never been greater in the U.S. national team. I truly believe that. There’s a solid pool of 35 players who are up to the task of competing for minutes at the World Cup.

That is the real reason why they’ve won eight games in a row. You can point to some shaky displays here and there but they’re getting it done with so many different players and you can’t fault their effort and commitment, as they clamber to make sure they stay in Klinsi’s plans for Brazil 2014.

They’re hungry to succeed and don’t want to be the group of players who lose and are left out of the 23-man squad heading to South America.

Breaking a record is great. Eight straight wins for the first time in U.S. national team history is an amazing achievement.

But I’m extremely confident it’s only the start. And until CONCACAF catches up with the USA, expect plenty more streaks like this.

Independiente and Flamengo meet for South American trophy

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund wins in Stoger’s managerial debut

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For the first time since late September, Borussia Dortmund has won a league match, while Leipzig’s slip up opens the door for Bayern Munich to extend its lead in Germany’s top flight.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, level on points with Man United ]

Here’s a brief look at all of Tuesday’s Bundesliga action.

Mainz 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

10 points separates Dortmund from league leaders Bayern Munich, who also have a match in hand, but for the moment, the bleeding his stopped. BVB picked up a crucial win on Tuesday to end its domestic woes upon manager Peter Stoger’s debut. The side’s drought stretched over an eight-match winless period. Second-half goals from Sokratis and Shinji Kagawa moved Dortmund into the top four, while Mainz remains 15th in the league table.

 

Wolfsburg 1-1 Red Bull Leipzig

Meanwhile, RB Leipzig’s form continues to slide downward after the second-place side dropped points in its fourth straight match across all competitions. The road side’s fortunes were dampened early on when Paul Verhaegh converted from the penalty spot, however, Marcel Halstenberg did manage to pull a goal back for Leipzig in the 52nd minute. Leipzig’s misfortunes carried on in stoppage time though when Dayot Upamecano was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the day.


The rest of Tuesday’s scores

Hamburg 1-2 Frankfurt
Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

Inter beats 3rd-division Pordenone 5-4 on penalties in Cup

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan scraped into the Italian Cup quarterfinals after the Serie A leader was taken to penalties by third-division Pordenone on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, moves level on points with Man United ]

Pordenone goalkeeper Simone Perilli pulled off several saves in regulation time to keep the game scoreless, and he almost proved to be the hero during the shootout, stopping two penalties.

But Inter prevailed 5-4, with Yuto Nagatomo tucking away the final spot kick.

Both sides hit the woodwork during the 120 minutes.

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti rang the changes, and only Milan Skriniar and Matias Vecino remained in the starting 11 from Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Juventus.

[ MORE: Burnley moves into top four after win over Stoke ]

However, he was forced by desperation to bring on Marcelo Brozovic at halftime as well as star forwards Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.

Report: Cosmos coach Savarese to be named new Timbers manager

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In a time where NASL’s status moving forward is hanging in the balance, one of the league’s top managers is set to make the jump to Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: LA FC close to acquiring Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan ]

According to ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, New York Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese is set to be named the next Portland Timbers manager.

Savarese will take over for the recently departed Caleb Porter, who stepped down from his head coaching role with the Timbers in November.

The former professional player spent five seasons in MLS during his career, including stints with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the Red Bulls), as well as the New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes.

The 46-year-old has managed the Cosmos from 2013 to present, and guided the NASL side to three Soccer Bowl titles in that span.