Yankees legend Mariano Rivera inspires Panama before Gold Cup semi

2 Comments

Panama face Mexico tonight in the Gold Cup’s other semifinal contest at Cowboys Stadium. They square-off at 10pm ET after the USA play Honduras.

Panama are the underdogs, but leading up to the game, they got a little help from someone who knows a thing or two about closing out games.

New York Yankees legendary Panamanian pitcher Mariano Rivera.

The Yankees relief pitcher happened to be in town as New York took on the Texas Rangers this week so the 43-year-old, who has won five World Series’, gave Panama’s national team some inspiration.

How cool is that?

Los Canaleros face their toughest task yet this evening, after impressing during the Gold Cup group stages and quarterfinals.

But will Rivera help Panama cause a big upset and oust El Tri to make just their second-ever Gold Cup final? One Panamanian striker very familiar to MLS fans was certainly impressed.

“It was a very motivational conversation,” FC Dallas and Panama striker Blas Pérez told reporters. “He’s a person who is a great believer in God, he gave us a lot of inspiring quotes that will stay with us and we have to [look to him] as a great example.”

Panama are huge underdogs, there’s no doubt about it. But Rivera’s words may just help them overturn a Mexican side that will be heavily supported in Dallas this evening.

(MORE: Torres’ double gives Panama first-ever win vs. Mexico)

Inspirational words or not, Panama will need to be at their best all over the pitch to stand a chance of beating Mexico.

But, wait a minute… that’s right, Panama already beat Mexico in the Group A opener back on July 7. A 2-1 win in Pasadena came courtesy of two goals from Gabriel Torres, the joint-top goalscorer in the 2013 Gold Cup with five to his name, and was Panama’s first win against Mexico in history.

Isn’t that inspirational enough?

Regardless, forwards Perez and Torres will both cause Mexico plenty of problems tonight and expect an epic battle in Dallas. Can El Tri beat an inspired Panamanian side?

If they can’t, Mariano Rivera played a part in Panama’s trip to the Gold Cup final. You better believe it.

Minnesota’s Molino lifts Trinidad and Tobago to big win (video)

Leave a comment

Minnesota United attacker Kevin Molino has given Trinidad and Tobago life in the race to win a spot at the 2018 World Cup.

Molino’s 37th minute goal gave hosts T&T a 1-0 lead against visiting Panama at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on Friday, and the Soca Warriors held on to win its first points of qualifying.

Panama had a Luis Tejada goal controversially ruled offside as Los Canaleros nearly pulled their fifth point of the Hex. Panama faces the USMNT on Tuesday in Panama City.

[ WATCH: Zaha scores wonder vs. Russia ]

Molino fooled long time LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo with a low shot across the body. The Panama backstop couldn’t get low enough or far enough with his dive to stop the shot.

The win has T&T in fifth place on the Hex table, behind Honduras on goal differential and three points ahead of the last place USMNT.

The U.S. needs a two-goal win to pass T&T, and a three-goal win to climb above Honduras.

WATCH: Zaha drives Russia nuts with mazy dribble goal

Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wilfried Zaha combined balance, deft touch, and breakneck speed to score his first international goal for the Ivory Coast.

With his side leading Russia 1-0 on Friday, the Crystal Palace winger worked his way through four defenders before burying his shot.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Zaha especially fooled with Ilya Kutepov, a harsh cut nearly tipping both to the field.

He’s just 24, and it seems much longer ago that he made his failed move to Manchester United in 2013.

Failed may be a rough verb considering it all contributed to making him the player he is for Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast today.

Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
1 Comment

A horror tackle from Wales’ Neil Taylor snapped Seamus Coleman‘s leg in gruesome fashion on Friday.

Taylor was given a red card, and Coleman was stretched off the pitch in the 0-0 draw.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed what was apparent from the match replay: the Everton man has a broken ankle.

“It’s a bad break. He’s a fantastic player and character. It’s a major blow for the lad, his club and us.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world – I haven’t seen it. He’s gone to hospital. I saw his reaction immediately and it didn’t look good. He was holding is leg up and it didn’t look good.

This is not only awful for the player, but causes stress as Everton mounts its assault on the Top Six. The right back has also manned right mid for Ronald Koeman this season, and has four goals and four assists in 26 Premier League matches.

Mason Holgate, Muhamed Besic, and Phil Jagielka have played some right back for Everton, while Ramiro Funes Mori has deputized at left back.

Emotional McClean speaks after honoring deceased teammate (video)

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Leave a comment

After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.

McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.

Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).

“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.

“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”