Jamaica v United States - World Cup Qualifer

What are the chances of official U.S. qualification on Tuesday?

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The scenario for U.S. official qualification on Tuesday is fairly simple. Jurgen Klinsmann’s team must beat Mexico and then have Honduras win or draw at home against Panama.

So, what are the odds?

Let’s go with a tentative “good, but not quite great.”

The tougher part is winning against Mexico in a game with quickly shifting variables. Two days ago, we would have looked at the history in this rivalry, factored in the current and disparate states of these two border rivals and declared it a potential romp and stomp. “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! …”

Now … maybe not so much.

Michael Bradley has been the most important U.S. man throughout qualifying, a fact driven home with brutal clarity during Friday’s Costa Rica clunker. How that ankle responds over the next 48 hours will say so much about the U.S. chances of controlling the midfield.

And the missing U.S. men, Matt Besler, Jozy Altidore and Geoff Cameron, all suspended due to yellow card accumulation, significantly reduce Klinsmann’s personnel and tactical options. Besler is probably the most critical absence; he and Omar Gonzalez have been Klinsmann’s preferred center back pairing for the last five qualifiers, a stretch that began with that breakthrough 0-0 draw in Mexico City last March.

(MORE: Mexico fires Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre)

The equally significant moving part will be on the Mexican side; hard to say how the big coaching change will affect El Tri. Will the prevailing attitude in the Mexican camp be more about “fresh start,” or will the development further unhinge a side that has lost its way at the worst possible time?

This is a good piece from Kyle McCarthy on all that ails Mexico, on the scene Friday in Mexico City and the fan rebuke that hung in the air like so much gunky smog in and around the famous Azteca venue.

The other half of the qualification equation mentioned above is the easier part to predict. Honduras was a good team coming into final stage CONCACAF qualifying, and this is certainly a side ablaze with confidence now, increasingly well positioned for a second consecutive World Cup appearance. That’s a heady achievement for the small Central American land.

Meanwhile, Panama just hasn’t been what we thought it would be in final stage qualifying, perhaps with a bit of first-timers disease in this final stage World Cup qualifying business. Last night’s failure to pick up all three points at home against down and out Jamaica is the latest evidence.

So Honduras chances of collecting a point (in a draw, or all three points in victory) when the teams meet Tuesday in Tegucigalpa are excellent.

(MORE: U.S. has dandy history in Columbus) 

(MORE: Clint Dempsey joins U.S. 100 Cap Club)

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

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A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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