Jamaica v United States - World Cup Qualifer

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


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)

LINEUPS: Tim Howard starts for USMNT against Costa Rica

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JULY 01:  Tim Howard of the United States gestures during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Belgium and the United States at Arena Fonte Nova on July 1, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
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The United States takes on Costa Rica in a friendly tonight at Red Bull Arena, as the USMNT must put the Mexico match behind them and focus on the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The biggest inclusion in tonight’s starting XI is that of Tim Howard in goal, marking his return to the national side after taking a self-imposed sabbatical. It will be Howard’s first appearance for the USMNT since his legendary performance against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup.

Klinsmann has chosen to go with a 4-4-2 tonight, and Geoff Cameron remains the only starter in the back-line from the Mexico match. He’ll partner with Michael Orozco in the center of defense, with Brad Evans and Tim Ream on the outsides.

[ MORE: Fabian Johnson sent home from USMNT after fall-out with Klinsmann ]

In the midfield, Klinsmann has put some speed on the wings through the likes of DeAndre Yedlin and recent call-up Brek Shea. Danny Williams joins Jermaine Jones as the central midfielders.

Up top, Jozy Altidore will play alongside Gyasi Zardes, who returns to his more comfortable position as forward.

Cristiano Ronaldo wins record fourth European Golden Boot

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 13:  Real Madrid football player Cristiano Ronaldo poses with his four Golden Boot Awards as maximun goal scorer of European leagues at The Westin Palace Hotel on October 13, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Cristiano Ronaldo has added another trophy to the collection, winning his fourth Golden Boot as Europe’s top scorer for the 2014-15 season.

The award accounts for goals in league play only, which means the Champions League and domestic tournaments are not included. In La Liga, Ronaldo scored 48 goals in 35 appearances.

[ MORE: 2015 MLS playoff scenarios ]

Ronaldo first won the award after the 2007-08 season with Manchester United, and has now added three more with Real Madrid in 2010-11, 2013-14, and 2014-15.

With his fourth win, Ronaldo moves ahead of Lionel Messi as the only player to win the award four times. Messi has won three, while eight players have won two.

Below is a post from Ronaldo’s Facebook page reflecting on the award:

What a special moment in my professional life!

Winning four Golden Boots is a privilege for me and I’ll keep challenging myself because I want to do better every time and I want to keep chasing for more records.

I have to thank everyone in Real Madrid that made this possible and we want to keep winning more titles and more trophies. Thank you everyone.

Ronaldo alone scored more goals in La Liga play last season than 14 clubs did, which shows how prolific his season was. The only player to score more than 48 league goals in a European season was Messi, who scored 50 in 2011-12.

[ EURO 2016: A look at the 20 teams that have qualified for France ]

While it was a successful year for Ronaldo personally, it was a very disappointing campaign for Real Madrid, who fired manager Carlo Ancelotti after finishing the season without a trophy.