USA wary of Mexico backlash following managerial turmoil

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On Tuesday night in Columbus, the U.S. national team will face a wounded animal in arch rivals Mexico.

Just four days after head coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre was given his marching orders, El Tri have to focus on a game that will be pivotal as they aim to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

A shock loss to Honduras on Friday cost De la Torre his job, and now the Mexican national side are embroiled in a five way Hexagonal battle to seal an automatic berth for Brazil 2014.

(MORE: Mexico fire boss Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre after Honduras loss)

Despite all the upheaval over the past few days, the U.S. is expecting a fired up Mexico to roll into Columbus Crew Stadium on Tuesday and USMNT ‘keeper Tim Howard believes Mexico’s struggles are something to be worried about.

“Tuesday night they’re going to be a heck of a team to play against, ” Howard said. “They’re not going to be this wounded animal that everyone thinks they are. I think when it comes to this game, we’re fearful of what Mexico brings. They’re a tough team no matter what anyone says about how they’re playing at the moment or what they’re going through. It doesn’t matter.”

Howard’s right, Mexico’s vulnerability must not be underestimate by Jurgen Klinsmann and his players.

Luckily that’s something USMNT head coach Klinsmann also believes, as Mexico aim to derail the USA’s chances of sealing qualification in front of a passionate crowd in Columbus, Ohio. Klinsi also acknowledged the job De la Torre did while in charge of Mexico and said he was sad to see him go. But with the national team showing all this respect towards Mexico, despite El Tri languishing in fourth spot in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with three games to go, do U.S. fans share that sentiment?

I’d hazard an educated guess and say no.

Many national team fans will have enjoyed watching the USA’s biggest soccer rivals struggle through this qualifying campaign, yet this could all be leading up to an almighty backlash from the Mexican team. Scoring struggles at the Azteca, coming off the back of a damaging defeat to Honduras and losing their coach will add further fury to a side that already has their backs against the wall.

(MORE: Klinsmann adds in reinforcements for Tuesday’s match vs. Mexico)

Sometimes that brings out the best in teams. And with a hostile environment awaiting them in Columbus on Tuesday evening the Mexican players need to fight for each other, fight for every ball and they will be more aware than ever that Mexico’s presence at the 2014 World Cup hangs in the balance.

Are the USMNT playing mind games by sharing all of this respect for Mexico? Or are they genuinely frightened by what El Tri has to offer? Either way, the US know a win could likely seal World Cup qualification tomorrow, but perhaps more importantly a loss for Mexico could see their World Cup dream slip further away from their grasp.

This clash between two CONCACAF giants is set up to be an absolutely beauty in Ohio. Both sides are desperate to win, both sides are eager to bounce back after defeats… something has to give.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.

Report: Guardiola close to adding $43m Benfica goalkeeper

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Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City could feature another big goalkeeper purchase.

Claudio Bravo hasn’t panned out in sky blue, and Joe Hart doesn’t look likely to be coming back. Wily Caballero is getting the lion’s share of the minutes right now, playing every minute aside from a trio of FA Cup matches since February.

[ MORE: Podolski scores screamer in German finale ]

$43 million is the fee noted by Abola when it comes to the latest target for Guardiola, a neck-tattooed Brazilian by the name of Ederson.

The Benfica backstop, 23, has 20 clean sheets in 32 appearances this season. He signed a new six-year deal in late January, but money may talk here.