United States v Mexico - International Friendly

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.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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