#Dosacero: The history of United States-Mexico in Columbus (with video)

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – How maddening, how frustrating, how very infuriating it must be for proud Mexican soccer fans to know they have been hashtagged thus:  #Dosacero.

It’s the score (2-0, that is) that keeps recurring in big U.S.-Mexico matches.

Before it was a Twitter hashtag, “Dos a cero” was a rallying cry and a verbal stick in the eyes of Mexican supporters, who ruled the region in soccer until about 12 years ago. That’s when the United States began gaining control of the rivalry, crushing Mexican spirits time and again on U.S. soil and once notoriously in Asia, in a Round-of-16 elimination match at World Cup 2002.

So much of the U.S. dominance on home soil happened in Columbus, site of tonight’s big-stakes World Cup qualifier. Here is the history of “Dos a cero” at Crew Stadium:

2001: The original  “La Guerra Fria”

Cold weather? In Ohio, in February? Who knew?

Clearly, it was a strategic venue selection by U.S. Soccer officials, and how perfectly it all worked out. So many of the U.S. men played in Europe , or had previously. By contrast most from El Tri had always played in Mexico, where temperatures in the 20s are mostly just a scary tale.

So it was bitterly cold as Josh Wolff and Earnie Stewart scored for the United States in the match that started all this. Wolff had his paw prints all over this one, scoring the first goal with a big assist from a Jorge Campos blunder, and then created the insurance strike with some crafty dribbling along the end line. Ironically, Wolff was on the field because Brian McBride had gone off early, injured, unable to see through a badly swollen eye.

That was the important opener in final round qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. There, the United States’ improbable quarterfinal dash helped elevate the game’s domestic standing.

Highlights of that one are here:

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Sept. 3, 2005: The United States qualifies!

Just like tonight, the United States went into the warm September afternoon with opportunity in hand to make it official, to book their spot for Germany 2006. Just like tonight, the opportunity came fortuitously against Mexico.

So the scenes were full of red, white and blue pride and joy at the final whistle. Landon Donovan, having been substituted late that day against Ricardo Lavolpe’s Tri Colors, raced around the field with an American flag draped around his shoulders. Kasey Keller and others joined the celebratory laps, taking it all in along with the boisterous Crew Stadium crowd.

Among those celebrating: U.S. center back Oguchi Onyewu, who had first frustrated Mexican scoring star Jared Borgetti and then stared down the man in a famous picture-book moment. (One that helped to make Onyewu a U.S. fan favorite for years to come.) Also celebrating was Steve Ralston, a fairly unlikely figure to nail the game-winner, the goal that officially sent the United States to Germany.

Oh, the game ended 2-0. Of course it did.

Feb. 11, 2009: “La Guerra Fria Two”  

Torrential rain before kickoff and fierce winds added to the weather-related misery as U.S. fans and players shook off any elements of discomfort, warmed by the knowledge that it all worked to the psychological advantage of Bob Bradley’s team. So chants of “Dos a cero!” rang through the crowd as Tim Howard made huge, early saves. Later, Michael Bradley was Johnny on the Sport to hammer in a rebound off a corner kick.

Bradley supplied the second goal, as well, a big shot from 25 yards.

The match was also memorable for Rafa Marquez’s further vilification among U.S. fans. Marquez was shown a straight red for his ridiculous, studs-up challenge on Howard in the 65th minute.

Highlights of that one:

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League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Man City reportedly agrees $86m price for Laporte

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Sky Sports reporter Guillem Balague is reporting that Manchester City is set to seal an $86 million purchase of center back Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao, and all that’s left is for City to agree to contract terms with the player.

[ MORE: MCFC into League Cup Final ]

The 23-year-old has been with the Basque outfit since 2012, making more than 200 appearances for Athletic. Balague issued a Tweet saying Man City opted for Laporte over $34 million Jonny Evans of West Brom.

Laporte is a smooth and technical passer at center back who shouldn’t have a problem with the physical nature of the Premier League either. He’s yet to break into the French national team, and is only the second French player to play for Bilbao.

Rumors have circulated for some time, though a Tuesday report was dismissed because Laporte was in advanced discussions with Man City during a previous transfer window when he changed his mind.

It’s more big money from City, a boon for Athletic Bilbao, and terrific competition for John Stones and any Man City center back not named Nicolas Otamendi (and Vincent Kompany when healthy).

Rapids hire Patel as director; Highest ranking female exec in MLS

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The Colorado Rapids have hired Ena Patel as their new director of player personnel. She becomes Major League Soccer highest ranking female executive, according to the Denver Post.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s MLS coverage ]

According to the Rapids, she’ll report to club GM Padraig Smith and “oversee player contracts, salary budget, regulatory compliance, and soccer operations protocols.”

The move comes about a month-and-a-half after Sporting KC hired Megan Cameron as an assistant director of player personnel, the first woman hired to an MLS team’s technical staff.

Patel’s resume is outlandishly strong, though this is her first foray into the sports world. Here are some words from Smith, from ColoradoRapids.com:

“Ena’s hiring is the final piece of the puzzle for us on the front office side,” Smith, the Rapids executive vice president and general manager, said in a statement released by the club. “Bringing in a sharp, legal mind who can oversee our contractual processes and complex league mechanisms is a really important part of ensuring that we’re fielding the best possible team. We can’t wait for her to get started.”