Fourteen players handed lifetime bans by the El Salvadorian federation will not be able to play anywhere, after FIFA upheld the sanctions worldwide on Monday. The two players who received reduced suspensions also had their punishments extended across the globe.
“FIFA can today confirm the worldwide extension of sanctions imposed on a number of El Salvador players relating to match-manipulation investigations conducted by the El Salvador Football Association,” FIFA said in its press release. “FIFA continues to work closely with its member associations and the confederations to tackle match manipulation.”
National team friendly losses to D.C. United and the United States in 2010, a 5-0 loss to Mexico in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup and a 3-0 away loss to Paraguay on Feb. 6, 2013 are the three games whose results are in question.
FIFA only extended the sanctions on those 16 players, not the others who were charged on Thursday as new evidence came to light after the initial investigation. Rodrigo Martínez was suspended for five years, star forward Rodolfo Zelaya for one year and goalkeeper Benji Villalobos for six months.
Zelaya was a bright spot for El Salvador in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, where he scored four goals, including his team’s only strike in a 5-1 loss to the United States in the quarterfinals. He has drawn interest from multiple clubs abroad in recent years after an extended run of good form for La Selecta.
It will be up to FIFA to extend El Salvador’s sanctions on Martínez, Zelaya and Villalobos worldwide, as it did with the other 16 players indicted on match-fixing charges.
Morata, 24, flew in from the U.S. overnight, as he was on Real’s preseason tour of the USA, and will now agree personal terms and undergo a medical before linking up with Antonio Conte‘s team who are currently on their preseason tour of China and Singapore.
“This is the best club,” Morata told Sky Sports. “Antonio Conte is one of the best coaches in the world and I’m so happy to work with Antonio.”
He was then asked how close he came to joining Manchester United, who chased Morata all summer, but the Spaniard said he had no idea how close that deal was and that “the most important thing is I’m here playing for Chelsea. Finally I’m here.”
Chelsea now have a predatory forward to replace Diego Costa who will surely leave this summer and re-join Atletico Madrid after falling out with Conte.
Having Chelsea’s boss commit his future to the Blues with a new two-year deal he signed on Tuesday clearly played a big factor in Morata joining, as the man who took him to Juventus in 2014 helped him to develop into a true center forward.
Morata’s movement, power, aerial ability and clinical finishing means he will slot perfectly into this Chelsea team and he’s already saying all the right things.
With United back in the UEFA Champions League this season, the Portuguese coach said he wanted to add four new players to his squad to get them ready to challenge for the Premier League title and European silverware.
Speaking ahead of the Manchester Derby in Houston on Thursday against Manchester City in a preseason friendly, Mourinho revealed just how tough its been to get deals over the line this summer.
“Everybody knows because I said it, I would like four players and asked for four players,” Mourinho said. “I’m ready to go from four to three because the market is difficult, because some clubs they think the market is different from others.
“We are not a club that is not ready to buy and buy and buy non-stop. We are not a club that is ready to pay what clubs wants us to pay, so I am ready to go from four to three. With these three, I just give a better balance to the team, to the squad and better conditions to compete.”
United were just valued as the most valuable soccer team on the planet by Forbes, jumping ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid and only the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees are more valuable than the Red Devils in the sporting world.
Mourinho can’t play the pauper card here, even if he tried to when stating his “surprise” that Kyle Walker cost crosstown rivals Man City close to $65 million.
The truth is, he’s probably put all his eggs in one basket with the signing of Romelu Lukaku for $96.5 million and that’s okay. United needed a center forward to be the focal point of the team after Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s serious knee injury, so they got what they needed and Victor Lindelof will also be a starter in central defense.
Those two players both improve United’s team drastically.
Now, it’s quite clear that Ivan Perisic, an out-and-out winger, and Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic were the final two players Mourinho wanted to get on board. The deal for Perisic appears to be dead in the water with Inter Milan not budging on their $56 million asking price, while holding midfielder Matic will surely arrive at Old Trafford after Tiemoue Bakayoko signed for Chelsea.
Even then, does Mourinho really need another winger with Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata around? Perisic should be no more than a luxury buy if they can get him for the right price, while adding Matic to the engine room will be vital to providing balance to their slightly top-heavy squad.
After putting down a world-record fee last summer for Paul Pogba and spending big on Lukaku this summer, Mourinho won’t have many people feeling sorry for him.
Don’t let the clean sheet fool you: The defense was a mess again, the finishing was off, and any other remaining team in the tournament would’ve dismissed the U.S. at the quarterfinals given the same chances.
Agree or disagree, read on…
Back line blues
Tim Howard bailed out Eric Lichaj for a miserable early giveaway, but the play was far from an aberration for the Yanks’ defense.
Lichaj, solid in his first match of the tournament, struggled with giveaways in this one. Center backs Omar Gonzalez and Matt Hedges were caught out of position and sometimes out of the camera, with the former’s missed clearance of a cross nearly allowing El Salvador back into the game in the 63rd minute.
With this roster and Costa Rica on the other side Saturday, Hedges probably needs to slide back onto the bench and Gonzalez needs to be paired with his World Cup mate Matt Besler. We’d still like to see more from Matt Miazga, but unsure a semifinal against the team that got your last coach fired is the spot for a relative rookie.
Now what does Arena do with the fullbacks? Neither Lichaj nor Morrow shone in defense, but Graham Zusi has been very poor and Jorge Villafana is yet to put forth a complete performance in this tournament. Looking back to the Martinique charade, defense is slated to send the Yanks away from the Gold Cup without a title and probably without a Final. Find a fix, Bruce.
The roster changes were needed
While it wasn’t Clint Dempsey’s best night, he provided a key assist and made sure that each of the five roster changes — third string goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez is six — showed why Arena made the changes after the group stage (though who he sent home, *cough* Kelyn Rowe *cough*, remains up for debate).
Michael Bradley is simply the best option in the center of the park right now, and showed that the captain is still the man even if Dax McCarty is a fine backup. Darlington Nagbe was clean on the ball as usual, Tim Howard made an early calming stop of a horrible Lichaj giveaway, and Jozy Altidore showed that he remains the player to game plan for if you’re a CONCACAF team. While only Howard and Bradley will really love their games, all five will be necessary to a Gold Cup Final run.
Adjustments haven’t been great
Maybe Arena doesn’t have the options he needs to show “master tactician” status, and his work is far from the biggest team problem, but the second half was a problem.
One substitution in particular was questionable: Arena took off Paul Arriola and replaced him with forward Jordan Morris. Now perhaps this was somehow due to Arriola’s sneaky groin kick earlier in the match, and that’s about the only way I can handle the sub (Full disclosure: I’ve enjoyed watching Arriola, so if you think he’s been poor then call this post “Two things” and move on).
The move disrupted Nagbe’s great night and the Yanks never really rebounded to threaten a third goal. In fact, they probably should’ve seen their lead knocked down to one at least once. The Kellyn Acosta for Gyasi Zardes sub was welcome, for sure, so it’s not like Arena was a disaster. And the side hasn’t looked aimless as it did under Jurgen Klinsmann, so this isn’t a witch hunt. But the Americans need better.
The United States men’s national team is onto the Gold Cup semifinals again, but defensively put in a performance that would’ve gotten them eliminated against pretty much any other team remaining in the tournament.
Did anyone shine? Yeah, the “new” boys were good. But confidence isn’t high heading into Texas for a semifinal date with Costa Rica on Saturday.
Tim Howard — 7 — Didn’t have to do much, but made a key save early to help avoid a disastrous start.
Justin Morrow — 6 — Good going forward and with the ball, but lost his marks a few times. Still, one of two defenders who won’t totally hate their defending.
Omar Gonzalez — 5 — Scored again, which is really good. Also drifted out of position on several occasions, struggled with his marks, and butchered a headed clearance that should’ve seen El Salvador pull within one.
Matt Hedges — 5 — Not a starring role, but improved from a poor performance in his last outing. Relative to his defensive peers, he was fine.
Eric Lichaj — 5 — Like Gonzalez, he scored. And this one was a very nice goal, but the Nottingham Forest star committed a horrible giveaway early and made a big mistake in the second half as well. Poor.
Michael Bradley — 8 — Much maligned in U.S. circles, had a standout night in the middle of the park that showed why he’s ahead of decent Dax McCarty in the pecking order. Good service on all but one set piece, and an assist to boot.
Darlington Nagbe (Off 87′) — 6 — More than decent work, and trademark clever footwork. Didn’t have that one singular moment of danger to earn a higher mark. Shouldn’t have been taken off unless Bruce Arena plans to use him heavily again on Saturday.
Paul Arriola (Off 66′) — 6 — Industrious evening getting himself into position to make key passes, but accuracy was missing. Also kicked an El Salvadoran player between the legs, which is not good.
Gyasi Zardes (Off 71′) — 6 — If you wanted to give him high marks for some electrifying moves you’d be justified, but still something missing from his final passing.
Clint Dempsey — 7 — Far from perfect, and didn’t match Landon Donovan on the all-time goals mark, but his moment of brilliance to set up Lichaj’s goal was vintage ‘Deuce’.
Jozy Altidore — 6 — A physical menace who deserves credit for not reacting violently to being bitten, he still didn’t create that moment