Landon Donovan

LA Galaxy, Club Tijuana clash to ignite CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

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When the final CONCACAF Champions League group games finished on Wednesday night, some pretty mouth-watering quarterfinal ties were set up between Liga MX and Major League Soccer teams.

LA Galaxy vs. Club Tijuana is the pick of the bunch.

Next March when CCL play resumes, the Xolos will make the short hop over the border to play LA, and the Galaxy will do the same, as close regional rivals in continental cup competition will square off in what’s sure to be an intense border clash.

With Tijuana’s plethora of American players — Edgar Castillo, Herculez Gomez, Paul Arriola, Joe Corona, Greg Garza and Alejandro Guido all represent the U.S. in the northern Mexican city — and the huge number of Tijuana fans based in southern California, there’s sure to be a raucous atmosphere at both games.

A game like this is exactly what the CCL needs to recapture fans imagination.

Small crowds, moans and groans about watching the competition on TV and long midweek trips to far flung corners of CONCACAF land has failed to ignite a desire in the hearts and minds of MLS fans. This showdown will go a long way to doing so, as since Tijuana were founded in 2007, they’ve tried to build a fanbase in LA, San Diego and other Californian cities and have been largely successful due to their dream run to the Copa Libertadores quarterfinals last season.

(MORE: CONCACAF Roundup – Houston eliminated, other MLS sides through)

Following LA’s capitulation against Isidro Metapan on Wednesday in their 4-0 loss, they dropped to sixth-seed for the last eight and now face a massive test with third-seed Tijuana. Head coach Bruce Arena will no doubt be disappointed that his sides damaging defeat now sees them with an incredibly tough path through the CCL knockout stages with Xolos up first and bragging rights in the local area also up for grabs.

source: Getty Images
Joe Corona is just one of a large band of U.S. players plying their trade for Tijuana in Liga MX.

Fans across MLS an Mexico are already excited for the match up, as well as USMNT and former LA striker Herculez Gomez, and the fact that it won’t happen until March 11-12 in LA and then the return leg in Tijuana on March 18-19 means that a furor can be whipped up between the two nations press about the tie that’s sure to turn fiery.

A fiery U.S. vs. Mexican club team battle, especially in the current climate where the U.S. national team is dominating their Mexican counterparts in all facets, will add extra spice to the soccer fabric of both nations. Long may that continue. And the great news for fans of soccer in both countries is that LA vs. Tijuana isn’t the only MLS vs. Liga MX clash.

Below is a full list of the four quarterfinal match ups, with San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City facing Liga MX opposition next March, facing Toluca and Cruz Azul respectively.

Over five months from now those three rivalries will ignite the CCL as the pride of both soccer nations will hang on the line.In the latter stages of CCL in recent years, Liga MX has dominated proceedings. Can MLS teams now replicate the success of the USMNT over Mexico and the CONCACAF region as a whole?

Fans across Mexico and the U.S. will enjoy watching the struggle for dominance play out, as next March’s CCL quarters spring up a delightful storyline that will only intensify between over the coming months.

Bring it on.

CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals – Ties to be played March 11/12 and March 18/19

Toluca vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Cruz Azul vs. Sporting Kansas City

Arabe Unido vs. Alajuelense

Club Tijuana vs. LA Galaxy

Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over in-limbo Matip

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Joel Matip of Liverpool and Andre Ayew of West Ham United compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on December 11, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images
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Few footballing sagas will ever reach heights of absurdity comparable to that of the Joel Matip/Liverpool versus Cameroon/FIFA battle currently raging, as the Reds defender finds himself “ineligible” to play for his club due to an international call-up 18 months after announcing his international retirement.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright summed up the situation quite well, in full, right here. An excerpt:

Matip, 25, was called up by the Cameroon national team for the 2017 African Cup of Nations which is currently taking place in Gabon. However, the former Schalke defender has previously stated that he did not want to play for them and he had retired from international duty.

Cameroon called him into their initial 35-man squad for the competition anyway but did not include him in their final 23-man squad once it became clear Matip, along with six other players, had no interest in playing for them at AFCON.

FIFA has confirmed that Liverpool has been in touch regarding Matip’s status and it now appears that he will not be able to play in any other competition while Cameroon is still in AFCON action under Article 5 of FIFA’s rules.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Fast forward a few days, and Jurgen Klopp and Co. have no further clarity regarding the situation. It’s so unclear, in fact, that Klopp said on Tuesday he may select the 25-year-old during one of two remaining games this week, and hope for the best — quotes from the Guardian:

“As you can imagine, we are in a lot of talks. We’ve done transfers quicker than this. It’s already long term but now it’s getting really tense on our side. We’ve tried everything but at the end I have to make the decision. Of course I have to ask [Liverpool’s lawyers] but the decision is for me to make. I could put him in the lineup. I don’t think the referee is going to say: ‘Stop, stop, you cannot go on the pitch.’ But I will do it when it’s OK from our point of view. Of course I need advice — I’m not a lawyer.”

“Most of the time in life you know if you do this, then you get this. But it’s not 100 percent clear what happens [if Matip plays]. We try everything to win football games. If this can happen — out of the tournament or whatever — then we have to decide about the risk. He’s ready to play for us and that makes it difficult.”

What an utter disaster of a situation Cameroon have intentionally created here.

VIDEO: Jeison Murillo’s incredible bicycle from a corner kick

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 17:  (R-L) Jeison Murillo of FC Internazionale celebrates his first goal with Geoffrey Kondogbia during the TIM Cup match between FC Internazionale and Bologna FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 17, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Look away now, Andy Carroll. Take a bow, Jeison Murillo.

[ VIDEOS: All in a week’s work — Messi free kick no. 1 | Messi free kick no. 2 ]

Just three days after Carroll scored the bicycle-kick goal of the year (so we thought), here comes Murillo, Inter Milan’s 24-year-old Colombian striker, to steal his thunder (below video). The fact he did it directly from a corner kick, with the ball traveling roughly 40 yards before flinging his body into the air and striking the ball so cleanly, (somehow) trumps Carroll’s accomplishment from Saturday.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings — Tight at the top… and bottom ]

Sensational goals come in twos now, apparently, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Olivier Giroud scored stunning scorpion-kick goals (WATCH HERE and HERE) just days apart earlier in the season.

FA Cup roundup: Burnley, Crystal Palace advance to 4th round

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17: Christian Benteke of Crystal Palace (C) celebrates scoring his sides first goal with Andros Townsend of Crystal Palace (L) during the Emirates FA Cup third round replay between Crystal Palace and Bolton Wanderers at Selhurst Park on January 17, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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A roundup of all of Tuesday’s action in FA Cup third-round replays…

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Burnley 2-0 Sunderland

Sam Vokes and Andre Gray grabbed goals for Burnley, who opted for a largely first-choice lineup in Tuesday’s replay. Sunderland, meanwhile, went with a mix-and-match bunch and slumped to six games without a win (all competitions), meaning they can focus solely on Premier League survival from here on out. Burnley will host Championship side Bristol City in the fourth round next Saturday, Jan. 28.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Crystal Palace 2-1 Bolton Wanderers

Sam Allardyce picked up his first win as Palace boss, courtesy of a Christian Benteke brace scored nine minutes apart in the second half, as the Eagles came from behind to beat League One side Bolton at Selhurst Park. James Henry put the visitors three minutes into the second half, but Benteke hit back in the 68th and 77th minutes to improve Allardyce’s record to one win, two draws and three losses (all competitions). Palace will host Manchester City in the fourth round next Saturday.

Tuesday’s FA Cup scoreboard

AFC Wimbledon 1-3 Sutton United
Barnsley 1-2 (AET) Blackpool
Fleetwood Town 0-1 Bristol City
Lincoln City 1-0 Ipswich Town

AFCON: Ayew propels Ghana to victory; Egypt struggle vs. Mali

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 21:  Andre Ayew of Ghana celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between Germany and Ghana at Castelao on June 21, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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A roundup of all of Tuesday’s action in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations…

Ghana 1-0 Uganda

PORT-GENTIL, Gabon (AP) Andre Ayew scored a penalty as Ghana beat Uganda 1-0 on Tuesday in a lackluster opening to the four-time champions’ bid for a first African Cup of Nations title in 35 years.

Ghana took control of Group D after seven-time champion Egypt struggled in a 0-0 draw with Mali in the other group match.

Ghana has three points, Egypt and Mali one each and Uganda zero.

Ayew, a West Ham winger, netted in the 32nd minute after Asamoah Gyan was held back by Isaac Isinde in the penalty area in Port-Gentil.

Avram Grant, a former Chelsea manager, is looking to lead Ghana to a second successive final but go better than 2015 when his team lost to Ivory Coast.

Uganda has also finished runner-up in the continental championship but the trip to the final in 1978 was the last time it qualified until making the Gabon event.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Mali 0-0 Egypt

Later, 44-year-old Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary became the oldest player in tournament history when he came on for injured Ahmed El Shenawy midway through the first half.

El Hadary, who celebrated his birthday two days ago, is participating in his seventh African Cup, having picked up winners’ medals in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

Egypt’s standout forward Mohamed Salah struggled and was replaced midway through the second half.

Mali, looking to improve on its third-place finishes in 2012 and 2013, produced many more chances.

Egypt failed to qualify for the last three editions of the tournament.

Wednesday’s AFCON schedule

Gabon vs. Burkina-Faso — 11 a.m. ET
Cameroon vs. Guinea-Bissau — 2 p.m. ET