Mexico New Zealand WCup Soccer

Club America-heavy Mexico throttle New Zealand, take four-goal lead in World Cup playoff


Mexico did their part to complete a day of World Cup playoff routs, using Wednesday’s visit from New Zealand to take a huge step toward Brazil 2104. With goals from Paul Aguilar, Raul Jiménez, Oribe Peralta (two), and Rafa Marquez, El Tri took a 5-1 win out of Estadio Azteca, earning a commanding lead ahead of next week’s return leg in Wellington.

Earlier today, Uruguay won 5-0 in Amman, leaving Jordan with slim hopes of reaching their first World Cup ahead of next week’s match in Montevideo. Combined with the lopsided result in Mexico City, two spots in the 2014 World Cup are all but claimed before the playoffs’ second legs.

[MORE: Uruguay blasts Jordan 5-0 to take insurmountable lead home]

The hosts dominated from the opening moments, holding near 80 percent of the match’s possession throughout the first half. That advantage saw Mexico nearly go up in the 18th minute, when an acrobatic volley from Raúl Jiménez forced Glen Moss into a save from inside his own goal. The All Whites keeper’s extended arms met the shot at the goal line, temporarily keeping his team even.

Mexico went close again in the 24th minute when Francisco Rodríguez, one of seven Club América players in Miguel Herrera’s starting lineup, nailed the crossbar with a shot from distance. Rarely allowing the ball into their own half, Mexico’s dominance left them destined to claim the lead.

That destiny came to fruition in the 32nd minute, with Moss’s ill-fated run off his line leading to a collision with Peralta, keeping the New Zealand keeper on the ground as Aguilar redirected a failed clearance into the All Whites’ goal. Eight minutes later, Jiménez headed home the corner he’d forced, sending Mexico into halftime up two.

Less than three minutes into the second half, Peralta scored the first of his two goals, running onto a ball sent across the top of the six-yard box by Miguel Layun, a long pass from Marquez having put Mexico’s left wingback behind the defense. Leaving Moss no chance for another save, the Santos striker put his team up three.

A similar play produced Mexico’s fourth goal in the 80th minute, with a diagonal ball from Marquez finding Layun down the left. The ensuing cross found Peralta, who put his header into the upper left hand corner to make it 4-0. Four minutes later, a corner headed into the right of goal by Marquez briefly gave Mexico a 5-0 lead.

One minute later, El Tri committed their only slip of the match, a cross headed toward their spot by New Zealand’s Rory Fallon volleyed past Moises Muñóz by Chris James, bringing the visitors back within four.

That goal is unlikely to matter on Tuesday. Where New Zealand had come to Azteca intent on holding out for a nil-nil, the All Whites will have to summon four goals on their return to Wellington.

Playing their own game, it was going to be a long shot to beat Mexico. Now, having been forced from their comfort zone, New Zealand’s hopes of qualifying for a second straight World Cup are all but vanquished.

Chelsea: Conte expects warm reception for Mourinho; Terry is fit

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  A fan wears a Chelsea scarf with the image of the club's former manager, Jose Mourinho before the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.

Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.

[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]

Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.

“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”

Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. The manager guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.

“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”

Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.

Canada vs. U.S. among top-notch CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

VANCOUVER, CANADA - JUNE 20:  Gershon Koffie #28 of the Vancouver Whitecaps brings the ball up field against Dax McCarty #11 of the New York Red Bulls at B.C. Place on June 20, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images)
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The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.

No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.

[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]

The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.

Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.

Full schedule
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)

The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).

Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).

Report: USWNT star Holiday has brain tumor removed

Costa Rica v United Staes: Final - 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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World Cup champion Lauren Holiday has had a brain tumor removed, one month after giving birth.

Holiday’s husband, Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans, announced that his pregnant wife was diagnosed with an operable tumor in September, and Lauren Holiday has publicly thanked fans for support while requesting prayers.

[ MORE: UCL Final in United States? ]

The Holidays welcomed their first child earlier this month, and Jrue left the Pelicans preseason to help his wife.

The BBC added this tidbit:

Unbelievably as a three-year-old, she had open-heart surgery to repair a defect and went on to become one of the world’s most respected football players.

Get well soon, Lauren.

WATCH: FC Dallas rocket goal sends Guatemalan rainwater flying off net

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Carlos Lizarazo #22 of FC Dallas looks on during the second half of an MLS soccer game against Toronto FC at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Carlos Lizarazo’s ridiculous rocket shook rain off the net in an aesthetically pleasing CONCACAF Champions League goal on Thursday.

The Cruz Azul loanee struck a vicious shot for FC Dallas’ fifth goal, which boosted out of the No. 8 seed for the quarterfinals after a 5-2 win at Suchitepéquez in Guatemala.

[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]

Lizarazo, 25, had two goals in 10 appearances for FCD heading into the game, with both coming in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.