United States-Scotland friendly a dour affair, eh? We should have seen that coming

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Tuesday’s U.S. match with Austria will probably be a little better than Friday’s sleepy contest in Glasgow, a scoreless draw bereft of many chances on either side.

Then again, it may not be a whole lot better; there are plenty of reasons to wonder if it will be just as listless and uneventful as Friday’s scoreless draw in Glasgow. Which is why I am so curious about how everyone seems so shocked that Friday’s match was a dog.

It’s Scotland!  And that team will never be confused with Spain or Argentina or Brazil or even Germany’s current bunch of brazen attacking barons.  Plus, it’s the United States on the road … minus its top pair of attackers, no less.

Who every expected that one to be some 4-3 sizzler?

Let’s examine:

First, as I said, it’s Scotland, a team that scored eight goals in 10 Word Cup qualifiers. As dynamic attacking goes, there’s not a lot there.

From the United States side, most lists of the team’s difference makers on attack would begin with Clint Dempsey. He wasn’t there. Neither was Landon Donovan, who is probably second on many lists.

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s U.S. – Austria preview)

The top playmakers in terms of creativity? That’s Donovan, Graham Zusi and Michael Bradley. Two of the three weren’t there, and one plays irregularly (Bradley at Roma), so he’s not premium-level sharp.

Now add in the fact that this was a friendly. All that hooey over Scotland seeking revenge … as I said earlier, that was a just narrative for narrative’s sake. Scotland is a team rebuilding, concerned more with individual evaluation rather than results. (And by the way, in Scotland, a scoreless draw against a World Cup-bound opposition was generally reviewed as a positive result.)

Most of all, however, is this: The United States has two types of players right now. The first group is guys who understand they need to make an impression. They have to force Jurgen Klinsmann to consider adding their names to the World Cup roster. Those are guys like Sacha Kljestan, Mix Diskerud and Brek Shea.

But a lot of the U.S. men at Hampden Park are in a good spot. For them, the prevailing mindset is closer to, “Do not make a mistake.”

Guys like Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, DaMarcus Beasley (pictured above) and others are on the roster … so long as they don’t start making a bunch of silly mistakes. So it’s understandable if their choices on the field lean to the cautious side. It is what it is.

None of us will want to hit the DVR to watch Friday’s game again and again – but let’s not act surprised by that. The surprise would have been a real crackerjack of a contest, with teams zipping up and down the field exchanging chances liberally.

Who knows, maybe we’ll get that Tuesday. With one reasonable result out of the way in this two-game set (yes … a draw on the road is OK), perhaps the United States might take a few more chances.

Or, we might just get another match played in the slow lane. Let’s not all act surprised this time.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”

Boa Esporte goalkeeper back to prison as murder appeal denied

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The risk clearly wasn’t worth it for Boa Esporte.

The Brazilian club signed Bruno Fernandes de Souza in March, not long after the convicted murderer and goalkeeper was released from prison on appeal.

Fernandes, 32, had been jailed for ordering the murder of a lover, who was fed to dogs by the killer. Boa Esporte lost several big sponsors for signing him, but vocally defended the move.

The owner, Rone Moraes da Costa, said he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to revive his career. Fernandes admitted his mistakes but said he wasn’t “a bad guy”.

According to the Associated Press:

“Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to deny an appeal to Boa Esporte goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was released in March while appealing a 22-year sentence in the 2010 killing of Eliza Samudio.”

So it’s back to jail for Fernandes, and we’ll be waiting with baited breath to hear from Boa Esporte’s owner.

Conte: Chelsea “ready to fight to the end”

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Following Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Spurs and Tuesday’s blowout of Southampton — the 4-2 score line didn’t tell the story of the second half — Antonio Conte is fired up for Chelsea to complete its Premier League title run.

The manager admits that his side was under pressure after Spurs narrowed the table gap to four points last week, but the wins have eased the Blues’ burden.

Chelsea had lost two of four PL matches before the weekend.

From Football.London:

“I think we passed a big, big psychological step after the defeat to United. We lost three points and had to prepare a semi-final against Tottenham and then another tough game in the league. In that moment we had a really important test and our answer was very good.

“We must think that this race is open, we have reached the final of the FA Cup. The situation in the league is totally open. We are ready to fight to the end. We must be proud for the job we are doing and to fight to the end.”

Spurs can bring the gap back to four with a win at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, but have a tougher run-in with five matches to play. As long as the gap is within six points, anything is possible, but the Blues have certainly answered the bell over the past four days.

Chelsea: Big win “feels like a massive step” to title

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“It feels like a massive step to be honest,” said game-changing goal scorer Gary Cahill of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s Premier League lead stands at seven points after the win, which saw a dominant second half from the hosts.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Perhaps it was cued up by Cahill’s first half stoppage time header, which boosted the Blues to a 2-1 lead just before the whistle.

Cahill darted in front of Diego Costa‘s scissor kick attempt to power a header past Fraser Forster.

“(Costa) tried to claim it afterward as well,” Cahill said. “When the ball’s just lofted over, it’s dying to be attacked. We went into halftime with our tails up and it was a big boost for us.”

Cesc Fabregas said Southampton surprised the Blues tactically, leading to an entertaining first half that could’ve seen either side ahead before half.

“We needed a little bit of time to adapt to what they did because we prepared for something else,” he said.

Fabregas said the win was big with second-place Spurs watching at home. Tottenham plays at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“We needed a good response after the Man United game. We have to keep going with five games to go, to keep it up and make the last push. It would be a big shame if now we relaxed. We just have to push now more than ever,” he said.

“It’s a statement for (Spurs), for us, for everyone, but most of all for us.”
Eden Hazard agreed.
“We scored four beautiful goals,” said the Belgian, who scored the game’s first goal. “It’s good to play before and put pressure on them.”