Kinda-ry renewed: U.S. Women will open 2014 in Texas against Canada

1 Comment

The kinda-ry that exploded in London 2012’s semifinals will be rekindled Jan. 31 in Frisco, Texas when upcoming World Cup hosts Canada visit Toyota Park to open 2014 against the United States Women’s National Team.

Coming off a 10-0-2 year that included a 3-0 win in Toronto over the Canadians (June 2), the U.S. will look to increase their unbeaten run to 36 games – a 20-month run that began March 5, 2012 with a loss to Japan.

Since, the U.S. has won a gold medal, claimed an Algarve Cup, and have defeated Canada three times, including a 4-3, extra time win at Old Trafford in the 2012 Summer Olympics. The controversial semifinal, which featured a hat trick from Christine Sinclair and a 123rd minute winner from Alex Morgan, marks the high point of a regional rivalry that has been decidedly one-sided. Where the U.S. has historically had competitive tensions with China, Norway, Brazil, and Germany, Canada’s all-time record against the U.S. is 3-46-5.

“It’s great to start the year with a game that is going to be a real test for us and a game that is always highly competitive,” said head coach Tom Sermanni said via a U.S. Soccer release announcing the game.  “It’s a friendly game, but one that’s meaningful for both teams, and it’s an excellent first match in a year that will end with World Cup qualifying. In 2014, it will be important to play as many quality opponents as possible.”

Despite their historical record with the U.S., Canada really should provide the quality for which Sermanni hopes. Sinclair, captain for both club and country, is coming off a title-winning season with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns. Attacker Diana Matheson, midfielder Sophie Schmidt, destroyer Desiree Scott, and defender Lauren Sesselman also had standout NWSL seasons. Each player has a key role in a national team that’s ranked seventh in the world.

Making their third appearance at Toyota Park, the U.S. will be expected to extend their dominance over Canada, but if the U.S. replicates last winter’s form, Canada stands a good shot at collecting their fourth-ever victory over their nemeses. Though they defeated Scotland 4-1 and 3-1 in two pre-Algarve Cup friendlies this February, the team was noticeably rusty after a nine-week layoff. Superior to the 20th ranked Scots, Canada should be less forgiving of any U.S. rust

With the States having a two-and-a-half month layoff before kickoff in Frisco, Canada may be able to spring a surprise, provided they can overcome their own hibernation sickness.

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
Leave a comment

One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

Liverpoolfc.com
2 Comments

Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

liverpoolfc.com

Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo
Leave a comment

Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

AP Photo/Michael Sohn
Leave a comment

John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.