Mexico: Mohamed debut brings early, continued success for Club América

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When we last left Liga MX, León was claiming their first title in 21 years, Miguel Herrera was moving on from the Club América job, and former Tijuana boss Antonio Mohamed was ready to return from Argentina for a chance to continue the Águilas’ success. The Mexico City titans had won the 2013 Clausura and finished top of the fall campaign’s qualification stage before falling to León in last tournament’s finals. With neither Copa Libertadores nor CONCACAF Champions League to distract his team, Mohamed was inheriting a talented and potentially single-minded side, making América one of the favorites to claim another title.

But for those hoping América’s time near the top might end, there was potential in discontinuity. Although Mohamed (pictured, right, with Tijuana) had proven himself by guiding Xolos to the 2012 Apertura crown, bringing in a new coach still represented a transition for América, particularly given the success Herrerra had brought back to the Azteca. Yet with the Águilas falling 5-1 in December’s final, detractors could hope some kind of negative momentum would carry forward into the winter season.

That hope, however, was squelched 10 minutes into América’s Saturday match against Tigres. Opening the Clausura at home against the team that played them to a standstill (3-3) in the Apertura’s quarterfinals, América went up early through Luis Gabriel Rey, whose deflected shot off Carlos Salcido gave Enrique Palos no chance to prevent the opener. By the half-hour mark, Mohamed’s men had doubled their lead, with Paul Aguilar getting into the penalty area for an easy right-footed finish from 16 yards. Four minutes after half time, when Raul Jiménez cut across Juninho to set up two open chances on Palos, América had a 3-0 lead, an advantage they’d carry through the final whistle.

Mohamed’s site let up, but the final numbers were still lopsided. Come full-time, that 49 minutes of damage had padded an 8-1 advantage in shots on goal. Whereas Tigres had played the Águilas to within a goal of Liguilla elimination five weeks ago, they were outclassed by just after intermission on Saturday.

It was a bad omen for those hoping América might falter. After 90 minutes of Mexico’s latest tournament, any wish América would stall was rebuked.

There was no transition here. Instead, América appears refocused. Through one round of the new tournament, they’re on top of Liga MX’s table – the only team to win their opening match by more than one goal.

Elsewhere

  • Morelia 0, Querétaro 1 – An early set piece goal from Miguel Martínez held up as the Gallos Blancos withstood a late red card to claim one of the weekend’s three wins.
  • Santos Laguna 1, Chivas 1 – Omar Bravo’s return to Chivas paid off when the former Sporting KC man finished for the middle of the area in the second minute. Five minutes after half-time, an own goal from Isreal Castro equalized for Santos, who were forced to hang on after Oswaldo Alanís earned a second yellow in the 66th minute.
  • Monterrey 0, Cruz Azul 0 – A disappointed Tecnológico was left disgruntled when the final whistle blew on Saturday’s lackluster affair, leaving La Machina with an early road result. Marco Fabian made his Cruz Azul debut, while none of the Cementeros’ MLS additions cracked Luis Fernando Tena’s 18.
  • Pachuca 0, Toluca 1 – A 75th minute goal from Pablo Velazquez saw the Red Devils to take full points after the Tuzo defense allowed the 26-year-old Paraguayan to turn on a left-footed shot from near the spot.
  • Chiapas 1, Veracruz 1 – First half goals from Lucas Viatri and Jehu Chiapas cancelled out in one of the weekend’s six draws.
  • Atlas 0, Tijuana 0 – Herculez Gomez, Joe Corona, and Greg Garza were all in César Farías’s starting XI, which managed only two shots on target while claiming a point in Guadalajara.
  • Pumas 2, Puebla 2 – Martín Bravo had Pumas up two after 36 minutes (one from the spot, the other via deflection), a lead that collapsed dramatically in second half stoppage time. In the 91st minute, Matias Alustiza lobbed Pumas keeper Alejandro Palacios from 21 yards out, while Cesar Sánchez completed Puebla’s comeback with a penalty conversion in the 95th minute.
  • Atlante 1, León 1 – On a chewed up pitch in Cancún, Manuel Viniegra’s 46th minute goal pulled back Carlos Peña’s first half opener, with relegation-embattled Atlante taking points from the defending champions to open the season.

Others
América 3, Tigres 0

Standings
(All teams have played one match)

1. Club América, 3 pts.
2. Querétaro, 3 pts.
2. Toluca, 3 pts.
4. Puebla, 1 pt.
4. Pumas, 1 pt.
6. Atlante, 1 pt.
6. Chiapas, 1 pt.
6. Chivas, 1 pt.
6. León, 1 pt.
6. Santos Laguna, 1 pt.
6. Verzcruz, 1 pt.
12. Atlas, 1 pt.
12. Cruz Azul, 1 pt.
12. Monterrey, 1 pt.
12. Tijuana, 1 pt.
16. Morelia, 0 pts.
16. Pachuca, 0 pts.
18. Tigres, 0 pts.

Five players LA FC should consider selecting in MLS Expansion Draft

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Los Angeles FC will take another big step towards its entry into Major League Soccer next season on Tuesday when the 2017 MLS Expansion Draft commences.

Bob Bradley and his side will have the opportunity to select up to five players during the Expansion Draft, however, the team can only choose one player per club.

[ MORE: Rimando, Pontius among MLS free agents ]

MLS sides had to select their list of 11 protected players by Sunday evening in order to put them off limits from LA FC. Any player not protected by their club is available for selection.

After exploring some of the names of those left unprotected, PST takes a look at five players LA FC should select in Tuesday’s Expansion Draft.

Maxime Chanot — (CB from New York City FC)

He’s 28 years old, and helped build one of the better central defensive partnerships in MLS last season with Alex Callens, prior to his injury. NYCFC could be banking on the fact that his injury will prevent him from getting back to his previous level, but there’s no question Chanot is the sort of player that could anchor the LA FC back line for five-plus seasons.

David Ousted — (GK from Vancouver Whitecaps)

Made 90-plus saves in four of his five seasons with the Whitecaps, and overall one of the top goalkeepers in MLS. The Denmark native has recorded 36 shutouts in his time with the Cascadia side, and helped guide the Whitecaps to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference in 2017. With Real Salt Lake not picking up Nick Rimando’s contract, the veteran USMNT shot-stopper could also be an option for LA FC, however, Ousted is younger and arguably better at this stage of his career.

Marco Urena — (FWD from San Jose Earthquakes)

The 27-year-old may not be on many people’s radars, but the Costa Rican had five goals and three assists last season for the Quakes. Urena was tied for second on the team in goals, and provides a solid veteran player on a new LA FC side. While Carlos Vela will be the focal point up front for the newcomers, Urena is the sort of player that could player a very important supporting role.

Osvaldo Alonso — (MID from Seattle Sounders)

The Designated Player contract could scare LA FC away because Alonso is 32 years old, but this is the type of guy you want in the center of the park. For nine seasons, Alonso has anchored the Sounders midfield, and he does all the dirty work that could very well help the transition of the expansion side’s back line in 2018.

Chris Tierney — (DEF from New England Revolution

Similar to Alonso, Tierney isn’t going to be the sexiest pick, but he’s had the MLS experience, and he’s likely a player that could move on from a team where he’s spent his entire career. His versatility in the midfield and defensively allows Tierney to be a highly-coveted asset, especially as a player that is capable of delivering a quality cross from down the left flank.

Rimando, Pontius among 40 MLS players eligible for free agency

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Ahead of Tuesday’s Free Agency period, Major League Soccer released a list of 40 eligible players on Sunday.

Veterans over the age of 28 and who have played at least eight seasons in MLS qualified for the list, as well as players out-of-contract and those who didn’t have their options picked up.

[ MORE: Stanford knocks off Indiana in extra time to win third straight College Cup ]

MLS was busy earlier in the day on Sunday when several clubs announced blockbuster trades, including Kei Kamara’s move to Vancouver and expansion side Los Angeles FC’s addition of Walker Zimmerman.

A number of notable MLS veterans are included on the following list, such as Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, Chris Pontius of the Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls defender Sal Zizzo.

NOTE: The MLS Expansion Draft will also take place on Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET as LA FC has the opportunity to select up to five players ahead of its inaugural MLS season in 2018.

Below is the full list of candidates for this offseason’s free agents.

Player Previous
Club
Status
Alexander, Eric HOU Out of Contract
Alston, Kevin ORL Out of Contract
Barrett, Chad RSL Option Decline
Beasley, DaMarcus HOU Out of Contract
Beitashour, Steven TOR Out of Contract
Boswell, Bobby ATL Out of Contract
Burling, Robert COL Out of Contract
Carroll, Brian PHI Retired
Clark, Ricardo HOU Option Decline
DeLaGarza, AJ HOU Option Decline
Deric, Tyler HOU Option Decline
Duka, Dilly NY Option Decline
Evans, Brad SEA Out of Contract
Francis, Shaun MTL Option Decline
Franklin, Sean DC Option Decline
Gordon, Alan COL Option Decline
Harrington, Michael CHI Option Decline
Harris, Atiba DAL Option Decline
Harvey, Jordan VAN Out of Contract
Hernandez, Jason TOR Out of Contract
Jacobson, Andrew VAN Out of Contract
Knighton, Brad NE Out of Contract
Kronberg, Eric MTL Out of Contract
Larentowicz, Jeffrey ATL Option Decline
Loyd, Zachary ATL Option Decline
Moor, Andrew TOR Out of Contract
Morales, Javier DAL Out of Contract
Neagle, Lamar SEA Out of Contract
Nyarko, Patrick DC Out of Contract
Pontius, Chris PHI Out of Contract
Reynish, Kyle ATL Out of Contract
Rimando, Nick RSL Out of Contract
Rogers, Robbie LA Retired
Rolfe, Chris DC Retired
Saunders, Joshua ORL Option Decline
Schuler, Chris RSL Option Decline
Seitz, Christopher DAL Out of Contract
Wingert, Chris RSL Out of Contract
Zemanski, Ben POR Out of Contract
Zizzo, Sal NY Option Decline

The 2 Robbies podcast: Man City steps towards the title, Merseyside recap

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle dissect Derby Day, where Man City set the Premier League single season all time consecutive winning streak against rivals Man United, Jurgen Klopp had a bad day at the office against the blue half of Merseyside and Arsenal stutter again away from home.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

La Liga & Serie A: Suarez, Messi pace Barca; AC Milan tops Bologna

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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Villareal 0-2 Barcelona

The visitors struggled to break down Villareal’s back line throughout the opening 45 minutes, but the Blaugrana were aided by Raba’s second-half dismissal on Sunday. From there, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez helped Barca pick up its 12th win of the season and restore the club’s five-point lead over Valencia.

Messi’s goal — his 525th for the club — matched Gerd Muller’s Barca record on Sunday, while the finish was his 18th in all competitions this season.

Real Betis 0-1 Atletico Madrid

Saul Niguez scored his second goal of the La Liga season to help give Atletico an important road victory against Real Betis. Atleti now sits third in Spain’s top flight, but remains six points behind league leaders Barcelona.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 0-2 Malaga
Levante 1-2 Athletic Bilbao


AC Milan 2-1 Bologna

Giacomo Bonaventura scored twice on Sunday to give AC Milan a victory at the San Siro. The midfielder opened the scoring inside the opening 10 minutes, before Simone Verdi’s finish in the 23rd minute leveled the match for Bologna. Bonaventura tabbed his second goal of the day in the 76th minute to give the Rossoneri a win and keep the team inside the top seven. Milan currently sits on 24 points through 16 matches.

 

Elsewhere in Serie A

Chievo Verona 0-0 Roma
Napoli 0-0 Fiorentina
SPAL 2-2 Hellas Verona
Udinese 2-0 Benevento
Sassuolo 2-1 Crotone