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.

Jose Mourinho’s father dies in Portugal

FC Porto
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Jose Mourinho’s father has passed away at the age of 79.

Vitoria Setubal confirmed in a statement that Felix Mourinho had died in Portugal and will be buried in the City of Setubal, 25 miles south of Lisbon, on Tuesday.

No cause of death has been given.

Mourinho’s father played as a goalkeeper for Vitoria Setubal before going on to be a coach and club director, while also playing for the Portuguese national team in 1972.

Felix won the Portuguese cup in 1965 and heavily influenced Mourinho’s career with Jose scouting for his father and observing his training sessions from an early age.

The Manchester United manager, who has won the UEFA Champions League with FC Porto and Inter Milan, as well as domestic titles in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, posted the following photo of himself and his father on Instagram late Sunday but didn’t include a comment.

A post shared by Jose Mourinho (@josemourinho) on

Several of Jose Mourinho’s former clubs have also passed on their condolences to Mourinho via their social media accounts.

Dempsey, Sounders steal a point on wild night in Portland

Pete Christopher/The Oregonian via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less): An entire game can change in the blink of an eye. For the Seattle Sounders, that blink came in the 44th minute of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers. Up 1-0 by way of Joevin Jones’ opener in the 27th minute, the defending MLS Cup champs were poised to head into halftime with a one-goal advantage and every belief imaginable that they’d been the better team for the entire first half. Blink. Brad Evans wrapped his legs around Darlington Nagbe, giving away a penalty and earning himself a red card, just like that, in the blink of an eye. Fanendo Adi stepped up to convert from the spot, but it still was to be a hard-fought 1-1 scoreline from Seattle’s perspective. Then, Dairon Asprilla got loose, completely unmarked atop the six-yard box, on a corner kick, and it was 2-1 after four minutes of first-half stoppage time. 45 more minutes pass, and the Timbers… blink. Clint Dempsey, 34 years old but fresh off the bench 40 minutes earlier, out-leaps everyone in the box and heads past Jake Gleeson to steal a point for Seattle.

[ MORE: San Jose fire Kinnear after 2.5 seasons ]

Three Four moments that mattered

27′ — Jones gets two chances, puts the second away — It’s a classic case of “I dropped my controller” from Alvas Powell, who just stops as Jones cuts across the penalty area. There’s no reason Jones should get a second look on this one.

44′ — Evans brings down Nagbe in the box, sees red — Goodbye, lead. Goodbye 11 versus 11. Things would unravel very quickly for Seattle.

45+4′ — Asprilla rises above to make it 2-1 — Seattle’s marking of Asprilla was nonexistent, and the Colombian showed off some serious hops to get his head to David Guzman’s corner kick.

90+4′ — Dempsey heads home deep in stoppage time — A costly turnover by Asprilla, a hit-it-and-pray cross by Roman Torres, and Dempsey snatches a point at the death.

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Man of the match: Cristian Roldan

Goalscorers: Jones (27′), Adi (45′ – PK), Asprilla (45+4′), Dempsey (90+4′)

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images
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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.