This weekend the FA Cup takes center stage in England, as the oldest knockout competition in history is looking to provide some big upsets.
First up on Friday were two matches as potential banana skins were thrown towards Arsenal and Nottingham Forest, with lower-league opposition standing in the way.
Let’s see how both games panned out, as the magic of the cup continues…
Arsenal 4-0 Coventry
The Gunners eased through to the fifth round of the FA Cup, following two first half goals from German international Lukas Podolski and late strikes from Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla. But visitors Coventry — who currently sit 11th in League One and play 35 miles away from their home city and Northampton Town’s ground due to severe financial issues — certainly made the Gunners work for the win as Leon Clarke struck the post in the second half, as the Sky Blues were roared on by a large contingent of traveling fans. However Arsenal had that extra bit of class that showed why there are 55 places above Coventry in the English soccer pyramid as the North London club strolled into the last 16 of the FA Cup with a classy performance.
However the big factor to come out of this routine win for Arsenal, from a U.S. standpoint, was that 16-year-old wonderkid Gedion Zelalem made his Gunners debut as a 71st minute substitute. The youngster who lived in D.C. from the age of 9-16 showed incredible composure to slot right into the team and spray the ball around effortlessly in his 20 minute debut. They say this kid can “dribble like Iniesta and pass like Xavi”… No pressure, Gedion. But if his first outing in an Arsenal shirt is anything to go by, Zelalem will take to the Premier League like a duck to water. And oh yeah, the German born teenager is eligible to play for the U.S. national team. Sign him up!
Nottingham Forest 0-0 Preston
Elsewhere on Friday night there was one other FA Cup fourth round match, as League One side Preston North End held Championship high-fliers Nottingham Forest to a 0-0 draw at the City Ground. Forest, who hammered Premier League side West Ham 5-0 in the third round, weren’t at their best in the driving rain in the East Midlands and the game didn’t really get going until the final 30 minutes. That’s when Preston burst into life as they sensed Forest were there for the taking. In the final minute Josh Brownhill almost caused a big upset but his rasping free kick was saved well by Forest ‘keeper Karl Darlow, as Preston earned a replay and ensured a League One side would be in the hat for the fifth round draw.
Another interesting note for U.S. fans is that right-back Eric Lichaj went the full 90 in defense for Forest, while Canadian international attacker Iain Hume came on as a second half sub for Preston.
Already facing some uncertainty with a depleted roster, Argentina could face a significantly greater challenge.
[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina starting XI vs. Bolivia ]
Barcelona star Lionel Messi could face suspension after reportedly verbally abusing linesman Marcelo Van Gasse during the second half of Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile.
Messi was reported to CONMEBOL for yelling, “F*** off, your mother’s c***” at Van Gasse and refused to shake the official’s hand at the end of the match.
The officiating crew from the match didn’t initially include Messi’s rant in the post-match report, however, it was added on Monday and submitted to CONMEBOL.
The South American federation must now decide if and when it will punish Messi for his reported actions, and there is the potential that the world-class attacker could be suspended for Tuesday’s clash against Bolivia if the federation acts quickly.
There are several other scenarios though for CONMEBOL to action, including disregarding Messi’s verbal assault.
La Albiceleste currently sit third in World Cup qualifying on 22 points.
It’s only been one competitive match since Bruce Arena regained control of the U.S. Men’s National Team and there’s already been a noticeable difference in form.
[ MORE: Three keys for the USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]
The former LA Galaxy manager wouldn’t have you believe that though following Friday night’s convincing 6-0 victory over Honduras in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
“It’s nothing I can write a book on,” Arena said about his team’s turnaround in form against Honduras. “You have a sense of your group, and you go about doing your business. There’s no secret formulas to this stuff. Work together, take ownership in what you’re doing, treat them like responsible professional athletes, and you get on with your business.
He added, “They want to be successful. They want to play in a World Cup. Is that a recipe for success? I don’t know. I’m sure Honduras wants to play in a World Cup too.”
Arena, who took over for Jurgen Klinsmann following the U.S.’ collapse during the first two matches of the Hexagonal, is unbeaten in his first three games in charge since getting his job back with the Stars and Stripes.
Although there has been a considerable turnaround in the way the USMNT has performed in the first three matches of 2017, Arena wouldn’t stoop to comparing his style to that of Klinsmann.
“I’m not doing anything differently,” he said. “I’m not taking a survey [of the players]. I know it’s different. We lose tomorrow, there will be articles written that, ‘This a—— is letting these guys run loose.'”
“I have spent no time on the past. There’s nothing I can do about it. I kind of have a sense about things, but there’s no point in me spending time investigating what went on in the past. The idea was to get it going the right way from the start.”
Arena’s next test with the U.S. will be on Tuesday when the Yanks travel to Panama City to take on Panama.
The U.S. Men’s National Team is always looking for more Christian Pulisic-like players, and another star-in-the-making could be on his way to Old Trafford.
[ MORE: Three keys for USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]
American teenager Will Vint is reportedly being pursued by Premier League giants Manchester United after previously having trialed with Fulham and Everton.
Vint, the 15-year-old son Everton academy director Peter Vint, has reportedly impressed the Red Devils while on trial as of late. Additionally, the teen’s Instagram page describes him as a “Footballer at Manchester United.”
The number of Americans in England’s top flight have dwindled down over recent years, however, USMNT mainstays like Geoff Cameron and Brad Guzan (moving to Atlanta United) still reside in the PL.
SAO PAULO (AP) Brazilian club Chapecoense will play Colombia’s Atletico Nacional on April 4 in what will be an emotional home match.
[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina XI to face Bolivia ]
In November, 19 members of the Brazilian team died in an air crash outside Medellin as they travelled to play Nacional in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final. Out of 77 passengers, 71 died in the incident, including players, journalists, and club officials.
Chapecoense says they will play at 22,000-seat Arena Conda in southern Brazil in the first leg of the Recopa Sudamericana.
The tragedy made Atletico Nacional pronounce Chapecoense as champions, and the South American confederation agreed.
The Recopa Sudamericana is between the champions of the Copa Sudamericana and the Copa Libertadores.