Bradley’s first half, Mexico comeback leaves U.S. drawn against rivals

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A tale of two halves in Glendale, Ariz., ended on even footing, with the United States and Mexico each controlling play for 45 minutes at University of Phoenix Stadium. After a first half dominated by Michael Bradley sent the U.S. into halftime up two, Mexico was back even within 22 minutes of halftime, leaving the two World Cup qualifiers tied 2-2.

Bradley opened the scoring in the 15th minute with an easy finish into an open goal off a Graham Zusi corner. In the 28th minute, the U.S. midfielder helped double his team’s lead when his far post flick of Tony Beltran’s cross allowed Chris Wondolowski to finish an equally easy scored.

Four minutes into the second half, a Rafa Marquez header from just outside the six-yard box brought El Tri to within 2-1. In the 67th minute, a shot off the left upright from Paul Aguilar bounced out to Alán Pulido, allowing the Tigres attacker to score the game’s tying goal.

The match was the last friendly for each side before the teams assemble in May ahead of this summer’s World Cup. Mexico will play Israel, Ecuador, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Portugal in the lead up to its June 13 opener, while the U.S. will face Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria before heading to Brazil.

The United States broke through after 15 minutes, covering a corner kick won after Omar Gonzalez nearly headed the U.S. in front. On Zusi’s restart, Bradley lost Mexico midfielder Jesus Zavaleta on a far post run. With Mexico goalkeeper Moisés Muñoz caught up in a crowd at the near post, Bradley finished into an open net from close range, giving the U.S. and early 1-0 lead.

In the period the followed, the U.S. dominated control of the ball, eventually building a 61-39 possession edge by half time. The approach also allowed Jurgen Klinsmann’s side to reach halftime without having allowed a shot on target, with Nick Rimando’s activity dominated by claiming floated crosses.

Just before the half-hour mark, the U.S made it 2-0. Off a Beltran cross from the right, Bradley’s near post run saw the Toronto FC midfielder flick a perfect header far post. That’s where Chris Wondolowski beat Rogelio Chávez for an easy tap-in, giving the U.S. a lead they’d carry into halftime.

Within four minutes of intermission, though, Mexico cut the lead in half. After earning a corner kick to the left of Nick Rimando’s goal, Gonzalez could not fight through a pick on a Marco Fabián cross, allowing Marquez to beat a flat-footed Rimando with a header from the middle of the area.

source: Getty ImagesIt was part of the second half resurgence that saw Mexico create its first chances of the game, putting a shot off Rimando’s cross-bar in the minutes after the goal. When a flicked on corner allowed Marquez to try a bicycle kick in the moments that followed, El Tri has seized an early control of the second half. By the hour mark, substitute Raúl Jimenez was forcing mistakes from the U.S. defense, drawing a diving save from the Real Salt Lake keeper on a shot from just outside the penalty area.

By that point, the United States had made its first set of substitutions, changes that included the international debut of Julian Green. Coming on with Landon Donovan and Clarence Goodson, the former Germany youth international prospect made his much-anticipated U.S. debut, taking Brad Davis’s spot along the left wing.

In the 67th minute, just after the U.S. had apparently stymied Mexico’s momentum, the visitors were back even. After a Paul Aguilar shot from the middle of the box hit the base of Rimando’s right post, Pulido gave the U.S. keeper no chance to prevent the game-tying goal, with Gonzalez left appealing for an offside call that would never come.

Each side had chances to claim a winner, with a late header from Gonzalez off a corner kick requiring a block inside the six-yard box. Minutes later, a Mexico chance after a Green slip ended with a cross sailing inches over Juan Valenzuela’s head.

In the 85th minute, Eddie Johnson appeared to have put the U.S. in front, finishing into the right of goal after a through ball Clint Dempsey put him behind the Mexican defense. The play was whistled offside.


Lineups and goals

United States: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran (DeAndre Yedlin 72′), Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler (Clarence Goodson 59′), Michael Parkhurst; Graham Zusi (Landon Donovan 59′), Kyle Beckerman (Maurice Edu 72′), Michael Bradley, Brad Davis (Julian Green 59′); Clint Dempsey, Chris Wondolowski (Eddie Johnson 64′)

Goals: Bradley (15′), Wondolowski (28′)

Mexico: Moisés Muñoz (Alfredo Talavera 46′); Rogelio Chávez (Paul Aguilar 63′), Juan Valenzuela, Rafael Marquez, Francisco Rodríguez, Miguel Layún (Miguel Ponce 71′); Jesús Zavala (Juan Medina 46′), Isaac Brizuela (Luis Montes 57′), Carlos Peña (Raúl Jiménez 46′); Marco Fabián, Alán Pulido

Goals: Marquez (49′), Pulido (67′)

Chile bests Portugal on penalty kicks to reach Confed Cup final

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Chile is on its way to the Confederations Cup final after a thrilling battle with Portugal on Wednesday afternoon.

The Chileans edged their European opposition, 0-0 (3-0 on penalty kicks), at Kazan Arena in Russia after goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made a trio of saves during the penalty shootout.

Arturo Vidal hit the post in the 119th minute from close range, before Martin Rodriguez’s rebound smashed off the crossbar and stayed out of goal to the dismay of the Chileans.

Chile had a legitimate claim for a penalty kick in the second half of extra time as Jose Fonte stepped on the foot of Francisco Silva inside the Portuguese area, but the referee opted to play on.

The South Americans thought they had picked out the lead just a few minutes into extra time when Alexis Sanchez’s header glanced just wide of goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo had several quality chances to break the deadlock during regulation, but none better than in the 72nd minute when the Real Madrid star had his deflected effort narrowly miss the top corner.

Chile began to find more of a rhythm during the second stanza, and Eduardo Vargas nearly gave his side the lead in the 59th minute when he acrobatically shot on goal, forcing a reaction save out of Rui Patricio.

Vargas had the first big chance for the South Americans in the sixth minute when he found himself in on goal against Patricio, but the Portuguese goalkeeper stood tall and made the save.

Meanwhile, Claudio Bravo found himself in a similar situation on the other end just a minute later, when the Manchester City keeper kept Portugal off the scoreboard.

Chile will meet the winner of Thursday’s contest between Mexico and Germany, while the Portuguese will await the loser of the match to decide third place.

Tite: Brazil would have benefited from playing Confed Cup

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KAZAN, Russia (AP) Coach Tite says it would have been good for Brazil to be playing in the Confederations Cup to give himself and his players more experience going into the World Cup.

[ MORE: Joachim Low wants clarity on Russia doping claims ]

Tite made the comments before watching Portugal play Chile in Kazan in the semifinals of the eight-nation World Cup warm-up event on Wednesday. He is in Russia to watch the tournament’s final stages and scout possible training bases for Brazil during next year’s tournament.

“I would have wanted to play in the tournament because it would have allowed me to have more time to work with the team, to get to know the adversities, the different situations that we will have to face,” Tite said. “It would have been important to be here.”

Tite has only coached Brazil for 11 games as coach, with 10 wins and a loss to Argentina in a friendly this year.

Brazil was the first team other than host Russia to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

He said he sees the Confederations Cup as a valid tournament, although it might need some changes to its format in the future.

“It’s an important competition in its broad context,” Tite said, adding that he would choose to play in the competition even if he couldn’t bring his top players.

Brazil intends to set up its World Cup base in Sochi, but details have not been finalized yet.

“The priority will be quality and privacy so we can do our work,” Tite said.

The coach said he supports the video review system because it brings “justice” to the game.

“It looks to me a little bit old-fashioned to be talking about technology,” he said. “It seems so natural to me. What will have to be done? Adjustments, yes. In the end (of the tournament), to have a situation analyzed more quickly. ”

Tite said he has been “following the news” about doping allegations in soccer, but won’t be reaching any conclusions until “there’s any evidence” about what really happened. He said that anyone found guilty must be heavily sanctioned to guarantee the game’s integrity.

Tite also said Brazil is considering a friendly against Russia.

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

More AP Confederations Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/ConfederationsCup

A leader at 23, Draxler mentors inexperienced Germany squad

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) The youngest captain to lead Germany into a tournament in 105 years, Julian Draxler has effortlessly taken on the task of mentoring an inexperienced squad.

[ MORE: Aubameyang to China? And more transfer rumors ]

All while displaying the versatility linking up attacks that has helped to steer Germany into the Confederations Cup semifinals.

If Germany coach Joachim Loew learns one thing from the World Cup dress rehearsal, it’s that the 23-year-old Draxler is a strong contender to one day assume the armband from injured goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

“The way he is coordinating the young team is very good,” Loew said Wednesday. “He is turning into a personality who is in a position to assume responsibilities. He’s taking care of younger players and trying to integrate them into the team.

“He is always keeping his mind on what matters on the pitch but also off the pitch he is very sociable with other players as well.”

Draxler is far from the youngest player in the squad, but he’s the most experienced on the international stage. The semifinal against Mexico on Thursday will be Draxler’s 34th appearance for Germany. He is also one of only three members of the World Cup winning squad from 2014 who were included in the experimental group in Russia.

Shkodran Mustafi is another, and the defender is delighted to see Draxler’s progress from being a bit-part squad member in Brazil to an integral member of the team in Russia three years on.

“He has got a really bright future in front of him,” Mustafi said on the sidelines before training in the southern Russian coastal resort of Sochi. “Talent sometimes is not enough but I think he has the character and the talent, the head, to be the next superstar for sure.”

Don’t take Germany’s word for it. Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio spoke Wednesday of his admiration for Draxler’s role as Germany’s “connector” and the way he finds space in midfield to be the link-man to the forwards.

What Draxler offers Loew is variety. The Paris Saint-Germain player is comfortable on both feet and he is given the freedom to roam across the pitch.

“Julian is a very fast, technically refined player with the ball,” Loew said through a translator in the Fisht Stadium in Sochi. “He can travel through longer distances with no problem while keeping the ball and he has very good scoring capabilities.”

In the opening win over Australia at the Confederations Cup, Draxler netted his fifth international goal from the penalty spot. In the final group match on Sunday, Draxler’s slick back-heel set up Kerem Demirbay for Germany’s opener in a 3-2 victory over Cameroon.

Not since the 1912 Olympics there been a younger German captain at a FIFA or UEFA tournament.

“He’s not the loudest guy but on the pitch you could see his quality in the three games now and he’s talking to the players,” midfielder Emre Can said. “He wants to help. He has a lot of experience and he’s doing it very well.

“You can see he wants always the ball, he wants always to create something on the pitch and he wants to always score always. You can see that in every game.”

Draxler has traveled to Russia after finding some stability in his club career after leaving Wolfsburg for PSG in January for 47 million euros (then about $50 million).

“He is very ambitious,” Loew said. “He is a very classy player.”

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

More AP Confederations Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/ConfederationsCup

Germany coach wants clarity on Russia doping claims

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) Germany football coach Joachim Loew wants more clarity from sports leaders following speculation that doping of Russia’s 2014 World Cup squad was covered up.

[ MORE: 2017 Confederations Cup news ]

The World Cup-winning coach urged the World Anti-Doping Agency and FIFA to be transparent and identify players implicated.

“If there really are names there, they shouldn’t be hidden at all,” Loew said Wednesday at a news conference in Sochi, where his team plays a Confederations Cup semifinal.

“I can’t prove it and no one apparently can if we are not having the facts here on the table,” Loew said through a translator. “And if players have been doped, well, they have to be removed, they have to be suspended.”

Loew was asked by German broadcaster ARD about the World Cup claim and other new allegations that state-backed Russian doping went deeper into football than was previously suspected.

Earlier Wednesday, the broadcaster released an interview with WADA investigator Richard McLaren who said FIFA is aware of 155 potentially suspect samples given by football players in Russia that await analysis.

McLaren told ARD he suspected Russian authorities kept a bank of clean urine samples from footballers to replace tainted ones – a similar system to evade positive doping tests as was used at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

FIFA declined to comment Wednesday on ARD’s report.

The Canadian lawyer’s sprawling investigation of the Olympic doping conspiracy implicated more than 1,000 athletes across many sports. It included evidence in emails and documents of at least 35 football cases for FIFA to prosecute.

The evidence had few details, though included a June 2014 document apparently linked to the squad Russia sent to the World Cup in Brazil. FIFA acknowledged being aware of the document this week after a report by a British Sunday newspaper.

FIFA has not formally identified any players under suspicion, nor imposed provisional suspensions.

“We have the report from WADA but we are not supposed to be disclosing any names,” FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura said Wednesday, in Kazan for the Portugal vs. Chile semifinal. “Until we got the final decision from the laboratory we cannot elaborate.”

Football leaders in the 2018 World Cup host nation consistently dismiss suggestions of a problem.

“There hasn’t been a single doping incident in Russian football in many recent years,” Alexei Sorokin, CEO of the World Cup organizing committee, said this week of the British report. “We do not regard this as any serious matter.”

Germany’s Loew was speaking in the Sochi stadium which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the much-criticized Winter Games.

He urged WADA and FIFA to “just call a spade a spade, and then we know what is going to happen from there.”

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni in Kazan, Russia, contributed to this report