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′)

While PSG has won the title, Areola’s playing for his future

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PARIS (AP) Although Paris Saint-Germain has easily won the French title, Alphonse Areola still has plenty to play for.

The next four games could be crucial in deciding whether PSG keeps the goalkeeper or tries to sign a big name in the transfer window, possibly Thibaut Courtois. The 25-year-old Areola is the same age as Courtois, but has nowhere near the international standing of the Chelsea keeper.

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It is hard for Areola to stand out, however, in a team noted almost singularly for its attacking prowess. While PSG has already scored more than 100 league goals, and remains on course to reach 100 points this season, Areola has rarely been talked about.

The common perception is that PSG will thrash teams in the French league, so letting in a goal or two is irrelevant.

However, Areola has been one of PSG’s most consistent players this season, and last Sunday he made a personal record of eight saves in a 1-0 win at Bordeaux.

He was also one of the few PSG players to come through the loss to Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League with any credit. Without Areola’s shot-stopping, and particularly his bravery rushing off his line, the 5-2 aggregate loss would have been bigger.

With 104 goals, PSG’s attack is the best in the league by far and has netted 25 more than deposed champion Monaco.

But PSG’s defense is also the best and Areola has conceded only 21 goals in the 31 he has played. Although PSG has dominated most of those, losing only twice all season, he has still made on average four saves per game.

Having replaced Kevin Trapp as No. 1, Areola has missed only three league games all season. It represents a reversal for both.

When Trapp was signed by former coach Laurent Blanc in 2015-16, Areola went on loan to Spanish club Villarreal. He established himself as regular in Villarreal’s side and gained further experience in the Europa League. Spanish media were largely impressed by his consistency and his agility on the goal-line.

He returned to PSG and battled with Trapp for the starting position last season. But coach Unai Emery seemed unsure who he really preferred, with Trapp starting 24 games to Areola’s 14. PSG ended up losing the title to Monaco.

But the hierarchy is much clearer now and the error-prone Trapp, once hailed by Blanc for his passing out from goal, is the one expected to leave.

Areola has further incentive to do well with the World Cup coming up. He is challenging Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda to be France’s No. 2 behind Hugo Lloris in Russia. For now, Areola is a squad member but has yet to make an international appearance under coach Didier Deschamps.

But he has done well at every level for France, starting with the under-16s a decade ago. He got his first taste of international success when he helped France win the Under-20 World Cup in 2013.

While Paul Pogba was one of the stars of the tournament, Areola’s crowning moment came in the final itself. France drew 0-0 with Uruguay and he saved two shots in the penalty shootout. Prior to the shootout he had a word with France’s designated penalty takers, confidently telling them “do your job and I’ll do mine.”

With Emery almost certain to be replaced next season, it promises to be a frenetic offseason of buying and selling at the club.

But whoever replaces Emery should perhaps think twice before letting Areola leave. The Parisian-born Areola came through the youth ranks at PSG, as did center half Presnel Kimpembe and midfielder Adrien Rabiot.

Star-studded sides like PSG often import their best players and fans are happy to see them arrive, because it shows ambition. But they nevertheless identify more closely with homegrown talents such as Areola.

More AP Ligue 1 coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Ligue1

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Infantino has ‘full confidence’ in Samoura amid ethics issue

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA President Gianni Infantino says he retains “full confidence” in secretary general Fatma Samoura after an attempt to embroil her in an ethics investigation.

[ MORE: Turkey hands in bid plans to UEFA for 2024 EUROs ]

Samoura has expressed irritation at “totally ridiculous and baseless” claims she broke FIFA rules by not declaring an alleged conflict of interest in the 2026 World Cup bidding contest.

FIFA has not specified the exact nature of the complaint or the progress of any ethics investigation after it was alleged she was a relative of former Senegal player El Hadji Diouf, who is an ambassador for Morocco’s bid.

Samoura insisted on Wednesday the former Liverpool forward “is not a member of my family and therefore everything is crystal clear.”

FIFA’s top administrator received a public show of support from Infantino.

“I can confirm my full confidence in Fatma Samoura to lead the FIFA administration,” Infantino said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday.

The former United Nations official was hired by Infantino in 2016 months after he was elected as Sepp Blatter’s successor.

Morocco is due to take on a joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico in the June 13 vote for the 2026 World Cup host.

Photo: Flamengo supporter tattoos club jersey on body

MAURÍCIO DOS ANJOS VIA VICE
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A supporter in Brazil has taken fandom to a whole new level with a piece of body art that shows his devotion to the club.

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Maurício dos Anjos, a passionate Flamengo fan, has been a life-long supporter of the Rio de Janeiro-based club, and has the tattoo to prove it.

While it may look like body paint, Dos Anjos has a tattoo on the upper-half of his body depicting the Flamengo jersey, and it’s pretty awesome.

“People ask me if I don’t find it strange that I’m always wearing a Flamengo shirt. And I just don’t,” dos Anjos told VICE. “To me, it’s normal. But it doesn’t seem like anyone I talk to about it actually dislikes my tattoo.”

In total, Dos Anjos says the body work took over 90 hours and 30 sessions to complete the tattoo.

Has the perception of MLS really changed?

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When David Beckham arrived in Los Angeles back in 2007 his presence changed the complexion of Major League Soccer for all the right reasons, and the perception of the growing league changed.

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Over the years, MLS has strived to move into the upper-echelon of the global game, in an attempt to compete with the likes of the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, but naysayers still indicate to this day that the United States’ top flight lacks the quality of the aforementioned.

Phrases like “retirement league” and “uninspired” have been used to describe MLS in the past, particularly when it comes to the league’s willingness to spend boatloads of cash on notable players well past their prime.

Examples such as Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard and Rafael Marquez have at times dampened the perception of MLS due to the lack of quality on the pitch from those players, along with several others that had previously boasted extensive resumes.

Now, we’re at a time where MLS has picked up its scouting, with clubs focused more on younger, more skilled talents from South America and Europe.

That has led to major signings over the past several years, such as Ezequiel Barco, Miguel Almiron, Diego Rossi and Jesus Medina, to name a few.

Has that changed the overall complexion of MLS though?

On Thursday, Kevin De Bruyne‘s agent, Patrick de Koster, suggested in an interview that the Belgium international would likely “finish” his career in MLS.

“For now, he’s very happy at this club,” De Koster said. “We always look what the best solution for the player, both financially and football wise. Kevin’s future? I can see him finish at Los Angeles.”

This comes on the heels of a 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining the LA Galaxy in a move that has sent shockwaves across the league and the world because of the Swede’s great presence on a global scale.

It’s not to say that players like Ibrahimovic, or previous signings like David Villa and Didier Drogba cannot help the overall growth of MLS, because they certainly bring an awareness to the matches and draw attention to their respective clubs.

However, the long-term viability of MLS has been and will continue to be sustained on youth players succeeding in the league, as well as being able to draw promising young talents into the top flight of the U.S.