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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′)

Electricity restored at Maracana after some late bills paid

This Feb. 2, 2017 shows Maracana stadium with a dry field in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Stadium operators, the Rio state government, and Olympic organizers have fought over $1 million in unpaid electricity bills and management of the venue. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio’s electricity utility has turned the power back on at the famous Maracana stadium after it was shut off for almost a month in a dispute over $1 million in unpaid bills.

The utility on Thursday said power had been restored after the stadium operator paid 1.3 million reals ($430,000) in late bills from November through January. It was shut off on Jan. 26 in the dispute.

The utility said it is still negotiating for 1.8 million reals ($600,000) in unpaid bills from the organizing committee of last year’s Rio Olympics. Rio 2016 organizers still owe millions to companies which helped prepare the Olympics and Paralympics

The stadium has been vandalized over the last month with seats torn out, televisions stolen and the grass field left untended.

VIDEO: FC Dallas youngster Kellyn Acosta unleashes howitzer goal

Arabe Unido goalkeeper Miguel lloyd (1) reaches up to block a shot from FC Dallas as defender Rigoberto Nino (2) and FC Dallas' Kellyn Acosta (23) watch in the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals soccer match, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 in Frisco, Texas (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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With FC Dallas taking on Panamanian club Aribe Unido in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, 21-year-old Kellyn Acosta grabbed a second for the Major League Soccer club 10 minutes past halftime.

It wasn’t just any old goal. It was a STRIKE.

The Texas native trailed the play, and with Roland Lamah shut off in the box by solid man-marking on the ball, Acosta was there to provide an outlet, and he blasted a vicious strike into the top-left corner. The find by Lamah was a smart one with a host of defenders closing in, and his calm demeanor was rewarded as his teammate launched a rocket into the back of the net.

The goal is a fodder for those who believe Acosta, who has played full-back for much of his career, should be a midfielder instead. His positioning and ability to trail the play with deadly accuracy is what makes this goal so special.

Acosta would bag a third in the dying minutes of the game, giving FC Dallas a 3-0 lead to take on the road as they travel to Panama for the second leg on March 1st.

Top Premier League Storylines – Week 26

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Claudio Ranieri, manager of Leicester City speaks with his players during the break in extra-time in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round replay match between Leicester City and Derby City at The King Power Stadium on February 8, 2017 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Well. This weekend’s return of Premier League action was already slated to be an exciting one, but now with today’s enormous bit of breaking news, it has become even more intriguing.

[ WATCH: Previewing every match in Week 26 ]

There’s plenty to discuss at the top of the Premier League table, as Arsenal and Spurs look to heal their European wounds, but it’s what’s at the bottom that has everyone talking today.

How will Leicester City react after the firing of Claudio Ranieri?

Leicester City vs. Liverpool —  3:00 p.m. EDT Monday on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Well. The Foxes had their work cut out for them coming into this match already, but now it has a whole new flavor. Claudio Ranieri has been dismissed just nine months after winning the Premier League title, and sitting just a point off the drop coming into the weekend (and inside the relegation zone coming into the match?) Leicester City will be lead into King Power Stadium by Assistant Manager Craig Shakespeare and First Team Coach Mike Stowell.

Liverpool stopped a five-match winless streak last time out with a quality 2-0 win over Tottenham, but the Reds defense has been leaky all season, and if Leicester is to break its horrid 610-minute goalless streak, it would be here. The Foxes are without a win in five and have not scored a Premier League goal in all of the 2017 calendar year. Can they respond and begin to play for themselves rather than their former manager?

Can Dele Alli and Tottenham bounce back?

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Spurs looked like they had rediscovered their Champions League form with a comprehensive smothering of Championship side Fulham in the FA Cup. Then, they welcomed KAA Gent to Wembley and promptly lost their heads. Dele Alli was sent off for one of the worst challenges you’ll see, and Spurs were vulnerable as a result, crashing out of the Europa League.

Now, Mauricio Pochettino must regroup the squad and get them ready to host Stoke, a team they clobbered 4-0 in the third match of the season. The squad is still healthy, and the loss of European play may actually help them in the long run. Here, however, it provides them with negative form and a short prep time. They need this one badly to solidify a top four place moving forward, can Poch turn it around?

Can Sunderland get a result against surging Everton?

Everton vs. Sunderland — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSports.com

Hull City hosts Burnley. Crystal Palace welcomes Middlesbrough. With those two fellow occupants of the relegation zone playing at home against lower-half sides, the spotlight is squarely on Sunderland. The Black Cats have a tough matchup, on the road at Everton.

The Toffees haven’t lost a Premier League match since falling to Liverpool in mid-December, and have scored 19 goals in the eight matches since that blemish. With that in mind, Sunderland must get some kind of a result to pull off the bottom of the Premier League table. Can they snatch points at Goodison Park?

EFL Cup final could leave Chelsea well out in front

Chelsea vs. Swansea City — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSports.com

Chelsea is already eight points ahead of the pack and looks to be the clear favorite to win the Premier League title. It could get even clearer after this week. Manchester United is off, Manchester City is off, and Arsenal is off. Couple that with Tottenham struggling and Liverpool facing a desperate Leicester City side, and it’s entirely conceivable that a win for Chelsea over Swansea City could leave the Blues as far as 11 points clear at the top of the table, albeit a game ahead of some. That would all but wrap things up, wouldn’t it?

Mario Balotelli handed 2-match ban for abusing referee

FILE- In this Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016 file photo, Nice's forward Mario Balotelli, of Italy, reacts during the Europa League group I soccer match between OGC Nice and FC Salzburg, in Nice stadium, southeastern France. Nice striker Mario Balotelli’s teammate Alassane Pleas has confirmed he heard Bastia supporters racially abusing Balotelli with monkey chants during the league match on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, File)
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After being sent off for referee abuse in last weekend’s Ligue 1 win over FC Lorient, Nice striker Mario Balotelli has been handed a two-match ban.

Balotelli earned his second red card of the season in the 69th minute of a 1-0 win that kept Nice within striking distance of the leaders Monaco. It was his second straight red and third sending-off of the season, having already been dismissed in reverse fixture against Lorient after a pair of yellows in the final three minutes of the game.

After the mercurial Italian’s hot start to the season, he has just one goal in the last two months, the third in a 3-1 win over Guingamp. He has not scored a point-winning goal since bagging both in a 2-1 win over Dijon back on December 18th.

Balotelli’s agent, the well-known Mino Raiola, was so frustrated with his client’s continual dismissal problems that he told French media conglomerate RMC Sport that the solution to Balotelli’s problems is to “cut out his tongue.”

“I have already found the solution: you have to cut out his tongue,” Raiola said bluntly. “To play soccer, there is no need for language! In all seriousness, he knows he made a big mistake and he has no excuse. He knows he needs to improve that. He is very sad for him, for the team.”

The suspension leaves Balotelli on the sidelines for tomorrow’s match against 11th placed Montpellier and then on March 4th at 17th placed Dijon. Nice sits in third, level on points with 2nd placed PSG and three back of leaders Monaco.