Late Leroux goal keeps U.S.’s streak against Canada alive

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A first half goal from center back Kadeisha Buchanan put Canada on the verge of a breakthrough, but after its former resident turned nemesis equalized late in the second half, the team’s long winless run against the United States continues. With Sydney Leroux beating Erin McLeod in the 78th minute, the United States came back for a 1-1 draw in Winnipeg, Manitoba, running the team’s unbeaten streak against its northern rivals to 30 games.

Canada took the lead after 35 minutes when Buchanan, an 18-year-old defender from the University of West Virginia, headed Diana Matheson’s corner into the left of Hope Solo’s goal, providing the home side a lead it’d hold for over 40 minutes. Part of a defense that included two other teenagers (Surra Yekka, 17; Rebecca Quinn, 18), Buchanan spend most of the night giving a player of the match-caliber performance while keeping the U.S. off the scoresheet.

Twelve minutes from time, however, Canada’s hopes of claiming a fourth win in 56 games against the U.S. evaporated. On a cross from the right from substitute fullback Crystal Dunn, Leroux saw the ball dropto her at the far post, with her quick finish beating McLeod for another dramatic goal on Canadian soul.

Last June, the British Columbia-born Leroux scored the winning goal at Toronto’s BMO Field, giving the U.S. a 3-0 win in the teams’ first meeting since Canada’s controversial semifinal loss in the 2012 Summer Olympics.  Following her goal, Leroux responded to a crowd that had booed her introduction with a shushing finger against her lips, eventually lifting the U.S. crest toward the audience to reiterate her allegiance.

If there was one person Canadian fans wouldn’t have wanted to stand between them and a long-sought victory, it would have been Leroux. The players, however, probably won’t take things as personally. Instead, John Herdman’s team can take heart in a performance that looks like progress. The winless streak goes on, but so does the host team’s development ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

For the U.S., questions remain, but without a permanent head coach, it’s unclear who should answer them. The team again set out in a 4-3-3, starting veteran Abby Wambach at its tip, but failed to summon the intensity needed to pull off the setup. University of Virginia star Morgan Brian continues to be a willing subject in a defensive midfield experiment but at times appeared unaccustomed to playing at that level of the field.  The U.S. didn’t play badly, but for a team that just fired its coach while it sat No. 1 in the world, it didn’t play up its standards, either.

As hinted on ESPN3’s broadcast, Tyreso head coach Tony Gustavsson — a former assistant of Pia Sundhage — is now the favorite for the permanent job. Beyond current interim head coach Jill Ellis, it’s unclear what other candidates are being considered, with U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati having all but ruled out a NWSL candidate during an interview at halftime of this weekend’s Sky Blue-Boston match.  If his Gustavsson’s team’s participation in this month’s UEFA Champions League final is the only thing preventing the 40-year-old’s immediate appointment, the U.S. will surely have a new boss  by the time it faces France on June 14.

At that time, the U.S. can start moving forward. For now, the team’s treading water.

Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty

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A horror tackle from Wales’ Neil Taylor snapped Seamus Coleman‘s leg in gruesome fashion on Friday.

Taylor was given a red card, and Coleman was stretched off the pitch in the 0-0 draw.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed what was apparent from the match replay: the Everton man has a broken ankle.

“It’s a bad break. He’s a fantastic player and character. It’s a major blow for the lad, his club and us.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world – I haven’t seen it. He’s gone to hospital. I saw his reaction immediately and it didn’t look good. He was holding is leg up and it didn’t look good.

This is not only awful for the player, but causes stress as Everton mounts its assault on the Top Six. The right back has also manned right mid for Ronald Koeman this season, and has four goals and four assists in 26 Premier League matches.

Mason Holgate, Muhamed Besic, and Phil Jagielka have played some right back for Everton, while Ramiro Funes Mori has deputized at left back.

Emotional McClean speaks after honoring deceased teammate (video)

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After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.

McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.

Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).

“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.

“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”

World Cup qualifiers: Wales in trouble; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear of Ukraine and three above Iceland midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.