Jamaica v United States - World Cup Qualifer

US Soccer Fans – ditch that World Cup drama and revel in the positives

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Drama is something that most crave like crack and, within American soccer, the gluttony for hubbub has been at an all time high since World Cup 2014 began staring us in the face.

While it’s been years of anticipation the drama truly began to spike six months ago during the World Cup draw that placed the Yanks in Group G alongside Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

The damned Group of Death,’ was the collective sigh as shoulders slumped and heads dropped.

The fear was reasonable that this National Team was heading full throttle towards the resting place of the 1998 World Cup squad — three losses, one goal scored and last place in the tournament. It was hard to see the light. Ghana is the World Cup nemesis of the US, Portugal have mighty Cristiano Ronaldo and Germany could very well win the tournament. Walking on water might just be easier than getting out of this group.

Over the coming months the drama increased ten-fold: Clint Dempsey was a shell of his former self on loan at Fulham, Timmy Chandler continued to shirk his US commitment with the glee of a high school tease, Michael Bradley made the controversial move to swap Serie A for MLS, Omar Gonzalez shape-shifted into a deer in headlights, Jermaine Jones couldn’t keep his discipline in a straight-jacket and barns weren’t built big enough for Jozy Altidore to hit…

And just when things couldn’t get more bleak, Jurgen Klinsmann made the absolutely heinous decision to cut Landon Donovan, which went down like whiskey on top of tequila catapulting the US collective into a vertigo-inducing stupor that somehow convinced many of us that 18-year-old Julian Green was either a) the reason why Donovan was cut or b) the player who will serve as the US all-time leading scorer’s immediate successor in Brazil. (Note: he’s neither).

Of course, we Americans are not alone in acting out this version of the Real Housewives of International Soccer. The same thing goes down in Italy, Spain, Brazil and every other country in anticipation of the World Cup. We want to do well, so we dramatize. But look on the bright side, at least we’re not Mexico!

See, didn’t that feel better? Nothing like kicking El Tri between the legs to lighten the mood. Because truth be told, it’s not all doom and gloom for the USMNT and to ensure you don’t wander off into a dark place over the next week and a half leading up to the games, here are a few bullet-points of positivity to keep in your back pocket:

  • Nothing To Lose, All To Gain: That has to be the motto when it comes to the US and Group G. It’s a hard freaking draw, yes, but there’s no where to go but up. Getting a point off of Ghana, Portugal or Germany would be great. Taking all three points, momentous. And it can definitely happen. Believe.
  • Jozy Knows No Slump: Did you watch him last summer? Dude scores once and can go unconscious for extended periods of time. So stop worrying about some ‘slump’.
  • Klinsmann’s Won The World Cup: That’s no small feat and that experience allows Jurgen, the master motivator, to say all the right words to get the boys fired up.
  • Bradley Has No Ceiling: Is it just me or does Michael Bradley get better every time he steps foot on the pitch?
  • Cameron-Besler Is Legit: Stop worrying about a center-back partnership because Cam and Bes have it on lock. Yes, they need 1-2 more matches together but they’re our best defensive leaders, mentally sound and dialed in.
  • Deuce Face: ‘Nuf said.
  • Ghana’s Not That Good: We need to stop over-hyping this Ghana squad. I’ve watched them play, they’re not that good. We should get a result here.
  • American Outlaws: Don’t know who they are? Use the Google and find out. Then enlist.
  • Berti’s Here: Berti Vogts was named special advisor by Klinsmann just a few months ago and with good reason – the guy is a master tactician. Which is exactly the trait where Klinsy could use some help. Credit to the man, though, he recognized the mistake and remedied it. Yes, Bogts also coaches Azerbaijan and it meant we had to play them in a friendly but who cares?! He’s ours in Brazil and he’s brilliant.
  • The Rise of Fabian: Said it before, I’ll say it again – Fabian Johnson is a weapon. Easily one of the US’s best players and, from all accounts, he’s poised to explode down in Brazil.
  • Howard and Guzan: Brick walls are tough to get through.
  • Ronaldo Is Struggling: Look, I’ll be in Manaus for that game and CR7 better damn well play. But judging from reports I’m reading now, 18 days away from that match, there’s a very strong chance Ronaldo is struggling with his fitness for that match. I’m calling it now, the US wins this game.

 

Watch Live: West Bromwich Albion vs. Middlesbrough (Lineups, Live Stream)

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: The West Brom crest is seen prior to the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough at The Hawthorns on August 28, 2016 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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West Bromwich Albion searches for its second win this season on Sunday when they take on Middlesbrough at 8:30 a.m. E.T. from The Hawthorns on CNBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Boro holds a narrow advantage in all-time meetings, with four wins out of eight, and Aitor Karanka‘s side certainly have the capabilities to pull off another victory against West Brom following a solid summer in the transfer window.

WATCH LIVE: West Bromwich Albion vs. Middlesbrough live online

Karanka’s men remain unbeaten through two matches, including last weekend’s narrow 2-1 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

West Brom remains largely intact with its starting XI as Salomon Rondon gets the start up front for the Baggies. Tony Pulis‘ side has plenty of options off the bench as well, including Saido Berahino and Craig Gardner to provide a spark.

For Middlesbrough, U.S. international Brad Guzan will get the start in goal for the first time this season, as Victor Valdes remains sidelined with a hamstring injury. Alvaro Negredo looks to continue his fine start to the season after notching a goal and two assists in his first two matches.

LINEUPS

West Bromwich Albion – Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Galloway; Phillips, Yacob, Fletcher (c), Field, McClean; Rondon.
Bench – Rose; Olsson, Gardner, Lambert, Berahino, Leko, Wilson

Middlesbrough – Guzan, Nsue, Ayala, Gibson, Barragan, Forshaw, Clayton, Stuani, Ramirez, Downing, Negredo.
Bench – 
Dimi, Bernardo, Rhodes, Reach, Fischer, De Sart, Nugent.

PL Sunday Preview: Man City hosts Hammers, Boro visits West Brom

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - AUGUST 21: Middlesborough manager Aitor Karanka looks on during the Premier League match between Sunderland FC and Middlesbrough FC at Stadium of Light on August 21, 2016 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
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These four clubs have a combined two losses so far in Premier League competition. Unfortunately for Middlesbrough and West Ham, outside league play was not so kind over the past four days.

Those two clubs were both ousted from cup competitions by inferior clubs, and must regroup to maintain their unbeaten league status on the road.

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West Brom vs. Middlesbrough — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

A Sunday morning road trip for Middlesbrough was good to them last weekend, so why not again? Boro remains unbeaten in the league, having dispatched Sunderland last time out for their first win of the season, but Aitor Karanka will need to put a midweek loss to Fulham in the League Cup in the rear-view mirror.

[ MORE: Late Rashford strike lifts Manchester United ]

It’s been a mixed bag for West Brom thus far, with the high of their opening day win over Crystal Palace erased with a home Premier League loss to Everton and an even more disappointing result against League One minnows Northampton in the League Cup. Tony Pulis and the rest of the West Brom executives are under fire for not improving the squad with just days left in the transfer window.

INJURIES: West Brom OUT: Chris Brunt (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Brendan Galloway (hamstring), Jonny Evans (hip). | Middlesbrough OUT: Victor Valdes (hamstring), Marten De Roon (hamstring), George Friend (calf), Fabio (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Daniel Ayala (fitness), Bernardo Espinosa (fitness).

Manchester City vs. West Ham United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Like Middlesbrough, West Ham is in good league form, but their midweek result in another competition will place a damper on this weekend’s events. The Hammers were ousted from the Europa League before the group stage for the second season in a row, falling to Romanian champions Astra Girugiu…for the second season in a row.

Last year, Slaven Bilic turned things around in three days, beating Arsenal at the Emirates just after Europa League elimination. This year, the road test is just as difficult, and with injuries to a number of key attackers, the Hammers will need to dig deep to turn things around.

[ MORE: Petr Cech says Arsenal is aiming for Premier League title ]

Manchester City fell to West Ham at home last season, and Pep Guardiola will be sure to make them remember. Willy Caballero is likely to continue in goal with Claudio Bravo having just arrived, and while it seems Manchester City has yet to be seriously tested in league play, the Argentinian and his back line have yet to keep a clean sheet.

INJURIES: Manchester City  OUT: Ilkay Gundogan (knee), Vincent Kompany (thigh), Claudio Bravo (preparation). QUESTIONABLE: Leroy Sane (fitness). West Ham  OUT: Sofiane Feghouli (hamstring), Andre Ayew (thigh), Andy Carroll (), Cresswell (knee), Henry (knee) QUESTIONABLE: Dimitri Payet (fitness), Manuel Lanzini (fitness), Havard Nordtveit (foot), Mark Noble (wrist).

MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 0-1 Montreal Impact

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 12:  Ignacio Piatti #10 of the Montreal Impact controls the ball during the MLS game against the New York Red Bulls at the Olympic Stadium on March 12, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Impact defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-0.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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The game in 100 words (or less): A passionate but sloppy rivalry match saw Toronto stunned by 10-man Montreal at BMO Field. The Impact held strong against a toothless Toronto 2nd-half push, and they pinged a goal against the run of play inside the final 20 minutes to end Toronto’s seven-match unbeaten run. With Montreal’s Callum Mallace seeing red just before halftime, the hosts had little to offer Evan Bush’s goal, and Ignacio Piatti worked a goal out of nothing to earn the Impact three points. At least Toronto had a cool tifo:

Three moments that mattered:

44′ – A spotty first half came boiling over just before the break when Marco Delgado clipped Dominic Osorio on a breakaway. Steven Beitashour came trotting back towards the incident and was decked by Callum Mallace. A brawl developed and after the scuffle, Mallace was sent off. While the extra-curricular activity definitely warranted punishment, it’s controversial to conclude that Mallace’s actions warranted a straight red card.

65′ – Toronto poured pressure forward, and looked to the referee twice, who was unmoved. First Sebastian Giovinco went down under a clip from Laurent Ciman, who appeared to stick his leg out behind him and trip the Italian. Then, Jozy Altidore went to ground on a body check from Hassoun Camara, but again the referee shook his head. The US international looked to have toppled to the floor easily under pressure from . This double moment was pivotal in the match anyways, but became even more significant after Seba came off limping heavily, holding his inner thigh, substituted for Tsubasa Endoh.

73′ – Out of nothing, Montreal had a stunning lead. Evan Bush booted a goal kick to midfield, and the ball falls to Oduro who works hard to divert play to Piatti on the left edge of the box. The 31-year-old collected with a few expert touches, then suddenly one-on-one with Steven Bieteshour, Piatti deposited his 14th goal of the season inside the far post, leaving Alex Bono no chance.

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Man of the match: Ignacio Piatti

Goalscorers: Piatti 73′

MLS Snapshot: Philadelphia Union 2-0 Sporting KC

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Fabinho #33 of the Philadelphia Union controls the ball against the Columbus Crew SC on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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The game in 100 words or lessPhiladelphia wasted an energetic start to the match, but the hosts found themselves with a man advantage shortly into the second half, and they’d take advantage, winning 1-0 at Talen Energy Stadium behind a goal from Roland Alberg, who had entered the field just two minutes before scoring. The Union were overall the better side, but the hosts weren’t without chances of their own, most notably watching Dom Dwyer miss moments before Alberg’s goal. It was all over for KC when Roger Espinoza was also sent off for a second yellow late in the match, seeing Philly bag a second with ticks on the clock.

Three moments that mattered

17′ – A whopping four missed chances plagued the otherwise positive start for the home side. First, Tranquillo Barnetta curled in a gorgeous effort that was acrobatically parried away by a leaping Alec Kann. Then, in the 11th and 14th minutes, a pair of low crosses from Fabinho along the face of goal fell just out of reach of a sliding C.J. Sapong. Finally, the 17th minute saw Chris Pontius fire just wide with a header on a free-kick.

59′ – Philadelphia was given an advantage the rest of the way when Jimmy Medranda was given his second yellow card for hauling down Keegan Rosenberry on the edge of the box. Mandranda had been cautioned earlier for dissent when he laid into the referee following a first-half foul call.

67′ – Just moments after Dwyer missed wide right on a breakaway, Philadelphia capitalized on their man advantage. Fabinho connected with substitute Roland Alberg, and the 26-year-old Dutchman let loose a curler into the top right for a 1-0 lead. There was no looking back.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Fabinho

Goalscorers: Alberg 67′, Barnetta 90+2′