At halftime: Brazil with chances but no goals against Mexico — FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: An energetic start from Mexico gave way to Brazilian control, with a lack of quality in the middle of the park leaving El Tri unable to build anything going forward. Brazil, on the other hand, fully stressed Mexico’s defense, though missed chances from Fred and Neymar led the teams scoreless at halftime. While Mexico started to assert itself before intermission, it still finished the first period without a shot on target.

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Goals (and how they happened): They didn’t.

Other key moments:

11′ – After an energetic start from Mexico, Brazil gets its first chance down the left, where Oscar has been moved the absence of the injured Hulk. Cutting into the penalty box, the Chelsea midfielder plays a ball to the edge of the six with the outside of his right foot, giving Fred a chance from close range. The Brazilian striker fails to convert, leaving the match scoreless.

13′ – El Tri’s worst nightmare? That hamstrung midfield failing to take care of the ball. Early on, that fear almost came to fruition. Giving Neymar possession at the edge of the attacking third, the Mexico defense watched as Brazil’s most dangerous player was given a chance to choose between targets. When the play ultimately broke down, Mexico were spared, but more questions about the team’s midfield had emerged.

26′ – Mexico gets caught on a counter, but after Neymar’s ball from the left is cleared from the penalty area, Guillermo Ochoa looks like he’ll go untested. Dani Alves, however, thought otherwise, getting to the ball first and hitting a cross to the far corner. There, Neymar out-leaps Rafa Marquez to put a shot at Ochoa’s right post, with a lunging stop allowing Ochoa to keep the match scoreless.

41′ – What’s this? Mexico threatening? Just before halftime, it actually happened. After a clearance from an Andres Guardardo cross is worked back to the middle of the field, Jose Juan Vazquez takes a chance from 28 yards out. For a moment, it looks like the shot could curl inside the right post, but going just wide, the try left César without a save over the first 45 minutes.

43 – A restart fired into the Mexico box sees Paulinho deflect a ball behind the Mexican defense. As El Tri’s line pushes up the field, three Seleçao players are left in front of Ochoa. David Luiz gets to the ball but can’t get it past the Mexican keeper, failing to convert the team’s best chance of the half.

Lineups:

Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva (c), David Luiz, Marcelo, Paulinho, Fred, Neymar, Oscar, Ramires, Luiz Gustavo

Mexico: Ochoa, Rodriguez, Marquez (c), Herrera, Layun, Dos Santos, Moreno, Guardado, Peralta, Aguilar, Vazquez

Key players:

  • Neymar, Brazil – Oscar is having a great tournament, thus far, but with Luiz Felipe Scolari putting his star in the middle of the formation, it’s clear everything revolves around Neymar.
  • Oribe Peralta, Mexico – If Brazil maintains control, Mexico’s hopes will hinge on Peralta stealing a goal. The Santos striker won’t need many chances, but against Thiago Silva and David Luiz, the question is whether he’ll have any.

Numbers to know:

55-45: Possession goes in Brazil’s favor. If effective possession was a thing, the numbers would be even more lopsided, but thanks to Mexico coming into the match by the halftime whistle, the real numbers don’t look so lopsided.
4-0: Shots on target, in Brazil’s favor. In fairness, Hector Herrera had a try from distance that should have been recorded as a shot on target, but with the officials failing to see Júlio César’s touch, Brazil was awarded a goal kick.
11-6: Tackles won, in favor of Brazil. Oscar alone has disposed Mexico five times.

Question for the second half:

  • Does Mexico change it up? And if so, how? Miguel Herrera has done a good job of stabilizing this team, but he hasn’t been able to install a Plan B. If El Tri does change it up — and based on the first half, they’ll need to — it will may be more about personnel than approach.
  • Is Brazil waning? After a spirited Mexico stormed out of the gates, Brazil eventually took control, enjoying 20-25 minutes or primacy. But the end of the half, however, Mexico had started to get a grip on the game. Is that a pattern, or a blip?

Giovinco strikes twice to lift Toronto FC to Canadian Championship (video)

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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Sebastian Giovinco scored twice including in stoppage time as Toronto FC overcame Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla’s fantastic strike to win 2-1 in the second leg of the Canadian Championship at BMO Field on Tuesday.

TFC held the advantage after a 1-1 first leg in Montreal. The Reds advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Tabla, who just turned 18 in March, is an Ivorian-born Canadian youth international who now has four senior goals for the Impact.

Montreal veteran Patrice Bernier saw red in the 89th minute, putting the Impact’s chances behind the 8-ball.

[ MORE: USMNT Gold Cup questions ]

Toronto FC entered the match with a road goal advantage, which was undone in the quick flash of a left-foot, as Tabla dug a ball from underneath him and past a flying Clint Irwin to make it 2-1 on aggregate.

The goal was a double whammy for Toronto, which went to the break knowing it would need to score twice (or win in penalty kicks) to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Yet TFC came back after a horrendous pass from Montreal, as Michael Bradley pinged a gorgeous diagonal ball to Sebastian Giovinco. The Atomic Ant recovered from a tough opening touch to bury his chance. 1-1.

And, oh yeah, watch this man work for his second…

Who is Kenny Saief, and other USMNT Gold Cup personnel questions

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Kenny Saief is an 23-year-old American left-sided player with UEFA Champions League experience.

So why do we know so little about the Miami-born man?

The answer is pretty straight-forward: Saief’s entire career has been under-the-radar. After coming up through a series of Israeli teams, he moved to KAA Gent in Belgium. None of those matches, even adding in his representing the full Israel national team twice, got a ton of play on American soil.

[ MORE: Saul scores stunner for Spain U-21s ]

So when Saief filed his one-time switch to represent the United States, paving the way for a USMNT call-up for this summer’s Gold Cup, even those of us who’d followed his career from afar had put a limited amount of actual observation on match footage.

So here’s the long-and-short:

  • Saief turns 24 in December.
  • He moved to Gent from Israeli second tier side Ramat haSharon in 2014.
  • Played a total of 35 minutes in friendlies versus Serbia and Croatia.
  • Saief has 20 total appearances between the Europa and Champions Leagues.
  • Posted a UCL assist versus Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 Round of 16.
  • Had goal, 2 assists in UEL this season, played 180 mins vs. Spurs.
  • Has 15 goals, 9 assists in 107 apps for Gent.

Saief should get an opportunity to make an impact for Bruce Arena’s USMNT, perhaps as soon as Saturday’s friendly against Ghana in East Hartford.

Who else stands a chance to gain the most from this tournament?

Joe Corona — The 26-year-old made his thirst-inducing name in American soccer circles by scoring a pair of goals in the 2013 Gold Cup, but has just 17 caps to his name. His call-up over veterans like Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan either shows how high he’s risen or how far those veterans have fallen.

Cristian Roldan — Seattle’s hard-nosed midfielder was playing college ball at Washington just three years ago, and it’s not crazy to think strong performances could boost him onto the radar of bigger clubs abroad (let alone make him a mainstay along Kellyn Acosta with the USMNT).

Dom Dwyer — If Roldan’s rise is surprising, Dwyer’s really is astounding. It’s easy to forget that the Sporting KC star forward was playing junior college soccer in 2010 before spending one season of Division I soccer with South Florida. Now he has 57 MLS goals and a look at becoming the clinical finisher the American side has wanted for some time.

Justin Morrow and Eric Lichaj — The 29- and 28-year-old fullbacks would love to prove their mettle is as good if not better than Jorge Villafana, the current front-runner to start at left back should the Yanks complete their revitalized run to the World Cup. Lichaj, a Nottingham Forest veteran, is also adept at right back.

This isn’t to say that Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe won’t benefit from strong tournaments, but the names above have either been rescued from soccer’s scrap heap or at least Jurgen Klinsmann’s prison.

PODCAST: Bob Bradley talks MLS past, USMNT

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Scott Nicholls and Otis Earle welcomed Bob Bradley to their “Beyond The Pitch” podcast to discuss his time coaching the Chicago Fire, the Fire’s current squad, how MLS has evolved, the new generation of players coming into the USMNT and more.

Perhaps most interesting is Bradley talking about previous losses with stinging emotion that sounds like they happened yesterday, including the 2000 MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Latest Men In Blazers pod ]

Since being fired from Swansea City after less than 100 days, Bradley has been linked with the Norway national team gig as well as a return to Los Angeles. Keep up with the U.S. coach here, and check out the podcast here:

U.S. Open Cup preview: Which underdog has best odds?

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Every dog has its day, and the three lower-tier clubs remaining in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are hoping for a second.

Miami FC, Sacramento Republic, and FC Cincinnati enjoyed wins over Major League Soccer sides in the fourth round, and now get further MLS tests in this week’s fifth round.

[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]

Once FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids tangle on Tuesday, attention turns to the underdogs on Wednesday. Who has the best chance to advance?

  1. Miami FC vs. Atlanta United — Playing an MLS expansion side at Riccardo Silva Stadium will give Miami a bit of confidence, and this is also a side with some good experience in pressure spots. Whether it’s manager Alessandro Nesta or MLS vets Michel, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Lahoud, MFC won’t shy away. Upset chance: Solid.
  2. FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire — The visitors are having a heck of a season in MLS and don’t have a group which will be worried by a huge crowd, but there’s no debating that 25,000-plus in Southern Ohio give FCC more than a puncher’s chance. Upset chance: Improbable, but possible
  3. LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic — If LA puts something close to its best side out there, Sacramento will struggle to stop its attack.  Upset chance: Long shot.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, New England hosts DC United, Philadelphia visits the Red Bulls, Seattle is off to San Jose, and Houston hosts Sporting KC.