Talking points: Ghosts of World Cup qualifying finally fade for Mexico

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One hundred eighty minutes into Mexico’s 2014 World Cup, and let there be no doubt: Any allusion to El Tri’s qualifying form is now an anachronistic one. The troubles the team had before Miguel Herrera took over? They’re irrelevant in the face of what we saw today in Fortaleza.

Drawing the tournament favorites on their home soil, Mexico rekindled memories of 2011, when the team’s quality was living up to its golden generation hype. Under Miguel Herrera, the team has finally moved beyond its soul-crushing qualifying cycle, discarding the shackles that paralyzed the team after winning that Gold Cup. Instead of being frozen by the prospect of failure, Mexico’s played to its talent.

Granted, it was only a 0-0 draw, and if somebody were inclined to take up the Selecao’s case, they could point to Brazil’s 6-2 edge in shots on target and argues the host nation was the better side. And they’re probably be right, but that’s not the point. The point is Mexico, a team that carried huge doubts after its three-year identity crisis, is back. They may not be on Brazil’s level, but as they’ve shown throughout the last decade, they can compete over a give 90 minutes. Though it’s one game, Mexico showed it may finally be back on Mexico’s level.

That’s exactly what El Tri did in Fortaleza. After the team’s energetic start, Brazil adjusted, but the underdogs kept competing. In the second half, that tenacity gave them a spell of control, one in which they nearly crafted a winning goal. And in the match’s final throes, once Brazil had regained its footing, the team’s restored confidence allowed it to withstand the favorites’ last push.

[MORE: What do you think this means for Brazil?]

In the process, we saw flashes of that golden generation resurface, and while the team may not be fully back to its 2011 self, again, that’s not the point. After today’s result, Mexico has discarded the hollow version of itself that nearly slept-walked out of the 2014 World Cup.

Here are some other talking points after today’s result in Fortaleza:

1. Guillermo Ochoa made a lot of money  – Go to your social media vacuum of choice and do a quick search. You’ll see people marveling at the former Ajaccio goalkeeper, whose six stops included a number of the point-blank variety.

Currently out of contract, the former Club America star is benefiting from some fortuitous timing as well as the injury to José de Jesús Corona, whose absence has allowed the former El Tri number one to resume his place in the team. On Tuesday, Ochoa made the most of his opportunity, likely drawing the attention of a club willing to see if his international form can be replicated during the upcoming European season.

[MORE: Ochoa the talk of Twitter during game]

source: AP
Mexico’s Hector Herrera leaps over Brazil’s Marcelo during the match between Brazil and Mexico. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

2. Questions and answers in midfield – José Juan Vázquez was a revelation at the base of midfield against Cameroon, but el Gallito was less convincing on Tuesday. Instead, it was Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado picking up the slack in the midfield, particularly in the second half. Though the trio had trouble getting a grip on the game during the first 35 minutes, the team’s ball retention and push from the middle improved in the second. Even Vázquez was able to get forward and threaten goal twice, barely missing his target each time.

The trio will never be confused for one of the tournament’s best, but given Mexico’s injuries in midfield, that’s unrealistic standard. Instead, Mexico’s goals should be more modest: Can the trio keep Mexico in matches, provide something going forward, and establish a level of cohesion that allows them to make adjustments?

We saw all three of those qualities at various points on Tuesday. It’s just a matter of getting those various points to last closer to 90 minutes.

3. Defensive issues, or the quality of Brazil? – Based on what we know about these teams, it’s probably a little of each, but both the quality and quantity of chances Brazil created on Tuesday were problematic. “Thank God for Guillermo Ochoa” is something you neither want to or can say after every match.

Perhaps swapping the Selecao for Croatia on Monday will provide a solution, but this isn’t the first time Mexico’s back line has looked vulnerable. El Tri survived Neymar and Oscar, but against relentless a player like Mario Mandzukic, those deficiencies could again be exposed.

Report: US Soccer wants to add new GM role

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Amid a intriguing race to appoint a new president of U.S. Soccer, it is being reported that the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors want to add a new General Manager role.

A report from ESPN states that after a meeting in Toronto last week, the U.S. Soccer Federation wants to create a new GM role between now and February 2018 when the presidential election takes place at their AGM in Orlando, Florida.

What is all this about?

It is believed that the USSF Board of Directors discussed revamping several roles and they want to create a GM position for U.S. Soccer who would appoint head coaches for the USMNT and report directly to the U.S. Soccer President, with the USMNT head coach reporting to the GM.

In theory this would eliminate a “non soccer person” from making key soccer decisions, at least when it comes to the USMNT.

Per the report, it is unknown if this GM would also oversee the USWNT and if they would also act as the Technical Director of U.S. Soccer. The changes are expected to be ratified in January when the Board of Directors meet again with USSF CEO and secretary general leading the meetings.

Many believe this is the correct route for U.S. Soccer to go down and it’s hard to argue with that. Many national teams around the world have a soccer federation in place to deal with the day-to-day running, then a completely different set of people in charge of the national teams.

Long-time USSF President Sunil Gulati had plenty of success off the field, growing U.S. Soccer successfully in terms of finances and many other aspects, but often he was the key decision maker when it came to hiring and firing coaches.

Where does this leave the eight candidates running to become the new president of U.S. Soccer?

Well, it’s complicated. Some of the candidates are more focused on the business aspects behind U.S. Soccer (Carlos Cordeiro and Kathy Carter especially), while the former USMNT players running (Eric Wynalda, Kyle Martino and Paul Caligiuri) have more expertise in making soccer focused decisions and would perhaps see the GM role as a better fit.

Either way, there are interesting times ahead for the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The role of GM would be wide-ranging and you would have to think candidates must have a deep knowledge of the intricacies of U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer.

Argentina’s Independiente wins Copa Sudamericana in Rio

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SAO PAULO (AP) Argentina’s Independiente is the champion of Copa Sudamericana, the second most prestigious tournament in South America. A 1-1 draw with Brazil’s Flamengo on Wednesday night in Rio de Janeiro gave the Argentinians a 3-2 victory in the aggregate result and their second title in the competition.

The winners of Copa Sudamericana secure a spot in the next edition of Copa Libertadores, the region’s most prestigious competition.

The final was surrounded by trouble, with hundreds of Flamengo fans breaking into the Maracana and attacking Independiente supporters on nearby streets. Police used stun grenades to calm the situation. Since Tuesday night more than 50 Flamengo fans were detained in incidents with Independiente followers.

Independiente fans were filmed making racist gestures to locals.

With the support of more than 54,000 fans in an overpacked Maracana, Flamengo striker Lucas Paqueta opened the scoring meters away from the line in the 29th minute after a low cross from defender Rever.

The Brazilians did not celebrate long. A controversial penalty allowed 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco to tie the match in the 36th. The second half gave the Brazilians two clear chances to score, but Independiente held on to win its first continental title since it was relegated in 2013 from Argentina’s top-flight division.

“We showed we deserved the title during all our campaign, today was no different,” an emotional Barco told journalists on the pitch. On its way to the title, Independiente eliminated Argentina’s Atletico Tucuman and Paraguay’s Nacional and Libertad until they met Flamengo in the final.

Barco, one of the best players of the tournament, is leaving the club to play at Major League Soccer, for Atlanta. He could have played his last match for Independiente at the Maracana.

“I never imagined I could leave Independiente, but now all I want to do is to celebrate this title and thank fans for their support all those years,” the youngster said.

Coach Ariel Holan, who spent most of his career working at field hockey teams, criticized the animosity involving the match.

“This title is a dream to me. But these problems off the pitch need to be eradicated. Not only in Brazil, but all over Latin America,” he said.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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The games keep coming thick and fast in the Premier League and that means plenty of movement in our player Power Rankings.

[ MORE: Power Rankings archive ]

Players from Manchester City dominate our rankings, which is no surprise given their record-breaking exploits. Plus plenty of players from in-form Leicester City are in our list, while Tottenham and Chelsea are also well represented.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections of the top 20 players in the PL right now.


  1. David Silva (Man City) – Up 7
  2. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Down 1
  3. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Down 1
  4. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) – Up 1
  5. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – New entry
  6. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) – New entry
  7. David De Gea (Man United) – Down 3
  8. Raheem Sterling (Man City) – Down 2
  9. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Down 6
  10. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – New entry
  11. Wayne Rooney (Everton) – New entry
  12. Ederson (Man City) – New entry
  13. Demarai Gray (Leicester) – New entry
  14. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – New entry
  15. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) – New entry
  16. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) – Down 6
  17. Jack Cork (Burnley) – New entry
  18. Willian (Chelsea) – New entry
  19. Jack Butland (Stoke City) – New entry
  20. Marko Arnautovic (West Ham) – New entry

26 people arrested after massive soccer fan brawl in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Police in Serbia have arrested 26 people after a massive fan brawl during a soccer match between Belgrade rivals Red Star and Partizan left at least 20 people injured.

Police say foreign nationals are among those who were detained after Wednesday’s match, which ended 1-1. They did not specify the nationalities.

The brawl erupted between two rival Partizan fan groups. Several people suffered head injuries and burns from torches. Some fans were stripped naked before being kicked out of the stands as riot police intervened with batons.

Clashes between Partizan and Red Star fans have been common for one of the world’s most intense soccer rivalries.

With the draw, Red Star is leading Partizan by nine points halfway through the championship.