Suárez scores twice in return, leads Uruguay to 2-1 win over England

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Two shots are all you need, provided they fall to Luis Suárez. Scoring twice in his 2014 World Cup debut, Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer has put England on the brink of elimination, with his 84th minute game-winner giving the South American champions a 2-1 win over the Three Lions in São Paulo.

Suárez opened the scoring in the 39th minute with his team’s first shot on target, heading inside Joe Hart’s right post to give Uruguay a 1-0 lead. After Wayne Rooney’s first World Cup goal in the 75th minute appeared to preserve a draw for England, Suárez blasted a 84th minute shot from the right of the penalty area into the center of goal, converting La Celeste’s second shot on target into the game-winning goal.

Though England managed six shots on Fernando Muslera, the loss leaves the team on the verge of its first group stage exit since 1958, potentially eliminated before they take the field next Tuesday in Belo Horizonte. If Costa Rica draws Italy tomorrow, the Three Lions are out.

Uruguay, on the other hand, have new reason for optimism. Playing his first match since the end of the Premier League season, Suárez almost single-handedly sank a team that started five of his Liverpool teammates. In the process, Suárez gave Uruguay reason to believe ahead of their group stage’s toughest match: Tuesday’s meeting with Italy in Natal.

[ MORE: Talking points: Putting England’s failure in context ]
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Even play that saw England hold 60 percent of the ball through halftime failed to produce a shot on target until the 39th minute. Then, perfectly executing a plan that asked Nicolas Lodeiro to connected Uruguay’s midfield with its two attacking stars, La Celeste struck first, getting both Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez involved in the day’s first goal.

On a quick movement out of its own half, Uruguay found Lodeiro in front of the defense, with the ensuing attention leaving Cavani open on the left flank. A ball played wide opened up the English defense, allowing the Paris Saint-Germain striker to find Suárez with a right-footed chip to the middle of the area. Having pulled off the back of defender Phil Jagielka, Suárez headed inside Joe Hart’s right post, giving the two-time champions a 1-0 lead.

England nearly responded through Daniel Sturridge two minutes later, but after being sent to halftime with their one-goal deficit, the Three Lions allowed Uruguay to assume control of the game early in the second period. A 49th minute cross from Suárez nearly caught Hart out of position, though the Manchester City keeper fell back to his line to keep the ball out. Three minutes later, Lodeiro put Cavani in on goal in the left of the penalty area, though the ensuing shot was sent well wide of the right post. Minutes after the teams returned to the field, England was in danger of conceding a second goal.

source: AP
England’s Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the match between Uruguay and England in Sao Paulo. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

In the 54th minute, however, the Three Lions nearly even the scales, but with his second big miss of the match, Rooney’s World Cup goal-scoring drought continued. After heading an open chance onto the bar in the 31st minute, Rooney was given a chance to equalize from nine yards. One-timing a left-footed shot, Rooney found Muslera in the middle of goal, allowing the Uruguayan keeper to preserve his team’s 1-0 lead.

Just over 20 minutes later, however, Rooney’s slump was over. Attacking the far post as play built down England’s right, the maligned attacker tapped in a Glen Johnson pass sent through the six-yard box, scoring his first World Cup goal from close range to bring the Three Lions back into the tournament.

By match’s end, however, the headlines belonged to Suárez. Off a long ball out of Uruguay’s end, a headed ball allowed Suárez to get behind the England defense and into the right of Hart’s penalty box. As the England keeper went low to try to block the shot, the Uruguayan sniper went high, putting his 41st international score into the middle of the Three Lions’ goal.

It’s a score that will likely send England out at the group stage for the first time since 1958 (England failed to qualify in 1994). Roy Hodgson and his team need Costa Rica to lose twice, Italy to beat Uruguay, and the tiebreakers to fall their way in order to make the knockout round. Any draws over the group’s final three games send the Three Lions home.

Though Uruguay has yet to face the Italians, their scenarios are more positive, particularly if Suárez continues scoring goals. With a win on Tuesday, La Celeste will likely go through. Even without that result, there are other scenarios that could see the two-time champions into the second round.

LINEUPS

Uruguay: Muslera; Pereira, Godín, Jimenez, Cáceres; Rodríguez, Gonzalez (78′), Ríos, Lodeiro (Stuani 67′); Suárez (Coates 88′), Cavani.

Goals: Suárez 39′, 84′

England: Hart; Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines; Gerrard, Henderson (Lambert 87′); Welbeck (Lallana 71′), Sterling (Barkley 64′), Rooney; Sturridge.

Goals: Rooney 75′

Arena reacts to USMNT draw, expects CONCACAF fight to end

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Bruce Arena didn’t enjoy watching Tuesday’s 1-1 draw between the United States and Panama, but he’s not upset with the result.

“The referee didn’t blow his whistle too much, and that’s the way the game looked for 90 minutes,” Arena said.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Arena’s Yanks struggled to find their flow in the draw, ravaged by injuries to their back line. Arena praised his back four for their performance in difficult circumstances on the road with new teammates.

And he’s feeling a lot better than a week ago, when the U.S. had zero points and sat last in the table.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

“We’re obviously in better shape with four points in two games. We’ve made progress. Every game in qualifying is going to be critical for every team. Everyone’s in it. It’s going to be a battle for the second, third, and fourth spots.”

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

Panama 1-1 USMNT: Ugly, scrappy point for both sides

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The United States will finish the international break in the Hex’s fourth place after a 1-1 draw at Panama in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Clint Dempsey scored off a feed from Christian Pulisic to give the U.S. a brief 1-0 lead, and Gabriel Gomez leveled the score before halftime.

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Here’s the Hex table as it stands, with the U.S. on pace for a playoff spot against Asia’s playoff winner:

Mexico — 10 points
Costa Rica — 7 points
Panama — 5 points
———————
USMNT — 4 points
———————-
Honduras — 4 points
Trinidad and Tobago — 3 points

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The first 10 minutes were a bit frenetic, with the U.S. focused on adventurous first touch passes when it managed to earn the ball from Panama.

That feel wasn’t aided by the officiating, as Cesar Ramos was inconsistent in a very physical opening quarter-hour (and never pulled a single card).

Felipe Baloy flashed a header over the cross bar off a 16th minute corner kick as he lost Jozy Altidore and nodded back across goal. It was a bit of set piece foreshadowing, as Arena has yet to fix a long-held USMNT problem.

Christian Pulisic was fired up when Luis Tejada shoved him to the turf in the 20th minute.

Tim Ream bailed out Jorge Villafana, who wasn’t as composed and smart as his Friday versus Panama, sliding to divert Armando Cooper’s cross for a corner kick.

Jermaine Jones cued up Pulisic moments later, but the youngster had to wait for a bounding ball to settle before Panama conceded a corner. That opportunity was wasted by an overly aggressive Gonzalez, who was called for a foul before the ball arrived in the 18.

Howard saw his first danger and averted it when Alberto Quintero shook Zusi to rip a shot on frame. It was 0-0 after 32 minutes.

Then, the breakthrough. Dempsey moved to within a goal of Landon donovan’s all-time mark thanks to Pulisic, who cooked Felipe Baloy and held off Roman Torres before laying off to the veteran. 1-0, 39′.

The lead lasted all of three minutes, as Gomez pounced on a loose ball with the Yanks’ back line at sixes and sevens off a long throw-in. Gomez turned off Jermaine Jones and lost Villafana to bury his chance behind Howard. 1-1, 44′.

The second half began with more chunky play until Villafana blazed down the left wing on an overlapping run to cross for Pulisic, whose shot was forced out for a corner which led to nothing.

Dempsey then turned a Michael Bradley free kick to a waiting Jaime Penedo as the Yanks started to refind their flow.

Panama found a doorstep chance when Torres nodded down for Tejada, but Howard made an exceptional nether regions “leg” save to keep it 1-1.

Arena introduced Alejandro Bedoya for Darlington Nagbe with 20 minutes to play, a move that was a testament to the physical nature of the game.

Fittingly, it was creative work from Pulisic that helped the U.S. win a corner kick soon after, though Penedo claimed the offering.

More chances came Panama’s way, as the U.S. spent much of the late stages desperately clearing loose balls. On another night, with better finishing from Tejada, the Yanks would’ve been sunk.

Three takeaways from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw at Panama

AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
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What did we learn from the United States’ 1-1 draw in Panama City on Wednesday?

For one thing, that the coach isn’t going to matter without a number of your very best players.

[ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings ]

The USMNT saw precious few moments of brilliance from its injury-ravaged side, saved by its soon-to-be all-time leading scorer, its 18-year-old star attacker, and its legendary goalkeeper.

But mainly, we saw that you can change the boss, but you need better performances to make a difference.

Limits of depth tested in ugly affair

Bruce Arena was without his best center back pairing thanks to injury, and you could argue he was without his best back four if you see Fabian Johnson as a left back (John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin, and Johnson).

The U.S. also couldn’t pair Bobby Wood with Jozy Altidore or Clint Dempsey, and lost Sebastian Lletget to injury on Friday. Timmy Chandler has rarely thrived with the USMNT, but it certainly would’ve been nice if Arena had called him up for the second match alone (He was suspended Friday for yellow card accumulation).

Given the above, this was not a pretty match. You just have to hope this isn’t the result that keeps them from Russia.

Mexico, revisited (What game plan?)

This might be an unpopular take, but Tuesday’s loss was nothing more than the performance put forth against Mexico in Columbus.

The main differences? Tim Howard was there to make a tremendous save, and Panama is nowhere near to the level of El Tri.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The Yanks didn’t have a great plan other than to outwork Panama. This isn’t a big knock on the coach’s tactics given the lack of starting caliber players noted above, but once Panama flooded the middle of the pitch with fouls and tight tackles, an answer wasn’t provided by the players or the coach.

Plan B hasn’t been a U.S. strong suit for a long time, perhaps back to the finer moments of the Bob Bradley era. Arena got away with one on Tuesday.

Rough road ahead

This is something we know, but my was it reinforced: Winning CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers at home is a necessity, because there’s carnage and bad pitches on the road.

Perhaps that could’ve changed if referee Cesar Ramos brought a yellow card out for either team at any point in the proceedings. Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe were fouled as part of Panama’s game plan, and the Yanks’ beleaguered defense went with a similar plan as the sloppy match wore into the waning moments.

The U.S. is still in control of its own World Cup destiny, of course, but simply must handle its business in remaining home matches against Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and Costa Rica. T&T is next, and anything other than three points sends them into Azteca in a bad, bad way.

Player ratings from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw in Panama

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Player ratings reverted to old form after Tuesday’s 1-1 draw in Panama City, though fortunately one of the other U.S. tropes is dead.

That’s because “Christian Pulisic is the future” can officially be moved into “Christian Pulisic is the present”.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

The Borussia Dortmund teenager again manufactured the United States’ best moment, feeding Clint Dempsey for the Yanks’ lone goal.

Starting XI

Tim Howard  — 7 — Don’t know what he’s supposed to do on the goal, but his jewels save to deny Luis Tejada could be a World Cup saver.

Jorge Villafana  — 4 — One of the many star men from the win over Honduras was too adventurous and less composed. Bad combo.

Omar Gonzalez  — 4 — I say this in a way that ignores Timmy Chandler’s fine work in the Bundesliga: Is Gonzalez going to be Bruce Arena’s Chandler? Hopefully this is the last time he has to start.

Tim Ream — 5 — Had a bad time on the goal, and made several bad plays. But it’s hard to get a read on the Fulham’s man night because he bailed out Gonzalez and Villafana on a number of occasions.

Graham Zusi  — 5 — Gets bumped up a point for handling a very difficult situation, still adapting to right back in a match where Panama’s tactics were to attack his side. A better second half than the first.

Michael Bradley  — 6 — Nothing exceptional from the captain, but still an upgrade from his form under Jurgen Klinsmann. A little too deep in the formation on the evening, but that could’ve been the plan?

Jermaine Jones  (Off 75′) — 5 — Ornery as usual, his only successes came in standing up for his oft-fouled midfield mates.

Darlington Nagbe  (Off 68′) — 6  — This game looked set up for him to pick the ball up from Michael Bradley and dance into the midfield, but he only got a few chances as Panama’s tactics were aimed at fouling the Yanks’ two best dribblers in him and Pulisic.

Christian Pulisic  — 9 — A simply incredible bit of work to work two veteran defenders and assist Dempsey’s goal. Failing an unforeseen dip in company, Pulisic is going to be one of the most important players in American men’s history.

Clint Dempsey  — 6 — Scored the goal that earned the point, but otherwise fought to be a part of the match. That’s the sign of a legend, though, still finding a way to make himself matter on a poor evening.

Jozy Altidore  — 5 — Might’ve had a dozen touches in the game. Part of this was down to the U.S. aiming balls at his head and not his feet, but not his day.

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 68′)  — 6 — Dogged work rate from the Union man.

Kellyn Acosta (On 75′) — 6 — Some creativity on display in limited time

Paul Arriola (On 83′) — N/A —