Late Portugal equalizer leaves United States with just one point after 2-2 draw

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The United States was on the verge of securing a place in the knockout round, but a late header by Varela secured a point for Portugal and denied Jurgen Klinsmann all three points, leaving the US with a gut-wrenching feeling after a roller coaster ride in Manaus.

It appeared that Clint Dempsey had given the US a stunning victory with a goal in the 81st minute, but Portugal remained alive in the “Group of Death” by snatching back a point.

The match started with a gut-wrenching moment for the United States. Just five minutes into the game, Geoff Cameron went to make a routine clear on a ball into the box, but he flubbed it, and the ball fell right to Nani at the back post, and the Manchester United winger didn’t miss with a howitzer into the back of the net for an early Portugal lead.

The Seleção were strong in the early going, both before and after the goal, and the United States struggled to hold any sort of possession.

[ MORE: Man of the Match rankings | Talking points | How the U.S. can advance ]
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But the US held off any more danger from the opponents, and slowly built themselves into the game, proving the more dangerous side by the 15th minute.

It stayed that way for much of the first half, with the US coming close a number of times.

Clint Dempsey had the two early chances for the US on set pieces, first in the 13th minute on a free kick that he blazed just over the bar, and then on an 18th minute corner when the ball dropped to Dempsey on the back post and the striker looked to chip the keeper, just missing over the top again.

A pair of chances then fell to Michael Bradley, and he just missed as well. He struck one over in the 24th minute,and four minutes later skimmed a slow-roller wide, beating Beto the goalkeeper but beating the post as well.

Tim Howard was called upon as the half wore down, and performed admirably to keep the game at just 1-0. A pair of counter-attacks for Portugal proved dangerous, with Howard saving well off a Nani smash three minutes before the break.

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Jermaine Jones’s curling goal drew the United States back level to restore order after Portugal’s early lead.

He’d best that save two minutes later though, as another counter got Nani another shot, which he crashed into the post. The rebound found substitute Eder, who looked to loop the ball into the far corner, but Howard got up from his spot on the ground and tipped the ball wide acrobatically.

The second half began a tactical chess match, but the US had the first true chance 10 minutes after the break. Fabian Johnson bombed down the right flank, and brought the ball all the way to the end line before cutting it back brilliantly into the middle of the box, drawing Beto out in the process.

The ball came to Bradley, and with the goal gaping, he smashed his shot into the knee of Ricardo Costa who cleared off the line, breaking US hearts.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s bunch continued to ask questions of the Portuguese defense, and they got their breakthrough for their patience. A corner ping-ponged through the box before coming out to Jermaine Jones at the top of the key, and with nobody expecting him to shoot, he fired a strike that Beto never saw, and it nestled into the far corner for the equalizer.

As the country caught its breath, Portugal put on a response, with Raul Meireles and Nani bagging half-chances in the next five minutes. Portugal manager Paulo Bento, having already made an early injury change and a halftime sub, then used his final substitution in the 69th minute to pull Meireles for Varela, using all three of his changes before the US had used a single one.

Things shut down for a bit as the US looked to be on their heels a bit, but it would all fall to them in the final 10 minutes.

An attack down the right side through substitute DeAndre Yedlin proved fruitful. The 20-year-old burst all the way down the flank and to the end-line before cutting back into the box.  It bobbled to Bradley, who tried an off-balance shot, but he scuffed it and it fell to Zusi on the far side. The US winger cut the ball back into the middle, and Demspey crashed the box and chested it home for the 2-1 lead.

The Americans were forced to defend as the clock wound down, as Portugal looked to stave off elimination by throwing everything forward.  It went down to the last moment, and a cross from Cristiano Ronaldo found Varela for an open header, and he put it home on literally the last touch of the game.

With the point, the United States remains in second place in the group, level with Germany on points.  Portugal remains alive in the group with the draw, although they trail a qualifying spot by three points and own a -4 goal differential, five fewer than the US.

LINEUPS:

United States – Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Beckerman, Jones; Bedoya (Yedlin 72′), Bradley, Zusi (Gonzalez 90+1′); Dempsey (Wondolowski 87′).

Goals: Jones 64′, Dempsey 81′

Portugal – Beto; Bruno Alves, Pereira, A. Almeida (William 46′), Costa; Veloso, Meireles (Varela 69′), Mourinho; Nani, Ronaldo, Postiga (Eder 16′).

Goals: Nani 5′, Varely 90+5′

Juventus bumped by Atalanta at the death

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Juventus is still in firm control of the Serie A title race, but they were dealt a slight setback as Atalanta secured a 2-2 draw with a dramatic 89th minute equalizer in Bergamo.

Dani Alves had given Juventus the lead in the 83rd minute on a header after a brilliant far-post cross by Miralem Pjanic, but Remo Freuler answered late as he grabbed a point.

The goal came on a fortunate bounce as Pjanic and substitute Stephen Lichtensteiner got tangled up on the ball and failed to clear, and the ball squirted to Freuler who suddenly found himself free in front of Gianluigi Buffon. The Juventus keeper came off his line to smother the chance, but he failed to completely collect, and the ball again popped free. Freuler followed up the loose ball, and with a trio of Juventus defenders flying in, the 25-year-old Swiss attacker knocked it in.

The draw was deserving for Atalanta, who had controlled the game for much of the first half, and went ahead just seconds before the break on a goal by Andrea Conti. Atalanta outshot Juventus 7-4 in the first half, 3-1 on shots on target. Juventus took over control in the second half, and got back on level terms just five minutes after the break as Juventus loanee Leonardo Spinazzola put one in his own net.

Alves’ goal put Juventus in front, but that lead only lasted six minutes. Juventus goes nine points clear at the top of the Serie A table with the draw, but Roma has the chance to cut that to six if they can beat Lazio at home on Sunday.

MLS Week 8: Litmus tests across the board

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Week 8 in MLS action could teach fans a lot about clubs with plenty to prove.

With questions still abound regarding teams like NYCFC, New England, Seattle, Portland, and New York Red Bulls, all those teams have a chance to make statements regarding their potential strength this season.

[ MORE: Week 8 MLS Power Rankings ]

In addition, struggling teams such as Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Montreal all have opportunities for much-needed points against arguably weaker opposition.

Let’s take a look at the weekend slate chronologically:

Toronto FC vs. Houston Dynamo
7:30 p.m. ET Friday

Toronto got a pair from Giovinco last time out, and sitting near the bottom of the crowded East mid-tier, they need points fast to avoid finding themselves in a hole behind the top of the table. There’s goals in this one, with Houston defensively challenged and Cubo Torres on fire to start the year.

Montreal Impact vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
3:00 p.m. ET Saturday

An all-Canadian clash actually serves as a vitally important match for both clubs. With each side near the bottom of their conference standings, they both need a result badly to jump-start the campaign. A draw does nobody any good here moving forward.

Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids
4:00 p.m. ET Saturday

The Lions are one of 2017’s surprises, and Cyle Larin is on an absolute tear. Unfortunately, so far, anyone who shuts down Larin shuts down Orlando City. That said, good luck to Colorado shutting down an early MLS Golden Boot challenger.

Cyle Larin has 6 goals in 6 games this season (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images).

NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

New York has seen bumps on the early-season road, but overall remains a strong Supporter’s Shield contender. They face a big test against another strong Eastern Conference side, and a win here would make it three straight, all over good competition. Chicago is reeling after its defeat to Toronto, out-shot 9-1, but has another chance to pick up a road win before heading back home.

Columbus Crew vs. NYCFC
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Columbus has been poor on the road, but they return home to Mapfre Stadium to take on a strong NYCFC side. This game could potentially teach us a lot about whoever comes out on top, as both look to build separation from the rest of the pack in the East. Both have lost two of three, but both still appear strong up front, and three points in this game could prove to be a marquee win to point to later in the season.

Minnesota United vs. San Jose Earthquakes
8:00 p.m. ET Saturday

Minnesota United, owners of one of the worst starts to the season, has shown signs of life. Can they keep it going against another team struggling for points?

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers
8:00 p.m. ET Saturday

This is a marquee matchup, and with FC Dallas unbeaten so far, represents a huge test but also a huge opportunity for Portland to announce itself as a true top contender in the West. They’re top of the table, but have played at least one more game than most teams just below them. Can the Timbers find a way through the strong Dallas D?

Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake
8:30 p.m. ET Saturday

A big rivalry game with big table implications, Sporting KC has the unfortunate luck of catching RSL after hiring Mike Petke and not before. This should be a fun one.

Seattle Sounders vs. New England Revolution
10:00 p.m. ET Saturday

We still don’t know exactly what New England is. For every step forward they’ve taken one back, and for every setback they’ve had they’ve found a way through. This is a fantastic test. There are plenty of excuses for a potential loss with the team going cross-country to face one of the league’s best attacks, but a result could be a true statement.

LA Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union
10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

With Philadelphia struggling and now traveling a long way, this should be a chance for the Galaxy to turn things around. Should be.

Atlanta United vs. D.C. United
3:00 p.m. ET Sunday

Atlanta is back home for the first time in over a month. They have slipped a bit since the torrid start, but still appear a dangerous club. D.C. will have its work cut out.

Asian FIFA executive pleads guilty to bribery charges

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A guilty plea was entered early Friday by senior Asian Federation (AFC) official Richard Lai to bribery charges, leading FIFA to suspend the 55-year-old indefinitely.

Lai has served as the head of the Guam FA since 2001, and is a member of the FIFA audit and compliance committee. He was also formerly a member of the AFC executive committee, and currently sits on the AFC marketing committee. Lai is a United States citizen.

The guilty plea confirms more than $1 million in bribes accepted by Lai, including those from Kuwaiti officials looking to increase their influence over FIFA voters in the confederation. Two unnamed AFC executives, including one Kuwaiti, were also named as co-conspirators.

“One of the functions the defendant Richard Lai performed for Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 in exchange for the funds they sent him was to advise them on who was supporting which candidates in AFC and FIFA matters, including elections, and who Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 should recruit to support their chosen candidates,” a Department of Justice document published on Friday said.

That wording seems to indirectly implicate Qatari executive Mohamed bin Hammam, who was banned for life by FIFA in 2011 for bribery.

“I would like to thank the American authorities for their continued efforts to stamp out corruption from football,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement following the plea. “I am happy to confirm once again, that FIFA will provide whatever assistance is needed by the U.S. and any other authorities around the world.”

Lai has also been provisionally suspended by the AFC.

Argentina closes in on Sampaoli, according to FA boss

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The Argentinian FA is hoping to convince Jorge Sampaoli to abandon Sevilla and take the opening in his home nation.

President Claudio Tapia confirmed that Sampaoli is their top target, calling the 57-year-old their “chosen one” in an interview with ESPN.

“We have chosen a coach that has a contract,” Tapia told ESPN. “We want to be respectful and wait because he has a release clause which is once the tournament ends. We will communicate it to the club and we will sit down and negotiate his departure and release clause. We want things to go well in the final games he has left.”

Argentina dismissed coach Edgardo Bauza after the country fell to fifth in CONMEBOL World Cup qualification following defeats to Paraguay, Brazil, and Chile over the past six months.

Sampaoli is under contract with Sevilla until the summer of 2018, but has a $1.6 million release clause, to which Tapia was referring. Sevilla sits in fourth position in the La Liga table, level on points with Atletico Madrid but behind significantly on goal differential. The club finishes its league season on May 21st against Osasuna, and Argentina’s next game is a friendly on June 9th at home against Brazil. The next World Cup qualifier is in August against Uruguay.

Samapoli has been with Sevilla since since last summer in his first European club job, but the Argentinian has ample experience to take over for his home country. He managed Chile for four years, winning the 2015 Copa America in Chile. He resigned in early 2016 due to a contract dispute, paying a heavy price to do so as he gave up bonuses to wriggle free of his contract.

Argentina’s desire to secure Sampaoli as coach is nothing new, as the man himself confirmed an offer for the job a week ago, but said he would not consider it until the end of the season. It appears now that a deal is likely, and he will have a very short turnaround to get his first look at the team against a fierce continental rival.