World Cup Today: Can Sunday actually be better than Saturday?

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WORLD CUP TODAY: SUNDAY, JUNE 29

Today, we must not be afraid to ask the question: is there any way Sunday’s matches can match the thrill of those played on Saturday? In the first match of the knockout rounds, Brazil and Chile played out a 1-1 draw, ultimately taking the game to penalties. Brazil scored three, Chile two, and the hosts advanced amidst Chile’s tears.

It looked as though there was no possible way Colombia and Uruguay could top that game. And perhaps in terms of drama, they couldn’t. But the beautiful goals scored were enough to compensate: James Rodríguez turning, volleying in off the crossbar, then scoring the second through a sidefooted shot after a wonderfully worked team move. Que bonita!

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MATCH 51: NETHERLANDS VS. MEXICO
Location: Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s Guide
Netherlands announced their intent to dominate at this tournament with a 5-1 thumping of Spain, followed by a fun back and forth with Australia, which eventually resulted in a 3-2 win for Holland. Knowing that they could top the group with just a draw, the Dutch sat back in their final game, but still managed to run out 2-0 winners over Chile.

Mexico struggled in their first match, sort of: they had two goals (incorrectly) ruled out as offside in the first half. But eventually the flag stayed down, and they came away with a 1-0 win over Cameroon. El Tri were then able to hold Brazil to a goalless draw, before ending the group stages with a convincing 3-1 victory over Croatia.

What they’re saying
Andres Guardado explains why Mexico have conceded just one goal thus far: “To be honest, the key to our defending has been the fact we’re all doing our bit – it’s not just down to the keeper and the defender. [Forwards] Oribe [Peralta] and Giovani [dos Santos] really help out and if the ball gets past them, us midfielders are ready to step in and, after that, there’s our back five. And finally you haveMemo Ochoa, who’s playing really well, as the last line of defence.”

History
The two sides have met six times, with Holland taking the slight edge: three wins to Mexico’s two. Both sides have scored eleven goals, though, so there’s that.

Premier League Players
Netherlands:
Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa); Robin van Persie (Manchester United); Tim Krul (Newcastle); Jonathan de Guzmán, Michel Vorm (Swansea)
Mexico: Javier Hernández (Manchester United)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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MATCH 52: COSTA RICA VS. GREECE

Location: Arena Pernambuco, Recife
Time: 4pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
Costa Rica have been quite the surprise this World Cup, absolutely thrilling CONCACAF supporters. First they beat Uruguay, and not just by one goal: la celeste fell 3-1. Next up, a 1-0 win over Italy, then a goalless draw with England. Costa Rica may not be the most thrilling team to watch in the tournament, but they’re certainly much more solid than most had been willing to give them credit for.

Speaking of the inability to thrill, the ticos’ opponents are Greece, who managed to defy the odds and advance, despite not scoring until the 42nd minute of their third game. The Pirate Ship first lost 3-0 to Colombia, putting to shame the idea of their fantastic defensive abilities. Greece then sat back to earn a goalless draw against Japan, before coming from behind to beat Ivory Coast 2-1, with the help of a last-minute penalty.

What they’re saying
Los Ticos technical assistant Luis Marin says it’s vital Costa Rica score first: “It’s crucial for us to score early in the game, especially as Greece are known to tighten up at the back once they score. But we know it’s going to be a tough game all round. Although they lost to Colombia 3-0, the goals they conceded were down to simple mistakes. Greece are also potent on the counter-attack.”

History
They’re about to write it.

Premier League players
Costa Rica:
Joel Cambell (Arsenal)
Fulham fans will be paying attention to Greece for Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Mitroglou, and Costa Rica for Bryan Ruiz, but alas, Fulham are not really in the Premier League anymore, are they? Sorry guys.

MLS players
Costa Rica:
 Giancarlo González, Waylon Francis (Columbus Crew); Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls)

MLS playoff scenarios heading into the final weekend

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Time certainly has flown by, and just like that the MLS Cup playoffs are well within sight.

While the Eastern Conference is all locked up in terms of which teams will be in the postseason, seeding can change drastically on the final weekend.

[ MORE: Tab Ramos confirms interest in USMNT job ]

Meanwhile, the West sees three clubs vying for one final spot in what has proven to be a very intriguing battle over the last several weeks.

All eyes will be on three teams in the Western Conference as the San Jose Earthquakes, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake all have an opportunity to move into the sixth spot.

Below, PST takes a look at where clubs can finish in relation to the playoff race.

Eastern Conference

#1 seed: Toronto FC is locked into the top spot

#2 seed: NYCFC — clinches the two seed with a win; Chicago Fire — clinches two with win and NYCFC draw or loss; Atlanta takes two with win plus NYCFC loss/draw and Fire loss/draw

#3 seed: Fire — finishes third with win; NYCFC — takes third with loss to Crew and Fire win; Atlanta — third with win and Fire loss; Crew — finish third with win over NYCFC and don’t overtake NYCFC on GD, plus losses by Fire and Atlanta

#4 seed: NYCFC — fourth with loss to Crew and overtaken on GD, plus Fire win; Fire — finish fourth with loss and Atlanta win, plus NYCFC win or draw; Atlanta — takes fourth with loss and NYCFC/Fire wins; Crew — fourth with win over NYCFC, Fire win and Atlanta loss/draw

#5 seed: Crew — finish fifth with loss/draw; Atlanta — finishes fifth with loss and Crew win; Fire — takes fifth with loss and Atlanta/Crew victories; NYCFC — drops with loss to Crew, Atlanta win and Fire win/draw

#6 seed: New York Red Bulls are locked into sixth spot

Western Conference

#1 seed: Whitecaps — clinch top spot with win; Timbers — finish first with win and Whitecaps loss

#2 seed: Whitecaps — finish second with loss to Timbers; Timbers — second with loss/draw and Sounders/Sporting KC losses; Sounders — finish second with win and Whitecaps win

#3 seed: Timbers — third with loss and Sounders win; Sounders — loss to Rapids and Sporting KC/Dynamo losses; Sporting KC — finish third with win, Sounders loss and Whitecaps/Timbers draw; Dynamo — third with win, Sporting KC loss and Sounders loss

#4 seed: Whitecaps — finish fourth with loss to Timbers, Sounders/Sporting KC wins; Timbers — loss to Whitecaps, plus Sounders/Sporting KC victories; Sounders — finish fourth with loss/draw and Sporting KC win; Sporting KC — fourth with loss and Dynamo loss/draw; Dynamo — finish fourth with win and Sporting KC loss

#5 seed: Timbers — fifth with loss to Whitecaps and Sounders/Sporting KC/Dynamo wins; Sounders — loss to Rapids, plus Sporting KC/Dynamo victories; Dynamo — finish fifth with loss; Sporting KC — fifth place with loss and Dynamo win

#6 seed: San Jose Earthquakes clinch with win; FC Dallas takes sixth with win/draw and Earthquakes loss/draw; Real Salt Lake clinch with win/draw, Earthquakes loss and Dallas loss/draw

The next Pulisic? A 10-year-old American is heading to AS Roma

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With everything that has transpired since last week’s U.S. Men’s National Team debacle, American soccer fans can use a pick-me-up.

What better could there be than perhaps another young star-in-the-making? Dare I say, the next Christian Pulisic?

[ MORE: Bruce Arena is out as USMNT manager ]

Perhaps, but it’s way too early to say that.

His name is Alessandro Cupini, a 10-year-old from Kansas City, Missouri that is about to complete a dream that a soccer player of any age would be thrilled to achieve.

Less than two weeks ago, Cupini and his family announced that the Kansas City Fusion midfielder/striker would be accepting a spot in the AS Roma academy starting in the Spring 2018, after having trained with the club for the better part of two years off and on.

Pro Soccer Talk had the opportunity to speak with Cupini’s father, Eddie, ahead of his son’s big move to Italy.

“This is something that Alessandro has worked really hard for,” Eddie Cupini told PST. “There are times where I tell him that he needs to take a step back and be a normal kid, but he doesn’t have any of that. He’s an incredibly hard-working and driven kid that does more than most people regardless of his age.”

Alessandro — who recently turned 10 years old — isn’t the typically American youngster though, according to his father.

“There are times where I wish Alessandro would take a break and be a kid, but that’s just not in his desire,” Cupini said. “We built him a mini stadium downstairs where he trains basically every day after school. As soon as he gets home from school he’s doing work down there and always looking for other kids to come over to practice with.”

That’s where the comparisons to Pulisic can be worked into the conversation.

Pulisic followed a very similar path to the professional level when he left his hometown of Hershey, Pennsylvania at the age of 16 to sign with Borussia Dortmund. Now, he’s U.S. Soccer’s most promising star as the USMNT looks to rebuild.

“We’re very familiar with Christian’s story, and he’s certainly somebody that Alessandro looks up to,” Cupini said.

Cupini is already on the radar of U.S. Soccer and the Olympic Development Program (ODP), which helps identify young talent in the United States starting at the Under-12 level.

However, because of Cupini’s Italian heritage and his unique opportunity to move to Italy next year, Alessandro could potentially have the chance to represent either the USMNT or the Azzurri in the future.

“It’s a long ways away and we’re taking things slow in that regard,” Cupini said in regards to his son’s international plans. “We’d certainly be willing to explore our options, but I think it would be a real dream and his main goal to play for Italy.”

New Jersey-native and former Italy international Giuseppe Rossi made a similar career choice when it came down to choosing a national team. Despite living in the United States for much of his youth years, Rossi appeared for a number of Italy’s youth teams before holding a stint with the senior side from 2008 to 2014.

Prior to making the announcement that Roma would be where Cupini will ply his trade next year, the young American also had the opportunity to train with Italian academies Empoli and Atalanta.

“My father is from Rome, so for Alessandro to have the opportunity to play for his hometown club it was almost a no-brainer,” Cupini said. “We were very grateful to the other clubs for the chance Alessandro had to train with them, but Roma is a club that is very close to our family.

Leicester City 1-1 West Brom: Mahrez nets first goal of PL season

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The Foxes haven’t had the start to the season that Craig Shakespeare and Co. would have hoped for, but Monday’s performance was certainly a step in the right direction.

[ MORE: Mike Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale ]

Leicester City pulled out a 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion at the King Power Stadium, however, the Foxes remain in the bottom three of the Premier League.

Riyad Mahrez had plenty of chances on the day, and he rescued his side with 10 minutes remaining after powering home a strike into the far corner. The goal marks the Algerian’s first of the 2017/18 campaign.

Despite a frustrating opening hour, the visitors led on 63 minutes when Nacer Chadli curled home a brilliant free kick that left Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel stunned.

For the Belgium international, Chadli becomes West Brom’s seventh different goalscorer of the season.

Leicester nearly came out flying in the second stanza whenMahrez had an open chance in the center of the Baggies penalty area, however, the Algerian winger’s left-footed attempt was too high to hit the target.

[ MORE: Liverpool’s Lovren accuses Lukaku of deliberate stamp ]

Mahrez’s chance came just minutes after West Brom keeper Boaz Myhill was nearly sent off after the 34-year-old took out a streaking Jamie Vardy on the edge of the penalty box.

Monday’s result means both clubs have now gone six matches with a win in PL play.

Liverpool’s Lovren accuses Lukaku of deliberate stamp

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Saturday’s titanic clash between Liverpool and Manchester United ended in an uneventful draw, but that didn’t mean the match itself was short on drama.

[ MORE: Mike Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale ]

Reds defender Dejan Lovren wasn’t happy with Romelu Lukaku‘s action after the former made a tackle on the Man United striker during the first half of the 0-0 draw.

The Liverpool center back spoke ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League match against Maribor.

“I made a tackle there and I just felt he was over me and could just move away,” Lovren said in regards to the play in question. “To be honest, my point of view is that he did on purpose.”

Despite his claims of Lukaku’s malice, the FA has already come out and stated that they won’t take any action against the Belgium international.

“It is not my decision,” Lovren continued. “He seemed nervous during the game and maybe that’s why. Normally if you do it, you apologise.

“It happened and it’s over. Nobody can change it.”