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CONMEBOL wrap: All to play for as Argentina held again, Chile wins

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CONMEBOL qualifying is, as the kids say, LIT.

Thursday’s results mean that all will be decided on Tuesday, with still only Brazil having secured qualification already. Chile jumped into a qualifying spot – barely – while another disappointing performance by Argentina leaves Jorge Sampaoli and company on the outside looking up to qualification with one match to go.

Yes, you read that correctly. Your eyes are not deceiving you. Argentina could very realistically miss the World Cup.

Have a look at the results, plus a look at Tuesday:

Argentina 0-0 Peru

Lionel Messi and nobody else.

The Barcelona star was brilliant again for his country, but had no help as Argentina was stymied at home yet again, leaving them in an elimination spot with just one match to play. Messi himself hit the post, but he was still his stunning self for much of the game. Unfortunately, Angel Di Maria was horrid and yanked at halftime, Darío Benedetto andLucas Biglia spurned a number of chances, and Sampaoli decided against even bringing Paulo Dybala off the bench to help the attack.

The result means Argentina – already in the playoff position coming into tonight – was leap-frogged by Chile and currently sit outside a qualifying position of any kind. They have not scored a World Cup qualifying goal from open play in five whole matches, the last of which came almost a full year ago in last November.

Chile 2-1 Ecuador

It appeared Ecuador had equalized late, which would have been disastrous for Chile, but Alexis Sanchez saved the day with an 86th minute goal as Chile jumped into a qualifying spot thanks to the three points.

Arturo Vidal pick-pocketed an Ecuador defender after a slip, and he fed Felipe Gutiérrez in great shooting position. With space, Gutierrez ripped a shot that was saved by Maximo Banguera, but he parried it right in the path of Sanchez who scored easily into the open net.

Romario Ibarra Mina had equalized just two minutes earlier, cancelling out Eduardo Vargas‘s opener just 22 minutes in. A draw would have been a tough pill to swallow, leaving Chile below the qualifying line despite the failures elsewhere. Instead, the Sanchez goal allowed Chile to take advantage of the other slips, leaving his side in a great spot.

Colombia 1-2 Paraguay

Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina made a pair of critical errors late and Colombia slipped to late defeat at home against Paraguay to send the CONMEBOL standings into further disarray. Deralis Gonzalez sent in a cross from the right, and when Ospina came off his line to collect, he spilled the ball and was left sprawled on the ground as Antonio Sanabria pounced to score the winner two minutes into stoppage time.

Colombia had already squandered a lead just moments before. Radamel Falcao‘s chip had given them the lead in the 79th minute, but Oscar Cardozo equalized in the 89th minute thanks to the first of Ospina’s two errors. A deep set-piece from the midway line was sent into the box, and Ospina came out to punch but hardly got a touch and spilled to the ground. That allowed Cardozo to pounce, poking in while he laid on the ground.

The loss means Colombia remains in the muck, despite being still in a qualifying position. For Paraguay, the win is massive, pulling them within one of the playoff spot.

Venezuela 0-0 Uruguay

A point for Uruguay on the road is a positive, but with the logjam suddenly inches behind them, 0-0 feels like a disappointing result as they fail to break through at Venezuela. Both teams struggled to get shots on target as Venezuela remains bottom of the table.

Bolivia 0-0 Brazil

Brazil has already qualified for the 2018 World Cup, and they trotted out a mediocre lineup that couldn’t get past Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe who made a whopping 13 saves in the scoreless draw. Neymar started for Brazil and completed the full 90 minutes, but Philippe Coutinho was withdrawn after an hour and Alisson was deployed in goal. Bolivia has already been eliminated from contention.

CURRENT STANDINGS

Brazil  (Q)      38   +27
Uruguay         28   +10
Chile               26   +2
Colombia       26   +2
————————-
Peru                25    +1
————————-
Argentina       25   +1
Paraguay        24   -5
Ecuador (E)   20   -1
Bolivia (E)      14   -20
Venezuela (E)  9   -17

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So here’s the deal: Argentina still controls its own destiny. Mostly. They need to win on the road at eliminated Ecuador, and they need to do so by more than Peru potentially wins at home against an equally desperate Colombia. That should see them at least into the playoff position, and could see them jump higher should Chile or Colombia falter.

Chile hits the road to take on Brazil, and while the hosts have already qualified, they likely won’t take the match lightly against a rival in a fixture that has found new heat in recent years.

Paraguay hosts Venezuela and could be primed to take advantage of a couple slips above them. Uruguay should be fine as they host Bolivia, as only true chaos could see them out.

Wild day in American soccer: Crew relocation, NASL LOIs, USL reserves

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The top three soccer leagues in the United States of America are dealing with varying bits of turmoil this Tuesday in October.

It began late Monday with reports that Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt aims to take the MLS founding member to Texas, seemingly only paying lip service to the idea of investment keeping the team in Ohio.

[ MORE: Leicester sacks Shakespeare ]

Some have said Precourt’s goals have always been to find a way out of Ohio, and the Crew owner was asked what has changed in the four years he’s owned the club (From ColumbusCrewSC.com):

Q:When we read your story about your purchase of the team, this was back in 2013, part of that was that it was very important to the Hunt family that the Crew remained in Columbus and you said at the time that you were committed to that. So what’s changed?

AP: I was committed to that and I believe that I demonstrated my commitment through significant investment in infrastructure, in personnel, in the quality of our product on the field. What has changed? Our League has grown leaps and bounds, it’s been unprecedented the improvement we’ve seen year over year and new markets that have come in the League have shown dramatic attendance. Let’s look at Atlanta with over 70,000 fans over their last few games, with Orlando building a new facility and averaging over 30,000 fans a game, with New York City FC. The list goes on and on. Our peers get stronger and stronger, year in and year out and I have to get back to our ambition as a club. This is key: our ambition as a club is to be a standard bearer in Major League Soccer, to be respected on and off the field in terms of our soccer operations and our business operations and to operate world-class, soccer-specific infrastructure. We’re going through growing pains now. It’s time for us to explore building a world-class, soccer-specific stadium so that we can be celebrated and successful and sustainable.

So, yes, barring a king’s ransom — word use intended — from the Ohio business community, it’s not being cynical to read Precourt’s intention to leave Ohio as very strong. The idea is very sad for the league, and makes every pro/rel honk’s argument against the closed model.

Then there’s the NASL, where it’s almost head-spinning to keep abreast of the future of the league. New York Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso has taken the wheel in an attempt to not only see the NASL rise, but remove Sunil Gulati from power at the United States Soccer Federation in the hopes of a complete overhaul. In what should not be read as a footnote, the NASL is currently suing the USSF.

There are reports that the league could have as many as 17 teams next season in a bid to regain sanctioning from the Unites States Soccer Federation, including a series of teams from the fourth-tier National Premier Soccer League.

According to SocTakes.com, the NASL has letters of intent from NPSL clubs in Boca Raton, Boston, Detroit, Arizona, New Orleans, and Virginia Beach. Additionally, there’s interest in Hartford and it may not be the NPSL club.

Then came this Tweet:

Now here’s a league, the USL, whose only issues have been perception-related. Growing well and instituting a D-3 companion, the biggest concern has been the mentioned MLS Reserve sides creating a minor league feel for the league.

All of this is manageable, and you could argue that the disappearance or at least rebranding of most of these reserve sides would be a boon for the league.

Taken in a vacuum, any of these stories has the potential to carry a day’s news. Together, and in the wake of the United States men’s national team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, they give Tuesday one of those Soccer-USApocalyptic feelings.

UEFA Champions League Weds. preview: Chelsea, Man Utd look to break out

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Only one of 16 teams was held off the score sheet on Tuesday. Could the same level of entertainment reach the UEFA Champions League a day later?

Two more Premier League teams take the pitch on Wednesday, with Manchester United facing its stiffest test of the group stage and Chelsea with a tricky visit from AS Roma.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

Manchester United has a significant challenge in Benfica, and may need a man familiar with the Estadio da Luz to help them out. Center back Eric Bailly remains out for United, which could bring Victor Lindelof into the fold to help stop Haris Seferovic, Gabriel Barbosa, Raul Jimenez, and especially Jonas.

Coming off a sleepy weekend draw versus Liverpool in an underwhelming derby, United will take on a desperate Benfica team which is traditionally strong but lost at home to CSKA Moscow and was crushed in Switzerland by Basel.

(AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Speaking of the need to rebound, Chelsea’s loss to Crystal Palace still has many scratching their heads. Fortunately, Roma is also in a mini-funk after a weekend loss to Napoli that ended a five-match winning streak.

There’s a reunion for Antonio Rudiger inside Stamford Bridge with Roma in town. I Lupi has been pretty one-dimensional in terms of offense, with ex-Man City man and reigning Serie A capocannoniere winner Edin Dzeko. He’s scored eight times in nine matches for Roma this season.

Full Wednesday UCL schedule
All kickoffs at 2:45 p.m. ET except where indicated

Qarabag vs. Atletico Madrid — Noon ET
Anderlecht vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Benfica vs. Manchester United
Juventus vs. Sporting Lisbon
Barcelona vs. Olympiacos
Chelsea vs. Roma
Bayern Munich vs. Celtic
CSKA Moscow vs. Basel

U-17 World Cup wrap: England advances to meet USA

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The United States now knows it’ll have to take down England’s best to get to the semifinals of the U-17 World Cup in India.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

England, don’t laugh, won in penalty kicks after a scoreless match with Japan, advancing to meet the Baby Yanks.


England 0-0 (5-3, PKs) Japan

There wasn’t a single miss amongst the England shooters, as Rhian Brewster (Liverpool), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Phil Foden (Man City), Nya Kirby (Crystal Palace), and Curtis Anderson (Man City) converted from the spot to set up a date against the U.S.

Mali 5-1 Iraq

Lassana Ndiaye scored twice to join France’s Amine Gouiri atop the goal scoring list for the tournament as Mali advances to face the winner of Ghana vs. Niger.

France 1-2 Spain

Barcelona prospects Juan Miranda and Abel Ruiz get the better of France to set up a date with high-flying Iran.

 

Iran 2-1 Mexico

Iran conceded for just the second time in the tournament, but not before Mohammad Sharifi and Allahyar Sayyad (both of Iranian club Saifa) made it 2-0 by the 11th minute.

UEFA Champions League wrap: Tables turned on wild day

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One clean sheet in eight Tuesday matches certainly helped the entertainment value of the UEFA Champions League, and the group ramifications follow suit.

Borussia Dortmund whiffed on a chance to take advantage of Real Madrid’s home draw versus Spurs, while Sevilla was waxed in Russia, and Besiktas continues to strut in UCL play.

Real Madrid 1-1 Tottenham HotspurRECAP, VIDEO

Raphael Varane’s plans to mark Harry Kane were subverted by the French defender’s unwitting legs, but Serge Aurier chopped down Toni Kroos in the 42nd minute for a yellow card and penalty that Cristiano Ronaldo sent beyond the reach of Spurs backstop Hugo Lloris.

It was Lloris’ outstanding day, along with a couple timely Keylor Navas saves, that kept the score line 1-1 after 90 minutes. The backstops will likely match wits again come Nov. 1 at Wembley Stadium.

Manchester City 2-1 NapoliRECAP

Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus scored in the ninth and 13th minutes as City has been an unwelcoming host for the Neapolitan side. Ederson stopped a Dries Mertens penalty, adding insult to Napoli’s twin concessions, but Napoli would get a second penalty kick and pulled back a goal courtesy of Amadou Diawara.

Monaco 1-2 Besiktas

Reported Newcastle United and Crystal Palace target Cenk Tosun scored a pair of goals as group-leading Besiktas came back to beat Monaco after Radamel Falcao made it 1-0 to the hosts.

Feyenoord 1-2 Shakhtar Donetsk

Similar story in the Netherlands, where Ex-Watford man Steven Berghuis gave the Eredivisie hosts a lead only to see a Bernard brace lead Shakhtar at De Kuip.

Spartak Moscow 5-1 Sevilla

Liverpool’s score line was a bit surprising, but this one raised eyebrows even given Sevilla’s long road (or flight path) to Russia. Quincy Promes scored twice to make Sevilla consider its Europa roots (though plenty of time remains in the group stage).

Spartak’s Luiz Adriano scores past Sevilla’s Sergio Rico (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Maribor 0-7 LiverpoolRECAP

Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds are sent their finishing demons off a cliff. It was 3-0 after 20 minutes, 4-0 at half, and when all was said and done there were braces for Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah to go with single markers from Philippe Coutinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

APOEL Nicosia 1-1 Borussia Dortmund

A significant step backward for BVB, who would’ve done well to take advantage of Real and Spurs drawing at the Bernabeu. The Germans even trailed for five second-half minutes before Sokratis Papastathopoulos provided the equalizing goal.

RB Leipzig 3-2 Porto

Five first half goals felt like the start of something special, but the upstart Germans held on through a scoreless second half to claim their first UCL win.