Mexico

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 08:  Mexico players (L-R, back row) goaltender Alfredo Talavera #12, Nestor Araujo #2, Rafael Marquez #4, Jesus Gallardo #17, Jesus Molina #5 and Oswalso Alanis #3, and (L-R, front row) Hirving Lozano #8, Orbelin Pineda #7, Giovani Dos Santos #10, Jurgen Damm #11 and Alan Pulido #9, pose on the field before their exhibition match against Iceland at Sam Boyd Stadium on February 8, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mexico won 1-0.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Mexico beat Iceland as prep for World Cup qualifiers continues

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There were no victorious viking thunderclaps in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news ]

El Tri beat Iceland 1-0 in an international friendly at Sam Boyd Stadium, with Alan Pulido’s goal from Giovani dos Santos’ free kick enough to lift Mexico past a virtual Iceland reserve team (Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aron Gunnarsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson were all missing) in the game played in the non-FIFA match window.

This encounter was a valuable exercise for Mexico as they continue to step up their preparations for the massive 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago next month.

Like the U.S. national team in their recent January camp and friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica, none of Mexico’s European contingent were called up for their first game of 2017. It gave Juan Carlos Osorio plenty of time to assess players from Liga MX, with

Below are the highlights from the game, including Pulido’s header which was his first goal for Mexico since 2014 and the Chivas Guadalajara forward now has five goals in eight appearances for El Tri.

Looks like Mexico, who sit second in the Hexagonal in World Cup qualifying on four points, is gearing up well for their huge qualifier against Costa Rica (currently top of the Hex on six points) at the Azetca on Mar. 24.


Report: El Tri’s Chicharito to LAFC in 2018

Bayer Leverkusen's Javier Hernandez, left, and Atletico Mineiro's Mattheus Rolden fight for possession of the ball during the first half of a Florida Cup soccer match, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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It makes a lot of sense, you know?

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez will turn 30 in 2018, not a spring chicken for a striker but still plenty productive if healthy.

His national team, Mexico, will likely be revving its engines for the World Cup, and won’t be upset to have the forward playing a bit less soccer and a lot closer to home.

[ MORE: Top 5 Premier League storylines ]

And Los Angeles FC will want to make a massive mark as it seeks to butt its head into a market dominated by the LA Galaxy (and, perhaps still then, Mexico national teamer Giovani Dos Santos).

So, tell us more, Steve Brisendine of MLSSoccer.com:

“[LAFC] are going to do everything possible to sign the current Bayer Leverkusen player, whose contract ends in 2018 and could therefore leave for a reduced fee. That’s what AS.com has confirmed with sources close to the project. LAFC hope to announce their new manager this spring and dream, a little later, to do the same with Javier Hernandez, aka Chicharito.”

Make it happen. Make. It. Happen. We’re already reserving his spot on our MLS fantasy teams.

USMNT snub: No US players in CONCACAF Best XI of 2016

HARRISON, NJ - JUNE 01:  John Brooks #6 of United States and teammates Clint Dempsey #8,Michael Bradley #4,Geoff Cameron #20 and Julian Green #16 wait for the corner kick in the second half against Turkey during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on June 1, 2014 in Harrison, New Jersey.The United States defeated Turkey 2-1.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Well, this is a little surprising.

[ MORE: Griezmann needed at United ]

CONCACAF released its Best XI from 2016 on Wednesday and there were zero U.S. national team players in the list of 11.

Zero.

Players from Mexico and Costa Rica dominate, while Canadian midfielder Atiba Hutchinson, Jamaican defender Wes Morgan and French forward Andre-Pierre Gignac were also included. The top 11 players were selected after either playing for a national team or club team in the CONCACAF region.

Only one player from Major League Soccer made the list, Ronald Mataritta of New York City FC.

Still, the fact that USMNT defenders Geoff Cameron and John Brooks didn’t get in the Best XI of 2016 after their heroics at the Copa America Centenario is quite mind-boggling. No offense against Morgan or Mexico’s Rafael Marquez, but come on. Also, surely Christian Pulisic or Jozy Altidore would have been worthy additions to this team?

Then again, when you see the highlight video below, most of the winners are shown scoring or playing well against the USMNT. That could go a little way to explain why there are no U.S. players on this list…

Below is the team in full. Intrigued to hear your comments in the section below.


Chicharito: My “only interest” is staying at Bayer Leverkusen

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02:  Javier Hernandez of Bayer Leverkusen is put under pressure from Kyle Walker of Tottenham Hotspur during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Wembley Stadium on November 2, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s slow first half of the season had many pegging him for a move away from Bayer Leverkusen, even to Major League Soccer or Liga MX.

But the 28-year-old striker, back on his home continent for training camp, isn’t interested in leaving Bayer despite nabbing just 7 goals in 23 games.

[ MORE: James rejects China ]

Hernandez told Kicker that he’s unaware of transfer interest, which is a bit dishonest unless he lives in a bubble. But it’s also a way to strongly reinforce his status at Bayer.

He didn’t exactly leave the window open. From Sky:

“Jonas Boldt and Rudi Voeller (Leverkusen’s team manager and sports director) have said nothing to me about other clubs,” he told magazine Kicker at Leverkusen’s Orlando training camp.

“The only things I have heard are rumours. No one has tried to contact me or my agent. I am happy here. My only interest is to stay here at Bayer Leverkusen.”

It’s just not time for a move across the pond, unless he needs to be closer to family.

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US, Mexico could team up and meet FIFA’s World Cup need

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 28:  FIFA President, Gianni Infantino and Victor Montagliani, CONCACAF President speak during the 11th Dubai International Sports Conference on December 28, 2016 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) The United States and Mexico could team up and meet FIFA’s need for the biggest-ever World Cup in 2026 being staged by the most host nations.

Canada has also joined the North American neighbors for informal talks about a three-way bid in a contest that FIFA will complete during American President-elect Donald Trump’s first term, according to persons familiar with the talks. They spoke on grounds of anonymity because the talks are confidential.

FIFA’s decision Tuesday to expand the 2026 tournament – to 48 teams from 32, playing 80 games instead of 64 – increased the chances of co-hosting to share the load.

[ MORE: What would a 48-team draw look like? ]

“In some regions not only does it make more sense, it’s the only sense,” said FIFA vice president Victor Montagliani, who leads the Canadian soccer federation. “I think when more countries share (hosting) it’s an opportunity to grow the game.”

Asked specifically about a potential three-way bid with the U.S. and Mexico, Montagliani said: “It’s definitely a possibility because the rules now allow for it.

“I also respect the fact that each country has the possibility to put on the World Cup (alone) and I think the discussions will happen quite soon as to what is our region is going to look like at this World Cup as I think it is an opportunity for CONCACAF.”

U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati also took part in a unanimous FIFA Council decision.

Though Mexico soccer leader Decio de Maria does not sit on FIFA’s strategy-setting panel, he was also in Zurich with a top-level delegation from the regional soccer body, known as CONCACAF.

[ MORE: World Cup’s 48-team format ]

The region was already favored to get its first World Cup since the U.S.-hosted 1994 edition, even before Tuesday’s expansion decision. It now demands more high-quality training camps, hotels and transport for 48 teams, plus FIFA officials and hundreds of thousands of visiting fans.

“It means the number of countries that can host it without building major infrastructure and stadiums is limited,” said Gulati, adding his board has a “fundamental decision” whether to bid. The U.S. could go alone, or bid with one or both neighbors.

Uniting the U.S. and Mexico could win support from more than 20 Spanish-speaking federations among 211 FIFA members that now choose the World Cup hosts.

It should also appeal to FIFA’s sense of soccer having a role in society, amid tense cross-border relations caused by Trump’s outspoken comments on Mexico.

“Listen, I’m a football guy, I’m not a politician,” said Montagliani, who like Gulati speaks fluent Spanish. “The only thing I know from afar about Trump is that he’s a big sports guy and he’s proven that in the past … so you would hope that football will trump politics. No pun intended.”

FIFA typically looks for strong government support, and has it in the next two World Cup host nations Russia and Qatar. Russian deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko is a FIFA Council member and attended Tuesday’s meeting.

FIFA has allowed co-costing at just one of 22 World Cups from 1930 through 2022, which included Mexico hosting alone in 1970 and ’86. FIFA’s former leaders later pledged not to repeat their “two of everything” experience of 2002 in Japan and South Korea.

Still, Infantino campaigned for the presidency last year promising an open mind about pan-regional hosting.

FIFA’s target is May 2020 to choose the 2026 host, though that could change during meetings being held in Bahrain in May.

Asked if bidding could be accelerated if only three candidates emerged, and who all wanted to work together, Infantino said: “It is premature to discuss about it now.”