USMNT

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VIDEO: Darlington Nagbe’s golazo gave POR an early lead on VAN

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Darlington Nagbe may not score goals as frequently as we’d like him to do — at least, not thus far in his promising but still-wanting career — but let’s give the man a bit of credit when it’s due: when he does score, it’s almost always a jaw-dropping golazo.

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Example no. 26 in his MLS (regular-season) career: the below video, in which Nagbe works his way around the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 18-yard box (and defenders), and tees off from 20 yards out. Not even Sporting Kansas City’s Tim Melia is saving that one.

[ MORE: Sebastian Giovinco bags a brace as TFC douse the Fire ]

Mexico coach expects ‘very different’ US in June qualifier

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NEW YORK (AP) Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio expects a “very different” United States team for their World Cup qualifier in June at Azteca Stadium.

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Mexico beat the U.S. 2-1 in November in the start of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. After the Americans dropped their second game 4-0 against Costa Rica, coach Jurgen Klinsmann was fired and replaced by Bruce Arena.

In its first game under Arena, the U.S. won 6-0 against Honduras in March in San Jose, and tied 1-1 in Panama to climb to fourth place after four matches. Undefeated Mexico leads the way with three wins and a draw.

“The game on June 11 (in Mexico City) will be a very difficult match, and a very different one compared to the previous one in Columbus,” Osorio said Thursday. “Mr. Arena will bring a very tough team to play against. He seems to always get the best out of the American players, and his teams are always very well organized, and they will have a plan.”

The Colombian-born coach said Mexico will have a tough time preparing for its two upcoming qualifying matches – against Honduras on June 8 and the U.S. three days later, both in the thin air of Mexico City’s famed Azteca Stadium. One week later, “El Tri” will face Portugal in its debut in the Confederations Cup in Russia.

“So that alone will bring another important factor into the equation,” Osario said. “How we can manage to play three days after we play Honduras and put a very strong team on the field capable of winning a game that is crucial toward our objectives.”

Osorio also highlighted the importance of emerging American star Christian Pulisic, who scored a goal and set up three others in the rout over Honduras. The 18-year old winger has also become a fixture in Bundesliga and European play with Borussia Dortmund.

“He is able to run with the ball, dribble past people, he is always good passer, can identify when and how to play elaborate football combinations,” Osorio said. “He is a player who is very influential, not only in final result, who can score goals, but in the game itself.”

USMNT to host Venezuela in friendly ahead of WCQ vs. T&T, Mexico

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CHICAGO (AP) The United States will play Venezuela in an exhibition on June 3 at Sandy, Utah, as the Americans prepare for World Cup qualifiers against Trinidad and Tobago, and Mexico.

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U.S. coach Bruce Arena wants his players to prepare at altitude ahead of their match at Mexico City.

The team is set to start training on May 28 in the Denver area. Utah’s Rio Tinto Stadium is about 4,500 feet above sea level, and the June 8 qualifier against Trinidad at Commerce City, Colorado, will be at about 5,200 feet altitude.

Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, where the Americans play June 11, is at 7,820 feet.

[ MORE: MLSPU questions stadium security after Howard suspension ]

Mexico leads the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region with 10 points, followed by Costa Rica (seven), Panama (five), the United States and Honduras (four each) and T&T (three). The top three nations qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia, and the No. 4 finisher plays Asia’s fifth-place team in a playoff for another berth.

MLS Players Union questions security after Howard suspension

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A day after Major League Soccer suspended Colorado goalkeeper Tim Howard for an altercation with a fan, the MLS Players Union questioned security at Sporting Kansas City’s stadium.

On Friday night the league suspended Howard for three games for profane language directed toward a fan during a Rapids’ game at Kansas City last Sunday, as well as an altercation with a fan following the match. The Rapids lost 3-1.

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The longtime U.S. national team star, who formerly played with Manchester United and Everton in the English Premier League, also was fined by MLS.

“While this is out of character for Tim, we do not condone these actions,” the Rapids said in a statement after the discipline was imposed. “We accept the league’s decision and look forward to moving past this. The incidents that took place during our match at Sporting Kansas City last weekend do not represent the Colorado Rapids Soccer Club or Tim’s character and beliefs, on and off the pitch.”

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup | Late-night ]

But on Saturday the players’ union said it was disappointed at how the situation was handled by MLS and suggested security at Children’s Mercy park was not adequate.

“Following the incidents, which involved a verbal exchange with a fan, as well as an altercation after the game, Tim acknowledged his culpability and responsibility for his role,” the union said in a statement. “However, he is the only one involved to do so.”

The union cited the league’s Fan Code of Conduct, which prohibits disorderly behavior including verbal abuse, and said there were no repercussions for Kansas City fans during the game.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Spurs apply pressure to Chelsea (again) ]

“The security provided by the league and Sporting Kansas City was wholly inadequate to protect players and fans,” the union statement said. “As Tim was attempting to leave the field, a fan with alcohol in hand was able to come within two feet of him on field level and aggressively scream obscenities in his face. That is unacceptable behavior anywhere and is not something that players, or anyone, should be subjected to in their workplace.”

Sporting Kansas City said Saturday the safety is one of the club’s top priorities.

Bruce Arena: US should be in conversation for 2026 World Cup champion

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With new World Cup fervor surrounding the United States amid the announcement of a CONCACAF bid for the 2026 World Cup, there has been talk about what a successful bid could mean for the growth of US Soccer.

The United States hosted the 1994 World Cup, and many saw that as a coming out party for the USA on a global stage, and US head coach Bruce Arena echoed that sentiment. Then he said this time around, the United States could use home field advantage to achieve a much bigger triumph.

“In 1994, the U.S. was looked at as this emerging frontier in the game and FIFA wanted to bring the U.S. into the world’s game,” Arena said via a teleconference Thursday. “In 2026, we’re going to be fully emerged into the game and a big player. I think 2026 will be the time where we are going to start talking about winning the World Cup. It wasn’t going to be in 1994. It wasn’t going to be in 2010. But 2026 could be our time.”

Arena brought the United States to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, but the nation has not advanced past the Round of 16 since. 1994 brought the US out of the group stage as well, but they fell 1-0 to eventual champions Brazil in the first knockout stage.

Popularity for the game has grown exponentially in the United States, but that hasn’t exactly translated to tangible growth on the field in the last decade or two. The US achieved its highest-ever FIFA ranking in early 2006, rising to 4th in the world, but they fell off with an unsuccessful World Cup later that summer, ending a stretch of five years where they reached the top 10 at least once in every calendar year. They have not cracked the top 10 since.