What a match from Kansas City’s Graham Zusi

5 Comments

Sporting Kansas City surely has some work ahead in sorting out a midfield that needs plenty of sorting out.

But it was Graham Zusi to the rescue as the United States national team attacker put in an early bid for MLS Player of the Week, guiding his Sporting KC bunch to three points in a match where the club was surely not at its best, 3-1, over Philadelphia in Major League Soccer’s first 2013 contest.

SKC’s rebuilt midfield – not one of the SKC central triangle from 2012 was in his same spot for the 2013 opener – was an absolute mess to start this one. They could never gain a toehold in the middle with the ball. Without, SKC was worse.

Minus any pressure in the right spots in midfield against a motivated bunch from PPL Park, the visitors were completely exposed to balls over the top for Union striker Sebastian Le Toux, who was finding all the gaps and all the room behind the back line.

(MORE: Sporting KC downs Philadelphia, 3-1)

SKC came close to being overwhelmed, and Philly Union men will certainly rue the missed first-half chances.

But this is what difference-makers do.

Zusi scored the first goal on a quality, well-placed finish, a timely and invaluable equalizer just before the half. (With lots of help from a terrific header set-up by new DP Claudio Bieler.)

Zusi’s swell free kick – he’s known for those, you know – arranged the visitor’s second goal, with a big assist from some bad Union defending and unsure goalkeeping. (You Union fans feel free to stop us if you’ve heard all that before.)

And Zusi had those paw prints all over SKC’s third goal, making a big run to launch the attack and then supplying a telling ball into the penalty area, which Bieler turned into the late insurance strike, and his first MLS goal.

All the while, by the way, most of the effective SKC attacks had little to do with new midfield addition Benny Feilhaber, nor with left wing Bobby Convey, both of whom need big years to get their careers pointed the right way again. (Convey did help start the first goal, in fairness.)

But whenever Zusi drifted inside from his (sort-of) right wing spot, that’s when SKC’s attack really tended to work.

Zusi generated a little MVP chatter in 2012; he’ll generate a lot more with afternoons ahead like this one.

Match highlights are here:

.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Leave a comment

France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Halted World Cup flip-throw heard around the world

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
1 Comment

Milad Mohammadi knew the time was right for something special, but special isn’t always good.

And good is a subjective term. Cause to us this is very good, Milad.

The Iranian national team defender failed with a flip-throw bid in the final moments of a 1-0 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

And this wasn’t like he illegally flipped or broke some other rule. No, like a kid trying an audacious jump into the deep end, Akhmat Grozny star Mohammadi just bailed and climbed in from the side (so to speak).

The kiss, the look skyward, the headbutt… all integral parts of a wonderful World Cup moment.

Renard, Morocco ‘very proud’ of unlucky national team

AP Photo/Antonio Calanni
Leave a comment

If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.

Queiroz: Iran has one ‘match point’ left in World Cup group stage

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
Leave a comment

Iran manager Carlos Queiroz isn’t going to let his tournament be defined by one win or one loss, especially with a massive moment on the horizon.

Iran fell 1-0 to Spain on Wednesday, days after defeating Morocco in its World Cup opener. Team Melli was denied its equalizer despite VAR review thanks to an offside, and failed in several other bids to level the score.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Now Queiroz and his men need a win over Portugal to qualify for the first knockout stage in its five World Cup history.

“We showed that we were ready to suffer and ready to compete. I felt we deserved a better result. There’s no doubt Spain play wonderful, stylish football but I thought we deserved more for the way we played.

“But congratulations to Fernando Hierro and Spain. We will learn a lot from this game. If you think of it like tennis, we had one match point today and we will have another against Portugal. Everything is still open. We are still alive and still dreaming.”

What chance do you give Iran of getting over on Portugal, who only topped a dominant Morocco side via a terrific designed play executed to perfection by Cristiano Ronaldo?

The odds are in Portugal’s favor, if only for its experience in tight games on massive stages. Well, perhaps the better “if only” would be to say if only for Ronaldo. Either way…