Who will feel the sear of the Azteca grill on March 26, the United States or Mexico?

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Jon Arnold’s extensive blog piece today at American Soccer Now is pancake stacked with goodies from soccer news south of the border that U.S. fans might like to know.

He’s got the bits and bytes on former Sporting KC man Omar Bravo, on former Red Bulls man Rafa Marquez, plus some Liga MX, some Herculez Gomez, some Copa Libertadores, some Edgar Castillo … lots of great stuff.

But the highlights of the ASN piece are links into the Mexican and Costa Rican rosters announced over the last few days for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers. (We told you the other day about the Costa Rican bunch named for next week’s World Cup biggie in Denver.)

Meanwhile, here’s something related that U.S. Soccer supports can chew on:

We keep talking about all the pressure on the United States ahead of next week’s contest at DSG Park outside Denver. It is Rocky Mountain sized, or something close to it, at least.

But what about our Mexican amigos? Talk about pressure!

Remember, El Tri seriously blew it on Final Round CONCACAF qualifying Match Day 1. They played to a disappointing scoreless tie at home to Jamaica.

The Mexicans can help atone with a win next week in Honduras. But as we saw in the U.S. loss, Los Catrochos are hardly and easy out, especially in San Pedro Sula.

Even if El Tri gets three points there, on March 26 pressure will hang in the air like the infamously nasty Mexico City smog when Mexico meet the United States at Azteca. That’s the same Azteca where Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. team upset Mexico last August.

Yes, that was just a friendly – a very different and far less threatening beast. Still, that result will not hurt the U.S. confidence going into the smog- and altitude-assisted cauldron that is Azteca on match day. And it will surely be on Mexican minds.

If El Tri can manage only a point March 26 – giving the team just two points from its first pair of home matches — José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre’s coaching job will certainly be in jeopardy.

And if the Mexicans fall to Klinsmann and Co.? Katy, bar the Azteca door! It is not being too dramatic to say that “Chepo” may not last the night as El Tri’s man at the helm.

Is de la Torre already showing shaky knees about it all, leaning on older guys he thinks he can trust? Hmmmm.

Depending on how the results fall in one week, the United States may not be the team feeling the sear of the Azteca grill.

Enrique has rare brain tumor removed, faces battle

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Former Newcastle and Liverpool defender Jose Enrique is now an agent, but the headache that came with a manager meeting had nothing to do with the conversation.

[ MORE: Lozano to Barcelona? ]

Enrique had a “brutal” headache following a meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton, his former manager, and tests revealed a rare brain tumor (Spanish language link).

Enrique underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor and now faces 35 sessions of radiotherapy, only available in two European cities.

He lost more than a dozen pounds in a single week, calling it “the toughest time of my life.”

WATCH: World Cup, Day 10 — All eyes on Germany

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Many of the favorites in the 2018 World Cup have disappointed, but until Argentina fell 3-0 to Croatia on Thursday, Germany was the only one to suffer a defeat.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Die Mannschaft fell to Mexico in their opening match, with El Tri carving up the German midfield on the counter. Now, Joachim Low has had ample time to make the adjustments needed to go for victory as the Germans take on Sweden as they chase a spot in the knockout stages among Group F.

Meanwhile, Mexico looks to prove they’re not a one-hit wonder as they take on South Korea in Rostov. Juan Carlos Osorio has received plenty of praise – and rightly so – for his tactics in the upset victory, and that leaves El Tri with a chance to clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a win.

Before all that Group F craziness, Belgium takes the field in the morning against Tunisia as they look to follow up its comprehensive 3-0 victory over Panama in the opening round. A victory for the Red Devils would not only book a place in the knockout round, but also eliminate Tunisia from contention.

Below is Saturday’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 – Saturday, June 23

Group F
South Korea vs. Mexico: Rostov-on-Don, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Germany vs. Sweden: Sochi, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group G
Belgium vs. Tunisia: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Kluivert junior leaves Ajax for Roma in $21m transfer

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ROME (AP) — Roma signed Justin Kluivert, the son of former Milan and Barcelona forward Patrick, from Ajax on Friday for a fee that could rise to 18.75 million euros ($21.8 million).

The 19-year-old Dutch international forward has agreed a five-year contract with Roma.

“I’m very happy. I’m at an incredible club,” Kluivert said. “I cannot wait to start. I believe that Roma is the ideal team for my growth, which will allow me to play at the highest levels.”

Kluivert junior made 56 appearances and scored 13 goals for Ajax. He has one cap for the Netherlands.

He joins Roma for an initial 17.25 million euros ($20.1 million) and performance-related clauses could see the price rise by 1.5 million euros.

Ricketts family, owner of the Chicago Cubs, interested in purchasing AC Milan

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The Ricketts family, who purchased a controlling stake in the Chicago Cubs back in 2009, have interest in further pursuing ownership in financially troubled Italian club AC Milan.

According to a family statement, “The Ricketts family brought a championship to the Chicago Cubs through long-term investment and being great stewards of the team … They would bring this same approach to AC Milan.”

First reported by the Chicago Tribune, the news of the Tom Ricketts’ interest in the team comes on the heels of news that current owner Li Yonghong had failed to meet a Friday deadline for a $37 million loan payment. According to reports, the missed payment means that Li will cede control of the club to Elliott Management, who loaned the Chinese businessman the money to complete his initial purchase of the club last April.

The Chicago Sun-Times also reported the family’s interest in the club, and quoted their source as saying, “The Ricketts put together the management team, resources and training facilities [for the Cubs]. [They did] everything you need top to bottom to be successful.”

Ricketts has plenty of history in soccer ownership, having previously been a part of the group that owned English club Derby County before selling back in 2015. This May, Ricketts also announced he was leading an investment group that is looking to bring a USL expansion team to Chicago.

Forbes values AC Milan at $612 million – a massive 26% 1-year decline – and ranks them the 17th most valuable soccer club in the world. That valuation could be further on the decline, as the storied club missed out on Champions League qualification for the fifth straight year, although they qualified for their second straight Europa League appearance with 6th place finish in last year’s Serie A table, eight points behind Lazio in fifth.

AC Milan also faces heavy sanctions from UEFA regarding Financial Fair Play, although those fears could be eased with the financially-troubled Li selling the club.

The Ricketts family’s wealth comes largely from investment banking, with Tom’s father J. Joseph Ricketts having founded Ameritrade back in 1975. Tom is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1 billion, while his father has an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion.