Big words of praise for New York’s Jamison Olave

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Jamison Olave can dominate a game like few MLS center backs can. Everyone knows so – everyone paying attention, anyway.

The issue was never about ability for the 6-foot-3 Colombian, who looks a lot like an NFL linebacker but has the precision timing a special ops soldier, the recover speed of a college sprinter and the feet of a midfielder.

The issue with Olave has always been about staying on the field. In his first years at Real Salt Lake, Olave had anger issues, it seemed, which manifested in yellow and red cards. Those left RSL playing a man down (never helpful) and then without use of their top center back for the next contest.

Once those issues were tamed, his ability to avoid injury became the pressure point. Olave, 32, averaged 24 games a season in his five years at RSL, which is bordering on “concerning.” What was definitely concerning for RSL officials was that the number was declining, from 27 contests in 2010, then to 24 and to then 21 matches last year. So they traded Olave and his relatively high salary.

All that said, all you needed to do in order to recognize his gold-plated value was see Olave win ball after ball Sunday in the Red Bulls’ 1-0 win over the champion LA Galaxy. Even in a game with the man often identified as the league’s top center back, Galaxy man Omar Gonzalez, Olave’s performance stood out.

Here’s what Red Bulls manager Mike Petke said about the Colombian’s massive contribution in a nationally televised meeting of the league’s marquee teams. Petke wonderfully sums up what his play and his presence means for the men in Harrison:

The biggest reason we brought him here is for what he’s been doing. We don’t expect him to be the man building plays out of the back. I couldn’t care less if the ball winds up at his feet once. The way he hunts the ball, the way he reads the game, his catch-up speed is unbelievable and he’s a guy who makes a difference. From the first moment, the first tackle he gets into, he’s somebody that a forward is going to be looking over his shoulder for the rest of the game. He doesn’t do it dirty, he does it very timed, and he does it well.”

El Tri star Lozano staying focusing amid Barcelona rumors

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Hirving “Chucky” Lozano was a player everyone needed to pay attention to heading into the 2018 World Cup, and through two matches, the El Tri star has been every bit the price of admission for his country.

[ MORE: Group scenarios heading into the final group stage matches ]

Mexico sits atop Group F with six points at the moment, and much of the team’s success can be attributed to Lozano’s endless motor and creative attacking vision when he finds space down the wing.

The PSV Eindhoven attacker has been linked with various big clubs, including La Liga giants Barcelona, but that hasn’t halted Lozano’s pursuit of guiding Mexico to an unprecedented run at the World Cup.

“The important thing is to focus on the next [Mexico] game, do as well as possible and go step by step,” Lozano said.

Despite winning their first two games, El Tri needs at least a point in its final Group F match to ensure qualification without any complications.

Mexico will take on Sweden on Wednesday, as Juan Carlos Osorio’s side aims to remain perfect in the group stage.

Meanwhile, Andres Guardado — who has been a mainstay of the Mexican national team for years — only confirmed the work ethic of his teammate and hopes that a dream move becomes a reality for Lozano in the near future.

“It makes me very proud to say he is a kid that is very centered, despite everything he is going through,” said Guardado after Saturday’s 2-1 win over South Korea. “He is conscious that he has to continue like he’s not achieved anything.”

“He’s the same kid I met the first time he came with us,” continued Guardado. “Hopefully he stays like that and the rumors about a possible transfer to a big team become reality. It would be marvelous, he’s a great teammate.”

Video: Salah lob has Egypt off and running in first half

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Egypt’s run at the World Cup didn’t go according to plan, but the Pharaohs are looking in control on Monday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Mohamed Salah‘s second goal of the tournament has given the Egyptians a 1-0 lead over Saudi Arabia in their Group A finale.

After a Saudi giveaway in the attacking half of the field, Salah latched onto a beautiful long ball from Abdallah Said, before lofting a shot over goalkeeper Yasser Al Mosailem.

Video: Suarez gives Uruguay early lead over hosts Russia

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It only took Uruguay 10 minutes to break through, and the South American side could be on its way to capturing a third consecutive victory at the 2018 World Cup.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Barcelona star Luis Suarez scored his second goal of the tournament on Monday, as the veteran striker gave Uruguay the lead early on against hosts Russia.

Suarez stepped up for a free kick just outside the penalty area, and slotted the ball brilliantly past the Russia goalkeeper at his near post.

Both teams have already advanced out of Group A after winning their first two matches, however, Monday’s victor (if there is one) will likely decide who tops the group.

Argentine players likely selecting lineup for Nigeria match

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The Albiceleste entered Russia among the favorites to win the World Cup, but now Argentina is on the brink of disaster and possibly crashing out of the group stage.

Through two Group D matches, Argentina sits on one point, and needs a victory over Nigeria to have a shot at advancing to the knockout phase.

Drastic changes appear to be coming for the CONMEBOL nation, after relations with manager Jorge Sampaoli have soured significantly over the last week-and-a-half.

Rumors have suggested that Lionel Messi and the elder players in the squad will select the starting XI for Argentina’s do-or-die fixture on Tuesday, with Sampaoli simply staying on as manager to avoid further embarrassment to the federation.

Sampaoli is expected to still be on the sidelines for the match, though.

Meanwhile, Argentine television outlet TNT Sports LA revealed a potential lineup ahead of Tuesday’s Group D finale against Nigeria.

The starting XI, if true, would feature four changes from the Albiceleste’s 3-0 defeat to Croatia last Thursday, including the introduction of River Plate goalkeeper Franco Armani for Chelsea’s Willy Caballero.