Mexican referee in charge with 8 U.S. players on warnings, Mexico up next

7 Comments

Eight players on yellow cards loom among other concerns for United States head coach Jürgen Klinsmann’s squad heading into Friday’s World Cup qualifier at Costa Rica. Another is Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodríguez, who will officiate the game before the U.S. takes on Mexico.

“I don’t doubt that Marco Antonio Rodríguez is a great referee,” Klinsmann told Radio Fórmula on Wednesday. “Without a doubt, he applies the rules well, but at the same time, it’s something I can’t get out of my head. I have eight players on yellow cards, and four days later, we play Mexico. Truthfully, I don’t like it.”

Klinsmann reiterated to American media on Thursday that he found the assignment “unfortunate.”

Rodríguez — who has come to be known by the nickname Chiquidrácula, or Chiquimarco after the Protestant priest objected to the name because of his Christian faith — is known for his propensity to dish out cards indiscriminately. In four World Cup matches he has officiated, Rodríguez sent off three players, including Australian Tim Cahill in what was a highly questioned decision.

In Liga MX, he was once suspended for five matches after issuing two yellow cards at the same time, one in each hand, during a January 2012 playoff series between Tigres and Santos:

During the 2007 FIFA Club World Cup, Rodríguez took charge of AC Milan’s 4-2 win over Boca Juniors, where he showed five yellows and two red cards.

The knowledgeable site Transfermarkt has Rodríguez handing out a steady five yellow cards per game over 70 games in eight seasons. His 20 straight red cards during that time rank top of the table in Liga MX.

Video: Ronaldo scores fourth goal, gives Portugal early lead

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Leave a comment

He has four goals in less than two matches, and Portugal is off to another flying start courtesy of their star forward.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Portuguese a 1-0 lead against Morocco in the fourth minute after brilliantly heading home a corner kick.

The Real Madrid star gave Portugal a similar spark at the beginning of their 3-3 draw against Spain in their first Group B match when Ronaldo drew, and scored a penalty kick inside of the opening three minutes.

Is there anything this man cannot do?

Reports: Alli unlikely to play in England’s second Group G match

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Leave a comment

The Three Lions may not have taken all good news away from the team’s 2-1 win over Tunisia in their World Cup opener.

[ MORE: Russia races past Egypt, likely en route to next round ]

Several reports are suggesting that England will likely be without Tottenham playmaker Dele Alli in their second Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

Alli was forced out of England’s opener with a thigh strain, which gave manager Gareth Southgate the decision to put in Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There isn’t a timetable for the 22-year-old’s return to the pitch, but his absence will definitely present a major question for Southgate heading into the rest of group play.

Without Alli in the starting XI, it’ll likely be between Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard to fill the role where Alli normally sits.

In the case of Lingard, who started against Tunisia, the England boss would have to bring in another starter if Southgate opts to have the Red Devils attacker sit in as the number 10.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
Leave a comment

Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.