The best night ever in CONCACAF qualifying? How the historic drama unfolded on Twitter …

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A trio of matches in the final night of regional qualifying kicked off simultaneously in Panama City, Panama, in Kingston, Jamaica and in San Jose Costa Rica:

It all started at 9:30 p.m. ET … but it didn’t really start until Panama’s Gabriel Torres (who plays in MLS for the Colorado Rapids) curled a real beauty past U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan. And the night was on!

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And then it was Costa Rica’s turn, as things got worse and worse for Mexico. Remember, this was the sum of all awfulness for Mexico … El Tri trailed while Panama led, which meant Mexico out of the World Cup.

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But Mexico lives! Oribe Peralta bangs one off the underside of the crossbar. It’s Costa Rica 1, Mexico 1 … which means Mexico has the fourth spot and the playoff, for the time being, at least.

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The Mexicans are in it … but their fallen hero, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, is having a Costa Rican nightmare. In fact, his whole final round of World Cup qualifying has been one big bag of nothing.

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And lest we forget about Los Catrachos, who needed only a draw in Jamaica to qualify for their second consecutive World Cup: Maynor Figueroa has scored to put his team ahead of the home team, 2-1. This is getting fun, eh?

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Now it’s halftime at all three spots. The United States is missing six or seven starters, but the backups should be holding up a little better against Panama, the side with all the motivation. Credit to Panama, though. And at least the United States looks better than Mexico … which looks absolutely nothing like a team that deserves to be in the World Cup.

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Thing is, the real craziness is just getting started. Rafa Marquez tries to stomp his way into the World Cup — only a Costa Rican player happens to be on the bottom of this stomping shenanigan. It’s another ridiculous moment from a guy whose career is full of them.

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Not long after, Chicharito answers the growing Chicharito question: he gets a yellow card for a little dust-up off the ball inside Costa Rica’s penalty area:

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Holy Cow! Michael Orozco scores a goal for the United States down in Costa Rica. He’s the same guy that scored a goal last year when the United States beat Mexico at Azteca Stadium, a historic win for Jurgen Klinsmann and his team.

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It would be “Advantage, Mexico.” But almost simultaneously, Real Salt Lake and Costa Rican goal-getter Alvaro Saborio gets free inside the penalty area, heading past a helpless Mexican goalkeeper. And who was waaaay out of position?

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So … uh … wait … who is in the World Cup from our CONCACAF region at this point? … It’s the United States and, uh … so confusing … Can Canada still get in?

Thing is, the madness is just getting started.

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Seriously, at this point Mexico trails to a Costa Rican team with nothing really to play for (having already qualified). And yet, it’s Mexico and not Panama in that fourth-place playoff. SI.com’s Grant Wahl has a good idea (just as we get a little goal-mouth action in San Jose):

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Oh, for the accountants out there, don’t forget about the massive financial implications. Meanwhile, the rest of us are just conflicted:

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Or, are we? Conflicted, that is. More and more, people are suggesting that Mexico doesn’t deserve further World Cup opportunity. After all, Costa Rica looks far more likely to score a third goal than Mexico does to getting an equalizer.

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And then “it” happened. Luis Tejada scores for Panama, which leads the United States, 2-1. So at this point, with about 15 minutes remaining, the CONCACAF automatic qualifiers are the United States, Costa Rica and Honduras, with Panama in position for fourth-place and that playoff against New Zealand. Yes, it is stretching the realms of belief.

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Who doesn’t love them some Andres Cantor, who is alerting Mexico-Costa Rica viewers of the critical happenings in Panama City with an unmistakable urgency:

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And did we mention we love these simultaneous kickoffs for final day. We’re looking at you, Major League Soccer. Make this thing happen! It’s better than ketchup on french fries, sweeter than Vermont maple, more outstanding than … well, you get the idea:

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So it looks like … wait … WHAT? Graham Zusi shatters Panamanian hearts. The home team was riding out a 2-1 win, dreaming the World Cup dream, minding its own doggone business when Zusi puts Mexico back into play in the World Cup.

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Don’t forget, that home-and-away series with Mexico is going to make a whole bunch of TV money here in the United States. Soccer United Marketing, attached to MLS, owns the U.S. rights for Mexico matches.

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It’s still sinking in, even as Aron Johannsson scores another goal for the United States to make the final out of Panama 3-2. But that goal doesn’t really matter for World Cup places. It was Zusi’s tying goal that changed fortunes, setting up this theater of the bizarre, this day the United States kept Mexico alive in a World Cup.

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Well said, sir.

As for the rest of us, the emotions are pouring forth as we all contemplate the best night in CONCACAF qualifying history, the night a bunch of soccer folks fell hopelessly in love. We’ll always have 15-October.

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There really was so, so much more to it all. But that gives you an idea, at least.

We’ll let these two have the last words on a memorable, surreal night:

UPSL playoff match abandoned after coach punches referee

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A United Premier Soccer League playoff game was abandoned after a referee assault in Maryland on Saturday, the latest in a long line of referee abuse stories.

A player from Mass United had been shown a red card, and a member of the club’s coaching staff punched the referee.

The match between Mass United and World Class Premier FC (Maryland) was a Northeast Championship match, and would send a winner to the UPSL’s national finals in Miami.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The match was tied at 1 around halftime when the referee stopped play after a foul led to a skirmish between players.

According to a source, the referee mistakenly removed a red card from his pocket when he meant to show a yellow. Before the referee could correct himself, an assistant coach punched him in the face. The game was abandoned and the win awarded to World Class Premier.

The UPSL is considered to be the fifth-tier of the American Soccer Pyramid and is sanctioned by the United States Adult Soccer Association.

Referees in Berlin protested increased incidents of violence earlier this year, while Franck Ribery and Neymar have both been suspended for making contact with officials. In 2014, an American referee was killed after a player punched him in the face after a red card incident. The player was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Here’s how it looked from the local angle in Maryland, with The Montgomery County Sentinel reporter Carlos Alfaro Rodriguez on scene. He confirmed the incident with ProSoccerTalk.

Bundesliga wrap: Leipzig, BVB, Bayern all win in routs

Sancho Borussia Dortmund
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Bundesliga has a new leader, at least for a day.

[ MORE: Bundesliga schedule  ]

RB Leipzig cruised to a win on the road and will now wait to see how Borussia Monchengladbach responds to bombing out of Europe.

Bayern and Borussia Dortmund also ran up the score lines on a busy day in Germany.

Fortuna Dusseldorf 0-3 RB Leipzig

Nordi Mukiele scored twice as Julian Nagelsmann’s men moved top of the table for at least a day. Patrik Schick also scored for Leipzig.

USMNT backstop Zack Steffen was under fire all day, making four saves, two high claims, and a clearance, but was at fault for one of the goals.

And ICYMI: Leipzig’s American midfielder, Tyler Adams, should return by the end of the month.

Bayern Munich 6-1 Werder Bremen

Milot Rashica supplied a surprise lead for the visitors, but it was all Bayern from the 24th minute onward. Philippe Coutinho scored the first goal of his hat trick in the 45th and Robert Lewandowski started his brace in stoppage time. Thomas Muller added a 75th minute goal as Bayern rose fourth, six points of Leipzig.

Mainz 0-4 Borussia Dortmund

Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho both had a goal and an assist for BVB, who pulls into third on the table. Nico Schultz and Thorgan Hazard also scored in the 0-save clean sheet for Roman Burki.

Hertha Berlin 1-0 Freiburg

Czech midfielder Vladimir Darida scored in the 53rd minute to help Jurgen Klinsmann to his first win as Hertha manager. Hertha is now three points clear of the relegation playoff spot, and the win comes over a Freiburg side flirting with the European places.

Elsewhere
Hoffenheim 2-4 Augsburg — Friday
Paderborn 1-1 Union Berlin — Rare point for the hosts
Koln 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen — Visitors finish with 9 men
Wolfsburg v. Borussia Monchengladbach — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Schalke v. Eintracht Frankfurt — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 RB Leipzig 15 10 3 2 42 16 26 4-2-1 6-1-1 33
 Mönchengladbach 14 10 1 3 30 16 14 6-1-1 4-0-2 31
 Borussia Dortmund 15 8 5 2 37 19 18 5-2-0 3-3-2 29
 Bayern Munich 15 8 3 4 41 21 20 5-1-2 3-2-2 27
 FC Schalke 04 14 7 4 3 25 18 7 3-3-1 4-1-2 25
 SC Freiburg 15 7 4 4 24 18 6 4-2-1 3-2-3 25
 Bayer Leverkusen 15 7 4 4 22 20 2 3-4-1 4-0-3 25
 1899 Hoffenheim 15 6 3 6 21 27 -6 3-1-4 3-2-2 21
 VfL Wolfsburg 14 5 5 4 15 14 1 2-3-2 3-2-2 20
 1. FC Union Berlin 15 6 2 7 19 20 -1 5-0-3 1-2-4 20
 FC Augsburg 15 5 5 5 24 28 -4 3-2-2 2-3-3 20
 Eintracht Frankfurt 14 5 3 6 24 22 2 4-3-1 1-0-5 18
 Hertha BSC Berlin 15 4 3 8 21 29 -8 3-0-4 1-3-4 15
 FSV Mainz 05 15 5 0 10 20 38 -18 3-0-4 2-0-6 15
 Werder Bremen 15 3 5 7 23 35 -12 1-2-4 2-3-3 14
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 15 3 3 9 16 32 -16 2-1-4 1-2-5 12
 1. FC Köln 15 3 2 10 14 30 -16 2-1-4 1-1-6 11
 SC Paderborn 15 2 3 10 18 33 -15 1-1-6 1-2-4 9

West Ham outlasts wasteful Southampton

Haller West Ham
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West Ham United allayed some of the pressure on manager Manuel Pellegrini by holding on for a 1-0 defeat of Southampton at St. Mary’s on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sebastien Haller scored the lone goal and Michail Antonio had one pulled back by VAR, but Saints missed myriad promising chances to draw level.

West Ham moves 15th with 19 points, while Saints remain behind 17th place Aston Villa on goal difference.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]


Three things we learned

1. Haller ends drought: Sebastien Haller’s early season honeymoon at West Ham was the thing of dreams. The big money Eintracht Frankfurt signing scored five times in seven matches. His chemistry with Felipe Anderson and company was wonderful. Then came eight matches without a goal and just one start in three matches. Manuel Pellegrini played him in attack with and not instead of Michail Antonio, and the pair delivered a goal.

2. Saints fail reward their own production: Southampton, quite frankly, should’ve claimed at least one point. Yes, West Ham also misused chances to score when it was 1-0 in its favor, but Saints had extreme problems in finishing what should’ve been great team goals. Ings hit the bar, which, yeah it happens, but Stephens and Hojbjerg’s second half chances have this 2-1 on another day.

There were similarities to their last outing, a 2-1 loss at Newcastle.

3. Antonio and Haller an answer for Pellegrini? Manuel Pellegrini likely bought himself more time with the win, but it wasn’t as convincing as it could’ve been had Antonio not been denied by VAR or Haller’s header not been saved by McCarthy. The big men were a problematic duo for the Southampton defense, and Pellegrini may opt to combine them again in future days.

Man of the Match: Antonio was a handful as usual, winning a half-dozen aerials and completed just as many dribbles.


Declan Rice had a first minute goal ruled offside (and properly so).

Sebastien Haller hit a glorious bass to Michail Antonio in the 17th minute, but the striker’s poor touch caused a handball.

Two West Ham players appeared to be fouled in the box on the same play, but Martin Atkinson saw nothing and VAR stayed with him.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

The Irons took the lead on a well-worked team goal, Antonio crossing to the back post for Pablo Fornals. He headed back for Haller, who kissed the ball off the far post.

Fornals looked to have his first Premier League goal in the bag one minute after the break, but was defied by Alex McCarthy.

Antonio had it 2-0 for a moment, but VAR spotted his handling of the ball early in the dribble that led to his would-be marker.

Danny Ings struck a ball off the cross bar and Long butchered the rebound as Saints bid for an equalizer.

McCarthy made an outstanding save on an off-balance Haller header in the 78th, while substitute Andriy Yarmolenko couldn’t keep his 79th minute effort under the bar.

Jack Stephens made the least of a terrific set-up in the 81st minute, though he would’ve had to do well to level the score.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was the next to miss a back post effort, wide of the frame.

Monterrey will meet Liverpool as Vangioni scores absolute marvel

Monterrey Vangioni wonder goal
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Leonel Vangioni’s wonder goal may be a warning sign for Liverpool as Monterrey beat Al-Sadd 3-2 in a Club World Cup quarterfinal.

Vangioni, the former River Plate and AC Milan man, laced an aesthetic marvel to open the scoring, the ball rocketing around the back of the goal.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Another ex-River Plate man, Rogelio Funes Mori, scored before halftime to insure Monterrey’s advantage. Al-Sadd outscored Monterrey in the second half, but couldn’t get a late equalizer.

Monterrey meets Premier League powers Liverpool in a Wednesday semifinal. The Reds are bringing their best side to the tournament despite a League Cup date on Tuesday.

Liga MX has never put a team in the Club World Cup Final.

The other semifinal will see Brazil’s Flamengo meet Saudi side Al-Hilal.