Mexico’s moment of truth almost here; the massive World Cup qualifying series with New Zealand begins Wednesday

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It isn’t often that World Cup qualifying in our region can kick up such a U.S. interest when it does not involve the United States.

Then again, it isn’t often that Mexico is this awful.

So here it is, El Tri’s last stand. The chances for getting this wayward, mess of a World Cup qualifying campaign together are pretty much up. They get things right over the next few days against New Zealand, or mighty Mexico – well, you know, “mighty” in our region – misses the quadrennial world soccer mega-party for the first time since 1990.

Heck, as World Cup qualifying opened, some pundits were suggesting Mexico could be a dark horse favorite to accomplish something truly special next summer in Brazil. Now, they are running out of chances to even get there.

We’ll have more about it at ProSoccerTalk over the next week and a half. It starts Wednesday when the teams meet at Azteca.

Mexico finished fourth among six teams in final round World Cup qualifying in our region. (The United States finished first, claiming an automatic berth along with Costa Rica and Honduras.)

(MORE: Why U.S. fans might WANT Mexico in the World Cup)

What former Club America manager Miguel Herrera told FIFA.com: “The first thing we said was that we shouldn’t think about what happened in the past because that’s something we can’t resolve. … We are going to win in Mexico and we will also seek to win over there [in New Zealand].”

Ordinarily, a home game against a team like New Zealand (No.  79 in FIFA’s latest world rankings) would hardly be worth a Tri-Colored sweat. But Mexico won just once in five final round World Cup qualifiers inside Azteca, so the All Whites can like their chances of a draw or a close loss before heading back home for the second leg.

(MORE: Price for Mexico missing World Cup seems to be rising)

Herrera certainly made a statement by choosing an All-Mexico-based roster for the do-or-die set; that means no Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, an unthinkable exclusion just a few months ago.

New Zealand is missing a big start, too, although for completely different reasons. West Ham defender Winston Reid, the All Whites’ captain, was recently ruled out with a serious ankle injury.

The second leg is Nov. 20 in Wellington, New Zealand.

MLS Three Things: RBNY beats Atlanta, is a special club right now

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At this point, Jesse Marsch could take the USMNT job, Tyler Adams could bolt for the Bundesliga, and we’d still have to select the New York Red Bulls to finish with a home playoff game.

[ MORE: Willian’s shot at Conte ]

That’s how well run RBNY is these days, which is to take nothing away from their coach and 19-year-old star, but considering they navigated a solid CONCACAF Champions League run en route to this start… well…. wow.

On a night when Luis Robles’ ironman streak ended, Kaku recorded two assists, and Ezequiel Barco bagged his second goal in three matches, they don’t even meet the requirements of our three things.

Form giants deliver more goals

Marsch’s men have been shutout once this season, and most multiple goals in four-consecutive wins. Three of those four wins have come on the road, at LA, Colorado, and now Atlanta.

RBNY has the best points-per-game in Major League Soccer, has scored the joint-most goals despite playing in the second-fewest games, and is allowing barely more than a goal-a-game.

Bet against ’em. We dare ya.

BWP delivers the goods

RBNY’s 33-year-old English star scored twice and won a penalty that Daniel Royer converted as he continued his assault on all future Red Bulls’ hopes of becoming the club’s leading scorer.

Bradley Wright-Phillips has almost 50 more goals than his nearest competitor, Juan Pablo Angel, and he makes headers look like child’s play.

Victory comes with a price

Kemar Lawrence was lost with a scary-looking face-plant on a clearance, and needed to be stretchered off the pitch. Hopefully it’s not long-term for the Jamaican back.

Willian “edits” Conte out of FA Cup champions photo

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Willian is not a fan of Antonio Conte.

Come to another conclusion if you like, but it’s hard to argue the Brazilian wizard’s feelings following his Instagram post after Chelsea beat Manchester United in the FA Cup Final.

[ MORE: Matic wants squad changes at Man Utd ]

Willian covered his manager in trophies following the win, and it’d be a stretch to call that a tribute to the Italian’s tactical brilliance.

The player recorded seven goals and six assists despite playing less than all but 12 Chelsea players in league play (12th place Alvaro Morata had 11 and 6).

We’re accepting alternative explanations for the since-deleted Instagram photo below:

Elis scores twice as Dynamo beat Fire 3-2

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) Alberth Elis scored two second-half goals to help the Houston Dynamo beat the Chicago Fire 3-2 on Sunday for their first road win of the season.

Elis, on a one-on-one breakaway, cut back to evade defender Johan Kappelhof and ripped a right-footer from the center of the box into the back of the net to give Houston (4-3-3) a 3-2 lead in the 74th minute.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

The Dynamo’s Romell Quioto opened the scoring in the fourth, running onto a long through ball from Tomas Martinez and rolling the finish past sliding goalkeeper Richard Sanchez. Nemanja Nikolic tied it in the 14th minute and then fed Diego Campos for a goal about two minutes later. Elis converted from the spot to make it 2-2 early in the second half after Mauro Manotas drew a foul in the area conceded by Sanchez.

Chicago (3-6-2) has lost three of its last four games.

 

Inter Milan back in the Champions League after late heroics (video)

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It’s been more than a half-decade since Inter Milan qualified for the UEFA Champions League, an infamous run that ended on Sunday.

Inter scored twice in the final 13 minutes to beat fifth-place Lazio and advance into the Top Four via head-to-head record.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

Lazio held 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but could not get the job done at home, collecting red cards in the 79th minute and stoppage time.

Uruguayan midfielder Matias Vecino scored his third goal of the season, redirecting a corner kick home in the 81st minute, as Inter clinched fourth place in Serie A.