Five takeaways from Mexico’s 0-0 draw with Nigeria in Atlanta

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An open match that saw both Mexico and Nigeria with chances to snare victory ended 0-0 at the Georgia Dome, with a crowd of 68,212 in Atlanta further bolstering the expansion case Falcons owner Arthur Blank is trying to make to Major League Soccer.

That subplot would normally be irrelevant when two World Cup qualifiers meet three months away from the tournament, but with Wednesday’s game finishing scoreless, the expansion angle is one of the night’s more interesting. One day after Don Garber, in his YouTube Q-and-A, said events like Mexican National Team games were part of testing potential MLS markets, Atlanta produced a huge crowd for an otherwise meaningless game. When Garber tweeted a picture of him and Blank, the potential franchise owner, from the sidelines at the Georgia Dome, you couldn’t help but think MLS team No. 23 was all but locked in:

[tweet https://twitter.com/thesoccerdon/status/441430498922213376]

Maybe it won’t be announced tomorrow, but Atlanta seems certain to join Major League Soccer.

For the rest of the nights takeaways, we’ll focus on Mexico, a team that continues to carve out a new identity under head coach Miguel Herrera. And since we’ve already covered our first takeaway, we’ll start our formal list at No. 2:

2. Europeans do have a place under Herrera – El Tri qualified for the World Cup by shunning their European talent for the CONCACAF-Oceania playoff against New Zealand. On Wednesday, seven Europe-based players were back in the squad: Javier Hernández (Manchester United); Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio); Andres Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen); Hector Moreno (Espanyol); Diego Reyes (Porto); Hector Herrera (Porto); Javier Aquino (Villarreal).

The good news: Herrera is willing to use Mexico’s most talented players. The bad news: Many of those players were at the core of El Tri’s disappointing qualifying campaign under ‘Chepo’ de la Torre. Whether Herrera can have more success with them is an open question.

3. Chicharito didn’t look good, may have been injured – Javier Hernández probably shouldn’t be starting over Raul Jimenez, but he did. In his 45 minutes, Hernández looked like somebody who hasn’t been getting regular playing time at club level, eventually leaving with what appeared to be a knee injury (described as a strain).

4. Guillermo Ochoa is capable of being the Mexico No. 1 – The Ajaccio keeper was Herrera’s Man of the Match, but at this point in his career, any time the former Club América man starts for El Tri becomes a reminder for what should have been.

Going into the 2010 World Cup, Ochoa was on track to be a star. Now starts for his national team justify their own bullet point explanations in match reports. Perhaps tonight was the first step toward claiming the spot he couldn’t lock down before South Africa.

5. Andres Guardado hit 100 caps and is finally playing left defense – Guardado is only 27 but has already hit the century mark for El Tri, doing so tonight while getting the call at left wing back. Though he’s played left fullback for some time at Valencia and now on loan at Bayer Leverkusen, Guardado has typically been used at his natural wing position for country. Recalled by Herrera, Guardado got the start out wide in Mexico’s 5-3-2 formation, a setup that could prove a good fit for the veteran, should he persist in the role.

Mexico receives FIFA fine for insulting chant

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FIFA handed a $10,400 fine down to Mexico on Wednesday for “discriminatory and insulting chants” that occurred during El Tri’s 1-0 victory over Germany.

[ MORE: Spain tops Iran after overruled goal ]

The FIFA disciplinary committee reportedly levied the fine to Mexico for directing a derogatory chant towards German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has sanctioned the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) with a fine of CHF 10,000 for the misconduct of a group of Mexican fans (cf. art. 67 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code) in relation to discriminatory and insulting chants during the first half of the 2018 FIFA World Cup match played between Germany and Mexico,” FIFA declared in a press release.

The Mexican Football Federation has aimed to eliminate an ongoing epidemic of homophobic chants that supporters have screamed during goal kicks for some time.

El Tri was sanctioned 12 times during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for those chants.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.