After strong first legs, can MLS teams advance in Champions League?

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Two wins and a draw. Had you asked MLS fans before this week’s CONCACAF Champions League action, they’d probably be elated. Fans know how difficult it’s been to compete with Mexico’s best. Real Salt Lake’s run in the 2010-11 tournament still serves as MLS’s bright spot since the tournament’s rebrand.

For this week to serve as more than a moral victory, though, MLS’s three survivors need to get something out of Mexico. For Sporting Kansas City and LA Galaxy, both up 1-0 after their first legs with Cruz Azul and Tijuana (respectively), clean sheets will get them through. Having held their opponents without a crucial away goal, though, each can take a major step toward the final four if they score in Mexico. Whether it be a shut out or a score, both teams will need something next week.

San Jose’s road is more difficult, but thanks to Alan Gordon’s 95th minute “Gonnie-ism” in Santa Clara, Mark Watson’s team has a chance. The 1-1 result against visiting Toluca was a minor set back (giving the Diablos Rojos that potentially crucial away goal), but one score on the road would immediately shift the scales.

(CCL Results: San Jose 1-1 Toluca | Sporting KC 1-0 Cruz Azul | LA Galaxy 1-0 Tijuana)

Here’s where Major League Soccer’s trio stands after leg one, what we learned in the process, and heir chances to advance to the semifinals after next week’s second legs in Mexico.

Best chance: LA Galaxy (up 1-0; leg two at Tijuana on Tuesday)

Bruce Arena’s team used an early Samuel goal and second half heroics from Jaime Penedo to take a 1-0 lead at on Wednesday night. Though the Galaxy gave up significantly more chances than their opponents, last year’s acquisition of their Panamanian international paid off. Perhaps the Galaxy can’t depend on Penedo stealing results every night, but on Wednesday, it worked.

The good news for LA: They’ll likely play better on Tuesday. Hopefully, they won’t seem so work down in the second half. They also have the least travel, won’t be playing at altitude (unlike their MLS partners), and are arguably facing the worst team. Though Tijuana is talented, they’re not one of the top teams in Liga MX’s current tournament (eight out of 18).

One PST reader took exception to the description after last night’s action, but winning 1-0 at home truly is the equivalent of holding serve. Anything less, and you’d be giving something to your opponents. On Wednesday, LA merely did what they were supposed to do.

In that sense, we didn’t get a good idea whether LA or Tijuana is actually the better team. All we know is that LA’s result leaves them with the fewest obstacles for any MLS team on the path to the semifinals.

source: Getty ImagesGood shot: Sporting Kansas City (up 1-0; leg two at Cruz Azul on Wednesday)

The defending MLS champions gave the league’s strongest first leg performance, out-playing Cruz Azul in the first half while limiting the number of chances they gave up in the second. Had Mariano Pavone buried his second half opportunity, Sporting would be sitting in San Jose’s shoes, but thanks to the effort of a former Earthquake defender, Ike Opara, the Cruz Azul attacker couldn’t prevent his team from leaving Kansas with a loss.

Next Wednesday, however, Liga MX’s leaders will be back at Estadio Azul. They’ll be at altitude and playing at a venue where they haven’t lost since September. The last eight opponents to visit La Machina have been outscored 12-3, with Luis Fernando Tena’s team registering at least one goal in each game.

Sporting’s best chance to reach the semifinals would be a clean sheet, but Cruz Azul’s recent history says that’s unlikely. If, however, Sporting can snare a goal, they won’t need a win to move on. The results América (1-1), Toluca (1-1) and Santos Laguna (1-2) have put up during Cruz Azul’s eight-game unbeaten run would be enough to see Sporting into the final four.

Toughest road: San Jose Earthquakes (1-1; at Toluca on Wednesday)

No mystery here: The team with the fewest advantages on the scoreboard has the worst chance of moving on. This job isn’t difficult, folks. I just plug into the machine and let the obvious poor out.

There are other factors that make San Jose’s plight more difficult. They’ll be traveling the longest distance of MLS’s three quarterfinalists. They need to score twice to see the away goals rule work in their favor. They also may face a stronger Toluca side in leg two. Whereas José Cardozo left some of his best players out of his starting XI in Santa Clara, there’s no guarantee he’ll do the same in Mexico.

There is another, more basic reason why San Jose should be seen as a bigger underdog: They may not be as good as Sporting or LA. Between where the teams finished last season and the talent they’ll take into next week’s second legs, the Earthquakes aren’t quite on the same level as their MLS colleagues. Unfortunately, they’re facing a team that sits second in Mexico.

Let’s not get too pessimistic about this, though. What San Jose does well should come in particularly handing in the close games that are more likely to transpire in Champions League. If they can stay within one going into the match’s last stages — if they can take advantage of late defensive substitutes that lead to games being played in their opponent’s end — the Goonies may yet continue on their quest for Champions League gold.

Wales vs England, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos

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Being dubbed as ‘The Battle of Britain’ this clash in the Group B finale between Wales and England has plenty on the line.

There is no love lost between these bitter rivals.

STREAM LIVE WALES v ENGLAND

England know anything other than a four-goal or more defeat to Wales means they are in the last 16, while a win for the Three Lions would guarantee them top spot in Group B ahead of Wales, Iran and the USA. Gareth Southgate’s side need an impressive performance to go with any win as their fanbase was far from happy with their lackluster display in the 0-0 draw against the USA last Friday.

[ MORE: Group B standings, schedule, results ]

As for Wales, their situation is clear: they have to win to have a chance of reaching the last 16 and then they will hope that Iran vs USA in their other Group B game ends in a draw. That could happen but Wales need to improve drastically on their two showings so far as their star players have looked off the pace and they deservedly lost against Iran last time out.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Wales vs England.


How to watch Wales vs England live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET – Tuesday, November 29
Stadium: Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

The Welsh have not made the most of their second trip to the World Cup in their history. They were dominated in the first half of their opener against the U.S. but showed good spirit to battle back for a point late on. Against Iran they were second best throughout and a late red card to Wayne Hennessey was followed by two late Iranian goals and Robert Page could have no complaints as his team failed to show up. Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale have had superb careers but injuries have hit them hard in recent years and this looks like a tournament too far for Wales’ star duo.

As for England, the vultures are circling back home as Gareth Southgate is under pressure once again for what many believe are overly cautious tactics. Against the U.S. they huffed and puffed without really creating clear-cut chances and were pretty lucky to escape with a draw. Even though England are all but guaranteed a spot in the last 16, the Three Lions fans expect more from Harry Kane and Co. after they reached the World Cup semifinals four years ago and were runners up in the European Championships just over a year ago. Southgate is expected to make quite a few changes to his lineup as the likes of Phil Foden, Kalvin Phillips and Marcus Rashford could feature from the start.


Wales quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 19
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 1
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs, Path B
Coach: Rob Page
Key players: Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies

England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Pickford


Iran vs USA, live! Score, updates, live stream link, USMNT lineup

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The USA seeks a return to the knockout rounds and that’ll only come with a win over Iran at 2pm ET Tuesday inside Al Thumama Stadium in Al Khor.

STREAM LIVE IRAN v USA

It doesn’t matter what Wales does vs England at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan because England already has four points and a draw would give Iran four as well.

The Yanks’ two draws mandate a win-or-go-home mentality on Saturday and there are multiple generations worth of redemption up for grabs after the USMNT was felled by Iran at the 1998 World Cup and failed to qualify for the 2018 tourney in Russia.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

How can Gregg Berhalter unlock the USMNT attack to get the goal or goals he’ll need to reach a date with Group B’s winner or runner-up?

Here is everything you need for Iran vs USA.


How to watch Iran vs USA live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Tuesday Nov. 29
Stadium: Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

For Iran, it’s about riding the momentum of a huge win after finding inspiration in a huge loss. There’s an ocean’s worth of difference in emotion between the 6-2 tournament-opening loss to England in Al Rayyan and the 2-0 triumph over Wales In the same city. Can Mehdi Taremi or Sardar Azmoun succeed where Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling could not and break down the USMNT defense for a goal?

Meanwhile, the Yanks may still be lamenting a 1-1 draw with Wales as much as they are celebrating a strong performance that kept them unbeaten against England at the World Cup after a scoreless draw with Gareth Southgate’s men In Al Khor. Gregg Berhalter has to find a way to unlock the USMNT’s final-third woes when they hit Al Khor on Tuesday.

There has also been some off-field tension brewing between the U.S. and Iran surrounding this game, as Gregg Berhalter and captain Tyler Adams responded to in a tense press conference amid questions from the Iranian press.


Iran quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 20
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC (Won Group A)
Coach: Dragan Skocic
Key players: Ehsan Hajsafi, Sardar Azmoun, Mehdi Taremi

USA quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 16
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 9
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONCACAF (3rd place)
Coach: Gregg Berhalter
Key players: Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams

World Cup 2022 Group A: Qatar, Senegal, Netherlands, Ecuador, final table, fixtures, rankings

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Group A in the 2022 World Cup was intriguing, as hosts Qatar were dumped out, while Ecuador started well but faded as African champs Senegal finished second in the group and the Netherlands finished top.

[ MORE: Full schedule for 2022 World Cup ]

Even thought Senegal were missing main man Sadio Mane through injury, they rallied to win their final two group games including an intense finale against Ecuador.

The Netherlands were unbeaten throughout the group stage and took care of business with minimum fuss.

[ MORE: Ranking every World Cup team, 32-1 ]

Below is everything you need for 2022 World Cup Group A.


Group A schedule (all kick off times ET)

Recap/highlights: Qatar 0-2 Ecuador – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Senegal 0-2 Netherlands  – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 5am
Recap/highlights: Qatar 1-3 Senegal – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Netherlands 1-1 Ecuador – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Netherlands 2-0 Qatar – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Ecuador 1-2 Senegal –  Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan

How To Watch Group A matches live

  • When: November 20-29, 2022
  • Group stage game kick-off times: 5am, 8am, 10am, 11am (all ET)
  • Location: Qatar
  • TV channels en Español: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock
  • Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Follow along with ProSoccerTalk for the latest news, scores, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 World Cup, and be sure to subscribe to NBC Sports on YouTube!


Group A table

1. Netherlands — 7 points (+9)
2. Senegal — 6 points (+1)
3. Ecuador — 4 points (+1)
4. Qatar — 0 (-4) – ELIMINATED


Qatar

Current FIFA world ranking: 49
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 0
How they qualified: As hosts
Coach: Felix Sanchez
Key players: Abdelkarim Hassan, Almoez Ali, Hassan Al-Haydos

Senegal

Current FIFA world ranking: 18
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 2
How they qualified: Beat Egypt in CAF playoff
Coach: Aliou Cisse
Key players: Idrissa Gana Gueye, Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly

Netherlands

Current FIFA world ranking: 8
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 10
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group G)
Coach: Louis van Gaal
Key players: Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong

Ecuador

Current FIFA world ranking: 44
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 3
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (4th place)
Coach: Gustavo Alfaro
Key players: Enner Valencia, Moises Caicedo, Pervis Estupinan


Senegal edges epic battle with Ecuador to clinch last 16 spot

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Senegal beat Ecuador to reach the last 16 of the World Cup, as the Lions of Terranga rallied to knock out the South Americans.

FULL MATCH REPLAY

Ismaila Sarr put Senegal ahead from the penalty spot but Moises Caicedo equalized in the second half and a draw would have been enough to send Ecuador through at Senegal’s expense.

[ MORE: Group A – Table, rankings, results, schedule ]

Cometh the hour, cometh the man as Senegal’s captain Kalidou Koulibaly scored the winner to send his country through to the knockout rounds for just the second time in their history.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub


Stars of the show

Kalidou Koulibaly: Scored the famous goal to send Senegal through and was dominant at the back. Led by example.

Ismaila Sarr: Another of one Senegal’s stars stood tall as he scored the opener and gave them an outlet. Sadio Mane would be proud of this display.


How to watch Ecuador vs Senegal live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Tuesday, November 29
Stadium: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

GOAL! Moments later Koulibaly puts Senegal back in front. What drama. Now Senegal are going through instead of Ecuador.

GOAL! Ecuador equalize. Brighton’s Moises Caicedo slots home after a flick on. As it stands, Ecuador going through ahead of Senegal.

GOAL! Hincapie clatters into Ismaila Sarr and he slots home the resulting spot kick. Senegal lead.

What a start from Senegal! Idrissa Gana Gueye slams a shot wide and Ismaila Sarr sees a deflected effort fly just wide. Ecuador have yet to get going.


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Enner Valencia has obviously been the main man for Ecuador with his three goals so far but Gonzalo Plata and Michael Estrada have been excellent alongside him in attack. Brighton duo Moises Caicedo and Pervis Estupinan have been superb too, while Angelo Preciado has been electric down the right flank.

Senegal’s defense has looked a bit shaky, even with Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly back there. In midfield Idrissa Gana Gueye was much better against Qatar and Ismaila Sarr continues to do his best to fill the huge void left by Sadio Mane.


Ecuador quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 44
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 3
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (4th place)
Coach: Gustavo Alfaro
Key players: Enner Valencia, Moises Caicedo, Pervis Estupinan

Senegal quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 18
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 2
How they qualified: Beat Egypt in CAF playoff
Coach: Aliou Cisse
Key players: Idrissa Gana Gueye, Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly