Copa America Group A preview: Hosts Chile favorites vs. Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia

Leave a comment

With just a few days to go until the 2015 Copa America kicks off in Chile, we will be looking at all three groups as 12 teams do battle on the west coast of South America to be crowned Champions of CONMEBOL.

[ RELATED: Latest Copa America news ]

Will defending champs Uruguay defend their trophy, or can Argentina, Brazil or Colombia wrestle the crown away from Edinson Cavani and Co.?

First up, here’s a look at Group A as host nation Chile meet Ecuador and Bolivia plus guest from CONCACAF, Mexico, for a place in the knockout stages.

Chile

The six previous times Chile have hosted the Copa America they have finished third four times, runners up in 1955 and came fourth in 1920. So, seventh time luck… Seriously though, Chile has a real chance of at least making the semifinals on home soil as Alexis Sanchez will lead the charge and Arturo Vidal, Matias Fernandez and Jorge Valdivia will run the midfield. With experience throughout and a great run to the quarterfinal of the World Cup last summer, Chile is on the verge of breaking into the world’s elite. Has the time to win their first-ever Copa America arrived? They should waltz through Group A and then… anything is possible.

Best Copa America finish: Runners up – 1955, 1956, 1979, 1987
Manager: Jorge Sampaoli  – In charge since 2012 and a lover of high-pressing. A real players coach who loves to spend the game on the edge of his technical box.
Star man: Alexis Sanchez – The fourth-highest scorer in Chile’s history is coming off the back of a wondrous first season in the PL for Arsenal. After scoring 28 goals and relentlessly battering opposition defenses all season, the hosts will hope he’s not burned out.

Ecuador

Despite qualifying for three of the last four World Cups, La Tricolor have struggled to compete in recent Copa America’s. They have failed to make the knockout rounds since 1997 and only have one win in their last four tournaments. Surely that terrible run has to turn around this year as they possess a squad packed with experience in Europe’s top leagues?

Best Copa America finish: Fourth place – 1959, 1993
Manager: Gustavo Quinteros – Appointed as boss earlier this year, Quinteros left Emelec after guiding them to two Ecuadorian championships in the past three seasons. Let’s see how he does.
Star man: Enner Valencia – West Ham’s striker burst onto the scene for the Hammers when he arrived last summer but has struggled to perform consistently in the PL. After scoring 11 goals in 19 games for Ecudaor, the pacey forward will look to make a name for himself this summer just like he did in Brazil in 2014.

source: AP
We will see some more epic celebrations from Herrera this summer?

Mexico

One of two CONCACAF nations competing in this tournament, Mexico have a decent recent history in the Copa America as they finished runners up in 1993 and 2001. Winning the cup won’t be a realistic aim this time around as Miguel Herrera has picked a youthful squad with one eye on the 2015 Gold Cup in July in the U.S. Expect El Tri to battle Ecuador for second spot in Group A.

Best Copa America finish: Runners up – 1993, 2001
Manager: Miguel Herrera – Expect plenty of passionate antics from Piojo in South America. He won the hearts of the soccer world last summer in Brazil. Can he win some silverware this summer against all the odds?
Star man: Rafael Marquez – At the age of 36 the Hellas Verona center back will skipper this young Mexican side and they will need all his experience to make the knockout stages,

Bolivia

The lowest-ranked team in the competition, not much is expected from El Verde. They last qualified for a World Cup in 1994 and although they’ve failed to make it out of the group stage of the last five Copa America tournaments they did stun everyone and finish as runners up in 1997 when they hosted the tournament. Using players mostly from their domestic league, Marcelo Moreno is their best hope of unlocking opposition defenses as the striker who plays his club soccer in China has 12 goals in 50 outings.

Best Copa America finish: Runners up – 1997
Manager: Mauricio Soria – A former goalkeeper for the Bolivian national team, Soria was in temporary charge in 2014 and has now taken the reins permanently.
Star man: Marcelo Moreno – Currently playing in China for Changchun Yata, Moreno has played for Shakhtar Donetsk, Wigan Athletic, Gremio and Werder Bremen among others during his nomadic career. The only man in Bolivia’s squad to boast more than three goals for his country, Moreno being in top form is key if they have any chance of advancing to the quarterfinals.

Schedule

June 11: Chile vs. Ecuador – Estadio Nacional, Santiago
June 12: Mexico vs. Bolivia – Estadio Sausalito, Vina del Mar
June 15: Ecuador vs. Bolivia – Estadio Elias Figueroa – Valparaiso
June 15: Chile vs. Mexico – Estadio Nacional, Santiago
June 19: Mexico vs. Ecuador – Estadio El Tienente, Rancagua
June 19: Chile vs. Bolivia –  Estadio Nacional, Santiago

Prediction

1st – Chile
2nd – Ecuador
3rd – Mexico
4th – Bolivia

10-man Red Bulls hold off Atlanta United at home

New York Red Bulls
Leave a comment

Atlanta United’s five-game winning streak went up in smoke as the New York Red Bulls pulled off an incredible 1-0 victory.

Playing down a man for around 65 minutes, the Red Bulls shutout Atlanta United’s high powered offense in front of 18,495 fans at Red Bull Arena. Tom Barlow, in just his second appearance with the Red Bulls, scored the game-winning goal in the 65th minute off a header at the far post, one that left U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Brad Guzan rooted to his line.

[READ: Pep: Domestic Treble harder than UCL]

Tim Parker was shown a straight red card in controversial fashion, after grabbing Josef Martinez’s left arm with Martinez in front of him just outside the box. Martinez was clearly pulled back but continued running and eventually got a shot off that Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles parried away.

Referee Robert Sbiga then decided to call the play back and award Atlanta United a free kick outside the box. After what seemed to be consultation with his assistants, Sbiga then showed Parker a straight red card, likely for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO) while Martinez was through on goal.

The outcome is a massive one for the Red Bulls. It’s been a rough season, with the loss of both Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams and the poor form of Bradley Wright-Phillips up top. Wright-Phillips was out on Sunday and another attacker Andreas Ivan, went off with an injury in the first half as he was about to be substituted off anyways following the red card.

Alejandro Romero Gamarra, Kaku, has made his feelings known that he wants (or wanted) to leave the club. His form hasn’t been stellar this season either.

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s finally found its way back into the win column and is looking more like the juggernaut from last season, especially with five-straight shutout wins. It’s all back to zero today though, with the defeat at the Red Bulls on a perfect grass pitch up a man.

Mbappe hints he could leave PSG

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kylian Mbappe accepted his award as the Ligue 1 MVP, dedicated it to Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, and then mentioned he could be off soon to another club.

Wait, what?

Yes, following Mbappe accepting his award, the French star and World Cup winner stated he hoped he could continue his career at PSG but left open the possibility of moving to another club that allows him to take the next steps in his career.

[READ: Kompany to join Anderlecht as player-manager]

“This is a very important moment for me, I arrive at a first or second turn of my career,” Mbappe said, via L’equipe. “I’ve discovered a lot of things here, I feel that maybe it’s time to have more responsibility. I hope it may be at Paris Saint-Germain, it would be with great pleasure, or perhaps elsewhere for a new project.”

Mbappe later clarified his comments, stating he was looking for more responsibility. “If it’s at PSG, that’s good. If it is elsewhere, it will be elsewhere for a new challenge.

“For me, it was time to say it. I am someone whole: when I say something, I think it. For me, it was the right time to say it. That’s it, I said it!”

It’s unclear why exactly Mbappe used this moment to put some pressure on PSG. Perhaps its to remind them that the club needs to be successful in its transfer endeavors this summer, so it can compete deep into the UEFA Champions League. With Neymar injured and a central midfield ravaged by injuries, PSG capitulated and somehow fell to Manchester United in the Champions League Round of 16, grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

There’s no reason why PSG can’t dominate the Champions League like it does Ligue 1, especially with the attacking trident of Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani. But of course, against better competition, the inferiority in mentality and in talent along the backline has started to show.

So, where could Mbappe go? There’s very few places that could effectively match both his salary and his competitive goals. It’s the usual suspects, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and perhaps Manchester City, should they be interested in it. More recently, while Man City has spent big, it’s been on signing multiple players on $50 million transfers, as opposed to one player on a $200 million transfer, for example.

It’s unlikely, but an intriguing option would be Liverpool. If the club somehow came up with the funds, imagine Mbappe playing alongside Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, with Roberto Firmino coming in to spell either of the three over the course of the season. Mbappe would likely make up that one-point difference between Liverpool and Man City, and if that’s what it takes for Liverpool to finally win the title, it could be worth the initial massive investment.

Messi finishes season leading La Liga in goals, assists, and more

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lionel Messi turns 32 this summer, and after more than a dozen years of first team soccer, playing more than 50 games a season, the old man’s still got it.

The Argentine star, playing his first season in almost a decade without direct competition from Cristiano Ronaldo, scored twice as Barcelona tied Eibar, 2-2. The two goals gave him 34 for the season, by far the most by any player in the league, and his 50th in all competitions.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Messi also led La Liga this season with 13 assists, 136 shots, 85 shots on target and 70 through balls. In terms of successful dribbles, Messi’s 132 fell seven short of Celta Vigo’s Sofiane Boufal.

Messi’s 34 goals gave him his sixth Pichichi, the trophy given to the league’s leading scorer. Messi is now tied with legendary Telmo Zarra for the all-time record of most Pichichi’s, and Messi is now three ahead of Ronaldo.

As if Messi wasn’t already a legendary player, the man seems to be showing no signs of slowing down. It may have helped that he skipped matches with Argentina after the 2018 World Cup this past fall, keeping him fresh for Barcelona. Even so, the man looks as good, if not better, with age.

Messi already holds the record for most goals in league history, and at this rate, he’ll set it to a level that will be almost impossible to reach. While he’s going to be remembered for his incredible control on the ball, it doesn’t hurt that he’s been incredibly productive during his career, including in 2018-2019. Barcelona won the league title with ease and the club made the UEFA Champions League semifinal. If for some better defending, Messi could be contesting for another Champions League title.

Nani scores twice as Orlando City thrashes FC Cincinnati

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nani may not be the star he once was while he played for Manchester United, but he’s still making a powerful impact in MLS.

The Portuguese international scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season as Orlando City ran circles expansion side FC Cincinnati, winning 5-1. Along with Nani, Tesho Akindele scored a brace and Dom Dwyer came off the bench and scored a header in the win.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Aside from having a chance to record a big win over a struggling side, Orlando City may have been ultra motivated on Sunday. Orlando City manager James O’Connor has history with FC Cincinnati from his time at Louisville City, with intense rivalry matches taking place as well as arguments between O’Connor and former FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch on the sidelines.

FC Cincinnati actually went up early with a Darren Mattocks finish past Brian Rowe, but it didn’t take long for Orlando City to respond. Akindele fired home from 20-yards out in the 37th minute to make it 1-1. Early in the second half, Nani scored on a penalty kick rebound to make it 2-1 to the hosts, and then he added a second off a cross from the right to blast the game wide open.

With the win, Orlando City moved just one point outside of a playoff place, while Cincinnati remains in the basement of the Eastern Conference. However, Orlando City has a difficult road ahead, with matches against the LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact and D.C. United to come.