2015 Gold Cup – Group B preview: Costa Rica’s to clash with Canada, Jamaica, El Salvador

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The 2015 Gold Cup kicks off in just a few days as continental glory is on the line.

There is plenty at stake this summer, with the team crowned champions of the CONCACAF region also sealing a spot at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. With the U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica all making the knockout stages of the 2014 World Cup, expect this to be a three-way tussle for the title throughout the month of July. But there are plenty of other dark horses lurking in the shadows.

[ RELATED: Group A preview | Gold Cup news ]

Group B is intriguing with Costa Rica the clear favorites but with perennial “they could be really good this year” teams Canada and Jamaica showing flashes of promise in 2015, and El Salvador an unknown quantity, this promises to be a lot of fun.

Costa Rica

After their sensational run to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup, Los Ticos are many people’s picks for the 2015 Gold Cup title. Without star goalkeeper Keylor Navas through injury, Costa Rica still have plenty of top class talent with Bryan Ruiz pulling the strings in midfield behind Joel Campbell up top and Celso Borges breaking things up. Yeah, Costa Rica will be there or there abouts when the final in Philadelphia rolls around on July 26. That said, they have failed to get past the quarterfinal stage in four of the last five tournaments. Just saying.

Best Gold Cup finish: Winners – 1963, 1969, 1989
Manager: Paulo Wanchope – The legendary Costa Rica striker was assistant coach for the last four years before their World Cup heroics and this is his first tournament as Los Ticos boss. Wanchope has yet to win as boss with three defeats in his first five games in charge.
Star man: Bryan Ruiz – He has 17 goals in 77 games for Los Ticos but paired with Campbell’s pace, his roaming in-between the lines of midfield and attack will cause opponents all kinds of issues

Jamaica

The Reggae Boyz showed plenty of promise in their 2015 Copa America campaign but they lost 1-0 to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay in group play. Full of players from England and Major League Soccer, there are plenty of familiar names in Jamaica’s roster and head coach Winfried Schafer will be expecting a lot from them this summer. Remember, Jamaica didn’t even qualify for the last Gold Cup in 2013 so their players will be hungry to put that right and put on a good show for their fans back in the Caribbean.

Best Gold Cup finish: Third place – 1993
Manager: Winfried Schafer – The veteran manager has enjoyed steady results since taking over in 2013 but he no doubt needs a strong Gold Cup to keep that momentum going.
Star man: Darren Mattocks – Vancouver’s speedy forward has some great chances for Jamaica in the Copa America but failed to convert them. Expect him to get plenty of opportunities this summer.

source:
Cyle Larin could be the key to Canada’s success.

Canada

In the past two Gold Cups Canada has failed to make it out of the group stage but they will have much bigger expectations this time. Benito Floro is gradually starting to reap the benefits of plenty of talented youngsters and they will likely battle with Jamaica to finish second behind Costa Rica in the group. Four-straight friendly wins going into the competition will give them plenty of confidence and their final group game against Costa Rica is being played in Toronto, so that will help if they need a result.

Best Gold Cup finish: Winners – 1985, 2000
Manager: Benito Floro – Former Real Madrid coach who will be judged on his two-year tenure by how Canada gets on this summer. Plenty of pressure.
Star man: Cyle Larin – This kid is the real deal. Drafted No. 1 by Orlando City in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, now we are starting to see why. In his first seven games for Canada he has three goals and Larin’s speed and power will cause problems. Great talent who is just 20 years old.

El Salvador

La Selecta will be right up there with Canada and Jamaica to try and finish second behind Costa Rica. With a bunch of young talent from FAS and Metapan in their domestic league, head coach Alberta Roca will hope his side get off to a flier against Canada in their opening group game. If that’s the case, expect a youthful El Salvador to grow in confidence.

Best Gold Cup finish: Runners up – 1963, 1981
Manager: Alberta Roca – A former assistant coach at Barcelona, Roca has been in charge of El Salvador since 2014. He will be hoping to match their quarterfinal appearance in 2013.
Star man: Andres Flores – Their skipper and a midfielder for the New York Cosmos, Flores will make everything tick for the central American side.

Schedule

July 7: Costa Rica vs. Jamaica – StubHub Center, CA
July 7: El Salvador vs. Canada – StubHub Center, CA
July 10: Jamaica vs. Canada – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX
July 10: Costa Rica vs. El Salvador – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX
July 13: Jamaica vs. El Slvador – BMO Field, Toronto, Canada
July 13: Canada vs. Costa Rica – BMO Field, Toronto, Canada

Prediction

1st – Costa Rica
2nd – Jamaica
3rd – Canada
4th – El Salvador

Scott Parker’s first season as a manager ends in Fulham promotion

Fulham promotion
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Fulham are headed back to the Premier League after just one season in the EFL Championship, and that means Scott Parker has worked something of a minor miracle in west London.

[ MORE: Promoted! Fulham back in PL after 1 season in Championship ]

Parker took on a hefty challenge when he accepted his first senior managerial job last year. Fulham were a virtual lock to be relegated from the Premier League when he was named interim boss in February, and their place in the second division had long since been confirmed by the time he was named Claudio Ranieri’s permanent successor in May. The squad was expensive, bloated and full of players who had no intention of sticking around after relegation.

Given the club’s wealth of resources relative to the rest of the Championship, promotion at the first time of asking was more an expectation than a hope at Craven Cottage. Fast-forward 15 months, and the 39-year-old has quickly proven himself the right man for the job after doing just that — taking Fulham back to the PL by way of Tuesday’s Championship promotion playoff final.

Promotion may have been sealed on Tuesday, but Parker believes it was earned over a long period of transition and self-reflection by the players, beginning when he first took the job — quotes from the BBC:

“We’ve done what we’ve done tonight, but there’s still improvement, and that’s what makes me so proud and happy.

“For all of the good players and everything you see, what makes me so happy is I see a group of players who only a year ago were struggling psychologically, didn’t have a mindset or mentality.

“I’ve driven this team every single day and what makes me proud is I stood on the touchline tonight and seen a team that represents what I’ve been saying over the last 12 months.”

Now comes the the truly difficult challenge for Parker: after winning Fulham promotion he must assemble a squad of players not only good enough to stay in the PL, but also one full of individuals who want to be at his club and not simply any club that just so happens to be in England’s top division.

Promoted! Fulham back in PL after 1 season in Championship

Championship promotion playoff final
Photo credit: @FulhamFC
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Fulham are headed back to the Premier League after claiming west London derby delight at the expense of local rivals Brentford in Tuesday’s Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Ranking the new Premier League kits for 2020-21 ]

It was an incredibly cagey affair — as the Championship promotion playoff final tends to be — that saw the two sides combine for just 17 shots (four on target) through 90 minutes of regular time. In the end, it was the most unlikely of restarts halfway through extra time that sent the Cottagers on their way.

Brentford were nearly the architects of their own downfall early in the first half. FirstIt was a poor back pass from Henrik Dalsgaard that left David Raya in worlds of trouble in the 10th minute, though Fulham were unable to find a proper chance amid the chaos inside Brentford’s box.

Fulham were perhaps fortunate not to go a man down in the 29th minute, when Harrison Reed slid through Christian Norgaard and put studs into the Dane’s ankle. Reed came over top of the ball in a 50-50 challenge and, despite first making contact with the ball, came in with borderline excessive force and in a reckless fashion. Nonetheless, only a yellow card for the on-loan Southampton youngster.

[ MORE: Christian Pulisic issues injury update ]

The start of the second half looked like more of the same from the first half: Fulham with an early chance and Brentford scrambling to stay level. Neeskens Kebano curled a free kick around the wall in the 48th minute, likely beating Raya if it was on frame, but only managed to rippled the outside netting.

Championship Golden Boot runner-up (25 goals) Ollie Watkins had the final scoring chance of regular time in the 70th minute as he fired from the edge of Fulham’s penalty area, but Marek Rodak was able to comfortably palm the ball over the crossbar. Still, the first threatening signs of life from the Bees.

[ MORE: Man United, Dortmund in talks over $140 million Sancho transfer ]

The decisive moment finally arrived in the 105th minute, and it came from absolutely nothing — less than nothing, one might credibly argue. Joe Bryan was tasked with restarting play following a foul roughly 50 yards from goal. Rather than lofting the ball high and to the back post, as Raya so clearly expected him to do, Bryan wrapped his left foot around the ball and whipped it toward the near post — as “near” as it can be from 50-plus yards. Raya was painfully slow to recognize the shot and tried to scramble across the face of goal, but never had a chance of getting anywhere near the ball.

Bryan doubled Fulham’s lead in the 117th minute. It was fast and fluid one-two atop Brentford’s penalty area and the left back tucked it away to seal promotion back to the top flight, and it turned out to be hugely necessary after Dalsgaard poked home a late consolation goal for the Bees with virtually the last kick of the game.

Fulham spent the 2018-19 season in the Premier League but finished with just 26 points in 19th place and were relegated back to the Championship after one season. Only time will tell if they’re able to stay in the top division this time, or if they’re a full-time yo-yo club.

Transfer confirmed: Ferran Torres to Man City for $26 million

Ferran Torres to Man City
Photo credit: Man City
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Reports sending Valencia youngster Ferran Torres to Man City have been burning red-hot over the last 24 hours.

[ MORE: Ranking the new Premier League kits for 2020-21 ]

Man City confirmed their capture of the 20-year-old — one of the brightest prospects in all of Europe — on Tuesday.

Torres, who came through the Valencia academy, tallied six goals and seven assists in 43 appearances (all competitions), including two of each in the Champions League, for Valencia this season.

He broke into Valencia’s first team back in November of 2017, at the age of 17, before establishing himself as a regular over the last two seasons.

[ MORE: Man United, Dortmund in talks over $140 million Sancho transfer ]

Reports out of the UK claim it will reportedly cost just $26 million to bring Ferran Torres to Man City, plus possible add-ons, as he had just one year remaining on his contact with Valencia. Torres reportedly met with City sporting director Txiki Begiristain earlier on Tuesday, adding further fuel to the fire that a move was imminent.

Torres seems an obvious replacement for recently departed winger Leroy Sane. He’ll join Raheem Sterling as one of only two natural wingers in Pep Guardiola’s squad, offering more tactical flexibility — not to mention, width — after City were fairly limited in the wide areas during the 2019-20 season.

Championship playoff final: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

Brentford - Fulham
Photo byJacques Feeney/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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Fulham – Brentford: Team news is in with the two West London sides set to do battle for a place in the Premier League in the Football League Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

We can hardly wait to find out who’ll claim the 20th berth in the 2020-21 Premier League season in the richest game on earth.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europe ]

Kickoff is at 2:45 pm ET Tuesday at Wembley Stadium.

Team news


Key players

Fulham leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 26 goals were the joint-most in the Championship and more than three times as many as Tom Cairney, second amongst the Cottagers. He’s healthy for the first time after missing the semis with a hamstring injury.

Brentford’s Ollie Watkins scored the same amount of goals as Mitrovic, tying for the league lead, and he’s joined by Said Benrahma’s 17 goals (fifth in the league) and Bryan Mbeumo (eighth). The latter have combined for 16 assists, too. The Bees can sting.

Their seasons

Brentford won a even-straight league games to surge into the mix for automatic promotion but lost their last two, meeting Fulham on 81 points.

As for the Cottagers, Fulham finished the season on a seven-match unbeaten run which included five wins

Their playoffs

Brentford overcame a 1-0 first-leg deficit to oust Swansea City in the semifinal, while Fulham’s first leg win was enough to outlast Cardiff City’s strong second leg in their semi.

Odds and ends

Brentford beat Fulham twice, 1-0 at Griffin Park and 2-0 at Craven Cottage.

The Bees are favored to win the match at +108 odds, while Fulham carries +265 odds of a win.

Prediction

Mitrovic’s availability is huge for a Fulham side hoping to break down the league’s second-stingiest defense. Brentford feels like it’s the superior side but Fulham has been here and Cairney even scored the goal to beat Aston Villa in the 2017-18 playoff final. That experience is an X-factor, but we’ll still call Brentford 2-1 winners.

How to watch Fulham – Brentford

Kickoff: 2:45 pm ET Tuesday
Stream: ESPN+