Jamaica 1-0 El Salvador: McCleary, Reggae Boyz steal one from plucky Cuscatlecos

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TORONTO, Canada — Garath McCleary’s 73rd minute goal against the run of play lifted Jamaica to a 1-0 win over pesky El Salvador in Tuesday night’s Group B match.

The underdog Los Cuscatlecos controlled the second half against a lethargic and chippy Jamaica side which already knew it had advanced to the knockout rounds, but couldn’t find a goal.

Now El Salvador has to hope for a combination of results to go in its favor; Canada must lose to Costa Rica, and Group C’s match between Cuba and Guatemala must end in a draw.

Jamaica wins Group B and will face Haiti in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Baltimore.

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Both Jamaica and the Houston Dynamo may’ve taken a big hit in the first 10 minutes, as Jermaine Taylor was stretchered off after a hard collision with a sliding Andres Flores. Taylor appeared to be favoring his upper left leg.

Jamaica hit a lightning counter from Je-Vaughn Watson to Garath McCleary before the latter’s attempted cross to a streaking Darren Mattocks was cleared for a throw in the 11th minute.

It was El Salvador’s turn to try its luck moments later, but Jaime Alas popped Flores’ cross harmlessly over the goal. At the other end, Jamaica captain Rodolph Austin worked his way to the top of the 18 before missing left with a hard shot in the 18th minute.

Jamaica had to use its second sub in the 23rd minute after its diving keeper, Dwayne Miller, met a charging Pablo Punyed’s ankle with his head. It was USL goalkeeper Ryan Thompson who got the call over former MLS No. 1 overall pick Andre Blake.

The Reggae Boyz nearly capitalized on a dangerous free kick when Derby Carrillo spilled a shot onto the path of Crystal Palace’s Adrian Mariappa, but the Jamaican could only cut a ball across the goal line from a tight angle.

Punyed, a St. John’s product who plays professionally in Iceland, was one of the stars of the show. The shifty El Salvador attacker missed on a few passes but his movement was very strong. Carrillo also played a smart match between the sticks.

Thompson made a pair of gorgeous stops on a curling 58th minute shot from Punyed and on Flores rebound attempt, as Jamaica found itself on the backfoot.

Substitute Arturo Alvarez came close to beating Thompson with a wandering dribble across and into the 18 with 20 minutes to play. His low shot had the keeper laid out, but missed the post.

And Jamaica found a goal moments later, much to the chagrin of a pro-El Salvador crowd. Mattocks laid the ball off to Joel McAnuff, whose shot was parried by Carrillo… right to McCleary for an easy tap-in.

But Mattocks needlessly took his second yellow minutes later. It was a bit soft, but the Akron product had to play smarter with a yellow. El Salvador had 10 minutes or more against 10 men.

El Salvador kept pushing, but was a step too gun shy until a pair of stoppage time corners, with Carrillo up in the mix.

Benzema: ‘I’m F1’ quality compared to ‘go-kart’ Giroud

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It would appear that Karim Benzema lives for exactly two things in life: scoring goals and creating/participating in very public drama.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Benzema, who hasn’t feature for France’s national team since he was allegedly involved in a scandal to blackmail teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape in 2015, slammed compatriot forward Olivier Giroud as the “go-karting” alternative to his own “F1” quality.

His main gripe with Giroud doesn’t appear to actually be with the player himself, but the fact the two get compared to one another so frequently. In Benzema’s absence from Les Bleus, Giroud has been the main beneficiary, leading many to wonder if the team could have reached greater heights with Benzmea in the team instead — quotes from Sky Sports:

“You shouldn’t confuse F1 and go karting and that’s me being kind. On to the next topic. I’m not talking about him [Giroud] anymore. I just know that I’m F1.

“He has his career, he does what he wants and scores the goals that he wants to score. He’s in his corner and I’m in mine, I’m not thinking about him. If we’re talking about playing style, his suits France well.

“It’s good because there are fast players like (Kylian) Mbappe and (Antoine) Griezmann who play out wide or feed off the centre-forward. When Giroud is up front, he’s a handful for defenses, which gives the other two plenty of space to show what they can do.

“He occupies defenders and it works. It might not be brilliant to watch and you won’t say, ‘Wow, that was incredible.’ Does everyone like that style of play? I don’t know, but it suits France well.”

Giroud: 39 goals (third-highest) in 97 appearances for France. Benzema: 27 goals in 81 appearances.

Guardiola: ‘We will come back stronger, kinder … and a bit fatter’

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Through all of the innumerable challenges and tragedies the world is currently facing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is doing his best to not only help the fight back in his native Spain, but also give everyone a chance to smile and laugh at their own expense.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Guardiola, who last week donated $1.1 million to fight the virus in Catalonia, released a video message of encouragement and hope on Monday — encouraging everyone to stay inside, and hopeful of returning to a sense of normalcy in short order:

“We miss football. We miss the life that we had a few days ago but now is the time to listen, to follow our scientists, doctors and nurses.

“You are my football family and we are going to do everything possible to make you feel better. We’ll come back from this stronger, better, kinder … and a little bit fatter. Stay inside, stay safe.”

Germany’s UCL clubs pledge support for cash-strapped clubs

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DUSSELDORF, Germany — Four German soccer clubs have pledged a combined $21.9 million to support other teams struggling to stay afloat after games in the country were suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen will forgo $13.7 million in as-yet undistributed TV money and add another $8.2 million from their own funds. All four clubs played in the Champions League this season, giving them extra income.

The German Football League, which oversees the top two divisions, will decide how the money is distributed. The league has previously said it fears many clubs could face financial collapse if games can’t resume.

“In these difficult times, it’s important that the stronger shoulders support the weaker shoulders,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said on Thursday.

It’s the latest in a string of gestures to help those in need in German soccer. Players at clubs including Bayern, Borussia Monchengladbach and second-tier Karlsruhe have agreed to voluntary pay cuts to help other staff.

[ MORE: Tottenham offer stadium to help with coronavirus effort ]

Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said clubs had a responsibility to keep other teams running in what could be a long period without income from ticket sales and sponsors.

“We have always said that we would show solidarity if clubs, through no fault of their own, should run into difficulties that they can no longer overcome themselves,” Watzke said in a statement.

“BVB is currently having a major impact on society through a wide range of initiatives. And naturally we are prepared to help out other professional football clubs if it is ultimately a matter of cushioning the financial effects of the pandemic.”

Transfer rumor roundup: Sancho to Man Utd; Madrid’s Haaland backup plan

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A roundup of all of Monday’s biggest transfer rumors, including those involving Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: Tottenham offer stadium to help with coronavirus effort ]

Jadon Sancho is a virtual lock to leave Borussia Dortmund and return to the PL this summer, and the 20-year-old winger will almost certainly command a transfer fee of more than $150 million just three years after signing from Manchester City for just $10 million. Today, it’s Manchester United who are rumored as frontrunners for Sancho’s services, based upon reports that Sancho has “unofficially confirmed” he will choose to join Man United when the transfer window opens.

Updating a transfer rumor from last week, Real Madrid are still very much in on another Dortmund starlet, Erling Haaland, but that doesn’t mean they’re putting all of their eggs in one basket. Los Blancos are reportedly eyeing Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a former Dortmund man himself, as a backup option should Haaland remain at Dortmund or land elsewhere this summer. Aubameyang, who’ll turn 31 this summer, isn’t likely to move for less than $60 million, which could prove a stumbling block.

If the rumors are to be believed, this summer will be a costly one for Man United, who are also interested in Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez. The price tag on the 25-year-old? Close to $170 million. It would seem unlikely that United could afford Niguez (at that price) without getting $100 million (at least) for Paul Pogba.

Another current Arsenal (and former Dortmund) player, midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, hopes to turn his loan to Roma into a permanent move this summer. Arsenal are expected to ask $22 for the 31-year-old, but the Serie A side is hoping to pay closer to $12 million instead.