2015 Gold Cup: Three things we learned from Mexico’s controversial win over Costa Rica

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Costa Rica held Mexico scoreless for 120 minutes tonight, but they couldn’t stop the referee from making a poor decision with just seconds left to go in the match.

Mexico was awarded a phantom penalty kick in stoppage-time of extra-time, and Andres Guardado converted to send El Tri into the Gold Cup semifinals.

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Although Mexico had the better run of play throughout the match, they failed to score for two hours and only advanced through a gift from the referee. So what did we learn at MetLife Stadium?

MEXICO DESPERATELY MISSES CHICHARITO

This match was scoreless after 120 minutes, but that’s not because there weren’t any chances. Mexico had golden opportunities throughout the match to grab a goal, but failed to find the back of the net. Yes, Esteban Alvarado made some great saves for Costa Rica, but the amount of opportunities wasted by El Tri was massive. Firing over the net, hitting the post, or just straight shanking shots wide, Mexico really could have won this game 3-0 or 4-0.

One of the reasons for the lack of scoring was the absence of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Giovani dos Santos. Dos Santos was injured in the group stage, and Chicharito was ruled out of the tournament after breaking his collarbone in a friendly earlier this summer. One would have to think if either of these strikers was in the match, Mexico would have found that crucial goal. They may have scored six against Cuba and four against Trinidad & Tobago, but in a tight match like tonight in front of 74,000 fans, you need someone to come through in the clutch.

COSTA RICA’S MAGICAL WORLD CUP RUN WAS JUST THAT. MAGIC

Tonight was Costa Rica’s best match of the 2015 Gold Cup, and they were outplayed for long spells and eventually lost. After Los Ticos’ unbelievable run to the World Cup quarterfinals last summer, many thought Costa Rica was ready to challenge the United States and Mexico for CONCACAF supremacy. They came into the Gold Cup as one of the favorites, and are now headed home after the quarterfinals.

In the three group stage matches, Costa Rica managed three draws, including a poor showing against El Salvador and failing to score against Canada. Although they created some opportunities tonight, they were again held scoreless and were lucky Mexico couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. The penalty decision from the referee clearly stole a chance to win in a shootout from Los Ticos, but the match shouldn’t have even gotten to that point.

Costa Rica’s World Cup performance in Brazil was magical. After their performance in the Gold Cup, it looks like they might have no magic left.

Clint Dempsey
Clint Dempsey must continue his stellar play to lead the U.S. to the Gold Cup final, where they could face off against Mexico.

A UNITED STATES vs. MEXICO FINAL IS LOOMING

The United States faces Jamaica while Mexico takes on Panama in the semifinals, but it’s looking more and more likely that the U.S. and El Tri will meet once again in the Gold Cup final. If they do, that would mark their sixth finals meeting in 13 tournaments, including four of the last five.

Jamaica is a strong side that has been in good form as of late, but in all honesty, the Reggae Boyz will still be huge underdogs against the USMNT. Panama was far from convincing in their penalty shootout win over Trinidad & Tobago in the quarters, while Mexico will be looking to prove it wasn’t luck that brought them this far.

The United States and Mexico have been the two best teams in CONCACAF for some time now, and if both sides continue playing as they have, they’ll meet in Philadelphia next Sunday.

Lyon hires Rudi Garcia as new manager

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Olympique Lyonnais has announced they have hired Rudi Garcia as manager, replacing the fired Sylvinho.

Lyon has struggled mightily to start the Ligue 1 season, winning just two of its first nine league games and sitting 14th in the table with nine points. Sylvinho, who was only hired at the end of May, was let go last week.

Garcia has formerly taken charge of Roma, Lille, and St. Etienne, and most recently managed Lyon rivals Marseille for three seasons before departing this summer. He left with Marseille having failed to claim a Champions League place amid the Ligue 1 top three.

“I chose Rudi Garcia because he is a fighter who, like us, has the ambition to win titles and succeed on the European stage,” said Lyon sporting director Juninho. The Brazilian had chosen his countrymate Sylvinho this summer, but made a change just nine matches into the season with the club winning its first two matches of the season and failing to win since. They have lost three of the last four, with all three defeats coming via a 1-0 scoreline. They have scored just five goals in the seven-match winless run, shutout on four different occasions.

The 55-year-old Frenchman will have plenty of proving to do to Lyon fans. Coming straight over from a direct rival, . Fans were outspoken about their cautious feelings, as the introductory tweet was ratio’d by those expressing a distaste for the hire.

“He is an experienced coach who has already won trophies,” added Juninho.“Wherever he has been, he has had above-average performances and has always managed to make the most of what he had at his disposal.”

Garcia’s first match in charge will be a home league match this weekend against Dijon, followed by a Europa League visit to Benfica.

Barcelona denounces Spanish court decision on Catalan independence

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Barcelona released a statement criticizing a recent Spanish Supreme Court decision that saw 12 political activists jailed for their role in the 2017 push for Catalan independence.

The statement said that “prison is not the solution” and called the decision “condemnatory.” Instead, the club said that “the resolution of the conflict in Catalonia must come exclusively from political dialogue.”

The political activists were punished for pushing through an October 2017 referendum in Catalonia that resulted in over 90% of the population voting for independence. The referendum was declared illegal by Spain and seen within the country’s political hierarchy as an act of treason.

As one of the biggest social institutions of Catalonia, Barcelona’s statement on the matter carries significant weight both within the region and across Spain. Barcelona games often feature flags and banners calling for Catalan independence. Catalonia has also made a recent push for an independent FIFA-recognized squad, unsuccessful to this point. However, they played their first match inside a FIFA-sanctioned international window this March against Venezuela.

As a result of the court decision, the Catalan Football Federation suspended all its matches for Monday in solidarity with the accused. This includes only clubs and leagues that fall under the federation, which does not include Barcelona, La Liga, or the Spanish national team.

“FC Barcelona also expresses all its support and solidarity to the families of those who are deprived of their freedom,” the club said in the statement. Gerard Pique re-tweeted the social media version of the statement, adding the caption “Proud to be part of this Club.” Pique is a Catalan native and has appeared for the Catalonia national team 10 times.

Barcelona reportedly set to sign young Ansu Fati to first-team

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According to a report by Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona is readying a first-team contract for 16-year-old Ansu Fati after a collection of positive performances for the club.

The youngster was promoted to the senior side at the start of the season thanks to an injury crisis that swallowed up Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Ousmane Dembele.

He made his first appearance off the bench in the opening league game, coming on for 12 minutes against Real Betis. He then was handed a 45-minute substitute appearance against Osasuna where he registered his first goal in a 2-2 draw. That saw Fati handed his first start, and he scored again just two minutes into the eventual 5-2 win over Valencia.

With Messi struggling of late with injuries and Suarez also struck down and seeing his minutes carefully watched thanks to his advanced age, Fati’s emergence couldn’t have come at a better time for Barcelona. Therefore, the report states the new contract will feature an astronomical release clause of $220 million.

He only just signed a contract with the club back in July that saw him tied to Barcelona through 2022 and put him on a tiered pay scale that would reward him based on appearances for various youth and senior squads. His release clause in that contract was set at $110 million – already a record for a player of his age – but after his recent outburst the club may feel even that is not enough to ward off outside interest. The new contract will also reportedly boost his salary to a fixed $1 million for the season.

Convincing Fati to stick around long-term is of the utmost importance to Barcelona who has been forced to consider the future of the striker position at the club. Suarez’s age is the most pressing concern, but even the potential decline of 32-year-old Messi is a possibility for the near future. With those in mind, Fati’s contributions are critical and could signal a positive future for the Barcelona attack despite the necessary upcoming transitions.

Liverpool, Manchester United set for injury returns

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According to reports, both Manchester United and Liverpool are preparing to welcome back a number of important players from injury for their rivalry meeting at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Most notably, the Reds will reportedly have goalkeeper Alisson ready to take his place between the sticks, having missed nearly the entire season to this point with a calf injury. The Brazilian made it just 39 minutes into the Premier League opener against Norwich City before succumbing to injury, and Adrian has filled in since. While the Spaniard has played exceptionally well in his teammate’s stead, The Guardian reports that Alisson will take back his starting place no questions asked, having rigorously tested his injured leg with intensive training to make sure he is ready.

In addition to the Brazilian goalkeeper, Liverpool is also reportedly set to see Mohamed Salah prove fit to start despite his injury scare against Leicester City just before the international break.

For the hosts, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has received welcome news on a number of players prior to the matchup. Paul Pogba, who has missed three of the last four league matches and five of the last seven overall thanks to an ankle injury, is ready to go and will be available to start. The Mirror reports that Pogba spent much of the international break training in Dubai to aid in his recovery.

Also returning for Manchester United is Aaron Wan-Bissaka who has missed the last two Premier League matches with tonsillitis. It was reported that Wan-Bissaka was ready to return for the Newcastle match prior to the international break, but he missed out nonetheless and was absent from the England national team as well. Also reportedly returning is the oft-injured Luke Shaw who has not played since late August thanks to a hamstring problem.

Finally, Anthony Martial could be ready to return from his own hamstring injury. The report is that Martial would be in contention for a place in the Manchester United18-man squad, suggesting that he may need a match or two to regain full fitness for a starting spot but would be an option off the bench if needed.

Liverpool and Manchester United meet on Sunday for the 203rd time overall and 173rd time in the top flight, kicking off at 11:30 a.m. ET from Old Trafford. The matchup is significant for both sides as Liverpool looks to maintain its perfect record and eight point lead atop the Premier League table, while Manchester United is hoping for a boost from its vastly mediocre record to this point in the season, having recorded just two wins through the first eight matches.