Gold Cup Today: Mexico clashes with Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago gets Panama – Quarterfinals

Leave a comment

A mouth-watering day of Gold Cup action comes to us today from New York City as two pre-tournament favorites face off and a Cinderella story looks to fight another day.

The tournament format seemed to be begging for a potential USA vs Costa Rica semifinal followed by a potential USA vs Mexico final, and yet here we are, two of the favorites at the beginning of the competition squaring off in the quarterfinals. These two teams have both underwhelmed mightily to this point, and will look to turn things around with a win against a quality opponent.

[ LIVE: 2015 Gold Cup updates ]

Meanwhile, the most impressive team of the group stage has avoided Costa Rica and instead drawn Panama as Trinidad & Tobago hopes to reap the rewards of an all-time classic to achieve the country’s first-ever first place finish in a Gold Cup group.

Game 21: Trinidad & Tobago vs Panama
When: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET
Where: Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
Live updates: NBCSports.com

Trinidad & Tobago has been one of – if not the most – impressive teams thus far through the 2015 Gold Cup. They brushed aside Guatemala and Cuba with ease before completing one of the most exciting double-comebacks in Gold Cup history with a 4-4 draw against Mexico. Now, they will face a Panama side that impressed in spurts in Group A play but ultimately needed the third-place table to qualify for the knockout rounds.

The small island nation has played an attractive brand of soccer, and have been unfazed by repeated attempts to break them down with a physical style of play. Kenwyne Jones, ahead of a potential MLS move, has been a revelation up front, and his supporting cast of midfielders has proven a creative asset. Panama will likely continue to try and peg Trinidad back with repeated fouling, and they have more than enough talent to capitalize on Trinidad mistakes that may have gone unpunished through the group stage.

Game 22: Mexico vs. Costa Rica
When: Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
Live updates: NBCSports.com

This game wasn’t supposed to happen, not this early. Had each of these teams won their groups, this could have been a potential finals matchup. Instead, one will be going home after the quarterfinals, a massively disappointing result for whoever comes out on the losing end. Miguel Herrera was especially clueless after his team’s last match, rambling aimlessly through his postmatch press conference in Charlotte after blowing a pair of leads against Trinidad & Tobago.

Costa Rica, meanwhile, limped through three group stage draws and has yet to truly impress anyone, a far cry from their impressive 2014 World Cup showing. They blew a lead against Jamaica, capitulated in stoppage time against El Salvador, and couldn’t score in a grinder against Canada. They could take advantage of a seemingly broken Mexican defense, but there’s little momentum to build on at the moment. Whoever emerges victorious in the East Rutherford nightcap will breathe a sigh of relief, while the loser will go home with plenty of questions to answer.

Champions League preview: Bayern visit Anfield; Lyon v. Barcelona

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool and Bayern Munich are set to battle for 180 minutes beginning on Tuesday, when last season’s UEFA Champions League finalists host the reigning Bundesliga champions at Anfield, and Reds boss Jurgen Klopp is as anxious as anyone to watch the drama unfold.

[ FA CUP: Paul Pogba scores, assists as Man Utd bounce Chelsea (video) ]

“It’s another one of those games I’m really happy to be involved in, and if I wasn’t involved, I would try and buy tickets,” Liverpool’s German manager said this week. “It’s a tough one against a really strong, experienced team, but we are strong as well. Only more stress [facing Bayern], because all the people wanted 600 extra interviews with German news.”

Liverpool will be fully prepared and well drilled after having no game during the most recent FA Cup weekend. By the time the referee’s whistle blows for kickoff at 3 p.m. ET, 10 days will have passed since the Reds thrashed Bournemouth in PL play.

Liverpool will definitely be without the trio of Virgil Van Dijk (suspension), Joe Gomez (leg) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), while Roberto Firmino (illness), Dejan Lovren (hamstring) and Xherdan Shaqiri (abdominal strain) are questionable to varying degrees. Central midfielder Fabinho could be forced into central defense as a result. On the other side, Niko Kovac’s side will be without the services of Thomas Mueller (suspended), Jerome Boateng (illness), Corentin Tolisso (knee ligaments) and Arjen Robben (thigh). Kingsley Coman (ankle) is expected to be available for selection after picking up an injury over the weekend.

[ FA CUP DRAW: Man City, Man United avoid derby showdown ]

Elsewhere in Europe, runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona will visit Ligue 1’s third-place side, Lyon. Though Lionel Messi and Co., head into Tuesday’s first leg as heavy favorites to reach the quarterfinals, Ernesto Valverde’s side has won just one of its last four games (all competitions).

They have, however, been nearly infallible in Europe competition this season, as they waltzed to the top spot in Group B, finishing a full six points clear of Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan. Even Messi has seen his form dip ever so slightly in recent weeks, as the Argentine magician has scored just once in his last three appearances (two starts). Those relative struggles comes on the heels of a nine-game goal streak which saw the 31-year-old score a dozen times. He has been his usually brilliant self this season, and will cause Lyon all kinds of problems from the outset.

Lyon will be without star attacker Nabil Fekir (suspension), which could prove a futrher crippling blow to their chances.

Bundesliga: Dortmund’s lead disappearing after three straight draws

Photo by Jörg Schüler/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga title hopes took another blow Monday in a goalless draw at last-place Nuremberg.

[ FA CUP: Paul Pogba scores, assists as Man Utd bounce Chelsea (video) ]

Nuremberg goalkeeper Christian Mathenia made a host of saves to deny Dortmund a first win in three league games. The Bundesliga leaders have now drawn three successive games and have seen their lead whittled down from nine points in the 15th round to three over six-time defending champion Bayern Munich.

The first half was marked by protests from the home fans against Monday night games, with supporters holding signs showing raised middle fingers and a huge banner criticizing the German soccer federation, the German soccer league “and co.” for making Nuremberg play on a Monday night for the second time this season.

The game was held up on a number of occasions when fans threw black tennis balls onto the pitch during Dortmund corners. The visitors were particularly aggrieved when referee Harm Osmers blew for half time before Dortmund could take its fourth corner as it had been held up by another barrage of balls.

Dortmund had toiled to break through Nuremberg’s tight defense, frustrated that Osmers did not call some questionable-looking challenges.

[ FA CUP DRAW: Man City, Man United avoid derby showdown ]

Maximilian Philipp tried his luck from distance, but it was Nuremberg captain Hanno Behrens who had the first big chance in the 28th minute when he was denied by a reflex save from Roman Buerki. Behrens also went close from the resultant corner.

Mathenia then made three good saves in quick succession to deny Mario Goetze. Axel Witsel went close for Dortmund before the break before Mathenia again denied Goetze.

Goetze was again thwarted by another save from Mathenia early in the second half, and the trend was to continue with the visitors dominating possession but struggling to find a way through.

Dortmund’s Jacob Bruun Larsen thought he scored late but the goal was ruled out as fellow substitute Paco Alcacer had strayed offside before setting him up.

Dortmund has now failed to win any of its last five competitive games.

Nuremberg was playing its first game under interim coach Boris Schommers after it sacked Michael Koellner on Tuesday.

Pogba explains Solskjaer’s secret: ‘He trusts us, we trust him’

Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images
1 Comment

Take Manchester United’s 2018-19 season as the latest example of what a positive atmosphere around a club can do for results on the field.

[ FA CUP DRAW: Man City, Man United avoid derby showdown ]

When Jose Mourinho was fired on Dec. 18, Man United sat sixth in the Premier League table and had won just two of their last eight games. Under the direction of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Red Devils have failed to win just twice in 13 games (all competitions) and have climbed up to fourth in the PL, along with reaching the quarterfinals of the FA Cup with a resounding 2-0 victory away to Chelsea on Monday.

After their triumph at Stamford Bridge, Paul Pogba, who’s been nothing short of a born-again megastar under new management and raised the bar once again with a goal and assist on Monday, praised Solskjaer for creating an atmosphere — built around “trust” — that the players once again enjoy, and that is a big reason why the club’s fortunes have turned around so sharply — quotes from the Standard and the BBC:

“He trusts us and we trust him. We go for it. You never know if you are going to win it, but we will play to win.”

“It is a beautiful win. Today was a great performance from the team, all of them. It wasn’t easy. We did it. We are really pleased with that win.

“The team helped me get to my best. I give everything for them. They help me score goals and get assists. We are enjoying playing together.”

As for Solskjaer’s tactical approach, which has seen Pogba more involved in the attack than during Mourinho’s rigid tenure, it’s clearly by design, and it’s clearly suiting Pogba well:

“The tactics worked. We asked Ander (Herrera) and Paul, our midfielders next to Nemanja (Matic), to go a bit higher and get into the box more often with Rom (Lukaku) and Marcus (Rashford) wide, so it worked.”

Pro Piacenza kicked out of Serie C after 20-0 loss

Pro Piacenza
1 Comment

FLORENCE, Italy (AP) A third-tier Italian soccer team has been kicked out of the league after losing a match 20-0 on Sunday.

[ FA CUP: Paul Pogba scores, assists as Man Utd bounce Chelsea (video) ]

Lega Pro, the governing body of Serie C, announced the exclusion of Pro Piacenza on Monday.

Pro Piacenza, which has financial problems and hadn’t paid its players or staff, needed to present a team for the match or would have been thrown out of the division after having already forfeited three matches.

[ FA CUP DRAW: Man City, Man United avoid derby showdown ]

The team turned up at Cuneo with just seven players, the minimum number required. They were all between 16 and 19 years old, with captain Nicola Cirigliano listed as the coach, and one of the players forgot his identity card, so the masseur was forced to play.

Cuneo led 16-0 at halftime of the match, which Italian football federation president Gabriele Gravina said would be “the last farce.”