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

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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.

Chelsea issue injury update on Christian Pulisic

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Christian Pulisic is in contention to play against Manchester City on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard spoke to the media and was asked about Pulisic’s availability.

Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s trip to the Etihad Stadium, Lampard confirmed he has been back in training.

“He didn’t go and we had full on communication with the States, manager Gregg Berhalter and their medical team,” Lampard said. “They want their players for top games. He [Pulisic] had a problem going into Palace. He has trained again this midweek. He is in contention to play.”

Pulisic, 21, injured his right hip when scoring Chelsea’s second goal in the 2-0 win against Crystal Palace before the international break.

The American winger missed the international break as the USMNT’s two wins against Canada and Cuba, as they reached the CONCACAF Nations League finals without him.

For Chelsea he will be keen to pick up his sensational form over the last month as he’s scored five goals in his last three Premier League games for the Blues.

With Callum Hudson-Odoi picking up a hamstring issue over the international break, it seems highly likely that Pulisic will start once again for Chelsea in their biggest game of the season so far.

They travel to Man City looking for a seventh-straight Premier League win as they currently sit one place and one point ahead of Pep Guardiola‘s side.

Mohamed Salah an injury doubt for Liverpool

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Mohamed Salah is an injury doubt for Liverpool’s trip to Crystal Palace on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

Salah, 27, has been struggling with a right ankle injury over the last six weeks and he has been subbed off in his last three Premier League appearances for Liverpool as well as missing their draw at Man United last month.

“Yesterday he trained,” Klopp revealed. “He trained the whole time since he was here, but only the things we wanted him to do. Today is another important session to see how it looks and we can make the decision. It’s not that it got worse but it’s still kind of there, that’s the problem. We have to be sensible with things like this. But I didn’t make the decision. If I would have made a decision, I probably wouldn’t have told you now, but it’s true I have to see the session today.”

Andy Robertson and Joe Gomez are also injury doubts and late calls will be made on the duo, while Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Alisson and Georginio Wijnaldum were all in international action and have only just returned to Liverpool’s Melwood training base.

“From the others, I cannot say 100 per cent, I don’t know 100 per cent,” Klopp said. “Today is a very important session to judge that, especially with the players who came back late.”

When it comes to Salah, he didn’t feature for Egypt during the international break and Liverpool have given him a special program to follow to build up the strength in his ankle.

The Egyptian winger has scored in recent home wins against Tottenham and Man City but his performance levels haven’t been as explosive as last season and that’s because he’s nursing this ankle injury. At some point Klopp needs to give him a rest, and with the busy festive season creeping ever closer, it seems like Liverpool’s boss is ready to rotate his squad a little more as they play in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday against Napoli.

Main takeaways from MLS contract deadline day

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Major League Soccer saw a lot of big names in the news as “Contract Deadline Day” played out across the U.S. and Canada.

— The New York Red Bulls watched two all-timers walk out the door, as Bradley Wright-Phillips did not get a new contract and the club declined its option on Luis Robles (STORY).

— Not a player move, but Austin FC announced the hiring of former NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna to the same position.

[ MORE: PST’s talk 1v1 with Reyna earlier this season ]

— Toronto FC is yet to reach a deal to keep Michael Bradley in town, but remains in contract talks with its captain. The same is true for Nicolas Benezet, while Drew Moor is out-of-contract.

— And that’s also what’s happening in Portland with Diego Valeri, the longtime star in talks with the team despite not having his option picked up.

Chicago Fire announced a new branding initiative, changing its logo from a classic crest to something else and dropping the SC for an FC. Like Columbus before them, everyone will still call them the fire and ignore the SC, FC, or whatever see. It’s what happens when you take a formal nickname.

The club also cut ties with playmakers Nico Gaitan and Aleksandar Katai.

— Minnesota United remains in talks to bring back Reading loanee and reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year winner Vito Mannone, and that means longtime backstop Bobby Shuttleworth will hit the open market.

— Orlando declined its option on Dillon Powers, and also let the clock run out on the contract of one-time megastar Sacha Kljestan.

— Real Salt Lake did not reach an agreement with Kyle Beckerman on a new deal, though MLSSoccer.com thinks he’s still in the mix.

— New England is letting Juan Agudelo walk into free agency.

— Atlanta United exercised the contract option for Julian Gressel, but he’s being badly underpaid and the club needs to find salary room for a proper new deal.

— Thierry Henry is keeping his two brightest attacker, with Ignacio Piatti getting another year at the club and Saphir Taider seeing his loan from Bologna made permanent.

— The Philadelphia Union did not exercise their option on Marco Fabian, and are letting Haris Medunjanin leave without a new deal.

— Roman Torres did not see his option exercised by the Sounders, and Kim Kee-hee is also leaving the club.

— Sporting KC waves goodbye to Seth Sinovic, Krisztian Nemeth, Benny Feilhaber, and Gedion Zelalem.

Brazilian player Taison banned in Ukraine for response to racism

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) Brazilian player Taison has been banned for one game for his reaction to racist abuse in a Ukrainian league game.

The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder showed his middle finger to Dynamo Kyiv fans who had abused him with monkey chants and kicked the ball into the stands during a game Nov. 10. Taison was shown a red card.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

The Ukrainian Football Association ordered Taison to serve a one-game ban plus a suspended two-game ban.

Dynamo has been fined 500,000 hryvnyas ($20,000) and ordered to play one game behind closed doors. Another one-game sanction is suspended.

World players’ union FIFPro says “sanctioning a victim of racial abuse is beyond comprehension and it plays into the hands of those who promote this kind of disgraceful behavior.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports