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CONCACAF World Cup qualifying has not been a cakewalk for the USMNT


The United States men’s national team is not going to lose on Friday, but at some point in World Cup qualifying this post will bear revisiting. Remember this: the U.S. almost always gives its supporters a scare of some size during CONCACAF play.

[ MORE: How will the USMNT line-up in Friday’s World Cup qualifying opener? ]

Given the Yanks’ religious World Cup qualification record since its 40-year absence ended in 1990, it’s easy to look past the hiccups of the path. From bogus officiating to poorly-lit pitches and a variety of other obstacles, there will be struggles. It’s almost guaranteed.

For example…

2014 — The Yanks looked bad after three matches of the third round, having drawn at Guatemala and lost at Jamaica. And really, the boys didn’t find their stride until after the third round despite winning Group A.  The U.S. won on the final day to pass Guatemala. Woof. They then lost the first match of the Hex, at Honduras, but would only lose once more en route to winning the group by four points.

2010 — The third round was basically a breeze, relatively speaking, but the Hex found the wind blowing in the face of the USMNT. After a 2W-1D start to the fourth round, the U.S. lost at Costa Rica and Mexico in two of the next three to tempt finishing outside the Top Three at 3W-1D-2L. But the wake-up call still came late in games, as the Yanks came back against El Salvador, Honduras, and the ultimate comeback. After Bryan Ruiz gave Costa Rica a 2-0 lead at half in the Hex finale at RFK, Michael Bradley and Jonathan Bornstein struck twice to save the day and the group (Side note: it was perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had as a fan at a sporting event). Costa Rica finished fourth, and lost to Uruguay in the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL playoff. Slim margins.

2006 — The only team not to lose in the third round’s Group A, the Yanks went 6-1 to start the Hex. Their only loss was at Azteca. This was an easier year for qualifying, and an awful World Cup for the USMNT.

2002 — Oddly enough, the States’ incredible World Cup finish included two CONCACAF rounds of barely making it through. The third round saw the States bottom after two match days of Group 3, but the U.S. rebounded to go 3W-1D in the final four and win the group. The Hex started really well. Four wins and a draw through five matches, but a 1-0 loss at Azteca was followed by a rare loss on home soil (3-2 to Honduras). Then Costa Rica made it three losses on the bounce, and life was dicey for the U.S. Fortunately, its final two matches were against the bottom two sides. The U.S. finished third.

1998 — The semifinals were easy enough, and the Hex started well; A scoreless draw in Jamaica was followed by a 3-0 beating of Canada. But the U.S. lost to Costa Rica before drawing another pair to sink down the table a bit. They didn’t lose the rest of the way in finishing a point shy of Mexico for the table lead.

1994 — Instant qualification as hosts.

1990 — After splitting with Costa Rica, the Yanks wouldn’t lose again. It wasn’t without drama, as the U.S. entered the final match a point behind Trinidad & Tobago, its opponents at Port of Spain. As you might know, Paul Caligiuri did the trick. It was a really nice goal to boot. How’s that for glossing over history?

Leagues Cup: Lampson leads LA; Fire out

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There’s no shame in Liga MX being a superior league to Major League Soccer, but it would be nice to get more showings of strength from the rapidly improving top flight for Canada and the United States.

The Leagues Cup provided that chance for four teams of MLS, who could make a statement with three quick victories over the next two months. In at least one of Tuesday’s cases, a side’s backups and reserves gave its club the chance to take it more seriously in the semifinals.

[ MORE: Rodgers talks down Maguire sale ]

The Mexican sides, by and large, spend more money deeper into their squad, and most of the clubs were established well before still relatively young MLS.

Throw in both MLS sides clearly ignoring the tournament in favor of weekend league outings, and what could’ve been a really cool tournament could’ve also wasted a lot of peoples’ time on Wednesday despite MLS having the distinct advantage of being hosts for all four quarterfinals.

Godspeed, LA Galaxy.

Chicago Fire 0-2 Cruz Azul

Chicago opted to keep many of its first-choice players on the bench or out of the 18, and it showed in an easy win for away side.

Cruz Azul out-attempted the Fire by a 14-5 margin, and held 69 percent of possession. Fire backstop Richard Sanchez was forced to make six saves, but Roberto Alvarado and Elias Hernandez scored late in each half to plug a couple of away goals onto the board.

Alvarado’s goal was simply magical.

LA Galaxy 2-2 (3-1 pens) Club Tijuana

The resilient hosts took the favored visitors to penalties, where

Servando Carrasco gave LA a lead, and Matt Lampson stopped Erick “Cubo” Torres only to see Efrain Alvarez clanked the next effort off the post. Ariel Nahuelpán then leveled the score before Gibran Lajud made a save for Tijuana

But Lampson answered the bell, and it was 1-1 after three rounds each. He made another save on Angel Sepulveda’s poor penalty, and Giancarlo Gonzalez sent the Galaxy into the semifinals.

Tijuana had most of the ball, nearly doubled LA’s passes, and out-attempted the Galaxy 20-7.

Emmanuel Boateng turned a Kai Koreniuk shot past Gibran Lajud for a 27th minute lead, but TJ tied the score within six minutes and took the lead just before halftime.

Dave Romney had an answer after halftime with a thundering header off an Efrain Alvarez corner kick, and LA was back in business with 37 minutes to play.

Tijuana’s Miller Bolanos hit the post in the 70th, but the danger was largely non-existent the rest of the way aside from wasted free kicks.

LA’s Julian Araujo was sent off in stoppage time for a second yellow card.

10-man Real Madrid comes back to draw 10-man Arsenal

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Maybe Zinedine Zidane ought to rethink his stance on Gareth Bale?

Of course it’s just preseason, but the on-the-market Real Match forward subbed into Tuesday’s match in Maryland on Tuesday and spearheaded a comeback 2-2 draw against Arsenal.

Real won in penalties, as all International Champions Cup matches must have a winner.

[ MORE: Rich new deal for Hudson-Odoi ]

Real was down a man after 10 minutes when Nacho Fernandez handled a ball on the goal line, and Arsenal also went down a man when Sokratis Papastathopoulos saw his second yellow of the contest in the 40th minute.

Alexandre Lacazette converted a penalty, then set-up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a goal 14 minutes later as the Gunners handled their business early.

The chemistry between two remains very real.

Real started new boys Eden Hazard, Ferland Mendy, and Luka Jovic in addition to Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, and Sergio Ramos.

Bale came in for Hazard at halftime and poked a 57th minute rebound home and Marcelo set up Marco Asensio two minutes later to complete the comeback.

Asensio, sadly, would only last a few more minutes, needing to be stretchered off with injury.

Champions League wrap: PSV strikes late to win thriller (video)

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Five first legs of the UEFA Champions League’s second qualifying round are in the books, including a thrilling back-and-forth with a show-stopping stoppage time winner.

[ MORE: Rodgers talks down Maguire sale ]

PSV Eindhoven 3-2 FC Basel

Bruma scored a debut opener for the Dutch hosts, who fell behind 2-1 in the 79th minute before Sam Lammers and Donyell Malen struck in the 89th minute and second minute of stoppage, respectively, to put PSV ahead.

Basel will be okay taken two away goals home via Albian Aljeti and Omar Alderete.

Lammers came in for Mexican star Hirving Lozano in the 79th minute to score the leveler within 10 minutes before Malen, who went the full 90, kept his focus to deliver this clever winner.

The New Saints 0-2 Copenhagen

Pieros Sotiriou and Robert Skov scored on either side of halftime to give the Danish powers a healthy advantage heading into the second leg.

FK Sutjeska 0-1 APOEL Nicosia
Saburtalo 0-2 Dinamo Zagreb
Viktoria Plzen 0-0 Olympiacos

BATE Borisov v. Rosenborg — 1 p.m. ET
Ferencvaros v. Valletta — 2 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2 p.m. ET
Maribor v. AIK — 2:15 p.m. ET
Red Star Belgrade v. HJK Helsinki — 2:45 p.m. ET
Dundalk v. Qarabag — 2:45 p.m. ET
Celtic v. Nomme Kalju — 2:45 p.m. ET

Rodgers says no close bids for Maguire

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Those tired of seeing Harry Maguire‘s name in the headlines, hoping his transfer saga had concluded with weekend reports that Manchester United agreed to a fee with Leicester City, well, they are going to be sorely disappointed.

[ MORE: Who is Newcastle’s new $50M forward? ]

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers credited Maguire for his professionalism — the center back scored in a friendly win on Tuesday — and said that the club’s vice chairman Aiyawatt “Top” Srivaddhanaprabha has not received a fitting bid for the 26 year old’s services.

From The Leicester Mercury:

“There’s no big pressure to sell any player. If a player does leave Leicester City, then the player would need to be met because we have a top-level player, coveted by top-level clubs and I respect that,” Rodgers said. “Harry is on a long contract here and there’s been no valuation or near to that which would make Top have a look.”


Look, we’ve still got a few weeks until the close of the window, and every supporter has a target they want their club to acquire and some have some assets they hope stay in the same shirt at the deadline.

The Maguire story is getting a bit tedious now. He wants to go to Manchester United, but Rodgers is happy to keep him at Leicester. Maguire’s not the player who will quit on the club if he’s not sold, and Leicester’s hope of landing a replacement will dip as the deadline draws nearer and clubs like Burnley (James Tarkowski) realize their replacements options have been lessened by the wait.