Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Three things to watch in the USMNT’s World Cup qualifier on Friday

Leave a comment

Let’s not mince words: the United States is almost certain to pick up all three points in its World Cup qualifying match against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday.

In fact, they’ll likely win handily. A loss, even on the road in CONCACAF, would be so incredibly embarrassing and shocking it would make the Spring defeat in Guatemala look like an untied shoelace.

So instead of breaking down whether Oalex Anderson can have the game of his life on the same day Winslow McDowald morphs into the second coming of Edwin van der Saar, let’s focus on three players, positions or pairings that can make major statements to Jurgen Klinsmann.

[ MORE: USMNT preview | Lineup projection ]

Yes, the U.S. head coach will know that it was against the 156th ranked team in the world, but with Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, John Anthony Brooks, Gyasi Zardes, and Clint Dempsey all missing, some players have a relatively unique chance to impress their boss.

1. Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood — It would be shocking if this pairing isn’t up top for the United States, even if it comes with the mirage of Wood playing on the wing in a 4-3-3. Wood is possibly the future of the USMNT’s strike force, but there’s no question that an in-form Altidore is also a major asset for the Americans. With Klinsmann mainstay Gyasi Zardes injured, the pitch is wide open.

And he’s also under a bit of pressure. He’s back in America, 26 years old and just 23 goals behind Landon Donovan for the all-time USMNT mark. That once seemed a no-brainer, but with Wood, Jordan Morris, Aron Johannsson, Julian Green, Gedion Zelalem, Terrence Boyd and a host of other attackers salivating to be the go-to man for the Stars and Stripes… Jozy will always need to produce in prime time. This counts.

2. Whoever plays with Kyle Beckerman and Alejandro Bedoya in the midfield — We have little idea what Klinsmann is thinking when it comes to a lineup without Bradley and Jones, though we can be pretty sure Bedoya will join Beckerman on the pitch. Will it be Graham Zusi and Fabian Johnson outside in a 4-4-2? Could it be Darlington Nagbe joining the other two in a midfield triangle? Or will Sacha Kljestan get a surprise return to the Starting XI?

[ MORE: U.S. U-20 star signs for Schalke ]

In any event, given Bradley’s recent injury history and Jones’ problems with health and the yellow card accumulation in your average WCQ cycle, someone stands to profit big from these next two matches. Whether it’s an older MLS-based vet like Kljestan — remember that hat trick against Sweden in 2009? — or Nagbe, Paul Arriola, or Caleb Stanko, opportunity is knocking.

3. How much Pulisic will we see, and will he keep shining? Christian Pulisic is without a doubt the brightest young light in the United States, and he’s done little to let us down. The Pennsylvanian turns 18 next month, and opened his USMNT account against Bolivia this summer. We’d sure love to see him get at least a half to show his stuff against an SVG side that is far off his level. With a talent like Pulisic, we’ll always be watching to see whether he’s not just our next star, but our first true megastar (goalkeepers not withstanding).

La Liga Roundup: Messi, Barcelona stunned by inspired Granada (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Granada’s shocking 2-0 win over Barcelona and subsequent rise to the top of the table headlines Saturday’s La Liga action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Granada 2-0 Barcelona

Not even Lionel Messi, who made his season debut on Saturday, was able to save Barcelona against a red-hot Granada.

Granada, who are off to their best start in their 88 years of existence, had a perfect night in front of their supporters, convincingly getting past a Barcelona that dominated possession, but lacked the offensive ingenuity needed to score.

Barcelona’s defense wasn’t noteworthily robust, either.

Two minutes in, the newly promoted side scored through a headed goal from Ramon Azeez, following a defensive turnover from Junior Firpo.

Unable to record a shot on target in the first half and looking to wakeup a dormant attack, Barcelona brought on wonderkid Ansu Fati and Lionel Messi at halftime. Despite the duo connecting on several occasion and generating a shot on target, it wasn’t enough to get past Rui Silva.

In the 66th minute, following video review, substitute Alvaro Badillo converted from the spot, handing Granada their third win of the season.

Atop of La Liga, Granada set their sights on Real Valladolid, while Barcelona, who are off to their worst league start in 25 years, host Villarreal at Camp Nou.

Atletico Madrid  0-0 Celta Vigo

For a second consecutive week, Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid dropped points, drawing with Celta Vigo 0-0 at Wanda Metropolitano.

Tied with league leaders Granada and Sevilla with 10 points, the alarm bells are far from going off in Madrid. However, as Saturday’s performance showed, los Colchoneros are having trouble finishing chances this season, despite fielding an attack with the likes of Joao Felix, Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata.

In five games, Atletico have managed to score only five goals, six fewer than leaders Granada. Against Celta, Atletico registered 20 shots, five on target, but were unable to crack a stellar Ruben Blanco, who registered five saves.

Leveled with Granada and Sevilla, Atletico Madrid look to get back into winning ways as they take on RCD Mallorca. Elsewhere, Celta Vigo, who have won win after five games, host Espanyol next.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Villarreal 2-0 Real Valladolid

Levante 0-0 Eibar

Almeyda, Wondolowski sent off in Quakes’ fall against Atlanta (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The game in 200 words (or less): Melodrama took center stage in Atlanta United’s 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, as Matias Almeyda, Chris Wondolowski and Cristian Espinoza were all sent off on Saturday. Josef Martinez, six games away from tying Lionel Messi’s world record for most consecutive goals, left the field in 79th minute following an injury, ending his MLS-record run at 15 games. Playing with 10 players from the 34th minute onwards, the Quakes held on to the draw up until the 90th minute. Unmarked inside the box, Emerson Hyndman rocketed the ball past Daniel Vega, who recorded nine saves throughout the night. In stoppage time, Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez was rewarded for his stellar performance with a goal of his own. With a game at hand, Eastern Conference leaders, NYCFC, are three points ahead Frank De Boer‘s side. The Quakes, on the other hand, have internal fires to put out as they have lost six of their last eight, and are only a point above the red line with three games to play.

Three moments that mattered

27′ — Great run by Espinoza, greater ball by Vega  — Daniel Vega and Cristian Espinoza were players that San Jose were desperately missing last season. This sequence says it all.

 

90′ — Emerson Hyndman wins it for the Five Stripes   — Hyndman, with no one near him, seals three points for the home side.

 

90′ + 2 — Martinez takes advantage of broken San Jose  — Martinez’s goal was only salt in San Jose’s fresh wound.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Gonzalo “Pity”  Martinez

Goalscorers: Meram (4′), Guzan (27′ – OG), Hyndman (90′), Martinez (90′ + 2)

FIFA sees no obstacles for women to attend games in Iran

Getty Images
3 Comments

ZURICH — Soccer’s governing body FIFA says an inspection visit to Iran has shown “no noteworthy operational obstacles” to lifting the country’s 40-year ban and letting women attend a World Cup qualifying game next month.

After meeting government and soccer officials in Tehran this week, FIFA says it will work with Iran’s soccer body to also open domestic league games to female fans.

FIFA wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums which breaches international soccer statutes prohibiting discrimination.

Global attention on the ban followed the death this month of a 29-year-old activist, Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire outside a courthouse. She had been detained for dressing as a man to enter a soccer stadium in Tehran and faced six months in prison.

Ahead of Iran hosting Cambodia at the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on Oct. 10, FIFA says the visit on Thursday focused on “international relations, security and ticketing matters.”

Iranian officials were told of FIFA’s “firm and clear position that women need to be allowed to enter football matches freely” with tickets sold to as many who wanted to attend.

FOLLOW LIVE: Atlanta v. Quakes, Galaxy v. Impact on a busy MLS Saturday

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Eight games in seven hours, now that’s a jam-packed MLS Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard, for the next 7 hours ]

Things kickoff with Matias Almeyda’s San Jose Earthquakes visiting red-hot Josef Martinez’s Atlanta United, and comes to a close in Los Angeles, where league leaders LAFC host Toronto FC and LA Galaxy, who look to continue moving up in the Western Conference standings, host Montreal Impact.

In between, the New England Revolution look to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture as they welcome Kyle Beckerman and Real Salt Lake, while the Chicago Fire hope to jump level with the Revs in the standings as they take on FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium.

Saturday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. San Jose Earthquakes — 3:30 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps v. Columbus Crew — 5 p.m. ET

New England Revolution v. Real Salt Lake — 7:30 p.m. ET

FC Cincinnati v. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET

Sporting Kansas City v. Colorado Rapids — 8:30 p.m. ET

Houston Dynamo v. Orlando City — 8:30 p.m. ET

LAFC v. Toronto FC — 10:30 p.m. ET

LA Galaxy v. Montreal Impact — 10:30 p.m. ET