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How USMNT can beat Costa Rica on the road in the Hex

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The U.S. national team is 0-8-2 all-time on the road against Costa Rica. Welp.

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It’s a daunting task to face Los Ticos on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET on NBC Universo and online here) and especially after the demoralizing, if not too unexpected, home defeat to Mexico last Friday.

Even if the USMNT opens up the Hexagonal with two-straight defeats, it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom. Jurgen Klinsmann’s men will have eight more games in the final round of 2018 World Cup qualifying to turn it around and finish in the top three and they’ll be the heavy favorites for most of those matches.

That said, what the USMNT has to have is a clear game-plan for these kind of tough tests on the road in central America.

Here’s a look at three ways the U.S. can shock everyone and beat Costa Rica for the first-time ever on the road.


1. Go back to the 4-4-2

We all saw how much better the U.S. was when they switched to a 4-4-2 against Mexico after 30 minutes last Friday. Yes, it may have coincided with Mexico’s star midfielder Andres Guardado also being injured, but there’s no doubt Klinsmann’s side looked more solid defensively and more capable in midfield to shut down space for opponents. It was a big gamble to play 3-4-3 (basically a 3-5-2 but Klinsmann disagrees) against Mexico and it is not one Klinsmann should repeat in a hurry.

My formation and personnel would be the following: I’d like DeAndre Yedlin to get the nod over Timmy Chandler at right back and I think Michael Orozco will add balance at center back but I wouldn’t be surprised if Matt Besler starts ahead of him as the U.S. continues to suffer from the loss of Geoff Cameron. In midfield it is all about continuity and having Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones’ experience is essential in a road World Cup qualifier. There’s an argument to leave out Christian Pulisic for a tough game in a tough environment, but the youngster is easily the USMNT’s most creative player so surely he has to start to help keep the ball and ease some pressure when the U.S. is defending. Up top, the duo of Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood picks itself. Speaking of that…

—– Guzan —–

— Yedlin — Orzoco — Brooks — Johnson —

— Bedoya — Bradley — Jones — Pulisic 

—– Wood —– Altidore —–


2. Keep Altidore and Wood together

The biggest plus to come out of the loss to Mexico was the combination play between Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood up front. Due to Altidore’s injury this summer it has been very rare to see this duo line up together up top. Their movement mirrors one another and with Wood more willing to run into the channels and Altidore able to operate centrally and hold the ball up, their partnership is showing very promising signs. Altidore has been on his own up top for many years with Clint Dempsey hovering around just underneath him. Now, he has a bonafide striking partner and the U.S. looked very dangerous in the second half against Mexico.

Altidore’s hold up play and clever through ball set Wood up to equalizes against Mexico and the power and pace they possess will blow other CONCACAF opponents apart in the Hex. With Altidore 27 and Wood 23, if both stay fit this partnership has the makings of the U.S. forward line for the next five years.


3. Deny Ruiz and Campbell space

Okay, so Bryan Ruiz is an injury doubt after limping off in Costa Rica’s impressive 2-0 win away at Trinidad and Tobago last Friday. However, let’s assume he starts and if he does the U.S. has to stop Costa Rica’s skipper getting the ball in advanced positions. That’s easier said than done but defending with a deep line is something the USMNT is very good at and that was demonstrated throughout the Copa America Centenario this summer and in the 4-0 win against Costa Rica in Chicago.

Locking down Ruiz’s Sporting Lisbon teammate Joel Campbell is very tricky too.

The pacy striker can run the channels and latches onto balls from Ruiz so simply put you have to deny them the space centrally and you can’t allow them to get in-behind. It will be a dangerous game for the U.S. to play because basically they will say to Costa Rica ‘fine, have the ball, you can’t get past us anyway…’ and then rely on set pieces and counter attacks to get at Los Ticos. That sounds likes tactics which have worked well for the U.S. in the past, right? Aiding a deep back four should be Bradley and Jones sat just in front of them to plug gaps for Ruiz to find Campbell.

Make no mistake about it, a point on the road at Costa Rica would be a big boost for the U.S. If they follow the three points above, it may just get them a valuable win and put them back on track in the Hex before the next batch of qualifiers in March.

CCL wrap: Atlanta United, Cruz Azul advance

CONCACAF Champions League
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The underdogs did not have their days on Tuesday in the CONCACAF Champions League.

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MLS side Atlanta United and Liga MX mainstays Cruz Azul cruised to second legs win at home to clinch places in the quarterfinals.

Cruz Azul 4-0 (6-1 agg.) Portmore United

Bringing a pair of away goals from Jamaica, the Liga MX hosts just needed to put this one on ice early.

Orbelin Pineda did that in the 22nd minute, and Cruz Azul struck thrice in the second half to win in a landslide.

Atlanta United 3-0 (4-1 agg.) Montagua

It was all about the Martinezes in Georgia, as Pity sandwiched a pair of goals around Josef’s 61st minute tally to send the Five Stripes into the next stage.

All the goals showed calm under pressure, but Pity’s first was gorgeous football. He also assisted Josef’s goal in Honduras during the first leg.

Remaining Round of 16 second legs

NYCFC v. San Carlos (5-3) — 6 p.m. Wednesday
Montreal Impact v. Deportivo Saprissa (2-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Tigres UANL v. Alianza (1-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Club America v. Comunicaciones (1-1) — 10 p.m. Wednesday
Seattle Sounders v. Olimpia (2-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday
LAFC v Leon (0-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday

Coronavirus: Italy may lift ban on sporting events by Monday

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MILAN (AP) The Italian government could lift its ban on sporting events by Monday in areas affected by the coronavirus if the number of cases stabilizes.

The outbreak forced a number of sporting events to be called off throughout the country this past weekend, including four Serie A matches in the north of Italy.

This week, the ban on sporting events was extended from Lombardy, Veneto and Piedmont – the areas hardest hit by the outbreak – to also include the regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia Romagna and Liguria, until March 1.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“If, as I hope, the statistics don’t give us different signs then maybe already by Monday these measures won’t be continued,” Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said. “But it’s only Tuesday today and we have to wait and see what happens over the next few days. The health of the Italian citizens is the most important thing.”

Italy reported a 45% increase in the number of coronavirus cases Tuesday, from 222 to 300. Ten people have died, all of them elderly or suffering from other ailments.

“Obviously, I can’t say I’m not worried because I don’t want anyone to think we’re underestimating this emergency,” Premier Giuseppe Conte said before meeting with visiting World Health Organization representatives. “But we trust that with the measures we have implemented, there will be a containing effect in the coming days.”

Italy has closed schools, museums and theaters in the two regions where clusters have formed and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo’Euganeo.

Serie A matches this weekend are set to be played behind closed doors, including Juventus’ key match against Inter Milan. That game is not only potentially crucial to the title race but also sees the return of former Juventus coach Antonio Conte.

Inter’s Europa League match at home to Ludogorets on Thursday will also take place without any fans allowed in.

Serie C canceled all games in two leagues which have teams in the north. Volleyball and rugby games were also suspended nationwide through next weekend.

The Italian Winter Sports Federation suspended all of its events throughout the country for an entire week, although it said that “for now” next weekend’s World Cup ski races in La Thuile in the Valle d’Aosta region were still set to go ahead. Those races are operated by the International Ski Federation, which has already canceled races this season in China that were slated to test the course for the 2022 Beijing Games.

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

El Tri winger Jurgen Damm headed for MLS this summer

Jurgen Damm
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This season’s Liga MX invasion of MLS continues with Jurgen Damm announcing that he’ll leave UANL Tigres this summer after five years with the club.

TUDN has the destination as Atlanta, though previous reports have linked Damm to the LA Galaxy is the spot.

And MLSSoccer.com scribe Tom Bogert says the Houston Dynamo have his “discovery rights” (which remains the worst concept in the entire league).

Reports emerged over the past 48 hours that the El Tri man was headed for an MLS club.

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The 12-times capped winger has one goal for Mexico, but has not been capped since Oct. 2018. He has spent his entire career in Liga MX.

Damm spent the early part of his career with Tecos and Pachuca, but has been with UANL Tigres since 2015.

He won four league titles with UANL, as well as the 2018 Campeones Cup.

Ex-Arsenal man Gnabry: “London’s still red” after Bayern beats Chelsea

Serge Gnabry
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Ex-Arsenal man Serge Gnabry still has love for the club.

Gnabry tweeted that “London is still red” after he scored twice for Bayern Munich in a 3-0 beating of Chelsea on Tuesday in the first leg of a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

This after scoring four times against Spurs in a previous Champions League group stage match and Tweeting that “North London is Red.”

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So what’s with the London form?

“I’ve got a lot of friends here,” Gnabry said after the game. “A lot of them were in the stands tonight, and it seems they give me a lot of good power.”

Gnabry only scored once during his time in England with Arsenal and West Brom but is a bona fide star in the Bundesliga.

With a three-goal advantage over Chelsea heading to Munich for a second leg, however, he’s not got his head in the clouds.

“Three goals ahead gives us a little bit of confidence, but we need to be prepared for the second leg. We can’t take it not seriously enough. … We’ve seen it last year with Liverpool beating Barcelona, so we have to be careful. We have to go into the second leg with all of our focus.”

Gnabry now has 51 goals and 29 assists in four seasons since returning to Germany from Arsenal. Not terrible production for a player the Gunners offloaded to Werder Bremen for under $6 million in 2016.

What color will London be when Chelsea buys him next year? We kid, we kid…