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Three key battles for U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Mexico

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“We’re going to come out with a win there.”

It may have been a throwaway comment at the end of a postgame interview by the precocious Christian Pulisic after a two-goal game. But it could also have been a sneak peak into the confidence of the U.S. Men’s National Team locker room.

[ MORE: Analyzing key battles

[MORE: USMNT Player Ratings]

Heading into the USMNT’s rematch with Mexico at the Estadio Azteca, the U.S. will have to beat not only the hottest team in CONCACAF but also history. The U.S. has never won a World Cup qualifier at the Azteca and they’ve only recorded two draws, the last one famously in the run up to the 2014 World Cup.

Following the defeats to Mexico and Costa Rica that spelled the end of Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure as USMNT manager, the U.S. has rebounded to pick up two wins and a draw on the road at Panama, with Clint Dempsey, Christian Pulisic and Michael Bradley all playing big roles.

Another draw or better at Mexico would nearly ensure the U.S. qualifies for the World Cup, barring a catastrophic collapse.

Ahead of Sunday’s crucial qualifier, here’s a look at three key battles to watch:


Michael Bradley vs. Giovani Dos Santos/Carlos Vela/Jesus Corona

In the first matchup against Mexico, Bradley and Jermaine Jones, who isn’t in the current USMNT squad had to go over to the sideline to implore Klinsmann to change systems as Mexico was overrunning the U.S. in midfield through the first 25 minutes.

In that 3-5-2 formation, the U.S. didn’t have enough protection in the middle of the park and Mexico’s attacking midfielders found plenty of time and space to run and interchange. Against Trinidad and Tobago, Bradley played as a lone pivot behind Pulisic, Darlington Nagbe and Fabian Johnson, but it’s likely the formation will change slightly as Mexico could easily outnumber Bradley in that zone of the field.

Michael Bradley, and potentially a player like Nagbe or Pulisic, in addition to setting the tempo for the U.S. attack will have to keep track of Mexico’s attackers as they look to create space ahead of the U.S. backline.

Christian Pulisic vs. Andres Guardado/Hector Herrera

While Guardado was held out of Mexico’s 3-0 romp of Honduras on Thursday, the veteran midfielder is expected to return to the lineup when Mexico hosts the U.S.

His task, along with his central midfield partner, possibly Hector Herrera, will be keeping track of Pulisic, who has floated around midfield, picking up the ball between the lines and running at and past defenders. That will be more difficult in the thin air of Mexico City but there’s no doubt he’ll try it once or twice, especially early on.

The U.S. will go as Pulisic goes, as shown by his three goals in his last two USMNT games.

Jorge Villafaña, DeAndre Yedlin vs. Mexico attacking midfielders

This may not be the battle to watch in the first half, but watch in the second half if Hirving Lozano comes on.

The pacy Pachuca winger injected great pace into the game in the second half as Mexico scored its second and third goals against Honduras. After 60 minutes of running up and down the flanks, will Villafaña and Yedlin have the stamina to keep up against a fresh young attacker?

Gold Cup: Mexico secures place in knockout round with win over Canada; Martinique over Cuba

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The Mexico National Team at the 2019 Gold Cup has been very focused on introducing inexperienced players into the squad, and yet, it was a veteran on Wednesday that reminded everyone how much he still has left in the tank.

Mexico captain Andres Guardado, who came off the bench for the injured Erick Gutierrez in the first half, scored a brace as Mexico held off a surging Canada late in the match. Guardado’s first goal was an absolute golazo from 30-yards out, while his second showcased his poise and calm in the box.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]

Mexico – as is custom for El Tri – controlled possession and looked very confident on the ball, zipping it around midfield and at times, playing on a faster speed than Canada, it seemed. However, with Canada sitting in a low defensive block, it took until the 40th minute for Mexico to get on the board through Roberto Alvarado finishing into an empty net after a big save from Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan.

Canada pushed higher up the field in the second half and seemed to be turning the tide before Guardado picked up a loose ball – and there may have been a foul on Canada – and el Principito unleashed a rocket that Borjan had no chance to keep out.

Canada made six changes in the starting lineup from its first game and it was the introductions of Scott Arfield, Jonathan Osorio and Jonathan David in the second half that began to get Canada back into the game. A mistake by centerback Nestor Araujo in the 75th minute, trying to be fancy with a Cruyff turn allowed David to advance down the Mexico goal on a breakaway. After a cutback, David played Luca Cavallini in the box and Cavallini scored to cut it to 2-1.

However, Guardado, and LA Galaxy winger Uriel Antuna, put the game away for good two minutes later. Antuna got around his defender and centered to Guardado. The wily midfielder took three Canada defenders out of the play with a quick touch to his right, before scoring a deflected goal off the post and in.

Earlier in the evening, Martinique recorded a dominant 3-0 victory over ten-man Cuba. Star striker Kevin Parsemain didn’t score, though he did play a role in Martinique’s third goal with an outstanding back-heel pass.

Copa America: Watch Newcastle’s Almiron sets up Paraguay opener with 60-yard sprint (video)

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For the second time in as many games, Argentina has allowed it’s opponent to score the first goal. This time, it has Miguel Almiron to thank.

Starting with a dummy that lead to a more than 60-yard sprint to the end-line, Almiron showcased his top-line speed, strength, and dribbling ability as he lead Paraguay down the field in transition, eventually crossing into the middle. It was there that Olimpia’s Richard Sanchez met the cross and sliced it home to put Paraguay up 1-0 in the first half.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]

Atlanta United fans saw plenty of that blazing speed during Almiron’s two years in the U.S. If Newcastle fans get to witness this in person more this coming season, Almiron will be a fan-favorite.

 

 

Transfer Roundup: Neymar to cost $337 million? Could Jorginho follow Sarri to Juve?

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Will he stay or will he go?

That’s the main question surrounding Neymar this summer. If reports out of France – and there are many – are to be believed, Neymar will have to stay.

[READ: Landon Donovan to lead USL franchise]

Le Parisien reported on Wednesday that if Neymar was to leave Paris Saint-Germain this summer, it would cost an insane $337 million (€300 million) in transfer fees. With that price, and UEFA Financial Fair Play rules, it pretty much rules out any club from Europe from signing the Brazilian star. Neymar has recently been linked with a move back to Barcelona, with $112 million and other players reportedly included in a deal from Barcelona to PSG.

There’s so many moving pieces involved in any case. Antoine Griezmann is expected to leave Atletico Madrid, with Barcelona the rumored destination. But if Neymar goes to Barcelona, could Griezmann head to PSG? Meanwhile PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi pretty much called out Neymar for some of his off the field – and on the pitch – antics, likely hurting their relationship.

So while it seems like Neymar – and PSG – may want the relationship to end, PSG won’t miss out on getting its money back.

Here’s more transfer stories from around Europe:


Jorginho to Juventus? 

Jorginho is to Maurizio Sarri like red wine is to a medium-rare steak. They just go great together.

With Sarri moving to Juventus, that raises the question that Jorginho, who moved with Sarri to Chelsea, could move back to Italy this summer. There’s plenty of reasons why it could make sense. Despite playing 56 times for the Blues, including helping lead them to the UEFA Europa League title, he took plenty of criticism from the media and fans for his lack of defensive ability. Fans were also upset with Sarri’s insistence of playing Jorginho at the 6, and not at the 6 or as part of a double pivot with N’Golo Kante. In Premier League games that Chelsea was undone, it was because Jorginho was overrun in midfield.

Jorginho meanwhile could go back to Italy, where he has citizenship, plays for the national team and enjoyed so much success with Napoli.

According to reports out of Italy, Jorginho’s agent said that the player is happy in London, but they would wait and see what happens next from Juventus.

“Chelsea have a four-year contract with the man,” Joao Santos said, via Football Italia. “We’ll wait a few days to figure out whether there is any truth in this interest mentioned in the papers. His past at Napoli won’t be an issue, because Jorginho is a professional. Right now, Jorginho is happy at Chelsea. He found a great atmosphere and we can’t really say that he’d like to go elsewhere, but anything can happen on the transfer market. We’ll wait and see…”

Follow Live: Mexico faces Canada in Gold Cup doubleheader nightcap

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From Mile High USA, Denver, Colo., the 2019 Gold Cup continues with a highly-anticipated matchup between Mexico and Canada.

El Tri is coming off a 6-0 rout of Cuba in the opener at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena last week, while Canada thrashed Martinique, 4-0 in its opener. All of which leads to Wednesday, when an up-start Canada faces a young and firing Mexico in the 10 p.m. ET nightcap.

[ LIVE: Latest Gold Cup scores ]

The LA Galaxy’s Uriel Antuna, a late addition to the squad, scored a hat-trick against Cuba and is one of the many young players getting their first chance to impress new Mexico coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino. Meanwhile, Canada is having a recent resurgence, with young stars Jonathan David, Alphonso Davies and Mark-Anthony Kaye all making an early impact.

Meanwhile, Cuba and Martinique now battle it out in the first match of the night from Denver at 8 p.m., with both sides hoping for three points and a chance to emerge from the group in third place. Cuba has already lost one player to asylum in the U.S., but it’s unclear what kind of impact that will have on the team.

Follow along with us on the link above and in the comments below.