Guille

Getty Images

Watch: Galaxy’s Alvarez scores twice as Mexico move on in U-17 World Cup

Leave a comment

He’s been called the “best talent in MLS by far” by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Efrain Alvarez scored two goals and added as many assists, as Mexico rolled past Solomon Islands 8-0 on Sunday, clinching the final spot in the 2019 U-17 World Cup’s Round of 16. It was the first win for El Tri, who drew against Paraguay and lost against Italy in stoppage time to start the tournament.

The Los Angeles Galaxy winger, who reappeared on Mario Arteaga’s XI after starting on the bench against Italy, has scored three goals in three games, and stands only a goal behind the tournament’s current leading goalscorer, Australia’s Noah Botic.

Born in Los Angeles, California to Mexican parents, Alvarez originally began his youth international career representing the U.S. U-15s in 2016, only to make a switch to the team south of the border months later. The fallout between the player and the U.S. happened after they decided to omit him from a camp for “whatever reason,” Alvarez’s former coach, Mike Munoz, said.

In 2019, the 17-year-old assumed a first-team role in Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s Galaxy, appearing in 14 regular season games and assisting on three occasions. Speaking to ESPN’s Tom Marshall in September, Alavarez stated that “the focus right now is Mexico,” amid interest from the U.S. men’s national team, specifically from coach Gregg Berhalter.

The focus will have to remain Mexico, who travel to Brasilia to take on Group D winners Japan on Wednesday.

Watch the full highlights below:

MLS Cup Final roundtable: Plenty of talking points for a ‘three-match’

Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images
1 Comment

Don’t call it a three-match. Or do. That’s fine, too.

The MLS Cup Playoffs are down to two very familiar teams, as Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC sprung upsets to set up their third final in four seasons.

[ MORE: Berhalter calls up 20 ]

We asked our writers to lay out the main talking points for the Nov. 10 final in Washington state.


So, Toronto v. Seattle again. MLS won’t tell you they hate it, but the league almost certainly wanted LAFC and Atlanta in this spot, xyeah? What’s your level of interest for the final besides the inherent attraction that comes from it being the last match until Spring?

Joe Prince-WrightI’m like 8/10 intrigued. Toronto and Seattle have provided two very tight and chippy finals in the past. Seems like there’s some bad blood between these teams and add to that an incredible atmosphere at a sold out CenturyLink Field, it should be intense on the pitch and off of it. Also, it’s tough not to focus on Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore for Toronto. With the decline of the USMNT in recent seasons, they’ve taken a lot of stick traveling around MLS from disgruntled U.S. fans. If they deliver a second MLS Cup in three years with Toronto, their moves back to MLS can be deemed a success even if things haven’t been going well on the international stage.

Nick Mendola: There were so many reasons to love the idea of LAFC-Atlanta, with weapons like Carlos Vela, Pity Martinez, Diego Rossi, and a now in-form Ezequiel Barco trying to outdo each other while big names Bob Bradley and Frank De Boer match tactical wits. I also think Atlanta would’ve traveled very well to make a riotous (in a good way) atmosphere even wilder. But… I like this rematch. In terms of tactics, Vanney-Schmetzer should be just as fun for neutrals as Bradley-De Boer, and the USMNT-heavy lineups will make for proper industry and added emotion. Plus, it’s Canada against the U.S. sandwiched between the two nations dueling in high-tension CONCACAF Nations League matches.

I also really like the contrast of the quality dual national goalkeepers, with Quentin Westberg playing his entire career in France before taking Alex Bono’s job in Toronto and Seattle backstop Stefan Frei moving from Switzerland youth player to American college and MLS star.

Kyle Bonn: They definitely wanted LAFC v. Atlanta, which would have been awesome. Now it’ll still be fun, but way more meh.

Joel Soria: I’m moderately interested in this final, mainly because we saw this matchup in back-to-back seasons in 2016 and 2017, respectively. If this were a Champions League Final, then repetition would be much easier to digest. But MLS is supposed to be based around parity, and this has no inklings of that.

What could have been… (Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

MLS has shown a home-field advantage that perhaps no other top flight can boast, for lack of a better word. Whose loss was more surprising, LAFC or Atlanta?

Joe Prince-Wright: Hmmm, I want to say LAFC because they were so damn good during the regular season. But they did ease off in the final months and you always sensed they had an early playoff exit in them. For whatever reason, Bob Bradley’s side looked like they were feeling the pressure and the weight of finishing off an incredible season in style was too much. I’d actually vouch for Atlanta being the bigger shock. Frank de Boer’s side finished the season so well and in front of that huge, fired-up crowd they start so well. But fair play to TFC, they dug deep and delivered when it mattered most. ATL’s decision to start an injured Josef Martinez backfired spectacularly and kind of summed up their season. FDB turned it around in the end, but it was far from smooth for the reigning champs.

Nick Mendola: Atlanta, mostly because Toronto was without Jozy Altidore and started Wednesday’s match like the game plan was, “Just play a high line against an electric team and let ’em go back to the final.” Bob Bradley’s LAFC was fantastic, but was bidding to go to their first final. There’s something to be said for going somewhere you haven’t been before, and the three other semifinalists had all won the MLS Cup over the past three seasons. I’m more surprised that Bob Bradley was out-foxed than Frank de Boer’s failure, for what it’s worth.

Kyle Bonn: Atlanta’s was more surprising because they made uncharacteristic mistakes. LAFC always felt like it was on the verge of a disappointment despite all the excitement and positivity surrounding that team. With Atlanta, they really felt like they had figured things out, but suddenly made insane defensive mistakes and misses in front of net uncharacteristic of that team, especially at home.

Joel Soria: LAFC’s without a single doubt. What was destined to be the greatest season put together by any team in the league’s history ended in sheer disappointment at home, inches away from a final. Hard pill to swallow.

Seattle righteously deserved their win while TFC looked very sloppy aside from two impeccable moments from Benezet and DeLeon. How heavy favorites should Seattle be at home?

Joe Prince-Wright: Very heavy. They have so many attacking talents and Toronto have had injury issues to deal with all season long. Seattle should win this by two or three goals, but we all know how crazy and unpredictable MLS can be. I actually think playing away suits TFC. They can sit back, soak up pressure and rely on the talent they have in attack from Pozuelo and Alitdore, if he’s fit to play.

Nick Mendola: Are Omar Gonzalez and Jozy Altidore fit and ready to start? If that’s the case, I think I like the idea of Gonzalez, Laurent Ciman, and the stellar Chris Mavinga combining to make this a much closer match than any are suspecting at the moment and Altidore giving Seattle fits at the back. That said, Altidore’s health is the bane of both TFC and the USMNT over the past two seasons, so Seattle should be considered as comfortable under pressure as David Lee Roth in the bridge of “Panama.”

Kyle Bonn: Quite heavy. In fact I think Toronto is nearly +300 in some places. Anything can happen in this crazy league and Toronto is good enough to win a one-off game like this clearly, but Seattle should win.

Joel Soria: Sure, they’re favorites, but the topic should be approached cautiously. This is MLS, anything can happen.  CenturyLink Field is not immune to the disease.

What’s the top story line, or two, for this final?

Joe Prince-Wright: Redemption for Michael Bradley? He’s quietly been plugging away since Couva and he’s still in the USMNT but as we mentioned, for many he will always be the scapegoat for why the USA didn’t reach the 2018 World Cup. Bradley lifting the MLS Cup trophy with the captains armband on would be oh-so-sweet for his family, especially after LAFC’s failure to reach the final.

Nick Mendola: Toronto’s Alejandro Pozuelo and Seattle’s Nico Lodeiro are kindred spirits in that they had fits and starts outside of MLS but are megawatt talents in this league. Tell me which one plays better on Nov. 10 and I probably tell you your MLS champion. And I agree with my NBC teammates about Bradley carrying intrigue: The American legend has been fine but just that the past two seasons after spending his first four years with Toronto FC as an absolute game dominator. A title here would be very redemptive.

Kyle Bonn: The top storyline here is a number of U.S. internationals going at it for MLS glory. LAFC v. Atlanta wouldn’t have featured this kind of battle. Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley against Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan. I’m excited to see how they do going up against one another.

Joel Soria: Seattle wins an MLS Cup in front of their massive fan base.

Rapid fire. Who would you rather have, assuming full health: Jordan Morris or Jozy Altidore? Nico Lodeiro or Alejandro Pozuelo? Michael Bradley or Cristian Roldan?

Joe Prince-Wright: Altidore, Lodeiro, Bradley

Nick Mendola: Altidore, Pozuelo, Bradley

Kyle Bonn: Altidore, Lodeiro, Bradley

Joel Soria: Altidore, Lodeiro, Roldan

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Either Brian Schmetzer or Greg Vanney will have two MLS Cup titles after Nov. 10. Both, seemingly, don’t get a ton of credit for what they’ve accomplished? If it came down to the better coach, who are you picking to win?

Joe Prince-Wright:  Vanney. I like Schmetzer a lot, and he’s proven to be a very good tactician over the past few years. That said, if it’s a tight, scrappy game, as we expect, then Vanney seems to be able to organize his teams better defensively for these one-off occasions.

Nick Mendola: Schmetzer’s story is wonderful enough that I despite choosing between the two, but what Vanney has done to stabilize an organization (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment) which was a bonafide stranger to success is remarkable. Now TFC has a title and is going for two just a few months after the Toronto Raptors claimed an NBA crown. It might sound nuts, but Vanney’s stewardship started it all (as did the purchase of Sebastian Giovinco, but I digress).

Kyle Bonn: Schmetzer has done an unbelievable job with the Sounders in what can only be described as a less than ideal circumstance to begin his first MLS head coaching job. You never want to be the guy after the guy (just ask David Moyes), yet Schmetzer has excelled despite following Sigi Schmid. I think he’s the guy, even though Vanney might be one of the more underrated coaches in the league.

Joel Soria: This is tough, mostly because neither are known for being overly tactically astute coaches. If I had to choose, I’d go with Schmetzer because of his positive demeanor and penchant to win.

Finally, MLS is still gonna MLS, as Andy might say, but this league has grown so much and the trajectory stills feels upward. What’s your state of the league? What’s the best and worst of it?

Joe Prince-Wright: I think MLS is exactly where it should be. Nothing more. Nothing less. There has been some incredible growth in recent years, with Atlanta, Cincinnati and LAFC arriving, plus new stadiums for Minnesota United and the Chicago Fire moving downtown all positives. But with Wayne Rooney and Bastian Schweinsteiger gone and Zlatan Ibrahimovic likely to follow them, where are the next superstar signings coming from? That may be a good thing, as clubs will focus on recruiting young players smartly from Europe and South America, but there’s still a need to attract the world superstars coming towards the end of their careers. Let’s not kid ourselves otherwise.

From a managerial perspective, the league is very strong with a core of American coaches proving their worth (Bradley, Schmetzer, Vanney and Jim Curtin to name a few) and Matias Almeyda, Frank de Boer, Dome Torrent and Guillermo Barros Schelotto all faring well in their first full seasons in MLS. Teams are more interesting tactically and there is now more of a global feel within MLS. With Nashville, Austin, St. Louis, Miami CF and Sacramento all arriving in the coming years via expansion, these are exciting times. But more must be done to improve the fortunes of some of the MLS originals in the Columbus Crew, Colorado Rapids, New England Revolution and Chicago Fire (who have set the wheels in motion) plus the likes of the Montreal Impact and Houston Dynamo need some TLC. MLS can now build from a position of strength, but the direction the league is going in with regards to big-name player purchases and making sure the spotlight is evenly spread across every franchise is perhaps more unbalanced than it has ever been.

Nick Mendola: The league has grown in quality, no doubt, but two major issues remain for it to take the next steps toward being a next level league. First, the top-end, well-paid stars are great but you cannot expect people to really rate a league when Liga MX is so much deeper due to better pay for guys 14-18 on the match day roster. Second, our country is gigantic and about to take its closed-door system and slam it shut on no more than 30-32 markets. That is insane, this league is never going pro-rel without a FIFA mandate (Heck, I bet many European leagues wouldn’t institute pro-rel if they started today because, well money). But try telling major league media markets like Phoenix, Detroit, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, even Buffalo that they’re never dancing on the center stage.

Kyle Bonn: The growth is there, it’s impossible to ignore. I’m still concerned about the overall skill level of the league even after all these years – it doesn’t look good when Zlatan and Rooney both look done in Europe, and come over to MLS and completely dominate the league despite clear weaknesses (have you seen Zlatan try to run?).  That to me is a bad sign. The pay structure of the league still lends itself to a few top-tier stars that dominate the otherwise mediocre talent across the landscape. Still, the league is growing in popularity and exposure, and youth development, and that’s always a positive. The next step is growing the base-level talent, not just investing in brand name stars. I think it’ll come…the base of the league is stronger than it’s ever been.

Joel Soria: From Zlatan (let’s see if he returns) to Vela, from LAFC to Atlanta United, there are a lot of positives going for MLS, at least from a marketing and quality standpoint. My doubts are in the league’s strategies and methods  behind their never-ending expansion process. Cincinnati, Nashville, Miami, Sacramento and Saint Louis are great additions, but no one wants a 35-team league. The approach needs to be pragmatic and less reflective of what has already been done by other major sports leagues in the U.S. It’s worth noting, however, that it might be too late to dial in damage control.

MLS: Battling for playoff seeding or a berth, it’s desperation season

Photo by Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
1 Comment

With five weeks to go, the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs field is beginning to take shape. Realistically, there are just two spots — one in each conference — still up for grabs…

[ MORE: Chicago Fire announce sale of club, stadium move to Soldier Field ]

Playoff positioning

New York City FC v. San Jose Earthquakes — Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET

For NYCFC, home-field advantage through the Eastern Conference final is on the line. Domenec Torrent’s side sits three points clear of second-place Philadelphia and six up on Atlanta, who have a game in hand. Unbeaten in their last six games (five wins), NYCFC appear to be peaking at precisely the right point in the season. San Jose’s up-and-down season has led them to this point: two points above the playoff cut line with precious little security given the Western Conference’s general volatility.

Portland Timbers v. D.C. United — Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET

Portland’s dramatic 2-1 victory over Sporting KC last weekend put Gio Savarese’s side on the right side of the playoff cut line, but only be a point. Riding back-to-back victories against fellow playoff hopefuls, the Timbers could end the weekend anywhere from second place to eighth place. DCU, on the other hand, desperately need to break out of their worst run of results all season. Ben Olsen’s side has won just two of their last eight games (five losses) and is in real danger of finishing fifth or lower, meaning no home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, in the Eastern Conference.

Minnesota United v. Real Salt Lake — Sunday, 5:30 p.m. ET

Speaking of desperate needs, Minnesota must bounce back from a disastrous 2-0 defeat in Houston on Wednesday, otherwise they could be the team that finds itself suddenly in eighth come weekend’s end. Adrian Heath’s side has just one win from its last four games and has shown signs of running out of gas in recent weeks. Losing the U.S. Open Cup in heartbreaking fashion won’t have helped their psyche one bit, and now they have to right the ship against second-place RSL, who could fall as far as seventh if everything goes against them this weekend.

[ MORE: Report: LAFC hot in pursuit of Juventus, Croatia star Mario Mandzukic ]

Playoff places

LA Galaxy v. Sporting Kansas City — Sunday, 10 p.m. ET

The weekend’s final game pits perhaps the league’s two most desperate teams against one another. The Galaxy sit just a point outside the West’s seventh and final playoff place, but Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side has been anything but convincing in recent weeks with just one win from their last eight games (five losses). To miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the roster, would be one of the biggest failures in recent memory. And then there’s Sporting KC, who are six points out of seventh and have to run the table in their final five games just to have a chance of reaching the playoffs for the ninth straight year (second-longest active streak, behind Seattle).

Mexico recall stars for USMNT, Argentina friendlies

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After a summer off for many of Mexico’s established stars, Gerardo “Tata” Martino has recalled plenty of big names for friendlies against the USA and Argentina.

Javier Hernandez, Hector Herrera and Hirving Lozano all return to the El Tri squad, as Hector Moreno and Jesus Corona are also recalled after Tata selected a youthful side which won the Gold Cup this summer.

Mexico play the USMNT at MetLife Stadium on Friday, Sept. 6 and then Argentina on Tuesday, Sept. 10 in San Antonio, Texas.

Recalling these huge names just shows the incredible depth Mexico have right now, as Mexico’s “B squad” beat a largely full strength USMNT in the Gold Cup final in Chicago in July.

Wolves’ Raul Jimenez is in the squad once again after leading the line this summer.

Below is the squad in full.


Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (America), Jonathan Orozco (Santos Laguna), Hugo Gonzalez (Necaxa), Rodolfo Cota (Leon)

Defenders: Luis Rodriguez (Tigres), Fernando Navarro (Leon), Jorge Sanchez (America), Carlos Salcedo (Tigres), Diego Reyes (Tigres), Cesar Montes (Monterrey), Hector Moreno (Al-Gharafa), Nestor Araujo (Celta de Vigo), Jesus Gallardo (Monterrey), Miguel Layun (Monterrey), Edson Alvarez (Ajax)

Midfielders: Hector Herrera (Atletico Madrid), Jonathan dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Carlos Rodriguez (Monterrey), Andres Guardado (Real Betis), Erick Gutierrez (PSV), Luis Montes (Leon), Jesus Corona (Porto), Roberto Alvarado (Cruz Azul), Orbelin Pineda (Cruz Azul), Marco Fabian (Philadelphia Union)

Forwards: Uriel Antuna (LA Galaxy), Raul Jimenez (Wolves), Alexis Vega (Chivas), Javier Hernandez (West Ham United), Rodolfo Pizarro (Monterrey), Hirving Lozano (Napoli)

Report: PSG reject wild offer from Real Madrid for Neymar

Getty Images
3 Comments

A report from L’Equipe claims that Paris Saint-Germain have rejected a monster offer from Real Madrid for Neymar.

Real are said to have offered $110 million for Neymar, plus James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Keylor Navas. Why would PSG turn this down!?

Another report from Guillem Balague says that new Real signing Luka Jovic is wanted by PSG as a part of the deal, along with Navas and one other player, plus cash.

Expect this to rumble on in the coming days.

Neymar, 27, doesn’t want to be in the French capital anymore and both Real and Barcelona are pushing hard to sign the Brazilian superstar ahead of the European transfer window closing on Sept. 2.

The deal which PSG just rejected is likely to be the best one they will receive. Bale and James would start for PSG and freshen up their forward line, as Edinson Cavani looks likely to be on his way out in the next 12 months. While Navas will compete to be their starting goalkeeper right away.

Of course, the wages of three players compared to one would be something PSG have to factor into this deal, but most of the $110 million transfer fee could go towards the salaries and Neymar earns close to $1.1 million a week at PSG anyway, so getting him off the wage bill will be a relief.

PSG don’t appear to want to sell the wantaway star, but why should they keep him? PSG’s fans have turned against Neymar as he has made his intentions clear not only over the summer but at the end of last season as several incidents off the pitch led to his suspension from the domestic and European scene to start this season.

Injuries haven’t been kind to Neymar since his arrival at PSG for a world-record $246 million fee in the summer of 2017, but he hasn’t endeared himself to their fans at all.