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Southampton 2-2 Brighton: Set-pieces bring Seagulls level

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Southampton nearly earned its second win of the season, but visiting Brighton & Hove Albion erased a two-goal deficit to earn a point as the teams shared the points at St. Mary’s on Monday. Piere-Emil Hojbjerg’s howitzer put Southampton in front past the half-hour mark, and Danny Ings buried a penalty to double the home lead. However, Shane Duffy headed home to put Brighton on the board just moments after Southampton’s second, and Glenn Murray scored from the spot as regulation expired to draw back level.

The teams went back and forth in the opening 20 minutes, but only one shot on target was produced. Southampton had the best early opportunity on 21 minutes, as a corner swung into the danger area and somehow stayed out of the back of the net. Danny Ings’ effort was the most egregious, fired on goal from point-blank range but blocked before it even reached the goalkeeper.

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The Saints came close again in the 27th minute as Mohamed Elyounoussi headed a Nathan Redmond cross just wide to the right after jumping in front of his defender.

Southampton would finally make good on its attacking presence in the 35th minute and go in front at home. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg picked up the ball 10 yards outside the top-right corner of the penalty area and blasted a shot that knuckled through the legs of Brighton’s Yves Bissouma and past Matthew Ryan for the game’s first goal.

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The home side was buoyed by the lead, pressuring the Brighton defense for more and earning nine shots (three on target) to Brighton’s two (none on target) by halftime. After the break, the visitors seemed more intent to go forward. Anthony Knockaert forced a big save from Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, and the visitors their first corner in the 52nd minute, although it came to nothing.

Despite the Seagulls’ bright start to the second half, Southampton nearly doubled its lead as a brilliant long ball over the top from Shane Duffy sprung Shane Long, but the Saints striker put his effort wide with Ryan charging out of his net to contest. The Saints would eventually go up 2-0 after Ings drove into the penalty area and was cut down by Gaetan Bong, a clear penalty. Ings stepped up and buried the spot-kick to put Southampton through.

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Brighton wasn’t phased, and they struck right back on 66 minutes. It came off a set-piece, with a free-kick delivered from the right of the box and Shane Duffy headed it home. The Seagulls pressed hard for an equalizer and put Southampton under pressure through the final 15 minutes. Knockaert had a shot from close range deflected past the post, while Bong sent in a cross from the left that was cleared just before reaching substitute Jurgen Locadia. Brighton nearly had an equalizer as Locadia got his head to a corner near the end of regulation that was saved well by McCarthy, but the Seagulls would get their second on the ensuing corner.

As the ball swung in, James Ward-Prowse shoved down Duffy, earning the spot-kick. Glenn Murray sent his effort straight down the middle past McCarthy for the equalizer in the first minute of added time.

Southampton nearly grabbed a winner on a free-kick down the other end, but Ryan produced a fabulous diving save to keep out Ryan Bertrand‘s curling effort. The final whistle confirmed Brighton’s second two-goal comeback in two weeks, having done the same last weekend against Fulham. With the points shared, both sides move to five points on the season through five matches, leaving both teams at their current places of 13th and 14th behind a trio of teams on six.

Sorting the CONCACAF nations on the road to Qatar 2022

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The United States men’s national team picked up a feel-good win over Mexico on Tuesday in Nashville, and there’s no reason to feel bad about enjoying the win.

Yet as general manager Earnie Stewart sorts through his options regarding the next full-time coach of the USMNT, where do the Yanks sit in the race to qualify for Qatar 2022?

[ MORE USMNT-MEXICO: 3 things | Player ratings ]

Yes, the World Cup is still going to Qatar. Yes, the games will be played in December in the middle of the night local time. Had to be said, again.

First and foremost, assuming the World Cup stays at 32 teams in the 3+1 CONCACAF qualifying format, who are the front-runners to make the Hex?

Let’s say the chalk plays out through qualifying and these 12 teams make the fourth round of qualifying. Since the Hex began for the 1998 cycle, the following nations have participated: USMNT (all), Mexico (all), Costa Rica (all), Honduras (4), Trinidad and Tobago (4), Panama (3), Jamaica (3), El Salvador (2), Guatemala (2006), Canada (1998).

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We still don’t know which U-20 sides will qualify for next summer’s U-20 World Cup — qualifying is in November — but the U.S. won the CONCACAF U-20 title in 2017, with Mexico winning the previous three, and Costa Rica before that. Panama were runners-up in 2015, so it’s a pretty good predictor of the pipeline.

Here are the current Elo Ratings and FIFA world rankings for CONCACAF sides:

Mexico — Elo 20, FIFA 16
USMNT — Elo 26, FIFA 22
Costa Rica — Elo 43, FIFA 32
Honduras — Elo 58, FIFA 61
Panama — Elo 63, FIFA 69
Jamaica — Elo 67, FIFA 54
Canada — Elo 73, FIFA 79
Guatemala — Elo 80, FIFA 146
Haiti — Elo 84, FIFA 104
El Salvador — Elo 87, FIFA 72
Trinidad and Tobago — Elo 96, FIFA 91
Curacao — Elo 132, FIFA 81

For now, we will only rank the sides who have qualified to a prior Hex, though Haiti has a chance to impress us and join in the next power rankings some time in the future.

Long shots: El Salvador, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica

Hex candidates: Panama, Canada, Honduras

Yes, Panama qualified for the World Cup, but it happened via a goal that never crossed the line and the poor performances of an American team that rarely showed up to work and a Honduran team which just couldn’t pull it together. Still, it’s best player at the World Cup were young: Ricardo Avila (21), Yoel Barcenas (24), and Jose Luis Rodriquez (20). Need to figure out life post-Felipe Baloy, Blas Perez, and (probably) Jaime Penedo.

Honduras is going to be in the discussion due to home field advantage alone. Even when Los Catrachos aren’t shining at San Pedro Sula, they are a handful. A bit longer in the tooth than you’d like for a tournament run, young forward Alberth Elis has to join Romell Quioto, Bryan Acosta, and Anthony Lozano in taking the next step.

The wild card here is Canada, which remains a green project and has new leadership in former WNT coach John Herdman. He will have a trio of teens at significant clubs when Alphonso Davies leaves Vancouver for Bayern Munich, joining Jonathan David at Gent and Liam Millar at Liverpool (Alessandro Busti is with Juventus B and Zahcary Brault-Guilard, Lyon). TFC’s Jonathan Osorio is in his prime, Cyle Larin isn’t there yet, and goalkeeper Milan Borjan starts on Red Star Belgrade.

Hex participants: Costa Rica, USMNT

Let’s start with the one of the bunch which played in the World Cup; Costa Rica is a difficult team to read. It will qualify for the Hex because it’s never failed to and it won’t be too old… yet. Of the 13 players to play more than 100 minutes for Los Ticos at the World Cup, only Joel Campbell and Francisco Calvo (both 26) were under the age of 28. All five players who manned all 270 minutes of the World Cup were 30 or older.

The reason the United States men’s national team’s failure to qualify for Russia was considered a disaster is that the Yanks should never, ever, ever miss a World Cup given their talent and resources. Even with Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore getting on in years for their respective positions, the new manager could instantly trot out this lineup in CONCACAF and not worry about experience or age (at least not too much, and we’re not yet including Geoff Cameron):

Steffen

Yedlin — Miazga — Brooks — Lichaj

Adams — D. Williams — McKennie

Pulisic — Altidore — Wood

Subs: Guzan, Acosta, Weah, Green, Bradley, Ream, Sargent

The unquestioned No. 1: Mexico

Sure the U.S. was missing big names Pulisic, Brooks, Cameron, Bradley, and Altidore in the 1-0 win over Mexico, but El Tri was without a whole lot more. Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera, Diego Reyes, Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Raul Jimenez, Carls Vela, Hirving Lozano, Chicharito (I’m just gonna stop now).

Mexico’s very best players are playing for some of the best clubs in the world, and Liga MX is still plenty ahead of MLS in depth and churning out youngsters.

Three years apart, USMNT losses to Brazil show hope

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Timely interventions from center backs and a hot goalkeeper helped the United States men’s national team keep damage down to 2-0 in its loss to Brazil on Friday in New Jersey, and the Yanks looked far less overwhelmed than the 4-1 hammering at the hands of Selecao three years ago to this morning.

[ USMNT-BRAZIL: Full recap | Player ratings ]

The player ratings that night were ugly; Brad Guzan was a veteran struggling between the sticks, and the back line was shielded poorly by Ale Bedoya, Jermaine Jones, and Michael Bradley. The lone goal came via Danny Williams, and the silver lining was the then-Reading man and young DeAndre Yedlin.

Of course part of that was down to Jurgen Klinsmann figuring it was a good time to trot out a back four of Tim Ream, Ventura Alvarado, Michael Orozco, and Geoff Cameron (lot of center backs, considering Yedlin was deployed at right mid). And give Dave Sarachan plenty of credit for doing God’s work without much hope of being named full-time boss. This is proper guardianship of a program.

Only two starters from that night in 2015 saw time on Friday: Yedlin and Gyasi Zardes. With all due respect to Zardes, Yedlin’s the one who matters to this discussion. He’s become a key part of a Premier League outfit, though at the time he was a bit player in Europe.

Had the Yanks been looking for results on Friday, they would’ve suited up Bradley and Altidore. They would’ve begged Cameron to come, asked Williams and Bedoya to do a job or two.

It can be difficult to keep the USMNT’s present in focus given the gigantic cluster that was failing to qualify for Russia and then failing to accept responsibility for said failure, but the future is genuinely bright.

There’s no guarantee that players will continue to develop, and the global reach of technology has meant that many countries have sent more prospects to bigger clubs, there is absolutely no denying that the potential of the USMNT right now is as high as its been since the 2001 U-20 World Cup roster of Donovan, Onyewu, and Beasley.

But look at the roster, even beyond Pulisic: Weston McKennie is a regular starter for Schalke at age 19. Teenage mid Tyler Adams is shining for RBNY and looks set to move abroad to the Bundesliga.

Timothy Weah is a factor in the Paris Saint-Germain first team set-up. Matt Miazga‘s early days on loan from Chelsea at Nantes are impressive. The elders at just 25, Yedlin and Brooks are week-in, week-out starters at Newcastle and Wolfsburg.

Also, Josh Sargent didn’t play, but he did play Saturday for Werder Bremen. He scored. Again (And imagine if the powers-that-were didn’t sleep on Jonathan Gonzalez, who the Yanks will see in an El Tri shirt on Tuesday).

This is all without a full-time strategy in the national team program, and at least three principal voices in 18 months. That’s about to be four in 24.

Whether it’s Tata Martino or Gregg Berhalter, Tab Ramos or David Moyes, someone is going to inherit the most promising collection of young American talent, skill, and experience in ages.

If not ever.

Now that’s cool.

Five friendlies to watch closely over the next week

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The UEFA Nations League is taking center stage in this international break, but there are several other interesting matches on the docket outside of the new, formal UEFA competition.

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A pair of them involve the United States.

In some circles, you could call that bias (and we certainly care more about U.S. matches than the rest of the world). But there’s hardly such a thing as a friendly against El Tri, and people will have one eye tuned-in any time Neymar hits the pitch.

Here are five top matches to scout this week.

Mexico vs. Uruguay — Friday (Houston)

These two sides boast an even rivalry, though plenty of eyes will be on Mexico without manager Juan Carlos Osorio (he’s off to Paraguay). El Tri‘s hot start to the World Cup cooled with a blowout loss to Sweden and 2-0 defeat by Brazil, and interim boss Ricardo Ferretti will bring a lot of youth to Texas; Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera, and Hector Moreno are among the big names left home.

Uruguay’s World Cup quarterfinal run ended with a loss to champions France, and that was the CONMEBOL side’s lone loss of 2018. Fabian Colto is the caretaker boss as legendary manager Oscar Tabarez’s future is mulled, and Uruguay will have most of its big names: Suarez, Cavani, Godin.

Portugal vs. Croatia — Thursday

We’ll get some tantalizing intra-Europe matches with the top groups of the UEFA Nations League featuring just three teams. This one sees Portugal without Cristiano Ronaldo and with plenty of interesting pieces; Ruben Neves, Andre Silva, Bernardo Silva, and Renato Sanches all bear close watching against a Croatian squad bringing its whole crew.

Colombia vs. Argentina — Sept. 4

While the reception Argentina receives at home to Guatemala earlier in the window will be fascinating, how Lionel Messi-less Argentina reacts to a match-up with Colombia will tell us more much more about the Albiceleste.

This is Paulo Dybala’s chance to shine bright, with no Messi, Sergio Aguero, nor Gonzalo Higuain in sight. Argentina will also hope to see plenty from its inexperienced but tantalizing offensive talent: Giovanni Simeone and Lautaro Martinez are among those hoping to join Dybala in restoring hope to Argentina.

Colombia? James Rodriguez is not coming, but Carlos Bacca, Luis Muriel, and Juan Cuadrado are in the fold, and Los Cafeteros have a lot of young bucks, too; Pay mind to Rangers star Alfredo Morelos and Spurs center back Davinson Sanchez.

USMNT vs. Brazil — Friday (NJ)
USMNT vs. Mexico — Sept. 4 (Nashville)

We’ll dive deeper into these two over the next few days, but the American side’s visits from Brazil and Mexico give us these three fun plot lines.

A) Was the stingy 1-1 draw against France pre-World Cup a fine indicator of progress?

2) How will the Yanks fare in both matches without Christian Pulisic, who’s injured?

D) Who’s deeper: next generation USMNT, or next generation Mexico (the latter featuring relatively-ignored-by-the-Yanks dual citizen Jonathan Gonzalez)?

Saints grab first win of season, beat Palace

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  • Ings, Hojbjerg score Saints’ goals
  • Austin’s penalty kick saved
  • Third-straight defeat for Palace
  • First win of season for Saints

Southampton beat Crystal Palace 2-0 at Selhurst Park on Saturday with Mark Hughes‘ men off and running for the new season.

Danny Ings and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg scored Saints’ goals but that only told half the story as Charlie Austin‘s penalty kick was saved and Christian Benteke spurned several glorious chances as Alex McCarthy made several stunning saves.

The win move Saints on to four points for the season, while Palace, who missed the injured Wilfried Zaha badly, have three after three-straight defeats.

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Palace started brightly as Andros Townsend‘s cross found Benteke who towered over Cedric but got his header all wrong.

At the other end Ings and Nathan Redmond both had chances, with Shane Long also having a shot well-blocked by Mamadou Sakho.

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As the game wore on Palace settled down and Benteke nodded wide after Alex McCarthy came for a cross but couldn’t clear under pressure.

At the other end Long again caused problems and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s shot was tipped over by Wayne Hennessey.

After a few penalty appeals from Benteke who went down under pressure from Jannik Vestergaard and Ryan Bertrand, Hennessey then made a wonderful save as he tipped a header from his own player, Luka Milivojevic, wide.

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Within a few minutes of the second half kicking off Ings put Southampton in front as Cedric’s long ball forward caught Palace out. Long was clattered by Sakho but the ball fell to Ings who poked home to put Saints 1-0 up.

James McArthur then smashed a wonderful curling effort against the crossbar as Palace looked to get back on level terms. Benteke had another good chance but didn’t make the most of it as his angle was cut out.

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Southampton had the perfect opportunity to double their lead after Aaron Wan-Bissaka handled in the box but substitute Charlie Austin’s penalty was saved by Hennessey.

Redmond then smashed a shot from distance which was saved by Hennessey but Mohamed Elyounoussi sent his follow-up against the bar.

Palace threw everything at Saints late on in search of an equalizer as Cheikhou Kouyate, Patrick Van Aanholt and McArthur tested McCarthy from distance and the England goalkeeper somehow denied Benteke’s header from close-range.

On the break Hojbjerg then scored his first PL goal as he raced clear and finished calmly with Saints’ fans going wild in the away end at Selhurst Park.