AP Photo/Manuel Araujo

Champions League: Mexican stars shine for Porto; Draws for Barca, PSG (video)

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Of the four UEFA Champions League groups at play on Tuesday, only one emerged with any measure of top-to-bottom tightness.

You might be surprised which one, too, as Liverpool floundered in Serbia while Napoli and PSG drew to keep the group very much in question with two match days to play.

[ UCL: Full lineups, stats, box scores ]

Elsewhere, two El Tri stars again starred for Porto, while an American midfielder was a part of Schalke picking up a knockout round bid strengthening defeat of visiting Galatasaray.


Napoli 1-1 Paris Saint-Germain

A bit of magic from Kylian Mbappe led to a sliding first half stoppage time finish from Juan Bernat, but the visitors were able to equalize from the spot in the second half. Lorenzo Insigne bested countryman Gianluigi Buffon to get it level.

Red Star Belgrade 2-0 LiverpoolRECAP

The Reds had plenty of shots, but couldn’t find the goal as Red Star Belgrade used a Milan Pavkov double to sink Liverpool.

Group C
Team W D L PTS
Napoli 1 3 0 6
Liverpool 2 0 2 6
Paris SG 1 2 1 5
Red Star Belgrade 1 1 2 4

Schalke 2-0 Galatasaray

Guido Burgstaller and Mark Uth scored in Germany, and USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie played the final half-hour plus in the win.

Porto 4-1 Lokomotiv Moscow

Mexican duo Hector Herrera and Jesus Corona were again amongst Porto’s goal scorers, and Moussa Marega also scored in the win.

Group D
Team W D L PTS
FC Porto 3 1 0 10
FC Schalke 04 2 2 0 8
Galatasaray 1 1 2 4
Lokomotiv Moscow 0 0 4 0

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 PSV EindhovenRECAP

Luuk De Jong scored after 61 seconds of play to give PSV a shock lead at Wembley Stadium, but Spurs peppered their Dutch visitors with 30-plus shots. Two of those were authored by Harry Kane and found their way across line as Spurs stayed alive for the knockout rounds.

Inter Milan 1-1 Barcelona

Malcom’s 83rd minute goal looked like it would be enough for one of the tournament’s favorites to clinch the group, but Mauro Icardi answered with an Inter goal four minutes later at the San Siro.

Group B
Team W D L PTS
Barcelona 3 1 0 10
Inter Milan 2 1 1 7
Tottenham Hotspur 1 1 2 4
PSV Eindhoven 0 1 3 1

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Borussia Dortmund

Saul and Antoine Griezmann scored in a dominant performance for Diego Simeone’s men. USMNT attacker Christian Pulisic played 59 minutes in the loss.

Monaco 0-4 Club Brugge

Hans Vanaken scored twice in the first 17 minutes as the visitors heaped misery on Thierry Henry’s struggling Ligue 1 mainstays. USMNT goalkeeper Ethan Horvath kept the clean sheet for Bruges.

Group A
Team W D L PTS
Borussia Dortmund 3 0 1 9
Atlético de Madrid 3 0 1 9
Club Brugge 1 1 2 4
Monaco 0 1 3 1

Wolves striker Jimenez headlines young El Tri squad

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Interim Mexico National Team boss has selected a young squad ahead of a rare pair of friendly matches set to be held this month in Mexico. The El Tri selection features a mix of European and domestic-based players, headlined by Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Raul Jimenez and PSV Eindhoven’s Hirving Lozano. But the squad is also noteworthy for who isn’t included.

El Tri regulars Hector Herrera, Javier Aquino, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa, Hector Moreno and Carlos Salcedo were all left off the squad, in addition to the MLS-based big names including Carlos Vela, Giovani Dos Santos and his brother Jonathan. Jonathan Dos Santos was called up for El Tri’s last camp in September but neither Vela (inconsistent play) or Giovani (injuries) have been selected since the World Cup.

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With so many veterans missing, it’s a chance for some fresh blood to rejuvinate the squad. While Club America youngster Diego Lainez was not called up this window, a trio of uncapped players with extensive youth national team experience are in the squad: goalkeepers Gibran Lajud (Club Tijuana) and Raul Gudino (Chivas) and defender Josecarlos Van Rankin (Chivas). Jonathan Gonzalez, after sitting out El Tri’s last match against the U.S. Men’s National Team, is also back in the squad.

Jimenez, who featured for Mexico at the World Cup, has two goals and two assists in seven games for Wolves so far this season, delighting the crowd at the Molineux during matches as the Wolves’ No. 9. Jimenez received Man of the Match honors in his last two matches, a 1-1 draw at Manchester United and a 2-0 win against Southampton.

Mexico hosts Costa Rica on October 13 in Monterrey before facing Chile in Queretaro on October 16.

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.

Mexico’s quinto partido curse isn’t particularly ‘cursey’

AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo
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Far be it from me to defend Mexico, but let’s talk about this fifth round “quinto partido”¬†curse for a minute.

And it really shouldn’t take much longer.

[ RECAP: Brazil 2-0 Mexico ]

There’s obviously no denying that Mexico continues to lose in the Round of 16, and that 2002 was an absolute nightmare.

For them. Let’s be clear: It was pretty much the best day in American soccer history.

But if anything, look at the wonderful below graphic assembled by our beautiful NBC Sports Soccer crew.

Mexico has lost to better teams more times than not, and their only crime of this World Cup, one in which they beat Germany, is that they didn’t win the group and play Switzerland instead of Brazil.

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But that Dos a Cero aside, look at the teams that knocked them out and the margins. Mexico scored in the majority of the contests. And they mostly lost to giants.

The curse scales runs from level 1 (no shame) to level 10 (Come on, Mexico).

1994:¬†A team largely devoid of superstars came up against Hristo Stoichkov and Bulgaria. Both teams scored inside of 20 minutes, and Mexico blew it in penalties. Bulgaria, for what it’s worth, then took eventual finalists Roberto Baggio and Italy to the wire in a 2-1 quarterfinal lost. Curse level: 6

1998: This one feels a bit curselike, but only on account of how the match played out. A Luis Hernandez goal put El Tri ahead just after halftime. But Germany, led by Jurgen Klinsmann, scored in the 74th and 86h (Oliver Bierhoff) to win it. Those are a pair of German legends on a team with fellow legends Lothar Matthaus and Andreas Moller. Curse level: 2

2002: Dos A Cero. -clap-clap-clapclapclap- Dos A Cero. -clap-clap-clapclapclap- Curse level: 100

2006: Given a group with Iran, Angola, and Portugal, El Tri had four points before losing to favorites Portugal in the finale. That led to Argentina, who had emerged unscathed from a group with Serbia, the Netherlands, and the Ivory Coast. Rafa Marquez and Hernan Crespo traded goals inside of 10 minutes, and extra time saw a 19-year-old Lionel Messi touch the ball twice in the build-up to this outlandish 98th minute Maxi Rodriguez goal. Curse level: 1

2010:¬†Hopes were high thanks to an upset of chaotic France, but Mexico again drew an Argentina side that went 3-0 despite the absence of a single Messi group stage goal. He didn’t score in the Round of 16 either, but losing to two goals from Carlos Tevez and a Gonzalo Higuain goal shows just how loaded the Argentine contingent was in South Africa.¬†Curse level: 2

2014:¬†El Tri was feeling great under Miguel Herrera, as¬†Piojo oversaw wins over Croatia and Cameroon along with an impressive draw with hosts Brazil. Tiebreakers meant a meeting with eventual semifinalists Netherlands, and Giovani dos Santos scored to give Mexico a 48th minute lead. This one, however, carries a bit of curse for how it ended; Wesley Sneijder scored in the 88th minute before Klaas-Jan Huntelaar converted a penalty won… well… controversially by some clown Arjen Robben. #NoEraPenal. Curse level: 8

Which brings us to¬†2018:¬†Is losing to a tournament favorite in any way considered a curse? No. Not at all. Is losing to the third-best player in the world while he dives around like the worst example of a soccer stereotype cursey enough to go past curse level zero? Sure, but you did step on the dude’s leg with an immense amount of cameras around. If Casemiro did the same to Javier Hernandez, the little pea would still be rolling on the ground as you read this.¬†Curse level: 1

Mexican national team defender off to Celta Vigo

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Mexican national team defender Nestor Araujo is the latest member of El Tri to join a La Liga outfit.

Araujo, 26, is off to Celta Vigo on a five-year deal after a half-decade at Santos Laguna in Liga MX.

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Left off the Juan Carlos Osorio’s World Cup roster, Araujo joins Miguel Layun (Sevilla), Hector Moreno (Real Sociedad), Andres Guardado (Real Betis), and Oswaldo Alanis (Getafe) in Spain.

Araujo has 27 caps for Mexico with three goals, but oddly enough none of those caps have come against the United States.