Giovani dos Santos

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Preview: Brazil v. Mexico in U-17 World Cup final

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There will be plenty of 2005 U-17 World Cup final shades at Estadio Bezerrão on Sunday.

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On that clear night in Lima, Peru, the likes of Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos wrote history for Mexico, as they powered El Tri to its first-ever World Cup title over a favorite Brazilian side, who was composed of Marcelo, Renato Augusto, and Anderson, in a 3-0 win.

14 years and some change later, both youth powerhouses meet again in the same tournament, for the same silverware, and with the same pressure looming over them from entire nations who expect nothing but excellence from their respective teams.

But of course, to the Brazilians, there is a sense of added pressure given the fact that they’re on home soil.

“We’re familiar with Mexico’s quality,” Brazilian forward, Veron, said ahead of the final. We know they are a great team. But we’re Brazil, and we have five stars on our chest. We intend to play our best match and get the result that makes history.”

As it stands, Mexico is the clear-cut underdog, having barely crept into the knockout stages and being composed of players with far less notoriety to its Brazilian counterpart, who boast three players with three goals or more in the tournament.

That said, Mexico pose as a balanced, reliable, and pragmatic team under coach Marco “Chima” Ruiz. Throughout the six games this tournament, El Tri have found the back of the net 14 times and have conceded a mere three goals (two of which came against Italy). With four goals and two assists in only 344 minutes, Los Angeles Galaxy’s Efrain Alvarez has proven to be the team’s most productive player going forward.

Asked who he would rather take between France or Brazil in the final, the Mexican American answered with the same confidence that has made him one of the most exciting players in the tournament.

“It doesn’t matter which of the two it is, we’ll beat them,” he said.

It’s 90 minutes for either team to make history, again. A win for Brazil will raise the number of U-17 stars to four, while Mexico can claim its third with another historic performance. Will Brazil’s high-flying attack crack Mexico’s solid defense? If Alvarez starts, will he rise to the occasion and guide Mexico to another U-17 title?

That has yet to be seen; the second final between two, routine winners awaits the first whistle.

Leagues Cup: Beasley’s beauty not enough v. Club America (video)

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DaMarcus Beasley’s rocket goal in the 85th minute forced penalty kicks, but Giovani Dos Santos scored the decisive seventh effort to send Club America past the Houston Dynamo in the Leagues Cup quarterfinals.

Nicolas Benedetti scored for Club America.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s Leagues Cup wrap ]

Agustín Marchesín stopped Romell Quioto’s opening penalty kick, and Club America took the lead when Nicolas Castillo rolled in its first attempt. Houston made its next four shots, but Roger Martinez of the visitors blazed his effort over the bar to force extra kicks.

Sam Junqua was unsuccessful with Houston’s seventh try, and old foe Dos Santos won it for Club America, who will face the winner of Real Salt Lake and UANL Tigres in the semifinal, while LA Galaxy is set to meet Cruz Azul in the other.

The semifinals are Aug. 20 and the final is Sept. 18 in Las Vegas.

Giovani dos Santos signs with Club America

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At the age of 30, Giovani dos Santos is going to play a Liga MX match for the first time.

The Barcelona youth academy product and Mexico national team centurion has signed with Club America, four months after the LA Galaxy bought out his contract.

[ MORE: Messi gets 2nd ever red card ]

Dos Santos was an MLS MVP caliber player at his best during his four seasons in MLS, which came after a career spent with Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, Ipswich Town, Mallorca, Galatasaray, Racing Santander, and Villarreal.

The Apertura season begins on July 19, and Club America will meet Tigres UANL in the Campeon de Campeones five days earlier.

The Monterrey-born forward has 19 goals and 23 assists in 107 caps for El Tri. He’s won three Gold Cups and an Olympic gold, last appearing for Mexico at the 2018 World Cup in Brazil.

Zlatan nabs hat trick in wild comeback

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Don’t tell Zlatan Ibrahimovic that the MLS MVP Award is named after someone else.

While the big Swede isn’t likely to win it this year — Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez is on pace to murder the single season scoring record — the 36-year-old aerial ace is on a dominant run with the LA Galaxy.

[ VIDEO: USWNT equalizes in stoppage ]

Ibrahimovic scored three times and added another assist on Sunday against Orlando City SC, as the LA Galaxy won 4-3 at the StubHub Center.

Ibrahimovic assisted the Giovani dos Santos goal that made it 1-1, then scored equalizers at 2-2 and 3-3 before completing his hat trick with the 71st minute match-winner.

Cristian Higuita and Dom Dwyer joined a Michael Ciani own goal in putting Orlando on the board.

Orlando remains six points back of sixth place in the East, while the Galaxy moves third in the West (a point back of new rivals LAFC).

How prolific is the former Manchester United, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and Inter Milan man? Allow me to quote myself:

Three things: NYCFC flying with Villa, Medina at the helm

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Week 2 of the 2018 MLS season is in the books, and New York City are one of just four teams with six points following Sunday’s 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Earlier today, I advocated against making any judgments whatsoever about the MLS season before the calendar reads May or June. Barely two hours later, I’m ready to ignore my own advice and tell you that NYCFC are very, very good — largely based upon the entirety of 2017, but also the way they’ve kicked off the 2018 season…

[ MORE: MLS 2018 season previews ]

Medina lessens the blow of losing Harrison

Jack Harrison was, in so many ways, a perfect complement to David Villa, in that he was only slightly less aggressive and quick to transition than the legendary Spaniard. He was an abundant source of secondary goals — a must-have for every team, even ones with a Villa-caliber spearhead.

Everyone was, understandably, unsure how NYCFC would replace Harrison’s final-third production following his transfer to Manchester City. It was a big ask for 20-year-old Paraguayan attacker Jesus Medina to walk straight into an established squad and immediately shoulder the load as Villa’s primary running mate. Through two games, Medina has surpassed expectations by miles and miles.

He scored a goal against Sporting Kansas City last week, and was instrumental in setting up both goals against LA. On the first, it was Medina who got the ball wide right, held up play ever so slightly to allow Villa to move ahead of him, and finally slotted the perfectly timed and weighted through ball to the top of the six-yard box. Villa’s shot was saved, but the rebound came to Anton Tinnerholm, who smashed his left-footed shot off the underside of the crossbar and in.

On the second, it was Medina, alongside Ben Sweat, who chased a bouncing ball deep inside NYCFC’s half and eventually won possession, then turned on the jets as he glided around one defender before playing the pass to present itself, a simple square ball to Sweat at the top of the box. Again, Sweat’s shot was saved, but the rebound fell to Villa with an empty net to mark his 100th MLS appearance with a game-winner.

Medina will probably come up short of Harrison’s numbers in the goals column — maybe even for assists, too — but it’s already very clear that he’s got a brilliant soccer mind when it comes to so many of the little things: his movement off the ball, how to time his runs to maximize the space he creates for others, and a willingness to play within the confines of his own strengths and weakness. For a 20-year-old player of any age, he’s been off-the-charts impressive.

Injuries, ineffectiveness, indifference

We’re only two weeks into the season, and LA have already lost superstar attacker Romain Alessandrini to a hamstring injury last week, starting center back Michael Ciani to an injury of his own on Sunday, and supposed-to-be-star Giovani dos Santos to a complete loss of form and ability, and/or an overwhelming sense of indifference. Dos Santos was subbed off at halftime of Sunday’s game, replaced by Servando Carrasco, a defensive midfielder.

Why would Sigi Schmid do that to his most expensive and centerpiece Designated Player, you ask?

Considering LA have considerably curtailed their free-spending tendencies in recent seasons, it’s not at all outside the realm of possibility that they could look to move on from Dos Santos’ contract, which pays him $5.5 million per year, should he continue in this vein of form.

Yes, we’re going to keep talking about VAR

… until MLS and the Professional Referee Organization gets its head on straight. If you missed it yesterday, I ranted at greater length about Baldomero Toledo and Co.’s refusal to even consult the video review available to him after Los Angeles FC scored what will likely be the most egregiously offside goal this season (since, you know, VAR is in place to correct these kind of mistakes).

On Sunday, barely a day later, another instance where VAR could have fixed a potentially “clear and obvious error” occurred in the 85th minute, with LA trailing 2-1 and threatening to equalize, when Ashley Cole was shown a second yellow card for tripping Villa as he prepared to run into 50 yards of open field.

First things first, yellow cards — not even a second yellow — aren’t reviewable within the guidelines set forth by MLS (goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistake identity). Considering a second yellow has the exact same impact as a straight red, which is to effectively end LA’s comeback bid when Cole appears to have made no contact with Villa, it should be reviewable all the same.

These are simple matters of common sense that, were MLS serious about using VAR as a tool to improve the level of refereeing, could be fixed overnight. They started using VAR roughly two-thirds of the way into the season last year, so what’s an amendment to the guidelines after fewer than two dozen game this year?