Jaime Penedo

AP Photo/ Luis Hidalgo

Copa America 2016 preview, Group D: Argentina and Chile aim for first place

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Argentina

Runners-up in three of the last four Copa America tournaments, Argentina would love to break through for a title in the United States. The 1991 and 1993 winners are going on 23 years without a championship.

Star player: Lionel Messi — What else needs to be said for the world’s best player, other than his international record is missing some titles. The Copa America is one of them.

It goes well for them if they play within any reasonable distance of their talent. With Javier Mascherano, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina run through the group stage and cruise to a final.

But what if Messi is just drained, and neither Aguero and Higuain carry over their club form for country. Second place in this group is no waltz through the knockouts, as Uruguay knocks out the Argentines and cue up more questions about Messi in his national team uniform.


Chile

Alexis Sanchez (below) and La Roja look to build on its first ever Copa America crown, won on home soil last summer in somewhat controversial fashion.

Alexis Sanchez
AP Photo/Martin Mejia

Star player: Arturo Vidal — Yes, Alexis Sanchez might deliver shots, but Vidal stirs the drink. The tempestuous midfielder has everything it takes to turn a game on its head.

Deep from top to bottom: Chile powers through Argentina and then lays waste to Bolivia, able to rest many stars against Panama before beating Group C’s runner-up to set itself up for a repeat of its 2015 title run.

A combustible lineup and aging core combine to leave Chile struggling after a big loss to Argentina. Unable to gather itself together, the Chileans stumble to a draw against Bolivia that leaves them Group D’s runner-up and the victim of Uruguay in the knockout rounds.


Panama

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 20:  Carlos Rodriguez #4 of Panama celebrates with teammate Anibal Godoy #20 after Rodriguez's second half goal during the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal game against Cuba at Georgia Dome on July 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

This is a sneaky capable unit coming off a third place finish in the Gold Cup.

Star player: We’ll tap Jaime Penedo, perhaps the lynchpin of a veteran squad. The longtime New York Red Bulls keeper now calls Saprissa his home.

Now is the time for Panama’s experienced core to do big things; Blas Perez, Luis Tejeda, Gabriel Gomez and Felipe Baloy are likely on the end of their national team runs, and San Jose’s Panamaniacs connection of Alberto Quintero and Anibal Godoy — at 28 and 26 — are two of the younger parts of the unit.

But age is a factor when it comes to tournament play, and can Panama possibly outlast either Chile or Argentina? It’s unlikely.


Bolivia

HARRISON, NJ - JUNE 6: Goalkeeper Romel Quinonez #1 of Bolivia makes a save on a corner kick as in front of Theofanis Gekas #17 of Greece during the first half of an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on June 6, 2014 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Surprising quarterfinalists last summer, Bolivia sits second-last in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualification table. Their only wins since late 2014 have come against Venezuela (2) and Ecuador, and there are a total of just 15 international goals in their 23-man squad.

Star player: Romel Quiñónez — The goalkeeper from Bolivar is set to get a lot of work.

This tournament goes well if: Bolivia handles Panama and manages a draw against Argentina or Chile.

But in all honesty: There will be growing pains for La Verde this summer in the U.S.


Game schedule – Full schedule for Group D, here

Who’s going through, who’s going home: Argentina and Chile thrive, Bolivia and Panama battle for third.

Marquee match: Argentina vs. Chile, June 6. No explanation needed.

Top players to watch

1) Lionel Messi
2) Arturo Vidal
3) Sergio Aguero
4) Angel Di Maria
5) Alexis Sanchez

Jaime Penedo and L.A. Galaxy surprisingly decide to call it quits

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Major League Soccer may have shockingly seen the last of Jaime Penedo.

The Panamanian goalkeeper will not be returning to the Los Angeles Galaxy, as the MLS side agreed to terminate the 33-year-old’s contract.

Reports suggest that L.A. is ready to acquire Donovan Ricketts back from Orlando City. Ricketts won an MLS Cup with L.A. in 2011.

[ MORE: Swiss star Barnetta joins MLS; Orlando signs pair ]

Penedo has been placed on waivers, but probably won’t be staying in the United States’ top flight. And while that might be a relief to L.A., finding a replacement is necessary and tricky.

The Galaxy current has Brian Perk, Andrew Wolverton and Brian Rowe aboard, and Wolverton is an interesting prospect after dominating at Penn State.

From LA Galaxy Insider:

LA Galaxy Insider can confirm that the Galaxy and Penedo will part ways following a two-year stint by the Panamanian ‘keeper at StubHub Center. The 33-year-old was placed on waivers Wednesday. From what LA Galaxy Insider has learned, the move was initiated by Penedo who requested a change of scenery which the Galaxy obliged. It is unlikely that he’ll remain in Major League Soccer.

Maybe it’s not surprising to Galaxy fans, but it sure caught us off guard. Could this be on account of overseas interest, or is he just ready to go closer to home?

Gold Cup 3rd Place Preview: United States looks to finish strong vs Panama

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The addition of a 3rd Place match to the 2015 Gold Cup has been criticized by many, but it will allow some small form of redemption for a pair of teams feeling down on their luck.

The United States is coming off a depressing showing against Jamaica that has forced them to prepare for a Confederations Cup playoff in early October, and those preparations start Saturday at 4:00 from PPL Park in Philadelphia.

Clint Dempsey looks to secure his hold on the tournament’s top-scorer list, currently on top with six goals. It will also be interesting to see if Klinsmann sticks with his young central defensive partnership of Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks that has taken much criticism for a mistake-filled tournament.

[ LIVE: Watch Gold Cup 3rd Place Match | Follow live ]

The U.S. will take on Panama, who has plenty of reason to feel sorry about themselves, but also should feel they showed well throughout the tournament in spite of the contentious decisions the other day.

Unfortunately for Panama, they’ll be without at least one player due to their meltdown during and after the Mexico match. LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Peneda, who had been stellar throughout the tournament, was suspended two matches by CONCACAF for pushing an assistant referee. Leading scorer Luis Tejada will also be missing due to his contentious red card against Mexico handed out by Mark Geiger. Other decisions could come down by CONCACAF between now and the match as the North American governing body continues to investigate the incidents from that match, but at this point we know either Luis Mejia or Jose Calderon will start in goal for Panama in Philadelphia.

[ MORE: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage

The biggest question seems how much will the Panamanian players have their hearts in a third place match following the disaster on Wednesday night. We may have seen a preview of what is to come during Friday’s training session:

For the United States, their hearts better be in this match despite what little is on the line. A second straight loss to a CONCACAF opponent would heap even more pressure on coach Jurgen Klinsmann and would throw the team into heavy turmoil ahead of a crucial Confederations Cup playoff to come in the fall.

There’s plenty more for the USMNT to lose in this match than Panama, and that could play a significant factor. Will they make amends and end the tournament on a high, or will the hard done by Panamanians push hard for revenge?

MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 0-0 LA Galaxy

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The game in 100 words (or less): For 45 minutes, the LA Galaxy, playing away from home, showed little to no interest in playing attacking soccer against Real Salt Lake. It wasn’t until after the half that Bruce Arena’s side completed their first pass into RSL’s penalty area. It wasn’t until the 66th minute that the Galaxy put their first (and only from open play) shot on target. It wasn’t until that same period of time that RSL opened themselves up and ventured forward, either (1 shot on target in the first half, 5 in the second). 12 of 20 teams in the league will qualify for the playoffs this year, which only rewards team for six months of mediocrity followed by two months of good soccer at the end of the season. It’s a shame, because the entire league is suffering from too many games like this one.

[MORE: Recapping last week’s MLS action ]

Three moments that mattered

45+1′ — Zardes’ header goes just wide — Stefan Ishizaki delivered the pinpoint cross to Gyasi Zardes at the near post, where the 23-year-old rose above his nearest marker to get his head on the ball, but Zardes’ header sailed just wide of Nick Rimando’s left-hand post.

77′ — Penedo skies to stop Saborio — Alvaro Saborio picked the pocket of Leonardo not far outside the Galaxy defender’s penalty area, cut inside and uncorked a looping right-footed shot toward the near post, but once again, Penedo took flight to get two strong hands behind the ball.

90+2′ — Rimando with the PK save in stoppage time — The call to award the Galaxy a penalty kick was tenuous at best, which only made Rimando the deliverer of karmic justice when the 35-year-old stonewalled Juninho’s attempt with barely a minute of stoppage time still to play. In truth, it was the fitting end the game deserved.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Jaime Penedo — The Panamanian stop-stopper came up huge on a number of occasions in the second half, preserving the shutout on every occasion as the Galaxy’s once-potent attack continues to struggle without Robbie Keane (injury) and Landon Donovan (retirement).

LINEUPS

Real Salt Lake: Rimando, Phillips, Vasquez, Olave, Beltran, Beckerman, Mulholland (Saucedo 86′), Allen, Gil, Saborio, Sandoval (Garcia 76′)

LA Galaxy: Penedo, Gargan, Leonardo, Gonzalez, DeLaGarza, Jamieson (Vayrynen 82′), Garcia, Husidic, Ishizaki (Juninho 72′), Zardes, Gordon (Maganto 72′)

MLS Player of the Week — Week 6: LA Galaxy GK Jaime Penedo

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How about some of these goalkeeping performances being turned in by Major League Soccer’s top shot-stoppers early on in the 2015 season?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

First there was Tyler Deric who stood on his head — while blowing bubbles and juggling flaming batons — in Week 1. Then there’s the usual heroic acrobatics of Nick Rimando. On Sunday, it was LA Galaxy ‘keeper Jaime Penedo who turned in the latest match-winning performance in goal, as the Galaxy held the lethal Seattle Sounders attack scoreless en route to a much-needed 1-0 victory (RECAP).

For his contributions and overall outstanding, unbelievable and San Penedo-esque performance, Penedo is my pick for Week 6 Player of the Week.

[ MORE: MLS Team of the Week — Week 6 — Who got the call when the big names failed to impress? ]

Penedo made no fewer than five stunning saves, including a career-high 10 in total, of what would have been surefire Sounders goals. The first and second of which (as seen in the above video) were both Save of the Week-caliber stops that we’ve essentially come to expect week in and week out from the Panamanian ‘keeper.

MLS Players of the Week

Week 1: Tyler Deric, Houston Dynamo

Week 2: Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes

Week 3: Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls

Week 4: Kaka, Orlando City SC

Week 5: Harrison Shipp, Chicago Fire