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State of play in CONCACAF Nations League

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Well, well, well…

Canada’s controlling 2-0 defeat of the USMNT on Tuesday adding some intrigue to the final two match days of the CONCACAF Nations League next month

[ USMNT-CANADA: Time for change? | Player ratings ]

Mexico nearly provided another shock at Azteca thanks to a relative inability to break down Panama, but young stunner Jose Juan Macias scored for the fourth time in three caps to lead El Tri to a 3-1 win on the night.

Roberto Alvarado saw his 28th minute goal canceled out by pre-halftime own goal, and Mexico had better than 75 percent possession when Macias bagged his winner. Rodolfo Pizarro rounded out the scoring in stoppage time.

Here’s where we sit in the battle for four semifinal spots. The semifinals and finals will be staged in June.

Group A

Canada’s defeat of the USMNT means the Yanks need to make the most of the Canucks visit to the Orlando next month and smash Cuba in the Cayman Islands. Overall goal difference is the second tie breaker, and the Yanks are four behind Canada. A two-goal win in Florida would mean the Yanks would simply need a victory over Cuba to advance to the semifinals. Canada advances with a draw against the U.S., while Cuba has already be relegated to League B.

Group B

Mexico now has six points to Panama’s three and Bermuda’s three. El Tri will visit Panama next and can clinch a spot in the semifinals with a draw or better. Even if Panama beats Mexico, Tata Martino’s men would need to get nothing from Bermuda at Azteca to fail to make the semifinals. Bermuda needs Panama to beat Mexico before getting a blowout win at Azteca. Not looking good.

Group C

Honduras is onto the semifinals. Whether Martinique or Trinidad and Tobago, both on two points, can avoid relegation by getting a superior result against Honduras in November. Honduras heads to Martinique before hosting T&T.

Group D

Curacao had five points compared to its rivals two each and can advance to the semifinals with a home defeat of Costa Rica. If Los Ticos claims the three points, then it will have at least a two-goal advantage on Haiti heading into a home finale.

Macias scores 2 more as Mexico downs Bermuda

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Jose Juan Macias scored on either side of halftime as Mexico dealt well with Bermuda in a 5-1 win in CONCACAF Nations League at Bermuda National Stadium on Friday.

Macias, 20, scored for the third time in two caps, while Uriel Antuna, Hirving Lozano, and Hector Herrera also scored in the win.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings | 3 things ]

It was the sixth international goal for the 22-year-old Antuna, who plays for the LA Galaxy on loan from Manchester City.

Another Premier League loanee was Bermuda’s goal scorer. Burnley’s Nakhi Wells scored a second half marker and is in his second year on loan to QPR.

Bermuda, who is coached by former Stoke City man Kyle Lightbourne, split two matches with Panama last month including a win away to Los Canaleros.

Jurgen Klinsmann on USMNT World Cup failure, current squad

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Jurgen Klinsmann has been talking, and when he does, USMNT fans still listen.

Following his five-year stint in charge of the U.S. men’s national team, Klinsmann was fired with the USMNT struggling in 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Bruce Arena took over and by now we all know they lost 2-1 in Trinidad and Tobago in their final qualifier. That coupled with a series of other freak results meant they weren’t going to Russia.

Speaking to ESPN’s Herculez Gomez, Klinsmann was asked about what went wrong for the USMNT almost two years ago.

“Well what went wrong, I was not in charge anymore, so obviously when you don’t qualify for a World Cup a lot of things went wrong,” Klinsmann said. “You were not prepared for finishing things off. You were qualified 99 percent, so whatever reason it went wrong there with the entire environment, it went wrong and nobody would expect that the other two games go in the same direction.”

Despite plenty of criticism of the USMNT in recent months, Klinsmann was actually pretty positive about their new head coach Gregg Berhalter and says the Stars and Stripes have a very exciting young group of players coming through.

In fact, it sounds like he wishes he could have worked with them.

“You know you look at Tyler Adams, you look at obviously Christian Pulisic,” Klinsmann said. “You have several players, Josh Sargent, to come out of the Tab Ramos U-20 group over the last few years, who has done tremendously well with the U-20s. So when you have a U-20 national team that now three times went to the final eight of a World Cup, that means that you have quality, you have quality young players. So now you have got to feed those young players into the next stage of their careers. So now you have a midfield with Weston McKennie, with Adams, with Pulisic, with Sargent up front. They promise a lot of quality.”

Klinsmann did hammer the CONCACAF region as a whole, saying that the new Nations League format is “a waste of time” and that Mexico and the USA have to be playing friendlies against top nations if they’re going to get to the latter stages of World Cup tournaments.

Instead the opportunity to play friendlies against elite nations from the across the globe have now been limited and more games against CONCACAF opponents are the norm.

Mexicans Abroad: Vela equals MLS record, Lozano left on Napoli bench

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Carlos Vela equalled the MLS single-season goalscoring mark of 31 and can break the record next time out in the season’s final match. Otherwise, it was mostly a struggle for Mexican players overseas, many of whom were left to the substitutes’ bench.

While Lozano rode the bench, Raul Jimenez was starting but failed to find the back of the net for the third straight match, while Chicharito, Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado, and Diego Lainez were all also left among the substitutes, and only Lainez of the bunch even saw the field.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli — For the first time since making his Napoli debut, Chucky Lozano was left on the bench as Napoli topped Brescia 2-1. Dries Mertens scored a goal and Fernando Llorente started up front as Carlo Ancelotti went with a flat 4-4-2 with Piotr Zilinski starting on the left flank.

Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers — Jimenez’s stunning summer form seems to be waning. He played 80 minutes and did not score as Wolves topped struggling Watford 2-0 on Saturday. He was withdrawn in favor of Patrick Cutrone for the final 10 minutes and has not played a full 90 minutes since he last scored against Everton on September 1. He was rested for the League Cup match midweek which Wolves won on penalties over Reading. Wolves returns to Europa League group stage action with a big match against Besiktas on the road.

La Liga

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Sevilla — Chicharito was left on the bench for the second straight match as Sevilla topped in-form Real Sociedad 3-2. Luuk De Jong was favored over the Mexican as the lone striker this time, although he did not score in the game. Nolito and Lucas Ocampos provided the early goals while Franco Vazquez came off the bench to score the eventual winner. Fellow striker Munir El Haddidi was once again not in the squad, so Chicharito can at least say he’s ahead of the 24-year-old in the pecking order.

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — The defender was left on the bench as an unused substitute for the fifth time in six league matches this season, with Jose Gimenez and Stefan Savic preferred in central defense as the Madrid derby ended 0-0.

Andres Guardado and Diego Lainez, Real Betis —  Guardado was also left on the bench as an unused substitute, and Real Betis fell to a heavy 5-1 defeat at Villareal. Betis instead started William Carvalho and Sergio Canales in midfield, leaving Guardado left out of action for the third time this season. Betis has seven points in four matches with Guardado on the field, and does not have a win in three without him. Lainez was also left on the bench, but came on for the final 10 minutes for his third appearance of the season, all as a substitute.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — The central defender has started every league match for Celta Vigo thus far, and he again completed the full 90 minutes as his side fell 2-0 at Eibar. He has partnered with Joseph Aidoo for most games this season and while the club has just one win, the defense hasn’t really been the issue, conceding just six goals in six games, while the attack has scored just three goals in that span.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven — Gutierrez made his first appearance since September 1, coming off the bench for the final 11 minutes of a 4-0 win over PEC Zwolle. He picked up a goal during his short stint on the field, scoring the final goal of the match. It is a promising return for Gutierrez who had been in the starting lineup for the first four games of the year before falling out of the side. PSV remains unbeaten in league play this season.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — The 21-year-old was left as an unused substitute as Ajax beat FC Groningen 2-0. Donny van de Beek partnered with 21-year-old Argentine Lisandro Martinez in midfield, leaving Alvarez and Razvan Marin as the odd men out.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Tecatito continued as Porto’s starting right-back, making it 60 minutes in the 1-0 win over Rio Ave. Moussa Marega headed Porto in front 12 minutes in and that was all they needed. Corona was yanked after an hour in favor of Wilson Manafa, marking the third time this season in seven starts that Corona did not complete the 90 minutes.

MLS

Carlos Vela, LAFC – Vela bagged the all important 31st goal of the season on the road against Minnesota United, and while the hosts equalized five minutes later to earn a 1-1 draw, it didn’t matter with LAFC already locked in to the #1 seed in the Western Conference. The goal tied Vela for the MLS single-season lead, and can break the record in the season’s final match against the Colorado Rapids next weekend.

Carlos Fierro, San Jose Earthquakes – Fierro came off the bench for the final 10 minutes, but was not able to turn San Jose’s Fortune as the Quakes were stunned by a Jordan Morris winner deep in stoppage time to keep them from moving into a playoff position ahead of Deadline Day. Fierro has started just twice since joining the Earthquakes, otherwise planted on the bench for late substitute appearances. The club has lost six matches in a row.

Jonathan Dos Santos and Uriel Antuna, LA Galaxy – JDS completed his third full 90 minute performance in a row and Antuna started on the wing, but the Galaxy were beaten in a wild match 4-3 by the Vancouver Whitecaps. Dos Santos picked up an assist in the game, feeding Antuna who scored the club’s second goal. The teams traded goals the whole way through, with Vancouver having the last laugh with a 93rd minute winner.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — The 23-year-old completed 59 minutes as Zulte Waregem drew 2-2 with Mouscron to remain eighth in the Belgian league. He played at the bottom of a diamond midfield, withdrawn just before the hour mark for young Abdoulaye Sissako with the club down 2-0, and they completed the comeback without his presence on the field.

Hector Moreno, Al Gharafa   Moreno continues to start for the Qatari side in central defense, but they were downed by visiting Al Sailiya 3-1. After scoring just six minutes in to go in front, Al Gharafa capitulated to the tune of three goals, including two after halftime with the score level at the break. They sit fourth in the Qatar Stars League table.

Juan Gerardo Ramirez Alosno, Roda JC — Alonso was left as an unused substitute for the fifth match in a row as Roda drew with De Graafschap 2-2. It seems Alonso is second fiddle to 28-year-old Timothy Durwael in the left-back position despite having started the first three games of the Dutch second tier season.

El Tri’s Vela lifts Supporters’ Shield for LAFC (video)

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Bob Bradley‘s Los Angeles Football Club completed their inevitable capture of the Supporters’ Shield with a 3-1 defeat of the Houston Dynamo very early Thursday.

Record-breaking forward Carlos Vela hoisted the Shield in front of his teammates, as LAFC became the 13th different MLS team to finish with the most points in the league.

Vela was joined on the score sheet by Diego Rossi and Eduard Atuesta, as LAFC improved 68 points with two matches to play.

New York City FC had pulled to 61 points earlier in the evening but now maxes out at 67.

LAFC had folks clamoring to call it the best in league history before claiming just four points from the last five matches prior to Houston, but can still break two records.

They need four points from their final two matches to break New York Red Bulls’ one-season old record of 71, which broke Toronto FC’s one-year-old record of 69.

Their 2.12 points per game is level with the 1998 LA Galaxy. LAFC finishes up with a trip to Minnesota and visit from Colorado, and will finish behind the Galaxy with any other than two wins.

Individually, Carlos Vela has 30 goals and can match or pass Josef Martinez’s one-year-old record of 31.