Copa Libertadores, Round of 16: Tijuana squanders chance vs. Palmeiras

By Kyle McCarthy

Club Tijuana managed to keep its unblemished home record in the Copa Libertadores intact with a 0-0 draw against Palmeiras on Tuesday night, but the Xolos squandered its invitation to take control of this round of 16 tie.

The home side kept its nerve for the most part and threatened occasionally after an indifferent start to the match. It did not, however, possess the sharpness required to make the best use of its advantage at Estadio Caliente.

The lack of investment in this side prior to this Libertadores campaign and the suspect form over the past few weeks told once again in the final third. Fidel Martinez lashed wide from a promising position at the top of the penalty area after 25 minutes to signal Tijuana’s improvement after a tentative opening period. Fernando Arce subsequently forced Bruno to tip his free kick over the bar, while Alfredo Moreno and Duvier Riascos both wasted good opportunities to open the scoring before the interval.

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US U-20s defeat Costa Rica, inch closer to World Cup berth


By: Kyle McCarthy

The United States’ U-20s will face either Canada or Nicaragua for a place in the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup after securing a straightforward 1-0 victory over Costa Rica on Friday night.

Jose Villarreal notched the winner with a majestic header shortly after the hour mark to seal top spot in Group A. The triumph ensured the Americans must dispatch either the Canadians or the Nicaraguans in the CONCACAF U-20 quarterfinals on Tuesday night to claim one of the four available berths to the showcase in Turkey later this year.

Although the likely date against Canada presents a difficult challenge, the Americans will enter that match in the wake of an improved performance from the display offered in the 2-1 win over Haiti on Monday. As the U.S. starts to prepare for the do-or-die clash on Tuesday night, here are three points worth noting from the final fixture in Group A:


1. US coach Tab Ramos and his players spent the past four days working on possession: Ramos made four changes (including both fullbacks) and preached the need to keep the ball against the Costa Ricans. His players heeded those directives. The back four looked more solid with a pair of natural fullbacks on the field. The midfield dictated the proceedings and moved the ball around more freely. The forwards checked back often enough to provide an outlet. The entire deportment and structure provided the side with a firmer foundation to search for the result.

2. The emphasis on keeping the ball blunted the American attack: The revamped approach did not produce an enthralling match. Neither side increased the tempo to the level required to carve out opportunities. In the match against Haiti, the Americans sidestepped their dearth of creativity by relying on quick movements through midfield. The slow cadence of the game restricted those openings in this affair and shifted the emphasis to free kicks and set pieces.

3. One well-taken chance decided the affair: Villarreal separated the teams after 63 minutes by exploiting slack set piece defending from the Costa Ricans. As the Costa Rica defense watched Luis Gil’s looping corner kick drop at the far post, the LA Galaxy forward climbed over everyone and thumped his header toward the far post. In this dour contest, it only took one predatory piece of finishing – and, admittedly, a save from Cody Cropper and the intervention of the crossbar after that juncture – to secure top spot in Group A.


Five Points to Watch: MLS Conference Championships 2nd Leg

By: Kyle McCarthy

Two teams will book their places at MLS Cup by the end of Sunday. Houston and Los Angeles hold the advantage heading into the pair of second-leg affairs, but D.C. United and Seattle will hope to overturn their current deficits on home soil. Here are five points to watch ahead of the decisive affairs:

1. Health concerns create questions: A stretch of four or five games in the span of three weeks takes its toll. D.C. United is in the worst shape at the moment (Chris Pontius’ groin injury is a bitter blow, while Brandon McDonald and Marcelo Saragosa must also recuperate quickly), but there are also concerns in Houston (Calen Carr, Ricardo Clark, Adam Moffat and Jermaine Taylor), Los Angeles (Edson Buddle, A.J. DeLaGarza and Juninho) and Seattle (Leo Gonzalez and Mauro Rosales). A season-ending encounter isn’t the ideal time to test depth, but the circumstances afford few other choices at this juncture.

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