13
Dec

Liga MX Apertura Final: Leon defeats Club America in first leg clash

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Club León took a substantive step toward its sixth title with a 2-0 victory over holders Club América in the first leg of the Liga MX Apertura final on Thursday night.

Carlos Peña opened the scoring inside the opening quarter of an hour to offer León a tangible foothold from its fine first half display. América responded after the interval, but Mauro Boselli sumptuously chipped home the critical second in the final 15 minutes to secure a positive result at the Nou Camp.

The margin of victory affords León a modest cushion ahead of the second leg at Estadio Azteca on Sunday night. América possess ample motivation – the prospect of a record 12th title in Miguel Herrera’s final game in charge – to overturn the deficit. Las Águilas’ formidable home record in Mexico City offers hope of procuring the result required to claim a second championship in succession, but there is still plenty of work ahead for the holders.

Both teams will spend the next two days recovering before the return leg in the capital on Sunday. They will assess a few of the key points — including the five to follow here — as they plot their path to the summit of Mexican soccer.

1. León stamps its intent early: The home side grasped control of the first half from the outset. The back-and-forth tempo encouraged León to push numbers forward and unsettle América’s back five. América plays directly and quickly, but the cadence of the early stages moved too quickly for the holders. León used that brisk pace to create chances and eventually prompt the opening goal.

2. Peña imposes his will: Peña exposed Herrera’s decision to name both Osvaldo Martínez and Rubens Sambueza in his midfield three with his tireless industry in the center of the park. His relentless work piled pressure on América every time he touched the ball. His work on the opening goal — seeing a loose clearance from a corner kick, sprinting to the ball in front of his man and thumping it past Moisés Muñoz from the edge of the penalty area — neatly captured his considerable contributions on the evening.

3. América responds after the break: Herrera motivated his side at the interval and watched his players improve substantially at the star of the second half. By obtaining more of the ball and using it more judiciously, The visitors prevented León from turning the match into a track meet once more. The improved width and the reinforced work through the middle created opportunities. Martínez even forced a good save from the unsteady William Yarbrough on a half-volley. It just didn’t lead to the goal required to consolidate after such a promising spell.

4. Boselli punishes América for its inability to grab the equalizer: The second goal came from a typically determined Peña run through the middle. Maza Rodríguez intervened and tackled the ball straight into Boselli’s path. The former Wigan striker allowed the ball to slide all the way across his body before he clipped it neatly over Munoz for the second. His precise display of skill rescued an otherwise mundane half for León and sent the home side into a promising position.

5. León might rue the chances squandered in the final stages: América buckled in the wake of Boselli’s goal. León perked up considerably given the additional impetus. It nearly caught Muñoz out on one or two occasions, but a backward header from an unsuspecting Rodríguez glanced over the bar in the waning seconds of the game. The difference between a two-goal and a three-goal deficit is a substantial one. If América storms out as expected on Sunday evening, then León might lament its inability to kill off this tie on home soil.

22
Nov

Argentinian football violence makes Lionel Messi cry

Look what you’ve done, Argentina. You’ve made your own captain cry.

Oh, the humanity!

As followers of the FOX Soccer Blog, you are all aware of the frightening amount of violent footage that comes out of Argentina. So in an effort to advocate  against hooliganism, the Lionel Messi Foundation released this video for their “No One Wins” campaign.

The video shows real, actual tears of Messi’s, inter-cut with images of the fan violence that has pestered the country in recent years.

If anything can put a stop to the madness, it’s a sobbing Messi.

17
Jul

Copa Libertadores Preview: Ronaldinho seeks elusive club title

By Kyle McCarthy, FOXSoccer.com

Ronaldinho returned to Brazil with one rather glaring omission from his staggering list of honors. And now the Copa Libertadores is within his grasp.

The veteran schemer will lead Atlético Mineiro into uncharted territory in Asuncion on Wednesday night. Both he and his club hope to emerge triumphant in this competition for the first time at the end of this two-legged tie. It will not prove an easy brief to fulfill with three-time champions Olimpia standing in the way of Libertadores glory.

“We have no greater wish than to bring the title to Atlético,” Ronaldinho Tweeted on Monday.

Atlético enters the final as slight favorites after engineering a great escape in the second leg against Newell’s Old Boys in the semifinals a week ago. Guilherme struck in the sixth minute of stoppage time to draw level on points in the series. Ronaldinho then converted the winning penalty to ensure Galo booked its place in the final.

The ample talent with Atlético’s ranks – including Brazilian internationals Bernard (expected to depart for a major European club after this tie concludes), Jô and Réver – warrants significant attention, but the Paraguayan outfit possesses the resolve to create significant problems for its lauded competition. Olimpia proved its mettle by securing its place in the final with a 1-0 defeat against Independiente Santa Fe in Colombia last Wednesday and underscored its ability to claim the title by holding out under significant duress in the waning stages of that affair.

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Ronaldinho seeks his first Copa Libertadores title (Photo: Victor R Caivano/AP Images).

Ever Almeida’s side must produce similar heroics over these two legs to set the stage for another Libertadores triumph in these trying circumstances. The contrast in styles – Atlético with its array of attacking weapons, Olimpia with its reliance on organization and shape – presents the possibility for an intriguing final if the two sides play to their strengths over the two legs.

Those technical concerns, however, fall well down the pecking order of priorities for the former Barcelona star. His focus – as always – remains on the overriding objective and the prospect of adding this elusive title to his protracted level of success.

22
Jun

Trecker’s Brazilian Travels: Unknown Utopia

Photo: Jamie Trecker/FOX Soccer

By Jamie Trecker, FOXSoccer.com

OLINDA, BRAZIL

The gunship flew low over the beach, heading north to Recife’s Derby Square. The protests would soon start, blocking the bridges in this city and snarling traffic to and from the set of interconnected islands.

Recife is a strange city. For two blocks along the coastline, you could be in Miami or Santa Monica, albeit with far fewer strip malls. But walk a block further inland, and you are in the favelas. Crossing the Avenue Domingos Ferreira puts you into a different city altogether. Here, the streets are unpaved, there are no windows on the cinderblock shanties, and laundry flaps from the telephone lines. There is sewage in the street, and the residents collect rainwater to wash in.

The city makes its money on tourism and textiles, and lately, it hasn’t been doing much of either. The beaches here, from Pina to Boa Viagem and beyond, have been virtually empty. The vendors who patrol up and down the sands have found few takers for the buckets of shrimp on their shoulders. The umbrella chairs were empty, and there was but one set of players on the vast tennis courts that stretch up and down the boardwalk. The beach soccer field was flooded, a product of the prior week’s rains.

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12
Jun

Trecker’s Brazilian Travels, Day 1: Appropriate starting point

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Photo: Jamie Trecker / FOX Soccer

By Jamie Trecker

BRASILIA, BRAZIL

Dawn. The city lies below the 757, an outpost on a craggy steppe. It looks like a toy, or maybe a prop until the plane descends further. The arcs of the city form two giant wings – or perhaps Orion, clutching a bow and firing an arrow toward Brazil’s coast.

Brasilia was to be Brazil’s great leap: a city that erupted whole cloth,  perfectly planned. It was to be a utopia of sorts, but it is not. It is, however, an architectural marvel, a modernist edifice that fifty years after its construction has the power to shock and amaze. It is also one of the places I had always wanted to visit.

I’m here because the Confederations Cup, something of a modernist construct itself, will kickoff here this Saturday. There is a lot of pressure on the hosts both on and off the field. Brazil’s staging of the 2014 World Cup has been somewhat star-crossed; budgets have been blown, strikes have been waged, protestors have marched and there is a weary sense that the government funds have been looted by this tournament.

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23
May

Copa Libertadores Quarterfinal: Club Tijuana 2, Atletico Mineiro 2

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Photo Credit: Francisco Vega

By Kyle McCarthy

Everything proceeded according to plan for Club Tijuana for the opening hour of the 2-2 home draw with Atlético Mineiro in the first leg of their Copa Libertadores quarterfinal tie.

Xolos manager Antonio Mohamed watched his side expose and unsettle a Mineiro side visibly uncomfortable with the unique task presented at Estadio Caliente. The home side asserted control over the proceedings early in the match (Mohamed’s unexpected switch to a 3-4-3 at the outset and the subsequent return to the normal 4-3-3 after 25 minutes or so helped a great deal) and piled the pressure on the visitors.

It eventually told. Duvier Riascos handed Tijuana a deserved opener after 32 minutes. Fidel Martínez doubled the lead at the back post inside the first 10 minutes at the second half. And the Xolos looked like they would take a comfortable and ultimately necessary advantage to Brazil ahead of the second leg.

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7
Mar

Fan violence reared its ugly head in Latin America once again as Palmeiras supporters attacked club players at an airport following the team’s 1-0 Copa Bridgestone Libertadores loss to Tigre.

Prass had to be treated for cuts to his head and ear, but no one was seriously hurt in the altercation before the team’s return to Brazil. Palmeiras said three fans were detained in Argentina but were later released.

”They threw a cup at Valdivia and it hit me,” Prass said through his Twitter account. ”I got three stitches in the head and a cut in my ear.”