5
Mar

USA fail to impress in 2-0 exhibition loss to Ukraine

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The United States men’s national team slumped to the occasion in their 2-0 loss to Ukraine in a friendly marred by circumstances on Wednesday. Goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Devic dealt Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad a harsh blow in a wholly deserved loss. It was the final game in which Klinsmann had his European-based players at his disposal before convening his World Cup camp in mid-May, and he cannot have been pleased with what he saw.

"This game helped us a lot to see where individual players are, collectively where we stand with this group of players," Klinsmann said on ESPN after the match. "Obviously we had to form a couple of new things there, starting from the back line — and you could see that, that they never played together that much."

His motley USA side, comprised of a few regulars and a slew of players on the bubble, were outsmarted by a cunning Ukrainian side. Knowing full-well where the Americans were weak, Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka tore their flanks to shreds while the high defensive line was pelted with through balls.

The tentative American defense let the Ukrainians stroll through its line several times early on. In the 12th minute, a simple ball over the top caught the central defensive pairing of Oguchi Onyewu and John Brooks well out of position. That put Denys Harmash through on Tim Howard’s goal by himself. The American goalkeeper made a fine stop on his attempt, but Harmash coolly collected the rebound and laid it wide for Yarmolenko for him to pass the ball into the net.

Just a few minutes later, the Americans were caught out again on a clever play off a Ukrainian corner, but they were saved by a possibly erroneous offside call that time – Alejandro Bedoya actually appeared to keep the play onside. Sloppy and unimaginative in possession, the Yanks produced just two attacks of note in the entire first half. On the first, goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov alertly picked off the cross; on the second, Edgar Castillo’s cross wasn’t quite right and cleared. And they would give away several more fat chances, which a more incisive opponent might have punished, before the halftime whistle brought a respite.

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15
Aug

Ecuador-Spain friendly stopped in 11th minute to honor Christian Benitez

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Getty Image

Two weeks after the tragic passing of Christian Benitez due to cardiorespiratory arrest, the Ecuadorian national team took the field again for a friendly against Spain. To pay tribute to the prolific former Club America striker, both teams halted play in the 11th minute as fans cheered the memory of their former Number 11.

In addition, Ecuador’s players took the field with black ribbons sewed onto their jerseys, with some wearing shirts depicting an image of Benitez. One player, as you can see in the video, even had “Chucho,” Benitez’s nickname, shaved in his head. A giant Benitez jersey was also unfurled in the stands, inscribed with hundreds, if not thousands of messages and signatures.

It’s one of those moments that truly transcend the sport, and you could see both the anguish and pride of the Ecuadorians as they took a minute to honor one of their own:

Rest in peace, Christian.

9
Aug

Fan pays $15K to play in professional match, doesn’t last ten minutes

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Image via Macclesfield Express

James Gorfin probably imagined it differently in his dreams.

After Gorfin ponied up £10,000 for a chance to play in a real match with his hometown club Macclesfield Town, the local businessman was forced off the pitch with a groin injury just nine minutes into his “debut.”

Way to get your money’s worth, man.

Playing in the club’s preseason friendly against Stoke City, Gorfin — whose wife and kids were cheering him on from the stands — hurt himself while, actually, having a very real goal-scoring opportunity. The trialist was running into the box and came mere inches away from toe-poking home a dangerous low cross. Unfortunately, he over-stretched his groin in the process and had to be subbed off thereafter. Watch:

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4
Jun

Neymar gets “Blessed” tattoo to celebrate joining Barcelona

Images via @barcastuff

To celebrate his move from Santos to Barcelona, Neymar decided to get a tattoo to let everyone know just how he feels. Before Brazil’s international friendly vs. England, the 21-year old had the word “blessed” tattooed below his neck.

Let’s hope the stay at the Nou Camp goes well to avoid any nasty ink removal procedures.

2
Jun

Fail: Germany Keepers terrible own goal vs USA

The U.S. men’s national team better remember to send a thank you card to Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The keeper gave the USMNT an absolute gift of an own goal with this terrible effort in the first half of their friendly match.

Facing pressure from the U.S. midfielders, Benedikt Howedes sent a back pass to ter Stegen but the young keeper misplayed the ball worse than anyone could have imagined. The ball slipped past him to give the U.S. their second goal of the half en route to a 4-3 victory over Germany.

Manuel Neuer can rest assured that no one will be taking his starting keeper spot for Germany any time soon.