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USMNT faces Mexico in World Cup qualifier

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Christian Pulisic

Christian Pulisic
Photo: Getty Images

Right off the bat, I know all the logic the US might keep something in reserve tonight at the Azteca vs. Mexico. The USMNT has not been able to thread the three-matches-in-seven days windows all that well. The Panama game is the real crunch one of the three this time, as a win there basically guarantees qualification (though not totally). And the Panama match is the one in the middle, which is the one the US has struggled with the most (tie with Canada, loss to Panama, loss to Canada). Playing at altitude and in the air you can chew in the Azteca can leave any player feeling it for the next week, much less the next couple days when the US will play again. Thanks to injuries, whatever depth the US had to begin with (not much) has been eroded even more. Asking players to go 90 minutes twice in four days, including the toll it takes to get through a match at the Azteca, is asking for a host of problems come Sunday in Orlando. Have to keep your eyes on the big picture and all that.

Well I’m here to say…Fuck. That.

First off, as mentioned already, simply three points against Panama on Sunday isn’t a full guarantee of passage to Qatar by itself. The US probably needs a point or more somewhere else. And while Gregg Berhalter was seemingly already prepping the ground for something of a bypass of this match against Mexico, citing the US’ record in Mexico City, you know where it’s worse? Costa Rica. Which is the last game of qualifying.

Gregg, do you really want it all to come down to getting a point out of San Jose? Which the US hasn’t done? Yes, this Costa Rican team is terrible, and the US already thwacked them once already. But still, the US thwacked Mexico too at home, so why is that the one you just let go of the rope for?

Conversely, the US has drawn its last two qualifiers at the Azteca, and was a Christian Pulisic injury time shot just on the wrong side of the post from winning the last one. Even just a draw tonight and a win Sunday and that’s it, you’re in. But you can’t get a draw by playing for one, generally.

Second, this Mexico team is ass and is there for the taking. Which would make it sobering that the US remains tied with them on points in this qualifying cycle, but Mexico isn’t undergoing a complete remaking of their squad as the US is. Perhaps it should. This Mexican side is old, not particularly quick, hates its manager, and seemingly has a mental block when it comes to this US side, losing the last three matches. It’s not even going to be a full Azteca, with capacity capped at 40K instead of the usual 100,000 causing that deafening beehive sound and tossing bags of their own piss. And it wouldn’t take much to get that 40,000 to turn on its own side early. They’re pretty much waiting to do so, given how this qualifying journey has gone for them.

Canada walked into the Azteca, having never done anything there before, and bossed the game and kicked around Mexico. Sure, it ended 1-1, and yes, Canada is a more cohesive unit right now than both of these teams. But come on, if Canada can do it. Panama, apparently the monster everything has to be planned around Sunday, got a draw at the Azteca in this cycle. You’re either a big dog or you’re not.

Third, it’s hard to kick up a gear when you start in second or third. You can’t take a laissez-faire attitude to open this window and then think you can just ratchet up to fifth gear on Sunday simply because you want to. The chance of installing a malaise for all three games is too high.

Again, I know the problems. Gio Reyna can’t possibly get 90 minutes twice in four days. Christian Pulisic’s hamstrings probably can’t stand up to that either. They have no Brendan Aaronson, or Weston McKennie, or Sergino Dest. Tyler Adams is a yellow card away from suspension, they still don’t have a viable replacement for him. Which means I’m going to have to see more Kellyn Acosta than I’d like. But so help you, Gregg Berhalter, if you roll out of that tunnel in the Azteca with Paul Arriola and Jordan Morris as your wide forwards…

There are few things as an aging sports fan that I haven’t experienced yet. This is one of them. I haven’t seen the US beat Mexico in Mexico in an official match. And this is probably the last chance. There won’t be a qualifying process for the 2026 World Cup, because both countries are hosting the thing. After that, when there are 48 teams in the World Cup, and CONCACAF gets five or six spots or more instead of the three and a half now, the qualifying system could be anything. There might not be US-Mexico matches. There probably won’t be a Hex or an Octo, and we’ll have another cutesy term for whatever system is used.

I need this, Gregg. We all do. This team wants it. For as disjointed and weird and promising and infuriating as they’ve been, you’ve always had their attention against Mexico. Telling them this match won’t matter would be a pretty awkward message. And this is after you put them through a match in a meat locker for no reason. You think you draw that much water with them?

Win this, and then you’ve got a foot in Qatar, maybe more. You’ve got a signature win to justify your existence, Gregg. You don’t take a dive in front of your greatest rival unless you have the cushion to do so, which you don’t. And if you need to be at absolute full strength to beat Panama at home, there are bigger problems.

You don’t have to go hell-bent for leather from the opening whistle, Mr. Berhalter. You can be smart about it, keeping something in reserve until the 60th minute or so if you choose. But you can’t get to the 60th minute behind Sands and Roldan and Arriola and Morris. You’ve gotten in trouble when you’ve eschewed swagger and natural instinct for your logic and planning. That’s why that Canada match was so hard to watch. That’s why you put your charges through a freezer just to beat fucking Honduras.

Don’t overthink this. Go out there and kick Mexico’s ass again, because it’s there to be kicked. You want to talk all that trash about “man in the mirror” and how you’re the equal? Go out and show it. I know the math. I don’t care. Give us this. Give yourself this, and figure out the rest later. We’re Americans, after all. We don’t care about the long term. We want it now.





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Women’s League Cup round-up: Birmingham City upset Brighton, West Ham held by London City Lionesses | Football News

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Birmingham City caused an upset in the Women’s League Cup by beating top-tier Brighton in the first round.

Libby Smith scored the opener before Jade Pennock then made it two shortly after the break.

Brighton pulled a goal back through Lee Geum-Min but Lucy Quinn extended Birmingham’s lead once again.

Danielle Carter added an 89th-minute penalty but it proved to be only a consultation as the Championship side picked up the three points.

Brynjarsdottir spares West Ham’s blushes

Meanwhile, West Ham picked up two points after beating London City Lionesses in a penalty shootout

West Ham had looked on course for defeat but a last-minute equaliser from Dagny Brynjarsdottir spared their blushes and salvaged a draw.

And after the 2-2 draw, the Hammers secured an additional point with a 10-9 penalty shootout win.

Wins for Spurs and Liverpool

In an all-WSL affair, Tottenham beat Reading 2-1 thanks to goals from Ashleigh Neville and Nikola Karczewska.

Elsewhere, Leicester beat Blackburn 3-0 and Liverpool secured a 1-0 win against Sunderland.

Durham and Sheffield United shared the spoils after a thrilling 3-3 draw with Durham picking up the additional point, winning the penalty shootout.

In Sunday’s other games, Lewes beat Charlton, Bristol City secured a 4-0 win at home to Crystal Palace and Coventry United defeated Southampton.





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Cardinals’ J.J. Watt plans to play just days after having his heart shocked back into rhythm

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JJ Watt says he’s playing Sunday, just days after having his heart shocked back into rhythm.

JJ Watt says he’s playing Sunday, just days after having his heart shocked back into rhythm.
Image: Getty Images

Arizona Cardinals’ defensive end J.J. Watt posted an alarming Tweet Sunday morning just hours before kickoff of the team’s game on the east coast against the Carolina Panthers. Watt stated that some news about him had been leaked and was going to be reported today. Immediately, most who caught this tweet were probably racking their brains and thinking, ok, what happened? From there, Watt went on to explain the following.

“I went into A-Fib on Wednesday, had my heart shocked back into rhythm on Thursday, and I’m playing today. That’s it.”

Wow! I don’t think anyone expected to hear that about Watt. Everyone is relieved that Watt is out of the hospital and seemingly “alright,” but the fact that he plans to play in this game today only four days after having his heart shocked back into rhythm is scary.

If the Cardinals won’t do it, someone from the league office or the NFLPA needs to step in and force him to sit this game out. After what we’ve seen in the past week, with Tua Tagovailoa suffering two concussions in less than five days, Watt needs to be held out of Arizona’s game today.

No, Watt didn’t sustain an injury to his head, but his heart was shocked so it would work properly. Even if Watt was cleared by his own independent doctor, precautions should be taken just in case. Yes, it’s football, we know that, and everybody is tough. You have to be tough to make it in the NFL, but these players also need protection from themselves regarding their health. It doesn’t matter if atrial fibrillation isn’t “considered” too serious. Take extra precautionary measures and be careful.

Last week, during coverage of the Tua incidents, multiple former NFL players were asked about head injuries along with others and if they’d ever lied to get back into a game. The answer was a resounding YES. Former Patriots and Chargers All-Pro safety Rodney Harrison went on Dan Patrick’s show and admitted to lying about head injuries and others. Harrison says he lied every time he had an injury to continue playing.

Rodney Harrison Discusses Tua’s Injury, Shares How Often He Lied About Injuries | 09/30/22

Patrick also told a story about Steelers legend Hines Ward grabbing his ankle after getting his “bell rung” because he didn’t want to come out of a game. It doesn’t matter if it’s the head or the heart. If it involves either, that player should be further evaluated and forced to sit out a game. We can’t continue to gamble with these guys’ lives.

If Watt ends up playing at 4:05 p.m., it could be the biggest story of the day on the heels of what happened with Tagovailoa over the last week. Left up to them, NFL players will choose to play virtually every time. The league doesn’t want bad PR, yet they continue to invite it at every turn.

The NFL is too concerned about trivial matters like players celebrating or not wearing the “correct” socks. The league fined Lions running back Jamaal Williams for a touchdown dance last week that may have been a little too provocative for their liking. A player can be put in harm’s way after clearly looking concussed and allowed to play a few days later, but heavens forbid a black player offends their audience by swiveling his hips after scoring, à la Ravishing Rick Rude. The NFL needs to be more concerned with the well-being of its players and protecting them as they claim.

Hopefully, someone steps in and talks some sense into Watt or takes the decision out of his hands.





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F1: Sergio Perez wins hectic Singapore Grand Prix as Max Verstappen misses first chance to seal title

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A heavy downpour 30 minutes before the scheduled start time led to an hour-long delay and the first wet start in Singapore since 2017 – when a first corner crash wiped out a Red Bull and two Ferraris, including title contender Sebastian Vettel.

There was no such flying debris at the start this time around but still drama aplenty as Perez leapt past pole-sitter Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton lost out to Carlos Sainz for third.

Verstappen, starting eighth, found himself bogged down off the line and had only recovered to ninth when a safety car was required on lap eight.

Nicholas Latifi, recently confirmed to not be staying in F1 next season, squeezed Guanyu Zhou, who is, into the wall at Turn 5 and both were forced to retire.

Verstappen was quickly up to seventh at the restart before Fernando Alonso, in his record-breaking 350th start, put up stout resistance for his next overtake.

Alas, the Spanish veteran’s Alpine could not match its driver’s longevity and his engine blew on lap 21. A string of virtual safety cars was then began with Alex Albon hitting the wall shortly after the green flag and Esteban Ocon’s engine popping once racing had resumed once more.

The prime time to swap to slick tyres began to dominate thinking as the second hour began on the two-hour limit, with 61 laps a far too ambitious total (perhaps even in the dry).

Hamilton, pushing Sainz for third, came in too hot at Turn 7 and headed straight into the barrier. Fortunately for the Brit, the damage was merely a broken front wing and he clambered out between the sparring Lando Norris and Verstappen.

Moments later, the trigger was pulled by the remaining cars (George Russell aside, who while struggling from a pit-lane start leapt for slicks far too early) and Hamilton was left in ninth place.

Yuki Tsunoda became the sixth retiree after sticking his AlphaTauri in the barrier fresh on Medium tyres, prompting a second full safety car and the fifth interruption to an already-delayed race.

Verstappen, who could have won the title in Singapore had a series of events gone drastically different, locked up lunging at Norris for fourth place and darted down the escape road. Having to pit, he was last for a brief moment before Russell suffered a puncture when giving Mick Schumacher a bump as he overtook the German.

Finally, with half an hour to go, a proper race for the lead broke out. Now on slicks, Leclerc dragged Perez into his crosshairs.

Singapore’s propensity for being a tough circuit to overtake at helped the Mexican survive an onslaught from the Ferrari but Leclerc began to make errors and Perez broke DRS to build out a comfortable lead.

Red Bull came into the weekend with some hope of crowning Verstappen as champion at the chequered flag but it instead heralded a second win of the season for Perez, with a lowly finish of seventh for the championship leader reducing his chances of getting the job done in Japan next week, too.



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