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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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Mark Cavendish: Two men jailed over knifepoint robbery of cycling star and wife Peta at their home | News News

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Mark Cavendish and his wife Peta were victims of a knifepoint robbery at their home in November 2021

Mark Cavendish and his wife Peta were victims of a knifepoint robbery at their home in November 2021

Two men have been jailed for robbing Olympic cyclist Mark Cavendish and his wife Peta of their high-value watches in a knifepoint raid at their home.

Intruders wearing balaclavas broke into their home in Ongar, Essex at about 2.30am on November 27, 2021 and threatened to stab the athlete, a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court heard.

They took items including two Richard Mille watches with a combined value of £700,000.

Romario Henry, 31, of Bell Green, Lewisham, south-east London, denied two counts of robbery but was found guilty following a trial and sentenced on Tuesday to 15 years in prison.

Ali Sesay, 28, of Holding Street, Rainham, Kent, admitted two counts of robbery and was jailed for 12 years.

“This was serious organised crime,” Judge David Turner KC told the defendants as he sentenced them. “This was no run-of-the-mill domestic burglary by opportunist amateurs.

“This was planned, targeted, orchestrated, ruthless offending aimed at an internationally known sportsman and his wife who happened to be brand ambassadors for exceptionally valuable Richard Mille watches.”

The trial was told that Sesay’s DNA was found on Mrs Cavendish’s phone, which was taken and found outside the property.

The charges were that the accused men robbed Cavendish of a watch, phone and safe, and robbed his wife of a watch, phone and suitcase.

Mrs Cavendish, who like her husband was naked during the robbery, had told jurors she had heard a noise that woke her in the night and went downstairs to investigate.

She said she could see “men’s figures in balaclavas, and they were running towards the bottom of the stairs”, and that she believed there were “between three and five” people.

Court artist sketch of Peta Cavendish giving evidence, watched by Judge David Turner, at Chelmsford Crown Court

Court artist sketch of Peta Cavendish giving evidence, watched by Judge David Turner, at Chelmsford Crown Court

She told the court she ran back to the bedroom shouting “get back” or “get in” to her husband, who was unable to activate a panic alarm.

Mrs Cavendish said one of the intruders “dragged” Cavendish “from his feet and started punching him”.

One had her husband in a headlock, she said, adding: “One of them held a large black knife to his throat and they said ‘where’s the watches?’ and ‘do you want me to stab you?”‘. She agreed with a suggestion that it was a Rambo-style knife.

Mrs Cavendish said that at the time her husband had been “out of hospital for four days, maybe” after a cycling crash which left him with three broken ribs and a tear to his left lung.

She said that when she went downstairs after the intruders had left, she saw that a patio door was smashed, and Cavendish cut his feet on the broken glass.

Edward Renvoize, prosecuting, said Henry had a previous conviction for supplying drugs in 2012, and for perverting the course of justice in 2013 by “assisting in burning out a vehicle that had been used in a murder as part of a gang enterprise”.

Archangelo Power, for Henry, said the defendant’s brother had been murdered three and a half months before the robbery and that had a “significant bearing on the psychological make-up of the defendant”. Mr Power said Henry had been “on the verge of committing suicide”.

Mark Cavendish and his wife had high-value watches stolen in the robbery

Mark Cavendish and his wife had high-value watches stolen in the robbery

Mr Renvoize said that Sesay had admitted at an earlier hearing to six unrelated firearms offences over the possession of two guns and ammunition, when he had been prohibited by a previous sentence from possessing such items.

The prosecutor said Sesay was arrested at an address in Thornton Heath, south London, on December 16 2021 and officers “had to use a chainsaw to gain access” and saw items, later found to be firearms, being thrown from a window to a neighbouring garden.

The judge jailed Sesay for eight years for the firearms offences, consecutive to the 12-year prison sentence for the robbery, making a total of 20 years. The judge said Sesay had previous convictions including for supply of cocaine and heroin in 2017.

Graeme Molloy, for Sesay, said the defendant was “truly sorry for his role” in the robbery and had admitted his involvement.

Speaking about the firearms offences, Mr Molloy said Sesay claimed the guns were not his but that he had thrown them from the window. Mr Molloy said the guns “were loaded but the cartridge wasn’t in the firing chamber”.

Jurors were told that two other men, Jo Jobson, from Plaistow, east London, and George Goddard, from Loughton in Essex, have been named as suspects in the robbery but have not been apprehended. Jobson was 25 and Goddard 26 at the time of a police appeal last March.

Oludewa Okorosobo, 28, of Flaxman Road, Camberwell, south London, denied two counts of robbery and was cleared by jurors after a trial.





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Eagles’ Nick Sirianni asked if Super Bowl is a ‘must win’ game

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Gotta be a gag, right?

Gotta be a gag, right?
Image: Getty Images

In the Eagles’ Nick Sirianni’s first Super Bowl as a head coach, he experienced one of the true jewels of Super Bowl week: Being asked one of the most ridiculous questions that he will ever hear.

One of the best things that the NFL does is credential almost any and everybody for the artist formerly known as Super Bowl Media Day. Of course no dollar can be left on the table, so since 2016 it has been a Monday primetime event known as Super Bowl Opening Night.

Fortunately, even though the day and name has changed, the spirit of the event remains the same. Some head-shaking questions are asked out of ignorance. Others are from someone trying to be the class clown in a large group.

There has been no Opening Night for the previous two Super Bowls due to the pandemic. The evening was back in full effect on Monday night, and somebody came out swinging. From somewhere in the scrum of people on the floor at the Footprint Center, someone asked the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles if the Super Bowl was a must-win game.

Someone asked what?

The championship game. The final game of the season. The highest rated broadcast on the American television calendar. The game that Rihanna has decided to take her jersey down from rafters and — while worth a billion dollars and also a new mom — spend time rehearsing to perform at.

Sirianni was able to keep a straight face and quickly move past might either the most asinine or possibly the most hilarious question that will be asked all evening

If the person who asked this is mocking the event, then by all means continue. Ask Jalen Hurts if he is happy that the Eagles won the NFC. Maybe ask Travis Kelce if he knows how to spell his last name. Or even better, ask Patrick Mahomes if State Farm truly is the best choice for car insurance.

Either make an artistic display with silly questions, or be escorted out by security. If you’re going to waste peoples’ time at least do it with a sense of humor.



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Chelsea FC: Brilliant Badiashile leading way for new signings as Thiago Silva partnership blossoms

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C

helsea have not conceded a goal in the first 270 minutes that Benoit Badiashile has been on the pitch since his £35million move from Monaco.

His promising early form at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will hope, hint at better times to come through their new signings.

The arrival of French centre-back Badiashile at the start of last month kick-started a record January spending spree of more than £300m.

After Chelsea were sent spiralling into crisis with defeats by Manchester City and Fulham, Badiashile made his debut in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.

After the Blues claimed a further two clean sheets in 0-0 draws away at Liverpool and at home to Fulham, he is building an impressive partnership with Thiago Silva.

Impressive start: Benoit Badiashile has formed a promising partnership with Thiago Silva

/ Getty Images

Badiashile was one of five new signings to feature in Friday’s 0-0 draw with Fulham. He started alongside £106.8m Enzo Fernandez, who started well but faded over 90 minutes, £89.5m Mykhailo Mudryk, who struggled over 45 minutes while carrying a cold, and £30m Noni Madueke, who was bright after being brought on at half-time.

“What a waste of money” was the regular chant from the Fulham fans in the away end.

That felt harsh in Badiashile’s case. With his size and speed, he looks like a perfect partner for 38-year-old veteran Silva.

In addition, he showed the ability to play brilliantly out of Fulham’s well-drilled press and he coped in his duels against Aleksandar Mitrovic.

There is still adaption to be done, as Graham Potter barked instructions about his positioning in relation to Silva.

However, using French to communicate with the former Paris Saint-Germain captain, Badiashile has helped steady the ship in the absence of the injured Wesley Fofana, and with Kalidou Koulibaly out of form.

While still only averaging just 1.05 goals per game in the Premier League, Chelsea will draw more than they win unless their new midfielders and forwards step up.

Arriving in the weeks after Badiashile, the likes of Fernandez, Joao Felix, Mudryk and Madueke have not had as much time to adapt to their surroundings.

With Chelsea still in 10th place and increasingly falling behind in the race to qualify for Europe, they must follow Badiashile’s lead and hit the ground running before time runs out.



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