By DAN KARELL
With several starters being rested, another player stepped up to record a man-of-the-match performance for the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team.
In the third match of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Honduras, the U.S. U-17s routed Guatemala U-17s, 4-1, with winger Josh Perez scoring a first half hat-trick to lead the USA. The win keeps the U.S. atop Group A with nine points.
Even with seven changes in the starting lineup from their last match, the U.S. U-17s needed only 10 minutes to get on the scoreboard.
When taking a free kick from the right side of the field, the left-footed Perez noticed Guatemala goalkeeper Gilder Lemus was off his line. Perez then curled an effort towards the near post that snuck just past Lemus for a goal.
By IVES GALARCEP
With the MLS Players Union and league officials agreeing on a new CBA, and a strike being averted, it’s time to continue previewing the 2015 MLS season on the latest episode of The SBI Show.
Episode 195 of The SBI Show looked back at the CBA deal, which left fans excited, but many players unhappy with the deal eventually settled on. We discuss the gains earned by the players, and the risks included in the deal.
Co-host Garrett Cleverly and I also provide our Western Conference preview, as we both rank the teams in the West.
SBI senior writer Franco Panizo joins us as we all make our predictions for the 2015 season’s MLS awards and MLS Cup winner.
Give Episode 195 of The SBI Show a listen after the jump:
Photo by Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports
By RYAN TOLMICH
Following lengthy negotiations that threatened to derail the start of the season, Major League Soccer is set to kick off this weekend with the LA Galaxy looking poised to defend their crown.
Despite the loss of Landon Donovan, the Galaxy look to be the frontrunners once again due to the strike partnership of Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes. However, with a constantly improving Western Conference nipping at their heels, the Galaxy will have to really work to maintain their status atop the league.
The Seattle Sounders are once again poised to chase the ever-elusive MLS Cup following last season’s double, while the New England Revolution, Columbus Crew, D.C. United and Toronto FC appear to have title aspirations coming out of the East.
Elsewhere, the league has plenty of teams jockeying go take that next step into contention, while newcomers Orlando City and New York City FC will prove to be wild cards heading into their inaugural MLS campaigns.
With so many teams adding pieces from top to bottom, ordering them heading into 2015 was surely a challenge, but here is how the staff at SBI Soccer sees things shaking out this season.
Here is a look at the SBI MLS Preseason Power Rankings:
By FRANCO PANIZO
For Brad Guzan and Aston Villa, tapping into their most recent performance is what it is all about this weekend.
Aston Villa is set to continue its FA Cup title chase on Saturday when it hosts fellow English Premier League outfit West Bromwich Albion, and the Villans are hoping to replicate the outing and result that they enjoyed earlier this week. Aston Villa welcomed the Baggies in a league match on Tuesday, and picked up a 2-1 victory that ended a long winless streak in the Premier League that dated back to early December. A second win in five days would push Guzan and the Villans into the semifinals of the FA Cup, and that’s an achievement they could sorely use given how dire things have been recently.
Danny Williams is the other American still alive in the competition, and a place in the semifinals will also be on the line for him on Saturday. Williams and Reading will visit Bradford City in a match-up that will pit two lower-division clubs against one another, and the match is sure to be intense as both teams try to keep their respective Cinderella story alive. While League One’s Bradford City might have homefield advantage, Reading has the better squad on paper and many observes are expecting the Royals to advance in the tournament.
If you’re wondering what other match might be worth watching, look no further than the Eredivisie duel between FC Utrecht and AZ Alkmaar on Sunday. The match could pit attacking talents Rubio Rubin and Aron Johannsson against one another, but Rubin must snap a spell of inactivity at Utrecht in for that to happen. Rubin has not played in a league match since Feb. 15, and will be keen on ending that streak in front of his club’s home fans at Stadion Galgenwaard.
Here is who the Americans Abroad rumble with this weekend:
By ADAM TROXTELL
With Barcelona back within reach of first place, league leaders Real Madrid face even more pressure on the road against Athletic Bilbao.
A draw against Villarreal last Sunday leaves Real Madrid two points ahead of its El Clasico rival in the Spanish Primera Division. Los Blancos were held to a draw the last time they visited San Mames Barria, but they have won eight of the last nine encounters against Bilbao stretching back to 2010.
Barcelona plays Rayo Vallecano the following day, having beaten the Madrid-based side each of the last seven times the teams have met. Elsewhere in Spain, third place Atletico Madrid plays fourth-place Valencia.
The English FA Cup quarterfinal round pits Aston Villa against rivals West Brom on Saturday. Liverpool faces Blackburn on Sunday in the first meeting between the teams since 2012.
In Italy, Napoli will try to solidify its position in third place when Inter Milan pays a visit on Sunday. The Naples side edged Inter 1-0 in Coppa Italia play last month, but the teams played out an exciting 2-2 draw when they last met in Serie A.
Cruz Azul will try to halt a two-game skid against Atlas in a match between the sixth and seventh placed teams in Liga MX. Elsewhere, Pachuca will try to bounce back from CONCACAF Champions League elimination with a game against the only Mexican team remaining in that competition, Club America.
The weekend ends with a trio of MLS games in the league’s opening weekend. Expansion teams Orlando City and New York City FC start things off on Sunday, followed by Sporting Kansas City and New York Red Bulls. Seattle Sounders and MLS Cup finalists New England Revolution wrap up the weekend in the late kickoff.
Here is this weekend’s soccer on TV (schedule after the jump):
By ADAM TROXTELL
Things just keep getting better for Mohamed Salah in Italy.
The Egyptian scored twice for Fiorentina to produce a 2-1 win against Juventus in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semifinal. Salah’s goals either side of halftime canceled out a Fernando Llorente headed goal that equalized for the Bianconeri.
His move to the Viola was the less high profile move in a day that saw Juan Cuadrado go the other way to Chelsea. However, Salah’s move is currently producing higher dividends.
He’s scored six goals in seven games for Fiorentina, and he opened the scoring in the 11th minute against Juventus with a finish from close range. Just 13 minutes later, the Old Lady responded through Llorente’s header that ricocheted off the bottom of the far post and into the net.
In similar fashion to the first goal, Salah once again lanced through the Juventus defense to apply the 56th minute winner. Juve will have about a month to find a way to stop Salah in the second leg that takes place April 7.
Here are more news and notes for your Thursday evening: