Olympic Qualifying: Soccer Shocker in Carson & Defecting Cubans

i-9176c76a66b35687bcb0cfe2e0229737-newcanada2.jpgCanada’s Dejan Jakovic slide tackles Mexico’s Cesar Villaluz during the second half.

In what is becoming an Olympic qualifying full of surprises, Canada held supposedly mighty Mexico to a 1-1 draw at Home Depot Center Wednesday night in a game that also saw both goal scorers sent off.

Canada struck first after just three minutes, temporarily silencing the overwhelmingly pro-Mexico crowd, after former Chicago Fire striker Will Johnson stabbed home a close range shot when Mexico failed to clear.

Morelia striker Luis Angel Landin equalized for Mexico in the 22nd minute from the spot after what appeared to be a dubious penalty call.

Mexico gradually asserted control, but saw Landin ejected midway through the second half. Canada was unable to score on the resultant power play and Johnson followed him down the tunnel about 10 minutes later.

Mexico dominated with Canada hanging grimly on – the Canucks didn’t have a shot in the second half – but El Tri couldn’t break down the stubborn defense.

Chants of “Lavolpe” – a reference to former Mexico Coach Ricardo Lavolpe – could be heard emanating from the crowd of 9,949 toward game’s end.

Guatemala beat Haiti 1-0 in the opening game of the night to take an unexpected lead in Group B.

Updated: Canadian Coach Nick Dasovic observed after the game that considering the nation had played precisely zero Under-23 games in four years, his back four was playing together for the first time ever and he had his full roster together just 24 hours before the start of the game, this was a “baptism of fire.”

“I wish we could play Mexico every week,” he said jokingly. “After three minutes I thought ‘sheesh, we pissed off the Mexicans.'”

He added: “This was a confidence builder.”

While, Dasovic was happy with the result, Mexican Coach Hugo Sanchez was not pleased.

“We showed we were superior on the field,” he said.

Sanchez was asked if he was worried by the result.

“No, I would have been worried if we would have lost,” he said.

Meanwhile, the latest on the defecting Cubans confident of getting a job in MLS after seeing the state of the American team is here.

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Olympic Qualifying Preview: Canada-Mexico & Word on the MLS All-Star Game

The crowds are already waiting for the gates to open at Home Depot Center for the first of two Olympic qualifiers there tonight, Guatemala against Haiti.

Top billing though goes to the 8 p.m. game between Mexico and Canada.

The San Diego Union-Tribune caught up with Mexico while the team trained in that city while The Toronto Star provides the Canadian perspective.

The Star is also reporting on the opponent for the MLS All-Star Game in Toronto – England’s West Ham United.

I’ll have more tonight from Carson.

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Wednesday Kicks: U.S. Women Capture Algarve Cup & More

The U.S. Women’s National Team lifted the Algarve Cup after winning 2-1 over Denmark in Portugal today with Abby Wambach scoring the game winner.

CONCACAF has released the rosters for Mexico and the three other Group B teams in Olympic qualifying that open play tonight at Home Depot Center.

In other women’s soccer news, the new Pacific Palisades-based W-League franchise Pali Blues signed a trio of Australian national team players.

The Galaxy announced an 18-game Fox Sports broadcast schedule meaning every Galaxy game this season will be televised.

Finally, sign ups open today for the seventh annual MLS Fantasy Challenge.

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Olympic Qualifying: U.S. 1 Cuba 1

It didn’t take long for cracks to appear in Peter Nowak’s U.S. Men’s Under-23 National Team facade.

Despite a sparkling performance by Freddy Adu, a largely punchless U.S. could only manage to tie lightly-regarded Cuba 1-1 in Tampa, Fla., tonight in the opening game of Olympic qualifying for both nations.

That makes Saturday’s game against Honduras, which beat Panama 1-0 earlier in the night on a last-gasp goal, the potentially pivotal game for the slightly bruised U.S. hopes of qualifying for China.

Teenage striking sensation Jozy Altidore was so ineffective up front he was replaced by Chivas USA midfielder Sacha Kljestan at half time.

Adu was dominating from the first minute, clipping the far Cuban post with a curling shot and continually directing the U.S. attacks, but applied the finishing touch just once in the 14th minute.

It had seemed a goal was only a matter of time, but Cuba struck just before half time to level the score.

The two sides went into the break level despite a 8-2 U.S. advantage in shots.

Adu aside, creativity was scarce in the U.S. midfield, leaving one to wonder why the likes of Robbie Rogers was left off the squad.

Cuba was content to pack the defense, but the U.S. disappointingly failed to break down their opponent to seal what was surely a lost opportunity.

Here’s more from U.S. Soccer.

I’ll have more in the morning on the games in Carson Wednesday night between Haiti-Guatemala and Mexico-Canada.

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Chivas USA Officials “Cautiously Optimistic” Injured Goalkeeper Brad Guzan Won’t Miss Start of MLS Season

Starting Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan received confirmation from doctors Monday he had sustained a mild sprain of the MCL in his left knee, which he suffered in training the previous Monday before the team left for a pre-season tournament in Texas.

With an expected recovery time of two to four weeks, if will be touch and go whether Guzan is fit for the Chivas USA MLS opener March 30 away to Dallas, which is less than three weeks away. But Chivas USA officials said Tuesday they were “cautiously optimistic” Guzan will be fit to start.

In his absence, Chivas USA will fill the void at the goalkeeping position – Guzan was the only netminder on the roster – with 22-year-old goalkeeper Lance Parker out of Missouri State.

Parker was signed to a developmental contract Monday, a move the team will formally announce later this afternoon.

Guzan’s injury occurred as he attempted to stop a shot with his legs, but the ball struck him awkwardly, causing the sprain.

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Tuesday’s Column, Olympic Qualifying & More

CONCACAF Olympic qualifying begins tonight with two games including the U.S. against Cuba and I offered a primer in today’s column.

CONCACAF has released the rosters for the teams in Group A.

Chivas USA midfielder Sacha Kljestan and his role on the U-23 team is profiled here, although Fontana’s Maurice Edu was on Monday named team captain for the tournament.

Lastly, Andrew Sakura, 17, the starting goalkeeper for Palos Verdes High died last weekend after crashing his father’s Corvette while speeding. He would have turned 18 later this month.

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Monday Morning Buzz: U.S. Women Win, Hall of Fame Picks & More

Already a busy day in soccer so let’s get to it:

The U.S. Women’s National Team decisively defeated Norway 4-0 Monday to reach Wednesday’s Algarve Cup final in Portugal against Denmark.

Former U.S. star Hugo Perez and former U.S. women’s Coach Anson Dorrance were elected to the veteran and builder categories respectively, the National Soccer Hall of Fame announced today. Palos Verdes’ Joy Fawcett was yet again denied entrance, though.

Chivas USA’s striking duo of Maykel Galindo and Ante Razov (who scored a goal) started for the first time this preseason, but that wasn’t enough to prevent Toronto FC winning 3-2 Sunday in San Antonio, Texas.

Finally, Chivas USA put their single-game tickets on sale today, with seats starting at $14.

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Men’s Olympic Qualifying Roster Named

Coach Peter Nowak named his 20-man Olympic qualifying roster this afternoon, omitting Rolling Hills Estates’ midfielder Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Galaxy defender Mike Randolph, goalkeeper Tally Hall, Derby County midfielder Bennie Feilhaber and FC Dallas’ Arturo Alvarez, who were all in the 24-player pre-Olympic qualifying training camp.

Lots of locals on the roster though: Fontana’s Maurice Edu, Chivas USA’s Sacha Kljestan and UCLA products Patrick Ianni, Kamani Hill, Marvell Wynne, Chad Barrett and Sal Zizzo as well as former Galaxy player Robbie Findley.

As expected, West Ham United’s Jonathan Spector was also drafted in.

Here’s the roster and the (edited) U.S. Soccer press release: goalkeepers Dominic Cervi (unattached), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake); Hunter Freeman (New York Red Bulls), Kamani Hill (Vfl Wolfsburg), Patrick Ianni (Houston Dynamo), Michael Orozco (San Luis), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United), Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC); midfielders Freddy Adu (SL Benfica), Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas) Sal Zizzo (Hannover 96); forwards Jozy Altidore (New York Red Bulls), Chad Barrett (Chicago Fire), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake).

The roster features 10 players who have earned full international caps with the senior team led by Jonathan Spector, who has 11 caps.

The U.S. plays Cuba Tuesday, Panama Thursday and Honduras Saturday. All games are at 4 p.m. live on Fox Soccer Channel.

Canada, Guatemala, Haiti and Mexico play Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at Home Depot Center in Carson.

The top two teams qualify for the Olympics.

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Galaxy Tie and Lose (Again) in Asia

The Galaxy wrapped up their Asian tour with a 2-2 draw (in regulation) against a Hong Kong selection in a game that started Saturday and ended Sunday our time.

For the second time on their three-game tour of Asia, the Galaxy lost on a penalty kick shootout. THe Galaxy’s blog has an interesting note on that, by the way.

Coach Ruud Gullit likely won’t be as concerned about the loss as he will the total defensive breakdown that led to the only Hong Kong goal from the run of play.

A Brad Guzan-less Chivas USA (the goalkeeper was sent home with an injury) wraps up the tournament in San Antonio today against Toronto FC.

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Saturday Soccer

Chivas USA lost 1-0 to the Houston Dynamo in San Antonio on Friday, the Galaxy play the next game of their Asia tour at 11 tonight live on Fox Soccer Channel from Hong Kong where ticket sales have reportedly been poor, the U.S. Women triumphed again in Portugal while the high school soccer season is over.

And so is my posting on a gorgeous day in Southern California. Enjoy the weekend.

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