MLS justice catches up with D.C.’s Charlie “Diver” Davies

i-d20d902ead3530953a7d2a9ba6e0959c-diverdaviesgetty.jpg Charlie “Diver” Davies in a familiar pose – spending more time on the ground than his feet – in an April game against the Galaxy (Photo by Getty Images).

MLS announced today that the D.C. United striker was fined $1,000 for “putting the game into disrepute” in the 83rd minute of the contest against Real Salt Lake last weekend with a dive that earned him a penalty kick.

“Diver” Davies converted the the spot kick and D.C. United hauled themselves into a 1-1 tie with RSL. It was his fourth PK conversion on the year.

“He just kicked it away and jumped over,” RSL defender Chris Wingert who made the tackle told our sister paper The Salt Lake City Tribune, shaking his head. “It’s almost laughable.”

MLS was similarly unimpressed with the play.

“The MLS Disciplinary Committee ruled that Charlie Davies intentionally deceived the officials and gained an unfair advantage which directly impacted the match,” MLS Executive Vice President Nelson Rodriguez said. “This type of behavior tarnishes the image of the League, is detrimental to the game and will not be tolerated.”

“Moving forward, all instances of behavior that serves to deceive and that directly impact the game will be subject to severe discipline, including a fine, suspension or both.”

MLS didn’t say why Davies wasn’t suspended in this case.

After all, this wasn’t the first time this season that D.C. United and Davies have benefited from exactly this situation, as Galaxy fans will ruefully recall.

RSL players remembered “Diver” Davies’ history, too and wondered why game officials did not.

“You’d think they’d learn, or watch games,” RSL midfielder Andy Williams told the Tribune. “I guess they don’t watch games.”

Apparently even when they’re officiating them.

Here’s a tip to MLS referees from someone with a vast amount of officiating experience (I called intermural games in college and for tiny tots more than 25 years ago): If you don’t see contact, don’t make the call. You must be sure – i.e. actually saw – a legitimate foul occur. And clearly, in this case, there was no contact.

And MLS wonders why its officiating is constantly criticized.

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Here’s why the U.S. may host the 2014 World Cup

i-874fefdb77e35654c548161fb7b206ca-copa-2014-260x300.jpgNice logo, but not much else it turns out has either been completed or is on schedule it seems (still, and I yes, I know we’ve heard this before). Associated Press writer David Nowak has more:

MOSCOW (AP) — FIFA remains concerned at the slow pace of Brazil’s preparations for the 2014 World Cup, saying soccer officials in South America appear to have invested more energy in winning the tournament than organizing it.

“We don’t have stadiums, we don’t have airports,” secretary general Jerome Valcke said on Friday at the Inside World Football forum in Moscow.

He added it looked increasingly likely that some facilities, including Rio de Janeiro’s iconic
Maracana, would be ready with only a few weeks to spare.

“The Maracana is not a World Cup stadium” yet, Valcke said, adding that in Brazil “the main issue is not to organize the World Cup but to win the World Cup.”

Brazil, which won hosting rights by default after other South American nations withdrew, has been mired in organizational and bureaucratic problems since it was announced as host in 2007.

Builders working on one of the stadiums only this week returned to work after going on strike over pay and conditions. About 160 of the nearly 400 workers helping to upgrade Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte stopped working this month. The agreement includes a 4 percent wage hike, a health plan and more overtime pay.

Belo Horizonte is one of the cities vying to host the opening match. Others include the
capital, Brasilia, and Sao Paulo, South America’s biggest city.

Brazilian lawmakers this month were forced to approve a raft of measures aimed at reducing the paperwork needed to clear various infrastructure projects. The changes reduce the time to conclude the bidding processes on tenders, eliminating some stages and need for approval.

Saint-Clair Milesi, a spokesman for the local World Cup organizing committee, said from Brazil that with the exception of Sao Paulo, the construction of new stadiums and renovation of existing ones is “continuing according to schedule.” He declined to comment further.

Ricardo Leyser, a top official with Brazil’s Sports Ministry, told the Estado de S. Paulo
newspaper Friday that “it is obvious that Brazil will be ready on time to host the World

“We have no doubt that all the work being done to prepare the country to host the games will be concluded on time,” Leyser said.

Valcke urged Russia, which is hosting the event for the first time in 2018, to have the
required 12 stadiums ready two years in advance to allow time for test events.

Russia is building most of the facilities from scratch in a $10 billion project, a budget that
doesn’t include the massive infrastructure improvements needed such as rail networks, new roads and airport upgrades.

It was Valcke’s first public appearance since FIFA exonerated him of wrongdoing for saying Qatar had “bought” the 2022 World Cup hosting rights.

Valcke alluded to the maelstrom of corruption allegations surrounding FIFA in recent months, beginning his keynote speech by saying, “It’s good to talk about football. I mean, we need it at FIFA sometimes.”

Associated Press writer Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.

And let’s face it, since the U.S. has no chance of winning the tournament, the nation may as well organize it

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Thursday Kicks: Galaxy re-sign defender DeLaGarza to new contract & more

*Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza was re-signed to a new multi-year contract, the club announced today.

The versatile 24-year-old, who can play either full back or in central defense as he did in college at Maryland defender, is on track for a career high in starts and minutes in his third year with the club.

He’s appeared in all but two of the 18 MLS games the Galaxy has played so far this season.

DeLaGarza was scheduled to earn about $55,000 this year, according to figures released by the MLS Players Union; the Galaxy did not release the new contract terms.

*Los Angeles-based Fox Soccer Channel announced today that the U.S.-Panama Gold Cup semifinal Wednesday was watched by 381,000 viewers, a new all-time high for the tournament. This year’s Gold Cup is attracting 82 percent more viewers than the last tournament did in 2009. Saturday’s U.S.-Mexico final is expected to set a new record for viewers.

*Real Madrid have announced their travel roster for the three World Football Challenge games they will play in the U.S. this summer, including against the Galaxy July 16 at the Coliseum.

The squad (Spanish unless noted):

Goalkeepers – Iker Casillas, Antonio Adn.

Defenders – Ricardo Carvalho (Portugal), Pepe (Portugal), Sergio Ramos, Marcelo Viera (Brazil), Alvaro Arbeloa, Raul Albiol, Ezequiel Garay (Argentina), David Mateos

Midfielders – Fernando Gago (Argentina), Kak (Brazil), Lassana Diarra (France), Xabi Alonso, Sergio Canales, Pedro Len, Mesut zil (Germany), Sami Khedira (Germany), Hamit Altintop (Turkey), Nuri ahin (Turkey), Jos Callejn, Roysten Drenthe (Netherlands)

Forwards – Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Karim Benzema (France), Esteban Granero.

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Women’s World Cup Preview

i-7e907216b6a3a875bb00c62e045c7e6d-germanycarson.jpgCarson winners: Germany celebrates after winning the 2003 World Cup at Home Depot Center; can they repeat as hosts? (AP Photos).

The FIFA Women’s World Cup begins Sunday and while it has a low profile in the U.S. – at least compared to the heady days of 1999, Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and that Rose Bowl sports bra – that’s not the case in the host nation.

Incidentally, coverage begins on ESPN and ESPN2, which will air all 32 matches live and in high definition, at 6 a.m. Sunday when France meets Nigeria followed by Germany-Canada at 9 a.m.

Associated Press Sports Writer Nesha Starcevic has more on the tournament:

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — When Germany won its first major title in women’s football at the 1989 European Championship, the players received a gift — a discounted coffee set.

The second-choice product from a local manufacturer, featuring a tacky design of red and blue blooming flowers, may have been a poor choice for a prize but, then again, the German football federation once banned organized women’s football from 1955 to 1970.

The women’s game has come long way since its pioneer days. If the German team wins the upcoming tournament at home, each player will receive a bonus of $85,410.

“The World Cup will give women’s football a new dimension,” says Katja Kraus, a former Germany goalkeeper who has risen to top management levels in the men’s Bundesliga.

The women’s domestic league, which is semiprofessional at best, needs a major boost. Few teams make money and not many players can live off their earnings.

“That’s going to be the biggest challenge,” DFB general secretary Wolfgang Niersbach said.

The 12-team league had an average attendance last season of fewer than 900 per game, a far cry from the 40,000-plus average of the men’s Bundesliga.

Germany will be seeking to become the first team to win three straight titles when the
tournament kicks off Sunday against Canada in Berlin’s Olympic stadium and runs through to July 17.

That was the stadium that also hosted the 2006 men’s World Cup final, when Italy beat

The 2006 tournament has been known ever since as the “summer fairy tale” for its fabulous weather, huge and generally merry and well-behaved crowds that turned it into a monthlong party.

German organizers are trying to reproduce that atmosphere and the strong marketing effort has sold 75 percent of the 900,000 tickets for the 32 games spread over nine venues.

Aside from Berlin, which will host only the opening match, the sole other 2006 World Cup arena to be used will be the Frankfurt stadium, the venue of the final. Most other stadiums have a capacity of between 20,000 and 30,000.

Germany’s team has spent more than two months in training camps.

Coach Silvia Neid’s team played four warm-up games and won them all, scoring a combined 15 goals and conceding none. That’s not surprising, seeing that Germany won the title four years ago in China without conceding a goal.

Two of Germany’s rivals were World Cup finalists — Germany beat North Korea 2-0 and Norway 3-0.

The U. S. comes into the tournament as Olympic champion and ranked No. 1 in the world, but the Americans lost 3-1 to Norway in a warm-up match and was the last team to qualify in a playoff against Italy, which was thrashed 5-0 by Germany three weeks ago.

i-8efba819c37d63365fc5bde4e16885d8-abbyw.jpgThe U.S. won two of the first three World Cups but the last was in 1999. Still, the Americans don’t see themselves as underdogs.

“If we’re at our best, there’s not a team in the world that can beat us,” said veteran forward Abby Wambach, right.

The United States has lost to Mexico, Sweden and England in recent months.

“That’s a sign of how strong the sport has become,” captain Christie Rampone said.
“International teams have more money invested and more of a commitment to women’s soccer. There’s not a team out there you can overlook.”

Though the U.S. could run into Brazil in the quarterfinals if it struggles in the group stage,
the earliest the team could meet Germany is the semifinals.

Brazil, runner-up four years ago, is unbeaten since April 2009 and has Marta, the five-time FIFA player of the year. But the Brazilians haven’t played much since regional qualifying.

The Germans have only lost three games since February 2009 — but all three were to the Americans.

The U. S. has a tough group, with North Korea, Sweden and Colombia. Germany and Canada also face Nigeria and upcoming France. England plays Japan, New Zealand and Mexico. Brazil is with Norway, Australia and Equatorial Guinea.

AP Sports Writer Nancy Armour in Chicago contributed to this report.

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The Gold Cup final in Pasadena everyone wanted

i-c1af208ce93d0f4dfb911d270afc56c0-mexico fan.jpg

Or at least most of those who made the leap of faith and ensured a sold out Rose Bowl before Wednesday’s two semifinals were even over.


*Were the belated appearances of Landon Donovan and Freddy Adu – co-creators of Clint Dempsey’s winning goal – inspired subs or should at the very least Donovan have been on the field from the outset and given the U.S. an opportunity for a more comfortable victory? In other words, did a fairly ordinary U.S. win in part because of Bob Bradley’s coaching decisions or in spite of them (again)?

*Does Mexico have the edge in the final based on current form in this tournament or can the U.S. psyche out its old nemesis yet again and win while not playing the quality of soccer it is capable of producing?

*Will Manchester United’s Chicharito rise to the occasion and prove to be the difference in the game?

Listen to the architects of the U.S. goal:

Also: here’s how Chivas USA’s next opponent – the Philadelphia Union – performed last night.

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Rose Bowl sold out for Saturday’s Gold Cup final

The first of the two semifinals has not yet ended – U.S.-Panama is still on-going as I write this, – but CONCACAF officials have just announced that all 90,000 tickets have been sold at the Pasadena venue.

I’m guessing most of those buyers are not expecting a Panama-Honduras final, although the U.S. is currently tied 0-0 with about 25 minutes to go in the second half with the Central American nation it lost to earlier in the tournament. Mexico plays Honduras in the second game of today’s doubleheader.

There will be no ticket sales period at the Gold Cup final Saturday and CONCACAF officials are urging fans to arrive “very early” – before 4 p.m. – to ensure they see the opening kickoff. Even picking up previously ordered tickets on game day can be a challenge.

From the CONCACAF press release:

Fans arriving after 4 p.m. can expect a long walk to the stadium and may even possibly be late for the start of the match.

Fans are also encouraged to arrive early to enjoy Futbol Fiesta, a 120,000 sq. ft. interactive fan area featuring live music, interactive elements, giveaways and a beer garden. Futbol Fiesta will open at 2 p.m. in Area H on the South end of the Rose Bowl.

Finally, fans are encouraged to carpool or utilize alternative means of transportation like the Metro Gold Line or the Old Pasadena Shuttle Bus, which is free and begins service at 3 p.m. and runs until 90 minutes after the conclusion of the game.

Parking at the stadium is $20, but unless you’re planning to barbecue on the golf course I’d recommend the free shuttle, which is fast and convenient.

Oh, and temperatures are expected to hit 80 degrees in Pasadena Saturday.

The 6 p.m. game is live on Fox Soccer Channel and Univision.


The U.S. beat Panama 1-0 from a Clint Dempsey goal off a Landon Donovan cross (the Panamanian defender marking Dempsey really should have prevented that ball from reaching Dempsey on the far post).

The U.S. now awaits the winner of the Mexico-Honduras semifinal.

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Galaxy icon Cienfuegos returns to club

i-3c1036603807377f3e0facf4afffc3e3-Galaxy02-1.6-7-03.BK.JPGHot stuff: Former Galaxy midfield general Mauricio Cienfuegos has returned to the club as a coach (Daily Breeze file photo).

Mauricio Cienfuegos, the diminutive Salvadoran who made more than 200 hugely influential appearances for the Galaxy in an eight-year career with the club that ended in 2003, is returning as technical coach for the LA Galaxy Academy.

Cienfuegos holds a USSF “A” coaching license and in 2008 served as coach of Nejapa in El Salvador’s top division.

“I’m very happy to be back with the club, and to have the opportunity to work with the young players in the Academy is something that I’m very much looking forward too,” Cienfuegos said. “I’m going to be doing something that brings a lot of joy to me, which is teaching the game to kids. Hopefully, one of those players will go on to play for the first team – that’s everyone’s goal.”

The 43-year-old will “work primarily with attacking players within the younger age groups of the Galaxy Academy,” the club said in a news release.

“We’re excited to have Mauricio Cienfuegos join us and use some of his expertise from all his years of coaching and playing,” said Chris Klein, senior academy director. “He is one of the greatest players in the history of the LA Galaxy and still has that fire. He has a great desire to work with, what we hope to be, the future of this club.”

The seven-time MLS All-Star led the club to the 2000 CONCACAF Champions Cup, the 2001 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the 2002 MLS Cup.

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Altidore to miss rest of Gold Cup for U.S. and more

i-e47c875766f76af63ee2007362c70e70-altidorestretcher.jpgAltidore out: U.S. striker Jozy Altidore, as expected, is out of the Gold Cup after being stretchered off with a hamstring injury last weekend against Jamaica (AP Photo).

*Jozy Altidore’s international career was rapidly moving toward irrelevancy until his two goals in the Gold Cup hinted yet again at his still as yet unfulfilled promise.

So this is not good news:

HOUSTON (AP) — U.S. forward Jozy Altidore will miss the rest of the Gold Cup soccer tournament with a strained hamstring, and will be sidelined from 4 to 6 weeks.

Altidore has scored two of the Americans’ six goals in the event. He was hurt in the ninth
minute of the 2-0 victory against Jamaica on Sunday.

The U.S. plays Panama in the first Gold Cup semifinal tonight at Reliant Stadium. The
final is Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

Altidore appeared to be regaining his dangerous form in front of the goal after struggling to get playing time with his European club teams last season. Altidore’s two goals tied him with Clint Dempsey for the team lead.

i-f52d4e141283ff62ef41acbfbf9a3f1f-warnerdone.jpgParty over: Bribery allegations against CONCACAF’s former head Jack Warner have merit according to a report leaked to the Associated Press.

*On the (sorta) flip side, while this, I suppose, is not good news, it’s not unexpected in any way shape or form – and who would have thought former FIFA President Jack Warner was – ahem – “self-serving”:

GENEVA (AP) — FIFA had “compelling” evidence that Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner conspired to bribe voters in the organization’s presidential election before it suspended them from world soccer’s governing body.

FIFA’s ethics committee concluded that the allegations bin Hammam offered $40,000 cash payments to Caribbean officials “constitute prima facie an act of bribery.”
A report into Warner’s case, seen by The Associated Press, said the then-FIFA vice president was an accessory to bribery who offered “mere self-serving declarations” at a hearing last month.

The 17-page document was sent last week to Warner, a 28-year veteran of FIFA’s ruling
executive committee who led the North, Central American and Caribbean regional body since 1990.

Days later, the Trinidad and Tobago government minister quit his soccer positions while
insisting that he would have been “fully exonerated by any objective arbiter.”

The damning language in the ethics panel’s report stands out in contrast to FIFA’s official
stance on Warner’s investigation, which was dropped on Monday.

FIFA said it no longer had legal authority to pursue Warner and that he kept “the presumption of innocence.”

FIFA declined to comment Wednesday on the leaked report, which was first revealed by Britain’s Press Association news agency.

Warner issued a statement claiming the document was circulated by “pathologically mendacious” people within FIFA who would “stop at no length to destroy my legacy.”

“Let me once again reiterate for the sake of those with hidden agendas; I, Jack Warner, did not partake in the distribution of any cash gifts to my members,” the former Caribbean Football Union leader said.

Calls to Warner’s lawyer in Trinidad, Om Lalla, were not answered.
Bin Hammam and Warner were summoned to appear before FIFA’s ethics committee on May 29, and provisionally suspended based on a dossier of evidence relating to the Qatari candidate’s campaign visit to meet CFU members at a hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Hours before the hearing, bin Hammam withdrew from the election scheduled for four days later against FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

The ethics panel, headed by Namibian judge Petrus Damaseb, studied witness statements from officials representing four Caribbean federations who were allegedly offered brown envelopes stuffed with $100 bills after hearing bin Hammam’s election pitch on May 10.

“It appears rather compelling to consider that the actions of Mr. bin Hammam constitute prima facie an act of bribery, or at least an attempt to commit bribery,” the report said.

The panel found “comprehensive, convincing and overwhelming evidence” that Warner arranged the meeting specifically to enable corruption. It was “impossible” to think Warner was unaware of the payments and their intention to influence how CFU members voted.

“Consequently, the accused (Warner) would at least be considered as an accessory to the aforementioned violations,” the report said.

Officials from the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands provided witness statements that were “coherent, credible and detailed,” the panel decided.

*Lastly, the PDL Ventura County Fusion has announced it will play a 3 p.m. July 17 exhibition at Oxnard College against England’s West Bromwich Albion. Tickets start at $15 in advance. Details here.

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Wednesday Kicks: Galaxy discover U.S. Open Cup opponent & more

*The Galaxy will meet new USL pro franchise the LA Blues in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup next week after the team disposed Tuesday of lower level opponent the Ventura County Fusion. The Fusion weren’t helped by the fact their captain Andy Rose is on trial with the Chicago Fire and missed the game.

The Galaxy face the Blues Tuesday at Titan Stadium in Fullerton where the MLS outfit often plays games of this ilk fielding largely reserve squads; somewhat confusingly the stadium is where the Blues plays most of their home games, but the game is apparently a “home” affair for the Galaxy.

Plenty of MLS connections for the Blues, of course, where former Galaxy youngster Izzy Sesay will be among those motivated to prove the club wrong for releasing him.

Incidentally, here’s the full bracket for the competition.

Updated 2:30 p.m.

The Galaxy have just announced that tickets to the game have gone on sale starting at $10. Call 1-877-3GALAXY (342-5299)

*Before the Galaxy (9-2-7) meets the Blues it will face the Earthquakes (5-5-4) in San Jose Saturday where fewer than 500 tickets remained Tuesday afternoon for the game at 10,000-capacity Buckshaw Stadium, presumably on the assumption David Beckham will show up for the occasion.

The Earthquakes beat the Galaxy 1-0 in the corresponding fixture last year, scoring sensation Chris Wondolowski getting the winner with one of his league-leading 18 goals on the season.

The game will be shown at 8 p.m. on Fox Soccer Channel.

*With the Gold Cup final scheduled to be played in Pasadena Saturday (scroll down for a preview of today’s semifinals), Chivas USA (4-6-5) are similarly on the road Saturday, facing former Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz and the Philadelphia Union (6-4-4) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at PPL Park (live on Prime).

Chivas USA are without forward Alejandro Moreno, away for several weeks on Copa Amrica duty with Venezuela, for a game they fell 3-0 in last year. Concussion victim Jimmy Conrad also remains out for the Goats.

Before the Union meets Chivas USA, however, they will play tonight against Sporting Kansas City.

*The California-heavy U.S. U-17 team plays Uzbekistan at 1 p.m. today in the second game of its World Cup campaign after beating the Czech Republic Sunday.

*Finally, local colleges are releasing their fall schedules thick and fast with the latest to do so being the Cal State Northridge men on Tuesday.

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Gold Cup Wednesday semifinal gameday

3:30 p.m. U.S.-Panama on Fox Soccer Channel, Univision

7 p.m. Mexico-Honduras on Univision

i-9da5971745ba78b6cd184c0553af1fea-starsstripesfans.jpgRed, white & blue redemption: The U.S. must prove to their regional foes they belong in the Gold Cup final after losing earlier in the tournament to semifinal opponent Panama (AP Photos).

The U.S. will be looking to prove their earlier loss to Panama in the tournament was a fluke, while Mexico will seek to drive home their hoped for psychological edge (for a change) over the Americans in the other semifinal ahead of a potential Gold Cup final match-up Saturday between the two CONCACAF powers in Pasadena.

Associated Press sports writer Chris Duncan has the preview of the two games:

HOUSTON (AP) — The United States and Mexico are both one victory away from another showdown on the pitch.

Before the Americans can think about that, though, they have to atone for one of their most shocking losses in recent years.

The U.S. faces Panama and Mexico plays Honduras in the Gold Cup semifinals in Houston on Wednesday night. The winners will play in Saturday’s championship game at the Rose Bowl.

The U.S. has won its last two games in shutouts after the stunning 2-1 loss to Panama less than two weeks ago. The Americans had never lost to Panama or dropped a match in group play in the Gold Cup, a biennial tournament started in 1991.

The Panamanians jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first half on June 11 and held on as the Americans controlled possession and finished with an 8-5 advantage in shots.

Midfielder Clint Dempsey says the Americans weren’t shaken by the loss — and that Panama didn’t expose any major weaknesses in his team.

“I don’t really think we necessarily played that badly the whole game,” Dempsey said. “We just started slow. As the game went on, we could’ve easily equalized the game, but we weren’t able to finish a few of our chances.”

The Americans wrapped up group play with a 1-0 win over Guadeloupe, then advanced to the semifinals after a 2-0 victory over Jamaica.

“As the tournament has gone on, we’ve gained in confidence and gained in form,” Dempsey said. “We’re peaking at the right time. I think we’re catching form at the right time.”

Mexico, meanwhile, has been dominant from the start, despite a depleted roster.

Five players — goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, defenders Francisco Rodriguez and Edgar Duenas, and midfielders Christian Bermudez and Antonio Naelson — were suspended before the tournament for positive tests for clenbuterol.

CONCACAF on Sunday allowed Mexico to replace the suspended players for the rest of the tournament, and defenders Paul Aguilar, Hiram Mier and Hector Reynoso and goalkeeper Luis Michel and midfielder Marco Fabian were added to the roster.

Aguilar, Mier and Reynoso practiced with the team on Tuesday, while Michel and Fabian would only be called to play in an emergency.

“We know we come to a team that is firing on all cylinders,” Reynoso said. “I believe that we are here to do what Coach (Jose Manuel de la Torre) tells us to and show our level of play during practices.”

Playing with a roster of 17, El Tri has still won its four Gold Cup games by a combined score of 16-2. If anything, star forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez says the suspensions have added motivation.

“It’s different, it’s been a little bit difficult,” said Hernandez, the tournament’s leading
scorer with six goals. “But we’re all very happy. Those five players are with us, in our
hearts and our minds. We want to play and to win, because we feel like they’re with us.”

Mexico and the United States have won nine of the 10 Gold Cups and played in the last two finals. The U.S. won 2-1 in 2007, and the Mexicans won 5-0 in 2009.

The U.S. played Panama for the title in 2005, and the Panamanians bristle at the notion that the Americans and Mexicans are destined to meet again.

“There are people who think that Mexico and the United States have already reached the final,” Panama defender Felipe Baloy said. “But the games haven’t been played yet. Nothing’s been written.”

Panama will be short-handed for the rematch. Forward Blaz Perez earned a red card late in Sunday’s 1-1 draw against El Salvador.

“It’s a big loss for us because he is a player who gives it all on the field, a workhorse,”
Panama coach Julio Cesar Dely Valdez said. “He fits our tactical approach to a ‘T,’ so his
absence is an important one to consider.”

i-2a75b87b17166c6ba235135f30dc20ba-altidoredown.jpgDown and out? Will Jozy Altidore’s injury picked up in the game against Jamaica keep him out of Wednesday’s semifinal against Panama?

The Americans may also be missing one of their top players. Forward Jozy Altidore, who has scored two of the six U.S. goals in this Gold Cup, strained his left hamstring in the win over Jamaica and underwent an MRI exam in Houston on Tuesday.

International soccer matches are always huge draws in Houston, and Reliant Stadium is sold out for the doubleheader.

Last July, Manchester United defeated an All-Star team from Major League Soccer before a crowd of 70,728, the largest attendance figure for a soccer match at the venue. The U.S. and Mexico played at Reliant Stadium in 2008 and drew 70,103 people.

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