Zuras departure creates quandary for Earthquakes


Zuras departure creates quandary for Earthquakes

Nick Rosano

SAN JOSE The man who the Earthquakes hoped would be their late season lift has left the club with barely more than a sputter. After only 20 ineffective minutes on the field in the teams 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy, Zura left the club to return to his native Ecuador. The San Jose Earthquakes announced today that the club has terminated the loan deal with Ecuadorian outfit El Nacional for forward Edmundo Zura, a statement issued by the team said. The action is a result of findings in his full medical examination. Both head coach Frank Yallop and general manager John Doyle made it clear that Zura was not able to perform at the level the Earthquakes had expected him to. With just ten games left in the season when Zura arrived, both had highlighted the need for a player that could make an impact right away. NEWS: Quakes huanted by wastefulness in 1-1 draw
For me, he wasnt able to compete at the level that we need him to compete at physically. Thats the key component of it all, Doyle said. You would think that he would be able to compete at that level. I think theres two things I think his fitness and somethings wrong with him. In particular, Doyle pointed to Zuras cameo as a substitute against the Galaxy. After entering the game in the 71st minute, Zura looked unable to cope with the pace of play, a fact the player himself noted later as a possible hurdle for him, but one he felt he could overcome.As soon as we saw him run around in the game, the ten minutes, I said to Frank ,Hes not running right, Doyle explained. Its for me very easy, and it wasnt fatigue, its not a thing where you go, Oh, hes had a long flight. The failure of the teams attempt to bring in an impact player will likely bring the Earthquakes management under more scrutiny, especially with the team riding a 13 game winless streak and looking increasingly likely to miss out on the playoffs for the third time in four years since returning to the league as an expansion team in 2008. Quite honestly, we made a mistake, Earthquakes president David Kaval wrote on the teams official website, though he acknowledged that the team would do more in the future to prevent a similar situation. Going forward, we have plans to allocate more resources to improve the process of international player acquisitions to make sure a situation like this doesnt happen again. Zuras departure leaves the Earthquakes in a bit of a quandary in regards to who will partner Chris Wondolowski up top. Yallop has always been a fan of using a big target forward in his lineups, and Zura was thought to be the replacement in that role with Alan Gordon (surgery) and Steven Lenhart (family leave) out for the foreseeable future. While the international transfer window closed on Aug. 15, there is still a possibility the Earthquakes could make a move before the Sept. 15 roster freeze deadline for MLS teams, though Doyle admitted it was unlikely the team would make any moves. I thinksome of the guys that are here are going to get more opportunities, Doyle said. He also referenced the improving health of Simon Dawkins and Scott Sealy, who were injured when the club brought in Zura. Wondolowski also acknowledged that rather than bringing in a new player to have an impact, the team could find a solution to its woes among the players already on the roster. Its not like we had him Zura and now we dont, so we just gotta keep doing what weve been doing, he said. Simons healthy now, so that makes a huge difference, and I think were starting to get more guys healthy and starting to play a lot better. REWIND: Quakes shift focus to 2012, Ecuadorian striker Zura
Against Toronto, Dawkins got the start up top alongside Wondolowski, his intelligent and technical link-up play intended to help create chances, as opposed to the tougher, more physically based play a forward like Lenhart, Gordon or Zura would offer. Another option on the table for Frank Yallop and his staff is Matt Luzunaris, the young striker who has seen limited playing time thus far this season, but featured as an 83rd minute substitute in San Joses most recent game, a 1-1 draw at Toronto FC. He brings a lot of energy, hes got good movement, hes a powerful, strong runner, good in the air, so it was a good thing to have him, Wondolowski said, of Luzunaris cameo against Toronto. With the Earthquakes still mathematically in the playoff race, Yallop indicated that he would likely go with a more known quantity in his team as a second forward likely Dawkins or Khari Stephenson but he expected Luzunaris and fellow young attacker Ellis McLoughlin to be ready to contribute if called upon. Its never easy because usually you go with what you kind of know, Yallop said. I think that Ellis had a few opportunities to play well in limited minutes that I agreed, but I think when youre still fighting for a playoff spot and trying to win you tend to pick what you think is your strongest team. Yallop and the Earthquakes do have some time to sort out the situation at forward, as the team has a bye this coming weekend. It will return to action when the Chicago Fire pay a visit to Buck Shaw Stadium on Sept. 10.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer musings, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

Shocker: US Men's National Team eliminated from World Cup contention


Shocker: US Men's National Team eliminated from World Cup contention

COUVA, Trinidad — Twenty-eight years after one of the United States' most important victories came in stunning fashion at Trinidad to end a four-decade World Cup absence, the Americans' chances for the 2018 tournament in Russia ended on this island nation off the coast of Venezuela.

The U.S. was eliminated from World Cup contention Tuesday night, a shocking 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago ending a run of seven straight American appearances at soccer's showcase.

The Soca Warriors scored a pair of first-half goals, getting one off U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez, and the United States made too many other mistakes to recover. The Americans are out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

"We let down an entire nation today," Gonzalez said.

Shocked American players slumped on the bench, and Matt Besler sat on the field after the final whistle as Panama's game ended and then Costa Rica's. At the end, dejected U.S. players filed into their locker rooms with blank looks.

"We foolishly brought Trinidad into the game with the own goal," coach Bruce Arena said. "That was a big goal for Trinidad psychologically. That got them motivated."

The U.S. entered its final qualifier with a berth uncertain for the first time since 1989. Home losses to Mexico last November and Costa Rica left the Americans little margin for error.

The 28th-ranked Americans needed merely a tie against 99th-ranked Trinidad, which lost its sixth straight qualifier last week. But the defeat — coupled with Honduras' come-from-behind 3-2 win over Mexico and Panama's 2-1 victory over Costa Rica on Ramon Torres' 88th-minute goal — dropped the Americans from third place into fifth in the six-nation final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

Mexico and Costa Rica already had clinched berths, and Panama claimed the third and final automatic spot and will go the World Cup for the first time. Honduras will meet Australia in a two-game playoff next month for another spot at next year's 32-nation tournament.

Missing the World Cup is a devastating blow to the U.S. Soccer Federation, which has steadily built the sport in the last quarter-century with the help of sponsors and television partners. It also is a trauma for Fox, which broadcasts the next three World Cups after taking the U.S. rights from ESPN. The USSF hopes to co-host the 2026 tournament with Mexico and Canada, and Morocco is the only other bidder.

After an 0-2 start in the hexagonal last fall under Jurgen Klinsmann, the USSF replaced him last November with Arena, the American coach from 1998-2006. The team revived with home wins over Honduras and Trinidad last spring and draws at Panama and Mexico. But the 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica in New Jersey at the start of Labor Day weekend proved one hurdle too many to overcome.

The Americans fell behind in the 17th minute when Gonzalez made a casual attempt with his left foot to clear Alvin Jones' cross and sent the ball looping over the outstretched right arm of goalkeeper Tim Howard from 18 yards.

Jones doubled the lead in the 37th with a 35-yard strike, again to Howard's upper right corner, and nearly scored another in the 44th when his swerving shot bounced off Howard's chest and spilled into the penalty area.

Christian Pulisic, the Americans' 19-year-old star midfielder, scored in the 47th minute from the arc with a right-footed shot. He played a role in 12 of the 17 American goals in the hexagonal.

One minute later, Howard made a kick save on Shahdon Winchester's short-range shot, and DeAndre Yedlin blocked Levi Garcia's follow-up attempt.

The U.S. bench was tense, as Honduras scored twice early in the second half to take the lead over visiting Mexico in the 60th minute and Panama tied the score against visiting Costa Rica in the 52nd.

Clint Dempsey, who entered at the start of the second half, was denied by goalkeeper Adrian Foncette's leaping save in the 69th and hit a post from 22 yards in the 77th. Pulisic's shot in the 87th was saved by Foncette.

All American reserves were standing for much of the final minutes, and Arena had repeated exasperated looks.

"No excuses for us not getting the second goal and at least a point," Arena said. "It's a blemish for us."

Just a few hundred fans were in the stands at 10,000-capacity Ato Boldon Stadium, located 24 miles south of the capital, Port-of-Spain. Paul Caligiuri's famous goal at the National Stadium in 1989 put the U.S. in the World Cup for the first time since 1950.

Among the spectators were a few dozen American Outlaws, the U.S. supporters group.

Water that had flooded the track surrounding the field ahead of the U.S. training session Monday was gone.

USMNT back on track with 4-0 pounding of Panama


USMNT back on track with 4-0 pounding of Panama

ORLANDO, Fla. — Teenage star Christian Pulisic scored with a brilliant touch to complete a field-length attack just eight minutes in, then split the defense with a pass that set up Jozy Altidore for the first of the forward's two goals and put the United States back on track for next year's World Cup with a 4-0 rout of Panama on Friday night.

Pulisic fed Altidore for a 2-0 lead in the 19th. Altidore converted a penalty kick with a chip in the 43rd after Bobby Wood was fouled, and Wood added a goal in the 63rd.

The U.S. ended a three-match winless streak in qualifying and with 12 points and moved two points ahead of Panama into third place — the last automatic berth — in the North and Central American and Caribbean region. Honduras has nine points going into its match Saturday at Costa Rica, which is second with 15.

Goal difference means the Americans put themselves in great shape to reach an eighth straight World Cup, almost certainly with a win Tuesday at Trinidad and Tobago and likely with a draw if Honduras fails to win Saturday. The U.S. is plus-five to minus-two for Panama and minus-seven for Honduras.

The region's fourth-place team advances to a playoff next month against Australia or Syria.

"We could have finished better on the day and scored more goals," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said.

Playing his first international match since he turned 19 last month, Pulisic was moved to central midfield from the flanks by coach Bruce Arena and sparked the attack from the opening whistle with pace and ball control seldom seen from Americans.

After Gabriel Gomez broke free from Omar Gonzalez and shot over the crossbar, Tim Howard's goal kick was headed forward by Bobby Wood about 10 yards past midfield.

Altidore one-timed the ball ahead to on a sprinting Pulisic, and the midfielder reached back with his left leg to flick the ball ahead. Pulisic jumped to avoid Roman Torres' challenge and used the outside of his right foot to play the ball forward. As goalkeeper Jaime Penedo came off his line, Pulisic used the outside of his right foot again to play the ball wide and jumped over Pinedo's outstretched arm. At the edge of the 6-yard box and just 2 yards from the endline, Pulisic reached with his right foot to slot the ball in, completing a 112-yard U.S. move. Pulisic tumbled over as the ball rolled in for his eighth goal in 19 international appearances, his fourth in the hex.

Pulisic created the second goal when he played the ball between his feet and faked Michael Murillo on the left flank Pulisic broke ahead and fed Altidore, who split the center backs and redirected the ball in from 5 yards for his first goal of the hexagonal. At that point, Pulisic had played a part in 11 of the Americans' 14 goals in the hex.

After Wood and Altidore failed to convert good chances, Wood drew the penalty kick when he exchanged passes with Paul Arriola along a flank, broke past Felipe Baloy, spurted diagonally into the penalty area and was pushed down by Armando Cooper. As Pinedo dived to his left, Altidore chipped the ball down the center for his 41st international game.

Hacked down several times by Panamanians, Pulisic was removed in the 57th minute and walked out to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 25,303 at Orlando City Stadium, which opened in February,

Wood added his 10th international goal off a pass from Arriola.

Panama was trying to move into position to qualify for its first World Cup. The Panamanians were 90 seconds from advancing to a playoff against New Zealand four years ago, when Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson scored late goals at Honduras, which dropped Panama behind Mexico and into fifth place.