Feilhaber makes difference in Revs debut

453153.jpg

Feilhaber makes difference in Revs debut

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; To think, had Pat Phelan dressed on Saturday night for theNew England Revolution, then perhaps newly acquired midfielder Benny Feilhaberwouldnt have made his first start with his new team.

At least, thats what he said after his Revolution debut.

In the end, its tough to say that I was ready to play, butit all worked out for the best, because I dont know if I would have started,had Pat Phelan not had a little trouble, said Feilhaber. Hes a little bangedup. But in the end, it helped me out a lot, because now Ive played a solid 90minutes, and my fitness is only going to go up from there.

After playing the last six years in Europe, the 26-year-oldwas acquired earlier in the week through the MLS allocation process. Thanks toChivas USA and the Philadelphia Union passing on Feilhabers services, the Revswere quick to add him to their roster.

In hindsight, Feilhabers presence early in the game was inthe best interest of the Revolution.

Phelan missed the game with what the team is callingheadaches and Feilhaber even after having minimal training this week madethe start in the midfield.

Feilhaber played all 90-plus minutes in Saturday nightscome-from-behind 3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City at Gillette Stadium. Hefinished his debut with an assist on New Englands first goal of the match,that went to Marko Perovic in the 12th minute.

Feilhaber is known as an attacking midfielder, and did justthat early in the first half. His slight hesitation at the left wing gave himenough time to push the Kansas City defenders off him, and make a pass toPerovic, who was wide open at the top of the box.

I was really joining the attack a lot on the first half,said Feilhaber. I had the opportunity to get close to the box on that one. Therebound came right to me. I took a touch. I was ready to shoot, but it didntset up perfect for me. Then I had to take a step. The defender kind of drewtowards me, and I saw Marko sitting at the top of the box, so I just kind ofslipped it to him, and he banged it in, he did the rest.

You see the quality he has, and that fakes the oppositionas well, because they dont know whether to stand off him or close him down,said Revolution coach Steve Nicol after the win.

He made a big impact tonight.

Nicol praised Feilhaber after the game, for being able toplay the complete 90 minutes, and produce in the process.

His fitness wasnt really our concern, it was just hissharpness, said Nicol. He hadnt really trained all week. I had a goodconversation with him on Friday, and he said he hadnt really trained all week,which, kind of takes the edge off you. But at the same time, when you have thequalities that hes got, then . . . we can always bring him off.

Hes smart, hes experienced, he uses the ball, addedNicol. He serves his legs by making the ball do all the work. So it wasobvious that he was cruising, and there was no way he was coming off.

Feilhaber said he started to get tired midway through thesecond half, but ddint seem too concerned about it after the game, mainlybecause he understands its going to take more than just one game to get usedto his new surroundings.

On Saturday night, Feilhaber was a difference-maker. And he believes he'll only get better.

Its different, said Feilhaber of the MLS. A higher pace,I think its more physical. Theres a lot of fouls, a lot of cards. But at thesame time, I think, once I get to know the speed of the game and get more usedto it, I think Ill be more effective as well here. Because of the speed of thegame, you tend to have more options to find those little seams, and ball theball to our forwards. Ill keep getting better at that.

More and more, I think people will know what Im about, andIll know what theyre about. And I think Rajko Lekic was one of the guysthat I found a lot behind the defense . . . The more I get to know the guys,and the more they get to know me, Im sure well combine a little bit more, andbe able to find those scoring chances.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Messi leads Argentina over U.S. 4-0, into Copa America final

argentina_messi_062116.jpg

Messi leads Argentina over U.S. 4-0, into Copa America final

HOUSTON — Lionel Messi was too much for the United States to contain.

The five-time world player of the year set up Ezequiel Lavezzi's opening goal in the third minute, then scored on a free kick to break Argentina's career scoring record and assisted on the final goal in a 4-0 rout of the U.S. on Tuesday night that put the La Albiceleste into the Copa America final.

"This was the goal when we got here, to play another final and we made it," Messi said. "We've been spectacular from day one and we deserved this."

After Messi doubled the lead in the 32nd minute with his 55th international goal, his tournament-leading fifth, Gonzalo Higuain quickly ended U.S. comeback hopes when he put the rebound of his initial shot past goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the 50th. Higuain scored off a Messi pass in the 86th.

Argentina will seek its first major title since the 1993 Copa — and its first since Messi's debut in 2005 — when it plays Chile or Colombia on Sunday in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

"That's what we hope and what we want, to finally achieve that," Messi said. "We deserve it, for all the good work we've been doing all these years."

It might be missing Lavezzi, who fell backward over an advertising sign board and appeared to land hard on his left arm at about the 60th minute. Lavezzi was able to get up several minutes later and left on a cart.

Hosting a special, expanded 16-nation edition of South America's championship to celebrate Copa America's 100th anniversary, the U.S. won a difficult group that included third-ranked Colombia and then beat No. 13 Ecuador in the quarterfinals. But top-ranked Argentina and Messi, who turns 29 Friday and is at the top of his game, outclassed the U.S. from the opening whistle and stunned the sellout crowd of 70,858 at NRG Stadium.

Messi has helped Barcelona win eight titles in Spain's La Liga and four in the Champions League, but his Argentina trophies have been limited to the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship for players under 20 and the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, mostly for players under 23. La Albiceleste lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and to Chile in last year's Copa America final.

The U.S. and coach Jurgen Klinsmann were trying to rebound after getting eliminated by Jamaica in the semifinals of last year's CONCACAF Gold Cup, losing to Mexico in a playoff for a 2017 Confederations Cup berth and struggling in the semifinal round of 2018 World Cup qualifying. The Americans close the tournament Saturday in the third-place match at Glendale, Arizona.

Klinsmann inserted midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Graham Zusi into his lineup along with forward Chris Wondolowski because of suspensions assessed to midfielders Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya, and forward Bobby Wood. In an effort to spark offense, 17-year-old Christian Pulisic entered at the start of the second half, and Steve Birnbaum came on in the 60th for Beckerman, allowing Geoff Cameron to move up to midfield, and Darlington Nagbe replaced Clint Dempsey in the 78th.

Argentina went ahead when Lavezzi played a short corner kick to Ever Banega, who passed back to Lavezzi sprinting from the corner diagonally. Lavezzi beat Fabian Johnson to the ball and poked it to Messi about 25 yards out, in the center of the field. As the U.S. defense started to come out, Messi one-timed a flick with his left foot over the back line to Lavezzi, who got to the ball ahead of Kyle Beckerman about 7 yards from the goal. He headed the ball over Guzan, who had started to come off his line.

Messi doubled the lead after Beckerman slipped and Chris Wondolowski took down Messi, earning a yellow card. Klinsmann screamed at Paraguayan referee Eduardo Cardozo as Messi placed the ball about 26 yards out, a few yards closer to the goal than the foul. After the U.S. set up its wall, Messi bent a beautiful curving drive that went just over Guzan's outstretched left palm and into the upper corner.

Messi moved one ahead Gabriel Batistuta's career total, according to the Argentine Football Association. However, FIFA records Batistuta's total as 56, including two goals in an exhibition against Slovakia in June 1995.

Higuain scored when he burst past John Brooks for Lavezzi's pass and one-timed a shot that Guzan stopped with a diving save, then poked the rebound into an open net. Messi nearly added a goal in the 83rd with a 20-yard shot that Guzan palmed to safety.

Feldman: Terrific goal by Rowe to win the game

Feldman: Terrific goal by Rowe to win the game

Brad Feldman and Paul Mariner break down the New England Revolution’s victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps behind the goals from London Woodberry and Kelyn Rowe.

Messi starts, Argentina beats Venezuela 4-1 in Copa America

ap_16171066466135.jpg

Messi starts, Argentina beats Venezuela 4-1 in Copa America

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Lionel Messi had the ball along the sideline, closer to midfield than the goal, in what seemed to be a harmless position.

One well-placed entry pass later, the ball was in the net and Argentina was on its way to a Copa America semifinal matchup with the United States.

"He knows that he's a game-changing player," Argentina coach Geraldo Martino said Saturday night after Messi scored a goal and added two assists to beat Venezuela 4-1.

"Everybody's trying to cancel him. But he knows when to play one against one. He knows when to pass the ball to other players. There may be times when he lets some other player take advantage of this."

Messi's goal in the 60th minute gave Argentina a 3-0 lead and was his 54th in international play, tying the national record set by Gabriel Batistuta, according to Argentina's governing body. The Barcelona star also took over the Copa America scoring lead with his fourth goal despite making his first start of the tournament.

Argentina has two days to rest before playing the U.S. in Houston on Tuesday night. The Americans have been off since beating Ecuador on Thursday.

"I don't think we're too worried about that. We're very focused on our goal," Martino said. "This is not a big deal, the rest time."

With many in the Gillette Stadium wearing No. 10 from Messi's national team and La Liga jerseys, the five-time FIFA Player of the Year started the game after playing a total of just 74 minutes in the three group stage matches. Just eight minutes in, he connected with Gonzalo Higuain on a long entry pass to make it 1-0.

Eight days after recording a hat trick in just 29 minutes against Panama, Messi gathered the ball in at the sideline and lofted a long pass to Higuain, who split two defenders took the ball on a short hop and booted it in.

"We tried to force them to play long balls," Venezuela coach Rafael Dudamel said. "They have that stroke of genius that changes all your schemes. They had an incredible pass from Messi, and they scored. When you lose so early in the game, it's almost like a knockout."

Higuain scored again in the 28th to make it 2-0, picking up an errant backpass by Venezuela midfielder Arquimedes Figuera and sidestepping goalkeeper Dani Hernandez before left-footing it into the net.

In the 42nd minute, Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero took out Josef Martinez's legs with a headfirst dive. But on the resulting penalty kick, Luis Seijas tried to scooch it straight up the middle and Romero took a small stutter step to his left before catching it.

Messi made it 3-0 when he took a pass from Nicolas Gaitan just outside the 6-yard box.

Venezuela finally beat Romero in the 70th minute when Salomon Rondon headed the ball in, nicking the post on the way. But Messi assisted again on Erik Lamela's goal a minute later to make it 4-1.

Argentina is 6-2-2 against the U.S., with the teams playing to a 1-1 draw in a 2011 friendly in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The last American win was in a 1999 exhibition in Washington, D.C.

Recovering from a back injury, Messi sat out the group stage opener this year and played just 29 minutes against Panama — but still managed to record a hat trick. He came on as a second-half substitute in the group stage finale against Bolivia on Tuesday.

But Messi played the entire game on Saturday, giving a scare when he was taken down from behind in the penalty box in the first half and was slow to get up.

"We're very happy with the way that he has been evolved, the way that he recovered from his injury," Martino said. "His reinsertion into the team, we really value that, and we're happy to have him in good shape now that we're facing the semifinals."

Martino said he was pleased to see Messi tie the national record, but he would wait to comment on it until the record was broken "and I would like that to happen in the Copa America." With a semifinal and then either a championship or third-place game, that's a good bet.

"I tied it, still haven't broken it," Messi said. "But I'm happy to be next to Bati, with all that means."

Bautista also scored twice in an exhibition against Slovakia in 1995 that is included in FIFA's records but not the national federation's; that would give him 56 goals.

For Venezuela, which finished fourth in the 2011 Copa America, it was a reminder of how far La Vinotinto have to go.

"It's not what we were hoping for, nor what we would imagine," Dudamel said. "We found ourselves watching a very strong team, ranked No. 1, and they have been very unforgiving with our mistakes. When you play an adversary like this, any mistake you make they do not forgive. They just kill you."