That “Beep! Beep!” You’re Hearing is Paraguay Backing Into the Copa America Final

Despite not winning a game in regulation or extra time during the entire tournament, and being outplayed last night, Paraguay advanced to the final of the Copa America with a penalty-shootout win over Venezuela after the teams played to a scoreless draw.

Venezuela had a goal called back when a shot bound for the back of the net deflected off a player in an offside position, and they hit the woodwork three times. In the end, though, one missed penalty cost them a trip to the final to face Uruguay, 2-0 winners over Peru in Tuesday’s semifinal.

Here are the highlights (and enjoy how the commentary switches from Spanish to English midway through):

While Paraguay’s trip to Sunday’s final may have been dubiously earned, there is of course, a silver lining.

We don’t need to remind you, do we? Okay, okay twist our arms:

Nyassi’s Career Night Deep-Sixes Woeful Red Bulls

Colorado attacker Sanna Nyassi scored three goals and assisted on one to lead the Rapids to a 4-1 shellacking of the Red Bulls at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park last night.

It was the best night of his MLS career for Nyassi, who was moved from the wing to striker in place of the injured Conor Casey.

And suddenly, the Red Bulls look like a team in trouble. During last week’s 0-0 draw with Chivas USA, New York players were seen yelling at their coach, Hans Backe, and last night, the team surrendered a second-minute goal to Nyassi, and produced its worst performance of the season.

Highlights below. New York fans could take some (cold) comfort in the fact that Thierry Henry pulled one back for the visitors, bagging his league-leading 10th goal of the season.

Nyassi and Omar Cummings torched Red Bulls centerbacks Tim Ream and Carlos Mendes all game long, and the New York central midfield pairing of Dax McCarty and Mehdi Ballouchy was utterly invisible on the defensive side of the ball (first-choice central midfielder Teemu Tainio was a game-time scratch with a quad strain).

Ballouchy had some moments going forward against his old team, but defensively he was a liability in the middle. With Tainio unavailable, Backe should have gone with Joel Lindpere in that spot—where he excelled for much of last season—and put Ballouchy on the wing.

A Lindpere-McCarty partnership in the middle would have provided a little more starch down the middle of the New York D, but, then again, considering the way the entire team looked, one positional adjustment wouldn’t have been enough to turn the tide.

The New York franchise has had some very low lows in its 16 years of existence, and last night’s debacle—which came in the toughest stretch of the schedule*—fits right in with the worst moments in team history.

*The Red Bulls host high-flying Dallas on Saturday before flying to Europe for the Emirates Cup exhibition tourney featuring Arsenal, Boca Juniors, and Paris St. Germain.

When they return, they’re off to Utah for a date with 2009 MLS champs and 2011 CONCACAF Champions League finalists Real Salt Lake.

What we saw last night might well have been the team’s first circle around the drain.

Tim Howard’s True Doppelganger: Greg Matzek or Vin Diesel?

You may have seen the story, here, or here, about Milwaukee radio man Greg Matzek‘s encounter with Everton and U.S. national team goalkeeper Tim Howard in Memphis over the weekend.

If not, here’s a quick recap: For years, people have been telling Matzek that he looks uncannily like the U.S. keeper.

In 2005, ESPN featured side-by-side photos of the two in a “separated at birth” feature.

If Howard’s TV insurance commercial ever came on while Matzek was watching the Women’s World Cup this summer, no matter where he was, the conversation immediately turned to his striking resemblance to the player.

Such was the case this past Sunday, when Matzek was watching the WWC Final in a Memphis sports bar. The difference this time, though, was that Howard was also in the sports bar. Take it away Matzek:

“The same advertisement with Howard aired, and Ryan, Mike and I started chuckling again at my unquestionable likeness to Howard. I also received a couple more texts. About three minutes later, Ryan, who used to play soccer for UW-Milwaukee, looked over my shoulder and said, “excuse me, are you Tim Howard?”

Confused, I turned to look at the man who was five feet behind me eating a salad and drinking a Blue Moon—it was the real TIM HOWARD!

I’ve been around professional athletes for the majority of my professional career, so I understand the etiquette when approaching them. That all went out the window when I realized my celebrity look-alike was near arms-reach away from me.

“Holy sh**!” I said. “I’m you!!” (nice one Greg).

I introduced myself, shook his hand, explained how we have been linked in years past, and showed him the ESPN Page 2 web site on my IPad. He absolutely loved it! He seemed most amused that I dressed as him for Halloween—he even asked for pictures….

He also explained that he heard us talking about my likeness and was waiting for me to turn around so he could judge.”

We agree that Matzek–Howard (top) is a solid “separated at birth,” but does it top the Vin Diesel–Tim Howard resemblance?

It’s a tough call. Let us know what you think in the comments.

Wednesday Night Bonanza: Five MLS Games, Five Friendlies with EPL Sides

We have a mixed opinion of all these mid-season exhibitions going on right now in MLS. They definitely help pay the bills and probably help boost the league’s international profile, but as competitive games, they leave a bit to be desired.

No MLS team wants to risk injury to a key player in exhibitions like these, so stars are subbed out after 45 minutes, and the reserves are not usually up to playing with the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid. That, to a large extent, is how you wind up with unflattering scorelines like the 4-1 results New England and Los Angeles got against those two powerhouses. (The other part of it is … well,  that the opponents are Real Madrid and Manchester United.)

The games do provide some interesting matchups, though, and the chance to see some of the best players in the world show their stuff in U.S. venues.

And tonight, there are five of them—all against Premier League opponents. (Only one, Seattle vs Manchester United, is part of the World Football Challenge; the other four are friendlies.)

On top of that, there are five MLS regular season games.

Here are the matchups, with TV info where applicable (all times ET):

Seattle Sounders FC vs Manchester United (10:00, Fox Soccer Channel)

Philadelphia Union vs Everton (7:30)

Houston Dynamo vs Bolton Wanderers (8:30)

Sporting Kansas City vs Newcastle United (8:30)

Portland Timbers vs West Bromwich Albion (11:00, streaming live on PortlandTimbers.com)

•••

D.C. United vs New England (7:30, MLS DirectKick, MatchDay Live)

Toronto FC vs FC Dallas (8:00, TSN, MLS DirectKick, MatchDay Live)

Colorado vs New York (9:30, MSG, MLS DirectKick, MatchDay Live)

Los Angeles vs Columbus (10:30, MLS DirectKick, MatchDay Live)

San Jose vs Vancouver (10:30, TSN, MLS DirectKick, MatchDay Live)

There’s also a World Football Challenge match between CD Guadalajara and Real Madrid at 11:00 (ESPN2/Deportes)—and a Copa America semifinal between Paraguay and Venezuela (8:30, Univision).

Whew!

Casey Out for the Season with Torn Achilles Tendon

In the 38th minute of Colorado’s game at Seattle this past Sunday, Rapids forward Conor Casey laid off a pass near the right sideline and went down awkwardly, under no contact with another player.

It didn’t look good, and the news after yesterday’s MRI is not good, either: Casey ruptured his left Achilles tendon and will be sidelined for eight months. He’s scheduled for surgery tomorrow.

Casey had just been hitting his stride after missing time earlier in the season with a minor injury. He was the team’s leading scorer this year with six goals, and he is also the Rapids all-time leading scorer, with an impressive strike rate of 48 goals in 100 appearances.

One of the knocks on Casey at the international level was a perceived lack of mobility, but, having watched him in MLS during the past few years, we’d have to say the charge is overblown. He covers a lot of ground for a target forward, and does it fairly quickly.  He’s also got good feet for a player his size, and, as his numbers attest, he does the business in front of goal. Finally, he’s only 29. If he’d kept his form up, a USMNT call-up might have been in the cards, especially considering the thin ranks of the U.S. team at forward.

In any event, it’s a big blow for Colorado and for Casey.

An odd side note to the unfortunate story: Seattle had a player (Steve Zakuani) seriously injured at Colorado in the teams’ first meeting, now Colorado gets a player knocked out for the year, at Seattle.

In other MLS news…

Red Bulls Send Da Luz to D.C.

D.C. United is fast becoming Red Bull South, as New York followed up its earlier swap of Dwayne De Rosario for Dax McCarty by sending second-year midfielder Austin da Luz to the Black-and-Red in exchange for an international roster spot.

It was unclear whether that spot was to be used on recently acquired German goalkeeper Frank Rost, or if the Red Bulls were in the market for another player. (New York also loaned goalkeeper Greg Sutton to the second-tier Montreal Impact this week.)

Da Luz showed promise in a handful of appearances with New York this season, after struggling with injuries in his rookie year. On June 20 against Portland, he scored one of the better goals of the year for the Red Bulls (after starting the play, too). Take a look:

Paraguay Stuns Brazil, Keeps Riquelme Dream Alive for All

When Paraguay gave up two late (very late) goals to tie Venezuela in its final group-stage game of the Copa America last week, the result banished La Albirroja to a quarterfinal meeting with Brazil, and, according to some observers, certain elimination from the tournament.

But on Sunday, Paraguay escaped that fate with a penalty-shootout win over the defending Copa America champions, after the teams finished scoreless through 120 minutes.

The result blew the tournament wide open, coming one day after Uruguay ousted hosts and co-favorites Argentina (also on penalties)—and perhaps more important, it inched Larissa Riquelme’s famous pledge one step closer to reality.

Here’s a clip of the Paraguay–Brazil shootout, in which Brazil did its best USWNT impression:

Paraguay moves on to a July 20 rematch with Venezuela in one semifinal, while Uruguay takes on Peru, 2-0 quarterfinal winners over Colombia, in the other semi.