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MLS stars shine in Concacaf
by Paul Kennedy, by Mike Woitalla, September 10th, 2012 7:44PM

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TAGS:  argentina, brazil, japan, mls


The USA's five goals in World Cup 2014 qualifying have all come from foreign-based players, but MLS players have had big roles in the success of their national teams in Concacaf play.

Canada took over the lead in Group C with a 1-0 win over Panama Friday thanks to a late goal from D.C. United's Dwayne De Rosario. All three goals in Honduras' 3-0 over Cuba in Havana on Friday came from MLS players: San Jose's Marvin Chavez and Victor Bernardez and New England's Jerry Bengtson. Panama had opened play in June with a 2-0 win over Honduras in San Pedro Sula thanks to a pair of goals by Blaz Perez of FC Dallas.

-- Ryan Johnson had what proved to be the winning goal in Jamaica's 2-1 win over Guatemala, while Marco Pappa (before his departure from the Chicago Fire) had the tying goal in the Chapines' 1-1 tie with the United States in Group A.

-- Alvaro Saborio has four of the six goals for Costa Rica, who dropped a 2-0 decision at home to runaway leader Mexico in Group B but got a break when Guyana tied El Salvador, 2-2, in San Salvador.

The totals: 12 out 45 goals (26.7 percent) scored in Concacaf's semifinal stage have come from MLS players.

ZICO HOMECOMING. World Cup qualifying resumes Tuesday in Asia, where South Korea (winner of its first two games) leads Group A, and Japan has opened up a five-point lead in Group B. Tuesday's big match pits Japan against Iraq in Brazilian Zico's homecoming.

The Iraqi coach was one on the stars of the J-League in its infancy and later coached the Japanese national team, leading it to the 2004 Asian Cup title and 2006 World Cup finals. He is impressed with the current Japan team, the reigning Asian champion.

"Obviously, Japan are a very technically gifted team, especially players who control the midfield like [Makoto] Hasebe and [Yasuhito] Endo," Zico told the Nikkan Sports newspaper. "You can't give players like Hasebe and Endo space to get their heads up/ You have to be pressing them all the time."

ON THE AIR. The USA-Jamaica match on ESPN2, ESPN3 and Galavision (kickoff: 8 p.m. ET) is just one of 31 matches will be broadcast on Tuesday. Fans can watch all afternoon and evening with matches on 10 different networks as well as ESPN3 (20 matches) and FOXSOCCER2GO.com (England-Ukraine On Demand).

(Click here for all Soccer America's Soccer on TV listings.)

BRAZIL WATCH. Mano Menezes' plan to build Brazil's World Cup team around the young players he took to the Olympics includes one big assumption. They handle the pressure. The hostile reception Brazil received from Sao Paulo fans on Friday was a shock to young star Neymar.

"The national team won but we still got booed, that's new for me," he said. "It's sad for something like this to happen, I think my resume should speak for itself, but that was not the case."

Mano, who will probably take the fall for Brazil's failure to win the Olympic gold medal, admitted it was probably a mistake to play in Sao Paulo, where the national team has often gotten a chilly reception.

"The younger the team is, the more the players will feel this lack of support," Menezes said. "We hoped to have a more favorable environment here."

MESSI FILE. Lionel Messi has at times been accused by Argentina fans of not producing as much brilliance for his national team as for Barcelona. He went scoreless at the 2010 World Cup as the Albiceleste exited in the quarterfinals under Coach Diego Maradona.

But Messi, who scored on free kick in Friday's 3-1 World Cup qualifying win over Paraguay on Friday, has scored 11 goals in 11 games since Alejandro Sabella took the helm.

The 25-year-old Messi now has 28 goals for Argentina, just six fewer than Maradona's total of 34 and halfway toward Gabriel Batistuta's record 56.
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