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Angels Links: Assessing U.S. before crucial World Cup qualifier

It’s put up or shut up time for USMNT.

Costa Rica v United States - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

Taking stock on the USMNT before Friday’s must win game

After a nice start to Bruce Arena’s return to the national team, the U.S. struggled in the last round of qualifiers, losing at home 2-0 to Costa Rica, and drawing 1-1 in Honduras on a night when the U.S. did not perform well at all. There were a lot of factors in those games, key injuries to defenders, an outstanding goalkeeping performance by Costa Rica goalie Keylor Navas, but the bottom line is the USMNT just haven’t played well lately. ESPNFC brought in a panel of ex-players and analysts to find out what is wrong with Team USA.

Major talking points coming up in World Cup Qualifying

Elsewhere in the world, other teams have crucial games in World Cup qualifying as well. Will Argentina really miss out on the World Cup? Who emerges from Africa with many of the groups very competitive? Can Iceland make the World Cup after captivating the public after Euro 2016? FourFourTwo looks at the biggest storylines as qualifying for 2018 nears its end.

Harry Kane, good at soccer

Harry Kane has now truly become a superstar. He scores tons of goals, with both feet, with his head, on penalties. He has helped Tottenham break into the Top 4 consistently, he’s joined the company of the elite strikers around the world like Robert Lewandowski and Luis Suarez. Kane might even be good enough to help England win a trophy (ok, that last one was probably too much). James Yorke of The Ringer breaks down why Harry Kane is such a good striker.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with perhaps the worst penalty kick ever

In the world of penalty kicks, there is a popular move known as the Panenka, named after Antonin Paneka, a Czech footballer who played during the 1970’s. A Panenka penalty kick is when a player runs hard at the ball like he is going to smash it in the corner, gets the goalie to commit to diving one way, and then just chips the ball softly down the middle of the goal, all in one motion. Some of the more famous recent examples are Zidane’s goal vs Italy in the World Cup final in 2006, and Andrea Pirlo’s vs. England during the shootout that Italy won in Euro 2012. When you score a panenka, it can be inspiring, more so than just a regular penalty (see again, Andrea Pirlo vs England Euro 2012). However, when you don’t pull the panenka off, either because you don’t hit the ball hard enough, or because the goalie is not fooled and doesn’t dive out of the way, you look ridiculous when the panenka fails. This is what happened to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang trying and failing to pull off the panenka against Augsburg over the weekend. Luckily for him, Dortmund won the game anyway.

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