So the US pulled out the win Sunday vs a solid Iceland squad in dramatic fashion with a 3-2 win on a header in the 89th minute. Nice to see Altidore playing well up front and the new players looked ok out there – still need work on defense we’ll see if they can shore things up Friday night 10:15 pm vs Canada on Fox Sports 1.
Copa America Ticket update for Chicago – While individual US Game Tickets on June 7th soldout in 5 minutes in the American Outlaws sections – 4 game Venue Passes are still available for Chicago. I found good seats level 2 endzone for $360 per or about $90 per ticket per game. That includes 2 tix to USA game on 6/7, Argentina game on 6/10, another game on 6/5 and the Semi Finals on Wed eve, June 22 (which might feature Argentina vs Brazil) PS Messi is scheduled to join the full Argentina roster. Listen short of a World Cup – the Copa is one of the Best Tournaments in the world – with Argentina and Brazil, and Colombia, Mexico, Chile, etc all on US Soil – this is sort of a once in a lifetime thing. That’s why I am planning to make the trip over for at least the 4 games in Chicago.
Big Games this weekend – first in the EPL – Man City host Leicester City in a battle of teams at the top of the table on Sat at 7:45 am on NBCSN. Bayern Munich travels to Bayer Leverkusen in a battle of top 4 German squads on Fox TV Saturday at 12:30 as Munich plays the first game since coach Pep announced he’s going to Man City this summer. Look for Mexican Chicarito to add to his league leading goal tally at home for Leverkusen. US national team defender John Brooks and Hertha Berlin face Dortmund and US 17 year old Pulisic at 9:30 am Sat on Fox Sports 1. Sunday its Man U vs Chelsea 11 am on NBCSN. The Ole Ballcoach – http://www.theoleballcoach.com
Latebreaking News – US American Outlaws Announce tix for USMNT vs Guatemala World Cup Qualifier in Columbus, OH on Tues March 29th at 7 pm will go on sale Monday 2/8. Anyone interested in going let know – email@example.com
US 17 year Old Christian Pulisic comes off bench in last 20 minutes for Dortmund named to Europa Squad
EPL + World
Pep to Move from Bayern to Man City
GAMES ON TV
Tuesday, February 2
2:45 p.m., NBCSN Leicester City vs. Liverpool
2:45 p.m., Extra Time: Arsenal vs. Southampton, Norwich vs. Tottenham, Sunderland vs. Man City, West Ham vs. Aston Villa
3:00 p.m., Extra Time: Crystal Palace vs. Bournemouth, Man United vs. Stoke City, West Bromwich vs. Swansea
Wednesday, February 3
2:45 p.m., NBCSN: Watford vs. Chelsea
2:45 p.m., Extra Time: Everton vs. Newcastle United
Friday, February 5
2:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Borussia Mönchen vs. Werder Bremen
10:15 pm Fox Sports 1 : USA Men vs Canada
Saturday, February 6
7:45 a.m., NBCSN: Manchester City vs. Leicester City
9:30 a.m., Fox Sports 1: Hertha Berlin vs. Borussia Dortmund
9:30 a.m., Fox Sports 2: Schalke 04 vs. VfL Wolfsburg
10 am NBCSN Tottenham vs. Watford,
10:00 a.m., TBD: Aston Villa vs. Norwich City, Liverpool vs. Sunderland, Newcastle vs. West Bromwich, Swansea vs. Crystal Palace, Stoke City vs. Everton,
12:30 p.m., Fox: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Bayern Munich
Sunday, February 7
6 am beIN Sport Levante vs Barcelona
8:30 a.m., NBCSN and NBC Universo: Bournemouth vs. Arsenal
9:30 a.m., Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes: Hamburg SV vs. Köln
11:00 a.m., NBCSN and Telemundo: Chelsea vs. Manchester United
11:30 a.m., Fox Sports 1: TSG Hoffenheim vs. Darmstadt
2:30 pm beIN Sport Grenada vs Real Madrid
Monday, February 8
3:00 p.m., NBCSN: Southampton vs. West Ham United
Tues, Feb 16 —Champions League
2;45 pm FS 1 PSG vs Chelsea
2:45 pm FS2 Benefica vs Zenit St. Pete
Wed, Feb 17
2:45 pm FS1 Roma vs Real Madrid
2:45 pm FS2 Gent vs Wolfsburg
Thurs, Feb 18
1 pm Anderlecht vs Olympiachos, Dortman vs Porto, Fioreentina vs Tottehman, Midtiland vs Man U, Villarreal vs Napoli
3 pm Ausburg vs Liverpool, Sporting Portugal vs Bayern Leverkusen, Valencia vs Rapid Vienna, Galatasaray vs Lazio
Tues, Feb 23 – Champ League
2:45 pm FS 1 Arsenal vs Barcelona
2:45 pm FS 2 Juventus vs Bayern Munich
8 pm FS1? Queretaro vs DC United
10 pm FS2? Seattle Sounders vs Club America
Wed, Feb 24
2:45 pm FS1 Dynamo Kiev vs Man City
2:45 pm FS 2 Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid
8 pm Tigres UNAL vs Real Salt Lake
10 pm LA Galaxy vs Santos Laguna
Tuesday, March 1:
D.C. United vs. Querétaro, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg, 8:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Santos Laguna vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg, 10:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Wednesday, March 2:
Club América vs. Seattle Sounders, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg, 8:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Real Salt Lake vs. Tigres UANL, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg, 8:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Sunday, March 6:
Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:00 p.m. (Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes)
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. D.C. United, 10:00 p.m. (UniMás, Univision Deportes)]
Friday, March 25:
Guatemala vs. United States men, WC qualifier, time TBD (beIN Sports,)
Tuesday, March 29:
United States men vs. Guatemala, WC qualifier, time TBD (ESPN2,-Columbus, OH)
Copa America Centenario is now on sale
We’ve just released tickets to the Copa America Centenario to the general public. These matches will sell out, but you still have a chance to secure your seats today to see the world’s best compete at Soldier Field in these matches:
Sun, June 5 – C3 vs. C4
Copa Venue Passes include a ticket for the same great seat to all matches in a particular stadium (the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey Venue Pass is an exception, as it includes only the first round and quarterfinal matches). Copa Venue Pass purchasers will be entered into a lottery for the opportunity to purchase tickets to the highly anticipated Copa America Centenario Final at MetLife Stadium on June 26.
What can USMNT expect from Canada?
Benito Floro’s side is on the rise ahead of critical WCQs against Mexico.
nada forward Cyle Larin is one of the key figures for Benito Floro’s improving side. Larin and Canada hope to defeat the United States in a friendly on Friday (live, 10:00p.m. ET, FS1, FOX Sports GO).
By Kyle McCarthyFOX SoccerFeb 4, 2016 at 6:00p ET
After a last-gasp victory over Iceland on Sunday, the United States men’s national team concludes its January training camp with a friendly against Canada.The meeting between familiar foes on Friday (live, 10:00p.m. ET, FS1, FOX Sports GO) offers Jurgen Klinsmann and his players with a chance to punctuate their progress with a second victory in as many matches.Canada plans to make it difficult on the Americans, though. Those expectations are reinforced by the recent results between the teams (including 0-0 draws in 2012 and 2013) and underscored by the Canadian resurgence under coach Benito Floro over the past year or so.As this meeting between these two countries approaches, here are three things to monitor as the Canadians attempt to procure a third straight result against the Americans.
Brace for defiance and organization first and foremost
Floro assessed the players at his disposal when he took the job in 2013 and focused most of his energy on player recruitment and tactical tinkering. His sales pitch enticed Fraser Aird, Tesho Akindele and Junior Hoilett to join the squad, while his setup preached control and composure first and foremost.Those adjustments — predicated on application, commitment and organization — made Canada particularly difficult to break down in possession. It shows in the results: Canada conceded once or kept a shutout in each of its final 12 matches in 2015.Floro sacrificed some creativity in the process (Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio is out of the frame at the moment) and struggled to find the right balance going forward in the usual 4-2-3-1 setup, but he made Canada defiant. It is a wise course of action for a side with a limited squad in comparison to the top teams in CONCACAF.The best part for Floro: It is working, more or less. Canada is in position to make the Hexagonal for the first time since 1998. There is a fraught, tricky assignment ahead in Honduras in September, but the Canadians sit second in Group C with a three-point cushion over scuffling El Salvador and a four-point advantage over the out-of-sorts Hondurans.
Look for emerging players to stake their claim
Many of the top Canadian players — including midfield fulcrum Atiba Hutchinson — are otherwise engaged with club commitments. Those vacancies provide plenty of room for emerging talents, rehabilitating players and out-of-favor or unattached campaigners.The motivations here are similar to the underpinnings in U.S. camp: improve the chances of earning a place in the squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Mexico next month. Recovering West Ham defender Doneil Henry — a potential contributor in defense — warrants close inspection, while veterans like Iain Hume, Issey Nakajima-Farran and Steven Vitoria (in line for his full debut) hope to underscore their qualities before qualifying resumes
Track Cyle Larin carefully
Larin emerged as the best prospect in Canada and one of the top young players in CONCACAF during his rookie season with Orlando City. Former UConn star Larin scored 17 goals for the expansion side and set a new MLS rookie record in the process. His reliability in front of goal and his presence in the penalty area made him a consistent threat against MLS defenses.Those qualities recommend the 20-year-old as a potential linchpin for the next decade. Canada endures goal droughts with some regularity (the side went 14 months without scoring in 2013 and 2014, for example) and regularly flails around in the final third. In order to push forward and slide into position to challenge for a berth at the 2018 World Cup, the Canadians must procure goals more regularly.Larin isn’t the finished product quite yet (particularly in terms of his positioning), but he represents Canada’s best chance for a reliable goalscorer in this post-Dwayne De Rosario landscape. His continued progress bears watching, particularly for American defenders all too familiar with the threat he poses.
United States looks to tighten up defense in Canada friendly
CARSON, Calif. – Just because Sunday’s 3-2 win against Iceland got the U.S. national team off on the right foot in 2016 doesn’t mean the Americans can’t improve in their second match of the year, on Friday night against northern neighbors Canada.
For starters, U.S. boss Jurgen Klinsmann is hoping for a clean sheet.
“As a coach, obviously we want to see a defensive line that is on top of everything, that blocks every shot, that doesn’t give away any opportunity for the opponent to score,” Klinsmann told reporters before his team trained inside StubHub Center on Thursday.
But perfection isn’t possible for any team, and hoping and expecting are two very different things. With the U.S. just one game into its 2016 slate — one game into the preseason, really — Klinsmann and his players were quick to manage expectations at this stage.
“Reality is there’s always an opponent with quality finding ways to create their own chances, and here and there they put it in the back of the net,” the coach said. “Goals only happen when the other side makes mistakes. So we try to reduce them, we try to work on things and hopefully we can avoid it next time. But obviously there’s no guarantee.”The two goals that the U.S. gave up against Iceland were preventable. Errors were made on both, not that the Americans are beating themselves up over them. “You never want to concede but I think it’s important to take a step back and recognize the circumstance,” veteran center back Matt Besler said. “The goals we gave up did look like preseason goals. So yeah, we’ll take a look at those and try to correct our mistakes.”
They’ll have to do it with a re-tooled back line. Two of the defenders who started against Iceland — Brad Evans and Michael Orozco — were released to their clubs earlier in the week, and it’s not entirely clear who will replace them in the lineup.
D.C. United’s Steve Birnbaum seems certain to be on Klinsmann’s team sheet after notching an assist and an 90th-minute winner last Sunday. Where exactly he’ll line up if he gets the call is another mystery. Birnbaum is a natural center-back who can also man the outside in a pinch. On Thursday, the 25-year-old said he had trained at both spots this week.”There’s definitely a lot of moving pieces in this camp, so you have to adapt to it,” Birnbaum said. The same goes for Klinsmann. The whittled down roster limits the German’s options; of the seven defenders remaining on the squad, four have never played at senior level. A fifth, 20-year-old Kellyn Acosta, just made his international debut.Given that, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Jermaine Jones could reprise his role at center-back, where Klinsmann experimented with him early last year. The alternative is starting an uncapped defender against Canada, something Klinsmann didn’t sound eager to do on the eve of the contest.”Definitely the senior group has priority when it gets to the games,” Klinsmann said. “You won’t see that many changes now [involving] the U-23s.”What you might see are goals against. And that’s OK, according to U.S. captain Michael Bradley. “You’re using these games to try to get fitter, to get sharper,” Bradley said. “It’s not the time of year to really be overanalyzing.”
U.S. Camp Notes
– Besler was in and out of the national team last year, but by all accounts he’s off to a great start in 2016. “Matt has been outstanding this entire camp, also in a leadership role as one of the veterans, basically, looking after the under 23s, looking after everybody,” Klinsmann said. One of the players Besler has taken under his wing is Birnbaum. “First of all, he’s a great guy off the field,” Birnbaum said of the Sporting Kansas City captain. “I enjoy playing with him, and I look up to him. He’s a guy that is a big part of our men’s national team. Hopefully I can be like him and become a staple at center back.”
– Bradley said he’s noticed some of the younger players come out of their shells as camp has gone on. “Their personalities start to come out more and more — some of the nerves that you see early on go away,” Bradley said. “I think all the young guys here are excited and motivated and determined to keep pushing themselves forward. It’s a great group.”- A year ago, Canadian forward Tesho Akindele was here training with the U.S. as the dual-national mulled his options at the top level. While he eventually he chose Canada, the FC Dallas man has fond memories of his brief time with the American squad. “I’m super glad I went to that camp last year,” Akindele, the 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year, told ESPN on Thursday. “When I went in I think I was leaning towards Canada, but you just don’t want to have in the back of your mind ‘what if?'”Before accepting Canada’s invite to a pair of World Cup qualifying matches last June, Akindele called Klinsmann to inform him of his decision. “He was super understanding,” said Akindele. “He said I understand your decision, go with your heart and if I need anything, call him. He was very nice about it.”Akindele has made seven appearances for Canada since, scoring once. He said he’s looking forward to swapping shirts after Friday’s match with FCD teammate Acosta, whom he considers the most underrated player in MLS. “He’s a baller, man, I’m telling you,” Akindele said. “He’s going to be a starter for the U.S. for a long time.”
Should Jurgen Klinsmann worry about U.S. goalies Tim Howard, Brad Guzan?
Jurgen Klinsmann praised the U.S. for their win over Iceland, but still sees plenty of improvement to be made.
For the last three decades, the United States men’s national team manager hasn’t needed to concern himself with one aspect of the lineup card: the man in the net. From Tony Meola to Brad Friedel to Kasey Keller, the Stars and Stripes have had a world-class goalkeeper to rely on whenever the 10 outfield players failed. The strength of the U.S. netminders is such an institution that even Tim Howard’s stunning performance against Belgium at the 2014 World Cup wasn’t a complete surprise; making the sublime look routine is an American tradition.But the times, they are a-changin’ — maybe. Both Howard and Brad Guzan are struggling with their English Premier League clubs, on the verge of getting run out of Goodison Park and Villa Park, respectively. While the former hasn’t lost his starting spot yet — and, frankly, has been more solid than the average Evertonian thinks — headlines like “Tim Howad’s position at Everton has become farcical and he must be dropped” and “So, Uh, What the Hell Happened to Tim Howard?” are the norm.Howard has been rightly criticized for poor play in matches against Arsenal, Chelsea, Swansea and more. Guzan, meanwhile, tarred by the patently absurd “gum-gate,” sits fourth from the bottom in one ranking of EPL keepers and was recently demoted to serve as Mark Bunn’s backup.In a year full of World Cup qualifiers and the Copa América Centenario, the last thing Jurgen Klinsmann needs is two backstops grasping for form. The big question for the red, white and blue: are momentary dips or more systemic problems?
While the generalities of the two situations are similar, the details are rather different, so let’s examine each man individually.
Howard, who hasn’t looked consistently solid since before the World Cup, turns 37 a few weeks before the March qualifiers against Guatemala. That is not young, and the miles might be hampering his play.”There’s no question in my mind that given how much he’s experienced, Tim Howard can handle the criticism and come back as be as excellent as he’s ever been for the U.S.,” former Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper and current ESPN FC analyst Shaka Hislop says. “But is it more a question of age catching up with him?”The Everton No. 1 took a year off from the American team in an effort to rejuvenate but despite looking better than he did last year, Howard continues to make too many mistakes. Still, he can post impressive performances, as he did during a mid-January 0-0 draw against Manchester City. He has clearly slipped a notch but it’s not a disastrous dip.Klinsmann should be more concerned about Guzan. Six years Howard’s junior, the Aston Villa goalie has long been the U.S. man in waiting. During Howard’s absence from the American squad, he was solid and occasionally spectacular, showing a growing confidence about vocally bossing the young backline. He played well enough that the U.S. coach installed a rotating platoon system once Howard returned.Guzan, however, has been terrible at Villa this season. Granted, Villa have been terrible but the American has been worse, making uncharacteristic gaffes, looking tentative and ultimately losing his starting job. That’s a far cry from his savior role last season in which he almost single-handedly kept his club out of the relegation zone.Perhaps a regression was to be expected as bearing the entire weight of a team can exhaust over time. “It’s not easy playing on a bad team for as long as Brad has,” Hislop says. “You can’t be expected to be that great for that long.”
Two goalkeepers, two lost club seasons. If there’s a bright side for Klinsmann, it’s that a change of scenery might do each man good. “I think you worry about the form that you see,” former U.S. national team player and ESPNFC analyst Keller says. “We’ve seen plenty of players be out of form for their club and be in form for their nation, and vice versa.”Hislop agrees. “A lot of times, coming back and playing international football is a release,” he says, citing a couple of points in his career where getting in the net for Trinidad and Tobago helped him reset emotionally from troubling times with his club. “You feel like a weight is off of your shoulders. You look forward to it and you actually play some of your best football in those circumstances.”Ultimately, it’s a tad too early to be too worried. While there are reasons for concern, Howard and Guzan have shown world-class ability for years and if anything, the major worry for the U.S. manager might be further down the line. There isn’t anyone waiting in the wings. “The question mark has been ‘where is that next crop? Who has been able to get to that next level?'” Keller says.Luis Robles, who started in a 3-2 win against Iceland, had an excellent 2015 but he is Guzan’s age. Sean Johnson (26) and Bill Hamid (25) were supposed to be the wave of the future and while both can be spectacular, they have been inconsistent in Major League Soccer, which doesn’t bode well for the transition to the highest levels.Add the number one woes with those of the next class and you start to see a trend. Jurgen Klinsmann began 2016 with a long to do list. Figuring out the goalkeeper situation isn’t at the top but for the first time in a long time, it deserves a spot. Its mere presence should be something of a concern.Noah Davis is
Late Goal Gives U.S. Hope That 2016 Will Be a Brighter Year
By JOSEPH D’HIPPOLITOJAN. 31, 2016
CARSON, Calif. — A new year means new hope, revised goals, a chance to reinvigorate the spirit. For the United States national team, it means an opportunity to erase the bad taste from a disappointing 2015.Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad began rectifying the past by rallying for a 3-2 victory against Iceland on Sunday in front of an announced 8,803 at StubHub Center. Defender Steve Birnbaum assisted on a goal midway through the second half, then scored the winner on a header in the 90th minute.Though the United States earned what was only its third victory since July 22, Klinsmann cautioned against putting too much stock in the result, especially since he had fielded mostly reserves and newcomers. Four players made their international debuts Sunday: Defender Kellyn Acosta and midfielder Ethan Finlay started; midfielder Tony Tchani and forward Jerome Kiesewetter appeared as substitutes in the second half.“Obviously, you can see we’re not fine-tuned yet,” Klinsmann said. “The biggest issues are finding your first touch, finding the right moves, getting a better understanding for each other, here and there. These things take time.”Klinsmann began last year being castigated for leaving Landon Donovan off the 2014 World Cup team. In last year’s exhibition against Panama at StubHub Center — where Donovan spent 10 seasons in M.L.S. as a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy — homemade banners greeting Klinsmann read, “JK Out” and “Red Card the Coach.” His squad ended 2015 by winning one of its final five matches.The most frustrating defeat came in October, in extra time against Mexico in a one-game playoff for Concacaf’s berth in next year’s Confederations Cup, a precursor to the 2018 World Cup. The playoff became necessary when the United States failed to defend the Gold Cup championship it won in 2013. Instead, it crumbled and lost both its semifinal and the third-place game.In the six months since the Gold Cup and especially after the loss to Mexico, Klinsmann received renewed criticism for his emphasis on rigorous training, his constant tactical shifts and his method of compiling his roster. One former player recently added his voice to the controversy.Midfielder Benny Feilhaber, one of three finalists for M.L.S.’s Most Valuable Player Award last year, sharply criticized Klinsmann last month after he was not chosen for the January camp. Feilhaber, who has played 41 times for the United States but has been marginalized by Klinsmann, complained that the criteria Klinsmann used to select players were flawed and unfair.The comments suggested a grim mood around Klinsmann’s squad as it began an important year with its annual January camp. The United States will attempt to qualify not only for the 2018 World Cup, but also for this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, while preparing for the Copa América Centenario, which will take place in the United States for the first time.
Against Iceland, whose roster included eight players from qualifying for this year’s European championship, the Americans demonstrated their ability to exploit set pieces in rallying from deficits in each half.In the 59th minute, Michael Orozco scored the tying goal on a 1-yard header that resulted from Michael Bradley’s corner kick. Iceland’s Birkir Saevarsson attempted to clear Bradley’s corner, but the ball fell to forward Jozy Altidore, who chipped it across the goal to Birnbaum, who headed it back in front to Orozco.Birnbaum struck in the final minute for his first goal in international competition. Birnbaum, who plays for D.C. United, rose to meet Bradley’s 25-yard free kick from the right wing with a powerful header.But one of the United States’ disturbing tendencies once again made itself known: defensive confusion, which Iceland used to score both of its goals.In the 13th minute, defender Matt Besler headed a pass intended for the veteran forward Eidur Gudjohnsen. But Besler received no help in clearing the ball, which Gudjohnsen retrieved and sent to Kristinn Steindorsson, who fired a 17-yard shot off Orozco that left goalkeeper Luis Robles with no chance.Another mistake enabled Iceland to regain the lead in the 48th minute. With the Americans arguing with the referee Jeffrey Solis about a foul, Aron Sigurdarson exploited a quick restart to drive forward, cut inside and curl a shot around a backpedaling defender.“We’re not concerned,” Klinsmann said of the defensive mistakes. “We told the players, Listen, you’re going to make mistakes. It’s not going to go smooth.”Iceland’s defense defused most of the combinations the United States tried to execute along the wings, and often outpositioned the American forwards. But in the 21st minute, Jermaine Jones began an artistic play that led to the first tying goal.Jones passed from the center circle to Gyasi Zardes, who cut the ball to Bradley, who freed Altidore in the penalty area with a pass that split two defenders and met his darting run.If any one player embodies both promise and frustration, that player is Altidore, 26, who has received constant criticism for not fulfilling his potential. But Klinsmann believes this year can become a turning point for him.“I think Jozy’s at a point in his career where he really becomes an adult,” said Klinsmann, who then spoke enthusiastically. “He’s saying: ‘You know what? I’ve got to get the most out of this. I’m going to play in Copa América this summer. Maybe that’s the only Copa América I’m going to play.’ So he came into this camp in very good shape, in a very positive spirit, and worked. He was here from Day 1 and committed to work. Jozy was determined to get going, to get 2016 started in the right way and build.”If that attitude permeates the rest of Klinsmann’s squad, then 2016 could provide the mouthwash for 2015’s bitter aftertaste.
USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann praises the four debutants from Sunday’s win over Iceland
February 1, 20168:16 PM ESTScott FrenchMLSsoccer.com
CARSON, Calif. – Jurgen Klinsmann had praised all four of his players who received their first caps in the US national team’s victory over Iceland, but Ethan Finlay wasn’t about to take it to heart.The Columbus Crew SC winger played the first hour on the right side of midfield in Sunday’s 3-2 triumph at StubHub Center, and he’d recognized good things in his game and other things that need to improve. Klinsmann’s words were nice to hear, but they’re only words.“You don’t just belong because you show well in one game,” Finlay said after his international debut. “What I’ve tried to do over the last three weeks of training [at the national team’s annual ‘January’ camp] – and I hope that’s the reason I was able to get the start was I laid a good foundation that the coaching staff liked, and I’ll continue to do “I don’t think you want to hang your head on one game, whether it be good or bad, and I’m not going to do that.”
For Finlay and fellow debutants Kellyn Acosta from FC Dallas, Columbus’ Tony Tchani and VfB Stuttgart’s Jerome Kiesewetter, adding another cap to the first – and another and another – requires much work. Their next chance comes Friday at StubHub against Canada, when six more players hope to receive their initial caps.Acosta, too, started and went 90 minutes at left back. Tchani came on for Jermaine Jones in the holding midfield slot after an hour, and the German-born Kiesewetter played the final 15 minutes on the right flank.Acosta, 20, one of three Under-23 players to see action, needed some time to find his bearings.“After he kind of settled his nerves, after 10-15 minutes, he really played like he belonged in this team,” Klinsmann said. “Really fun to watch.”Acosta has played at right back on occasion for Dallas and left back for the U.S. U-20s, but he’s primarily a No. 6. He found confidence getting up and down the flank as the game proceeded.“The first half was a little rough for me,” he acknowledged. “I was a little timid at first. I was too afraid to make a mistake. I think that was, like, my downfall, but as the second half went on, I was more committed to getting forward, helping my team in every way possible.”USMNT Ratings: See how the four debutants fared vs. Iceland
Klinsmann wants to see if Acosta could potentially develop into a strong left back, a position that’s long been problematic for the Yanks.“We have some issues as an outside-back position, on the international level,” Klinsmann said. “We know Kellyn can play left or right, but also as a 6. He impressed in training, he was very calm, and was very mature for his age. And that was his opportunity then, [and] he was rewarded for these three weeks of really good work.”Tchani, 25, was called in for his Cameroon’s World Cup qualifiers in November but had to pull put with injury. His appearance Sunday doesn’t prevent him from committing to his native country.“I definitely enjoyed this moment,” he said. “I think about those things later.”Klinsmann said earned the opportunity with his 2015 Crew SC campaign.“With Tony, you have a player that played tremendous last season for Columbus and has a presence, is strong in the air, is physically strong, so he has his own way of playing it,” the US coach said. “But you see Jermaine and Michael [Bradley] kind of locked in in center midfield. It’s very difficult for Tony to make a case and to get him also the minutes on the field.”READ: If this is the fitter, happier Jozy, be excited | Armchair Analyst
Kiesewetter, 22, also is preparing for the U-23s’ playoff with Colombia for a berth this summer at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He was active from the moment he came on, in the 75th minute. Klinsmann compared him to US and Sunderland winger DeAndre Yedlin.“Jerome can play up front or can play wide,” Klinsmann said. “I think playing wide, he’s very talented, because he has terrific speed. A bit like DeAndre Yedlin, his weapon is speed, and then going at people and not being scared about anything. And within five minutes on the field, I think he had three crosses already, and two of them almost led to goals. That’s a good statement for a young player like him.”Finlay’s camp performance won him his start.“He was all over the place. He had endless energy,” Klinsmann said. “Sometimes you even has to slow him down, say, ‘Ethan, don’t need to go 200 mph in every moment.’ But it shows his character. He want to really give everything he has and wants to prove a point.“He was a bit nervous, too, in certain moments. Which is normal, since it’s your first camp. It was definitely the right step into this group of guys.”Finlay was focused on what he can do better when he gets his next opportunity.“I think it took me a little bit of time to settle in, but once I was able to do that, it was much better. I was definitely more happy with it,” Finlay said following his international debut. “I think just me being more decisive, some of the decision making – coming into the final third, coming to a conclusion, whether it be a shot or a cross, could have been better from me.“But I’m happy with it. It’s a start, and we’ll take it from there.”
Steve Birnbaum takes his U.S. chance with winning goal vs. Iceland
A 90th minute goal from Steve Birnbaum gave the United States a 3-2 victory in a thrilling match against Iceland.
CARSON, Calif. — Steve Birnbaum made the most of his opportunity in the U.S. national team’s 3-2 victory over Iceland on Sunday. Coming on at halftime, the D.C. United defender earned an assist on Michael Orozco’s 59th-minute equalizer and then bagged the game-winner himself, nodding home Michael Bradley’s free kick in the 90th minute.It wasn’t a bad Sunday for a player who wasn’t even on the January camp roster when it was first announced. Birnbaum had endured an inconsistent and injury-hit second season in MLS. The fact that U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was using the camp to bring together some core players from the U.S. U23 team meant roster spots were even tougher to come by.Even with all those circumstances, Birnbaum said he was “disappointed” by the initial omission, especially since he had shown well during the 2015 edition of the January camp. But just days before camp was due to start, Birnbaum got a reprieve. Injuries to Marc Pelosi and Fatai Alashe had reduced the roster’s numbers, and Klinsmann opted to call the defender in.”I didn’t really think I was going to get called into camp,” he said. “And then a couple of days before he asked me, ‘Can you be in on Monday?’ And I was like, ‘All right, I’m in.’ I was running the whole offseason, so I was semi-fit coming into camp. The first couple of days it took me a little bit to get my legs in and kind of just [hit] my stride.”Granted, Birnbaum’s primary task is to defend, and while he was decent during his 45-minute spell, he admitted that the U.S. “definitely had some shaky moments” at the back, and he held up his hand for failing to do more on Iceland’s second goal. The U.S. was caught napping on a quick restart. Birnbaum felt he could have done more to close down Iceland winger Aron Sigurdarson, who curled his shot past U.S. keeper Luis Robles.”Probably just position my body a little more inside, have him go wide,” Birnbaum said about the play. “I thought [Jermaine Jones] was coming close, but that’s on me.”Birnbaum more than made up for his miscue with his efforts on the offensive end, validating Klinsmann’s decision to bring him in. Klinsmann, for his part, insisted that he never forgot about Birnbaum in 2015 even as the defender gritted his way through the season. Klinsmann added that there isn’t much separating the pool of center-backs, regardless of what league they happen to be playing in.”Once a player comes here and is with us, we follow them,” he said. “We follow them also through their down periods. Then you can always discuss what is the hierarchy, what is the ranking of every position, of every player, which we always as coaches do. But he’s always there.”Klinsmann later added, “We keep on working with all of them, and they all have their case. We always encourage them that when you get the opportunity to be on the field, make the most out of it and [Birnbaum] did.”Birnbaum’s day was made even more special by the fact that he numerous friends and relatives in attendance, including some from as far away as Missouri. Given that he grew up in nearby Newport, California, his mother, Peggy Schmidt, didn’t have as far to come. “It was cool to be able to do that in my hometown basically,” he said.Birnbaum will likely get another chance when the U.S. takes on Canada this Friday at StubHub Center.
— Among the takeaways from the match was the improved midfield balance involving Bradley and Jones. There have been times where the two didn’t always seem in sync in terms of who should hold and who should get forward. On Sunday, Jones took up more of a defensive role and as a consequence, he and Bradley largely controlled matters in midfield. The two also looked more cohesive during last November’s World Cup qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago, but Klinsmann noted that managing that relationship is an ongoing process.”Obviously [Jones] has it in his DNA to go here and there,” he said. “Moving out of that position is just in his blood. You can scream as loud as you want to, suddenly he goes. And Michael is similar. It’s an ongoing discussion that you can have for years: When can Michael go, when can Jermaine go? The important part is really that they work off each other.”When [Jones] sees that Michael goes in an advance position because that’s when Michael connects with Jozy, with the players up front, he has to stay. Once he moves out of that position, we have a problem because we leave the space open behind us. That’s where always Kyle Beckerman saved us, because Kyle stayed, and these other two would just up and down, up and down. So we’ll talk often about that.”– Kellyn Acosta admitted he was nervous ahead of his first cap with the full national team. The fact that he had spent the vast majority of the current camp playing right-back, only to be switched to the left a couple of days ago, didn’t make things any easier. But after a shaky opening few minutes, Acosta eventually settled down and turned in a solid performance.”I was a little timid at first,” he said. “I was too afraid to make a mistake. I think that was my downfall. But as the second half went on I think I was more committed to getting forward and helping my team any way possible.”Klinsmann noted Acosta’s progression, saying he was pleased with the defender’s play. “I think after he settled his nerves, 10-15 minutes, he really played like he belonged in this team,” he said. “It was really fun to watch.”Given that suiting up for the full national team was a lifelong dream, Acosta admitted that getting the first cap out of the way was like a weight off his shoulders and he’ll be looking to improve against Canada. “Now I know what to expect,” he said. “Canada is a good team, they’re going to be tough, but I think I’m ready to go. I know what it takes getting my first cap under my belt.”– Klinsmann was careful to couch the performance (both the good and the bad) in modest terms. That included the defensive frailties shown at times.”We’re not concerned about any of it because they’re literally in preseason and trained for three weeks,” he said. “So we told them ‘Listen, you’re going to make mistakes today. It’s not going to go smooth, it’s not going to be perfect.'”There will be mistakes that led, unfortunately, to two goals. But as long as you keep going and get a rhythm and try to create chances and try to score your own goals as well. We’re not concerned about it at all, because the benchmark today is not really a benchmark. It’s three weeks of preseason. That’s all.”Jeff Carlisle
Jozy Altidore delivers top performance for United States vs. Iceland
CARSON, Calif. — Goals from Jozy Altidore, Michael Orozco and Steve Birnbaum — who scored in the 90th minute — gave the U.S. national team a 3-2 friendly win over Iceland in its first match of 2016.
Here’s how individual American players fared in the match.
(Player ratings (1-10; 5=average, 10=best) Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Luis Robles, 6 — Blameless on both Iceland goals: The first deflected off Michael Orozco, and he didn’t get much help from his defenders on the second. Rarely troubled otherwise outside of one timely second-half stop.
DF Brad Evans, 5 — Made a couple of decent long passes in his 45 minutes of action but had a relatively quiet afternoon before coming off at the half.
DF Michael Orozco, 5.5 — The Club Tijuana man was involved in both Iceland goals and culpable on the second, getting caught out of position after replacing Evans at right back. But he helped make up for it by scoring the Americans’ second.
DF Matt Besler, 5.5 — Had several chances to clear before Iceland’s opener in the 13th minute, but rock-solid otherwise and also contributed to the U.S. cause with good passing out of the back.
DF Kellyn Acosta, 5.5 — In his first senior appearance, the 20-year-old left back showed some early nerves but calmed down later on and made a couple of good passes, including a cross striker Gyasi Zardes sent just wide.
MF Ethan Finlay, 4.5 — Showed some expected nerves at times and could have played quicker in other moments. But overall, a decent international debut for the Columbus Crew winger.
MF Michael Bradley, 8 — It didn’t look like the first game of the year for the U.S. captain. Sharp and involved throughout, he made a great final pass on Altidore’s pretty first-half strike and picked up a second assist on Birnbaum’s late game winner.
MF Jermaine Jones, 6.5 — Provided his usual steel in the center of the field. Also started play that led to the Americans’ opener with a pinpoint long pass out from inside his own half.
MF Lee Nguyen, 7 — Faded slightly late in first international start, but overall the New England Revolution playmaker absolutely helped his case to become a U.S. regular. He was dangerous on the ball and ought to have had a helper on his inch-perfect, 16th-minute cross to Zardes.
FW Gyasi Zardes, 6 — Should’ve converted Nguyen’s pretty first-half service but made good runs and was sharp in the attacking buildup — especially his smart pass to Bradley on the sequence that led to Altidore’s goal.
FW Jozy Altidore, 8 — Showed confidence and composure on his goal by waiting for Iceland keeper Ogmundur Kristinsson to commit before chipping over, and helped set up the Americans’ second-half equalizer with a dangerous cross. Battled hard and his touch improved as the match wore on.
DF Steve Birnbaum, 7 — Failed to step on Aron Sigurdarson’s strike moments after entering to start the second half, but more than redeemed himself with a smart headed assist on Orozco’s equalizer and then the winning goal in the 90th minute.
MF Darlington Nagbe, 5 — Replaced Finlay with a half-hour to play, picking up a yellow card 10 minutes later and almost knocking home a Jerome Kiesewetter cross.
MF Tony Tchani, NR — Made his international debut when he came on for Jones in the 71st minute.
FW Jerome Kiesewetter, NR — Active in 15 minutes of action in his first cap, sent in a dangerous cross to Nagbe minutes after replacing Zardes, then another moments later.
FW Jordan Morris, NR — The new Seattle Sounder spelled Altidore, coming on alongside fellow forward Kiesewetter.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.
Player Ratings: Jozy Altidore leads US national team in friendly victory against Iceland
|January 31, 20168:42 Greg ltzerMLSsoccer.com|
S national team pulled out the win against friendly visitors Iceland on Sunday night at StubHub Center in Carson, California, but that rally did not change the fact that their overall performance left a bit to be desired.The home side fell behind twice against another January “B side” opponent, but the troubling concessions only seemed to spark reasonably quick replies. In the end, their mistakes were covered up by a second half pair of restart tallies.
MLSsoccer.com USMNT Player Ratings
Luis Robles (5)
The Red Bulls’ netminder was the victim of a deflection on Iceland’s first goal, but was caught far too married to the near post on Aron Sigurdarson’s second strike. Robles logged a single save, on a shot hit straight at him.
Brad Evans (5.5)
The Seattle veteran completed a handful of helpful passes into attack, but also was guilty of allowing too much space on his defensive flank on a few notable occasions.
Michael Orozco (5.5)
Orozco had a decent first half in central defense before switching to right back at the break. Then, not long after his timid defending allowed Sigurdarson space to fire Iceland’s second, the Tijuana defender atoned by netting a set-piece equalizer. A couple of passing turnovers in the US end dips his grade below passing.
Matt Besler (5.5)
The Sporting KC man was most guilty on the Iceland opener, with his off-balance attempt to deal with a high ball essentially teeing up the scorer. There were a few other shaky moments from Besler, though he also contributed some positive passes forward and piled up 11 pass picks, including six in or directly in front of the home area.
Kellyn Acosta (5.5)
The FC Dallas debutant was among those caught spectating when Besler’s flub created a problem, but he tidied up his defensive game after that. Acosta also eventually was able to get forward, creating real danger on a pair of occasions.
Jermaine Jones (6)
The veteran midfielder made plenty happen with his incisive passing during the first half, including the attack starter that led to the first US equalizer. He was much less involved after the break and made way with 20 minutes remaining. Still, his willingness to stay back helped to unleash Bradley.
Michael Bradley (6.5)
The Toronto FC star was probably the most culpable of the ball-watchers on Sigurdarson’s opener, but he soon made up for it with a nifty through-ball assist. Bradley eventually set up the winner from one of his dangerous restart serves. For much of the day, he was the lone USMNT creator in attack, but this space doesn’t exactly find that to be a good thing from an overall team standpoint.
Ethan Finlay (5)
The Crew winger had his moments taking on defenders, but underwhelmed during his hour of work. He was a little too eager to sky bad shots and never dropped a dangerous feed into the box.
Lee Nguyen (5.5)
The Revs’ ace should have earned an early assist with a fine diagonal cross to the back post, but it ended up being his best set-up moment of the game. It wasn’t a bad showing, even if more aggressiveness in the final third could have been useful.
Gyasi Zardes (5.5)
Zardes pitched in with a few strong hold-up plays, including one on the first US goal. However, his most noteworthy moment came when he blew the chance provided by the aforementioned Nguyen set-up.
Jozy Altidore (7)
His day was not only defined by the clever finish and a smart secondary assist – Altidore was easily the most troublesome US attacker, with his runs repeatedly unsettling Iceland.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (5)
Despite the comeback victory, there was plenty to be concerned about. The team struggled thorugh much of the first half, with the “empty bucket” formation breeding an almost total lack of organization. Things were clearly better after the break, but the boss still insists on jamming square pegs into round holes too often. What’s more, the defense often looked a mess on the rare occasions it was called to service.
Steve Birnbaum (6.5)
Were it not for his set-piece output, this would have been a very different grade. The halftime sub was quite leaky at the back, despite not having so much to do. That being said, he effectively saved the day with a perfect knockback assist and an even better winning header.
Darlington Nagbe (6.5)
It was another impressive half-hour from Nagbe, even if he didn’t particularly feel like staying in a wide position. The MLS Cup champ once again provided link play after link play.
Tony Tchani (5.5)
The Columbus midfielder enjoyed a quiet but serviceable debut.
Jerome Kiesewetter (6.5)
The Stuttgart II winger was certainly not shy. He immediately shipped a pair of dangerous centering feeds, won two corner kicks and constantly opened space by forcing his defender to stay wide.
Jordan Morris (-)
Only a few touches during his late cameo.
mproved approach makes Lee Nguyen a U.S. January Camp winnerPhoto: Harry How/Getty Images
The interaction between seasoned internationals and a cohort of younger players preparing for next month’s do-or-die Olympic qualifier against Colombia has been one of the central themes of a unique winter camp. Some variation of the word “mentor” has come up time and again in interviews given by U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his players.“We urge the older guys to look after [the younger players],” Klinsmann said last month. “Pass on your knowledge. Give them a hint. Give them advices. Give them information, because it’s a huge, huge challenge ahead of them because we really want to go to Rio de Janeiro this summer.”But it hasn’t been just the U-23s who’ve been listening. Among the campers honing in on the advice and habits of the “older guys” is a 29-year-old, 10-year pro who’s played professionally on three continents and been an MLS MVP finalist. For Lee Nguyen, who earned his first senior U.S. start in Sunday’s 3-2 friendly win over Iceland, this camp could mark the long-awaited launch, or even the end, of his delayed international career.For years, if you followed U.S. soccer, Nguyen’s name probably was either just past the tip of your tongue or buried somewhere in the back of your mind. He was the Indiana University freshman who left school to join Dutch powerhouse PSV Eindhoven but played just twice in two years before going on loan in Denmark. Remember him?He was the Dallas-area product who spent another couple seasons in Vietnam, earning minutes in a league far removed from the headlines while getting closer to his ancestral roots. Whatever happened to that guy?He eventually returned to North America but failed to catch on with the Vancouver Whitecaps and by the time Nguyen signed with the New England Revolution in March 2012, it had been nearly five years since the skillful midfielder had represented his country. He was far removed from the national team picture. “Everybody that plays, there’s the goal to hopefully be able to get into the national team,” Nguyen told SI.com this week. “For me, I had to try to be a mainstay with a club team and fortunately, I was able to find my footing with New England. From there, it was really proving to yourself and trying to earn your spot, and the rest will take care of itself.”A spectacular 2014 campaign, during which he tallied 20 goals and eight assists and led the Revs to the MLS Cup final, resulted in a call-up from Klinsmann for a pair of year-end friendlies in Europe.Nguyen was back in frame after seven years in the international wilderness. But a nagging groin injury and a long MLS season contributed to a poor showing at the ensuing January camp.He wouldn’t see the field in a U.S. shirt again until last October, when he played 18 minutes in a miserable exhibition loss to Costa Rica.PODCAST: Interview with USA, Borussia Dortmund 17-year-old Christian Pulisic
This January camp and the games against Iceland and Canada (Friday; 10:15 p.m. ET; Fox Sports 1, UniMas) may just represent Nguyen’s best last chance to establish himself on Klinsmann’s depth chart. So Nguyen took no chances. He was going to come in healthy and hungry.“When I was finishing the season [in 2014], I was kind of nursing an injury all through the playoffs so after the season I kind of just took 4-6 weeks rest, letting my groin heal. This year was more just maintaining that fitness I had at the end just in case I got called in to January camp,” Nguyen said. “I had no idea [if I was getting called up]. I knew I was on the preliminary roster. You never know. You just want to be prepared if you are called in so you’re not so far behind. So that was my mentality.”He followed an offseason program sent by U.S. coaches.“The numbers speak for itself. We did tests and my numbers weren’t as good last year as they were this year. I came in a lot fitter. To me, that was a goal: to be more prepared mentally and physically coming into this camp,” Nguyen said.And then once he arrived, he’d maintain his vigilance. Work on establishing chemistry with key veterans. They’re the ones he’d be playing with in the games that matter. Forget the 10 years of life as a pro. Stay humble, listen and learn. Nguyen showed up with the same number of senior caps as Jordan Morris. There still was plenty to prove.“Lee came in a little bit different to last year,” Klinsmann said. “He was really prepared for this camp. From day one on, he set the tone. He says, ‘O.K., I was here last year. I didn’t make the impression that I wanted to make, so I better make it right now.’ He was impressionable in the starting lineup after a week already with us. ‘Oh, look at Lee.’ He really is, after three weeks of training and hard work, definitely one of the winners of this period right now.”Nguyen is a natural playmaker, which the U.S. typically has lacked in recent years. mann’s team has been anchored by captain Michael Bradley and veteran Jermaine Jones, both of whom are box-to-box midfielders, while faster or more direct players have been deployed in the wide positions. Bradley certainly has the ability to create in tight spaces and forward Clint Dempsey often retreats between the lines when he’s on the field, but both are better at other things and neither has the rhythm or subtlety of a bona fide No. 10.To establish the sort of proactive possession Klinsmann has been looking for, a player with Nguyen’s instincts usually is required. And on Sunday against Iceland, the U.S. built a sizable 62%-38% possession advantage. Granted, the visitors were missing most of their big names and were slower and more passive than the elite teams Klinsmann is chasing. But Nguyen’s performance still opened some eyes. He started on the left but frequently pinched in and found gaps between Iceland’s midfield and defense. His passing was perfect in the first half and he came close to recording a couple of assists—Gyasi Zardes certainly should have done better with Nguyen’s precise, 16th-minute cross.Nguyen shifted underneath the forwards in the second half and still was effective. He finally missed on a couple of passes but was part of a U.S. core that dominated the game’s later stages.WATCH: Bedoya stays hot with goal, slick assist for Nantes
“You can start to see they’re more comfortable finding me in those gaps. For me, I can interlink the play between the midfield and forwards. That’s like what they’re looking for,” Nguyen said following his 90-minute effort at StubHub Center. “I’ve played most of my games with the Revs underneath, so obviously I’m comfortable there. But at the same time, it’s easy to play with these guys.”Klinsmann said that when an opponent keeps things tight and compact in back, “You need a player who’s very skillful, easy turns, easy to connect people.” On Sunday, Nguyen fit the bill.Whether he does so going forward is anyone’s guess. Darlington Nagbe is making a push for a similar role, and Klinsmann may decide that games against more robust or skillful opponents may require a U.S. midfield with Bradley, Jones and a traditional No. 6. Nguyen told SI.com that he’s flexible. He’s waited so long to cement his international status that he’d be willing to play anywhere, and do anything, to ensure he stays on Klinsmann’s radar.“I want to be part of the World Cup qualifying squad and everybody wants to be on the World Cup team. That’s a big goal, obviously. I want to be in Copa América. But I think you’ve got to prove your worth. You’ve got to take advantage of your chances and I think I’m trying to do that,” he said. “I think the main thing is, like they always say, you can’t take these opportunities for granted. It’s an honor to be here, obviously, and you can’t waste chances when you get called in.”
Veteran-laden side, rejuvenated Altidore lift USMNT past Iceland
Posted: Sun Jan. 31, 2016The U.S. national team, now three weeks into its annual January camp, opened its 2016 slate on Sunday afternoon with a 3–2 victory over an Iceland junior varsity squad that yielded to the Americans for most of the match but still had enough quality to make things interesting. U.S. and D.C. United defender Steve Birnbaum, a substitute playing in just his second senior international match, headed home the 90th-minute game-winner off a precise free kick from captain Michael Bradley. The hosts had recovered twice from one-goal deficits but dominated the contest’s final minutes and arguably deserved the win.Iceland was playing without the vast majority of the team that sensationally qualified for this summer’s European Championship, while U.S. coach JurgenKlinsmann opted to field a relatively veteran lineup despite bringing so many Olympic-eligible players to Southern California. It showed for the most part, although a few hairy moments allowed Iceland to push the hosts to the limit.Here are three thoughts on the first international of 2016:
Klinsmann gives the veterans a run
Nine of the 26 players currently in camp are eligible to play for the U-23 team, which faces Colombia in a do-or-die, home-and-home Olympic qualifier in late March. Klinsmann said this week that he and his staff “have to do everything possible to give them all the help in the world to make it happen.”That did not include starting them on Sunday. FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta, a 20-year-old who didn’t play in last year’s Olympic qualifying tournament, was the only U-23 player to take the field at kickoff—and he was deployed at left back. Instead, Klinsmann wanted to gauge the preseason progress of his more experienced players. The World Cup spine of center back Matt Besler, midfielders Jermaine Jones and Bradley and forward Jozy Altidore was intact, and Klinsmann had hinted before the game that he wanted to see how Altidore and Gyasi Zardes meshed. The LA Galaxy man started up front alongside Altidore as the U.S. stepped out in a 4-4-2.Veteran defenders Michael Orozco and Brad Evans, each a late arrival in camp, started ahead of younger options while Lee Nguyen, 29, and U.S. debutant Ethan Finlay, 25, were deployed out wide (although they frequently pinched in). Jones and Bradley held sway in midfield with the out-of-contract Jones usually playing a bit deeper, and the U.S. held a 62%–38% advantage in possession. Iceland’s Aron Sigurdarson created some problems on the American right and the hosts had a couple misadventures in back, but for the most part the U.S. carried the play against a slower, less experienced opponent. If Klinsmann were happy with what he saw, he may opt to give his younger charges more of a run against Canada on Feb. 5.The performance of forward Jerome Kiesewetter, who entered in the 75th minute alongside new Seattle Sounder Jordan Morris, certainly whet the Olympic appetite. The 22-year-old VfB Stuttgart reserve scored six times for the U-23 team last year and had a foot in a few U.S. chances in his abbreviated appearance on Sunday, running hard onto several passes in the right channel and causing problems for the Iceland defense.
Defensive miscues keep Iceland in it
After three weeks of training, the U.S. attack was in better sync than the defense, which seemed to have trouble handling the rhythm of a game in which the Americans held so much more of the ball. When the U.S. switched off, it paid a price.Klinsmann’s team has yielded the opening goal in eight of its past nine games. On Sunday, it was a poor 13th-minute clearance by Besler and the late arrival of the U.S. midfield that allowed Iceland’s Kristinn Steindórsson to power a deflected shot past goalkeeper Luis Robles. The U.S. drew level through Altidore but fell behind again in the 48th. A quick Iceland free kick left the U.S. stranded and befuddled. Several players were still focused on the referee as Sigurdarson received the ball on the left. Finlay was late on the tackle. Orozco, who shifted to right back at the start of the half, was nowhere to be found and Birnbaum, a halftime substitute, retreated as the Fjölnir forward dribbled into the penalty area and curled a perfect shot past Robles.Iceland nearly took a third lead in the 69th, but a wide-open Birkir Saevarsson pounded his shot straight at Robles. The U.S. remained vulnerable on the counter and it seemed that whenever the visitors carried the ball into the offensive third, they got a look at goal.Klinsmann wants his team to have more of the ball. When it does, the defense has to be sharper and more attentive.
A refreshed, rejuvenated Jozy Altidore
He’s 26 years old and is kicking off his 10th year as a senior international and yet somehow, the height of Altidore’s ceiling remains unclear. Prolific in the Netherlands and stifled in England, Altidore (now with Toronto FC) has been both unstoppable and invisible in a U.S. jersey. He had 18 goals in 37 international appearances from 2013 through ’15, which isn’t bad, but there have been too many signs over the years that he’s capable of more. Missing out on most of the 2014 World Cup and 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup with hamstring injuries added to the frustration.This year, Altidore appears committed to raising that ceiling. He arrived in California for this month’s U.S. camp a week early and has increased his focus on fitness and diet. “The last couple of years have been rough, so I just want to stay healthy, stay fit and try to help my team the best that I can,” Altidore said last week.He certainly helped on Sunday. Granted, the U.S. dominated possession against a slower, more patient foe, but this was an Altidore who was lively, engaged and connected. He alertly ran onto two lofted passes in the first 10 minutes, and although he was offside on the first and mishandled the second, it was a sign that he was mobile and plugged in. Zardes and Nguyen stayed close and were effective in combination, and in the 20th minute, Altidore grabbed the equalizer. Zardes played a quick square pass to Bradley, who slipped the ball through to Altidore for the left-footed, first-time finish.Altidore continued to battle as a target toward the end of the half, drawing a yellow card foul in the 45th, and then in the 59th he helped set up Orozco’s goal. Bradley’s corner kick was cleared toward the edge of the penalty area and Altidore raced to the ball, turned and hit a high pass back toward the right post. Birnbaum was there to head it toward Orozco on the Iceland goal line.Expectations are high for Altidore this year. He should score at a high rate for TFC and be healthy and productive for the U.S. in qualifying and the Copa América.“He wants to put his stamp on the national team program,” Klinsmann said. “So he now wants to make sure that he makes the right decisions. So we see a Jozy now coming in prepared.”Several touches went awry and there’s still a long way to go, but that preparation and determination was evident on Sunday.“I felt good,” Altidore told ESPN following the win. “It’s the first game of the year, trying to get our legs under us still … It’s nice to play against a real opponent and get a few minutes…. Sometimes that final pass wasn’t there, that first touch wasn’t there, but it will come in due time.”
Jamie Vardy magic keeps Leicester top of the league with 2-0 win vs. Liverpool
Jamie Vardy notched a brace in Leicester’s 2-0 win over Liverpool as the team continued its Premier League title push.
LEICESTER, England — Here are three points from King Power Stadium after Leicester defeated Liverpool 2-0 on Tuesday night.
- Spectacular Vardy keeps Leicester’s title quest going
Perhaps nothing changed in January after all. If the remainder of the season is essentially a new, 15-game, mini-season between title contenders with fresh, restocked squads, then it has begun exactly where we left off. Jamie Vardy seems on a one-man crusade to propel Leicester to the most implausible of Premier League titles, and two instinctive second-half goals Tuesday — his first being maybe the very best of his burgeoning collection — kept Leicester top of the Premier League heading into Saturday’s tantalizing trip to Manchester City.The match had fallen into a reliable pattern, when on the hour, Vardy intervened with a stunning bolt from the blue.The hosts had been content to absorb periods of ineffectual Liverpool pressure and counter swiftly when, from a long clearance, Vardy found himself running between Mamadou Sakho and Alberto Moreno down the right-hand channel. Not for the first time, the Liverpool defenders hesitated at the sight of the England striker in full flight, the ball was allowed to bounce, and after a quick glance, Vardy chanced his luck. His 25-yard volley arced, dipped and swerved beyond Simon Mignolet for his 17th goal of the season and sent the King Power Stadium, which has gotten used to stunning individual feats this season, into rapturesEleven minutes later, the result was put beyond doubt. This time, it was a finish that showcased the best of Vardy’s predatory instincts: Shinji Okazaki’s low shot deflected to him at the far post and was met by an emphatic finish. Despite attempting to narrow the angle, Mignolet could do nothing once more.Vardy’s earlier work had largely consisted of working the channels, chasing down the centre-halves and teeing others up while waiting for the kind of glimpse of goal that opened up decisively in this instance. Tireless as ever, he was a deserving match winner Tuesday, and by now, none of us should be remotely surprised.
- Leicester show they won’t go away
The King Power Stadium knew what was at stake before this one. It felt in many ways like the beginning of the real title race for Leicester, whose astonishing work in the previous six months had earned them a shootout for English football’s biggest prize. Claudio Ranieri had given his players three days off after their previous game, a win over Stoke on Jan. 23, and the task now was to show they would simply not be going away.This team does not look likely to. Leicester came out flying in the first half, feeding off a crowd that responded raucously to every challenge, chase and block. Riyad Mahrez’s long-range shot and Okazaki could have put them 2-0 up inside the opening 10 minutes, and it was the latter’s chance that epitomized their methods. Danny Drinkwater, operating in a whirlwind of a midfield partnership with N’Golo Kante, simply showed more desire than Jordan Henderson to a challenge and drove forward to release Vardy, whose cross was met by a free header that Mignolet turned over. Perhaps Leicester’s doggedness was summed up best by Mahrez. The gifted winger almost scored a goal that would have topped Vardy’s before halftime by whipping in a 30-yard shot that Mignolet tipped over, yet it was one of his scrappier contributions that helped put the game to bed. Mahrez’s persistence in battling for a direct ball and helping it on for Okazaki paved the way for Leicester’s second goal and underscored the impression that something special is happening with this team.
Leicester have a squad with players of many background, nationalities and attributes, but every one of them has bought into the sheer force will required to drag a team over the line in a title race. Whatever happens at the Etihad on Saturday, and even at the Emirates a week later, it is impossible to doubt a team whose application is as consistent as this.
- Liverpool’s striker woes are laid bare
For the second match in a row, Jurgen Klopp named a forward called Teixeira among the substitutes — but not that one. Their winter-long pursuit of Shakhtar Donetsk forward Alex Teixeira failed, which means fringe player Joao was called up, and as he sat alongside the firmly out-of-favour Christian Benteke, Liverpool’s paucity of trustworthy attacking options was evident once more.Benteke’s situation was cast firmly into light by the fact that Klopp opted for a rarely-used 4-4-2 here — matching the formation that has served Leicester so well — but chose Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana to spearhead the attack. Firmino’s recent work as a nominal centre-forward has been successful; the bigger surprise was to see Lallana generally operating ahead of him.The plan worked to an extent during a first half in which Liverpool recovered to exert a measure of authority after a torrid start. Lallana was a particular threat when drifting into wide areas and bringing a narrow midfield into the game. The point was made after 33 minutes, when he worked his way into the left side of the penalty area before arrowing in a cross for Jordan Henderson coming in from the right. The midfielder would have scored had Fuchs, intervening bravely, not headed the ball inches over his own bar.Yet a direct threat was lacking, and it was a similar story in the second period. A deflected Henderson shot from an angle, and an Alberto Moreno cross shot, fisted away by Kasper Schmeichel, were the best Klopp’s side could muster. Benteke was introduced after 66 minutes but to no effect, as Liverpool were forced to chase the game.By the end, Liverpool’s supporters were left to amuse themselves by chanting the name of Steven Gerrard. How this team could do with players of his character and quality — as well as his ability to conjure up a decisive goal.Klopp’s theory was clear in selecting this lineup, but the bottom line is that with Daniel Sturridge’s fitness still a thorny question, Liverpool have left themselves well shor