2/22/16 Copa America Draw is Set, Champions League Super Tues + Games of the Week

So the US got a difficult draw for Copa Centario this summer but its not all bad.  It will be challenging for Klinsmann and the US but for the good of Soccer in the US they really need to advance and get the country behind them this summer. The most difficult game of course is Columbia and Real Madrid superstar James in Santa Clara.  The game in Chicago, Tues eve, June 7 (read tickets still available) vs Costa Rica becomes a must win.

So Champions League is back with huge games on Tues 2:45 Fox Sports channels with Arsenal hosting Barcelona and Messi, and last season’s runner-up Juventus and their world class keeper Buffon hosting German powerhouse Bayern Munich.  (some of us headed to Stacked Pickle on 96th if you want to join us).

Group A:
June 3: United States vs. Colombia, Santa Clara, Calif.
 June 4: Costa Rica vs. Paraguay, Orlando
June 7: United States vs. Costa Rica, Chicago
June 7: Colombia vs. Paraguay, Pasadena, Calif.
June 11: United States vs. Paraguay, Philadelphia
June 11: Colombia vs. Costa Rica, Houston
US Has Copa Group of Death
US gets Toughest Draw – ESPN FC Mcintyre
Armchair Analyst MLS No Group of Death in Copa 100
US Klinsmann responds to Group of Death
No Group of Death US will be fine – NBCSports
How US has fared vs Copa Opponents MLS
Copa America Teams and Games are Set US vs Costa Rica in Chicago
Predicting the Copa Groups – ESPN FC Tim Vickery
Mexico has chance to win Group C
Who’s Playing Best for US –ESPN FC
Christian Pulisic makes first Bundesliga start for Dortmund
Champions League 
Super Tuesday – Champ League Breakdown
Does Arsenal stand a chance vs Barcelona? 
Bayern Pep not worried about UCL no championship
Games of the Week 
Tues, Feb 23
2:45 pm Fox Sports 1 Arsenal vs Barcelona – The gunners draw the top team in the world again – must win at home.
2:45 pm FS 2          Juventus vs Bayern Munich – last year’s Final 4 battle it out at Juve.
10:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Seattle Sounders vs. Club América –huge game for MLS and US Soccer at home –great atmosphere in Seattle
Wed, Feb 24
2:45 pm  FS1          Dynamo Kiev vs Man City- Can City get a point on the road? They have never advanced past this rd.
2:45 pm  FS 2         Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid –Dutch power looks to win at home.
Sat, Feb 27
10 am beIn Sport –     Madrid Classico – Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid – Ah the Madrid Classic – Real needs to win this game at home to stay in La Liga contention.
 Sunday, Feb 28
9 am NBCSN –          Man U vs Arsenal  - Always a big game despite Man U’s struggles – Gunners need win to stay in EPL contention for title
11:30 am                   Capital 1 Cup Finals – Liverpool vs Man City – Can Klopp help Liverpool win a trophy against a depleted Man City?   
2:45 pm  bein Sport     Juventus vs Inter – Another huge game with top 4 implications in Italy.
Tues, Feb 23 - Champions League
2:45 pm FS 1          Arsenal vs Barcelona
2:45 pm FS 2          Juventus vs Bayern Munich
CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal first legs)
8:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Querétaro vs. DC United
 10:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Seattle Sounders vs. Club América
 Wed, Feb 24
2:45 pm  FS1          Dynamo Kiev vs Man City
2:45 pm  FS 2         Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid
CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal first legs)
8:00 p.m., Fox Sports 2: Tigres UANL vs. Real Salt Lake
 10:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Santos Laguna
Thursday, Feb. 25
UEFA Europa League (Round of 32 second leg)
1:00 p.m., TV TBD: Athletic Bilbao vs. Marseille, Kuban Krasnodar vs. Sparta Prague, Lazio vs. Galatasaray, Liverpool vs. Augsburg, Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Fenerbahçe, Rapid Vienna vs. Valencia, Schalke 04 vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
3:00 p.m., ESPN3: Manchester United vs. Midtjylland, Porto vs. Borussia Dortmund
 3:00 p.m., ESPN Deportes: Napoli vs. Villarreal
 3:00 p.m., TV TBD: Basel vs. Saint-Étienne, Molde vs. Sevilla, Olympiakos vs. Anderlecht, Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fiorentina
 Sat, February 27
7:45 am  NBCSN        West Ham vs Sunderland
9;30 am Fox Sports 2 Wolfsburg vs Bayern Munich
10 am beIn Sport –     Madrid Classico – Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid
10 am NBCSN           Leicester City vs Norwich
 Sunday, February 28
9 am NBCSN –          Man U vs Arsenal
11:30 am Capital 1 Cup Finals – Liverpool vs Man City 
2:45 pm  bein Sport     Juventus vs Inter
 Tuesday, March 1
CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal second legs)
8:00 p.m., TV TBD: D.C. United vs. Querétaro
 10:00 p.m., TV TBD: Santos Laguna vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
 Wednesday, March 2, 2016
CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal second legs)
8:00 p.m., TV TBD: Club América vs. Seattle Sounders
 10:00 p.m., TV TBD: Real Salt Lake vs. Tigres UANL
Sun, March 6: MLS Opening Weekend
4:30 pm ESPN           Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew
7 pm Fox Sports 1      Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City
  Friday, arch 25: 
Guatemala vs. United States men, WC qualifier, time TBD (beIN Sports,)
Tuesday, March 28:
United States men vs. Guatemala, WC qualifier, time 8 pm (ESPN2,-Columbus, OH)
Group A:
June 3: United States vs. Colombia, Santa Clara, Calif.
 June 4: Costa Rica vs. Paraguay, Orlando
June 7: United States vs. Costa Rica, Chicago
June 7: Colombia vs. Paraguay, Pasadena, Calif.
June 11: United States vs. Paraguay, Philadelphia
June 11: Colombia vs. Costa Rica, Houston
Group B:
June 4: Haiti vs. Peru, Seattle
June 4: Brazil vs. Ecuador, Pasadena, Calif.
June 8: Brazil vs. Haiti, Orlando
June 8: Ecuador vs. Peru, Glendale, Ariz.
June 12: Ecuador vs. Haiti, East Rutherford, N.J.
June 12: Brazil vs. Peru, Foxborough, Mass.
Group C:
June 5: Jamaica vs. Venezuela, Chicago  (Sunday)
June 5: Mexico vs. Uruguay, Glendale, Ariz.
June 9: Mexico vs. Jamaica, Pasadena, Calif.
June 9: Uruguay vs. Venezuela, Philadelphia
June 13: Mexico vs. Venezuela, Houston
June 13: Uruguay vs. Jamaica, Santa Clara, Calif.
Group D:
June 6: Panama vs. Bolivia, Orlando
June 6: Argentina vs. Chile, Santa Clara, Calif.
June 10: Chile vs. Bolivia, East Rutherford, N.J.
June 10: Argentina vs. Panama, Chicago
June 14: Chile vs. Panama, Philadelphia
June 14: Argentina vs. Bolivia, Seattle
Why USA's group is clearly Copa America's Group of Death
February 21, 201610:04 PM ESTBenjamin BaerMLSsoccer.com

After Sunday night's draw for the 2016 Copa America Centenario, the US national team will be facing another tall task in the group stages of an official competition after watching Group A turn into what is unquestionably the tournament's "Group of Death." Don't take our word for it. ESPN's Soccer Power Index says that Group A is the toughest of the four groups drawn.There are two other rankings to look at when attempting to determine the Group of Death, or even the Group of Life (Mexico's): the FIFA rankings and the ELO Rating System. The latter is held in higher regard by most soccer pundits since it takes into account the type of match, home field advantage and goal differential.
FIFA Ranking
ELO Rating
Costa Rica
The Group of Death will not be kind. Although the USA may be the "seeded" team as hosts, Colombia are clear favorites to get out of the group with the other three nations fighting for the second spot in the quarterfinals. Although things could change come June, Costa Rica and Paraguay are currently the more in-form teams of the three.
FIFA Ranking
ELO Rating
It's pretty obvious that Brazil and Ecuador are the top two teams here, but they will have to see off a Peruvian side that made it all the way to the semifinals of last year's Copa America. Haiti also showed some fight in the 2015 Gold Cup, when they advanced out of their group alongside the US.
FIFA Ranking
ELO Rating
While everyone will be paying attention to Mexico and Uruguay, let's not forget that Jamaica defeated the US in the semifinals of the 2015 Gold Cup before falling to El Tri in the final. It would be a surprise to see Venezuela get more than three points in this group.
FIFA Ranking
ELO Rating
Forecasting the two sides to emerge from Group D will not be tough for most, as Argentina and Chile are two of the top teams in the world. Panama will be the toughest opposition of the remaining two teams: They defeated the US in the third-place match of the 2015 Gold Cup, but they have not enjoyed the best of form since then. Bolivia have lost 5-0 to both Argentina and Chile in the past year.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Armchair Analyst: No Group of Death, just the Struggle Bus for USA & friends in Copa America
February 21, 201610:53 PM ESTMatthew DoyleMLSsoccer.com

Step away from the ledge and have some dignity, folks. The US have been facing South American clubs on equal footing in world competitions since 1994, and this summer's Copa America Centenario is no different. The hand-wringing on display on Twitter during and after the draw makes no sense.
Here's Group A:
On paper Colombia are the best team in the group, but forgive me if I'm not entirely overawed at the prospect of watching the US face them at home – especially given their current run of form.Los Cafeteros have scored four goals in their last eight competitive games, including last summer's Copa America. You'll note that this downward trajectory has lined up nicely with the downward trajectory of their forward corps as a whole; Radamel Falcao's never going to be Radamel Falcao again, and none of the other options have proved to be real goal-getters.
James Rodriguez can sometimes obviate that weakness by winning a game all by himself, but that's not a reliably repeatable strategy. He also can't control the game unless he has a proper midfield structure around him – and quick, tell me what that is for Colombia right now. I'll wait.(No I won't).
You don't actually have an answer, because Colombia head coach Jose Pekerman has had no answers for about the last 12 months. In the last three games in particular, he's taken some wild swings, varying his personnel, tactical bent and formation by the half. Colombia have gone 0-2-1 with one goal scored in that span.That's Colombia in the books. Here's what I have to say about the other two opponents, Costa Rica and Paraguay: In spite of several years of struggles under Jurgen Klinsmann, the US should be favored against either of those teams. If we're not – if our fans settle for a "plucky underdogs!" mantle and our approach is a reprise of the "bunker and pray" tactic that Klinsmann instilled at both last year's Gold Cup and 2014's World Cup, then we'll have taken a step backwards as a soccer community.I get the impression that lots of US fans have been so preoccupied with our own struggles at the Gold Cup that they failed to notice Costa Rica were just as bad. And anyway, if we hadn't drawn Costa Rica we'd have either ended up with a team that actually beat us at the Gold Cup (Panama, Jamaica), or should have (Haiti).That leaves a Paraguay team that didn't qualify for the 2014 World Cup, finishing dead last in CONMEBOL, and they went 3-5-6 in all competitions last year. Paraguay entered World Cup qualifying somewhere outside the top 60 in the FIFA Rankings. They've recently climbed up to No. 42 thanks to a come-from-behind 2-1 home win over mighty Bolivia, which is nice, but that is sort of canceled out by this fact: Paraguay haven't beaten a team ranked in the FIFA top 40 in over FOUR years.This is not an "oh they're just in a slump, but they have talent and if the coach pulls the right levers he should be able to figure it out" situation – which is, I'd argue, the correct assessment of the US. No, Paraguay have been a consistently bad team for 48 months as their most significant players have aged out of the program with no adequate replacements to be found.So relax a bit. There really is no such thing as a "Group of Death" in this tournament, and no one should be pretending otherwise.
2016 Copa America draw: There is no group of death, USMNT will be fine
By Andy EdwardsFeb 22, 2016, 8:24 AM EST
Let’s begin this week with the most flaming-hot of takes: the U.S. national team, as with nearly everything in life, is fine.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]
It is unspectacular in just about every way imaginable — it is truly unspectacular and joyless of late — yet still reliable enough to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and once again send a nation of nearly 320 million into soccer delirium in 27 months’ time, just as it has done every four years for nearly three decades now.In much the same fashion, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side remains just functional enough to not totally embarrass itself at the 2016 Copa America Centenario.The draw for this summer’s tournament was conducted Sunday night — alongside the Yanks in Group A are Colombia, Paraguay and Costa Rica — and the Yanks were handed a totally manageable field for a CONCACAF giant like themselves. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they should be expected to advance from that group. Doing so only requires they be better than Paraguay and Costa Rica. [ MORE ]
Let’s break it down bit by bit: Colombia are really, really good — decidedly better than the USMNT — but must only be played once during the group stage; that Colombia are far and away the best side in Group A and not, say, Brazil or Argentina, is a massive assist for the hosting Americans. Paraguay are, like the USMNT, spectacularly unspectacular and on their very best day, South America’s seventh-best side. Costa Rica have won just four of their 13 competitive meetings with the USMNT this century, drawn three and lost six. It could have been so much worse — Chile are the current Copa America holders and Uruguay possess some fellow named Luis Suarez; Jamaica are at present probably CONCACAF’s third- or — gasp — second-best side; and Peru are miles better than Paraguay, whom they brushed aside with ease in the third-place game at last year’s Copa. [ MORE: The very latest on the Tim Howard-to-MLS rumors ]
If, as a soccer nation, the United States is suddenly terrified of Paraguay and Costa Rica, then Jurgen Klinsmann truly has broken our spirit, our hopes and our dreams, and replaced them with the kind of resignation to defeat that’s typically only suitable for fans of the Colorado Rapids and Chicago Fire.This is not a “group of death,” as so many in the States were quick to dub it Sunday night. Truth is, the USMNT at present isn’t generally good enough to be anything more than the third- or fourth-best team in a real group of death (CONCACAF doesn’t have four teams capable of this, let alone six to fill out a four-group tournament with two seeded sides). See, the group of death implies an equally daunting test for all four teams in the group, not that it’s simply a tougher test than USMNT fans would have liked, or even that it’s “the toughest group” of the four.It’s a challenge and an ideal litmus test halfway to the next World Cup, to be sure, but if we’re wetting ourselves over the prospect of needing to win four points from games against Paraguay and Costa Rica, on home soil, you’re really not going to enjoy the next World Cup.
U.S. handed toughest draw for 2016 Copa America Centenario
NEW YORK -- The U.S. national team was dealt the toughest of the four groups in Sunday's gala Copa America Centenario draw at the Hammerstein Ballroom in midtown Manhattan.The Americans, one of four seeded teams as host of the June competition that marks the 100th anniversary of South America's championship -- the world's oldest international soccer tournament -- will open the event with their first Group A match against Colombia on June 3 in Santa Clara, California. (Argentina, Brazil and Mexico are the other seeds.)Jurgen Klinsmann's squad then travels to Chicago to face CONCACAF rival Costa Rica on June 7, before concluding its first-round slate June 11 against Paraguay in Philadelphia. Overall, it's close to a worst-case scenario for the U.S."I take full responsibility," joked former U.S. defender Alexi Lalas, one of four former pros who participated in the presentation. "I apologize to the nation."The only way it could have been tougher for Klinsmann & Co. would be if they had been grouped with Uruguay -- boasting all-world strikers Luis Suarez (Barcelona) and Edinson Cavani -- rather than the Colombians, who are languishing in seventh place out of 10 teams in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.But there's no real pushover among the Americans' four foes, as the three nations roundly considered the weakest in the 16-team tournament, Bolivia, Haiti and Venezuela, ended up elsewhere."Obviously, it's a difficult group, no doubt about it. But it's doable," Klinsmann said following the event. He pointed out that the U.S. advanced from a foursome that included Germany, Ghana, and Portugal at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.Indeed, the Copa slate is manageable for the hosts -- if they play well. The U.S. has not lost a non-friendly match on home soil to Costa Rica since 1997. They're 1-1-2 against Paraguay in four meetings over the past two decades, and though the U.S. lost a friendly against Colombia in late 2014 in London, playing stateside should help. It did when the U.S. upset the Cafeteros in the 1994 World Cup.Still, history will matter little when the games are underway. Like Colombia, led by James Rodriguez, Paraguay is the sort of fast, physical foe that creates matchup problems for the U.S. They also boast one of the top young players in the competition in 21-year-old attacker Derlis Gonzalez.As always, winning the first game -- or at the least, not losing it -- will be crucial for the hosts."We'll do everything to prepare very, very early for Colombia," Klinsmann said. "It's good to know the teams. Now we can put a scouting plan together."Klinsmann says he wants and expects Colombia and Paraguay to bring full-strength squads, even though the former could be involved in the Olympics in August, and Paraguayan coach Ramon Diaz has suggested he could bring a young roster to the United States."They all have to come with their best teams," he said. "Would you like an easier group? Maybe on paper. But no group is easy. We'll take it the way it is."Asked his objective this summer, Klinsmann said it was to advance to the quarterfinals as the Group A winner or runner-up. Should the U.S. finish second, an elimination game against Group B favorite Brazil could await."The objective is clearly getting out of the group, even if it's not easy," he said. "First or second with that group is both tremendously fine. We'll just take it the way it is."Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The 
Jurgen Klinsmann reacts to USA's Copa America Centenario Group A draw
February 21, 201611:41 PM ESTBen CouchSenior Editor

NEW YORK — At the Hammerstein Ballroom, the Sunday-night spectacle lasted a televised hour, but it only took a single segment to dash any hopes US national team fans may have had of landing one of the easier groups at the Copa América Centenario draw.But despite drawing ColombiaCosta Rica and Paraguay – the toughest group in the summer tournament by average opponent FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings – USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann found himself buoyed by a sense of familiarity, even as he acknowledged the necessity of advancing to the quarterfinals."That's the objective," Klinsmann said. "It's clearly getting out of the group, even if that's not easy. And then we're going to go, and that's what we said after the experience in Brazil [at the 2014 World Cup]: We have to learn how to win knockout games. No better way to start than in a Copa América."The US will play the tournament's opening match against Colombia on June 3 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California; Klinsmann is excited for the matchup, making reference to the teams' November 2014 friendly at Craven Cottage in London, which Colombia won on an 87th-minute winner.Klinsmann felt the US played Colombia even, an encouraging thought now that he knows they're the first opponent. The thorough preparation can begin."For the players, I think it will click in the next couple weeks," Klinsmann said. "We talked about it always, but now it's a reality."It will help us also in terms of World Cup qualifying, because the two Guatemala games are big, big games to make a statement to your group about Copa América."Colombia's Group A assignment drew some gasps from the assembled crowd as the challenge facing the US became evident."Is it the Group of Death? Yes. Please, please. Spread it all around," said FOX Sports soccer analyst and former US national team defender Alexi Lalas, on hand as a draw assistant, with his tongue planted firmly in cheek. "As we know, the US team plays great when people doubt them; the US team plays great as an underdog."It's difficult," he conceded. "But if you want to win the World Cup and you want to be one of the best teams in the world, you have to go through the likes of Colombia."But Colombia, and star James Rodriguez, are only the first obstacle in the US national team's path forward. If the Americans win their group, they take on the second-place team from Group B (BrazilEcuadorHaiti and Peru); a second-place finish and they could be in line to take on FIFA No. 6 Brazil at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on June 17. Of course, they will likely need results against Costa Rica (June 7, Soldier Field, Chicago) and Paraguay (June 11, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia) before they can even consider the knockout stage.There will be no gimmes at this Copa America – an obvious statement when you consider the tournament field, featuring six of the world's top 15 teams, and the quality of players that will be making the trip stateside."I think we all want to see the best players from South America come and represent their country," Klinsmann said. "We can't wait to see James Rodriguez here, [Lionel] Messi, Neymar, all these wonderful players showcasing themselves in the United States, they all have to come with their best teams. And they will. There's no doubt about it."
How has the US national team fared against their Copa America opponents?
February 21, 20169:23 PM ESTBenjamin BaerMLSsoccer.com

ColombiaCosta Rica and Paraguay. That's what will be awaiting the USA in Group A of the 2016 Copa America Centenario after Sunday night's draw.It starts June 3 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California against Colombia. Then it's Costa Rica at Soldier Field in Chicago on June 7 and Group A closes against Paraguay on June 11 in Philadelphia (check out the full tournament schedule).The US have a rich history with two of the three nations: They have faced Colombia twice in Copa America and at the 1994 World Cup, while Costa Rica is the USA's longtime foe in the CONCACAF region with the two teams facing off most recently in an October 2015 friendly.Here's the complete US national team history against their Copa America Centenario foes:
The USA have not fared well against Colombia over the years, winning just three of 17 all-time matches. As mentioned above, one of those wins did come at the 1994 World Cup when they defeated Los Cafeteros 2-1 at the Rose Bowl. The two teams most recently squared off in October 2014 in London, England when Colombia defeated the US 2-1.Colombia have had a rough go of it since their run to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup. They finished third in their group at the 2015 Copa America and were defeated by Argentina in the quarterfinals. More recently, they've started poorly in World Cup qualifying, collecting just four points in their first four games.
The USA and Costa Rica have a long history, having faced each other a total of 33 times. Costa Rica hold a slight edge, 14-13-6, after defeating the US in a friendly last October at Red Bull Arena. They split their 2014 World Cup qualifying games, somewhat controversially, with each team winning their home match.Costa Rica followed up their magical 2014 World Cup quarterfinal run with another heated 2015 Gold Cup quarterfinal elimination at the hands of Mexico when Andres Guardado scored a 124th-minute winner following a controversial penalty. The Ticos have gotten off to a solid start in 2018 World Cup qualifying, winning both of their games so far.
USA have less of a history with Paraguay, with the two nations facing off just six times. They have split the six matches, each team winning two. The most recent match came in March 2011 when Paraguay defeated the US 1-0 in a friendly in Nashville, Tennessee.But watch out for Paraguay: They made an outstanding run to the 2015 Copa America semifinals, defeating Brazil in the quarterfinals after a penalty kick shootout. They've gotten off to a decent start in 2018 World Cup qualifying, earning two wins in their first four matches. However, those two wins came against the continents' minnows in Venezuela and Bolivia.
Copa America predictions: U.S. group wide open, Brazil and Mexico to cruise
With the groups set for the 2016 Copa America Centenario, Tim Vickery predicts the eight teams that will advance to the knockout stages.
 Group A: U.S., Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay
The Copa could hardly have a more dramatic start than a match between hosts U.S. and Colombia, one of the South American countries where this competition is likely to generate the most interest. In recent times Colombia have been followed by an impressively noisy set of fans and with so many Colombians based in the U.S., that is surely set to continue in June.These two sides are the favourites to qualify although this might be the best balanced of the four groups.Paraguay are notoriously resilient, and Costa Rica bring their 2014 World Cup pedigree to the dance. The question mark against the chances of the two CONMEBOL teams is whether they will be close to full strength. Paraguay coach Ramon Diaz has indicted that he will be experimenting with some youngsters, and the fact that Colombia have recently staged training sessions with a group of youthful, domestic players could be an indication that coach Jose Pekerman is thinking along similar lines.If that happens, the balance shifts toward the two CONCACAF nations.
 Group B: Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti, Peru
Brazil and Ecuador promise a fine start to a group where the matches are evenly split between the West and East coasts. The five-time world champions open their campaign against the sensation of South America's current World Cup qualifiers. A black mark against Ecuador is their recent record in tournaments: they were the only South American side in the last two World Cups not to make it out of the group stage, and their performances in recent Copas have been poor. Coach Gustavo Quinteros will be looking for something better from his men.In Brazil, meanwhile, there is confusion about the availability of captain and attacking inspiration Neymar, with the Copa being overshadowed in the local mind by this summer's Olympic football tournament. Even so, Brazil are clear favourites to go through along with Ecuador. Haiti are seen as one of the weaker CONCACAF nations, and Peru may well bring an experimental squad.
>Group C: Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela, Jamaica
Mexico have been handed a low-key group that will immediately test the attacking intentions of coach Juan Carlos Osorio. His team may not be against the most attack-minded opponents. Jamaica played in last year's Copa in Chile, where they were never disgraced but looked very short of inspiration.Venezuela, meanwhile, are in a state of turmoil. The country's top 15 players recently signed a letter protesting the directors of the local FA and making it clear that relations with coach Noel Sanvicente are strained. The coach has since travelled to Europe to meet the players and attempt some form ofdetente. But it is not yet known whether they will be available -- or be selected -- for next month's World Cup qualifiers. Venezuela, then, are something of an unknown quantity.
Uruguay, though, should be interesting not least because their Under-20 side is proving such an excellent production line for the national team. They are favourites to go through with Mexico, but with coach Oscar Washington Tabarez liking to fight from inside a trench, it will be fascinating to see if El Tri can break them down in the opening group fixture.
Group D: Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Panama
Argentina and Chile will meet in competitive action for the third time in a year. Their June 6 clash in Santa Clara is the least important of the three behind last year's Copa final and next month's World Cup qualifiers. Nevertheless it is full of interest, with Argentina eager to end their long wait without a senior title, and new Chile coach (and Argentine) Juan Antonio Pizzi needing some time to get to know his players and impose his methods. Argentina are clear group favourites.Chile are in a state of transition, and Bolivia, one of South America's weakest teams, may well bring a squad of youngsters. The stage could be set, then, for Panama to make a breakthrough and announce themselves as CONCACAF's surprise side.
 U.S. Hot List: John Brooks dominating at Hertha, Brad Guzan on the outs

United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann outlines his player selection process ahead of his side’s WC qualifiers in March.

While MLS standouts like Jozy Altidore, Kellyn Acosta, Steve Birnbaum and Lee Nguyen used the national team’s January/February camp to make their cases for major minutes at this summer’s Copa America Centenario, the way the domestic league’s calendar falls makes it likely that foreign-based Americans will be mostly used when World Cup qualifying resumes against Guatemala next month.”The end of March comes early for MLS players,” Klinsmann told ussoccer.com last week. “Is the roster you’ll see at the end of March the same one as Copa America? Probably not.”

Keeping those words in mind, this latest Hot List includes 11 lineup candidates playing their club ball abroad. With the home-and-home series now less than six weeks away — not to mention the U.S. U-23’s two-leg Olympic qualifying playoff set for the same FIFA window — here’s who is helping (or hurting) their chances of being in the mix.

Warming up


Alejandro Bedoya, M, Nantes (France)

Why he’s here: The 28-year-old notched an assist in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Lorient, giving him four goals and a pair of assists in his last six games.

What this means: Based on current form, Bedoya is the best American player in the world, having eclipsed Borussia Monchengladbach’s Fabian Johnson, who’s own searing run has inevitably cooled. Simply put, no Yank anywhere is better right now than Bedoya.


John Brooks, D, Hertha Berlin (Germany)

Why he’s here: Brooks, who turned 23 last month, has started 12 consecutive games for Hertha since regaining his lineup spot in October. He’s been a beast, too, dominating defensively and finding chances when he ventures forward. Brooks also seems to have resolved the consistency issues that plagued him during his first two seasons in the Bundesliga.

What this means: If he’s healthy, bank on Brooks starting at left center back for the U.S. over Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler — who’ll be just three games into the new MLS season — in the first leg in Guatemala City on Mar. 25.

John Brooks has been a steady presence in Hertha Berlin’s starting XI since early November.


Omar Gonzalez, D, Pachuca (Mexico)

Why he’s here: The former Los Angeles Galaxy star has been nearly flawless in central defense for the Tuzos, starting all six games since his late-2015 arrival.

What this means: Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron, who was Klinsmann’s first-choice right center back at the end of 2015, remains sidelined with an ankle injury. Combined with Gonzalez’s strong start in Liga MX, that could open the door for the 27-year-old to partner with Brooks next month.


Desevio Payne, D, Groningen (Netherlands)

Why he’s here: Now recovered from the ankle injury that limited him in late 2015, the former U.S. U-20 has appeared at right back in five of Groningen’s six Eredivisie games in 2016. He’s started the last four, including Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Ajax.

What this means: Payne, who doesn’t turn 21 until late November, probably won’t be a serious senior team candidate until later this cycle. But if his Dutch club releases him to the U.S. U-23s — who missed him during last October’s unsuccessful CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament — it would be a huge coup for Andi Herzog, who could then deploy Acosta in his natural defensive midfield role.


Christian Pulisic, M, Borussia Dortmund (Germany)

Why he’s here: Pulisic was less effective in Saturday’s match against Hannover than in his two previous appearances off the Dortmund bench, but he’s still getting real minutes for a top club in an elite league — something unprecedented for a 17-year-old U.S. national team prospect.

What this means: If BVB coach Thomas Tuchel allows Pulisic to travel to Colombia with the U.S. U-23s for the first leg of next month’s do-or-die home-and-and home, don’t be surprised if he starts both games as part of the agreement. Of course, if Dortmund drags its heels, Klinsmann could just summon Pulisic to the senior squad instead.


DeAndre Yedlin, D/M Sunderland (England)

Why he’s here: Sure, he was caught sleeping on Manchester United’s goal, but Sunderland’s 2-1 upset of the Red Devils was also Yedlin’s best game yet for the Black Cats, with the 22-year-old dangerous and energetic throughout at right back.

What this means: The win should help Yedlin keep his spot in Sam Allardyce’s lineup. A starting assignment for the U.S. could follow if he holds the job into next month, although the feeling is Klinsmann still prefers him in midfield.


Cooling down

Ventura Alvarado, D, Club America (Mexico)

Why he’s here: Alvarado started Las Aguilas’ first three games of 2016 but had a shocker against Pachua on Jan. 17 and hasn’t dressed for coach Nacho Ambriz in the three matches since.

What this means: The Arizonan was also dropped by Ambriz last season; the chance to redeem himself came only after Mexican international defender Paul Aguilar got injured. So it’s hard to see Alvarado, who has been playing with America’s U-20 squad of late, getting another opportunity or playing with the U.S. until his situation changes.


Joe Corona, M, Dorados de Sinaloa (Mexico)

Why he’s here: Since moving to Sinaloa, his second loan from Tijuana in as many seasons, Corona has found playing time scarce. He’s been an unused substitute in three of the club’s six games this year, including Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Pumas.

What this means: Klinsmann has challenged Corona to get out of his comfort zone — he lived with his parents in San Diego while with the Xolos — but the 25-year-old hasn’t been a consistent performer south of the border despite over 150 Liga MX appearances. Could an MLS move be in his future?


Brad Guzan, G, Aston Villa (England)

Why he’s here: Guzan continues to languish on the bench for Villa, having sat out the last six games for the Premier League strugglers since losing his starting job to Mark Bunn.

What this means: The Illinois native still seems unlikely to be reinstated even after Bunn conceded six Liverpool goals in Sunday’s embarrassing 6-0 home defeat. Still, Tim Howard’s uncertain future at Everton could keep the 31-year-old Guzan in contention for the Americans open No. 1 role ahead of June’s Copa America.

Brad Guzan’s previous Premier League start for Aston Villa came back on Jan. 2 in a 3-1 loss to Sunderland.


Timmy Chandler, D/M, Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany)

Why he’s here: The German-American hasn’t made Eintracht’s bench in three weeks and last played in a league game more than two months ago.

What this means: Chandler fell out of favor with Klinsmann even before losing his day job and will remain off the radar until he’s playing regularly again at club level. But with more than 120 Bundesliga appearances on his resume, don’t write off the 25-year-old permanently yet.


Jermaine Jones, M, Unattached

Why he’s here: The 34-year-old is still unemployed and will begin a six-game suspension the moment he finds a new club — effectively ruling him out for next month’s matches.

What this means: Despite his age, Jones can still contribute at the international level and will remain in Klinsmann’s plans through at least this summer. Still, the coach made it clear that he won’t play an unfit Jones, who will have gone seven weeks without a match if he’s still unsigned, even if he’s available against Guatemala.

ESPNFC’s Tom Marshall contri



Champions League preview: Do Arsenal stand a chance vs. Barcelona?

1 CommentBy Andy EdwardsFeb 22, 2016, 10:03 AM EST

Arsenal haven’t been to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League since 2010. In five straight knockout stage appearances they’ve been bounced from the competition in the round of 16, having been little more than an afterthought in conversations of real contenders for the title.[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ] They’ve also endured a tortured recent history against this season’s round of 16 foe, Barcelona, who happen to be in the midst of one of the longest, most dominant unbeaten runs we’ve seen in quite some time.So why, of all years, should we believe this to be any different for the Gunners? To find that answer, we’re going to have to look really, really deep into this round of 16 tie, which kicks off Tuesday (1:45 p.m. ET, with live and post-game coverage on PST). Even then we might not find what we’re looking for.

Arsenal’s all-time CL meetings with Barcelona: 1-1 and 2-4 (group stage – 1999); 1-2 (2006 final); 3-6 (aggregate – 2010); 3-4 (aggregate – 2011). In short, history is not only not on Arsenal’s side, but it couldn’t be much more against them (one single-leg victory in seven meetings all-time – 2011 first leg).

Barcelona’s current unbeaten run: 32 games. The last time Barca lost, the date was Oct. 3, 2015. Simple math tells us that’s nearly five months without a loss in any competition.

Messi, Suarez and Neymar goals scored combined: 91 through 46 games (1.97 per game – all competitions) this season. Last season they combined to score 122 goals in 61 total games (2.0 per game – Suarez was suspended the first three months of the season). A better attacking trio has arguably never existed.

Do Arsenal even want to bother with progressing in the CL? They’ve not had a chance this good to win the Premier League since they last won it a decade ago. They’re two points back of Leicester City and level with Tottenham Hotspur. They’ve already got an fifth-round replay against Hull City in their bid for a third straight FA Cup. They’re finally close to having a fully fit squad, but is it deep enough to compete on three fronts when one of them involves European travel mid-week with important domestic games on the weekends either side? Of course they do, but it’ll only make life tougher in the meantime.

Will it even matter what they want? As is the case with most top sides, Arsenal struggle most noticeably against teams that are organized defensively, sit deep inside their own half and hit back on the counter-attack. Barcelona are the most proactive, possession- and attack-minded side in the world, and they’ll look to dominate possession and attack non-stop from the opening to final whistles. There will be room to hit back on the counter themselves, putting to good use the pace of Theo Walcott, the directness and nose for goal of Alexis Sanchez, and the brilliant vision and the splitting through balls of Mesut Ozil. The real problem lies in the fact that for every chance Arsenal have on the counter, Barca will have three or four or five during prolonged periods of possession while camped inside Arsenal’s half of the field.Best of luck, Arsenal. You’re going to need it.

Four powers, two games, one Champions League Super Tuesday

Y BEN LYTTLETONTwitter EmailPosted: Mon Feb. 22, 2016

If UEFA established a Super Tuesday in the Champions League, this would be it: four of Europe’s biggest and best teams face each other in the pick of the round-of-16 ties this week. Barcelona’s quest to become the first team in the Champions League era to retain its title takes it to London, while last year’s runner-up, Juventus, takes on Bayern Munich.On Wednesday, two dark horses are in action; Manchester City hopes to reach the last eight for the first time–playing in an empty stadium vs. Dynamo Kyiv–while 2014 finalist Atletico Madrid is a favorite to get past PSV Eindhoven.Here is what to look out for this week (all games start 2:45 p.m. ET):

Arsenal vs. Barcelona (Tuesday)

History is not on Arsenal’s side in this tie; it lost to Barcelona in Champions League in 2010 and 2011 (Messi scored four goals in that first game) while the English side also lost the first leg at home in each of their last three round-of-16 ties; against Bayern Munich (2013 and 2014) and Monaco (2015). Barcelona’s recent record in England is as good as it can be: after the Arsenal wins, it also beat Manchester City at this stage of the competition in the last two seasons.On current form, Barcelona is the best team in Europe: Celta Vigo was blitzed 5-1 in an astonishing 15-minute period of play late on, while last Saturday’s display at Las Palmas may have been scrappy in comparison, but Barça still won 2-1. The Messi-Suarez-Neymar strike partnership seems unstoppable; and while Messi and Neymar have continued to star this season, right now it is Luis Suarez who is in the zone, with 15 goals in his last nine appearances.There is reason for some optimism for Arsenal. Goalkeeper Petr Cech, who has been outstanding this season, has never been beaten by Messi in six meetings. Will that run continue? Gabriel Paulista believes so: he told the Brazilian press that he has the secret formula for keeping MSN quiet. Let’s see that before we believe it.

Juventus vs. Bayern Munich (Tuesday)

When the draw was made, Bayern was the clear favorite for this tie. Since then, everything has gone right for Juventus, and not quite so right for the German leader. Juventus ended its run of 15 straight Serie A wins Friday night with a goalless draw at Bologna, but there is no doubt that Massimiliano Allegri has found the right formula, with Gigi Buffon and Paulo Dybala in superb form.​Bayern’s status is not quite so secure; Holger Badstuber has joined Medhi Benatia, Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez on the injured center backs list, while January signing Serdar Tasci only made his debut at the weekend. Midfielder Arturo Vidal, up against his former club, has come in for criticism on and off the field. It’s better news further upfield, where Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski have scored 13 of the team’s last 14 goals.Even though Kingsley Coman and Douglas Costa have not been as dangerous as earlier in the season, Arjen Robben is back from injury and so is Franck Ribery, who made his first home appearance for nearly 12 months Saturday (he will likely start on the bench Tuesday).No European game featuring Bayern is complete without the usual Guardiola debate; since he has announced his departure, and his destination, the narrative continues that Bayern’s Champions League campaign is all-or-nothing. This is unfair on Guardiola, who has already fulfilled his brief as Bayern boss by taking its football to new levels; the Juventus game has taken on an undue importance with the sense that a defeat will tarnish his legacy. It’s certainly not as clear-cut as it appeared three months ago.

Is Pep Guardiola’s time with Bayern Munich a failure if he doesn’t win Champions League?

On SI Now, former Germany national football team goalie Jens Lehmann discusses whether or not Pep Guardiola’s tenure as Bayern Munich’s manager will be a disappointment if the team doesn’t win the Champions League.

Dynamo Kyiv vs. Manchester City (Wednesday)

City has lost its last thee games and its slump could not have come at a worse time. Coach Manuel Pellegrini fielded a second-string team for Sunday’s FA Cup defeat at Chelsea because he is clearly prioritizing this chance to reach the last eight for the first time in the club’s history, and Sunday’s League Cup final against Liverpool.While City is strong favorite to progress past a team that has not played since early-December, there are always caveats to the side which remains reliant on Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero and, when fit, Kevin de Bruyne. Which Yaya Toure will turn up? Will the defense stay solid? Does Raheem Sterling’s form deserve more scrutiny? And of course, ever since the club announced that Pep Guardiola will take charge next season, which players will still be in the side then?It’s surprising to note that from when Dynamo beat City 2-1 on aggregate in the 2011 Europa League, City still has six players who could start this week. After five years and millions spent on new players, that’s hardly an overhaul.Before the draw was made, Dynamo coach Sergei Rebrov was slated to spend a week at City watching training sessions; but the team had so many matches (therefore not as much training) that his trip was canceled. Rebrov was part of the Dynamo side that reached the 1999 Champions League semifinal and claims he knows how to prepare a team after a three-month hiatus. If he’s right, then Pellegrini might have another headache. The added twist of the game being played in front of no supporters, as a result of UEFA sanctioning for fan racism, is a variable that both teams will need to take into account.

PSV Eindhoven vs. Atletico Madrid (Wednesday)

Poor old Nicolas Isimat-Mirin. The PSV defender was interviewed at the club canteen, and declared that he would "eat Atletico like this soup" that he had just been given. Only problem: the soup was boiling hot and it burned his tongue.PSV beat Manchester United to reach this stage and has maintained its position at the top of the Dutch table. Coach Philipp Cocu is not afraid to deviate from the usual 4-3-3 system, playing a 4-4-2 to boost the midfield against Wolfsburg. Mexican midfielder Andres Guardado is back from injury for the game.Even though Atletico dropped points at home to Villarreal Sunday, for once Diego Simeone takes his team in Europe as a strong favorite. It is unsurprising that his defense is the club's backbone, one that has conceded 11 goals in 25 La Liga games this season, the best in Europe’s top five leagues. At the other end, Antoine Griezmann has only scored once in his last seven games, while Luciano Vietto and Angel Correa have bags of potential; this is their chance to show it on the big stage.

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