Anyone feel like grabbing a late lunch for the US game Friday 3:30 pm? I was thinking Stacked Pickle on 96th/Grey or Chattam Tap in Fishers.
The US National Team has some HUGE Qualifiers this Friday 3:30 pm at St Vincent on beIN Sport and Tues in Jax vs Trinidad and Tobago at pm on Fox Sports 1. What’s at stake – well currently the US is 2nd behind T&T in our group – 2 wins are a necessity to win the Group and guarantee ourselves the top slot moving into the next round (the HEX). Win both games without our leading scoring Clint Dempsey (who is still having irregular heartbeat tests done) and we advance to the HEX and get to host Mexico on Nov 11 most probably at Columbus. Lose one or lose and tie and qualifying could be in question with Guatamala just 1 pt back in 3rd place. Locally the Indy 11 return for a home game at the MIKE on Saturday, Sept 3rd vs the Tampa Bay Rowdies at 7:30 pm. Tix just $11. This Friday – Sept 2 – the CHS boys host PACK THE HOUSE/MAKE GOOD DECISIONS NITE with FREE ADMISSION for CDC + CFC players in uniform
Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com –
Fri, Sept 2
3:30 pm beIN sport WCQ – US @ St. Vincent + Grenadines –US needs to seal top spot with wins
Sat, Sept 3 *International Break *
7:30 pm Ch 8/ESPN3 Indy 11 vs TB Rowdies
Sun, Sept 4
12 pm Fox Sports ? ESPN3 Slovakia vs England
Tues, Sept 6
8 pm Fox Sport 1 WCQ – US vs Trinadad and Tobago US needs to seal top spot with wins
8:15 pm beIN Sport Brazil vs Colombia -Brazil in danger of missing WC2018
Sat, Sept 10
7 am FS1 Celtic vs Rangers – Ireland’s top Rivalry!
11 am NBCSN Man United vs Man City –Manchester Darby between the new mega star coaches
LOCAL High School
Fri, Sept 2 CHS boys host 7:30 pm PACK THE HOUSE/MAKE GOOD DECISIONS NITE with FREE ADMISSION for CDC + CFC players in uniform
Sat, Sept 3 Guerin boys 5 pm at Indy 11 – The Mike – Guerin plays Bishop Chatard downtown at the Mike before the 7 pm Indy 11 game.
EPL – World – Transfers /Deadline Day
Should the Transfer System be Changed? J Hutcherson US Soccerplayers.com
Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com –
Wed, Aug 31
7:30 pm CBS Sports Network Ft. Lauderdale vs Minn.
7:30 pm My Indy TV NY Cosmos vs Indy 11
Fri, Sept 2
3:30 pm beIN sport WCQ – US @ St. Vincent + Grenadines
5 pm beIN Sport Honduras vs Canada
8 pm beIN Sport Haiti vs Costa Rica
10 pm beIN Sport Mexico vs El Salvador
Sat, Sept 3 *International Break *
7:30 pm Ch 8 ESPN3 Indy 11 vs TB Rowdies
Sun, Sept 4
12 pm Fox Sports 2 Denmark vs Armenia
12 pm Fox Sports ? ESPN3 Slovakia vs England
2:45 pm Fox Sports 2 Norway vs Germany
Mon, Sept 5
12 pm Fox Sports 1 Spain vs Leichenstein
Tues, Sept 6
2:45 pm Fox Sports 2 Belarus vs France
2:45 pm Fox Sports 1 Switzerland vs Portugal
8 pm Fox Sport 1 WCQ – US vs Trinadad and Tobago
8:15 pm beIN Sport Brazil vs Colombia
Fri, Sept 9
2:30 pm Fox Sport1 Bayern Munich vs. Schalke 04
Sat, Sept 10
7 am FS1 Celtic vs Rangers – Ireland
11 am NBCSN Man United vs Man City
9:30 am fox Sports 1 Bayer Leverkusen s Hamburg SV
10 am NBCSN Arsenal vs Southampton, Stoke City vs Tottenham, West Ham vs Watford
12:30 pm FS 2 RB Leipzig vs Borussia Dortmund
12:30 pm NBCSN Liverpool s Leicester City
7:30 pm YES New England vs NYCFC
7:30 pm beIN Sports Ft. Lauderdale vs Indy 11
9 pm beIN Sport Futsal World Cup – Colombia vs Portugal
Sun, Sept 11
9:30 am FS1 Werder Bremen vs Augsburg
11 am NBCSN Swansea vs Chelsea
11:30 am FS 1 Mainz 05 vs Hoffenhiem
7 pm FS 1 LA Galaxy vs Orlando City
9:30 pm FS 1 Women -Portland Thorns vs NY Flash
Mon, Sept 12
3 pm NBCSN Sunderland vs Everton
Tues, Wed Sept 13/14 Champions League Group Stage Starts
Tues -Arsenal @ PSG + Celtic @ Barcelona
Wed- Monico @ Tottenham + Sevilla @ Juve
Man City @ Celtic
Bayern Munich @ Athletico Madrid
Real Madrid @ Dortmund
Porto @ Leicester City
2018 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying: Semi-final round advancement scenarios
After surviving quite the scare, the U.S. men’s national team have put themselves in a good position to advance from their Fourth Round Group with two matches to play. We wanted to take a look at all possible scenarios for the Red, White and Blue to finish the group and move on to the Hexagonal.As is stands now, the U.S. would advance as they are sitting in second place behind Trinidad & Tobago. Here is what the table looks like:
Guatemala is still right in the mix, and could potentially still eliminate the U.S. from World Cup qualification. Each team has two matches remaining and the USMNT faces St. Vincent & the Grenadines on Friday before wrapping up the group on September 6th against Trinidad & Tobago.
How to Win the Group
The USMNT need to make up three points on T&T and would obviously do so by beating them on the 6th. However if Trinidad can beat Guatemala, they would tie for first with 13 points and it will come down to goal differential. The U.S. is trailing T&T in that category by one goal at the moment. USMNT need to win both matches AND do so with a better goal difference than T&T; OR a T&T draw or loss vs Guatemala
How to Advance
For all the pessimists out there, the U.S. can technically lose both remaining matches and still advance. After Friday’s USMNT match against SVG, all eyes will turn towards Guatemala vs Trinidad & Tobago later on in the evening. If Guatemala can surprise again, then they will REALLY put some pressure on the U.S. going into the final match. A draw between those two teams would probably be the best result for the Americans.Failure to pick up all three points against last place SVG would likely put the U.S. in a “win or go home” situation against T&T.But you have to think they’ll take care of business and get that win. In that case, a Guatemala loss to T&T would put the U.S. four points clear and guaranteed to advance going into the final match. If Guatemala draws with T&T, then the U.S. would have to get a result in the last match or hope for SVG to pull of an upset.The only thing that should matter here.. is that if the Americans win both matches, they advance.
How to be eliminated
Yes, it is a possibility. Don’t shoot the messenger.If the U.S. messes around and loses both matches, Guatemala would only need two points from two matches to knock them out. One of those matches is against an 0-2 SVG, so the points are there for them to get. But even playing at their worst, the USMNT should be able to get at least one win.If the U.S. beats SVG and Guatemala also beats T&T, then Guatemala could still eliminate the Americans. That would indeed happen if the USA then lose to T&T and Guatemala beats SVG***.
***Technically if Guatemala were to beat T&T by 10 goals, then only draw against SVG would also see them move into 2nd place in this scenario.
If the United States loses to SVG, Guatemala beats T&T; then U.S. beats T&T and Guatemala beats SVG… it would mean Trinidad & Tobago slide out of qualifying with Guatemala finishing first and the U.S. second.
The Bottom Line
The USMNT hold their destiny in their own hands. If they win these next two matches as they very well should, they are through to the Hexagonal where it is much safer. Of the six teams, the top three go to Russia in 2018 plus a fourth then plays an inter-confederation playoff against a team from Asia to qualify. In 2014 qualifying, Mexico went a lowly 2-3-5 in the Hexagonal and still was able to qualify. This round is more forgiving with more matches to play and one bad day won’t put you on the brink of elimination.
SVG vs. USA, What to watch for
The USMNT travels to the Caribbean to lock up three points and possibly advance to the Hex against minnows St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Will they take care of business, or can Vincy Heat give them a run for their money?
Usually when you talk about CONCACAF travel, you think hostile, urban environments with stifling heat and immense pressure from the home fans. Vincy Heat will have heat and a good home crowd (the nation has declared a half-day holiday for the game), but…well, just look at it.This time around, the boys get a beach-side hotel and rainbows overlooking rain forests for practice sessions. The epitome of hostility these islands are not.St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG for time’s sake from here on out) has a population of roughly 103,000 people, which means the pickings for a soccer team (which splits time with cricket as most popular sport) are relatively slim. This didn’t stop SVG from taking a shock lead against the U.S. in St. Louis before receiving a thorough trouncing to the tune of six unanswered goals. With Trinidad & Tobago squaring off with Guatemala in Trinidad, a win for the U.S. and a T&T victory guarantees both victors advancing to the Hex. Any other combination of results complicates things a bit more, but advancing on Friday is still firmly within reach.
L (0-1) – Colombia – Copa America
L (0-4) – Argentina – Copa America
W (2-1) – Ecuador – Copa America
W (1-0) – Paraguary – Copa America
W (4-0) – Costa Rica – Copa America
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
L (0-1) – St. Kitts and Nevis – Caribbean Cup
L (2-1) – Suriname – Caribbean Cup
L (6-0) – Trinidad & Tobago – WCQ
L (2-3) – Trinidad & Tobago – WCQ
L (0-4) – Guatemala – WCQ
What to Watch For:
Get the Result – This isn’t a complex gameplan. This is a team the United States shouldbeat 10 out of 10 times, and a win is absolutely necessary if the U.S. is to maintain any semblance of control over their destiny (and with SVG traveling to Guatemala for the last matchday of this round of qualifying, a loss here and a Guatemala win against T&T would be catastrophic). Again, this should be an easy win for the U.S., but…Antigua & Barbuda.
Play Your Vets – With a result needed, expect Klinsmann to turn to his veterans as much as he can to start the game off. We might see some greener faces later on (and again against T&T should advancement be secured on Friday), but don’t be surprised when the Kyle Beckerman-types get the nod. Klinsmann will want people who have experience with the zaniness of CONCACAF in from the start, and while that might not be exciting, it’s also smart, common-sense coaching.
Midfield Shakedown – Michael Bradley is suspended, Jermaine Jones is hurt, and Clint Dempsey isn’t in the squad due to medical precautions. The middle of the field is a bit up in the air for Friday. Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, and Graham Zusi are the only people left that Klinsmann has called on with any regularity, while Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic, Paul Arriola, and Sacha Kljestan all offer different and intriguing skillsets to the midfield pool, but have yet to fully win Klinsmann’s trust. Any way you slice it, it looks like a pretty sure bet someone will be grabbing a somewhat-surprising start in the midfield.
Klinsmann preached consistency with the results and positive performances from the Copa America, so I think he’ll try to replicate them as much as possible.
With limited midfield options, I think Klinsmann tries out the lopsided 4-3-3/4-4-2 thing that worked against Ecuador so well. Bobby Wood provides defensive cover as he can on the wing, but also pinches into the middle to be a second forward as opposed to staying on the touchline. Altidore gets the nod up top, while Bedoya’s work rate gives him the nod to on the right. The midfield trio works because Nagbe is so attune to the needs of his team and his tactical adjustments can account for Wood switching into a forward on the break and in possession. Zusi is another Bedoya-like player with a high work rate that Klinsmann trusts, and with no other holding midfielder here besides Caleb Stanko, Beckerman will almost certainly be the one shielding the backline. Besler is the only change fromt the Copa America defense, filling in for John Brooks. It’s also possible Klinsmann decides to slot Geoff Cameron back into the defensive midfield position and give the Omar Gonzalez-Matt Besler tandem another go, but my guess is he keeps Cameron at the back where he’s been so good for the U.S. over the past year.
Whether Kljestan or Nagbe, Klinsmann needs creativity in Dempsey-less U.S. lineup
Goal.com Tue, Aug 30 11:10 PM PDT
Clint Dempsey’s absence will be felt by the U.S. national team in the upcoming days. That statement seems obvious enough, but it might be easy to look at the Americans’ upcoming opponents and think it won’t matter all that much if the team’s most dynamic attacking weapon is not around.It may not matter a ton against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday, or even in Jacksonville, Florida, on Tuesday against Trinidad and Tobago. But with a perfect opportunity to give some creative midfield options a try in the starting lineup, Jurgen Klinsmann would be wise to hand the keys to the attack to Sacha Kljestan or Darlington Nagbe.If you think including Kljestan or Nagbe in Friday’s starting lineup is a foregone conclusion, then you haven’t been paying attention to Klinsmann’s moves over recent months and years. Nagbe has repeatedly been given nibbles as a second-half substitute, and looked good each time, but he has yet to be in a starting lineup. Kljestan is fresh off a two-plus-year absence from the team, and has played one national team match in almost three years. Not exactly the track record of someone Klinsmann is going to automatically insert into the lineup.Klinsmann could very easily start a central midfield pairing of Kyle Beckerman and Alejandro Bedoya, or even a triangle including those two along with Graham Zusi. Those would be safe enough options, with all three being World Cup veterans who know what it’s like to start in qualifying.Such picks would be safe, but they would ignore the opportunity to look at a pair of truly gifted creators capable of doing a better job of filling the playmaking void Dempsey’s absence creates. And we’re not just talking about Friday’s qualifier, which won’t included suspended U.S. captain Michael Bradley. We are talking about an opportunity to see if Kljestan and Nagbe can lead the attack in a creative midfield role and make the most of the fact that the U.S. currently boasts some in-form forwards.Kljestan is playing some of the best soccer of his career. He leads MLS in assists (15) and chances created. The argument can be made that he’s a much better creator now than he was seven years ago, when he was last a regular starter for the national team. Back then, Bob Bradley partnered Kljestan with Michael Bradley. Oftentimes Kljestan seemed content to defer to Bradley’s attacking whims, which worked most memorably in the 2009 qualifying win against Mexico. Bradley scored two goals that day and Kljestan did a lot of the dirty work in midfield while also keeping the ball moving.Kljestan is older now — he turns 31 next month — but also more mature as a player and more accomplished at delivering key passes to his forwards. He has also honed the defensive side of his game during his time in Europe, and more recently with the New York Red Bulls. He may not cover ground like he used to seven years ago, but he certainly reads the game better, and has just as much experience in big matches than most players in the U.S. player pool.Nagbe is a different kind of player, but he is also deserving of a chance to start in one of the September qualifiers. His attacking statistics don’t jump out at you, at least not this year, but he is still the same mobile and dangerous midfielder who can put defenders on their heels. He hasn’t created even half as many chances as Kljestan in MLS play this season, but nobody has a higher pass completion percentage among MLS starters, or a better passing accuracy in the attacking half of the field.Klinsmann has seemed reluctant to give Nagbe a shot, and the sense you get is that he feels there is still something missing — at least that has been the case in 2016. Maybe there is something to that, because there is no denying Nagbe has struggled to reach the levels he hit in the final months of 2015, when he helped carry the Portland Timbers to an MLS Cup. He has just one goal and five assists this season, but he still hasn’t lost his quickness or ability on the ball.Yes, Klinsmann could choose to pass on both Kljestan and Nagbe as starters, but that will be doing a disservice to a pair of forwards in Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood who rely heavily on good service. Why not put a skilled attacking midfielder behind Altidore and Wood and see what they can create? Doing so just might reveal a truly viable creative alternative for if and when Dempsey may not be available.Bradley will be back for the Trinidad and Tobago match, and Klinsmann could choose to slot him in a playmaking role, but we have seen enough evidence to know that isn’t the best place to play him. Bradley is thriving in a deep-lying midfield role with Toronto FC and he functioned well in that role in the Copa America. Giving Bradley someone who he can connect passes with and count on to provide some distribution to the forwards is paramount without Dempsey.Nagbe is the younger option, at 26, so Klinsmann could choose to go with him, but nobody would blame him if he decides to split the two September qualifiers between them. That would be the best route. Let Nagbe start the first match, and then reunite Kljestan and Bradley in central midfield against Trinidad and Tobago. It would mark their first start together since 2013, and first start together in an official competition since the 2011 Gold Cup semifinal win against Panama, two games before Klinsmann took over as U.S. coach. They have changed quite a bit in the years since then, but those changes just might make Kljestan and Bradley an even better central midfield tandem now than they were before.It will all depend on what Klinsmann wants to do. Leaving Nagbe and Kljestan on the bench against opponents the U.S. should be able to go after offensively will feel like an overly safe play, and a wasted opportunity to give two of the most creative players in the U.S. player pool a chance to show what they can do.
Bobby Wood, Jozy Altidore rapport could benefit Dempsey-less U.S.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Forward partnerships are typically formed on the practice field. Preferences, from a player’s favored foot to the runs he likes to make, are noted. Repetition and time are then needed for such knowledge to take hold, though the infrequency of national team matches can make this difficult at international level.In the case of Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood, there was work off the field as well.When Wood was first getting called into the U.S. national team on a consistent basis, he endured some inevitable ups and downs. It was Altidore who reached out to offer emotional support.”[Altidore] was one of the guys who was always there for me,” said Wood prior to Tuesday’s practice session. “He always wrote to me after games to tell me what I could do to try to improve. I’ll always have respect for him. [That help] is always great. I can’t complain.”Altidore has a deep reservoir of advice from which to draw, of course, having ridden the roller coaster that is endemic to the life of a forward. He has endured injuries and drops in form, as well as criticism from coaches and media. He sees in Wood a forward whose career is about to reach escape velocity.”Bobby is a guy who is just well-rounded,” Altidore told reporters on Tuesday. “I think his work rate is fantastic, he’s a little bit of a pit bull. He makes it uncomfortable for defenses. It was rough on him in the beginning. I think people were a little harsh on him but now I think you see him starting to grow. He’s getting more confident, and he’s got a great transfer now at Hamburg, and you see around the group he’s just brighter, happier. He’s improved a lot and he’s going to continue to improve.”head of two World Cup qualifiers — one in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday, followed by a home match against Trinidad & Tobago on Sept. 6 — it seems likely the U.S. will rely on Wood and Altidore at some point over the next week. The absence of Clint Dempsey due to an irregular heartbeat will force something of a rethink in terms of the U.S. attack, a situation compounded by the suspension of Michael Bradley for Friday’s game and an ongoing knee injury for Jermaine Jones.Altidore insisted not much would change — “Trying to be effective, trying to be dangerous,” — but U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann admitted that he has a bit more planning to do than he normally would if Dempsey was available. He noted that Dempsey’s habit of dropping back into midfield left Wood to remain high, occupying the center-backs. When the ball was lost the roles were reversed, with Wood the one to help out defensively. Now the U.S. will have to compensate for that loss in familiarity.”You put your puzzle together, and it’s always important what key elements you have and [Dempsey] has been a key element for us over the last years, over the last 10 years,” Klinsmann told ESPN FC. “Then once he’s not on the field, you put it together differently. You have a different approach then.”Then he added, “I think we have built some players over the last couple of years and they are ready to step in and get the job done.”Wood is foremost among those, having struggled at 1860 Munich only to break out last year at Union Berlin.”I think Bobby is an example of a lot of work,” said Klinsmann, referring to both player and coach. “Two years ago people said ‘Why is he playing that kid? He hasn’t played any minutes at 1860 Munich.’ Well, if you tell the German national team coach to pull a kid from the second division that isn’t even on the bench, they would call you crazy. But our pool of players is just completely different to any team in Europe or South America. We don’t have the luxury just to pick the players from Champions League teams.”Now Wood’s aforementioned transfer to Hamburg looks promising, especially after he scored on his Bundesliga debut in a 1-1 draw with Freiburg. “It was a really proud moment and something I worked hard for,” he said.Altidore is only just back into the frame after recovering from his latest hamstring injury. When reminded of this he said, “Let’s knock on wood somewhere,” pun not intended.”I think now we’ve pinpointed it,” said Altidore about the cause of his hamstring injuries. “The national team has been a really big help for me in that. Hopefully I can stay healthy and if I stay healthy, with my ability, I know I can help the team.”In total, Altidore and Wood have been on the field together in 10 U.S. matches, including the 6-1 win over the Vincy Heat in November, a game in which both players scored. For that reason Wood is confident that he and Altidore will link up well.”We’ll figure it out,” he said. “He’s a great player and it’s not going to be a problem playing with two strikers or whatever we do. We’ll just have to come in and adapt and do whatever we can to help the team.”And each other.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.
Reasons for hope, reasons for worry for U.S. in World Cup qualifying
As the U.S. heads into a pair of important World Cup qualifiers starting with Friday’s tilt at St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the question facing national team fans is this: How worried should they be about their country’s chances of reaching the final round of regional qualifying for Russia 2018? In truth, not very.The U.S. is coming off a successful summer. It finished fourth at a Copa America played on home soil, and the Americans are the clear favorites in both upcoming games, the second of which is Tuesday in Jacksonville, Florida, against Trinidad and Tobago.But if March’s ugly road loss in Guatemala proved anything, it’s that things don’t always go according to plan in this region, especially away from home. And the U.S. will be without some of its most reliable veterans for the double fixture. That doesn’t mean it won’t advance to the six-team “Hexagonal” — this is a team that has participated in seven consecutive World Cups, after all, and has reached the knockout stage in three of the last four tournaments. It’ll get there.But challenges with travel, weather, field conditions and opponents hell-bent on stealing a result means it won’t be a cakewalk. It never is.”CONCACAF is very tricky — I had to experience that myself over the last five years,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “On a piece of paper it looks easy, but reality is just different.”Here are five reasons U.S. fans should be concerned, and five reasons to be hopeful as Friday’s kickoff approaches.
Reasons to worry
- Dempsey’s absence
Clint Dempsey has been the USA’s most consistent scoring threat during the past two World Cup cycles. He led the team with three goals during the Copa, and had five in three games for Seattle when the club shut down the 33-year-old, who is being evaluated for an irregular heartbeat. He’ll miss both games as a result.The Texan leaves huge shoes to fill. Dempsey’s is the USA’s all-time top scorer in qualifying.”Would we need him down in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and against Trinidad and Tobago in the second game?” Klinsmann said. “Absolutely.”
- Other key players are out, too
Dempsey’s absence wouldn’t be as big a concern if other starters weren’t also unavailable. Captain Michael Bradley is suspended for Friday’s game because of yellow card accumulation. Jermaine Jones was called in but only so the national team staff could evaluate the knee injury that has prevented the enforcer from playing for the Colorado Rapids in almost two months. And center back John Brooks, who was a rock alongside Geoff Cameron during the Copa, withdrew from the squad Monday because of a back injury.
- Consistently inconsistent
You never know what U.S. team is going to show up under Klinsmann, whose penchant for tinkering unnecessarily at times has led to flat performances. The U.S. coach was more pragmatic at Copa America, after which one player told ESPN FC that Klinsmann’s upbeat style helped maintain a positive locker room atmosphere during the month-plus the U.S. squad was together. But that loss in Guatemala City is a reminder how quickly one game can turn things south.
- Little margin for error
With only six games (compared to 10 in the final round), the semis are even trickier than the Hex. One slip-up can be devastating, and reminds us that playing CONCACAF minnows on their own (bumpy) turf isn’t always easy. In Barbados 16 years ago, the U.S. was 45 minutes away from being eliminated from the 2002 World Cup before gutting out the victory. (The Americans went on to reach the quarterfinals in Korea and Japan.) Four years ago, Klinsmann’s side needed a stoppage-time goal from Eddie Johnson in tiny Antigua and Barbuda to secure three points and ensure that its closing semifinal-round game against Guatemala wasn’t a must-win.
- Remember Mexico
If you think not qualifying is impossible, look at what happened to Mexico in 2008. Long before “San Zusi” saved El Tri‘s bacon in 2013, CONCACAF’s other giant was on the brink of elimination at the semifinal stage. Mexico eventually advanced to the Hexagonal over Jamaica on goal difference, but it was a massive scare for the futbol-crazy nation, and it went a long way toward the dismissal of manager Sven Goran-Eriksson, who was fired after Mexico lost its Hex opener to the United States in early 2009.
Reasons not to
- 1. Altidore, Wood in fine form
Even without Dempsey, the U.S. has more than enough firepower to beat the Vincy Heat, as the hosts are known. (And for good reason: It will be 87 degrees Fahrenheit, with 78 percent humidity, on Friday.)
Target forward Jozy Altidore has plenty of experience in games just like this, and he arrived in camp having scored five times in eight MLS appearances for Toronto FC since returning from the hamstring injury that ruled him out of Copa America. The similarly physical Bobby Wood, who impressed in Altidore’s place in June, scored Saturday for Hamburg in his Bundesliga debut. (Both players also found the net against SVG last November.) And Jordan Morris and Chris Wondolowski have combined for 18 MLS goals in 2016.
- Opportunity for others
The absence of Bradley and almost certainly Jones (who, not surprisingly, didn’t train with his teammates Tuesday) all but guarantees that veteran destroyer Kyle Beckerman will start in central midfield. World Cup 2014 starter Matt Besler should slot in seamlessly for left center back Brooks. And based on who’s available, it’s possible that one of Sacha Kljestan (who was added to the squad Monday) Darlington Nagbe or 17-year-old Christian Pulisic will start. All three have plenty to prove and will be motivated to perform well if the chance comes, with a bigger role in the team up for grabs.
Eighteen members of the 23-man Copa squad return. It would’ve been 21 of 23 had Brooks, Dempsey and LA Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes (who misses out because of a broken foot) been healthy and available. That built-in cohesion is by design. Klinsmann’s hope is that the chemistry developed within the team over the summer carries into these two dates even if his lineup is shorthanded.
- Wins and they’re in
The U.S. should always beat SVG. Trinidad and Tobago is expected to top Guatemala — the Americans already beat them away this cycle — in Port of Spain. If both results pan out, the U.S. and T&T advance regardless of what happens in Jacksonville. But the bottom line is the U.S. should win both games. If it does, not only will the Americans advance to the Hex, they’ll lock up the top spot in Group C, setting up a home date against Mexico in the opening match of the final round.
- The U.S. isn’tEl Tri
Mexico won last year’s CONCACAF Cup over the U.S., and top to bottom, El Tri has a deeper roster. But the Americans have been better in World Cup qualifying over the last decade. In fact, Mexico hasn’t finished above the U.S. — which has topped the regional standings in each of the last three cycles — since 2001.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.
U.S. team youth need to push older players out – Jurgen Klinsmann
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann has told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview that, with the team about halfway through the current World Cup cycle, he wishes more young players were pushing for spots.Klinsmann hailed the U.S.’ highly respectable fourth place finish at the Copa America and said he was confident that his side would carry the momentum from that tournament into the last two matches of the current round of World Cup qualifying.On Friday, the U.S. will play St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Kingstown, followed by a match against Trinidad & Tobago four days later in Jacksonville. The U.S. is expected to get the results it needs to clinch a spot in the final round Hexagonal.In terms of the team’s composition, the U.S. remains heavily reliant on veteran players. But what is concerning for Klinsmann is the lack of pressure coming from up-and-coming players, a point made more acute by the absences of Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey.”We hoped for more push from the younger generation,” Klinsmann said. “So our message consistently is when they are with us you’ve got to make your case. You’ve got to come out of your shell.”You’ve got to speak up and ask questions. Push the older ones out. This is your job. In general, my experience over the last five years is that American talent takes longer, maybe because the college culture is still there in the middle of it.”Meanwhile, you have European or South American kids at 18, 19, biting the legs off the older ones. Here [a player] needs to be maybe 22, 23, so that kind of personality jump comes a bit later with our players.”Granted, age in itself is no crime, Klinsmann said. In the heat of a qualification cycle, experience is a valuable commodity to have. But Jones is injured and likely won’t play in either of the upcoming qualifiers, although he remains a significant part of the team at age 34. And the other mainstay, 33-year-old Dempsey, has been sidelined with an irregular heartbeat, though Kyle Beckerman, also 34, is a shoo-in to play in both matches.Klinsmann didn’t sound overly alarmed by the presence of the veterans, noting that he considers this part of the normal process, and he did bring in some younger elements to his squad for the current round of qualifiers.But out of players under 25, only DeAndre Yedlin (23) and Bobby Wood (23) are certain starters. It remains to be seen how big a role 17-year-old Christian Pulisic will be handed with progression to the next round of qualifying on the line.Klinsmann pointed to Wood as an example of what the U.S. has to go through in terms of bringing players into the national team.Two years ago, Wood was sitting on the bench for 1860 Munich, but Klinsmann kept calling the young forward up anyway. That provided a badly needed dose of confidence, and combined with a stellar season at 2. Bundesliga side Union Berlin, Wood has parlayed that into a move to Hamburg.”If you tell the German national team coach to pull a kid from the second division that isn’t even on the bench, they would call you crazy,” Klinsmann said. “But our pool of players is just completely different to any team in Europe or South America. We don’t have the luxury just to pick the players from Champions League teams.”We don’t have that. We have to be happy for a kid to sign a professional contract and then try to help him understand what it takes to become a pro, and to work his way through the system wherever he is.”The lack of young players coming through is most apparent in midfield, though Klinsmann noted that injuries have played a part. Hearts midfielder Perry Kitchen is a candidate, but Klinsmann said the player’s recent recovery from injury didn’t come in time for this week’s games.Bournemouth’s Emerson Hyndman is another who has been dealing with injuries of late. FC Vaduz midfielder Caleb Stanko did make the trip, and Klinsmann said he had showed well during a U.S. camp last May.One player who has made a something of a breakthrough at club level is 20-year-old Lynden Gooch, who has made five appearances for EPL side Sunderland already this season.But Klinsmann declined to call Gooch up, saying that he’s seen numerous instances of players losing their spot in the starting lineup at club level after returning from international duty, especially given the jet lag and fatigue involved.For that reason, Klinsmann didn’t want to jeopardize Gooch’s spot in the starting lineup at Sunderland.”I spoke to [Gooch], and for him now it’s a case of, ‘I just broke in. I’ve got to digest that for a second, and I’ve got to make sure I keep my spot.’ This is World Cup qualifying right now.”Yeah, we brought a couple of youngsters in, but we give priority to the group that got Copa America done. So we’ve got to get results now. This is purely result-driven the next seven days.”So maybe in October, we have the opportunity to bring some youngsters in, give them some playing time. It’s a completely different scenario.”In terms of improving the overall quality of the U.S. side, Klinsmann admitted there is no better test than what the U.S. faced earlier this summer.”The Copa America was for us, priceless in terms of not only because it was successful, but also because of the experience,” he said.”If every two years we could have a Copa America, it would boost our program tremendously because you need to play the best nations out there, and the best nations are in Europe and South America. So that learning curve hopefully pays off two years from now.”Klinsmann added that given the level of competition that the Copa offered, he hopes the U.S. will be able to compete in more editions of the tournament in the future.”Maybe down the road we have one Copa America in between the cycles and one Gold Cup, and not two Gold Cups,” he said. “I think that would be ideal. A Gold Cup doesn’t really challenge us. OK, it’s Costa Rica, Mexico, Honduras, and us. Yeah, Jamaica here and there.”They are strong nations, but from a learning perspective between two cycles, you want to play if possible Brazil, Argentina, Chile; or Holland, England, France and Germany.”Now with the way they schedule, and the qualifiers, obviously the 18-game schedule of South America, we have actually no chance anymore to schedule them in friendly games. That’s not good for us, because the only way we grow is by playing up.”Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.
‘Difference-maker’ Sacha Kljestan ready to seize latest U.S. team chance
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Sacha Kljestan thought his first U.S. national team call-up in more than two years was a prank.It was around 11 p.m. Sunday night when Kljestan received a text from U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann giving him the news he had long waited for. In that moment, the New York Red Bulls midfielder didn’t recognize the number, and his troll deflector shield immediately went up.”It was a 949 phone number, which is where my brother lives and close to where I grew up, so I thought it was maybe one of my friends that was having a joke with me,” he told reporters prior to Tuesday’s training session with the U.S. national team. “I didn’t really want to text back like I was excited, [which] I was, so I just wrote, ‘Please call me.’ [Klinsmann] called me a few minutes later, and we talked for a few minutes, and I told my wife and she didn’t really believe it either. I’m here now. It’s pretty exciting.”Kljestan’s wait has certainly been well-documented — and excruciating — for a player who first made his U.S. debut in 2007. He most recently appeared for the U.S. in a 2-0 loss to Ukraine on March 5, 2014, in a match that was moved to Larnaca, Cyprus. Kljestan’s fading international prospects were made even tougher to swallow as he moved to Belgian side Anderlecht, won league titles and played in the UEFA Champions League.He returned to MLS in 2015 with the New York Red Bulls and put together an impressive season as the side won the Supporters’ Shield. His stellar form has continued into this season, as he has tallied five goals and a league-leading 15 assists.None of that was good enough for Klinsmann. Although Kljestan was called up with a fair bit of regularity in 2012 and 2013, he essentially fell off the international map thereafter. In a recent interview with ESPN FC, Kljestan called the snub “a small mystery.” Consider it now a mystery solved, mostly.”The reason Sacha is back in this group is he deserves it,” Klinsmann said in an exclusive interview. “He’s a difference-maker at [the Red Bulls], and he’s more mature. He seems very driven.”Klinsmann insisted that he has been watching Kljestan over the years and said that he considered him for Copa America, though the New York attacker didn’t make the 40-man provisional roster. The U.S. manager noted that players such as Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman created something of a logjam in the center of midfield. But as Klinsmann explained this thinking, it became clear that the difference-maker tag — however he defines it — has been the dividing line for whether Kljestan gets called in.”We always ask national team players to be a difference-maker,” Klinsmann said. “Whatever position you play, you’ve got to be different to whatever the other players out there in your league and your club that play your position. That needs to be there. There’s always a special piece to a player that becomes a national team player.”So if you play a No 8 or a No. 10 now — he plays more a No. 10 at Red Bulls — then I need killer passes, I need you to get in the box, I need you to be decisive on set pieces, certain things that make a difference. That’s what Kljestan is doing. When he was three, four years with us, he struggled to do that for whatever reason. Now there’s another opportunity.”Kljestan understands full well why this chance has come about. Jones is out because of a lingering knee problem that includes an LCL strain, and Bradley is suspended for Friday’s World Cup qualifier against St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Kljestan’s experience is such that the circumstances don’t bother him in the least. He knows that his smarts and ability mean there is a real chance that he’ll see the field against the Vincy Heat or, failing that, against Trinidad & Tobago four days later.”I think it’s up to me in the next couple of days in practice to prove that I’m ready for that level again,” he said. “But yeah, I’ve been asked this question a million times over the last couple of years, and I said, ‘If I get a chance, I’ll be ready.’ If I get a chance to play in either of the games, I know I’ll be ready, and I know I’ll help the team.”Klinsmann certainly sounds like a believer, even though it’s been a long time coming for Kljestan.”It’s great to have [Kljestan] back, and without putting pressure on Sacha, it’s an opportunity for him now to prove a point,” he said. “He doesn’t have to prove that point in these eight days. It’s not that I want to see miracles from you. I just want you to take the initiative.”Consider that a message received.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.
THE NEXT 14 MONTHS FOR THE USMNT
AUGUST 29, 2016
By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Aug 29, 2016) US Soccer Players – The USMNT returns to action this week for the first time since reaching the semifinals of the Copa Centenario. The September window means a pair of World Cup Qualifiers versus two island nations. They’re on the road versus St Vincent & the Grenadines on September 2 (3:30pm ET – beIN Sport). Then it’s home against Trinidad & Tobago four days later (8pm ET – Fox Sports 1). These are both winnable games. The USMNT is on an upswing coming off of the Centenario. Still, they know better than to underestimate a CONCACAF opponent. The matches also mark the start of a 14-month period where there will be little time for mistakes. Tinkering with lineups and tactics may be a thing of the past for Klinsmann. CONCACAF has stretched the final round of qualifying over two years. At the same time, FIFA has reduced the dates on its international calendar starting next year. That move was to appease European clubs. For everybody else, it’s a schedule crunch leaving less time to play friendlies. The USMNT will also play in the Gold Cup next summer. That adds another layer of competitive regional games to the already congested mix. There could’ve been more games. the Confederations Cup is also next summer. It’s hard to think of the mini-World Cup as a time to experiment. Instead, it’s a chance to familiarize teams with the venues and the country ahead of the World Cup. From this point on, the United States has to play every game to win.The USMNT works toward the September games ranked 26th in the world. They have a large group of MLS players approaching playoff form. There’s also a core of European-based players who are just starting their club seasons. That’s a plus for Klinsmann. At the Copa Centenario he used the same starting IX in three straight games. That’s something a US coach had not done since the 1930 World Cup. That provided both the coaching staff with a base to work with and the players with some sense of stability heading into next year. “We definitely think that the group that got fourth (place) in the Copa America deserves a certain priority going on to the next World Cup qualifiers because they did tremendously well in the Copa America,” Klinsmann said in a news release Sunday. “It was an exciting tournament with great games. The whole group learned a lot, playing teams like Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina. This is a big stage, and they deserve to come back and confirm what they did in the tournament in these upcoming, very important World Cup Qualifiers.”Here’s a look ahead to what lies ahead for the USMNT and what to expect as it resumes its journey to Russia 2018:
Klinsmann will gather his players this week in Florida. They play at St Vincent & the Grenadines on Friday and Trinidad & Tobago on September 5 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville. Games in the Caribbean are always a tricky proposition. Anything less than the full six points will be a disappointment. It’s worth noting that T&T is a team on the rise. It has a core of European-based players. That’s turning them into one of the best sides to come out of that country since qualifying for Germany ’06. The Americans, however, are 4-0 in Jacksonville dating back to 1997.The United States will be without Clint Dempsey, but Jozy Altidore is back from injury. Look to Altidore for the goals. He’s scoring regularly in MLS and leads this group of players in World Cup qualifying goals. The defense hasGeoff Cameron and John Brooks both coming off strong Copa Centenario performances. Omar Gonzalez, overlooked for the Copa, also got the call-up. Brad Guzan is likely to be the starter in goal. Tim Howard provides the team with a great back-up should Klinsmann choose to switch it up.
This will be the chance for the United States to play some friendlies. Unfortunately, the opposition isn’t strong. The October 2 game in Havana versus Cuba appears to be more about diplomacy than soccer. Even so, it will be good to play in the Caribbean given the type of teams and travel schedule in the Hex.Eight days later, it’s USMNT vs New Zealand at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. Klinsmann will have his European-based players at his disposal for both games. Expect this to be a place where he experiments with a player or two. These games will be confidence-builders entering the 10-game Hexagonal.
This is where the schedule becomes intense. The month will feature two games to start the final round of World Cup qualifying. Based on the draw earlier this year, the United States is likely to face Mexico, followed by Costa Rica. That would be a tough start to the whole thing.Mexico will finish first in Group A. In Group C, the USMNT trails Trinidad & Tobago going into the final two games. The schedule calls for the Group C winner to host the winner of Group A1 (Mexico). Forget about the Guerra Fria this time around.Costa Rica, meanwhile, is in first place in Group B, just three points ahead of Panama. If Costa Rica and the US both win their respective groups, the sides will meet on November 14 in Costa Rica.
January camp may be the only real chance for Klinsmann to look at players. This isn’t a FIFA date, so expect what we regularly see in January. MLS players. European players that need games. Opponents that aren’t as strong as they would be on an official FIFA date.
There are no official FIFA dates in January or February. March 20th and 28th are the next two times the United States will get the chance to play. Both these dates have been set aside by CONCACAF for Hexagonal matches.
The United States will again host the Gold Cup. The tournament runs from July 9-30. The US and Mexico, as always, enter the competition as favorites.
August 28 and September 5 will feature two Hex games.
October 2 and 10 marks the final two Hexagonal rounds.
The top three teams in the Hexagonal advance to Russia ‘18. The 4th-place finisher in CONCACAF will play the 5th-place team from Asia over two legs on November 6 and 14. Based in New York City, Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players.
THE EXTENDED LIFE OF SOCCER’S TRANSFER SYSTEM
AUGUST 31, 2016
By J Hutcherson (Aug 31, 2016) US Soccer Players – Amid the talk of super leagues, mergers, and revamping European club soccer as we know it, the transfer system doesn’t get enough attention. FIFPro is adament that it needs to stop, and they’ve got a solid point. The way players move in European soccer is a relic of a different era, one that should’ve come to an end before any of us were born. Instead, clubs are still attaching value to players apart from their contract and selling them. Any of the North American leagues could’ve done the same. None of them made that the main way players move clubs.Yet, the transfer system hangs on. English clubs complain that they’re paying more for overseas players and new records fall. Small clubs find themselves cut out almost entirely, something that has become a relic of an earlier era. It wasn’t long ago that transferring a star player could float a small club for years. Now, that move happens before that player ever makes a first team appearance. Thus FIFA’s insistence on solidarity payments.It’s what has to happen to shore up the transfer system that should be enough to topple it. The big clubs move money around between each other. The record transfers almost always lead to the selling club spending the balance. Otherwise, they face the wrath of supporters wondering why they made the sell in the first place. Then there’s the push to get rid of players before they become free agents. Anything is better than nothing within the transfer system. Meanwhile, the complaints about home grown players, limited opportunities, and building from within are loudest when a super club is struggling.It’s hard to see Europe as it is deciding the transfer system has to go. It would be the equivalent of all of the leagues deciding on an entry draft and a salary cap. But a breakaway league. That changes things, right? It’s as close as we’ll ever see to Europe starting from scratch.Should those super clubs make that move, what’s in their best interest? Certainly not the transfer system as we know it. Paying gigantic amounts of money for the right to a player contract doesn’t make a lot of sense. Baseball uses it when a club signs a player from a Japanese club but it’s a rarity bordering on silly. You trade players and sign free agents. You don’t buy the right to a contract for tens of millions of dollars unless there’s no other option.Europe’s proposed super league could choose to create those other options. That would be for entirely self-serving reasons, but it would also answer a lot of FIFPro’s complaints.Pushing against that is more than tradition. It’s the way clubs move money around in a system that relies on several basic assumptions. Few of them hold up. It doesn’t make economic sense to pay for the right to pay a player. It doesn’t make sense to hold players hostage within a system that puts a market value on them without their involvement. A player has very little choice within the transfer system, something that “giving” the player a cut of the fee doesn’t address. That last one is a bigger moral and ethical question, one world soccer chooses to avoid.So here we are at the end of the summer of 2016. We’re staring down a super league. UEFA may have postponed that inevitability for a few more years, but it’s stalking European and world soccer as a whole. It’s not a straw man to suggest that a breakaway super league would reconsider the transfer system. That’s just common sense and a practical business adjustment. The better question is why would it take a super league to bring an end to the transfer market? Why not just go ahead and take that step now? J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002.