10/6/16 US Manager Bob Bradley Becomes First EPL Manager at Swansea, US Men Play Fri 4 pm FS1, Tues 8 pm ESPN, World Cup Qualifiers Thurs-Tues, HS Sectionals

The focus turns to the US team this week as the World Leagues take the weekend off for International play, World Cup qualifiers and friendlies this weekend.  First off the HUGE news that former US Manager Bob Bradley has accepted the manager position for struggling EPL side Swansea.  He becomes the first US Manager to ever coach in the Premier League.  US fans will remember Bradley as the US manager who was removed for Juergan Klinnsman after finishing 3rd in the Gold Cup following a Sweet 16 run in the World Cup in 2010.  What folks seem to forget is Bradley had the US in the final of the Confederation Cup beating #1 Spain, #5 Italy before losing to Brazil 3-2 in the Finals the year before the World Cup.  The US achieved its highest ever ranking at 4th In the world in front of Spain, Italy, Argentina, Mexico and Portugal.  Since of course Klinnsman has made massive changes including recruiting German/American players, revamping the US development academy and making multiple changes.  Honestly Bradley was never given that type of latitude for the US – and yet despite this he managed the players he had admirably and always had his team prepared for the match.  Good luck to coach Bradley as he blazes the trail for US soccer coaches in Europe and go Swansea!

The US will travel to Cuba for Friday afternoon’s friendly at 4 pm on Fox Sports 1, expect the US to play a mix of youngsters mixed in with experience as we prepare for the huge Mexico vs USA match November 11 in Columbus, OH next month.  The US game will follow the Netherlands vs Belarus WCQ match on FS1 Friday before the US returns home Tues nght at 8 pm on ESPN vs New Zealand.

World Cup Qualifiers and friendlies get started on Thursday with the much anticipated Italy vs Spain qualifier at 2:45 on Fox Sports 1.  World class keepers Gigi Buffon and David De Gea will go head to head in this qualifier, while Austria and Gareth Bale’s Wales are on FS2 same time.  Thurs eve has South American WC Qualifiers with Brazil hosting Bolivia at 8:45 pm and Peru hosting a Mesi less Argentina at 10:15 pm both on beIN sports.  (See the Complete WCQ schedule below).  The National Women’s League Finals set as Washington plays NY Flash Sun 5 pm on FS1. 

Good luck to all our Carmel FC teams this weekend in SoctoberFest in Zionsville and good luck to our former/current players playing high school sectionals this week and weekend!  The #3 Ranked Carmel ladies face Westfield Thurs Oct 6th @ 5 pm followed by Guerin Catholic and #6 Zionsville.  The winners meet @ Westfield Sat @ 2 pm.  On the boys side 8th ranked Carmel with 4 former/current CFCers will square off against  18th ranked Guerin Catholic with 6 Senior former CFC’ers on Sat at 7 pm in Zionsville with a spot to sectionals on the line.      Carmel boys Upens Zionsville 1-0

MUST SEE GAMES ON TV

Thurs, Oct 6  – World Cup Qualifying

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1                       Italy vs Spain  –Great Goalie battle Buffon vs DeGea

8:45 pm beIN sports                                                Brazil vs Bolivia

10:15 pm beIN sports                     Peru vs Argentina

Fri, Oct 7  – World Cup Qualifying

2:45 pm ESPN 2 or 3?                     France vs Bulgaria

4 pm ESPN 2                         Cuba vs United States Men (friendly)

 Sat Oct 8  – World Cup Qualifying

12 noon Fox Sports 1                      U17 WWC – Japan vs USA 

2:45 pm Fox Sports 2                      Germany vs Czech Republic

Sun, Oct 9  – World Cup Qualifying

12 noon Fox Sports 1                                               Wales vs Georgia

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1                      Albania vs Spain

2:45 pm Fox Sports 2                      Macedonia vs Italy

2:45 pm ESPN 3                                   Iceland vs Turkey

5 pm Fox Sports 1                              NWSL – Championship FINAL NY vs Washington

Mon, Oct 10  – World Cup Qualifying

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1                      Netherlands vs France 

Tues, Oct 11  – World Cup Qualifying

2:45 pm ESPN 2?                                Slovenia vs England

4 pm beIN Sport                                 Columbia vs Uraguay

7:30 pm beIN Sport                                                 Chile vs Peru

8 pm ESPN                            USA (Men) vs New Zealand (friendly)

8:30 pm beIN Sport                                                 Brazil vs Venezuela

Weds, Oct 12 – U17-WWC

9 am Fox Sports 2                               WWC Quarter Final 1

12 noon Fox Sports 2                                               WWC Quarter Final 2

7 pm  My Indy 23??            Indy 11 vs Jacksonville

USA

Former US Manager becomes first ever US Manager in the EPL = Grant Wahl-Sl

Former US Manager Bob Bradley Takes over EPL Team Swansea

Bradley to Swansea – Fantastic says Klinsy

What does this mean for American soccer?

US soccer reacts to Bradley’s new gig

Bradley on Swans chance: “Special opportunity”

What next for Bradley?

US Calls in Mix of Veterans and Youngsters for this week Friendlies– SI

5 Questions Facing US in Oct Friendlies –goal.com

4 questions facing USMNT ahead of Cuba Friendly – MLS.com

US Leaves out Starting Goalkeepers

How might the US line-up – NBC Sports

Kljestan’s US return opens doors for other to return from the Cold – ESPN FC Graham Parker

Why a Bigger World Cup would help the US and Canada

US Ladies Carli Lloyd Chats about her Book

Here’s the full USMNT roster for the two upcoming friendlies:

GOALKEEPERS (3): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Ethan Horvath (Molde FK), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)

DEFENDERS (7): Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin),Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Perry Kitchen (Hearts), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Danny Williams (Reading)

FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg

EPL

Assessing the Contenders – NBCSN

Tottenham takes EPL lead after 2-0 thrashing of Man City

Spurs Pochettino confident after win

Fermino leads Liverpool

Cante and Mourino need time to change things -EspnFC

35 Things about Ibra on his 35th Birthday

WORLD

World Cup Qualifiers – Spain vs Italy over the years

Leicesters GK Casper Schmeichel wants Denmark back in the big time

Power Rankings

Around the World of Soccer

Atletico Takes top Spot in La Liga after Barca and Real Madrid falter

Rashford must start over Rooney for England

GOALKEEPERS

French 5th Division Keeper makes Triple Save

Oops Barcelona’s Ter Stegan Struggles Clearing

MLS + NWSL + Indy 11  

NWSL Finals set as Washington plays NY Flash Sun 5 pm on FS1 

Washington Spirit will face the Western New York Flash next Sunday (5 p.m. ET, FS1)

Power Rankings Dallas back on top

3 Things Indy 11 loss

Indy 11 Sat Night Game @ Jax moved to Wed 10/12/16

 More GAMES ON TV

Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com

 Thurs, Oct 6  – World Cup Qualifying

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1                       Italy vs Spain  –Great Goalie battle Buffon vs DeGea

2:45 pm Fox Sports 2                      Austria vs Wales

8:45 pm beIN sports                                                Brazil vs Bolivia

10:15 pm beIN sports                     Peru vs Argentina

Fri, Oct 7  – World Cup Qualifying

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1                                               Netherland vs Belarus

2:45 pm ESPN 2 or 3?                     France vs Bulgaria

4 pm ESPN 2                         Cuba vs United States Men (friendly)

 Sat Oct 8  – World Cup Qualifying

9 am  Fox Sports 1                             U17 WWC – Brazil vs England

12 noon Fox Sports 1                      U17 WWC – Japan vs USA

12 noon ESPN 3                                   England vs Malta

2:45 pm Fox Sports 2                      Germany vs Czech Republic

Sun, Oct 9  – World Cup Qualifying

12 noon Fox Sports 1                                               Wales vs Georgia

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1                      Albania vs Spain

2:45 pm Fox Sports 2                      Macedonia vs Italy

2:45 pm ESPN 3                                   Iceland vs Turkey

5 pm Fox Sports 1                              NWSL – Championship FINAL NY vs Washington

6 pm SEC Network                             Florida vs Ole Miss

Mon, Oct 10  – World Cup Qualifying

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1                      Netherlands vs France

2:45 pm Fox Sports 2                      Sweden vs Bulgaria

Tues, Oct 11  – World Cup Qualifying

12 noon Fox Sports 2                      Kazakhastan vs Romania

2:45 pm Fox Sports 2                      Poland vs Armenia

2:45 pm ESPN 2?                                Slovenia vs England

4 pm beIN Sport                                 Columbia vs Uraguay

7:30 pm beIN Sport                                                 Chile vs Peru

8 pm ESPN                            USA (Men) vs New Zealand (friendly)

8:30 pm beIN Sport                                                 Brazil vs Venezuela

Weds, Oct 12 – U17-WWC

9 am Fox Sports 2                               WWC Quarter Final 1

12 noon Fox Sports 2                                               WWC Quarter Final 2

7 pm  My Indy 23??            Indy 11 vs Jacksonville

Thurs, Oct 13 – U17-WWC

9 am Fox Sports 2                               WWC Quarter Final 3

12 noon Fox Sports 2                                               WWC Quarter Final 4

Fri, Oct 14

2:30 pm  Fox Sports 2?                  Dortmund vs Hertha  – US Christian Pulisic vs US Defender John Brooks

Sat, Oct 15  

7:30 am NBCSN                   Chelsea vs Leicester City

9:30 am Fox Sports2                                                 B M’Gladbach vs Hamburger

10 am NBCSN                                         Man City vs EvertonArsenal vs Swansea  (coach Bob Bradley debut)

12:30 pm                         NBCSN                                West Brom vs Tottenham

12:30 pm Fox Sports 2       Werder Bremen vs Bayern Leverkusen

7:30 Wish TV 8                     Indy 11 vs Carolina 

Sun, Oct 16  

3 pm ESPN                                               Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC

5 pm ESPN                                               Portland Timbers vs Colorado Rapids

Wed, Oct 19

9 pm ESPN2                          US Women vs Switzerland

Wed, Oct 26

MLS Playoffs Start

MLS TV Schedule ‘

EPL TV Schedule on NBC + NBCSN

German Bundesliga TV Schedule on Fox Soccer and Gol TV

EPL’s Swansea City hires Bob Bradley in historic appointment for American manager

QUICKLY GRANT WAHL2 hours ago

  • Bradley makes history and becomes the first American to manage a team in one of Europe’s top four leagues.

In a historic move for U.S. soccer, former U.S. coach Bob Bradley has agreed to become the new manager of English Premier League club Swansea City, SI.com has learned. The 58-year-old Bradley, who will replace Francesco Guidolin, will become the first American ever to manage a team in one of Europe’s top four leagues.According to sources close to the deal, Bradley won the job ahead of former Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs and former Villarreal manager Marcelino, who were both interviewed by Swansea as well.The decision to hire Bradley was made collectively by three people at Swansea: Co-managing owners Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien and Welshman Huw Jenkins, who has been Swansea’s chairman for 14 years. They felt Bradley’s managing experience in various places gave him an edge over Giggs, who has never been a full-time head coach.Bradley’s contract with Swansea will run through the end of the 2018-19 season.

Swansea is in 17th place (one spot above the relegation zone) after seven games, with one win, one tie and five losses. The club was taken over in July by a consortium of American owners led by Kaplan and Levien.

Bradley comes to Swansea from Le Havre in the French second division. He took over Le Havre midseason in November 2015 and came within one goal of promotion to Ligue 1 with a 5-0 win in the final game of the season. Before Le Havre, Bradley spent two seasons at Norway’s Stabaek. Despite being one of the most cash-strapped teams in the Norwegian top flight, Stabaek qualified for the Europa League under Bradley.

From 2011 to ’13, Bradley coached the Egyptian national team. During a time of social upheaval in Egypt and in the wake of the Port Said stadium massacre that took 74 lives and caused the suspension of the Egyptian league, Bradley somehow rallied Egypt to within a game of qualifying for its first World Cup since 1990.Before Egypt, Bradley coached the U.S. national team from 2006 to ’11. During his tenure, Bradley’s U.S. team won its World Cup 2010 group ahead of England and reached the 2009 Confederations Cup final, beating a Spain team in the semifinals that was at the height of its powers before losing 3-2 to Brazil in the final. Bradley was fired in 2011 after the U.S.’s 4-2 loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup final. Bradley coached three MLS teams between 1998 and 2006. He led the Chicago Fire to the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup double during his first season in 1998 and the Open Cup trophy again in 2000. He went on to coach the MetroStars from 2003 to ’05 and Chivas USA in 2006.  Bradley got his start in coaching with head jobs at Ohio University and Princeton.

What does Bradley’s hiring at Swansea mean for American soccer?

13 CommentsBy Joe Prince-WrightOct 3, 2016, 9:55 AM EDT

Game-changer.That sums up what Bob Bradley’s appointment as Swansea City’s new manager on Monday could be.[ MORE: Key US figures react ]

Bradley, 58, has been chipping away for a chance like this for many years and Swansea’s new U.S. majority owners have handed him the keys to the Liberty Stadium.This is a huge opportunity for not only Bradley but for the whole of the U.S. soccer community to be taken more seriously in Europe. That’s not an overstatement.For many years any of us involved in the U.S. soccer scene have had to listened to digs and jibes from around the world about a nation which has not traditionally been a passionate patron of the beautiful game.“What do Yanks know about football?” or “He’s American, what’s the point?” are already some of the responses to Bradley getting the Swansea job. Those responses are, sadly, far too predictable.But what does being American have anything to do with being a good coach? It shouldn’t have anything to do with it but we all know it does.[ LONGFORM: Bradley’s journey in Norway 

Bradley himself has spoken out in the past about the same group of coaches getting jobs time and time again in the Premier League and Europe’s top leagues. Whether it is because they’re English and seem a safe bet, the circuit has been a closed shop for some time. Now, though, Bradley has a chance to prove just how good of a coach he is. Simply put, his nationality probably played a part in him not getting this chance 10 years ago.Those attitudes and beliefs have often hindered not only American coaches but also American players getting chances in Europe’s elite leagues. Look around Europe’s top leagues today. There are a handful of U.S. players in Germany, five total in the Premier League and a few others scattered around. After that, well, U.S. youngsters at academies across Europe are battling away but are facing similar problems.Back in 2014 I traveled to Norway to sit down with Bob and see his work firsthand with tiny Norwegian side Stabaek, but also to talk about why American’s have found it so hard to gain respect in Europe.

“In its simplest form, as much as the game has grown in the U.S., players and coaches earning respect in Europe is still not easy,” Bradley said. “Actually when we [U.S. national team] had success in the Confederations Cup and then in the World Cup, many football people spoke very highly of the way we played as a team, our football, our results. What we accomplished but still that part of what it means for players getting chances at a big clubs… what does that mean for coaches getting chances? It still takes time. We are still in the midst of it, there’s no two ways about it.”

His resume is helping some of the barriers to be broken down but it will still take time. For instance, Ryan Giggs, who has zero head-coaching experience, was Swansea’s other option here and is many of Swansea’s fans are talking about him being a better option compared to Bradley’s almost four decades coaching in the game.Bradley started off on home soil and led the expansion franchise Chicago Fire to an MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup in their inaugural season. Then led Chivas USA to the playoffs before taking over the U.S. national team before heading overseas for the last five years in Egypt, Norway and France.He is a disciple of Bruce Arena and was his assistant at the University of Virginia and D.C. United in MLS’ formative years. Bradley has been described by many as a founding father of American soccer along with Arena. During his days with the U.S. national team from 2006-11 he won the 2007 Gold Cup, took the U.S. to the 2009 Confederations Cup final after shocking Spain in the semifinals and reached the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup. The U.S. national team, despite arguably having a stronger player pool now than when Bradley was in charge, has struggled to reach those heights.The New Jersey native then moved to Egypt and took them to the brink of the World Cup in hugely trying circumstance during the Arab spring. He then proved his worth at Stabaek in Norway’s top-flight in 2014 and 2015 (he became the first-ever American to coach in a European top-flight there, by the way) taking the newly promoted side to third-place in his second season as they qualified for Europe. His most recent job was at Le Havre where he stepped down to France’s second-tier midway through last season and took them to within one goal of promotion to Ligue 1.All of this says that Bradley has earned his chance to manage in the Premier League after being previously linked with the jobs at West Brom, Aston Villa, Sunderland Hull City and Fulham. Now is his chance to show the world, and mostly European soccer’s elite, that an American can succeed in the Premier League, and Europe, as a coach. This is a big chance for the American game to gain more respect globally.Being successful at Swansea will be initially keeping them in the PL and then building them into a stable midtable club, something they’ve been since they arrived in the top-flight in 2011. The Princeton graduate will have to do that while also carrying the baggage of being an American. He’s used to it but it doesn’t make the task any easier.Bradley doesn’t like to be known as a trailblazer and someone who is flying the American flag overseas but he is. That’s the only way he’s been able to get on people’s radar and that has eventually led to him getting this opportunity in the most-watched and competitive league on the planet.His former assistant coach at Stabaek, Tomasz Kaczmarek, back in 2014, summed up the situation regarding the lack of respect for Americans in soccer perfectly.

“Look. All of the players, whether it is in Europe or in Egypt, they work with Bob and nobody thinks of him as American. They think he’s a damn good football coach,” Kaczmarek said, defiantly. “This is all they see and all they care about. They see he is a good leader and he makes the players better so they respect him and appreciate him. I believe on the outside there are too many people who say, ‘Oh yeah, he’s American. He can’t be a good coach. How can an American know something about football?’ This is not only in this case. There are too many people in football who don’t look deep enough. Don’t look at the work that is being done and the way the team plays. That is probably the biggest challenge for him going forward, to make sure that people on the outside recognize that he is American, yes, but he is a very good coach.”

Maybe one day coaches from the U.S. will be hired all across Europe and the rest of the world without a second glance at their passport. If we ever get to that point, there’s no doubting that Bradley’s appointment and any subsequent success he has at Swansea will have been a key factor in helping that happen.Don’t underestimate how monumental of a moment this is for American soccer.

Klinsmann hails Bob Bradley’s hiring at Swansea City as ‘fantastic’

MIAMI SHORES, Fla. — U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann has hailed the appointment of Bob Bradley at Swansea City, saying it is “fantastic” that there is an American coach now in the Premier League, and that Bradley “deserves it.”Klinsmann succeeded Bradley as U.S. manager back in 2011, but he noted all of the places that his predecessor has coached since, including stints with Egypt, Norwegian side Stabaek, and French club Le Havre.”There are plenty of very, very good American coaches that can coach overseas, so no doubt about it. In Bob’s case he’s so experienced,” Klinsmann told reporters ahead of Friday’s match against Cuba.”He went the tough route. The places he coached after the [U.S.] national team has been impressive. He didn’t shy away from different cultures, different countries, different languages, different approaches. He deserves that chance.”Klinsmann’s sentiments were echoed by Bradley’s son Michael, who is currently with the U.S. squad.”I’m very, very excited; very, very proud,” he said. “It’s a dream he’s had for a very long time, to be able to coach a big club in a big league. I’ve never seen somebody more fearless in the path and the choices that he made along the way.”From somebody who is obviously very close with him, who looks up to him in every way, I couldn’t be more proud.”Klinsmann added that the elder Bradley’s success will hinge in part on the support he receives from owners Stephen Kaplan and Jason Levien. Given that both owners are American, that seems likely, but Klinsmann insisted nonetheless that it is imperative they stand behind Bradley through the inevitable ups and downs.”In the Premier League you need to be backed up by your owners, you need to have their trust, you need to have people around you who are with you when things go wrong, because things aren’t always going the right way,” he said.”Hopefully they give him that trust. You need time and you need to have the backup from the people around you to mae changes the way you want them.”Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U

Five questions facing the U.S. roster for October’s friendlies

Goal.com 13 minutes ago

From the moment the October friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand were announced, Jurgen Klinsmann was expected to call on youth in a pair of rather tame friendlies. What may not have been expected was what Klinsmann has produced: A perfect mix of youth and a strong nucleus of regular starters.

Klinsmann didn’t go the route of Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio, who chose to leave several first-choice starters out of his October squad in order to see a plethora of younger prospects. What Klinsmann did do was bring back in some players who had previously shown signs of being capable of bigger roles, but who for some reason or another had fallen by the wayside.Danny Williams and Timmy Chandler are two such players. Both have had the kind of club success at positions of need that would have led most to think they could have been regular starters by now. Unfortunately for both German-Americans, they have failed to maximize their opportunities, and Klinsmann has responded by not calling them in as frequently as you would expect. Both are in the October camp, and both have opportunities to seize prominent roles at positions of need.As much as the roster is led by a strong base of top starters, there is a good collection of young talent in this camp, including Lynden Gooch, who will be taking part in his first senior team camp. The Sunderland winger turned some heads when broke into the Back Cats’ starting lineup to begin the English Premier League season, and is a good prospect in a deepening pool of impressive young American wingers.In terms of young players who could play themselves into roles in November’s qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica, Christian Pulisic heads that list, and the October friendlies could signal his move into a regular starting role for the U.S. He isn’t the only youngster though. Paul Arriola has done well with his looks with the national team and should have an even better chance at more minutes in the upcoming matches.The goalkeeper position will turn some heads because of the absence of reliable veterans Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, but you can’t really blame Klinsmann for wanting a closer look at the next generation of netminders, particularly given the advancing age of his top two options. Here is a closer at some of the questions faced by the roster Klinsmann called on to face Cuba and New Zealand:

WHO WILL STEP UP TO GRAB DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD SPOTS?

 

It has been three months since Jermaine Jones last played after being sidelined by a knee injury, and with the timetable for his return still up in the air, it’s time to start assuming he won’t be available for the November qualifiers. With that in mind, Klinsmann has a pair of younger options who will have their chances to be longer term solutions for replacing Jones. Perry Kitchen is doing well in Scotland, having earned the captaincy and a regular starting role at Hearts, and Williams is playing well for Reading. Kitchen is still just 24, and coming into his own, while 27-year-old Williams is trying to regain the standing he enjoyed four years ago when he was earning qualifying starts and was seen as the future of the defensive midfield position. He brings more of an attacking element to the spot, which can help offset what the U.S. loses without Jones, but Kitchen is arguably the better defensive option in central midfield.  Neither has to be considered a challenger for a starting role since Michael Bradley looks best-suited at the moment to mind the defensive midfield spot, but with Kyle Beckerman and Jones looking like they’re reaching the end of the road, Klinsmann needs some new blood in the pool at that position in a hurry.

IS THIS TIMMY CHANDLER’S LAST CHANCE?

Whether because of poor form, injuries or simple exclusions from the squad, Timmy Chandler has not seen much first-team action under Klinsmann despite having put together a solid career playing fullback in the German Bundesliga. He hasn’t translated that success on the international front, and has missed out on several chances to be a factor in the fullback conversation.  With Fabian Johnson not in this camp, Chandler can be the latest to try and stake a claim to the left back role. It is safe to say Klinsmann would love to be able to use Johnson in attack, but he has needed him more at fullback against tougher opponents. Can Chandler do enough in the upcoming friendlies to make Klinsmann comfortable with starting him against the likes of Mexico and Costa Rica? That might be a bit ambitious, but a good showing this month could set him up to taking a step closer to a more prominent role in 2017.Something else to consider is Chandler’s versatility. He can play left back and right back, and with DeAndre Yedlin’s hold on the right back spot looking vulnerable, Chandler could provide some competition there, along with do-everything veteran standout Geoff Cameron.This is all dependent on Chandler showing up in camp with the right mindset, which is something he has lacked in past call-ups, leading to questions of just how committed he is to the national team cause. If he has a poor camp, Chandler could find himself out of the national team picture for a long time.

WHERE WILL CAMERON PLAY?

Just when we thought we were done with this question, Klinsmann decided to mix things up by trying Cameron at right back in the September qualifying win against Trinidad and Tobago. Now, all of a sudden, we are left to wonder if Klinsmann liked what he saw.Cameron is Klinsmann’s most reliable defender. Of that, there is little doubt. Yes, John Brooks was outstanding at Copa America, but his penchant for picking up injuries has made him a bit of wild card. The good news is Klinsmann has a handful of good options, including Steve Birnbaum, Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler. Birnbaum has been particularly steady when called upon, which made Klinsmann comfortable enough with moving Cameron to right back against Trinidad and Tobago.With Brooks back in the fold, will Klinsmann reunite the dominating tandem of Brooks and Cameron in central defense, or will he see what a Brooks-Birnbaum tandem might look like? It could depend on how the fullbacks look in camp. Yedlin and Chandler need to be close to flawless against the likes of Cuba and/or New Zealand if Klinsmann is going to be expected to trust them in November.If Klinsmann ultimately decides that having Cameron and Fabian Johnson at fullback to cope with the dangerous wingers Mexico and Costa Rica possess, then we could certainly see Cameron stick at right back for the coming months while Birnbaum continues to be rewarded for his steady play.

WHICH GOALKEEPER WILL IMPRESS?

One of the benefits of scheduling a pair of relatively easy friendlies in the same international window is having the luxury to experiment at a position like goalkeeper.

Ethan Horvath is the youngest of the group, and enters as the most highly regarded of the three goalkeepers in camp. He is a full five years younger than the other options, but is already turning heads in Europe with his exploits for Molde.

Bingham posted a national team shut out in last winter’s friendly win against Canada, and has established himself as a steady goalkeeper at the age of 25 (his own goal this past weekend notwithstanding). William Yarbrough, 27, is starting for Leon and has been a big part of that team turning around its fortunes in Liga MX.

One player conspicuous by his absence was Bill Hamid, who suffered a major knee injury to start the year and didn’t get a call from Klinsmann despite having been strong in goal during D.C. United’s recent surge. Given the fact the second October friendly is being played at RFK Stadium, there’s a good chance we will see Hamid get a call for the New Zealand match.

COULD WE SEE AN EARLY LOOK AT HEX LINEUP?

Though it wasn’t mentioned in the announcement of the squad on Sunday, there is a good chance Klinsmann will release some players after the Cuba game and bring in some new faces for the New Zealand match. With that being the case, will Klinsmann trot out as close to a full-strength lineup as possible against Cuba?  That could look something like the team above.

Stejskal: Four questions for the USMNT ahead of Friday’s friendly at Cuba

October 4, 20161:15PM EDTSam StejskalContributor

Historical significance notwithstanding, the US men’s national team’s friendly at Cuba on Friday (4 pm ET; ESPN2) is about as minor as international matches get.It’s an exhibition game against a weak opponent that will be played in an environment that won’t approximate anything the US will see on the road in World Cup qualifying, so everything that happens in Havana should be taken with several grains of salt.Still, with Hexagonal matches against Mexico and at Costa Rica looming, the US will have a chance to do a bit of fine-tuning in the Caribbean on Friday. The match might not mean much, but it shouldn’t be totally overlooked, either.Here are four questions I’ll look for the US to continue answering in Havana:

How will the Altidore-Wood partnership look?

Jozy Altidore is playing some of the best soccer of his life; Bobby Wood has gotten his Bundesliga career off to a solid start. Both are talented, both are in form and both will likely start for the US on Friday and in the two Hex matches next month.While it’s undeniably a positive for the US to have two strikers in such fine form (with a third,Jordan Morris, playing pretty well himself), starting Altidore and Wood together doesn’t come without its complications. Both players are best as pure central forwards and tend to occupy the same sorts of spaces. That can create problems in the attack and can be an even bigger issue when the US don’t have the ball.Wood and Altidore building a better understanding with each other will be huge for both players individually. With those massive Hex matches on the horizon, their partnership will be enormously important for the entire USMNT, as well.

Will the Kljestan Show continue?

Like Matt Doyle, I think Sacha Kljestan is the best No. 10 in the US pool right now. It wasn’t against the toughest opposition, but he was excellent at St. Vincent and the Grenadines and against Trinidad and Tobago last month, scoring two goals and notching a pair of assists in the wins. More important than any numbers he put up in those matches, however, was the impact he has on the rest of the US lineup. Doyle summed it up best:“Putting a real playmaker in there allows more service to the forwards, who are playing better than ever; it allows wunderkind Christian Pulisic to play on either wing combining in the channels on the break or around the box in possession while not having to worry about shouldering the pure creative load; it allows Michael Bradley to play in his preferred spot as a No. 6, and in the seven games since he’s been playing there the US have gone 5-2-0 with plus-11 goal differential (15 GF; 4 GA); and that, in turn, allows the central defense a stable outlet in possession, which in turn allows the fullbacks to get forward.”Continuing to get solid play from the Red Bulls creator will be hugely important for the US. Let’s hope the 31-year-old keeps taking advantage of his newfound international opportunity.

Who claims the third goalkeeper spot?

Tim Howard and Brad Guzan aren’t with the US, leaving the door open for David Bingham, Ethan Horvath and William Yarbrough to stake their claim the No. 3 spot.I’m not sure the Cuba game will play a large role in determining who gets called-up for the Hex matches (will the starter actually be tested?), but the time in camp could play a major role. Whoever gets the most time over the next two games will likely be the favorite to be named to the roster for the Mexico and Costa Rica contests in November.

Will any of the youngsters stand out?

Christian Pulisic is the real deal. Barring something depressing, I anticipate that he’ll be a constant in US camp for years to come. You can’t exactly say that about the other unproven young guys on the roster – Paul Arriola, Lynden Gooch and Julian Green.Arriola has the most recent experience with the national team, having played well in his brief run-outs with the USMNT this year. Gooch, 20, doesn’t yet have a full USMNT cap, but he has been in and out of the lineup with Sunderland in the EPL. Green is still toiling away at Bayern Munich, having played a total of 24 minutes in all competitions for the German giants so far this year.It’d be beyond shocking if any of these three were anything more than a sub against Mexico or Costa Rica, but the Cuba and New Zealand friendlies will be good opportunities for them to show Klinsmann they belong on the roster for the Hex openers. We’ll see how they perform on Friday and next Tuesday.

How might the USMNT lineup in Cuba on Friday?

Leave a commentBy Nicholas MendolaOct 5, 2016, 5:52 PM EDT

The United States men’s national team has largely handled its business in its CONCACAF rivalry with Cuba, with the Yanks and Leones del Caribe renewing acquaintances for the 12th time on Friday.The U.S. boasts a 9-1-1 record ahead of the match in Havana, just the third time Cuba has hosted the Yanks and the first time the two have staged a friendly thereFew expect Cuba to contend in Friday’s contest, and Jurgen Klinsmann should be able to give some of his fringe players a chance to state their intentions ahead of next month’s massive World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica.Jermaine Jones, Clint Dempsey, and Gyasi Zardes are still out, and Alejandro Bedoya will miss the match as well. With a trio of unusual goalkeepers on the roster, Friday’s match may be more experimental than Tuesday’s visit from New Zealand.What might we see?When the Yanks last took the pitch, a 4-0 defeat of Trinidad and Tobago, we saw both Christian Pulisic and Sacha Kljestan earn starts in a dominant win. The set-up was a 4-4-2 with both Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood up top.That duo wasn’t exactly dynamite together, but expect Klinsmann to give them a chance to shine together.John Brooks hasn’t started a match for Hertha Berlin since Sept. 10 thanks to an injury, so we may not see the Yanks’ preferred center back pairing. Also don’t sleep on Timmy Chandler getting another shot at left back, as the Eintracht Frankfurt man has been regularly going 90 for his Bundesliga side during a strong start to the season (though he plays RB there).The trickiest spot to predict is right mid (assuming Bradley, Pulisic, and Kljestan complete the four-man group). Danny Williams, Lynden Gooch, and Paul Arriola could all slide in there, and Gooch seems the least likely due to Klinsmann’s proclivity for using players off the bench for cap No. 1.Klinsmann could also again opt to use Bradley more advanced in order to get a look at Perry Kitchen or Danny Williams in a deep-lying spot, but we doubt that’s going to happen. Right? RIGHT?

Yarbrough

Yedlin — Cameron — Birnbaum — Johnson

Bradley

Williams — Pulisic

Kljestan

Wood — Altidore

Given the Yanks’ opposition and manager, we could provide you with a wild-looking 4-4-2 just for kicks, though. Instead, we’ll opt for some questions for the comment section:

  1. Who’s the third forward? Or at least, what’s the pecking order at each spot? Is Jordan Morris No. 3 regardless, or could Julian Green be preferred if Altidore comes out? Would Klinsmann really opt for Chris Wondolowski before either?
  2. Might Michael Bradley be moved? Look, he’s their best defensive or deep-lying mid, but it’s possible Klinsmann would prefer to play him while also getting a look at Geoff Cameron, Perry Kitchen, or Danny Williams in that spot.
  3. Who’s the No.1, No. 3 goalkeeper? With Tim Howard and Brad Guzan allowed to remain with their clubs, will it be David Bingham, William Yarbrough, or Ethan Horvath between the sticks?

Howard, Guzan left out of United States squad for October friendlies

United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann has called in a mix of veterans and emerging talents to his squad ahead of upcoming friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand on Oct. 7 and 11, respectively.All told, 15 of the players who contested World Cup qualifiers last month against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago are on the roster, including captain Michael Bradley.The group also includes five of the six goal scorers from those matches, a list comprised of New York Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan, Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic, Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore, Hamburg SV forward Bobby Wood, and Club Tijuana attacker Paul Arriola. The biggest area of competition comes at goalkeeper, where neither Tim Howard nor Brad Guzan were included. Klinsmann has opted to give David Bingham of the San Jose Earthquakes, Ethan Horvath of Molde FK, and William Yarbrough of Club Leon a chance to impress ahead of World Cup qualifiers next month against Mexico and Costa Rica.Klinsmann did find room for some players who missed out on the most recent round of qualifying matches. Defender John Brooks makes his return to the squad after missing the two recent U.S. matches due to a back injury.Sunderland midfielder Lynden Gooch, Bayern Munich’s Julian Green, Hearts midfielder Perry Kitchen, Eintracht Frankfurt defender Timothy Chandler, and Reading midfielder Danny Williams are also in the squad.

Full U.S. squad:

Goalkeeper: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Ethan Horvath (Molde FK), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)

Defenders: Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin),
Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle)

Midfielders: Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Perry Kitchen (Hearts), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund),
 Danny Williams (Reading)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg SV), Julian Green (Bayern Munich)Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Klinsmann calls on young GKs, veteran core, Pulisic, Morris for USA’s October friendlies

BRIAN STRAUSSunday October 2nd, 2016

  • Brad Guzan and Tim Howard have been left behind for USA’s October friendlies, while rising stars Christian Pulisic, Jordan Morris and Lynden Gooch complement returning veterans.

Juren Klinsmann has upped the stakes on a pair of modest October friendlies, naming a veteran-heavy roster to face lightweight opposition in Cuba and New Zealand in anticipation of the much bigger matches just around the corner. With World Cup qualifiers at home against Mexico and in Costa Rica on deck in early November, the U.S. national team coach said Sunday that, “There’s a lot at stake for the players to make their case, to show where they are right now … I’m sure everyone wants to be in the starting 11 in Columbus on November 11 [against Mexico].”The race for those spots begins over the next couple days with the 23 players named Sunday. The U.S. will train in Miami and then travel to Havana for the first time since 2008. After Friday afternoon’s game against Cuba, the Americans will head to Washington, D.C., for an Oct. 11 meeting with New Zealand. Neither opponent is expected to be very strong and the U.S. hasn’t lost to either in nearly 70 years. Instead, the competition is expected to come from within.In addition to the 23 men identified Sunday, several additional players likely will be called in for the second game thanks to club scheduling considerations both in MLS and Europe.“Now when the players come in they know it’s a competition, and at every position we have very good competition. So if they want a spot, I expect them to get their message across,” Klinsmann said. “These two games are very important for us because it’s the last time we can see certain players before making the decision on the 23 going in to represent us for the Mexico and Costa Rica clashes.”Here’s a look at Klinsmann’s team for the match in Cuba (again, some changes are expected between games).

Goalkeepers

David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Ethan Horvath (Molde FK), William Yarbrough (Club Léon)

The biggest surprises on the roster are in net, and there are at least two of them. Normally, we’d expect to see one of the above names along with co-incumbents Brad Guzan and Tim Howard, But Klinsmann has enough faith in the veterans come November to let them work out different, but equally important, situations with their clubs while getting a good long look at the battle for the No. 3 (and perhaps future No. 1) role.“I think the goalkeeper position is unique,” Klinsmann said. “Obviously we have the two experienced guys with Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Both are in different situations right now. Tim is obviously very busy with the Colorado Rapids and Brad is not getting the opportunity to play at Middlesbrough. I think it’s a perfect time to give an open window to three younger goalkeepers … That’s why we decided to leave the two older guys out and give these three youngsters a chance to prove their point. That kind of opportunity is very rare.”Bingham appears to have overtaken Real Salt Lake veteran Nick Rimando as Klinsmann’s preferred MLS goalie (not counting the newly-arrived Howard). The 26-year-old has been capped just once but has been a regular call-up this year, and his 1.13 goals against average is among the best in the league. Horvath was the No. 3 at the Copa América Centenario and Yarbrough is back in the picture as the regular starter at Léon.

Defenders

Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)

Klinsmann’s Copa América pairing of Brooks and Cameron may have been in some doubt following the Hertha stalwart’s recent groin injury, but his inclusion in the 18-man squad for Saturday’s win over HSV is a sign he’s on the mend.Birnbaum and Gonzalez will challenge for minutes in the middle. Yedlin and Johnson are the clear choices at outside back, which remains the position of least depth in the U.S. pool. Chandler, who hasn’t played for the national team since last year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, now makes his return. He was invited over the likes of Kellyn Acosta (a midfielder), Matt Besler (a center back), Michael Orozco (a center back) and Edgar Castillo, who have been called upon to fill in at outside back in recent months.“Timmy Chandler is playing a good role at Frankfurt right now,” Klinsmann said.

Midfielders

Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Perry Kitchen (Heart of Midlothian), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Danny Williams (Reading)

The absence of Jermaine Jones (recovering from a knee injury), Kljestan’s dramatic resurgence and Pulisic’s meteoric rise has altered the face of the U.S. midfield, where Bradley and Bedoya are the only real familiar faces. The newer names, however, belong. Kitchen, for example, has been named captain at Hearts less than a year after moving to Scotland. Arriola, 21, became only the eighth U.S. player to score in his first two senior appearances with his goal in September’s qualifying win over Trinidad & Tobago. And Gooch is getting his first look with the top team thanks to multiple starts at Sunderland.Kyle Beckerman’s omission leaves Bradley as the likely defensive midfielder, with Williams his deputy.There’s by far more flux in midfield than any part of the roster, but Klinsmann sounded like that’s a good problem to have.“Obviously we have our core of players that took us through a very successful Copa América and the recent games, but at the same time you constantly evaluate and observe what the players are doing that are knocking on the door,” he said. “Some of the players really deserve a look. Lynden Gooch is a very talented, young player coming through at Sunderland. Danny Williams has had an outstanding season so far for Reading … For Danny Williams, we recognize his good performances over the last two months with Reading.”Six months ago, Klinsmann was nowhere near ready to hand the attacking keys to Kljestan and/or Pulisic, but both have surged up the depth chart. Pulisic’s skill, dynamism and composure can’t be ignored—he’s both old enough and good enough—and Kljestan’s transition to Red Bulls playmaker has afforded him the national team opportunity he couldn’t seem to hold on to when he was in a more defensive role at Anderlecht. The pair combined for four goals and four assists in last month’s two qualifiers.“The national team always has an open-door policy,” Klinsmann said. “Young, old, it doesn’t matter. But if you come in and get the opportunity, then you have to grab it. You have to put a stamp on it. That’s what Sacha did [last month]. That’s what Pulisic is doing. He’s making a difference when he comes on the field. It doesn’t matter if it’s from the bench or from the beginning.”Darlington Nagbe, whose Portland Timbers are fighting for their playoff lives, Sporting Kansas City veteran Graham Zusi and Beckerman are among the frequent call-ups left behind this week. Meanwhile, Kljestan and Bradley are the only two players on this roster who played in Cuba back in ’08.

Forwards

 Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburger SV)

Clint Dempsey’s absence may be lengthy because of a heart condition that has sidelined him for the remainder of the Seattle Sounders season. It will be keenly felt. No one is more clutch in a U.S. jersey. But it comes at a time when the national team’s forward pipeline is as packed as its ever been. Wood, now in the Bundesliga with HSV, has seven goals for the U.S. over the past 16 months. And Altidore is in very good form in Toronto (he wrecked Birnbaum on Saturday and scored his ninth MLS goal since the end of July).Wood and Altidore have combined to score 10 goals in the five U.S. games they’ve started together.Morris is among the players who may head back to his club after the Cuba game—Seattle has a massive match against the Houston Dynamo on Oct. 12—but the 21-year-old has handled a unique and challenging rookie season with such composure that it would come as no surprise to see him contribute in Havana. He has 12 goals and three assists in league play this year.Wondolowski has found the net for San Jose only twice in the past two months, but Klinsmann remains enamored of the veteran’s work-rate and intangibles. Green is a somewhat surprising choice. The 21-year-old World Cup scorer has moved up to Bayern’s first team but has played only once this season. Nevertheless, Klinsmann has preferred him to the likes of Juan Agudelo (three goals and three assists in five games for New England), Rubio Rubin or the returning Aron Jóhannsson. Gyasi Zardes’s broken foot also may have affected Klinsmann’s decisions in midfield and up front.

 Will Kljestan’s U.S. return open doors for others to come in from the cold?

It was a very Jurgen Klinsmann-esque chance of redemption: A center-back gets injured so a creative midfielder gets called in from a long exile. But the emphatic manner in which Sacha Kljestan seized his unexpected chance, with two goals and two assists in the two games against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago, meant he looked a subsequent shoo-in for the latest U.S. roster. And the 31-year-old was duly called up this week.His performance was no surprise to anyone who has watched the New York Red Bulls in the past couple of years, though even those who are high on Kljestan’s movement, vision and eye for the killer assist were caught off-guard by the ease with which he reinserted himself into the national team. His renaissance with the Red Bulls was not an overnight affair, after all; it took time for Kljestan and his club teammates to get a reading on each other’s habits and movements, though when they adapted to his habit of finding or creating pockets of space between opposition midfield and defensive lines, New York’s players went on a charge that took them to the 2015 MLS Supporters’ Shield.Still, it’s an occupational hazard for a creative player who operates in the way Kljestan does to be something of a slow burner as coaches and teammates figure out his game. But it’s to the immense credit of Kljestan that, knowing from bitter experience that he was never likely to receive such indulgence under a national team coach who had already discarded him once, he made such an emphatic case for himself in such short order.And in doing so he held out the tantalizing possibility of a much better-functioning U.S. midfield going forward. If he and Michael Bradley were to gel now — and the signs last time out were encouraging rather than conclusive — with Bradley sitting in his preferred No. 6 position and Kljestan operating as a cool No. 10, Klinsmann might just have stumbled on a midfield spine that finally makes sense of some of the hitherto awkwardly assorted parts around it.That remains to be seen. But Kljestan’s return has opened up some interesting possibilities for other players who might conceivably get a second look, just in case the success of this latest experiment prompts Klinsmann to dig out some old notebooks.There’s Benny Feilhaber, of course: another creative midfielder who went from playing in the 2010 World Cup to being on the outside looking in in 2014, despite maturing into a more effective player in the interim. Feilhaber hasn’t made it easy for himself at times; his mouth has a habit of uttering things that might be on other players’ minds but which they manage to filter before they hit the microphone. But then again, defenseman Brad Evans is no wallflower in public, and he seems to have managed to forge a respectable utility role under Klinsmann.Feilhaber’s not helped by being at a Sporting Kansas City team that has been somewhat indifferent this season, and he was also unfortunate that the 2015 performances that saw him shortlisted for league MVP happened to occur within the stellar context of Sebastian Giovinco’s first season in the league. Outside of his Kansas City market, Feilhaber never quite got the column inches or appreciation he deserved, and those factors could have pushed him closer to Klinsmann’s plans.As it is, Feilhaber is in the last few months of his contract with Sporting, wasthe subject of a $500,000 bid from Israeli champions Hapoel Be’er Shevajust a few weeks ago and might well be off to Mexico in the offseason. Perhaps that will be the cue for Klinsmann to look at him again, just as the manager has started to take Omar Gonzalez more seriously since his game intensified south of the border.Another intriguing possibility is Juan Agudelo, currently finding form in New England playing off Kei Kamara and looking a much more complete physical player than the rather cocky but undercooked version of himself that went to England too soon. Agudelo’s talent is undeniable, and his current form is irresistible, but it’s a very small sample size, and that’s always been Agudelo’s issue: The highlight reel is spectacular, but there’s a lot of combing of footage to be done to come up with it.Kljestan’s case for inclusion can point to his being directly involved in 41 percent of his team’s goals, during the Red Bulls’ rise from losing six of their opening seven games to topping the Eastern Conference going into the final two games. Agudelo’s most recent case, meanwhile, is based on a decent couple of months. But if he can continue his form into the postseason and his partnership with Kamara can mature in 2017, he could yet have his say in the Hexagonal.There is one other potential redemption narrative at play in the current roster. Julian Green’s inclusion in the 2014 World Cup squad, and the fact that he got a goal in the last stand against Belgium, got the hype train running. It says a lot about the expectation that we routinely heap on young U.S. players that his inclusion in this squad feels like a comeback, when after all, what has happened in the interim has merely been his club carefully handling his development and managing his inclusion into the Bayern Munich first-team squad, while his national team manager has monitored his progress.Yet Green too has a point to prove on re-entering the national team picture. If he ends up playing off Kljestan for any portion of the forthcoming games, he’ll get a firsthand reminder that it’s never too late to be a comeback kid.Graham Parker writes for ESPN FC, FourFourTwo,

 Expanded World Cup tournament could help US, Canada in different ways

October 5, 20165:46PM EDTAlicia RodriguezContributor

When FIFA presidnt Gianni Infantino recently floated the idea of expanding the World Cup finals tournament to 48 teams from the current 32-team format, there were plenty of groans and moans.The reaction is understandable for several reasons, of course. While Infantino hasn’t had a lot of time to make a real imprint publicly as head of FIFA, his predecessor was fond of coming up withharebrained ideas in soccer. So that’s strike one.And then there’s the prospect of expanding the World Cup itself. While I get the impression most American fans are content with a 32-team tournament, which has been around since 1998, there remains pockets of pundits and fans around the world who sniff at the size of the competition these days, wishing for the purer days, to 24 teams from 1982-94, or even to 16 teams from 1954-78.

The truth is, while a modern-day qualification system that only resulted in 16 teams qualifying would produce a higher caliber of games, historically the smaller tournaments of the past were not equitable in how teams qualified. One could still argue that Europe still holds a disproportionatenumber of slots, with 13, while two more populous continents with a similar number of countries (Africa: five slots; Asia: four and a half slots) have less than that number combined.For any talk of the quality of soccer on display, it seems obvious that expanding the tournament over time has benefitted the World Cup and soccer itself globally, with less represented confederations getting a larger share of the slots.And that’s where the United States and Canada come into the story.How would a 48-team World Cup benefit the US? They’re already qualifying for the tournaments now, so would it really help them? It would, but probably not through the US national team itself.Instead, the main benefit could come from bolstering the chances of hosting the tournament, asCONCACAF president Victor Montagliani discussed this week. The United States already has the stadia, the accommodations and infrastructure to host a 48-team World Cup, and could do it at pretty much any time. That provides an advantage, as Montagliani noted fewer countries around the world would be equipped to take on the additional burden of adding 16 teams to the World Cup.As for Canada, while they too could play a role in CONCACAF hosting an expanded World Cup, something Montagliani also noted this week, one would think a larger World Cup field could bridge the gap for them to qualify for their first tournament since 1986.Canada have been a Top 12 team in the current and previous round of World Cup qualifying, and expanding CONCACAF’s number of slots for the World Cup – to seven, let’s say – would not guarantee Canada a coveted spot in the tournament, but it would increase the odds. And with Canada appearing to get even closer to Top 6 status in the region each cycle, the combination of national team improvement and a larger pool of teams reaching the World Cup could help them reach paydirt.And ultimately, that could fuel further improvement. As we’ve seen with the United States, the twin pillars of qualifying for a World Cup (1990) with hosting a World Cup (1994), followed shortly thereafter by the launch of Major League Soccer (1996) has done wonders for the interest and quality of soccer in the United States. Perhaps a similar trend could be kickstarted for the Canadian national team with a World Cup qualification?So while the cynics among us may scoff at Infantino’s proposal to expand the World Cup field, and for good reason, there could also be a huge silver lining if a 48-team tournament comes to pass for the US and Canada alike. Time will tell, but it may not be a terrible idea after all.

Swansea dismiss Francesco Guidolin, appoint former U.S. boss Bob Bradley

Swansea City have named former United States boss Bob Bradley as their new coach after parting company with Francesco Guidolin.Bradley, 58, had been linked with the position last week as Guidolin came under pressure following a poor run of results, and the Italian has been dismissed after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Liverpool, which left the club 17th in the Premier League.Swansea have now turned to Bradley, who had been in charge of French second-tier side Le Havre and becomes the first American to take charge of a club in any of Europe’s top five leagues.Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins told the club’s official website: “We are delighted Bob has agreed to join us. He is highly regarded as a coach and has a wealth of experience on the international and domestic front.”He is well aware of the club’s footballing philosophy and will provide us with strong leadership qualities and a renewed belief to compete at this level. It is never easy changing managers, but we are looking at a long-term appointment and we are confident Bob can settle us down and stabilise matters on and off the pitch.”Guidolin, who turned 61 on Monday, had taken charge at the Liberty Stadium in January and guided the club to Premier League safety, finishing in 12th position.Jenkins said: “We are obviously disappointed to part company with Francesco. We felt he deserved his opportunity after the work he did last season.”Unfortunately we have not been able to carry performances over from last season and we felt we needed to change things as soon as possible in order to move forward in a positive way.”We would like to thank Francesco and his staff for their services to the club and wish them well for the future.”In July, an American consortium led by Steve Kaplan and Jason Levienbought a controlling stake in Swansea. Landon Donovan, a U.S. international during Bradley’s tenure, is also a shareholder.Bradley was in charge of the U.S. national team from 2006-2011, including the 2010 World Cup, before being replaced by Jurgen Klinsmann.He then managed the Egypt national team and enjoyed a successful spell with Stabaek, helping the Norwegian club qualify for the Europa League for the first time.He joined Le Havre last November and just missed out on promotion to Ligue 1 in May.Le Havre announced the appointment of Oswald Tanchot as Bradley’s replacement on Monday and the American told the club’s official website he had “mixed feelings” over his departure.Bradley said: “On the one hand, I would have liked to see the project through by taking the team up at the end of the season. On the other hand, I thank HAC [Le Havre] and president [Vincent] Volpe for allowing me the chance to coach in the world’s leading league.”It is a unique opportunity and I will not forget HAC and the president have made it possible for me to take it at this moment during the season. I also know I can now coach in the Premier League thanks to the exposure this club has offered me.”I have total confidence in Oswald’s work. It has been a pleasure working with him and I know he is up to the set task: a Ligue 1 return. I will certainly continue to be a strong supporter of HAC.”Le Havre president Volpe said he was satisfied that Tanchot, who had been Bradley’s assistant, would be a strong appointment.”I am pleased for two reasons,” he said. “Firstly, because we have helped Bob to reach the Premier League and secondly because Oswald is succeeding him as coach. When Bob Bradley arrived in November of 2015, we hoped to team them up so that this promising young coach could learn from his time in contact with the former U.S. men’s national team boss.”We also convinced Oswald to stay at the club this summer because he was wanted by others. We explained to him that he was well positioned to become coach in the medium to long term. We already anticipated the current situation and the senior side will now be led by Oswald Tanchot, holder of the BEPF [FFF coaching badge].”Le Havre are currently 11th in Ligue 2.

Marcus Rashford must start for England, not Wayne Rooney – Shearer

lan Shearer believes Marcus Rashford should start for England against Malta on Saturday — but Wayne Rooney should not be playing behind him.Rashford was among four Manchester United players in interim manager Gareth Southgate’s squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovenia, alongside Rooney, Jesse Lingard and Chris Smalling.”He [Rashford] has been knocking on the door until now,” former England captain Shearer wrote in his column for The Sun. “He is crashing on it with his performances for Manchester United. If you can step up to the plate for them, England will hold no worries for him.”To be fair, caretaker boss Gareth Southgate could play anyone up front and win this game, so why not give Rashford his chance? We need to be looking to the future after those woeful performances at the Euros and Rashford is very much that.”Shearer also questioned former England manager Roy Hodgson’s decision to bring Rashford on so late in the round-of-16 defeat against Iceland at Euro 2016.”If he had been given more than a few minutes against Iceland, we might have stumbled along into the quarterfinals of that competition,” he wrote. “Why on earth he wasn’t brought on before the 86th minute, when it was crying out for his spark, I don’t know.”Well, now is the chance to see the very best from him in his best position, straight up front. Not just one game either, give him a run.”This is a young player with pace, trickery, awareness and a great eye for goal. He is not too young either, he is good enough and, from what I hear, he is a very level-headed lad.”The question then, is who plays just behind him? It should not be Wayne Rooney. He has not started in the last three games for his club and doesn’t look like getting back into this Manchester United side.”This is why I said it would have been better for him to retire from international football after the Euros. He can no longer do it for club and country. Right now, he can’t even do it for his club and that is what he needs to concentrate on to have a chance of extending his career. I would put Dele Alli in behind Rashford.”Rashford has scored four goals for United this season in nine appearances, while Rooney has scored once for the Red Devils this term in 10 appearances.

Premier League Playback: Assessing the title contenders

1 CommentBy Joe Prince-WrightOct 5, 2016, 12:10 PM EDT

ASSESSING TITLE CONTENDERS

Who is on the up?

LiverpoolJurgen Klopp’s side are the top goalscorers so far this season and they are showing signs of defensive solidity despite still giving up sloppy goals from set piece situations. Still, if you’re going to score at least two goals per game, you can afford the odd slip up and it hasn’t cost Liverpool who have beaten Arsenal and Chelsea away from home, and also drawn with Tottenham on the road. Not bad at all. Liverpool has so many attacking options currently on form with Sadio ManePhilippe CoutinhoAdam Lallana andRoberto Firmino all on their game. The fact that Daniel SturridgeDivock Origi andDanny Ings are on the outside looking in says it all. Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum are quietly building a formidable partnership in central midfield too with Klopp’s tactics and the extra time to work on the training ground with no European action paying dividends already.

Arsenal: The Gunners are red-hot with five wins from five going into the break. Shkodran Mustafi looks like a superb addition in central defense and with Alexis Sanchez through the middle and Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott feeding off him, Arsene Wenger’s side look so dangerous in attack. After just celebrating his 20th anniversary in charge, will Wenger be celebrating a first PL title since 2004? His side is surging and after finishing second last season despite a dip in the second half of the campaign, the Gunners look like the biggest threat to Manchester City for the title as things stand.

[ MORE: 3 things on Spurs-City ]

Tottenham: These guys, somehow, have flown completely under the radar. After a summer of careful additions to the squad and being focused on signing a dozen key players to new contracts, Mauricio Pochettino’s squad looks much stronger from 1-16 and they’ve coped masterfully with the recent absence of Harry Kane and Mousa Dembele. In their win over Manchester City before the break, Spurs showed just how good they are. High-press, defensive solidity and then relying on Dele Alli and Kane for goals and assists is a pretty formidable formula. The only unbeaten team in the PL has tougher tests ahead but so far they’ve vastly exceeded expectations.

Stalling after strong starts?

Man United: Yes, they’ve still won four of their opening seven games, but United has shown that they’re still very disjointed and I’m a firm believer that Jose Mourinho still doesn’t know what his best team is. The Portuguese coach has chopped and changed so much in midfield but now Wayne Rooney is out, finally he’s getting the best out of Paul Pogba withAnder Herrera alongside him. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has, so far, been a hit and with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial around, he has competition. United have looked really good in flashes but are yet to get firing on all cylinders apart from the first half of the big win against Leicester City. Work to do, Jose.

Chelsea: So, the Blues have defensive issues. Big time. Antonio Conte‘s boys won their opening three games but since then they’ve won just once, losing to Liverpool and home and they were trounced by London rivals Arsenal. With John Terry out injured, Conte’s defense has looked porous, although they did go to a three-man central defensive at Hull last week and it worked a treat. That seems to be the way forward because the plan was for this Chelsea team to be tough to beat and rely on the clinical finishing of Diego Costa and the wizardry of Eden Hazard and Willian to get wins. Conte has a lot of work to do at Chelsea and he knows it.

Man City: Okay, they’re top of the league with six wins from seven but in the last week or so doubts have crept in as to just how good this Man City side is under Pep Guardiola. In truth, they steamrollered opponents early in the season but the toughest game they had was against a Manchester United who were poor on the day at Old Trafford. Both Celtic and then Tottenham showed that intense high-pressing can work a treat against City withClaudio Bravo and his defense unable to find midfielders with the ball. Of course, City have missed Kevin De Bruyne of late and Vincent Kompany too but maybe this small blip will keep their feet firmly on the ground with a tough stretch of games coming up. We’ll find out how good City is in the weeks to come.

BRADLEY’S ARRIVAL HUGE FOR USA, WELL-DESERVED

It actually happened.

For so long now Bob Bradley has been linked with the vacant positions in the Premier League (Fulham, West Brom, Hull, Sunderland to name a few) but on Monday Swansea City announced the former U.S. national team head coach was their new boss.

This is a monumental moment for soccer in the USA as Bradley is the first-ever American to coach in the Premier League or any of Europe’s top five leagues.Bradley, 58, has been working his whole career for this opportunity. From NCAA to MLS, USA to Egypt and then on his recent travails across Norway and France, Bradley has taken the long road and now he has his big chance.Swansea hasn’t had a great start to the season (four points through seven matches will tell you that) but they have real talent and if Bradley can get through the first six games with 7-9 points on the board, a real stretch of winnable matches arrives throughout the busy December period.Speaking following his final game for French second-tier side Le Havre on Monday, Bradley revealed his feelings on joining Swansea.

“In this moment the opportunity to go to the Premier League, on many levels, is special,” Bradley said. “I am sorry to leave, especially at this moment. It is still an opportunity for me, my family, for American football. I thank Le Havre for the opportunity to work in the best league in the world. It’s a unique opportunity.”

It’s a safe bet that everyone in the U.S. Soccer community had a wry smile on their faces when Bradley was appointed Swansea’s new manager and uttered something along the lines of: “Good for Bob.”He’s a much liked figure and although he’s globe-trotted in recent years, the U.S. connection remains strong with his time in charge of the USMNT, plus great success in MLS’ early years. The American soccer community holds him close to their hearts as he starts this exciting journey in the Premier League.Bradley will now prepare for a huge task ahead — starting with his managerial debut in the PL away at Arsenal on Oct. 15 (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBC Sports) — but it is one he will be relishing and an opportunity he thoroughly deserves.

GOOCH MAKING WAVES

Premier League Schedule – Week 7

Result Recap & Highlights
Burnley 0-1 Arsenal Recap, watch here
Everton 1-1 Palace Recap, watch here
Hull 0-2 Chelsea Recap, watch here
Leicester 0-0 Saints Recap, watch here
Man United 1-1 Stoke Recap, watch here
Tottenham 2-0 Man City Recap, watch here
Sunderland 1-1 WBA Recap, watch here
Swansea 1-2 Liverpool Recap, watch here
Watford 2-2 B’mouth Recap, watch here
West Ham 1-1 M’boro Recap, watch here

The Premier League also has a new American midfielder making a name for himself: Lynden Gooch.

A 20-year-old from Santa Cruz, California, Gooch has come up through Sunderland’s ranks after joining their academy as a 16-year-old and he has made seven appearances for the Black Cats, starting their first four games in the Premier League.Last Thursday I went up to Sunderland’s Academy of Light training ground to speak with Gooch about his incredible rise and over the weekend it was announced he’d been called into the U.S. national team for the first time.Looks like it was a good decision to ditch surfing in Santa Cruz to play soccer in Sunderland at the age of 16.Watch the video below of our Facebook live chat, plus here’s a snippet from an exclusive chat we had as the wind howled in England’s north east as Sunderland remains winless through their opening seven PL games.Even if the Mackems aren’t enjoying a good start to this season, Gooch is in dreamland.

“People still ask me ‘why have you come to Sunderland from California!?’ Well, I wanted to be successful. I wanted to be a professional footballer. I wanted to play in the Premier League and I want to play for this football club. Hopefully I can do that for a long time,” Gooch said, proudly. “Some people are still surprised at how far I’ve come. It was a no-brainer for me. As soon as I could’ve come to this club. I would’ve come early at aged 14, or 12, whenever… I would’ve came.”

Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte need time to change past habits

Pep Guardiola’s admission that his Manchester City side had been outplayed by Tottenham in their 2-0 defeat on Sunday was a statement of the obvious. Nevertheless, it was interesting to hear one of his explanations for their superiority.”We played against a team who had the same trainer for the last two or three years,” he said. “They were one step in front of us today.”Continuity, or lack thereof, is something of a theme this season. One of the reasons the top of the Premier League is so intriguing is that three of the main contenders for the title (Man United, City and Chelsea) have new managers: not just men who have their own styles, but men whose styles contrast significantly with their predecessors.That was certainly something Antonio Conte lingered on after Chelsea’s nerve-calming 2-0 win over Hull City. The first weeks of the Italian’s tenure at Stamford Bridge have been rather uneven, Saturday representing their first victory since August. Questions have been asked about their lack of defensive solidity, to the point that Conte almost seemed more pleased with the clean sheet (also their first since August) than the win.Conte changed Chelsea’s system to a three-man defence on Saturday, and while Hull’s attack didn’t exactly provide the sternest of tests, the players did at least show they could cope with the formation he often deployed to great success with Juventus and Italy.Conte noted afterwards that the “principles are more important than the system” and Chelsea’s sticky start to the season is, at least in part, down to the instilling of those principles. It will not come immediately.”I think today I saw a lot of things I like,” said Conte. “We worked to put pressure, to win the ball back, and I like this. To do this it needs time, because we have to change the habits of the past.”That last point didn’t seem to be a particular dig at Jose Mourinho, or interim coach Guus Hiddink, but simply to emphasise that changing a manager is not like changing a t-shirt. Conte stressed that he wants his sides to be compact, to maintain width, to win the ball back quickly and to pressure the opposition, all things that he wants the team to do in his own way.”Now we must work,” he added. “Because we know to change the past we need to work a lot, to work together, to understand there is a lot to improve.”The point about changing the past is arguably even more apposite to one of Conte’s predecessors. Mourinho not only has to deal with a new club, but with a Manchester United team who spent last season playing what we’ll diplomatically call “a particular type” of football.Under Louis van Gaal, United’s players were instructed — nay, ordered, under pain of punishment — to build slowly, to dominate possession and pass, pass, pass. At points it’s been frustrating to watch United this season, but it must be remembered that, like Conte, Mourinho has had to change the habits of the past.This is perhaps one of the more underrated problems that new managers have to face at their clubs: it must be difficult enough to get one player to forget everything they’d been told before by the previous regime, never mind a whole squad of them.A good manager will imbue his charges with his own style, his own instructions, to the extent that it becomes second nature: a new manager has to change that nature.It’s no wonder that Conte has been asking for time, reportedly meeting Roman Abramovich three times last week and having lunch with the owner in the Chelsea canteen. And given this is something Conte has done before, granting him this time is justified: he took Juventus from seventh place to three consecutive Serie A titles, and took an Italy side who had departed the 2014 World Cup in the first round to the quarterfinals at Euro 2016.Hull’s caretaker manager Mike Phelan, as experienced a man as you will find in the game and Conte’s opponent on Saturday, was asked what he made of Chelsea. Without knowing what the Italian had said a few minutes before, Phelan picked up on the point. “They’ve got a new manager with new methods, that shows at times that it’s still a work in progress,” he said. “He knows what he wants, but it’s difficult to impose those beliefs on a group of players that have perhaps had two or three different managers.”These are three works in progress, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City, and one thinks of the immortal Brendan Rodgers line, when he said that managing a football team was “like trying to build an airplane while it’s flying.”The Premier League is so relentless that these teams are busy building while travelling at a thousand miles an hour, so while that pace inevitably comes with a degree of impatience, these managers deserve some understanding as they try to move their squads from the old to the new. We are essentially watching revolution disguised as evolution — a tricky task to manage, to say the least.Guardiola has seemingly coped with the problem of transformation a little better than his opponents, but as Tottenham and to a lesser extent Celtic proved last week, there are still kinks to work out. As for Conte and Mourinho, as well as having the same issues to confront, the two men have identical records: both Chelsea and United have won four, drawn one and lost three.”The work we’ve done is good,” said Conte, “but we must continue.”Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.

After two wild semifinals, Washington and WNY are through to the NWSL championship

The NWSL will have a first-time champion now.

Flash forward Lynn Williams celebrates scoring a goal during the NWSL semifinals at Providence Park in Portland. Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/isiphotos.com.

By Caitlin MurrayOct 2, 2016 at 9:40p ET

After two dramatic extra-time matches in the semifinals, the slate for the NWSL championship is set. The Washington Spirit will face the Western New York Flash next Sunday (5 p.m. ET, FS1) as one of them will win their first league title.The Portland Thorns looked poised to make try to make history Sunday and become the first NWSL Shield winner to bring home a title — the atmosphere was special as they set a new attendance record for the NWSL semifinals at 20,086 raucous fans. But they spent the day chasing the game after uncharacteristically conceding early twice, despite pulling level and forcing extra time.The match was an even one with both sides recording 17 shots each, but the Flash did well to capitalize on the chances they had, with Samantha Mewis’ first goal and game-winning assist for Lynn Williams the highlights:

Williams finished with a brace and a Makenzy Doniak goal rounded out WNY’s efforts on the day. For Portland, Christine Sinclair, Emily Sonnett and Lindsey Horan each had goals.Waiting for WNY will be the Washington Spirit, who clinched their championship spot on Friday night with an extra-time win over the Chicago Red Stars in cold, rainy conditions. Francisca Ordega scored the winner in the 111th minute.Defender Ali Krieger put Washington up first on a well-finished header, but Chicago striker Christen Press struck back 10 minutes before full-time with a beautiful volley to push the game into extra time: It will be Washington’s first time into the NWSL final in the league’s four-year history, but the Flash have had a shot at the title once before. In 2013, the Flash hosted the championship but were shut out by Portland, 2-0.The NWSL championship will be hosted in Houston as a predetermined site on Oct. 9. at BBVA Compass Stadium.

D.C. United storm into top 10 in MLS Power Rankings as Dallas retake No. 1

Overall points leaders FC Dallas are back on top of our Major League Soccer Power Rankings after an important 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy, while D.C. United are the biggest movers thanks to a six-point week.

  1. FC Dallas(+1)
    After slipping against the Colorado Rapids a few weeks ago, FC Dallas have gotten back to their unbeatable ways at Toyota Stadium, most recently with a big 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy. It looks more and more likely that the path to the MLS Cup will go through Texas.
  2. New York Red Bulls(+1)
    The Red Bulls are trying to finish the season with a flourish. After Saturday’s 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Union, New York boast a two-game winning streak and a 14-game unbeaten run.
  3. Toronto FC(-2)
    Still no Sebastian Giovinco due to injury, and it’s starting to hurt. TFC’s 2-1 loss to D.C. United on Saturday night dropped them into third place in the Eastern Conference.
  4. Colorado Rapids(no change)
    The Rapids kept their Supporters’ Shield hopes alive by making a single goal stand up in a home win against the Portland Timbers.
  5. New York City FC(+2)
    David Villa is the hero New York need. The Spaniard was sensational on the weekend, scoring a brace in a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo and further solidifying an impeccable MVP resume.
  6. Seattle Sounders(+1)
    The Sounders are on the verge of making the playoffs after a 2-1 win at the Vancouver Whitecaps and, much to everyone’s surprise, they could be dangerous once they get there.
  7. Philadelphia Union(-1)
    The Union’s set piece defending let them down big time in a 3-2 loss at Red Bull Arena. Five games without a win means they’re no longer a safe bet to make the playoffs.
  8. D.C. United(+4)
    The contest for the title of “hottest team in the league” is a two-team affair between the Sounders and United. D.C.’s destruction of Columbus Crew SC 3-0 in midweek was impressive, but the road win in Toronto might have proved more.
  9. Real Salt Lake(-1)
    RSL look like a team stuck in neutral, and it cost them on the road in a 2-1 defeat against the San Jose Earthquakes. Jeff Cassar’s team have talent and experience, but they lack balance.
  10. Sporting Kansas City(-1)
    It’s going to go down to the wire for Sporting, who are clinging to sixth place after a 3-1 loss at the New England Revolution. No blame to Dom Dwyer, who has scored in four straight games.

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