3/22/17 US Faces Honduras in Must Win Fri Eve 10:30 pm on FS1, Indy 11Kickoff Season Sat Night at San Fran 10 pm on Twitter, Games of the Week

3/22/17  US Faces Honduras in Must Win Fri Eve 10:30 pm on FS1, Indy 11Kickoff Season Sat Night at San Fran 10 pm on Twitter,

The US Men face a must win weekend of World Cup qualifiers as they host Honduras Friday night at 10:30 pm on FS1 followed by a Tuesday night battle at Panama on beIN Sport at 10 pm.  The are must win games for new coach Bruce Arena with a bunch of potential starters and difference makers like Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood missing and the continuing issues at right and left back.  This will be an interesting weekend of games. Also this weekend are WCQ games in Europe and South America – check the TV Listings for Times.

The Indy 11 kick-off their regular season on the road vs the expansion side San Francisco Deltas on Saturday night at 10 pm broadcast live on Twitter.  The return for the home opener at the MIKE on April 1 at 3 pm vs Puerto Rico FC.

Moving to MLS it was nice to see the Raising of the Banner for my favorite Seattle Sounders over the weekend as they put up a 3-1 victory that included goals from both Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris.  Keeping it close –how about the Chicago Fire – first they start the season with a Draw and a Win at home over Real Salt Lake and now they have signed former World Champion Germany Captain Bastian Schweinsteiger from Man United.  Might have to eyeball that home schedule as Seattle comes May 13, FC Dallas May 25,  Orlando City & Kaka June 24, Toronto Aug 19, and NYCFC on Sept 30.  Bout time Chicago!

GAMES ON TV  

Fri, Mar 24

12:45 pm Fox Sport 2 Turkey vs Finland WCQ

3:45 pm Fox Sport2  Italy vs Albania  WCQ

8:30 pm Fox Sport 1  Mexico vs Costa Rica WCQ

10:30 pm fox Sport 1 USA vs Honduras  WCQ

Sat,  Mar 25

12:45 pm FS2                Sweden vs Belarus  WCQ

3:30 pm  FS2                 Portugal vs Hungary WCQ

3:30 pm Fox Soccer  Belgium vs Greece WCQ

10 pm  on Twitter   San Fran Deltas vs Indy 11

Sun,  Mar 26

11:30 am Fox Sport2                        England vs Lithuania WCQ

11:50 am ESPN 2        Azerbajan vs Germany  WCQ

2:30 p.m., Fox Sport2: Montenegro vs. Poland  WCQ

Tues Mar 28 –WCQ

11:50 am Fox Sport2   Russia vs. Belgium
2:35 p.m., beIN Sport Netherlands vs. Italy
2:45 p.m., ESPN3:        Austria vs. Finland
2:55 p.m., ESPN2         France vs. Spain

7 pm beIN sport           Mexico vs T&T

10 pm beIN Sport Panama vs USA WCQ

Fri,  Mar 31

730 pm Fox Sport 1                          Toronto vs Sporting KC

10 pm  fox sport 1     Seattle vs Atlanta United

Sat  Apr 1

7:30 am NBCSN            Liverpool vs Everton – Derby

10 am NBCSN??           Leiscester City vs Stoke City

3 pm ??                   Indy 11 vs Puerto Rico

7:30 pm beIN Sport  NY Cosmos vs Miami

Sun  Apr 2

10:15 am beIN sport                        Real Madrid vs Alves – (hopefully I will be there!)

11 am NBCSN                Arsenal vs Man City

9 pm ESPN2                    Portland vs NE

Sun  Apr 9

7 pm Fox Sport 1        Sporting KC vs Colorado Rapids (Tim Howard)

Full MLS Schedule

Indy 11

Turkish Airline and Honda to Be Indy 11 Kit Sponsors

Indy 11 Sign local pair – David Goldsmith and Tanner Thompson

Indy 11 Season Tickets

Indy 11 Flex Pack – 8 game Flex Package

Indy draws 1-1 with Louisville City FC in Final Preseason Game

Indy 11 First Game to Be Broadcast on Twitter?  – Soctakes.com

Indy 11 on TV locally

Local Broadcast of Indy 11 Games

USA

Is this How Bruce Rolls them out?  Armchair Analyst

Injuries Dictate Dempsey Starting up top?  EPSNFC – Jeff Carlisle

With Woods, Johnson,  Out – Should we now Panic?  – Armchair Analyst Doyle – MLS.com

The Case for Pulisic in Central Mid = Grant Wahl – SI

Mailbag – Injruies Deplete US Team Grant Wahl SI

Bobby Wood, Fabian Johnson both out-  Hurt – Kljestan, Besler Called in – ESPNFC

Cameron Eager for US Team Return after Injuries – NBC

John Brooks Injured but will be at Qualifiers – ESPNFC

Zusi replaces injured Fabian Johnson

Dempsey looks to talk to Arena about his role

Dortmund’s Pulisic has No Limits – Andreas Herzog says

US Ends Residency Program in Florida – ESPNFC

Champions League Quarter Final Predictions – Final 8

Bayern vs Real Madrid SI Planet Futbol (April 12/18)

Juventus vs. Barcelona (April 11/19)

Atletico Madrid vs. Leicester City (April 12/18)

Borussia Dortmund vs. Monaco (April 11/19)

Apply for Champions League Final Tickets – June 3 in Cardiff Wales

MLS

Chicago Fire Sign former German Superstar Bastian Schweinsteiger

US Players have a good week in MLS

What You Need to Do Week 3 results

Week 3 Recap

Seattle Unviels Banner in 3-1 win over RB

Chicago Fire – Home Schedule

MLS Save of the Week

Europe/EPL

El Classico Game day Set 4/23 @ Real Madrid

US Players in Europe

INDY ELEVEN INKS LOCAL PRODUCTS Butler’s DAVID GOLDSMITH AND Hoosier TANNER THOMPSON

Roster Stands at 20 Players Ahead of 2017 NASL Season OpenerMar 21, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, March 21, 2017) – Indy Eleven travels to the San Francisco Deltas for this weekend’s 2017 NASL season opener with its roster shaped out after the additions of forward David Goldsmith and midfielder Tanner Thompson. Per club policy, terms of the contracts will not be disclosed.Goldsmith comes to Indy Eleven after a successful collegiate career at Butler University in Indianapolis, where he earned Big East Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2016. Being honored as a unanimous selection to the All-Big East First Team, the native of Bristol, England was the leading scorer for the 2016 Big East champions Butler and earned the Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Offensive Player en route to capturing the league title. Also named the Big East Co-Offensive Player of the Year, Goldsmith finished the 2016 campaign with 12 goals and 28 points, ranking him in the top 20 nationally in scoring, In addition, he was a semifinalist for the Missouri Athletic Club (MAC) Hermann Trophy, the sport’s most prestigious collegiate award. Goldsmith is the lone former Bulldog on the 2017 roster and will sport the No.20 shirt for the “Boys in Blue” this year, pending receipt of his P1-A.   “An adjustment to the philosophy of building our 2017 roster led us to see that we had a senior group and needed an injection of young, ambitious players. David showed in his trial that he may be the most technically-gifted player in and around the goal in the squad,” said Indy Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson. “He’s an intelligent player who doesn’t waste runs. From a tactical standpoint, he checks a lot of the boxes for what we were looking for.”Thompson signs with Indy Eleven after four years at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he helped the Hoosiers to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances and a Conference Tournament Championship in 2013. As a senior, the native of Loomis, CA was named an NSCAA First-Team All-American and the Big Ten Midfielder of the Year along with First-Team All-Big Ten honors. Increasing his return, Thompson chipped in three goals and nine assists as a junior before adding eight goals and three assists to his resume in 2016.  “Looking at this injection of young talent, Tanner clearly fits that category. We’re fortunate to have him join us. He’s a very good attacking midfielder who can also play as a second forward, With his talent, he can play anywhere in the midfield. We’ll look to utilize him very quickly in our line-up,” said Hankinson.“Tanner came at just the right time. We needed options in goal creation and those who can go get a goal. He has the 1v1 ability to run at a defender and beat him and the quality to find the back of the net. He’s going to have a great season.” Thompson joins Indy Eleven midfielder Brad Ring and goalkeeper Christian Lomeli as a trio of former Hoosiers on Indiana’s Team and will wear the No.14 kit in 2017.Visit IndyEleven.com for more information on the team’s roster, which now includes 20 players, ahead of their fourth season of NASL play in 2017.  Indy Eleven will begin the 2017 NASL season on the road on Saturday, March 25, before opening its 16-game regular season home schedule at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium on Saturday, April 1. Season Ticket packages featuring up to 48% off single-game prices are currently available; for details, visit www.CueTheSmoke.com.

Armchair Analyst: Cameron’s position, Morris’s health & the US XI

March 22, 20174:42PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior WriterAccording to whispers in and around the US men’s national team, we should all expect Geoff Cameron to suit up at right back in Friday’s qualifier against Honduras at San Jose’s Avaya Stadium. I don’t think this is the choice I’d make, largely because I always think the smartest thing to do is to put the spine of the team first.”The spine,” by my definition, is central defense, defensive midfield and center forward. If you have those areas locked down, then you can tinker around a little bit with the rest of positions, accounting for injuries, suspensions and match-up needs. And with all due respect to Omar Gonzalez (who’s been excellent for Pachuca) and Walker Zimmerman (who’s been excellent for FC Dallas), I still have more faith in the Cameron/John Brooks pairing than any other permutation in central defense.So if Cameron and Brooks are healthy, I’d start them together with Michael Bradley at d-mid in front of them. That’s the spine, and the look the US used during last summer’s Copa America that produced the best extended run of defensive form under former manager Jurgen Klinsmann.Thus is weighed one side of the scale. The other side is that due to the biblical rash of injuries at right back, Cameron is probably the best individual choice at that spot by a clearer margin than he is at center back. In terms of getting more of the team’s best talent out onto the field, Cameron at RB and Gonzalez at CB alongside Brooks makes more sense than the Cameron/Brooks pairing with either Michael Orozco or Graham Zusi at RB.That really is my main concern going into Friday. I think there are other questions as well – will it be DaMarcus Beasley or Jorge Villafaña at left back (Villafaña vs. Honduras, DMB next Tuesday at Panama is my guess), and has Kellyn Acosta done enough to stake a claim on a central midfield role next to/in front of Bradley (I hope so!), and has Darlington Nagbe won a job on one flank or the other (please!) all get their own entries as well.

Those are questions, though. This is a concern:

Jordan Morris gutted out 90 minutes, the last 60 or so on a bum ankle, against RBNY this past Sunday in a 3-1 Sounders win. He scored the game-winner, then was in San Jose 12 hours later.According to reports he hasn’t trained with the team on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Under normal circumstances it wouldn’t be a big deal since Morris is, at this point, Bobby Wood’s back-up as a channel-running, field-stretching No. 9. But Wood’s not here either as he picked up a back injury this weekend for Hamburg in the Bundesliga. Gyasi Zardes, who’s probably fourth on the “true No. 9” depth chart is also hurt, and Juan Agudelo – fifth, right? – has been playing as a No. 10 for New England.And now the US seem perilously thin at center forward. Jozy Altidore – noted CONCACAF killer – will assuredly start at center forward, and he’s been in good enough form for TFC with two goals and an assist in his last two games. But behind him in the current No. 9 corps it’s just Morris and then two veterans, in Clint Dempsey and Chris Wondolowski, who’ve always been better used and more effective as second forwards rather than guys who lead the line. Neither is really a No. 9. Is it a crisis? No, I don’t think so, and whispers out of camp are that Morris is going to be fine for Friday. He probably won’t start, but he wouldn’t have started anyway since Dempsey is fit and functional and scoring goals, and is doing stuff like this:Healthy Clint Dempsey starts. That should’ve been obvious even before Morris picked up a knock, right? Healthy Jozy Altidore starts as well, and then it’s four midfielders and four defenders behind them. Morris will be fine to give 30 minutes as a change-of-pace attacking sub if that’s required.And the thing to remember is that this is Bruce Arena calling the shots. He’s masterful at keeping things un-complicated:

Altidore/Dempsey

Nagbe, Bedoya, Pulisic

Bradley

Villafana /Brooks/Gonzales/Cameron

There will be gripes about the lineup no matter the XI Arena trots out. At the top of this column you can see mine.But this group should be more than good enough to get the job done over the next 180 minutes. So embrace your concerns, but also embrace the fact that even with those concerns, and the injuries, and the awful start to qualifying, the US are favorites to get the job done.

Does Bruce Arena have no choice but to start Clint Dempsey up front?

When Clint Dempsey was named to the U.S. national team roster last week for a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama, attention immediately centered on his best role.Given that he only recently returned to action after missing the last four months of 2016 due to an irregular heartbeat, the most likely scenario had him being used off the bench. But the fact that he started the first three games of the 2017 MLS season for Seattle Sounders FC — scoring two goals in the process — meant that a starting role couldn’t be ruled out.Now, manager Bruce Arena might not have any choice. Bobby Wood, perhaps the most in-form striker in the U.S. pool, has been ruled out of both matches due to a back injury, while Dempsey’s club teammate, Jordan Morris, sustained an ankle injury in Sunday’s 3-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls and was a notable absentee from Monday’s training session in San Jose. Arena tried to downplay that, stating that Morris was doing a regeneration session back at the team hotel, and also noted how Dempsey and the Red Bulls’ Sacha Kljestan didn’t exert themselves too much either.But the announcement on Monday evening that San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski had been added to the roster speaks to the extent that the corps of American forwards has been depleted. As such, it may be that Arena’s best option is to have Dempsey in the starting XI. But assuming for the moment that Morris is healthy enough to start, the question of Dempsey’s best role still stands, even with Wood out of the picture. At first glance, a substitute position seems perfect. Even though he’s played all but one minute of Seattle’s three matches, the sense is that his long layoff — his appearance in the opener against Houston was his first outing since last August — would still preclude him from playing the full match.His experience also seems suited to a late appearance off the bench if the U.S. is in need of a goal, while Morris’ speed would stretch the Honduran defense and his presence would allow Arena’s side to be more effective with its defensive pressing.However, there is also a belief that Dempsey would be less than thrilled at being left on the bench.”Clint’s not the type of guy who wants to be a sub,” said ESPN FC TV analyst Steve Nicol, who managed Dempsey at the New England Revolution “Clint wants to play, and Clint will be making sure that he’s showing Bruce, No. 1 that he wants to play, and No. 2 that he’s fit enough. When I say he won’t be happy I’m not saying he’ll be a pain; he’ll just be disappointed he’s not playing because that’s the way he is.”However, ESPN TV analyst Taylor Twellman thinks that his former teammate’s health issues may have changed his perspective. “If his heart issue had never happened, I’m not sure Clint would have found it easy to accept a substitute role,” said Twellman. “Now in saying that, I think just hearing him talk, and catching up with him at MLS Cup, he’s always had a passion and a love for the game, and I think going through all of that has made him realize how much he wants to go out on the right note. If Clint is willing to play a substitute role, then he could play himself onto that World Cup roster in Russia.”Dempsey, for his part, seems to understand his current limitations, telling the Associated Press last week that he wasn’t quite at the level needed to play an entire World Cup qualifier and that he would adopt whatever role was asked of him.”I’m not at 100 percent I would say but I’m getting close,” said Dempsey. “Every 90 minutes I get under my belt here I’m feeling more comfortable.”There are also practical reasons for having Dempsey on from the start. For all the talk of Morris’ ability to stretch defenses, it seems likely that Honduras will adopt a defend-and-counter strategy, the better to utilize the athleticism of attackers like Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis.That means there will be less space for the U.S. to exploit, thus requiring a bit more guile for the home side to find a breakthrough. And that is precisely the skill set Dempsey has: If he can only last 60-70 minutes, at least his time on the field will be maximized.A reduced role for Morris would also give his ankle more time to heal, leaving Arena free to unleash him four days later against a Panama side less inclined to bunker in.There is also the longstanding relationship Dempsey has with Jozy Altidore. The two were the U.S. team’s go-to strike partnership during the last World Cup cycle and it seems likely that time hasn’t dulled the pair’s understanding.”If I’m the coach, and Wood isn’t fit, then I’m playing Clint,” said Nicol. “He’s clearly fit, you’re talking experience, someone who has been there, done that, seen it. If you give him an opportunity, he’s going to score. I can’t really see how if you’re going to play with two up front, how you don’t play Clint alongside Altidore.”Altidore could be deployed as a lone striker, especially with the glut of midfielders at Arena’s disposal. But that is a formation in which the U.S. has historically struggled to create chances; a two-forward alignment maximizes the Americans’ attacking heft.With the U.S. desperate for World Cup qualifying points, who better than Dempsey, whose record of scoring in big games is arguably unparalleled in national team history, to be given the chance to add another vital goal to his resume?Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.

The case for USMNT playing Christian Pulisic as a central playmaker

GRANT WAHLThursday March 23rd, 2017

This story appears in the March 27 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDTo subscribe, click here.

This week, the best U.S. men’s soccer player of 2017, 18-year-old Christian Pulisic, parachutes into North America for two pressure-packed U.S. games: against Honduras on Friday in San Jose, and at Panama next Tuesday. Qualifying for an eighth straight World Cup is in jeopardy after losses to Mexico and Costa Rica in November, defeats that caused a change in coaches from Jurgen Klinsmann to Bruce Arena. After two games the U.S. is in last place in CONCACAF’s six-team, 10-match final-round tournament, from which the top three (and perhaps four) teams will advance to Russia 2018. A win at home on Friday is paramount, and much of the U.S.’s attacking verve is expected to come from Pulisic. In light of this urgency, Arena should play Pulisic in a central attacking role from the start.Over the last 18 months Pulisic has undergone a breathtaking rise. He broke into the first team of Germany’s Borussia Dortmund in early 2016 and scored his first U.S. goal last May (the night after hiring a private plane to take him back home to his prom in Hershey, Pa.). He has only kept climbing since. Pulisic has five goals and eight assists in 31 matches this season for Dortmund, and on March 8 he produced the decisive goal that sent his team to the Champions League quarterfinals—arguably the biggest goal ever scored by an American on the Continent..S. fans are reflexively skeptical about emerging soccer talents in the men’s game—Freddy Adu did TV ads with Pelé at age 14 but never went on to play in a World Cup, much less become the nation’s first male soccer superstar. So far, at least, Pulisic shows every sign of being the real thing, a dynamic attacker with speed and vision who has the finishing instinct of an assassin. Merely becoming a regular for one of the world’s top 10 clubs and providing a game-changing Champions League assist against Real Madrid already puts Pulisic in a group of one among American players all-time.The looming question for the U.S., though, is where Pulisic will play. He has started wide for much of the season with Dortmund, but in recent weeks he has moved to a more central role that diminishes his defensive assignments. Pulisic himself prefers to play in a central No. 10 role—he wears 10 for the U.S., his Twitter handle is @cpulisic_10—and most observers think that eventually he’ll be a fixture in that part of the American formation.Pulisic centrally against Mexico in November, but the Mexicans sliced through the U.S.’s three-man back line so frequently that Klinsmann scrapped the idea in the first half. That wasn’t Pulisic’s fault—the blame goes to the poorly organized and executed defense—which is why Arena should unleash the 18-year-old centrally now, preferably playing ahead of Michael Bradley in a 4-1-3-2 formation.Reached in his L.A. office last week, Arena was asked if Pulisic was better out wide or in the middle. “I actually think it’s both,” Arena said. “We’re going to see his comfort level when he gets into camp and talk to him a little bit. … He’s demonstrated at a young age that he’s capable of getting the job done in a lot of positions. With our team, at the moment I’m on a computer doing that with the options of him playing at both spots and organizing our team accordingly.”The image of the 65-year-old Arena tinkering with lineups on his computer just like the rest of us soccer geeks is a fun one. But when the whistle blows on Friday night in San Jose, there will be little margin for error.

Mail BaG _ GRANT WAHLWednesday March 22nd, 2017

EN ROUTE TO SAN JOSE — It’s funny: Even though there haven’t been any soccer games on TV from Monday to Wednesday—and how often can you say that these days?—it seems like there are a million things still going on in American soccer this week.A bunch of top European soccer figures were in New York City for the announcement of this summer’s International Champions Cup and the Leaders in Sport event. And then there are all the World Cup qualifiers that will be on the tube starting Thursday, including the U.S.’s pressure-packed game against Honduras in San Jose on Friday (FS1, pregame at 9:30 p.m. ET, kickoff at 10:50 pm ET).

Plus, the Chicago Fire signed Bastian Schweinsteiger. Which brings us to the new Mailbag. Let’s dive in!

When will Bruce Arena call up Dom Dwyer? @MariaMentado

Is there really, really, really no better option than Wondo? Really??!! @CarmenBPhillips

With so much young U.S. talent, why is the USMNT starting to look like an old folks home? @sepler

Maybe it’s the angst of being in last place in the Hex, but lots of sass in the ‘Bag from national team fans this week. You should have seen the responses to my tweet announcing that Chris Wondolowski had been added to the U.S. roster earlier this week. The only real cure for the angst is a win on Friday. But let me answer your questions. I thought new U.S. citizen Dwyer or Juan Agudelo might get added instead of Wondo as a potential late-game sub for an injury-depleted front line (Bobby Wood is out, and Jordan Morris is battling an ankle knock). But Wondo is familiar to the group in a way that Dwyer isn’t yet, and Wondo is … local in San Jose? Is that a reason? I honestly don’t know.

Armchair Analyst: Bobby Wood rled out of qualifiers – is it time to panic?

March 19, 20173:24PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

No.Losing Bobby Wood, who was the breakout player for the USMNT in 2016, and has scored big goals for club and country, and has been very good in the Bundesliga and is drawing interest from EPL teams and is the most relentless field-stretching forward in the pool, is not good. He was a sure-thing starter for the upcoming games against Honduras on Friday (a must-win) and Panama a few days after that (a must-result). Coupled with a biblical rash of injuries at right back, it feels like a legitimate crisis. DeAndre Yedlin, the first choice? He’s out until at least April. Eric Lichaj is, I think, the second choice, and he’s out too. Is Timmy Chandler the third choice? I think so, but he’s suspended for the Honduras game, has recently lost his starting job – he’s shifted from wingback to central defense to right midfield, playing RB just once in the last six league games as Eintracht Frankfurt have gone 0-5-1 – after a disastrous run of form and never plays well in heat (which means he’d be a liability in Panama), so Bruce Arena didn’t call him. Justifiably. I think Fabian Johnson would’ve been the starter at right back. He got hurt this weekend. That means we’re down to our fifth choice at that spot, which is not optimal. But our fifth choice is Michael Orozco, who has been a starter in Liga MX for the better part of a decade, and over the past several years has done so for/with a very good Tijuana side. They’re currently fourth in the Clausura, and they finished top of the Apertura, and Orozco was a part of that. Granted, he’s playing in either a back three or a back five, but he’s played RB in a back four plenty of times in his career. He is not a stranger to the spot, nor is Geoff Cameron, and nor is Graham Zusi (who’s played every minute for an MLS defense that’s conceded once in three games this season). This is unprecedented depth for the US. Let’s take a step back and draw some deep breaths, ok?  Back up top, Wood is out but Jozy Altidore is 100% fit, and has two goals and an assist in his last two games. He’s doing it against CONCACAF defenders:  That’s Costa Rica’s Kendall Waston – who manhandled the US in November – that Jozy spun like a top. Clint Dempsey is back and healthy and playing 90 for Seattle. Altidore is the all-time leading scorer for the US in qualifiers, with 16 goals. Dempsey is third all-time with 13. This is fine. This also makes Jordan Morris the third forward, and while he’s not as polished or proven as Wood, this is also fine. He stretches the field, has a developing chemistry with Dempsey, and does not play scared in big moments. Maybe he starts and Dempsey comes off the bench. Clint Dempsey, super-sub!  The US, for the first time in the history of the program, has the depth to weather this kind of roster crisis.  I wish we still had Wood. But even without him, and without Johnson, Yedlin and Lichaj, and with Chandler and Jermaine Jones suspended against Honduras, and Brad Guzan awaiting the birth of his second child, this US team should still absolutely be expected to take at least four points from the next two games. There can be no excuses. Just look at this XI and calm yourself:

GK: Tim Howard
RB: Michael Orozco
CB: Geoff Cameron
CB: John Brooks
LB: Jorge Villafaña
RM: Christian Pulisic
CM: Alejandro Bedoya
DM: Michael Bradley
LM: Darlington Nagbe
ST: Clint Dempsey
FW: Jozy Altidore

Move Cameron to right back and bring Omar Gonzalez – who marshals the best defense in Liga MX – into the XI if you want. Sit Nagbe, shift Bedoya to the right and bring in Dax McCarty for more defensive bite in central midfield if you’re feeling conservative. Or Sacha Kljestan if you’re feeling aggressive. Or Kellyn Acosta if your metric is “form matters above all else!”  Go to a 4-2-3-1 with Kljestan as the No. 10 underneath Altidore, or a 4-3-3 with Pulisic on the right and Morris on the left. Go to a 5-3-2 with Zusi as one wingback and Villafaña as the other (actually please don’t do that), and it’s an absolutely plausible and balanced lineup to throw out there. Stick with the 4-4-2. Make it a 4-1-3-2, or a 4-3-1-2 with Pulisic sitting behind two forwards. It all works if there’s clarity of roles, because the talent in this group is undeniable. The US has the depth to weather this, to come out on the other side with the required results to get back onto the path toward World Cup qualification. It would’ve been easier with Wood and Johnson and Yedlin, but those are the breaks and that’s the reality of qualifying. You don’t get to the World Cup with 11 guys, or 18 or 23, You really need about 30, and despite the injuries and absences the US have the numbers and quality to get it done over the next 180 minutes.  If they don’t? That’s when you can go ahead and panic. I’ll be right there with you.

Cameron eager for USMNT return in World Cup qualifiers

Leave a commentBy Joe Prince-WrightMar 21, 2017, 12:59 PM EDT

MANCHESTER, England — Geoff Cameron was missing for the U.S. national team in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica back in November.  he USMNT lost both after shaky defensive displays and a lot has changed since the last time he suited up for the Stars and Stripes. [ MORE: Cameron talks injury, Stoke 

Jurgen Klinsmann was fired and Bruce Arena has come in and now all the focus for the U.S. is on the next two World Cup qualifiers against Honduras this Friday in San Jose, Calif. and then next Tuesday against Panama in Panama City.Speaking exclusively to Pro Soccer Talk from his home in Manchester, England before he flew out to link up with the national team — in-between Cameron was named as Stoke’s man of the match in their narrow 2-1 defeat to Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturday — Cameron knows all of the pressure is on the USMNT in the next seven days with the U.S. sitting bottom of the Hex.

“I think the pressure is on us. It is a must win situation,” Cameron said. “Going down to Panama, it’s a tough place to play. The environment, everything is against us when we go down there. They are good players. They are savvy and they have technical ability, good on and off the ball. They are creative, quick on the ball and fast and they are slick in certain ways. They have an understanding on how to take advantage of certain situations.

“We need to be more aware of that and have an understanding of that going into these games because we know it’s going to be difficult at home with Honduras coming in and they’re going to try and make it difficult for us to play the game how we want to play. Also going down to Panama, we know it’s going to be tough to play down there. We might have to sit back and defend a little bit, weather the storm and then hit them on the counter. We have to be strategically aware of all these situations teams are going to be throwing at us.”

Cameron, 31, missed four months through injury this season after injuring his MCL in an innocuous challenge at the end of Stoke’s victory at Hull City back in October, 2016.After playing the full 90 minutes in central midfield in each of Stoke’s last three Premier League games, the versatile defender/midfielder is now back fit and ready to lead the U.S. defense after watching on helplessly as the team succumbed to defeats to Mexico and Costa Rica back.  The nature of those defeats ultimately cost Klinsmann his job.“It was so frustrating to watch because as a team we didn’t play well and as individuals and as a team we weren’t up to par,” Cameron said, grimacing. “Sitting down and watching the game, it was so frustrating because I knew I was a player who could help and being that player that I thought they needed whether it be a physical attribute or the mental attitude or that toughness and bite we seemed to be missing in those two games. It was difficult. Obviously you have those ups and downs in your career and that was kind of the down point. I’m excited to get back and happy I’m fit now.“We have two massive qualifiers we need to take care of business. We are in a bit of a tough spot right now. In the qualifying we always seem to have these ups and downs and that’s part of it. We know these two games here are key with Honduras at home and Panama away, we know we need to get six points, minimum four. That’s our goal.”That will be a tough goal to achieve, especially with Bobby Wood, Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin all out of the squad through injury as Arena will have to shuffle his defense for two crucial games.Cameron could well line up at right back with Yedlin and Johnson out. Wherever he plays, he’s confident he can help the USMNT achieve their goal of getting their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track.“This is like the number one question I’m asked,” Cameron laughs as we discuss his best position. “I will continue to say I feel like my best position is either center half or defensive central midfield. Those are the positions I’ve thrived in when I’ve played there in the Premier League for Stoke. I can play right back, no problem, and I’ve got a bunch of games under my belt and I’ve proved to myself that I can play in a number of positions. I don’t think that a lot of players who can play these positions at a high level and do it as consistently or well as I can, especially going from one position to another and being able to change and understand the roles.“I still say my best strengths are either for defensive center mid or center half. I love playing center half and partnering up with Brooksy [John Brooks] in Copa America, our back four were solid and we just had a really good partnership and understanding. Also, this season and throughout my career I’ve found myself playing in defensive midfield and sitting in the hole to protect the back four. I know I can do that and I’ve shown that I can do that with Stoke City, especially playing against some of the best players in the world. I’m confident in my ability and I can play in those positions but like I said all along, it is whatever position the coach needs me in and I am willing to play and help out the team. It’s not about me. It’s about the team and putting the team first and doing whatever I can to help the team be successful.”There are now plenty of players back in the fold who have tasted success in qualifying and at tournaments with the U.S. over the last decade.With Cameron back fit, plus Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard also returning to full fitness, Arena will have plenty of experience to call on for these key qualifiers.

“My first experience when I was first coming through, when we were in a tough spot, we would look to guys like Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra,” Cameron explained. “Those were guys you looked up to, captains and experienced guys who had been through the ups and downs of qualifiers. Going through all this before, I have that experience of ‘these are the moments where everybody needs to step up.’

“In the beginning of qualifying this time around, when we needed to beat Guatemala at home and it was a must-win game, everybody showed up together and we got the result and made it to the next round. It is one of those moments where everybody needs to be on the same page and working for one another. I think the veterans, the guys who are experienced, myself, [Alejandro] Bedoya, Tim [Howard], Jermaine [Jones] and all of these guys who have experience of going through the qualifiers, knowing what to expect and what we need to do.”

Cameron was around the USMNT’s January camp for a few days as he received treatment on his MCL injury and said he felt a “positive vibe” from the players on the training ground, with Arena and his staff giving fresh chances to players to impress and competition for places high.That said, whoever is the manager of the U.S. Cameron knows the buck still stops with the players.“Overall, it just comes down to us. We, as players, need to perform better than we did in the last couple of qualifiers,” Cameron said. “We need to bring that team chemistry and get that team atmosphere back. It seems that the fighting mentality was what we missed in the last few games because I didn’t see it when we were playing. We need to get that back.”If Cameron plays against either Honduras or Panama in the next seven days, he will hit 50 caps for the U.S. national team.48 of his caps have come in the past five years, showcasing his importance to the team over the Klinsmann era.What will it mean for him to reach 50 caps in these upcoming qualifiers?

“It has always been a dream of mine, to play and represent my country. It’s a special thing. I don’t think people really understand it until they are actually put into the position where they are able to represent their country,” Cameron said, smiling. “You are representing your country, your national team, people that have fought for you and died for you to give you a chance to represent the United States, playing soccer. It is pretty special. Not everyone gets this opportunity and that’s why you never know when it’s going to be your last.

“Thinking back to when we played Cuba [in a friendly last October in Havana], it’s like ‘am I going to be out for another year with injury?’ I was so happy and excited that it would possibly be an opportunity to get my 50th cap against Mexico in the World Cup qualifier and I could’ve already been on 50 caps had it not been for certain games missed through injury or suspensions, then we wouldn’t be talking about it. It is definitely special. It honestly is a proud moment but every game is as special because you never know when it will be your last. That’s why you always try to take in the moment and when you put your hand on your heart and you are representing and putting on that national team jersey, you are representing everybody in your country. We are all American. We come together and we play for our country. That’s special in itself.”

 

Bobby Wood out of U.S. squad with back injury as Kljestan, Besler called in

U.S. Soccer has removed injured striker Bobby Wood from its squad for a key set of World Cup qualifiers and added midfielder Sacha Kljestan and defender Matt Besler.Wood played into second-half stoppage time of Hamburg’s draw on Saturday, after which the German club wished him well on his travels, but U.S. Soccer said he has a back injury.The U.S. opens camp in San Jose, California, on Monday. The team plays its first qualifier since rehiring Bruce Arena as coach against Honduras in San Jose on Friday, then travels to Panama for another game four days later.Wood, 24, was likely in line to start for the U.S. alongside Jozy Altidore as the U.S. looks to overcome November’s two opening defeats in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.The addition of the New York Red Bulls’ Kljestan — who became the second player in MLS history to record 20 assists in a season last year — rather than another striker suggests the injury to Wood may have altered Arena’s formation plans.Sporting Kansas City’s Besler will bolster a back line that is already without the injured DeAndre Yedlin and Eric Lichaj.Last week, midfielder Fabian Johnson had to pull out of the squad and was replaced by Graham Zusi, while goalkeeper David Bingham is in for Brad Guzan.

 

Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic has no limits – Andreas Herzog

United States international Christian Pulisic’s career has no limits, according to Andreas Herzog.In his first full pro season, the 18-year-old has already become one of the key players in Borussia Dortmund’s squad. He has played in 21 of BVB’s 25 league games, and featured in every Champions League match, starting six of them including the most recent 4-0 win against Benfica.”He’s already reached a significant level at 18,” Former U.S. assistant coach and current U.S. Under-23 coach Herzog told kicker. “He now needs to raise that level year after year, which is not easy.”Pulisic has scored five goals and set up a further nine, drawing widespread praise, first in the United States and in recent weeks also in Germany, where he has been compared to both Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the young Mario Gotze during Gotze’s breakthrough years at the Westfalenstadion.Although Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel last week played down the hype and urged Pulisic to keep his head down, Herzog has now told kicker that there are “no limits” for the winger.”He’s got an exemplary character, and in this sense good qualifications,” Herzog said. “I dare him to do it, I don’t see any limits.”Herzog said that it’s now up to Pulisic’s coaches to continue his development.”Dortmund can consider themselves lucky to have two attacking grenades like him and [Ousmane] Dembele.”Herzog, who has closely followed Pulisic’s progress over the last few years, added: “The development he’s taken is no coincidence. The lad’s got an unbelievable talent and potential. Jurgen Klinsmann and I realised that soon enough.”Also speaking to kicker, former Pulisic youth coach Hannes Wolf, who moved on from BVB’s academy to second-tier club VfB Stuttgart during the season, said that the winger is at the right club right now.”The responsibility is not pressed on his shoulders at BVB,” Wolf said about Pulisic, who is under contract at Dortmund until 2020, and had been linked with a move to Liverpool prior to putting pen to paper on his new deal earlier this year.

 

Clint Dempsey on fitness: I’m not at 100 percent but I’m getting close

SEATTLE — Clint Dempsey said Friday he’s open to whatever role Bruce Arena sees fit for him as he rejoins the U.S. national team for upcoming World Cup qualifying matches.Dempsey said ahead of the Seattle Sounders’ home opener that he’s probably not back to the level of fitness needed to play a full 90 minutes in a World Cup qualifying match. But he expects to have conversations with Arena when he joins the national team camp in Northern California next week about how he may best be used.”Do I think I’m able to go out there and do 90 minutes in World Cup qualifiers? I don’t know if I’m there yet. I’m not at 100 percent I would say but I’m getting close,” Dempsey said after training at CenturyLink Field, where the Sounders will face the New York Red Bulls on Sunday. “Every 90 minutes I get under my belt here I’m feeling more comfortable.”Dempsey missed the final four months of the 2016 MLS season after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. Dempsey returned to training when the Sounders opened camped in January and has played 90 minutes in each of Seattle’s first two regular-season games.Arena had indicated during the January national team camp that he didn’t believe Dempsey would be ready for this month’s critical qualifiers at home against Honduras and at Panama. But Dempsey’s recovery has appeared to be ahead of schedule all along.”He’s been in contact with me ever since last November and then he gave me a call last week and we had a good talk and feel comfortable about moving forward and being involved in the games,” Dempsey said.Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said the Sounders have been sharing data with the U.S. national team on where Dempsey is in his return.”He’s in a pretty good place,” Schmetzer said. “He’s in a good spot. He knows he needs to do a little bit more to get back where he was.”Dempsey has appeared in 130 matches all time for the U.S. and scored 52 goals. His last appearance came in the Copa America last June when the U.S. reached the semifinals before being eliminated by Argentina. Dempsey rejoined the Sounders after the tournament but was sidelined in late August for the remainder of the season by his heart condition.”I feel like I can make a difference and it’s kind of do or die in the World Cup qualifying situation that we’re in,” Dempsey said.

 

U.S. Soccer to end youth residency program in Florida

The U.S. Soccer Federation will end its residency program in Bradenton, Florida, for players under 17 years old this spring after 18 years.Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley were among 33 players at the program who went on to play for the senior national team.The program was designed to expose 20 top prospects each semester to high-level training at the IMG Academy.”One of our main hopes when establishing the U.S. Soccer Residency Program was that at some point advancements in youth player development would make its existence no longer necessary — we believe that point has been reached,” USSF president Sunil Gulati said in a statement on Friday.”Not only did the program develop a number of key players for our national teams, it served as a model for academies across the country to follow. With the U.S. Development Academy having achieved high standards in preparing our young athletes, we are now able to impact future American professionals on a much larger scale.”The U.S. Soccer Development Academy, now in its 10th season, has increased from 63 clubs across the nation to 150, with more than 10,000 registered players. In addition, since 2007 every Major League Soccer team has been required to have a youth academy.U.S. youth technical director Tab Ramos said both programs serve the same purpose for which the residency program was designed.”When the residency program started, there was no development academy, there were no MLS teams investing in youth development and there was no particular training direction,” he told U.S. Soccer’s website.”Most youth players at all levels were training twice per week and playing anywhere from one to five games on the weekends. Now we live in a completely different landscape.”The DA has now been around for 10 years and players are taught to play, hold the ball and be creative. There is a clear ‘training over games’ mentality of learning the game properly, and more importantly clubs all over the country are investing millions in youth development led by teams in MLS.”Ramos also said the under-17 team will now be managed more like the under-20 team that he coaches, with “five or six camps per year.””It’s a bittersweet moment because the program has been invaluable for almost two decades as a critical piece of the development process for U.S. Soccer,” under-17 coach John Hackworth said. “The end of the residency program signals the next step in the evolution of player development in this country.”

 

Chicago Fire Soccer Club Acquires World Champion Bastian Schweinsteiger as Designated Player

March 21, 20177:50AM CDTChicago Fire Communications

CHICAGO (March 21, 2017) – The Chicago Fire Soccer Club today announced the acquisition of German midfielder and international soccer star Bastian Schweinsteiger from Manchester United. Schweinsteiger has won more championships than any player to have ever signed to play in Major League Soccer, and is a reigning World Cup champion as a member of Germany in 2014.“Bastian Schweinsteiger is one of our sport’s greatest champions,” said Fire owner and chairman Andrew Hauptman. “We are excited for soccer fans everywhere to have the opportunity to watch the most decorated player in the league during the Fire’s 20th season.”Throughout my career, I’ve always sought opportunities where I hoped to make a positive impact and to help make something great. My move to Chicago Fire is no different,” Schweinsteiger said. “Through my conversations with Nelson and Pauno, I’m convinced by the club’s vision and philosophy and I want to help them with this project.”chweinsteiger, 32, signed a one-year deal and will occupy a Designated Player spot on the club’s roster. Schweinsteiger will officially be added to the roster and available for selection upon passing a team physical, and pending receipt of his ITC and P1 Visa.

READ: 10 Things to Know About Bastian Schweinsteiger 

“This is a historic moment for our club,” Fire general manager Nelson Rodríguez said. “We have added one of the greatest champions in all of sports. Bastian’s talents, attitude, and character will be a perfect complement to our squad as we continue building a championship program.”Schweinsteiger’s German debut came on June 6, 2004 against Hungary, launching a national team career that would lead to appearances in three World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014) and four UEFA European Championships (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016). He holds the German record for most UEFA European Championship appearances with 18, a mark he achieved last summer as captain of Die Mannschaft. His career also includes a World Cup title in 2014. He has retired from international competition, and played his final match for Germany on Sept. 1, 2016. Internationally, he boasts 24 goals in 121 appearances for Germany.As a club player, Schweinsteiger helped Bayern Munich to the UEFA Champions League crown in 2012-13, a year in which he also earned Bundesliga Player of the Year honors. Schweinsteiger won eight Bundesliga titles during his time with Bayern Munich, and also has seven DFB-Pokal (German Cup) championships. In all, the German international has been a part of 23 major domestic and international cups during his playing career, more than any previous player entering their first season in MLS.“Having the strongest possible midfield is essential for how we want to play,” said Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic. “We see Bastian helping our organization of the attack, and impacting the final third build-up with his vision and creativity to produce the final pass, as well as his capacity to score goals. His versatility on the field, and his immense experience at the highest levels of this sport will be a great benefit to our team.”During his 15-year club career, Schweinsteiger has amassed 70 goals and 103 assists in 535 first team games. He signed his first professional contract in December of 2002, joining Bayern Munich after four years in their youth system. Schweinsteiger remained with the Bavarian side for 13 years before his move to Manchester United in July of 2015.Season, single-game and group tickets for the 2017 Chicago Fire season are on sale now at Chicago-Fire.com/tickets. Fans can guarantee their seat at Bastian Schweinsteiger’s home debut by securing a 2017 Chicago Fire Season Ticket and enjoy all the benefits of joining the club, including: complimentary parking, 20 percent off of concessions and merchandise, 10 percent off at Heineken Pub97, pre-sale access to the 2017 Target MLS All-Star Game at Soldier Field, and exclusive access to Meet The Team events and Season Ticket Holder tailgates.For more information on becoming a Chicago Fire Season Ticket Holder, please call or text 888-MLS-FIRE or visit Chicago-Fire.com/STH.

Transaction: Chicago Fire acquires MF Bastian Schweinsteiger as Designated Player from Manchester United. Schweinsteiger will officially be added to the Fire’s roster and available for selection upon passing a team physical, and pending receipt of his ITC and P1 Visa.

Full Name: Bastian Schweinsteiger
Jersey Number: 31
Position: Midfielder
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 175 lbs.
Born: Aug. 1, 1984 in Kolbermoor, Germany
Hometown:  Rosenheim, Germany
Last Club: Manchester United (EPL)

Career Highlights:
• 2014 World Cup winner with Germany
• UEFA Champions League crown in 2012-13
• UEFA Super Cup winner in 2013
• FIFA Club World Cup winner in 2013
• FIFA World Cup “Dream Team” Selection in 2010
• Eight-time Bundesliga winner with Bayern Munich
• Seven-time DFB-Pokal (German Cup) winner with Bayern Munich
• Bundesliga Player of the Year honors in 2013
• 23 domestic and international cups during his career, more than any previous player entering their first season in MLS.

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