Keep calm

No reason for alarm around U.S. national team camp


We usually limit deployment of the Keep Calm and Carry On image for our weekly Panic Quotient. But exceptions clearly exist.

Alarm bells are clanging in some watchtowers over last night’s result, the 4-1 loss to Brazil.

Let’s see, where did we put those doggone lanterns and pitchforks?

But really? Because I couldn’t muster so much as a shot glass full of outrage.

Getting beat by three at home is never a moment to celebrate, clearly. But to look beyond the result and, more importantly, to look at the 180-minute body of work over five days for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team, I just cannot get too twisted up about it.

Are there areas of concern? Yep. Areas for tweaking and personnel adjustments? Right-o. I’ve gone over those.

But what we saw Wednesday wasn’t that outrageous; Brazil has done the same many times over.  We saw a team that eased into a game that needed a full sprint from the start, so that should and presumably will be addressed. Brazil came to play and Brazil came to be a little more “nasty” than Klinsmann’s men.

(Aside: Alarm bells are also banging over Klinsmann’s comments about his team needing to be a little “nastier.”  Me? Meh. I don’t think he’s advocating going all Giovanni Trapattoni on us, playing the old Italian way, or throwing down MMA style. The man has spent almost 10 months preaching just the opposite. I think he just wants more recognition of when to meet gamesmanship, bite and aggression with equal measures of gamesmanship, bite and aggression. So that’s that.)

Otherwise, I saw a U.S. side that rolled out an attacking formation and tried to get numbers into the final third against a five-time world champ. And isn’t that what so many have long written on their U.S. Soccer wish list? “No retreat” and “Valor in defeat” and all that?

Brazil was on the front foot right away, but the home team was pushing for goals late. In a lot of ways, the difference Wednesday was ruthless finishing on one side, and the American inability to match it.

This was a pretty good Brazilian team. Young? Yes. But it’s a worthy collection of young, motivated talent, augmented by some of the global elite. Neymar? The guy has serious skills. Hulk? There’s a reason the power suits at moneyed clubs like Chelsea are pushing each other out of the way to sign him. Marcelo? The world’s best left back, perhaps? You could make the case. Thiago Silva? Among the game’s elite center backs.

No, it wasn’t the full Brazilian treatment. But let’s not make it out like these were local mutts with day jobs at Brazilian bakeries.

All in all, I’d reckon that over 180 minutes against one unmotivated, mediocre team and one strong one, the United States men’s national team isn’t in a ditch today. Things are OK … so step away from the alarm bells, please.

VIDEO: Marco Verratti plays a brilliant pass to Eder for Italy goal

PALERMO, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 06:  Marco Verratti of Italy in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier match between Italy and Bulgaria on September 6, 2015 in Palermo, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
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Italy took a 1-0 lead over Azerbaijan through the in-form Eder in the 11th minute, but the true leg-work (see what I did there) came from bite-sized midfielder Marco Verratti.

The PSG playmaker pinged a beautiful long ball over the top of the Azerbaijan defense that fell right at the feet of Eder, who let the ball settle itself and touched home confidently past Kamran Arhayev for a 1-0 lead.

The goal is the second of Eder’s national career in just five caps, having scored on debut against Bulgaria back in March. He has six goals in seven matches for Sampdoria so far this Serie A season.

Italy needs three points in this match to ensure qualification to Euro 2016. A win would guarantee them a place in the field, while anything less would mean there is work to do in the final match on Tuesday against Norway.


Later in the match, Stephan El Shaarawy gave Italy a 2-1 lead just before halftime, his second career international goal and his first since September of 2012 which came in his third career start.

Agent: Liverpool contacted Klopp only after Rodgers firing

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09:  Jurgen Klopp arrives to be unveiled as the new manager of Liverpool FC at a press conference at Anfield on October 9, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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As soon as Brendan Rodgers was dismissed by Liverpool on Sunday, Jurgen Klopp’s name was tossed around as the likely successor to the then-vacant Liverpool managerial position.

However, according to Klopp’s representatve Marc Kosicke, Liverpool did not make contact with the German until after Rodgers had been officially let go.

“The first call from Liverpool came after the dismissal as coach of Rodgers,” Kosicke told Bild. “Before Liverpool there were naturally quite a few inquiries. But Jurgen always asked me not to take it any further.”

Club management was less committal than Klopp’s rep, but did say they had their eye on the German for some time. “We have learned to keep certain matters confidential. We had a meeting recently with Jurgen that he has talked about and I don’t want to talk too much about these conversations. But we have thought about him for a long time and everyone who knows football knows he is an outstanding manager.”

It’s relatively hard to believe Liverpool would have canned Rodgers without knowing for sure that a top-level target such as Klopp or Carlo Ancelotti were on board to replace him. It also would mean discussions of the contract terms and logistics would have moved at lightning speed, with just four days between the Rodgers dismissal and Klopp’s official unveiling.