Portrait of US player Clarence Goodson t

Talking center backs: Cameron, Onyewu or Goodson in Friday’s World Cup qualifying opener?

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TAMPA, Florida – Trusty captain Carlos Bocanegra will surely patrol his usual beat, left center back, as World Cup qualifying opens here.

But picking Bocanegra’s partner looms as one of Jurgen Klinsmann’s crucial decisions ahead of Friday’s meeting with Antigua & Barbuda – if “crucial” is a word we can use when talking about tiny Antigua & Barbuda, a two-island speck on the CONCACAF map. But never mind that; this is World Cup qualifying, a.k.a. “business time.”

Three tune-up friendlies saw three different central partners for Bocanegra. The choices are hardly dire; this isn’t U.S. left back circa 2008. It’s just that none are “go-to” guys ideal for the part. The case files for and against Klinsmann’s trio of choices:

Geoff Cameron: Klinsmann kept talking up the Houston Dynamo man, doing so even after pulling Cameron from the starting lineup after his night against Scotland. That evening included an own goal and a couple of the occasional positioning blips that we sometimes get from Cameron. His instincts as a center back, not quite honed to an international edge after all those years in the midfield, sometimes nick him.

But if Cameron can get a handle on that, he’s got everything else Klinsmann could want in a center back: range, adequate speed, long legs perfect for dislodging and disposing, aerial ability, and toughness. What he has most: ability to pass as sharply from center back spot as anyone in the U.S. player pool this side of Tim Ream.

That ability to move the ball forward, quickly and precisely, might be just what the U.S. needs against teams that sit back in heavy numbers – and a lot of that is out there in qualifiers ahead.

All three men can pass; Cameron is the one who passing might actually constitute a threat.

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Oguchi Onyewu: Was he just a victim of unfortunate timing? The big U.S. center back had the toughest assignment of the trio, attempting to corral the quick-footed and quicker-thinking Brazilians. So perhaps it’s little wonder that he looked beyond his element alongside Bocangera during last week’s 4-1 loss to the five-time world champs. The problem, of course, is that last week’s wobble wasn’t unfamiliar. I count just one good start from Onyewu (last fall against Ecuador) since that devastating knee injury late in 2009.

That’s coming up on three years now. So perhaps we ask a lot for Onyewu to stride confidently into the breach at highest level right now. Clearly, Brazil (even its slightly watered down version) is tha game at “highest level.”

For now, perhaps Onyewu’s best use falls under “spot starter,” strategically deployed against opponents who rely on a bigger, powerful striker, a la Panamanian frontrunner Blas Perez. “Young and fast” just is a good pairing for Onyewu at present.

Clarence Goodson: Last week I asked Alexi Lalas, a former U.S. center back, why Goodson doesn’t garner more mentions in conversations of potential U.S. starters. (This was before Goodson’s first XI appearance Sunday against Canada.)

Lalas’ best guess: doubts perhaps linger because Goodson has yet to play club ball at elite level. His league games in Denmark aren’t hamburger, but they aren’t Grade A prime, either. And that makes some sense as a theory, helping explain why Goodson may need to consistently do more just to tread water in the depth pool, to stay even with someone like Onyewu, whose resume is dotted with better club addresses.

I agree with Lalas about the perception that Goodson hasn’t played “big boy soccer,” but it’s misguided. Because games in the Danish Superliga aren’t that far behind games in Scotland or Portugal. And I doubt they’d play second fiddle in quality to MLS.

Klinsmann may not believe so either, especially after Sunday’s Man of the Match evening from Goodson against a motivated Canadian team, one that always seems to bring its best against the United States.

If Klinsmann is just evaluating each man’s 90-minute sample over the last two weeks, it looks like a fairly simple call: it’s Goodson on Friday in Tampa as World Cup qualifying for 2014 begins.

Coup for Koeman? Everton agrees to Gueye’s release clause

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - APRIL 02: Idrissa Gueye of Aston Villa controls the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park on April 2, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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If you’ve read this space at all, you’ll know PST is very high on Aston Villa box-to-box midfielder Idrissa Gueye.

Only N'Golo Kante registered more successful tackles than Gueye in last season’s Premier League, and that came on a Villa side which endured its first PL relegation.

[ MORE: Sounders, Schmid part ways ]

Gueye, 26, has a release clause of $9.3 million, and according to Sky Sports it’s now been met by two teams: Marseille and Everton. Reports say Gueye prefers to stay in England, so Ronald Koeman could have a huge addition to his squad.

It’s not overstating it to say Gueye could revolutionize the Everton squad, allowing players like Ross Barkley even more freedom and giving terrific cover. Gueye has a better offensive acumen than we saw with Villa, and is an invaluable part of Senegal’s set-up.

Sounders part ways with MLS all-time wins leader Sigi Schmid

SANDY, UT - MARCH 12: Head coach Sigi Schmid of Seattle Sounders FC gestures from the sidelines in the game against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 12, 2016 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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The underachieving Seattle Sounders have cost their legendary coach his job.

Sigi Schmid and the Sounders have agreed to part ways, the team announced on Tuesday, ending an eight-year run as the only coach in franchise’s MLS history.

Schmid, 63, is one of the most decorated coaches in MLS history, and has four U.S. Open Cup titles with Seattle after a pair of MLS Cup wins between Columbus and Los Angeles.

[ MORE: How did Yedlin, CCV play vs Juventus? ]

He also won three College Cup titles at UCLA between 1980-99.

Here’s Schmid, from SoundersFC.com:

“I want to thank Seattle Sounders FC for the opportunity to lead this club over the past eight years, with particular gratitude to Adrian Hanauer, Joe Roth and the rest of the club’s ownership group. I’d also like to thank my coaches and technical staff for the support they’ve given me, and most importantly I want to thank my players for their tremendous effort throughout the years,” Schmid said.

“I’m proud of the success we’ve achieved in winning five major trophies in Seattle, qualifying for the postseason for seven-straight seasons. My only disappointment is that we were unable to bring home an MLS Cup to our tremendous fans, who have always been supportive through good times and bad. In closing, I want to thank the Sounders FC organization, the club’s fans and the city of Seattle for this amazing run.”

Longtime assistant Brian Schmetzer takes over in the interim, tasked with finding a way to improve on the uninspiring Sounders’ 6-12-2 record.

The Sounders are 10 points out of the final playoff spot and haven’t won since June 22 (2L-4T). They’ve scored the third-fewest goals in MLS. Without knowing what’s going on behind the scenes, the players’ performances over the last few weeks raised serious character concerns. Hopefully a coaching change somehow eases those, as it did for Chelsea.

How did USMNT duo Yedlin, Carter-Vickers fare in Tottenham’s ICC opener?

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 26:  Cameron Carter-Vickers of Tottenham Hotspur controls the ball during the 2016 International Champions Cup match between Juventus FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 26, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
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Both DeAndre Yedlin and Cameron Carter-Vickers played for Totteham Hotspur in their 2-1 friendly defeat to Juventus in International Champions Cup action on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Higuain moves to Juve ]

After a shaky start Spurs looked bright in the second half and both Yedlin and CCV did things which will have impressed manager Mauricio Pochettino despite the defeat in their preseason opener in Melbourne, Australia.

[ MORE: Kapustka to Leicester? ]

How did the U.S. national team duo perform?

Let’s take a look.


Cameron Carter-Vickers 
Minutes played: 90
Rating: 6

After a poor start which saw CCV and his young central defensive partner Dominic Ball struggle to lock down Paulo Dybala, the U.S. youth international recovered well.

On Juve’s opening goal Ball was caught in possession and CCV then slid in but didn’t take the ball as Dybala was set free and scored. There were a few other shaky moments in possession but overall CCV recovered well in the first half, standing his ground and making some important blocks inside the box to snuff out any danger.

[ MORE: Carter-Vickers speaks to JPW ]

In the second half his positioning was slightly suspect at times, especially when Miralem Pjanic was set free over the top and CCV hadn’t noticed his run on his back shoulder. That said, Carter-Vickers’ distribution improved throughout the game and he picked out good long balls forward and helped Spurs build back into the game. He played the full 90 minutes while Ball was hooked off in the second half and there is plenty for the 18-year-old to take from this experience. As a defensive unit Spurs struggled massively in the first half but that wasn’t just down to CCV.

He has captained Spurs’ reserve team since Pochettino arrived at the club and the Argentine coach obviously rates his ability. He didn’t look lost out there and along with Spurs’ other promising youngsters, he looks to have a bright future. With Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Kevin Wimmer ahead of him, don’t expect CCV to break through just yet but with Vertonghen out injured and set to miss the first month or so of the new season, expect to see his name on the bench.

Jurgen Klinsmann will watch on with intrigue as Carter-Vickers looks ready for the next step in his development which is likely a loan move to a team in the Championship or League One in England. The bruising center back is developing well after plenty of experience with the U.S. U-20 and U-23 teams in the last few years. Now, it’s time for him to learn from coming up against a quality team like Juve and take the positives from it, of which there were plenty.


DeAndre Yedlin
Minutes played: 45
Rating: 8

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 26: DeAndre Yedlin of Tottenham Hotspur competes for the ball during the 2016 International Champions Cup match between Juventus FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 26, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

He came on at half time and Yedlin was impressive. The 23-year-old played at left back for 30 minutes and then switched to right back for the final 12 minutes of regulation plus stoppage time.

At left back he had plenty of opportunities to get forward and he used his pace whenever he could to try and support the likes of Vincent Janseen and Erik Lamela. Yedlin propelled himself past Juve’s left back and whipped in a dangerous cross late on as we got to see exactly why he was sent out on loan to Sunderland last season.

The Seattle Sounders product has definitely become more polished on the ball, just as we saw for the U.S. national team this summer at Copa America. He looked calm in possession and was certainly one of the major bright spots for Pochettino in the second half.

Now it’s all about seeing where Yedlin slots in on the depth chart. With England international Kyle Walker the first choice at right back, is Yedlin better than Kieran Trippier as Spurs’ back up option? Quite possibly. Trippier didn’t really get going at White Hart Lane last season and the former Burnley full back may be reluctant to spend another season behind Walker. Southampton have been linked with Trippier and that could open up a spot for Yedlin to be a squad player at Spurs.

Having shown his versatility at left back and right back, plus he can also play as a winger with that searing pace and fewer defensive responsibilities, would it be a good thing for Yedlin to hang around and try to get 10-12 games under his belt for Spurs this season? Probably not. He needs to be playing regularly and as we saw last season at Sunderland, he got better as the campaign wore on.

It will be an interesting few weeks to see how much Yedlin plays in preseason and how highly Pochettino rates him. That said, if he keeps playing like this then there’s no doubt other PL clubs will be queuing up to take him on loan.

Replacement for Mahrez? Leicester linked with Polish winger Kapustka

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 21: Ruslan Rotan of Ukraine and Bartosz Kapustka of Poland compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Ukraine and Poland at Stade Velodrome on June 21, 2016 in Marseille, France.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Leicester City have been linked with a move to Polish international winger Bartosz Kapustka following his impressive form in the European Championships this summer.

Kapustka played in four of Poland’s five games at EURO 2016 and was suspended for their Round of 16 win against Switzerland.

[ MORE: Spurs lose to Juve in ICC

Sky Sports believe that the Foxes have made a bid of $7 million for Kapustka and have been in talks with his club side Cracovia since he starred at EURO 2016 for Poland. Last season he had a breakout year in Poland’s top flight, scoring four goals in 33 appearances.

Just 19, Kapustka shone out wide with his speed, trickery and eye for goal.

Sound like someone else?

[ MORE: Pro, cons of winter break in the PL ]

Now, the biggest thought which comes to mind when you think about Leicester bidding for a promising, skillful winger, is that they could potentially be lining up a replacement for Riyad Mahrez.

Of course, Claudio Ranieri has insisted that Mahrez is going nowhere despite interest from Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Barcelona among others, plus he could just be bolstering his squad ahead of their UEFA Champions League campaign this season. With Jeffrey Schlupp linked with a move to West Bromwich Albion, maybe Ranieri just wants an extra wide player around at the King Power Stadium?

Regardless, reported interest in another winger will only add further tension to a situation Leicester’s fans will no doubt want clarified before the new season begins.

Multiple reports suggest Mahrez has been offered a new long-term contract at Leicester but he’s yet to sign it. With N'Golo Kante signing for Chelsea this summer, the Algerian winger may be reluctant to lock down his long-term future with Leicester. Maybe he will stay with the Foxes until January to see how their UCL campaign and PL title defense starts?