Jamaican joy, U.S. despair: Points on the match

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So now we know: the difference makers for the United States … well, they make a difference.

No Landon Donovan? That one stung Friday night in Kingston. A Clint Dempsey that could not possibly have been at “Full Dempsey,” given his three-month removal from competitive soccer? That one was always going to leave a bruise, too.

But the killer was no Michael Bradley in midfield. Oh, how that one put a deathly chokehold on the U.S. attack and ability to hold the ball.

The United States was an absolute mess between the defenders and the front line. None of the three in there (Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu nor Jermaine Jones) will remember the U.S.-Jamaica match fondly.

Nor will U.S. fans, for that matter.

I know this is not what U.S. fans want to hear. They get their Uncle Sam hats on and the “Don’t Tread on Me” t-shirts, and they don’t want to hear that sometimes, in some situations, ties are OK. But here goes …

Believe me, sometimes ties are OK.

Case in point, when you crawl out of Jamaica on the business end of a 2-1 Red Striping. It was a deserved score line, too; Jamaica was the better team. For darn sure in midfield.

We’ll come back later and talk about how much trouble the U.S. qualifying might suddenly be in. (Hint: some, but things are hardly dire.)

For now, let’s go over some talking points from the first Jamaican win ever over the United States. (Yes, the Reggae Boyz record against their Yankee regional rival is now 1-18-10.):

  • A U.S. back line already missing some experience got scary-young when Steve Cherundolo was ruled out due to a calf strain. So the back line, right to left was Michael Parkhurst, Clarence Goodson, Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson. Considering the piecemeal look of it, the back line was not the problem at all. All in all, the rear guard held up admirably. Now, about that midfield …
  • Jurgen Klinsmann arranged a 4-3-1-2, with Dempsey behind two strikers. Trouble is, neither Jones nor Edu could solve the problems in there. They couldn’t deal with Jamaica’s pressure, couldn’t find the outlets, couldn’t find the little seems. It wasn’t all their fault, however. …
  • Parkhurst and Johnson, given their international inexperience, were never going to supply the wide threat. So things were painfully jammed up through the middle. With no outlets wide, Jamaica could target Jones and Edu. And they did. It usually broke down there. When Dempsey did find the ball, things were still too narrow.
  • Beckerman was OK in his role – until the moment he got behind the play, lunged in, committed a foul and set up Jamaica’s first goal. He usually plays the position exceptionally, like a man who understands his limits to the inch. But foot speed is always the point of contention with Beckerman, and it stung him this time.
  • Outside of that first-half goal (which squeezed through the wall – something that should never happen) and Luton Shelton’s fantastic second-half free kick, Tim Howard had little to do.
  • Despite the goal from Dempsey after just 36 seconds, the United States never established midfield possession. In the 44th moment – finally! – the Americans found some patience and possession. It ended with Dempsey being denied from close range. And … yeah, that was about it. From there, the only U.S. opportunities came in the last 15, desperate minutes. And those were half chances at that.
  • Aside from the flagging possession, Klinsmann’s side never created enough drive through the midfield to even create a few restarts that would allow Goodson and Cameron to come forward. In the area of “drive through the midfield,” that’s Bradley’s game. He knows just when to play safe and when to seize more initiative. That’s harder than you think.

(More to come on the blog … so check back)

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.