Taylor Twellman’s take on Friday’s U.S. loss

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Taylor Twellman had an interesting take on Clint Dempsey (a.k.a. the top U.S. attacker) and his muted night in Jamaica.

Overall, Twellman did not think things were too bad. Remember, he noted, the U.S. lost on two free kicks – including one blue ribbon, YouTube special from Luton Shelton. And he said nothing has really changes in the big picture; the United States always needed to win Tuesday’s home match. So, in that regard, same deal today as Friday.

But the ESPN analyst did have questions about Jurgen Klinsmann’s strategic usage of his top offensive man. Twellman, like most, has seen better versions of Dempsey. As he noted, not one of us expected Tottenham’s new arrival to be at his best Friday. How could he be? As we’ve talked about time and again, the former Fulham man had not kicked a ball competitively since June.

Twellman (once a teammate of the U.S. international with New England) wonders why Dempsey started? And Twellman double dog wonders why Dempsey started and went the full 90?

Even conceding the U.S. manager’s limited options, Twellman wondered if a better Dempsey doctrine for Friday might have involved a 65th- of 70th-minute entrance, when the night’s tempo was slightly more tame, when Dempsey could perhaps help pin down a tiring bunch of Reggae Boyz?

Even more than that, the ESPN analyst (who will be on the TV call Tuesday in Columbus) wonders about how Dempsey, essentially in pre-season, mini-camp mode, might recover before Tuesday?

“I’m nervous about what we’re going to get out of him Tuesday night now,” Twellman told us this morning on the Soccer Today radio show and podcast (which I co-host with Marc Stein.) Here’s more:

 “Going down to Jamaica, where the [opposition] team is faster, the team is quicker, why not go the other way? Why not go 4-4-2? Why not play Terrence Boyd and Jozy Altidore up front? Then say, for the first 20 minutes of this game, we are going to play ugly. We’re going to play in Jamaica’s end. We’re going to try to make them build out of the back, which isn’t their strength. … and then, going in last 20 minutes, bring in our X factor, which is Clint Dempsey?”

Now the game has slowed down. The players are tired. Now that gives him a chance to be at his best. Nothing against Clint Demspey. But any player in the world, if they don’t have their game fitness, it’s hard to have an impact over 45 minutes, let alone 90. He played 90 minutes! That changes things for Tuesday night. That completely changes Tuesday night now.”

Oh, how does he feel about Tuesday as a potential “must win?”

Well, of course it is, Twellman said. But they all are. “In qualifying, every home game is a must win.”

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.