Alan Gordon 3

Surprises from Monday’s U.S. national team roster announcement


The Twitter world being what it is, the bigger surprises in today’s U.S. national team roster announcement were relatively weak noodles in the big bowl of potential shockers.

We already knew – or strongly suspected based on their weekend Tweets – that Eddie Johnson was in and Dutch league scoring leader Jozy Altidore was out.

Those would have been jaw-droppers without early radar warning ahead of Monday’s roster announcement from U.S. Soccer. The Americans play at Antigua and Barbuda on Friday, then meet Guatemala on Oct. 16 in Kansas City to close out semifinal round World Cup qualifying.

(MORE: The week ahead for the United States)

So here are the talkers off Monday’s United States roster announcement; U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann spoke with reporters after Monday’s announcement via teleconference.

Sacha Kljestan gets the call. He’s been stuck in an uncomfortable place internationally since he mans a position of relative strength. As a central midfielder, he’s been stuck behind Michael Bradley and a host of others, even if some of them lean more defensive in their tendencies than Kljestan.

So, Kljestan has languished mostly unused by the United States through 2012, his appearance in the American win over Italy as the notable exception.

Klinsmann mentioned having dispatched assistant Andreas Herzog to watch Kljestan last week against Malaga in Champions League play; they were especially happy with the Anderlecht man’s increasing tendency to play balls vertically and not just side-to-side.

No Jose Torres. No one can say Klinsmann didn’t get the young man plenty of chances. And plenty of warnings, too, that he needed to be more aggressive and find more ways to impact matches in a more substantial ways.

(Update: A U.S. Soccer spokesman just informed me that Torres is injured; I was unaware.)

No Chris Wondolowski, no Terrance Boyd – but Johnson … and Alan Gordon!: Klinsmann said the choice to add Johnson and San Jose’s Alan Gordon was tactical. The coming matches against Antigua and Barbuda and then Guatemala are likely to be gritty struggles against teams that want to dig in defensively. Klinsmann figures that their aerial ability will come in handy as the United States will likely need to spread the stacked back as wide as possible and look to attack in wide areas.

Wondolowski scores plenty with his head but he’s not quite as big as the other two and cannot, perhaps, quite match their athleticism nor their ability in banging around for balls near goal.

Landon Donovan gets the call: There was good news all around Monday morning when Donovan’s knee (injured Saturday in the Galaxy’s loss) responded about as well as it could. When U.S. team officials spoke to Donovan on Sunday night, the plan was to have an MRI on Monday and then make a go-no go decision on the national team.

But according to Klinsmann, Donovan awoke Monday feeling even better than expected. So he cancelled the MRI and got on a plane bound for Miami, where players were arriving all day Monday.

Brek Shea is in: The FC Dallas man is hurt (mostly a combination of several smaller injuries) and still playing at 2011 level. But here he is, probably more a concession to a lack of choices in wide areas as much as anything else.

We’ll have more later on the Jozy Altidore situation.

Juan Carlos Osorio to become new Mexico boss

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Mexico looks to have found a new manager in Juan Carlos Osorio.

Osorio, who had stints managing in Major League Soccer with the Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls, was most recently coaching in Brazil with Sao Paulo.

However, the Brazilian club released a statement today that Osorio had decided to step down from his position in order to take the Mexico job.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Following Miguel Herrera’s firing in July, Ricardo Ferretti was named interim manager of El Tri, and will coach the side in Saturday’s CONCACAF playoff match against the United States. However, Ferretti has stated he will not stay with Mexico past that match, and will return to Liga MX, where he serves as manager of Tigres UANL.

Osorio had recently been linked with the Mexico job, but said he would take his time in making a decision.

His only other exposure to Mexican football came during a short stint in Liga MX managing Puebla. He lasted just seven matches before resigning and returning to manage in his native Colombia.

[ RELATED: Donovan says Klinsmann should be fired if USMNT loses to Mexico ]

He was in line to take charge of the Honduras national team in 2011, but he was unable to get out of the contract with the Colombian team he was managing at the time.

There has been no official confirmation of the hiring from the Mexican Federation.

Benzema and Benitez in a war of words at Real Madrid

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 26: Head coach Rafael Benitez (R) of Real Madrid CF gives instructions to his player Karim Benzema (L) during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Malaga CF at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on September 26, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Karim Benzema has scored six goals in his eight appearances for Real Madrid this season, and is currently the top scorer in La Liga.

Despite being in great form, Benzema has continuously been substituted by manager Rafa Benitez, which has upset the French striker.

Benzema opened the scoring for Real in the Madrid derby over the weekend, but was taken off in the 77th minute. Atletico would go on to score minutes later as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

[ RELATED: Top moments from USMNT vs. Mexico ]

Speaking after the game, Benzema said he was “fed up” with being taken off, but will continue to work to help his team.

Substitutions are what the coach decides, I’m just there to help my teammates.

It’s true I’m fed up of being taken off. I’m calm and will continue to work so I’m not always subtituted. He took me off to get a result, for defensive reasons.

It’s true that the electronic board always shows the No.9. Ask Benitez why that is.

When told about Benzema’s comments, Benitez said he made the change for tactical reasons, as Real was in the lead and he replaced the striker with a more defensive-minded player in midfielder Mateo Kovacic.

I needed to give the team some balance at that point in the game. I’m a huge fan of Benzema. If I were Karim, I’d also be angry at being taken off when I thought I was playing well and was on a great run of form.

What I’d do if I were Karim is score more goals so that next time I don’t have to be taken off and can say, ‘Hey, here I am.’

Benitez’s response comes off as a backhanded compliment, asking Benzema to “score more goals,” despite the player leading La Liga in scoring. In fact, Benzema has averaged a goal every 84 minutes this season, an incredible strike rate.

[ RELATED: Chelsea release statement on Jose Mourinho’s future ]

Over the summer, Benzema was linked with a move away from Real Madrid, but he constantly denied the rumors and said he never thought about leaving the club, which he called the best in the world. Just a few matches into the new season, there may be some trouble in paradise.