Jurgen Klinsmann

No surprise, Jurgen Klinsmann surprises with starting XI

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We saw a lot of guesses from experts in the days leading up to tonight’s match, but you’d be hard pressed to find somebody in the know who nailed this one. When U.S. Soccer announced the starting lineup for tonight’s World Cup qualifier in Antigua, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was predictably unpredictable:

G – Tim Howard
LB – Carlos Bocanagra (c)
CB – Geoff Cameron
CB – Clarence Goodson
RB – Steve Cherundolo
CM – Danny Willams
CM – Michael Bradley
? – Clint Dempsey
? – Graham Zusi
? – Eddie Johnson
F – Herculez Gomez

That’s a lot of question marks, uncertainty born from the fact U.S. Soccer’s tweet seemed to have Eddie Johnson in midfield …

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… which would be weird.

Some talking points:

1. Bocanegra at left back – It was the captain’s position last cycle, but Klinsmann’s been reluctant to use him out there. Michael Parkhurst was an option. Instead, Klinsmann’s sent Boca back to his second home.

2. Williams’ ascension – We talked about it in the depth chart, but last break’s performances seemed to vault Danny Williams above Kyle Beckerman in the pecking order. The Hoffenheim man gets the call tonight in what’s likely to be a rare two-man midfield.

3. Bradley’s the man – Did the return of Michael Bradley allow Klinsmann to select all of Johnson, Dempsey, Gomez, and Zusi? It’s much easier to play a two-man midfield (as opposed to Klinsmann’s normal three) when Michael Bradley is one of those guys. If there’s one guy in the squad who can carry that load, he’s it.

4. Attack! – This might be the most attack-oriented team Klinsmann’s thrown out there. All of Johnson, Dempsey, Gomez, and Zusi, plus Bradley supporting from midfield. More on this, below.

5. Johnson gets his chance – As the week went on, it seemed more and more likely Johnson was going to get into the starting XI. At least, there were hums to that effect, though nothing that didn’t sound like idle speculation. Today, that idle speculation came good.

So we have a team unlike we’ve ever seen under Klinsmann. How will they play? We’ll find out in half an hour, but by the personnel, you can expect a team that leans right thanks to Cherundolo, Williams and Gomez (who is more effective going toward that flank). Bocanegra at the back lets the U.S.to for a strong back three (both Bocanegra and Cameron proficient at their respective sides), allowing Cherundolo to be aggressive getting (and staying) forward.

Also, expect Eddie Johnson to spend a lot of time attacking that far (left) post. When Gomez goes right and Dempsey fills the space and supports, Johnson’s going to get the benefit of a defense that has to shift away from his side. Expect Cherundolo to target him liberally, with Michael Bradley perhaps coming on to a number of second balls. It’s more direct than we’re used to seeing from Klinsmann’s teams, but that’s why he brought Johnson in.

At least, that’s one way it could play out. Consider it a glimpse into (the possible) mind of an opposition coach. Without a left back, you could see a very right-heavy team that depends on Johnson to keep Antigua and Barbuda honest.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.