Jermaine Jones

Is Jermaine Jones’ suspension a U.S. blessing in disguise?

1 Comment

KANSAS CITY — Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster and lineup choices can be confusing at times. He’s like the blind and deaf pinball wizard from the old song: he plays by intuition, think and feel. Similarly, Klinsmann is less bound by conventional selection tenets.

It’s not the right or wrong approach, necessarily, it’s just his approach. Lots of coaches make their selections the same way – even if they don’t feel as secure about it all, so they tend to rationalize through public explanation. Klinsmann, rather immune to criticism, having dealt with so very much more in previous playing and coaching stops, doesn’t feel the need to validate his choices beyond the basic “this guy is ahead of that one.”

He’s not being snotty about it; quite the contrary, Klinsmann is typically candid and actually tries to explain his choices. It’s just that the criteria are frequently more subjective, so what makes “this guy better than that one” is sometimes less clear.

In the end, he’ll be proven right if the United States gets to Brazil 2014 and makes a good account. He’ll be proven wrong if his quirky ways produce less.

One of the real head-scratchers over Klinsmann’s 15 months at U.S. control is Jermaine Jones, a man who seems to add little to the American effort beyond some midfield bite. And he does certainly have ample stores of that.

Too much, in fact; the man is a yellow card or red card waiting to happen. Some call him a “hatchet man,” and to see the foul that led to last year’s lengthy Bundesliga suspension, it’s hard to argue the point. He’s not so far from Nigel de Jong that way, except that the infamous Dutch midfielder (who broke Stuart Holden’s leg two years ago) has greater technical skill and passing ability over various ranges to go with his “bad cop” ways of midfield enforcement.

Beyond that? Jones’ does have a sense of tactical discipline, but his passing is too labored to make it count for much.  He holds the ball too long, frequently stalling the advance. He doesn’t have a great feel for late runs into the box. His long range shooting is adequate but nothing special. He’s hardly a playmaker and not fast enough to drift wide and occasionally run at a defender.

He’s certainly not in development stage, either. At, , Jones is what he is.

So …

The larger discussion is moot for Tuesday because Jones collected another yellow card in Friday’s match with Antigua, a silly and completely needless intentional handball at a spot on the field where such a thing simply wasn’t required. With that, he was suspended for Tuesday’s match; the Schalke man is already back in Germany training once again with his club.

Kyle Beckerman or Maurice Edu can provide the midfield tackling and enforcement – and they are apt to smarter about it than their German-American teammate. Danny Williams probably can, too, although he’s younger and perhaps not as comfortable taking the tactical yellow card when it’s absolutely necessary, or knowing how far he can push the limits with international referees.

So long as Michael Bradley is on the field, Klinsmann can probably choose between any one of the three; Beckerman, Edu or Williams can shield the back line effectively Tuesday, with Bradley playing slightly higher in the arrangement.

(MORE: Michael Bradley, now the most important U.S. man)

The bigger point on Jones: he won’t be around to take a potential red card.

One of the recipes for U.S. disaster Tuesday (unlikely as that seems) would be this: an American does something stupid and gets himself ejected. Guatemalan confidence soars as the home team surrenders the initiative at that moment. From there … Well, I think we see where this particularly unpleasant scenario is going.

(MORE: U.S. qualifying scenarios)

Everyone who knows the U.S. personnel would look at Klinsmann’s selections from last week and immediately circle Jones as “most likely to do something stupid,” and get himself ejected.

Again, it’s hard to see what particular skill, what bigger-picture ability or intangible Jones brings to the United States effort, at either micro or macro level. Klinsmann clearly sees something a lot of us don’t.

Either way, in this case, Jones may have saved Klinsmann from himself.

Pep Guardiola: “Maybe I’m not good enough”

Leave a comment

Pep Guardiola has admitted he “may not be good enough” for his players at Manchester City.

Ahead of City’s clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) Guardiola has been defended his squad after severe criticism from the media.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

City were hammered 4-0 at Everton last weekend, their worst league defeat since 2008 and Guardiola’s worst-ever league defeat as a manager.

With plenty pointing the finger of blame at goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and City’s defense, their manager put himself in the firing line.

“They are good players. I have respect for the guys, so why would I say the guys are not good? So I don’t understand the lack of respect for the professionals when they have been amazing players, and [people saying] they are not good enough for me. Maybe I am not good enough for them,” Guardiola said. “They are Manchester City players, top players. They have a lot of quality. They have shown that many times in the past and this season.”

Mind games.

Guardiola, 46, is no doubt facing the biggest challenge of his season as City look to at least seal a top four spot in this his debut season in England. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has already “said goodbye to the title” and if they lose against red-hot Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium then more questions will be asked of his tactics and if they can work in the Premier League.

So far the possession-based slow build up style has been hot and cold for City, with plenty of counter-attacking teams in the PL (Chelsea, Spurs, Everton, Leicester etc.) having a field day against a shaky defense.

Despite being 10 points off the pace, Guardiola is sticking by his philosophy. One thing really sticks out to me from his first few press conferences in England: “We will see if my style of play can work in the Premier League.”

So far, it’s not.

Watch Live: Liverpool vs. Swansea City (Lineups, Stream)

SWANSEA, WALES - MARCH 16:  Kyle Naughton of Swansea City is closed down by Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on March 16, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool host Swansea City to Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Reds aiming to stretch their unbeaten run at home in the Premier League to 18 games.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Jurgen Klopp is a little concerned with the number of games his team have had to play over the past few weeks, but a victory against the struggling Swans would momentarily move his side just four points behind leaders Chelsea who play on Sunday.

As for Swansea, new manager Paul Clement knows a win would take his team out of the relegation zone and with new signings arriving that would be a massive boost. It would also be a massive ask for the Welsh side to get anything at Anfield but this may be a good time to play Liveprool after their midweek trip to Plymouth in the FA Cup and the EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton coming up on Wednesday.

In team news Liverpool start with Philippe Coutinho once again, while Joel Matip is on the bench after the Reds finally settled the dispute with Cameroon. Swansea hand debuts to new signings Martin Olsson and Tom Carroll.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino. Subs: Karius, Sturridge, Moreno, Lucas, Origi, Matip, Woodburn

Swansea City: Fabianski; Olsson, Mawson, Fernandez, Naughton; Cork, Carroll, Fer; Sigurdsson, Llorente, Routledge. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Amat, Fulton, Dyer, Borja, McBurnie

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Leave a comment

PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
1 Comment

Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.