What is important to remember in considering the selections named Sunday for the national team’s annual January camp was a little droplet of distinction we told you last week.
Past January camps were largely used to introduce new talent into the U.S. player pool. Coaches got a long look-see over two or three weeks, and players learned more about the speed of thought, speed and play and general demands of the international game.
This time around, with final round World Cup qualifying so near, and with a busy summer ahead that will necessitate reaching deeply into the player pool, the camp roster more accurately reflects the true depth chart.
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Generally, we are told, these are the 25 healthy bodies who would be called when the very front line men playing abroad (the obvious ones, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, etc.) are not available.
With that in mind, here quickly are the surprises:
- Interesting to see Philadelphia’s Jeff Parke get a call. He was in last year’s camp, so that’s not the surprising part. Rather, it’s that he has remained ahead of FC Dallas’ George John, who was called into last year’s camp but was pulled out immediately when a loan to West Ham.
- Incidentally, the Union says Parke is the first active player for the club to be called into a U.S. national team camp.
- Benny Feilhaber’s inclusion was something of a surprise. Not because he doesn’t have the talent, but simply because he became something of a forgotten man in 2012. After starting the first match last year for Klinsmann, we never heard from the playmaking midfielder again on the national team. Later in the summer, he lost his starting spot in New England – again, not due to flagging talent. So, there is clearly an opportunity here for a Feilhaber “do over.” He had better keep his head down, work hard and take advantage.
- Looking at the goalkeepers, you’d have to think this is where Klinsmann is using the camp for some initial inspections. Otherwise, Nick Rimando would be in California today.
- If the RSL man has somehow slipped on the depth chart, then you might wonder if Tally Hall, at age 27, is now the third U.S. goalkeeper, ahead of the much younger Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson?
- Steven Beitashour, Justin Morrow, Tony Beltran and Connor Lade (pictured) are all outside backs and all national team newbies – although all deserving of closer inspection. On the other hand, Heath Pearce and Zach Loyd, each of whom started a game at left back last January, have apparently been lapped.
- Same for Jeff Larentowicz and Ricardo Clark; they both started one of the two January matches a year back, but neither made the 25-man camp this time around.
- Eight players among the 25 are uncapped at full international level: Hall, Beitashour, Morrow, Beltran, Lade, Matt Besler, Will Bruin and Alfredo Morales.
- Considering his poor season with the LA Galaxy, you’d have to consider Edson Buddle’s inclusion a surprise. Buddle had three goals in 2012 – or 15 fewer than New York’s Kenny Cooper, who did not receive a call-up. You’d have to think Buddle’s name would not be on the list if D.C. United’s Chris Pontius was healthy at the moment.
With Wayne Rooney‘s future left uncertain at Old Trafford, could a potential return to Everton be in the works?
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Toffees manager Ronald Koeman certainly hopes so.
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Rooney, 31, has fallen out of favor with Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho recently, leaving the Englishman on the brink of a move away from the Red Devils.
The veteran attacker has posted just one goal and two assists in eight Premier League matches this season, leaving Koeman optimistic about a Rooney return to Goodison Park for the first time since 2004.
“First of all, I think it is a great player, and he has still not finished his career,” he said. “I do not know how his situation is, and I need to respect that situation. That’s not my problem.
“But even when we get one time the possibility that Rooney is an option for Everton, I’m very pleased.”
While it’s merely speculation at this point that Rooney will in fact leave Old Trafford this season, Mourinho’s recent tendencies of dropping the attacker suggest that the long-time England goalscorer will find a new destination.
Koeman has reinvigorated Everton since his arrival over the summer, bringing the Toffees up to sixth in the PL.
Following a third straight year without playoff soccer, the Houston Dynamo have turned to face in an attempt to revitalize the club.
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The Dynamo announced on Friday that the team has hired Wilmer Cabrera as the organization’s fourth head coach in franchise history, following a recent coaching stint with the Dynamo’s USL affiliate Rio Grande Valley FC Toros.
“I am excited to join the Houston Dynamo. It’s a great club with a great history, and I am ready for the challenge,” Cabrera said via a press release from the club. “I look forward to working with the ownership group, management, our staff and the players to return the Dynamo to the level that the club and our fans deserve and expect.”
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Cabrera, 48, holds a wealth of experience as both a player and manager, which includes his playing days with the Colombia national team during the 1980s and 1990s. The former defender previously managed now-defunct MLS side Chivas USA as well as the U.S. Under-17 national team.
Antonio Conte has been called a mastermind in the past for his unconventional tactics. Now, it’s those same tactics that are making him look the part of a genius yet again at Stamford Bridge.
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Since changing his system to a 3-4-3 following Chelsea’s gutting 3-0 defeat against Arsenal last month, the Blues have gone on to win three straight Premier League matches, including a recent 4-0 drubbing of Manchester United on Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge.
As important as the results are for Chelsea at the moment, the even more impressive aspect is the way that the Blues are winning matches. In their three consecutive victories, Conte’s side has failed to concede a goal, which has helped bring Chelsea to within a point at the summit of the PL.
Not only do the supporters appreciate Conte’s willingness to adapt and build a team that plays up to its greatest potential, but defender Cesar Azpilicueta is one of the many players that have uttered similar sentiments about the Italian’s tactics.
“I find it good. The most important thing for me is the team and since we changed the system we haven’t conceded goals in the Premier League,” he told Sky Sports.
“I try to play my part in the team. The most important part of the system is the spirit of the team and the way we work. The tactics make a difference but what was most pleasing was the way the team work made it happen. Some players have different roles now but we have all week to work on that and we have a very clear idea what to do in the game. We have different options from the attacking fullbacks now.”
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Azpilicueta has been one of three key figures for Chelsea at the back since Conte made the switch defensively, joining Gary Cahill
and David Luiz
in a partnership that looks hard to crack at the moment.
Despite some talks linking a possible two or even three nation bid for the 2026 World Cup, Mexico has opened the door for El Tri to host the world’s biggest football competition for a record third time.
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Mexico Football Federation president Decio de Maria recently told ESPN that he and his country are prepared to go ahead with a bid for the 2026 edition of the tournament with or without any hypothetically joint bid.
“I don’t know [whether we would pursue a joint bid] but the rules are already open to it,” De Maria said. “What was agreed upon makes the path perfectly clear.
“Mexico will be in the hunt to host the 2026 World Cup.”
In addition to Mexico, the United States has been considered an early favorite to be named hosts in 2026 after losing out to Qatar for the 2022 competition. The U.S., Mexico and Canada have also been linked with a joint bid between the three CONCACAF nations, as the region looks to bring the World Cup back to North America for the first time since 1994 (when the U.S. hosted).
Mexico previously hosted the World Cup in 1970 and 1986, and is one of four nations to have held the tournament on home soil more than once.