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.
(MORE: Opportunity factor high for Omar Gonzalez)
(MORE: Landon Donovan not on U.S. roster)
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.
Barcelona has their eyes set on a new Andres Iniesta.
Sure, projecting anyone to meet Ballon d’Or finalist standards is silly, but news that Barca has had multiple meetings with Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti does inspire comparison hunting.
[ MORE: Klopp explains Lovren extension ]
An influential and creative central midfielder, the 24-year-old Verratti is 8.5 years younger than Iniesta and wowed Barca in the first leg of PSG’s ill-fated UEFA Champions League tie with the Catalans.
Mundo Deportivo, amongst others, reports that Verratti feels life at PSG has gotten stale and that Barca is one of the few clubs that represents a significant jump up in class. He’s also been linked with Real Madrid and Manchester United in the past few transfer windows.
Verratti has a contract through 2020-21, so any purchase will not be cheap considering PSG’s desire to continue growing its status as a UCL contender. The Italian is 21 times capped by the Azzurri.
Liverpool announced a new contract for Dejan Lovren on Friday, complete with the requisite “I love my club” comments from the defender.
Then Jurgen Klopp got his hands on a microphone.
The outspoken manager explained that re-signing Lovren to a new “long-term” deal ensures that the Croatian spends the best years of his career with the Reds.
[ MORE: Top PL Storylines ]
He also spoke plainly about Lovren’s perceived struggles and successes since arriving at Anfield from Southampton in 2014.
From The Liverpool Echo:
“If Dejan played for another club you would want to sign him – and pay a lot of money. He is 27, the best time is still to come.”
“If you’d asked fans after the Dortmund game they would said give him a 20-year contract. After the Palace game fans would have said ‘can we find another team who will have him?’ Truth is somewhere in between.”
Turning to Monday’s trip to Watford, Klopp isn’t concerned about the chance that his Reds will open the day outside the Top Four if Man City and Manchester United both win at the weekend.
He also says the Reds could have Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge at Vicarge Road, though Jordan Henderson remains out.
- Sunderland won 2-1 on Nov. 5
- Fourth meeting since 1990
- Sunderland leads all-time 5W-3D-1L
Sunderland looks to keep its faint hopes of Premier League safety alive by managing a season sweep of Bournemouth when the two sides meet at the Stadium of Light on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).
The Black Cats are a mess, having lost to Tees-Wear Derby rivals Middlesbrough on Wednesday and living 12 points back of 17th place Swansea City.
Bournemouth battered Middlesbrough 4-0 last weekend to move seven points clear of the drop zone, and can finish the day in the top half with a win up north.
What they’re saying
Sunderland boss David Moyes on calls for him to quit: “I’m here, I’m the manager, you take it on the chin. … I’m a football supporter, I know what it’s like. You don’t like seeing your team lose. There is nobody who wants to win more than me. I am used to winning, I’m not used to losing and I don’t want to get used to it either.”
Bournemouth captain Simon Francis on Sunderland’s woes: “It just show how things can happen when clubs are not run properly. If we do lose Sunderland from the Premier League it will be a real shame. They are an enormous club and playing at grounds like theirs is the pinnacle of anyone’s career.”
The Black Cats haven’t quit, but manage two fewer points than they need, all but heading for the Championship after a 2-2 draw.
- Hull won 2-1 on Nov. 6
- Tigers two points clear of drop zone
- Saints lead all-time 23W-20D-15L
After back-to-back losses to Man City and Chelsea, Saints meet a different kind of desperation when Hull City arrives at St. Mary’s (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
With a win, Hull can move five points clear of the final relegation spot and heap pressure on Swansea City, who plays Sunday. With a loss, Marco Silva’s men open the 17th place door for Swans.
[ MORE: JPW on Romeu the Destroyer ]
Since the start of the 2011-12 season in the Championship, Southampton has won six of seven matches against Hull. That seventh, however, was the match at the KCOM Stadium earlier this season, one that saw now-West Ham man Robert Snodgrass spur a Tigers comeback.
Saints open the day four points back of eighth place West Brom, and also hold a match-in-hand on the Baggies.
What they’re saying
Saints boss Claude Puel on slump busting: “After two losses it’s important to move forward now and take points on Saturday in front of our own fans. We have to improve in the right areas and find a good balance of play, but also a good clinical edge in both penalty areas.”
Marco Silva on Hull’s away troubles: ““We have conceded goals on the counter-attack away from home in games when the result has been looking good for us – we cannot make it possible for our opponents to do this to us. The second goal we conceded at Stoke is an example of this – conceded at a time when we were in control of the game. Details like this are making the difference and these are things we must look to change. This is clear to me and I pass this on to my players.”
Saints have more quality than Hull, but may not have as much fire in the belly. Still, home field means a lot here and Southampton should reverse the score line from November’s tilt. 2-1, with Manolo Gabbiadini and Dusan Tadic leading the way.