When Jurgen Klinsmann says “8 or 9” of the talented Americans taking part in the January camp will land on the World Cup qualifier roster for a trip into Honduras, we understand it’s a ballpark number subject to injuries or other fluid factors.
Still, it’s a number, one that gives us something to grab hold of and build some speculation around.
So let’s have some fun with an exercise that falls somewhere between forecasting and guessing, and look at which players might find their way that list.
Some fall under “no-brainers,” a guy like Graham Zusi, for instance. Others will be determined by performance in the ongoing camp and in the Jan. 29 friendly in Houston against Canada.
So here’s an early look at which “8 or 9” Klinsmann may ultimately name:
- GK Bill Hamid / or Sean Johnson: Because this will be a clear No. 3, and because at this point, these guys seem to remain interchangeable for purposes of the role (which amounts to “Break glass in case of emergency), it’s hard to make a distinction. (Klinsmann, by the way, recently talked about the need for taking a third goalkeeper on qualifier trips. Basically, what if Tim Howard is hurt in training a day before the match, or during pre-game warm-ups? In that case, they need a game-day backup, most likely for Brad Guzan.)
- CB Omar Gonzalez: If Carlos Bocanegra, Geoff Cameron and Clarence Goodson are healthy, then center back spots are filling quickly. Still, Klinsmann understands the need to begin blooding Gonzalez, so it seems smart to bring him on as many trips as possible. Perhaps this isn’t the best place to make the big change, but bringing the commanding Galaxy center back seems to make sense.
- DF A.J. DeLaGarza: This is where it all gets a little complicated; Assuming the first choice right backs and left backs are available (roughly speaking, Steve Cherundolo, Michael Parkhurst, Fabian Johnson and Timothy Chandler) ,then there’s little room for all those U.S. outside back hopefuls now in camp: Tony Beltran, Connor Lade, Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow. In that case, the back line may be full. If anyone makes sense, it’s the versatile DeLaGarza, who can play on the right or in the middle. (Then again, so can Michael Parkhurst.)
- MF Kyle Beckerman (pictured): He has slipped behind Danny Williams in the playing rotation, but Klinsmann loves the Real Salt Lake veteran’s professionalism and consistency in training, which keeps the collective intensity at high rev.
- MF Graham Zusi: Pretty much a no-brainer based on his rise in 2012 in the program. Not to mention that Zusi can play centrally or, as he has recently in the U.S. shirt, wide on the right.
- MF Mix Diskerud: It’s probably down to a choice between Benny Feilhaber and Diskerud. Feilhaber is slightly more attack-minded, with a better ability to pass through packed defenses. But Diskerud may be slightly more versatile, which helps.
- FW Juan Agudelo: Maybe this should come with an asterisk, since the Chivas USA striker isn’t actually in camp yet. He remains in Great Britain on a training spell – and questions linger about whether he will even return to the States or leave on transfer? But for this list, same difference I suppose.
- FW Eddie Johnson: The quality of competition is clearly better in this stage, but the Sounders striker was productive in two semifinal round appearances last fall. So, he’s earned it.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.