Jurgen Klinsmann, Mix Diskerud and comments that may sound harsh – but probably aren’t

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HOUSTON – If there is one guiding tenet of Jurgen Klinsmann’s philosophy that he has poured as a foundation of his program, it’s the constant drive for individual improvement.

Doing well with your club? Fantastic. Now do more!

Doing well enough to join the national team? Wonderful! Now do more.

Getting into some games for our United States of America? You go, boy! Now what else you got?

A bigger club wants you? Suh-weet!  But, uh, you still gotta keep improving.

We saw the very same thing under Bob Bradley, who pulled the first-timers aside and explained in no uncertain terms that arrival into the team was a starting point. Loose translation: “You are not there yet, kid … so don’t think you are.”

Klinsmann has just made that comprehensive crusade for personal advance – I like to call it the “blessedness of discontent” – a bigger slice of the overall program management pie.

(MORE: Who is this year national team breakout player?)

We see it again today with Mix Diskerud, the technically gifted and versatile midfielder who is pushing his way up the order. His nearby competition seems to be Benny Feilhaber (also in the current camp) and Sacha Kljestan (not in the camp).

All are roughly the same kind of player, technically gifted “tweeners” who aren’t really midfield hard men, aren’t really classic playmakers and aren’t really two-way linking men or hell-bent work horses. But they all have some qualities of each position.

At any rate, Klinsmann clearly sees something in Diskerud, 22, who recently moved to Norway’s top side, Rosenborg. Klinsmann says the coaches see Diskerud’s good qualities … but that they notice his current limitations, too.

Mix brings a lot of qualities, but he also needs to learn to become more robust, to become more physical, to not be kind of just moving around and not getting into real battles. You know, battles are everywhere; we all go into battles. This is something he will pick up the more he is playing in a certain environment, and so we are there to kind of guide him in that process.”

By the way, none of this is ever said with a derisive lean. For Klinsmann, it’s always about going farther, about pushing ahead.

Which is why I would imagine last week’s comments from Klinsmann on Clint Dempsey probably sounded surprising. They did sound harsh. But anyone who has followed the preternaturally positive U.S. manager has heard him say the same thing. Over and over. It’s never about criticizing the last move, although you could certainly have read his comments on Dempsey in last week’s Wall Street Journal piece that way. Rather, it’s Klinsmann’s colloquial way of saying “Great! Now what? Where will you take it from here.”

Video: Fekir’s brilliant free kick has Lyon leading PSG

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Paris-Saint Germain has established itself as one of Europe’s best sides, but their opponent on Sunday isn’t playing scared against Neymar and Co.

[ MORE: Spurs, Saints play to 1-1 draw at St. Mary’s ]

Lyon has taken a 1-0 lead inside the opening two minutes against the Parisians after a stunning free kick by Nabil Fekir caught PSG keeper Alphonse Aréola off his line.

The hosts could move all the way up to second place today with a victory over PSG, who holds the league lead in Ligue 1 with a nine-point advantage.

The 24-year-old Fekir has been a revelation for Lyon in his fifth season with the club, scoring his 19th goal in all competitions on Sunday.

That total has already surpassed his career-high from the 2014/15 season, when he eclipsed 15 goals.

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie injured in Schalke draw

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Look away, U.S. Men’s National Team fans.

American and Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie was forced out of Sunday’s 1-1 Bundesliga draw against Hanover 96 after the 19-year-old collided with Felix Kraus.

McKennie, who entered the match in the 62nd minute for Leon Goretzka, managed to stay on the field for nearly 20 minutes before being substituted out.

To this point there has been no indication that the young USMNT player’s injury is serious.

More to follow…

Watford announces Gracia as Silva replacement

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Watford’s replacement for fired manager Marco Silva is indeed veteran Spanish boss Javi Gracia.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

The Hornets announced the 47-year-old’s hiring on Sunday, hours after firing Silva and blaming Everton’s pursuit of the manager for the club’s fall from European contender to the fringe of a relegation battle.

Watford is still four points clear of the drop following Southampton’s draw with Spurs on Sunday.

Gracia led Malaga to eighth and ninth place finishes in La Liga between 2014-16 before spending last season at Rubin Kazan.

Gracia, 47, has led promotion campaigns in Spain and has plenty of experience with perceived smaller clubs battling the drop zone.

Watford will hope the Hornets don’t reach that point after flirting with the Top Seven for the first quarter of the Premier League season.

Pochettino on sloppy Spurs draw, dismisses Malcom “rumor”

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Mauricio Pochettino knows St. Mary’s well, and the ex-Southampton boss has managed a rainy, sloppy match or three there in the past.

[ RECAP: Saints 1-1 Spurs ]

So he knows it’s possible to play well in those circumstances, leaving him feeling like Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday was a wasted opportunity against a struggling Saints side.

“It is temporary that Southampton are in the relegation zone, for sure they will push up the table,” Pochettino said. “It is two points we are going to miss at the end of the season because it is so tough between six or seven teams.”

[ MORE: Bertrand reacts to draw ]

So why couldn’t Spurs find their foothold? Well, aside from sickness keeping Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris out of the lineup, a bug that may’ve affected more on the team, Spurs just weren’t up to snuff.

“We struggled to play,” Pochettino said. “It was in possession, we made mistakes which allowed them to play. To win the game we should do better and play better. It wasn’t great.

Pochettino was also asked about Spurs’ reported pursuit of 20-year-old Bordeaux star Malcom, who has seven goals and five assists in Ligue 1 this season.

“That is a rumor and I don’t want to speak about it. I am happy with our squad. We are open to quality players but you know very well it is difficult in this transfer window.”