HOUSTON – The easy picks are Kyle Beckerman, Omar Gonzalez, Graham Zusi and Eddie Johnson, all of whom seem lead pipe locks to start Tuesday against Canada.
(Let’s make that “overmatched” Canada – but that’s another story.)
Based on what I saw last night at the public practice, on what I’ve heard from the three weeks of workouts at the Home Depot Center and on, well, just some good, old-fashioned dart throwing, this is my best guess on how Jurgen Klinsmann will line up his men for tonight’s 8 p.m. CT kickoff in Houston.
Apologies, right away, on the completely lame lack of guess at goalkeeper. Tally Hall was especially strong early in the camp, from what I understand, but Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid caught up and, well, each one has been as solid as the other two. Being honest, I have no idea.
(MORE: Omar Gonzalez more confident)
(MORE: Appearance and reality on Klinsmann’s harsh words)
- There aren’t a lot of natural outside backs in camp, so Tony Beltran and Justin Morrow are great bets to play at some point, if they don’t start.
- LA Galaxy veteran A.J. DeLaGarza has mostly been working as a center back in camp, but we know he can also play on the right. That’s where his previous caps were earned. So he could wind up anywhere along the back line. But I do expect Matt Besler to get his first cap alongside Gonzalez in the middle of the U.S. defense.
- Brad Davis is one of the more experienced men in camp, even if he has just five U.S. caps and no time previously under Klinsmann. Still, considering the lack of midfield options here in Houston, and since this is the Dynamo man’s hometown and home stadium, I like him to start.
- Beckerman has played 11 times under Klinsmann, including seven starts. He’s been the undisputed camp leader. He’ll be in the first 11.
- Zusi could find himself along the right as we saw him last year, although that was in a 4-3-3 look, which is a different set of responsibilities. With Zusi in the middle, the possibilities along the right include Gatt, Brad Evans, Alejandro Bedoya, Mix Diskerud and Benny Feilhaber. Clearly, the attack structure would look different with “wingers” like Gatt or Bedoya out there, as opposed guys who want to lean inside, like Diskerud, Evans or Feilhaber.
- Remember, Gatt closed out 2012 in the starting lineup in the U.S. draw with Russia. And by most accounts, that was a good day for the winger.
- Johnson and Juan Agudelo are the two most talented strikers in camp, although Chris Wondolowski will almost certain get on the field at some point.
WIGAN, England (AP) It was better than a hat trick.
A player for English soccer team Wigan had a night to remember when he scored his second goal before dashing off the field and to the local hospital, where his girlfriend was in labor.
[ MORE: Chelsea advances to UCL Round of 16 after win over Qarabag ]
A picture of Ryan Colclough holding his new-born baby, Harley, while still in his soccer uniform was shared on social media by Wigan chairman David Sharpe.
Colclough said his father, sitting in the stands on Tuesday for Wigan’s 3-0 win over Doncaster in the second division, “gave me the action that the waters had broken,” but he didn’t want to come off until the ball was out of play.
“My head was a little bit battered, but I went and scored, looked at the manager and he said we’ll bring you off now,” Colclough said Wednesday of his 58th-minute goal, which he celebrated by pretending to rock a baby. “I came off and was straight down the tunnel, grabbed my keys and my phone, and went to hospital.”
Colclough had visited the midwife that day, and was told the baby was unlikely to arrive for “another couple of days.”
LILLE, France (AP) French club Lille has provisionally suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa following a string of poor results in the top tier.
[ MORE: Basel stuns Man United late to keep UCL hopes alive ]
The northern side said in a statement that Bielsa has been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club.” Lille did not elaborate.
Bielsa joined Lille this season but has failed to make the club competitive again, with the team second to last after 13 matches.
In today’s Euro Pod Edition, the Robbies breakdown the latest Champions League action. Man United lose at Basel, Chelsea cruise at Qarabag, Spurs impress against Dortmund, Man City continue to win, Liverpool surrender a 3-goal lead against Sevilla. Plus, the guys weigh in on the Oumar Niasse ban for diving and the Tony Pulis sacking.
Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.
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While several teams have already booked their place in the knockout phase, the Europa League reaches its penultimate round on Thursday with many big matches in hand.
[ MORE: Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training ]
Of the two Premier League sides in the competition, only one will advance to the Round of 32, as Arsenal have all but assured themselves of the top spot in Group H. The Gunners can do so tomorrow with a win over Koln or a Red Star Belgrade defeat.
The other end of the spectrum features Everton, who has already been eliminated from reaching the next round after acquiring just one point in its first four matches.
European giants AC Milan can lock up a spot in the knockout phase on Thursday despite the club’s ongoing struggles in Serie A, while fellow Italian side Atalanta can move a step closer to the Round of 32 in Group E along with Lyon.
Here’s the full rundown of Thursday’s UEL matches.
Astana vs. Villareal — 11 a.m. ET
Konyaspor vs. Marseille — 1 p.m. ET
Rosenborg vs. Real Sociedad — 1 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. Vitesse — 1 p.m. ET
Viktoria Plzen vs. Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m. ET
Lokomotiv vs. Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit vs. Vardar — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Vitoria — 1 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao vs. Hertha Berlin — 1 p.m. ET
BATE vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Zorya — 1 p.m. ET
Koln vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET
Nice vs. Zulte Waregem — 1 p.m. ET
Lugano vs. Beer-Sheva — 1 p.m. ET
Ludogorets vs. Istanbul — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga vs. Hoffenheim — 3:05 p.m. ET
AEK vs. Rijeka — 3:05 p.m. ET
AC Milan vs. Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m. ET
Lyon vs. Apollon — 3:05 p.m. ET
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Slavia Praha — 3:05 p.m. ET
Sheriff vs. Zlin — 3:05 p.m. ET
Partizan vs. Young Boys — 3:05 p.m. ET
Skenderbeu vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:05 p.m. ET
Everton vs. Atalanta — 3:05 p.m. ET