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.
Carlos Lizarazo’s ridiculous rocket shook rain off the net in an aesthetically pleasing CONCACAF Champions League goal on Thursday.
The Cruz Azul loanee struck a vicious shot for FC Dallas’ fifth goal, which boosted out of the No. 8 seed for the quarterfinals after a 5-2 win at Suchitepéquez in Guatemala.
[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]
Lizarazo, 25, had two goals in 10 appearances for FCD heading into the game, with both coming in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Major League Soccer will have three teams in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League thanks to FC Dallas’ thrilling comeback win on Thursday.
FCD beat Guatemalan side Suchitepéquez 5-2 at the Estadio Mateo Flores after going down by a pair of first half goals.
[ WATCH: Pogba’s classy UEL goal ]
Carlos Gruezo and Matt Hedges helped Dallas to level terms by halftime, and Atiba Harris scored just after the break to put FCD ahead. An own goal and a must-watch Carlos Lizarazo 90th minute wonderstrike gave us the final scoreline. Gruezo also added an assist.
A tie would’ve been enough to send Dallas through atop Group H, but the big win moves it ahead of New York Red Bulls. FCD will finish seventh at worst.
FCD joins Vancouver and New York Red Bulls as the MLS representatives in the tournament, and the league will have at-worst the joint-most clubs in the quarters.
[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]
Mexican sides UANL Tigres and Pachuca are quarterfinalists, while Panamanian side Arabe Unido and Costa Rican stalwarts Saprissa advanced as well.
The field’s eighth team will be set after the 10 p.m. ET matchup between Honduras Progreso and Mexico’s UNAM.
The Whitecaps are the No. 1 seed, and could well match-up with the Red Bulls if there is a winner between UNAM and Honduras Progreso. If Honduras Progreso advances via draw, the Hondurans will be the No. 8 seed.
NEW YORK (AP) A Florida businessman pleaded guilty in New York to conspiracy charges Thursday in a scheme to pay bribes to high-ranking soccer officials in exchange for media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches.
Aaron Davidson, 45, entered the plea in Brooklyn federal court. Sentencing before U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen was set for April 24, when Davidson could face decades in prison. As part of his plea, he agreed to forfeit more than a half-million dollars.
[ WATCH: Pogba’s classy goal ]
Davidson was arrested last year in the FIFA probe after prosecutors said soccer officials accepted $150 million in bribes over a 24-year period in exchange for rigging bids for lucrative marketing rights. Davidson ran a Miami-based marketing firm. He was arrested along with more than a dozen other people in a case prosecuted in the United States on the grounds that illegal payments used U.S. banks and those involved conducted meetings in the United States.
Prosecutors said Davidson negotiated and agreed to make bribe payments totaling more than $14 million, executing multiple criminal schemes including the agreement to pay bribes to a high-ranking official of FIFA, CONCACAF, the Caribbean Football Union and one of FIFA’s national member associations.
[ MORE: Why Pogba took PK over Rooney ]
The government said the bribes were paid to secure lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches for his company, Traffic USA, and its business partners.
Prosecutors said those sports events included FIFA World Cup qualifiers, the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League, among others.
The government said its investigation continues.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is open to the idea of the UEFA Champions League final being played outside Europe.
Specifically, Ceferin thinks about New York.
[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]
Ceferin said Thursday that staging the first ever UCL final away from Europe would be discussed at some point.
“To go from Portugal to Azerbaijan for example is almost the same or the same as if you go to New York. For the fans it’s no problem but we should see. It’s a European competition so let’s think about it.”
Given the preseason matches played in the United States, China, and Australia, it makes sense to stage an important UEFA match outside Europe. Those first two countries especially aim to become power players in the game, and certainly it would benefit UEFA to showcase its absolute finest (if only as a reminder).
We don’t get to see entire first teams playing the game in earnest when friendlies hit U.S. soil, and the successful Copa America showed UEFA that CONMEBOL and CONCACAF trust the States with critical matches.
Selfishly, of course we want this. And selfishly, of course Europe wants to keep it. Their fans wouldn’t necessarily want to take an incredibly expensive trip to see a UCL final.