Jurgen Klinsmann talks U.S. roster, Clint Dempsey’s fitness and Carlos Bocanegra omission

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Why didn’t Jurgen Klinsmann include captain Carlos Bocanegra for the upcoming pair of World Cup qualifiers? There’s no mystery here, the U.S. manager said.

The veteran U.S. defender isn’t playing for Racing de Santander. Lacking the form and rhythm of regular matches (at a Spanish second division club, no less), Bocanegra could not be expected to perform at a high level internationally.

“With Carlos I had several very good conversations,” Klinsmann said. “The reason he is not here is simply he is not playing.”

The coach did insist during a Monday afternoon teleconference, where he talked about the 23-man roster announced Monday, that Bocanegra’s national team career is not necessarily finished at 110 caps.

“Carlos is still in the picture,” Klinsmann said of the U.S. defender who turns 34 in May. “This is not the end of his international career.”

He talked about the unfortunate situation with Rangers – the financially troubled Scottish giant was forced to dump or, as with Bocanegra, loan out players late last summer – and of the former U.S. captain’s need to get into a more favorable club situation this summer.

(MORE: U.S. lineup announced for qualifiers ahead)

Other highlights of Klinsmann’s national news conference, held in Denver, site of Friday’s qualifier clash with Costa Rica:

  • Twice in the 30-minute call the U.S. coach called Friday’s match a “must-win.” Not that we needed Klinsmann to tell us that … but he did, anyway.
  • Klinsmann talked briefly, although not in much depth, about “other options” out of midfield as options to play fullback. We know DaMarcus Beasley is one of them because he has played there before in World Cup qualifiers (during the 2010 cycle). In fact, he spoke highly of the Puebla man. “He can solve different things, in different positions if needed,” Klinsmann said. “His personality is always as a giving person to the group, to our team. So we have always followed him over last 18 months … therefore, we are happy to have him back in the group.”

(MORE: Looking at the perilously thin, young U.S. back line)

  • Klinsmann said he is not worried about Michael Bradley’s diminishing playing time of late at Serie A club AS Roma. Klinsmann speaks regularly to all players about their club situation, and Bradley is no different. The U.S. manager does not appear concerned. “I’m just curious to hear his side of it. But Michael is the kind of player, maybe if he is on the bench for one game or two, he finds his way back on the field again quickly. And we are confident he is doing that as well.”
  • (I see zero possibility that Bradley will not be on the field Friday against Costa Rica. And probably once again Tuesday against Mexico.)
  • Klinsmann said he has already decided on a captain, but isn’t revealing it just yet. As Bocanegra, Tim Howard and Landon Donovan are all out, there appears to be two logical choices: Clint Dempsey or Bradley.
  • Can Dempsey, with limited playing and training time recently due to injury, go a full match in high altitude venues? No worries, Klinsmann says: “We are confident he can go the distance in both games.”
  • He said Tony Beltran and Justin Morrow are starting candidates based on performance in the U.S. January camp. The trouble is, Beltran probably isn’t a starting candidate based on his sluggish performance in the match against Canada to punctuate that January camp. (Beltran was carrying a bit of an injury, so that deserves mention.) Morrow looked OK in the match down in Houston, a scoreless draw.
  • About the Honduras loss to open final stage CONCACAF qualifying, Klinsmann is clearly ready to move on – even if others don’t necessarily feel the same. “There’s no need for us to discuss [the Honduras] loss anymore.”

Giovinco strikes twice to lift Toronto FC to Canadian Championship (video)

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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Sebastian Giovinco scored twice including in stoppage time as Toronto FC overcame Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla’s fantastic strike to win 2-1 in the second leg of the Canadian Championship at BMO Field on Tuesday.

TFC held the advantage after a 1-1 first leg in Montreal. The Reds advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Tabla, who just turned 18 in March, is an Ivorian-born Canadian youth international who now has four senior goals for the Impact.

Montreal veteran Patrice Bernier saw red in the 89th minute, putting the Impact’s chances behind the 8-ball.

[ MORE: USMNT Gold Cup questions ]

Toronto FC entered the match with a road goal advantage, which was undone in the quick flash of a left-foot, as Tabla dug a ball from underneath him and past a flying Clint Irwin to make it 2-1 on aggregate.

The goal was a double whammy for Toronto, which went to the break knowing it would need to score twice (or win in penalty kicks) to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Yet TFC came back after a horrendous pass from Montreal, as Michael Bradley pinged a gorgeous diagonal ball to Sebastian Giovinco. The Atomic Ant recovered from a tough opening touch to bury his chance. 1-1.

And, oh yeah, watch this man work for his second…

Who is Kenny Saief, and other USMNT Gold Cup personnel questions

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Kenny Saief is an 23-year-old American left-sided player with UEFA Champions League experience.

So why do we know so little about the Miami-born man?

The answer is pretty straight-forward: Saief’s entire career has been under-the-radar. After coming up through a series of Israeli teams, he moved to KAA Gent in Belgium. None of those matches, even adding in his representing the full Israel national team twice, got a ton of play on American soil.

[ MORE: Saul scores stunner for Spain U-21s ]

So when Saief filed his one-time switch to represent the United States, paving the way for a USMNT call-up for this summer’s Gold Cup, even those of us who’d followed his career from afar had put a limited amount of actual observation on match footage.

So here’s the long-and-short:

  • Saief turns 24 in December.
  • He moved to Gent from Israeli second tier side Ramat haSharon in 2014.
  • Played a total of 35 minutes in friendlies versus Serbia and Croatia.
  • Saief has 20 total appearances between the Europa and Champions Leagues.
  • Posted a UCL assist versus Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 Round of 16.
  • Had goal, 2 assists in UEL this season, played 180 mins vs. Spurs.
  • Has 15 goals, 9 assists in 107 apps for Gent.

Saief should get an opportunity to make an impact for Bruce Arena’s USMNT, perhaps as soon as Saturday’s friendly against Ghana in East Hartford.

Who else stands a chance to gain the most from this tournament?

Joe Corona — The 26-year-old made his thirst-inducing name in American soccer circles by scoring a pair of goals in the 2013 Gold Cup, but has just 17 caps to his name. His call-up over veterans like Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan either shows how high he’s risen or how far those veterans have fallen.

Cristian Roldan — Seattle’s hard-nosed midfielder was playing college ball at Washington just three years ago, and it’s not crazy to think strong performances could boost him onto the radar of bigger clubs abroad (let alone make him a mainstay along Kellyn Acosta with the USMNT).

Dom Dwyer — If Roldan’s rise is surprising, Dwyer’s really is astounding. It’s easy to forget that the Sporting KC star forward was playing junior college soccer in 2010 before spending one season of Division I soccer with South Florida. Now he has 57 MLS goals and a look at becoming the clinical finisher the American side has wanted for some time.

Justin Morrow and Eric Lichaj — The 29- and 28-year-old fullbacks would love to prove their mettle is as good if not better than Jorge Villafana, the current front-runner to start at left back should the Yanks complete their revitalized run to the World Cup. Lichaj, a Nottingham Forest veteran, is also adept at right back.

This isn’t to say that Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe won’t benefit from strong tournaments, but the names above have either been rescued from soccer’s scrap heap or at least Jurgen Klinsmann’s prison.

PODCAST: Bob Bradley talks MLS past, USMNT

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Scott Nicholls and Otis Earle welcomed Bob Bradley to their “Beyond The Pitch” podcast to discuss his time coaching the Chicago Fire, the Fire’s current squad, how MLS has evolved, the new generation of players coming into the USMNT and more.

Perhaps most interesting is Bradley talking about previous losses with stinging emotion that sounds like they happened yesterday, including the 2000 MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Latest Men In Blazers pod ]

Since being fired from Swansea City after less than 100 days, Bradley has been linked with the Norway national team gig as well as a return to Los Angeles. Keep up with the U.S. coach here, and check out the podcast here:

U.S. Open Cup preview: Which underdog has best odds?

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Every dog has its day, and the three lower-tier clubs remaining in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are hoping for a second.

Miami FC, Sacramento Republic, and FC Cincinnati enjoyed wins over Major League Soccer sides in the fourth round, and now get further MLS tests in this week’s fifth round.

[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]

Once FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids tangle on Tuesday, attention turns to the underdogs on Wednesday. Who has the best chance to advance?

  1. Miami FC vs. Atlanta United — Playing an MLS expansion side at Riccardo Silva Stadium will give Miami a bit of confidence, and this is also a side with some good experience in pressure spots. Whether it’s manager Alessandro Nesta or MLS vets Michel, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Lahoud, MFC won’t shy away. Upset chance: Solid.
  2. FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire — The visitors are having a heck of a season in MLS and don’t have a group which will be worried by a huge crowd, but there’s no debating that 25,000-plus in Southern Ohio give FCC more than a puncher’s chance. Upset chance: Improbable, but possible
  3. LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic — If LA puts something close to its best side out there, Sacramento will struggle to stop its attack.  Upset chance: Long shot.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, New England hosts DC United, Philadelphia visits the Red Bulls, Seattle is off to San Jose, and Houston hosts Sporting KC.