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.”

Jonas nets 2 late goals to keep Benfica in title hunt

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Jonas scored two late goals to lead Benfica’s 3-1 comeback win at Pacos Ferreira on Saturday, keeping it close to Portuguese league leader FC Porto.

Jonas equalized in the 72nd minute and gave the defending champion the lead in the 88th.

[ MORE: Man United-Chelsea meet in giant Sunday PL clash ]

Rafa Silva added a third goal after the host was reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when Gian dos Santos was shown a direct red card.

Luiz Phellype gave Pacos Ferreira the lead in the ninth.

The double increased Jonas’ league-leading tally to 27 goals.

Benfica moved to within two points of Porto before the pacesetter visits Portimonense on Sunday.

Sporting Lisbon is third at five points behind Porto. It hosts Moreirense on Monday.

Orlando City trades defender Jose Aja to Whitecaps for allocation money

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The Vancouver Whitecaps have struck a deal with an Eastern Conference side to help solidify their back line.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson leads Werder Bremen to win ]

On Saturday, the Cascadia club finalized a deal to acquire Orlando City defender Jose Aja in exchange for $125,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) for 2019.

Additionally, Orlando could receive another $100,000 in TAM if Aja remains on the Whitecaps roster next season and a 2021 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick if Aja is in Canada for the 2020 campaign.

Aja has made 25 appearances for Orlando since coming to MLS in 2016 from his native Uruguay.

The timing of the deal is intriguing, given Tim Parker’s willingness to exit the Whitecaps ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

PST reported on Thursday that Parker is seeking a move back to the East Coast, and the New York-native is being tracked by several Eastern Conference sides, including the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United and the Montreal Impact.

Parker is considered one of the top American defenders in MLS, and is actively seeking a massive pay raise ahead of the new season, after making just under $100,000 in 2017.

PL Sunday preview: Red Devils battle Chelsea at Old Trafford

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It will surely be one of the biggest fixtures of the season when Manchester United and Chelsea get together on Sunday, and for both clubs a victory could be vital in projecting their form for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.

Meanwhile, a crucial meeting at Selhurst Park pits teams on opposite ends of the table against one another. Crystal Palace enters the weekend levels on points with 18th-place Swansea, while Tottenham could leap Chelsea for fourth if results go in favor of Spurs.

[ MORE: Liverpool continues to score at lightning pace against West Ham ]

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The injury bug has hit Palace hard as of late, with a total of 12 senior team players being left out of Roy Hodgson‘s squad. The list includes Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye and Mamadou Sakho, which won’t make things easy against a talented Spurs side.

Tottenham have had a ton of success in this fixture recently, winning the last five encounters and only allowing one goal in the process.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have hit the ground running in the second half of the season thus far, picking up a league-high 15 points in the Premier League since the start of 2018.

If there is a saving grace for the Eagles though, it is that Palace has been solid at home this season, and gone unbeaten in nine of its last 10 fixtures at Selhurst.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN

After a pair of draws from the PL sides kicked off their Champions League Round of 16 campaigns midweek, United and Chelsea can now focus their attention back to England; at least for the time being.

Jose Mourinho’s team came away from Seville with a crucial scoreless draw after the hosts tested goalkeeper David De Gea on numerous occasions, while Chelsea were close to pulling out a victory against Barcelona had it not been for a big-time mistake from Andreas Christensen late in the match.

Nonetheless, this is a fixture that always garners significant attention, especially from the Blues, who tend to have a better go of it. United has won just once against Chelsea in their last 14 fixtures, with the lone victory coming last season.

That said, Antonio Conte and his side have failed to exemplify consistency this year, and that includes road matches. The Blues have just two road wins in their last nine attempts across all competitions, which bodes well for the Red Devils.

The good news for Chelsea is the recent form of attacking duo Willian and Eden Hazard. The Brazilian was constantly in dangerous positions up the pitch against the Blaugrana in their recent UCL encounter, nabbing the lone goal for the Blues, while Hazard has scored six times in his last six PL matches.

The 2 Robbies: Unstoppable Liverpool, Man United-Chelsea and more

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In today’s episode, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss Liverpool’s emphatic win over West Ham (0:17), breakdown an extremely complicated relegation situation where nearly half of the league is in jeopardy of going down (10:05), before closing the show with a preview of tomorrow’s Man United v. Chelsea match (28:10).

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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