Will the fabled German lean to pragmatism prevail for Jurgen Klinsmann against Mexico?

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Mexico is reeling, clearly, and the United States is in a better place thanks to a restorative, memorable achievement Friday. Given the initiative in the Jurgen Klinsmann era to press the attack, to pressure teams high up the field – heck, ambitious attacking is in the German manager’s DNA – this might look like the perfect place to carpe that doggone diem and knock the staggering opponents onto their Mexican keesters.

But is it?

In reality, nothing has changed in terms of an American team still missing lots of first-choice defensive pieces.

And nothing has changed in terms of Azteca Stadium being tough as razor wire for collecting points. This is still Mexico, a talented collection even when reduced to a place of lesser confidence. This is still Mexico City, burdened with the thin air (7,200 feet) and smog so thick a U.S. player once told me it was like playing inside a smoky bar.

This is still a stadium of abundant mystique, where Mexico has historically dominated, never mind that draw last month with Jamaica.

(MORE: PST general match preview for  U.S.-Mexico)

A more pragmatic approach seems in order here. After all, even a draw in Mexico City would be seen as a “win” for everyone involved. There’s no question that Klinsmann’s men would feel OK about taking a point from tonight’s match – leaving the Mexicans with just three points from a possible nine, disappointing 105,000 or so fans on hand and stacking yet more hardship on embattled El Tri manager José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre.

That’s not to say the United States should “park the bus” at Azteca, sitting back in an overly defensive crouch and hoping to tie. Klinsmann will always be hard-wired for the win … but how they go after it needs tweaking for this one.

Inside a building where the team owns a meager 1-19-1 record, the tactics and lineups just need prudent adjustment into something slightly less aggressive, perhaps akin to the useful setup that guided his team into a confidence-inspiring win in Italy last year.

That lineup included three defensive-minded midfielders (Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu and Danny Williams) along with just one striker (Jozy Altidore). Similarly, Klinsmann assigned three midfielders (Williams, Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones) to fairly deep roles last August as the United States upset El Tri, 1-0.

It just makes sense to lean a little more defensive in this one. Who cares if critics complain that defensively inclined tactics look too similar to the way of former manager Bob Bradley? Bradley was a good manager, after all, who guided the team to second-round appearance at World Cup 2010. Yes, his tactics were predictable and conservative – and so what?

Klinsmann arrived with a mandate of moving the program forward, of incorporating more creativity and a set-up meant to seize greater initiative. But that shouldn’t be done in a vacuum. No one should be hell-bent to attack to such an extent that all practicality goes out the Mexico City window.

A young United States defense didn’t gain that much experience over 90 character-testing minutes in snowy Denver. Omar Gonzalez, talented as he is stall, and the other young defenders still need protection from positions ahead of them.  And that back line probably needs a lineup adjustment.

Converted midfielder DaMarcus Beasley was the right choice for a home match against a defensively dug-in opponent. That much was clear from the first 30 minutes Friday – the only period of a unique contest where any discernible tactical shape was evident, before deteriorating conditions made it strictly a game of will, wits and ball-winning.

source: ReutersBut Klinsmann should opt for real defenders in this one. Which is why Maurice Edu should be along the U.S. back line, or perhaps one of the younger, true fullbacks, like Justin Morrow. That’s also why Geoff Cameron should remain at right back, helping to pack as much defensive instinct as possible along the back line.

There is still Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (pictured, on right) to deal with.

Playing Beasley further up the field might make sense; he knows the Mexican game and never has a problem honoring defensive duty out of midfield.

None of this is to say the United States should not try to win; but the way Klinsmann and Co. looks for another historic achievement needs wise management.

For instance, in Clint Dempsey the United States has a man who knows how to manage his fitness (limited, having just come off injury with Tottenham), who understands how to select his moments, and who can still go claim a huge goal even when not at his best. That’s exactly what we saw from the current U.S. captain Friday with an immense strike at DSG Park.

So, they could manage with one fewer offensive type in the starting XI.

To keep the score low, protect the defense, look to pick off a goal and get out of Azteca with a point (or, with some luck, all three) would be monumental. It would leave the U.S. drive for Brazil 2014 in a good place.

The only way to erase all the progress in improved team accord made last week would be to take a 3-0 or 4-0 beating in Mexico City – and who north of the border wants to see that?

Conte admits nerves through narrow win over Southampton

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Antonio Conte had bad vibes about Chelsea’s visit from wounded Southampton, and his Blues didn’t make the morning at Stamford Bridge any easier on the Italian boss.

Marcos Alonso scored a free kick goal but the Blues could not find a second in a 1-0 win that had Conte proverbially watching through his fingers.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 1-0 Saints ]

Chelsea moves into a tie for second with Manchester United before the Red Devils play Sunday, and Conte is exhaling after the victory. From the BBC:

“When you do not score the second goal, you have to suffer. You are afraid at every corner and free-kick and the opponent has the chance to draw. We dominated the game, shooting 24 times, hitting the post and we needed to score the second goal to be relaxed.

The Blues outshot Saints 24-6, and Southampton only managed to put two shots on target. Chelsea hosts Bournemouth in a League Cup quarterfinal on Wednesday before returning to Premier League action at Everton on Saturday.

Stoke City 0-3 West Ham United: Arnautovic embraces villain role

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  • Controversial PK helps WHU in front
  • Arnautovic booed all day, makes it 2-0
  • Irons out of the drop zone

Marko Arnautovic got the last laugh on a subplot heavy day at the bet365 Stadium, scoring a goal and constantly threatening his old club as West Ham United beat Stoke City 3-0 on Saturday.

The match was delayed an hour thanks to a power outage, but Arnautovic had the electricity ramped up early and he certainly celebrated his second half goal against his former club with vigor.

Mark Noble converted a controversial Manuel Lanzini-won penalty to make it 1-0, and Diafra Sakho completed the scoring off a Lanzini feed in the win.

David Moyes and West Ham move out of the drop zone with the win, moving 15th with 17 points. Stoke is now just a point ahead of 18th place Newcastle United.

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The home crowd was all over Marko Arnautovic, who left Stoke for West Ham this summer, and the early tackles for both teams showed an ornery nature.

Yet it was Stoke who saw an effort bound off the post in the 17th minute, though the optimism was short-lived as a counter attack saw Manuel Lanzini dive into Erik Pieters to earn a penalty.

Noble converted the penalty, and West Ham was up 1-0 in the 19th.

Butland got the crowd in full throat when he saved villain Arnautovic’s breakaway shot. Then Lanzini knuckled a shot at Butland which the English goalkeeper turned away.

Arnautovic had another chance to burn his old team, but Kevin Wimmer got a slight deflection on his countryman’s 59th minute attempt.

He’d continue to do everything but score, cranking a left-footed shot off the crossbar in the 68th.

Charlie Adams crossed for Ryan Shawcross in the 72nd minute, but the big man couldn’t head the ball down on goal.

Arnautovic finally got his goal on a cute 1-2 with Lanzini, and he certainly celebrated against his old side.

It should’ve been 3-0 thanks to deft work from Chicharito, but Diafra Sakho needed too many touches before back heeling a shot wide of the far post.

Sakho would get his goal off a neat feed from

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Brighton 0-0 Burnley: Seagulls continue barren spell

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  • Seagulls without a win in seven
  • Murray misses first half PK
  • Wood denied twice in second half

Brighton and Hove Albion drew 0-0 with Burnley at the Amex Stadium on Saturday with Chris Hughton‘s side now without a win in seven games and they’ve scored just once in their last six Premier League encounters.

Glenn Murray blazed over a first half penalty kick to add to Brighton’s woes, while Burnley were denied by Mat Ryan in the second half as the spoils were shared.

With the point Burnley move on to 32 points, while Brighton have 18 and are just three points above the drop zone.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Brighton did most of the pressing early on with Murray causing plenty of problems and Burnley could hardly get out of their own half.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson had a shot which flew just wide but that was as close as the Clarets came.

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Before the break Anthony Knockaert‘s shot hit the post and then Lewis Dunk‘s header was cleared off the line by Phil Bardsley, before a massive moment arrived.

James Tarkowski bundled over Murray in the box but the Brighton forward blasted the penalty kick over the bar as the Seagulls wasted a glorious opportunity.

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Chris Wood forced Mat Ryan into a save early in the second half but the chances kept coming for Brighton.

Knockaert squirmed an effort just wide of the far post for Brighton and then Wood had the ball in the net after Scott Arfield was twice denied but he was in an offside position.

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Ryan denied Wood again late on as he closed down the onrushing Burnley forward brilliantly, and both teams had to settle for a point on the South Coast.

Watford 1-4 Huddersfield Town: Mooy at the double for Town

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  • Town build 3-0 lead
  • Mooy scores, converts PK
  • Deeney, Hogg sent off

Aaron Mooy scored a pair of goals and both teams finished with 10 men as Huddersfield Town battered Watford 4-1 on Saturday at Vicarage Road.

Elias Kachunga and Laurent Depoitre also scored for Town, which moves 11th with 21 points.

Abdoulaye Doucoure scored Watford’s goal, as the Hornets stay ninth with just one more point than Town.

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Kachunga caused some early problems for Watford, winning a fifth minute corner kick.

That corner bred another one, and Kachunga deposited it behind Heurelho Gomes after a series of sloppy, cagey touches from both sides.

Kachunga then needed to be removed from the match after just 16 minutes following a left knee injury.

Richarlison had a chance to level the score in the 21st minute, but the tricky shot arrowed over the frame.

Mooy made it 2-0 when Watford missed a pair of chances to deal with a cross and the Australian was in the catbird seat to tap home.

And it went from bad to worse for the Hornets when Troy Deeney picked up a straight red card for a two-footed scissor tackle in the 33rd minute.

Depoitre scored shortly after halftime to pile woe on Marco Silva‘s men. It just wasn’t their day, though a second yellow card to Jonathan Hogg did put both teams on 10 men with 28 minutes to play.

Doucoure put a little drama in the match with a terrific goal from 20 yards, besting Town goalkeeper Jonas Lossl.

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