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Was Tim Howard’s injury a tiny blessing in disguise?


No one should ever find joy in athlete injury; remember what they say about karma being a “you-know-what.”

As such, none of the good, sweet, clean U.S. Soccer supporters would ever be “happy” that Tim Howard fell to injury three weeks ago at Everton, causing the highly respected American backstopper to also miss two massive World Cup qualifiers for his homeland.

But now that it’s over, now that Howard is once again stately guardian of Goodison  Park goal – pitching a shutout while presiding over his team’s 1-0 win Saturday against Stoke City – it seems OK to chew on this bit of delicious gristle:

Was all this a positive thing in the long run for Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team?

Brad Guzan (pictured) was flawless in goal over two U.S. nights. The duty was hardly extensive in that memorable March 22 fluffy white madness outside Denver, but what Guzan did handle that snowy evening required military grade attention, not to mention the surest of gloved hand. Four nights later in Mexico City, heady and hardy U.S. center back play prevented Guzan from being stretched too often. But again, what the U.S. backup did that cool evening at Azteca, he did with calm assurance and impeccable technique.

So … now we know.

We all suspected Guzan, so heroically nimble and well-placed this year while standing in the shooting gallery of Villa Park, had the stuff to handle the pressure cooker of a World Cup qualifying effort approaching the skids. (We did tell you so, after all.) But suspecting is one thing; putting on your flight suit while standing on deck beneath the “Mission accomplished” banner is something quite different.

Howard will be back in goal next time around. No need for Klinsmann to over-think this one, eh? It’s Howard as No. 1, now with Guzan as No. 1A.

It does help put this drive for Brazil 2014 into a better place, knowing a highly capable backup is around to stave off significant dropoff should Howard become less available once again.

Klopp’s Liverpool squad enthusiasm: “Everything is there”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09:  Jurgen Klopp is unveiled as the new manager of Liverpool FC during a press conference at Anfield on October 9, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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It isn’t Dortmund, but that’s a good thing for Liverpool.

Our own Joe Prince-Wright was on the scene for Jurgen Klopp’s unveiling as the latest Reds manager, and the 48-year-old German had a lot to say.

Perhaps most poignant for Liverpool fans are Klopp’s words on the talent he inherits from Brendan Rodgers. Sure there are quips that will hit the headlines, but how about Klopp’s assertion that success shouldn’t take nearly as long as his dramatic work at BVB.

From JPW on Merseyside:

“We did in Dortmund what we had to do, to improve the players, to work for a common idea of play. That is what we did and its the same thing we want to do here. They are not the same players of course,” Klopp told NBC Sports ProSoccerTalk. “These players from Liverpool are better, more experienced in some ways and younger in other cases. Everything is okay, I am here. I am not here only because LFC was calling. I believe in the potential of this team. Four or five strikers you can work with when they are not injured, midfielders is really good, defenders experienced and very young, goalkeeper is really good. Everything is there.”

Everything. A powerful word and one that doesn’t get lost in translation. Liverpool has a batch of world class talent, and Klopp’s is anxious to organize it in world class fashion. Strap in, Anfield.

CONCACAF Cup preview: Ultimate guide to USMNT vs Mexico

Beasley, and other US veterans, have been asked to take the young guys under their wing.
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So here we go: the biggest rivalry in U.S. Soccer, the one that sends fans racing for the stadia for a glimpse of history.

It’s the U.S. and Mexico for the right to go to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, and it will play out at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.

National pride is on the line, and national jobs may rightly be in jeopardy. Let’s swing through our coverage, and what’s at stake in just over 24 hours time.

The Battles

Who is the key to Saturday’s match? Is it Michael Bradley? Fabian Johnson? Andres Guardado? Will Klinsmann opt for players with Liga MX experience, stay Euro Heavy, or appease the domestic set? Read more here.

The XI

So how will Klinsmann line ’em up? JPW has his preference, some options, and a prediction of what the manager will do.

The history

What are the chances this one finds its way into the upper echelon of matches in the Mexico/U.S. rivalry? This is the company it could join.

Klinsmann’s future

The folks in the anti-Klinsmann brigade seethe with pure detestation of the USMNT boss. Any quote from him is self-serving and dishonest, any success accidental. Beat Germany or the Netherlands in friendlies on the road? Coincidental and Unimportant. Lose a friendly to Brazil? The worst thing ever.

[ MORE: The case for firing Klinsmann after a loss ]

So this match, being meaningful and testing his unbeaten mark vs Mexico, is going to be a clarion call for U.S. Soccer fans. Barring a cataclysmic loss in horrific blowout fashion, he won’t be canned. But a win will be validation for his supporters while a loss would cue a genuine hot seat. And for his detractors, already foaming at the mouth from the words of icon Landon Donovan? Kablammo.