Jurgen Klinsmann spills some details on Osvaldo Alonso, future U.S. national team midfielder?

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When it became known Jurgen Klinsmann would be in Seattle this weekend, a lot of people asked why. Eddie Johnson was unlikely to play. Brad Evans was out, and there were few other players in the team that looked like good candidates to be call in to the senior national team.

Maybe he was there to see DeAndre Yedlin? Are there Revolution players that could be called in?

Turns out the reason was more obvious. Or, the reason he gave was a more straight-forward one.

Talking to the press at CenturyLink, Klinsmann said his main motivations for the trip were to connect with the team, take in the game, and check out the facilities and hotel ahead of the team’s June 11 World Cup Qualifier against Panama.

Believe him? Sounds plausible enough to me. It’s not like it takes a huge commitment to fly from Southern California to Seattle these days. Besides, remember those conclusions bout the roster we harped on, above? Not exactly a lot of pickings, once you take Johnson and Evans out of the equation.

There is, however, this central midfielder from Seattle you may have heard of, one whose international career was put on hold the he came to the U.S. in 2007. It’s Osvaldo Alonso, a player who’d love to play for the United States, until the Cuban government clarifies his status, he’s ineligible.

Klinsmann:

[Alonso’s eligibility] is more like an administrative and governmental issue which we have no influence on it. I wish I could have brought him into January camp, and he knows that. Obviously, I’m in touch with Sigi and Adrian here all the time. He deserves a chance. He deserves a possibility, but it’s not in our hands, unfortunately. If Cuba is not giving a clearance, it’s not giving us a bit of help, FIFA is kind of strict in those matters.

There are a select few circumstances that allow a player to represent one country in international play after he’s been capped at senior level by another. One of those situations comes up when a player is no longer eligible to play for his first country.

Alonso appeared 16 times for Cuba before defecting, so he’s tied to them unless Cuba says otherwise. If Cuba says he’s eligible to come back and play, then he is. And as Klinsmann noted, FIFA’s unlikely to step in and influence matters.

Look at it form Cuba’s point of view. To them, this guy is defector, somebody who left the team while they were travelling in the U.S. They may see him as somebody who could come back and play, and while that’s a ludicrously thin way of looking at things, they’re under no obligation to write him off.

You rejected our country and we’re just supposed to sign off on this? Oh, okay. Let me put this application in David Brent’s secret filing cabinet … and it’s gone.

More from Klinsmann:

[Alonso] has a role similar to Kyle Beckerman of Salt Lake. Those two guys as No. 6’s in the league have shown tremendous consistency and the highest quality … He would have been part of our January camp, but unfortunately, we can’t bring him in.

Other items of note from Klinsmann’s chat with reporters, as relayed by Joshua Mayers:

  • Further explaining the trip, Klinsmann said his staff are going “all over the place connecting” with teams and coaches.
  • Klinsmann mentioned the nine-hour time difference between Seattle and Europe as being a “tricky” factor when scheduling the national team in the Northwest.
  • Playing on grass “plays a vital role.” Seattle made it happen. Portland didn’t.
  • He’s aware of DeAndre Yedlin, Seattle’s first-year right back. Then again, he follows all the U-20 and U-17 players.

Conte drops hint about his plans for attacking unit

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LONDON — Antonio Conte‘s decision to play a fluid front three of Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro worked extremely well against Barcelona in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw on Tuesday, but will he use that trio again in big games coming up?

[ MORE: Conte’s tactical masterclass ]

For the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clash at Stamford Bridge, Conte left his two recognized strikers, Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud, on the bench and opted for Hazard centrally with Pedro and Willian close by in wide roles.

Hazard went close twice, Willian twice hit the post before scoring Chelsea’s goal via a pass from Hazard and Pedro chased down Barca’s defense and helped set the tempo for a fine display which should have seen Chelsea win by at least two goals.

[ MORE: Three things learned from Chelsea-Barca

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk after the draw with Barca if he was happy with Hazard’s play in a false nine helped out by Willian and Pedro, Conte seemed to suggest that front three will be Chelsea’s attacking unit moving forward.

“I think our three strikers played very well, a fantastic game,” Conte said. “Willian, he played really well against Hull [in the FA Cup] and he scored twice and in the last three games we scored eight times and seven goals we scored with Pedro, Willian and Hazard. I think that they’re working very well. We must be pleased for the game, not for the final result.”

With huge games coming up against both Manchester clubs in the next few weeks in the Premier League, plus the second leg at Barcelona on Mar. 14, it appears Conte may well go with the in-form trio to create as much havoc as possible for opposition defenders.

Hazard in a false nine is an intriguing situation to unravel as the Belgian is almost certainly better suited to playing in a wide role or as a No.10 just off a targetman such as Giroud or Morata, but in this 3-4-2-1 system he has the freedom to interchange with Pedro and Willian and to roam across the forward line.

Having Giroud or Morata as Plan B seems to be Conte’s plan moving forward and against teams such as Man City, Man United and Barcelona, it may well suit Chelsea best to keep things tight defensively and unleash their speedy, tricky trio on the break.

Conte’s tactics to not start with an out-and-out striker may be questioned by many but if it works half as well as it did on Tuesday, expect Hazard, Willian and Pedro to be Chelsea’s go-to guys in a season-defining few weeks for the reigning PL champs as they aim to cement their spot in the top four, reach the FA Cup semifinal and advance in the Champions League.

Blatter: 2026 World Cup should be in Morocco

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Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has backed Morocco’s 2026 World Cup bid as he hit out at the joint-bid between the USA, Mexico and Canada.

The 81-year-old claims that joint bids for a World Cup are to be “rejected” after the 2002 World Cup and with voting for the 2026 hosts to take place on June 13 in an expedited process, it appears Morocco is gaining some traction among FIFA’s 209 member associations as the only alternative to a North American bid.

The U.S., Mexico and Canada bid to host the first-ever expanded 48-team tournament still seems to be the overwhelming favorite, but will comments like this help or hinder Morocco’s bid?

Blatter, the disgraced former long-time leader of world soccer’s governing body, is currently banned from all soccer related activity for six-years after being charged regarding a $2 million payment made between himself and the former UEFA President, Michel Platini.

Here’s the message Blatter sent out via Twitter, as the Swiss official is reportedly launching an appeal against his current ban which came after he announced he would step down as FIFA president in 2015 following several high level officials being charged with corruption by U.S. officials.

It is also worth noting that Blatter is still concerned about being extradited to the USA amid the ongoing FBI investigation into widespread corruption in the organization and doesn’t travel outside of Switzerland or Russia.

Brazil’s Gremio wins Recopa Sudamericana in penalty shootout

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PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) Brazil’s Gremio has won the Recopa Sudamericana, beating Argentina’s Independiente 5-4 in a penalty shootout Wednesday night.

The two-legged final ended 1-1 on aggregate, with no goals scored after 120 minutes in the second.

The winners of last year’s Copa Libertadores overcame the holders of Copa Sudamericana after goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe stopped the last penalty of the series, taken by Independiente’s striker Martin Benitez.

The Recopa is played between the champions of South America’s two most important tournaments.

Independiente played most of the match down to 10 players after defender Fernando Amorebieta was sent off after 38 minutes.

The Brazilians made most of the pressure until the end of extra time, but failed to score.

Gremio also won the Recopa in 1996.

CCL wrap: FC Dallas disappoints; Club America struts (video)

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The CONCACAF Champions League returned Tuesday with Toronto FC’s 2-0 quarterfinal first leg win in Colorado, and a trio of ties began Wednesday across Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Tauro 1-0 FC Dallas

Veteran striker Edwin Aguilar scored a big goal, and goalkeeper Oscar McFarlane did plenty of good things as the Panamanian side struck a wild first blow against its MLS visitors.

Here’s a random fact underscoring how remarkable of a failure this would be for FC Dallas: Only six of Tauro’s roster members have their own Wikipedia page.

Deportivo Saprissa 1-5 Club America

Cecilio Dominguez and Mateus Uribe each bagged a brace, and Renato Ibarra also scored as the tournament’s top team sauntered into and out of Costa Rica on Wednesday. Club America has been to seven CCL finals, and one every single one.

Motagua vs. Club Tijuana — 10 a.m. ET

Honduran hosts hope to have a leg to stand on — pun intended — once the tie heads to Mexico.