Jozy Altidore, Fabian Johnson

Three things to watch for US national team vs Jamaica


Okay so with confidence relatively high after that friendly victory over Germany (we get it, it was their B squad but so what, still a good win) it seems as if Jurgen Klinsmann is going to go with the same starting lineup tonight in Kingston.

But this crucial World Cup qualifier is more than a game. The hostile atmosphere, bumpy pitch and hot conditions will combine to make this match an ordeal for the US national team.

That’s why Klinsi flew the squad in a day early for this game, after that qualifying loss in Honduras proved a lack of preparation in foreign environments can be extremely harmful.

But what are three things the US should focus on tonight to help them get the three points they crave? Let’s speculate.

The pace of Johnson and Mattocks can catch you out at any time

Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Clarence Goodson or Geoff Cameron, whoever starts here has to remember one thing: keep an eye on your shoulder. Jamaica’s forwards aren’t the most skillful in the world but they do have electric pace. Vancouver’s Darren Mattocks goes missing for large spells during games and pops up to finish a chance or get in behind when you least expect it. The USA’s defender have to be on their toes as plenty of long balls will be flicked in behind them tonight.

Get the ball wide, attack Jamaica’s inexperienced full backs

Jamaica is hurting with injuries and absences and against Mexico they fielded 18-year-old Alvas Powell and inexperienced O’Brian Woodbine at full back. While German born Daniel Gordon, who was earning his first cap, played at center back. They are struggling defensively, so the US have to get the ball wide as early as they can and put deliveries in the box to cause mayhem and havoc for the newly assembled Jamaican back line. Plenty of second balls will drop out to Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley on the edge of the box to strike as the Reggae Boyz panic and make haphazard clearances. The US should expose Jamaica’s defensive weaknesses.

If the USA’s offense is to explode, Altidore must been found early and often

Against Germany everything went through the big man, and it worked. Jozy held the ball up superbly and spun to make great runs for return balls or to get on the end of crosses. But this will not work if Altidore gets into a position but then has to wait for the ball to reach him. The 23-year-old has got to stay active but he can’t keep making run after run in such humid conditions, he will post up in front of the defense and if a ball is played into him by the US defense or Jermaine Jones and Bradley, the rest of the offense can start clicking into place. Graham Zusi and Fabian Johnson will be able to push on and Dempsey can make runs in behind the defense. But it all starts with quality early balls into Altidore, then the rest is down to him.

(More: United States face desperate Jamaica in huge World Cup qualifier tonight)

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.