Stock Rising: United States men whose values are rising out of Salt Lake

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After nine points in three qualifiers, there’s no shortage of praise to hand out to the U.S. Men’s National Team. Whereas three or four standouts usually force their way onto our Stock Rising report, a larger flock of MNT’ers deserve some acknowledgement after Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Honduras, three points that leave the U.S. on 13 after six Hex rounds.

We spare no expense handing our this week’s plaudits, the positives from the U.S.’s current run proving much larger than the Stock Falling report we’ll have later tonight.

Jozy Altidore – I don’t know what’s more impressive: (a) Altidore’s calm, reassured finished on yesterday’s 71st minute winner; (b) the celebration that portrayed more relief than jubilance; or, (c) the fact that throughout the night Altidore always seemed to be in the right place, whether it was the first half’s targeting from wide or the second half’s attempts to tick and tack through the Honduran block. In the last eight months, we’ve gone from asking ‘where’s Jozy’ to always expecting him to be where his teammates are looking.

Just over a week ago, after the U.S. had dispatched Panama, Jurgen Klinsmann was asked why Altidore’s finally broken through. In Klinsmann’s mind, though, he hadn’t. Altidore’s being doing the same things in June that he done since he winter recall, the U.S. boss explained. Now, those things are leading to goals, but that doesn’t mean Altidore wasn’t contributing before.

It’s tempting to look at four goals in as many games as a turning point, but Altidore’s breakthrough probably came before this goal-scoring rush. His rising stock is build on a foundation  laid throughout 2013.

source: APGraham Zusi (right) – The control the U.S. maintained against Panama meant Zusi was rarely missed, especially while Omar Gonzalez made sure any access the Canaleros had through Brad Evans was quickly closed off. On Tuesday, however, we were reminded about the little things the Sporting Kansas City star is doing to cement his role on the U.S.’s right. In the second half, we got a glimpse of some potential versatility, with Klinsmann shifting him in from the right, using him as a focal point in front of the line as the U.S. touched their way past the Honduran defense. Moving on from his 13th cap, it’s tempting to consider what other parts of Zusi’s game will we see assert themselves in the international game.

Geoff Cameron – There was little argument for Cameron keeping his place in the starting XI over the returning Jermaine Jones, but after 90 minutes in Sandy that gave us a better means of comparison, Cameron’s starting to make his case. Coming off a stellar performance against Panama, the Stoke City man provided some needed quality off the bench, hinting his game in Seattle wasn’t a fluke. We’re still a long way from being able to say Cameron deserves the nod over the more-accomplished Jones, but this is how competition starts. One man starts asserting himself. The other has to respond.

Matt Besler – While the center back to his right has been prone to mistakes, the reigning MLS Defender of the Year has been Mr. Reliable, providing a couple of new moments of reassured protection in Utah. It wasn’t so long ago (like, a matter of weeks) that Besler wasn’t a sure bet to start next to Omar Gonzalez. Now, he seems like an obligatory choice.

source: Getty ImagesFabian Johnson (right) – Two matches in a row, Johnson’s provided the game-winning assist to Jozy Altidore, each time getting deep along the left before playing across for his team’s best finisher. All of a sudden, the Hoffenheim wide man leads The Hex in assists. Be it in midfield or in defense, Johnson’s providing a quality fans have been begging for since Klinsmann took over: width. While some moments in defense hinted he may not be a better choice at left back than DaMarcus Beasley, Johnson continues to make the U.S. better for his presence.

Brad Davis – The main arguments against Brad Davis’s inclusion are his lack of speed and athleticism, yet while drawing a foul in a dangerous spot late in the match, the Houston talisman showed more promise than many have seen before. The arguments against his potential at international level remain, but with that flash of danger, Davis may be providing a new counterpoint.

Eddie Johnson – When E.J. was brought in at the end of the last round, everybody expected him to provide Klinsmann an alternative to Altidore. But Johnson’s yet to be meaningfully used as a true No. 9. Instead, he’s played on the left. He’s played on the right. He’s provided a needed injection of athleticism, strength, and even experience. And his presence at the back post gives the team a persistent threat. Players like Johnson and Cameron may not have starting spots, but they’re proving valuable parts of Klinsmann’s restructured team.

Jurgen Klinsmann – It’s not only that the U.S. is on 13 points through six rounds. It’s how they’ve done it. To this point, the story’s unfolding just like Klinsmann predicted. And now, the furor ahead of the Costa Rica match seems ridiculous now.

Schweinsteiger waiting on visa, training in Mallorca

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Bastian Schweinsteiger is waiting on a visa to make his trip to Chicago official.

It’s a formality, albeit a bit trickier now given the political climate in the United States. The former Manchester United midfielder is training at Real Mallorca ahead of the move.

The transfer was announced one week ago, and Schweinsteiger is anxious to get back on the pitch. Set for a 1-year, $4.5 million deal, the midfielder has not missed any Chicago matches yet.

[ MORE: Under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

The Fire is 1-1-1 to start the new season under Veljko Paunovic, and has three home matches next: Montreal (Saturday), Columbus (Apr. 8), and New England (Apr. 15)

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.