Where to look on MLS All-Star Game roster for possible replacements

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Major League Soccer announced the All-Star Game’s squad today, but nobody’s going to chisel that in stone. There are always a couple of injuries that rear their head before the exhibition’s kickoff, and with the Gold Cup final the weekend before the league’s party in Kansas City, there are bound to be a few more cancelled plane tickets before Peter Vermes has to pick an XI for AS Roma.

For people morose that their favorites weren’t named to the initial squad, that should be a point of solace, but whether your guy slots in isn’t merely about whether somebody drops out. As Vermes’ selections showed, many of the decisions are defined by positional need, with the All-Star Game coach needing to have cover at as many positions as possible.

So as we go through the potential drop-outs, the need to have a like-for-like backup becomes important when considering who else might come in.

(Also worth considering: The quicker we approach July 31, the more likely the replacement will be the first guy to say “Yes” to “Can you be in Kansas City by tomorrow night?” That’s why a Sporting player is listed as a possibility at almost every spot.)

Nick Rimando, G, Real Salt Lake
Reason: Gold Cup duty
Likelihood for ASG: Good
Details: Rimando may not need any rest to go from 90-plus minutes in Chicago to playing against Roma.
Conjectured possibilities: SKC’er Jimmy Nielsen would be an obvious replacement.

Corey Ashe, LB, Houston Dynamo
Reason: 
Gold Cup duty
Likelihood for ASG: 
Unknown
Details: 
If Ashe’s fitness allows him to start taking part in the Gold Cup, his availability could depend on how much action he gets in the tournaments’ final matches. If he plays significant minutes or fitness keeps him from playing at all, Vermes will have to call up a left back, as he has no other natural players for the position on the roster.
Conjectured possibilities: Todd Dunivant, local option Seth Sinovic, or former SKC’er Michael Harrington? Again, availability will be key.

Tony Beltran, RB, Real Salt Lake
Reason: 
Gold Cup duty
Likelihood for ASG: 
Below average
Details: 
Beltran bested Michael Parkhurst in their early Gold Cup auditions, so the RSL right back may be more likely to see time throughout the rest of the tournament. If that plays out, he’ll either slide into a sub’s role in Kansas City or be replaced. With DeAndre Yedlin on the roster, Vermes could opt for a right or left back as a replacement. He’s going to be short at one of the two positions.
Conjectured possibilities: Chance Myers drives in, Zach Loyd flies up from Dallas, or you hope Y.P. Lee isn’t flying home for the week? Regardless, Sheanon Williams deserves a place in the discussion.

Kyle Beckerman, M, Real Salt Lake
Reason: 
Gold Cup duty
Likelihood for ASG: 
Bad
Details: 
Beckerman’s a great bet to rack up big minutes at the Gold Cup and be replaced. Patrice Bernier is already in the team, as is Will Johnson, so Vermes doesn’t necessarily have to name a like-for-like replacement. But since Johnson’s not a true holder, a deeper midfielder might be called on as Beckerman’s replacement.
Conjectured possibilities: Nigel Reo-Coker may be back in England, and many will instinctively want Dax McCarty to have this spot, but Osvaldo Alonso is difficult to overlook, even with his prolonged absence. Does Vermes pick to win or reward?

Brad Davis, LM, Houston Dynamo
Reason: 
Fitness
Likelihood for ASG: 
Who knows?
Details: 
Davis hasn’t played for Houston since June 22, missing the last three games. If he’s needs to be replaced, who comes in may depend on what setup Vermes chooses. If MLS plays Sporting KC’s 4-3-3, Davis could be replaced by anybody. The team doesn’t need a true left-sider.
Conjectured possibilities: If Davis is out, it does seem logical to at least bolster the midfield, and in that respect, there’s no shortage of directions Vermes could go. Few would argue if Javier Morales was called, Seba La Toux has numbers (though he should thank Conor Casey for those), but again, if you’re choosing to win, you might want to consider Davis teammate Boniek Garcia.

Robbie Keane, F, LA Galaxy
Reason: 
Fitness
Likelihood for ASG: 
Seems iffy
Details: 
Keane did not look good when he came off against Portland. He seemed discouraged after the game. We won’t know until later this week what the diagnosis is; however, I wouldn’t be surprised if LA looks at the schedule and sees this as a good time to get him rested.
Conjectured possibilities: Jack McInerney. The fans seem to want him. The goal totals certainly supports the selection. However, Vermes would be justified selecting his own guy, Claudio Bieler, while I continue to think there has got room in this game for Federico Higuaín.

Dempsey propels USMNT past Costa Rica, into Gold Cup final

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It took considerably longer than Bruce Arena would have hoped, but the U.S. national team edged its way past Costa Rica, courtesy of Jozy Altidore‘s 72nd-minute goal, in the two sides’ 2017 Gold Cup semifinal in Arlington, Tex., on Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

It was Arena’s injection of Clint Dempsey just six minutes earlier which would prove to be the game-changing moment. The soon-to-be all-time leading scorer in USMNT history created Altidore’s goal, the 38th tally of his international career, with a silky smooth turn and through ball that unlocked an otherwise formidable, frustrating Ticos defense. The Nacogdoches, Tex., native pulled level with Landon Donovan on the USMNT’s scoring charts 10 minutes later as he sealed the Yanks’ passage into the final.

The clock read 11 seconds when the USMNT’s first scoring chance arrived. Straight from the kickoff, they worked the ball to a streaking Jordan Morris, who in full stride unleashed a hard, right-footed strike from 10 yards out. Post.

For all the early excitement, and the massive possession advantage (61-39), it was the closest the USMNT would come to beating Patrick Pemberton, as the Yanks failed to put a single shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.

Tim Howard was called into heroic action in the 37th minute, when Bryan Ruiz dribbled through the heart of midfield and played Marco Ureña into the penalty area. The San Jose Earthquakes striker went low and far post with his effort from 12 yards out, but Howard was quick to get down and make the one-on-one save.

[ MORE: Mexico beat Honduras, book their place in semifinals ]

The Americans’ first chance of the second half didn’t come until the 70th minute. Clint Dempsey played a simple square ball to Kellyn Acosta, whose first-time shot forced Pemberton into a tough save to push the ball high into the air.

Two minutes later, the breakthrough. Dempsey slipped Jozy Altidore through with a delicate through ball into space, and the Toronto FC man latched onto it quickly and slotted it past Pemberton despite the ‘keeper getting a hand on it.

Dempsey’s history-making moment seemed innocuous enough from the start — a free kick from all of 25 yards out, at a difficult angle. Whatever, said Dempsey, who went for goal anyway. His bouncing ball evade Pemberton at the near post and gave him 57 international goals.

The winner of Mexico versus Jamaica, the second semifinal which will take place on Sunday, awaits the USMNT in the final on Wednesday.

Mexico block out drama before Gold Cup semifinal vs. Jamaica

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PASADENA, Calif. (AP) After nearly two years as Mexico’s head coach, Juan Carlos Osorio is used to constant criticism of his tactics and lineups. He isn’t surprised by regular calls for his firing from fans, media and former national team players — and that’s just when Mexico is playing well.

“We do our best so that the players cannot feel the criticism,” Osorio said Saturday. “We try not to translate it to the players. We try to maintain the best spirit in the team.”

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

Yet for all of the drama and distraction around El Tri this summer, Osorio is one win from getting a young roster with an ever-changing lineup into the CONCACAF Gold Cup final while he coaches from the stands, thanks to a FIFA suspension.

Mexico faces Jamaica on Sunday night at the Rose Bowl, El Tri‘s home away from home, for a spot in the championship game.

Osorio is already proud of his experimental roster’s Gold Cup success despite a steady drumbeat of criticism from those who don’t like the Colombian coach’s plans or his players’ execution of them. He chose a youthful group for this tournament to build Mexico’s base of experience for next year’s World Cup and the years ahead.

“Our goal is to build a team that can compete at any level,” Osorio said. “We’ve had some losses that have been very difficult, and the scars are there. But at the same time, they show that we’re strong and moving forward, and this team has won much more than it has lost. We are very motivated, and we want to continue building and growing. We want to have more players competing for a spot that can help us. We want to have a present and a future.”

Mexico has won three of the last four Gold Cups, beating Jamaica 3-1 in the 2015 final. These teams also met at the Rose Bowl 13 months ago during the Copa America, when Javier Hernandez scored an early goal in a 2-0 win.

West Ham-bound Chicharito is among several tested veterans not participating in the Gold Cup. Mexico has struggled to replace his offense, scoring half of its six goals in this tournament back in its opener.

“We are all motivated and ready to give our all for the team,” said midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro, who got the only goal in Mexico’s 1-0 quarterfinal win over Honduras. “We all want to be part of this.”

Osorio will watch from the crowd while serving the fifth game of his six-match suspension for what FIFA deemed aggressive behavior toward officials during a match against Portugal in the Confederations Cup, where Mexico finished a disappointing fourth.

[ MORE: Mexico beat Honduras, book their place in semifinals ]

Mexico and Jamaica played to a 0-0 draw 10 days ago during Gold Cup group play in Denver. El Tri dominated possession, but Mexico’s fans booed their own team after it failed to find the net behind stalwart Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Mexican fans booing their own team is nothing new, but El Tri can also count on wild support from Los Angeles’ vast Latino population.

Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore acknowledges his Reggae Boyz are underdogs, but he believes his players raise their level whenever they get the chance to wreck the plans of the U.S. or Mexico, the pre-tournament favorites.

“I think our confidence is high,” Whitmore said. “We don’t want to be overconfident going into the game. We know the Mexican team has a lot to offer. It is a team that we have to give a lot of respect, based on what they’ve been through over the years.”

Jamaica is also playing without top talent, including Wes Morgan, Giles Barnes and all of its England-based players. Darren Mattocks, the Portland forward who has excelled in the Gold Cup, also could miss the semifinal due to an injury, Whitmore said.

Jamaica showed its offensive potency last Thursday with a pair of beautiful goals in a quarterfinal victory over Canada. Whitmore plans a “totally different approach” from the defensive caution with which Jamaica played El Tri earlier in the month.

“We try to be mean in conceding goals, and that’s been working for us,” Whitmore said. “We want to be still disciplined. We want to be compact in defense, but on the other hand, I think the transition game in defense is important if we want to get past this Mexico team.”

FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT vs. Costa Rica — Gold Cup semifinals

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The last time the U.S. national team faced Costa Rica, the final score was 4-0 in favor of the home side, in San Jose (not the one in California). Six days later, Jurgen Klinsmann was fired and replaced by Bruce Arena.

On Saturday, it’ll be Arena’s USMNT which takes on Los Ticos with a place in the 2017 Gold Cup final on the line. One of Mexico and Jamaica, who’ll face off in the second semifinal on Sunday, comes next.

When: 10 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

[ LIVE: Gold Cup scoreboard ]

Arena has made five changes to the team that beat El Salvador 2-0 in Wednesday’s quarterfinal. Incoming are Graham Zusi (for Eric Lichaj), Matt Besler (Matt Hedges), Jorge Villafaña (Justin Morrow), Kellyn Acosta (Gyasi Zardes) and Jordan Morris (Clint Dempsey).

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

West Ham sign Arnautovic from Stoke for club-record fee

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LONDON (AP) West Ham signed attacking midfielder Marko Arnautovic from Stoke for a club-record fee on Saturday.

The fee wasn’t disclosed, but British media said West Ham paid an initial 20 million pounds ($26 million) that could rise to 25 million pounds ($32.5 million) for the 28-year-old Austria international.

Arnautovic is West Ham’s third signing of the summer, after right back Pablo Zabaleta on a free transfer and goalkeeper Joe Hart on loan.

“We have brought in three players with vast Premier League experience this summer,” West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan said, “and that was one of our key targets.”

Arnautovic, who has 62 caps for his country, joined Stoke from Werder Bremen in 2013. He scored 26 goals in 145 appearances for Stoke.