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Jurgen Klinsmann working hard to establish a “No complacency!” zone in USMNT camp

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Jurgen Klinsmann is so preternaturally jovial and positive that it’s hard to see the guy’s harder edges.

But make no mistake, they exist. I mean, the guy cusses and everything!

Klinsmann wants guys to succeed and does everything within his powers of Klinsi positivity to make it happen. But this business of bottom line wins and losses means hard decisions must be made, and sensitive buttons must occasionally be mashed. Or even beaten on.

Besides, you don’t survive for decades in the shark tank of European soccer (as a player and then as a manager) without a hardened outer layer – even one that is masked by a congenial wrapping.

(MORE: U.S.-Costa Rica match preview)

If you listen to the U.S. manager’s words ahead of tonight’s Gold Cu match against Costa Rica, you get the feeling that he is leaning on his players a little for this one, trying to develop a little more of that comprehensive hard edge, taking extra measures to ward off complacency and further establish that drive and greater professionalism that he has worked so hard to create. He wants these elements hard-wired into the national team program – regardless of whether it’s the “B” team, regardless of opposition, and never mind if things are going swimmingly for the moment.

Tonight’s match doesn’t mean much, and even a draw will suffice to secure first place, which makes it the perfect opportunity for slippage, sloppiness borne of inattention or the lapse into neglectful “looking ahead.”

Check out the Klinsmann Q&A from U.S. Soccer ahead of tonight’s match in Connecticut. Rather than lavishing praise on two wins over small fries, he goes right into “a lot of things we’d like to avoid going forward.”

We were far too open in many areas and disconnected between midfielders and forwards. We weren’t chasing back right away when we lost the ball, and a lot of elements we worked on in training were difficult to implement in that game. …

Next answer: he talks up the need for focus and how “we badly want to win this group and go to the quarterfinals as the No. 1 seed.”

Next answer: Klinsmann goes right back to the things they didn’t do well enough. “It’s really down to the mental side of it. Players understand they need to step it up and that the whole tournament really starts for us with Costa Rica.”

Next answer: He talks about the difficulty of adjusting to time zones and hot, muggy conditions in the Hartford. Again, he reminds, it’s about a tough mentality.

Next answer: More about establishing a business-like approach. And more on developing a hard-ass mentality.

We develop that attitude that every day is serious, it’s about work, it’s about business. Like in every other work, people that go to the offices and work 8-10 hours a day, they have to be spot on. We have to learn in our environment that you can’t switch off in a game against Belize on a free kick or against Cuba on a counter break that they scored the first goal on. You have to be alert, you have to be awake. We can’t get to relaxed, too confident, too easy on things. That winning streak now has shown that change of culture. We want to beat Costa Rica.”

Next answer … well, I think you get the picture. He really is a nice man, a very pleasant person to be around. But if I am a U.S. player, I don’t think I’d love being in the locker room if the result falls wrong in Hartford tonight.

Klopp hopes for speedy solution in club, fans’ ticket-price dispute

Liverpool's fans wave flags during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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From his time at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp is used to a much more positive, family-like, everyone-pulling-in-the-same-direction atmosphere at his club of employment, so the present goings-on at Liverpool understandably have the Reds’ first-year manager feeling more than a little uneasy.

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Saturday’s late 2-2 draw with Sunderland wasn’t the first time Liverpool fans have headed for the exit before the final whistle, leaving Klopp feeling all alone, but it was the first time the fans have departed from Anfield early in a pre-planned, organized manner (Klopp missed the game himself with appendicitis). The Anfield faithful didn’t walk out on 77 minutes due to their team’s poor performance — Liverpool were 2-0 ahead at the time — but in protest of steadily rising ticket prices, which were unveiled at $111 per game to sit in the 132-year-old stadium’s new main stand next season.

Klopp, coming from the Bundesliga, where a season ticket at clubs the size of Bayern Munich and Dortmund doesn’t cost much more than a single-game ticket at many Premier League grounds, understands the fans’ frustration. At the end of the day, though, he works for the club, which is why he just wants the whole thing settled quickly, for the sake of his squad — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s not what we want. What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. We don’t want people to leave the stadium before the game is finished.”

An LFC TV appearance by Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, in which he was expected to answer fan-submitted questions, was consequently canceled on Monday due to the ongoing dispute.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.