Graham Zusi for the U.S. Gold Cup roster, anyone?

5 Comments

United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann hinted late last night – actually, something a little stronger than a “hint” – that reinforcement are en route as his team preps to meet El Salvador in this weekend’s Gold Cup’s quarterfinals.

Even more difficult matches lie ahead, assuming Klinsmann’s young team handles its business Sunday in Baltimore.  Tournament rules allow teams to make up to four changes after the group stage; any additions must come from the original list of 35 names submitted back in May.

My best guess: Graham Zusi (pictured) soon be on the scene. That’s who I would most like to see, at least.

If we examine it from this angle, the Sporting Kansas City man makes the most sense: “Where has the United States been lacking in the group stage?”

It’s tricky, because Klinsmann’s current bunch had barely been stretched before Tuesday’s late, 1-0 win over Costa Rica. Still, there have been areas on the field where player performance rated weaker than others.

For me, Oguchi Onyewu remains a bit of a problem. He lost his mark on one of Cuba’s few opportunities. Not. Good.

Left back remains a bit wobbly in my mind, as Edgar Castillo and DaMarcus Beasley have both demonstrated ongoing defensive liabilities. (Castillo more than Beasley, but still ….)

Right back remains an issue; Michael Parkhurst and Tony Beltran have performed fine defensively, but neither has raised much of a fuss on attack, and that is a sure requirement at international level.

There is some creative ability still missing – and that’s where I believe Klinsmann might lean.

Graham Zusi can create from the very area where the United States has lacked. Alejandro Bedoya could not poke any holes in the Costa Rican defense last night. Joe Corona was better three nights earlier … but I just wasn’t as excited about his performance against Cuba as some others. U.S. attackers need to dominate their areas against the regional minnows; Corona was good in the game, but I would argue that he wasn’t great.

Landon Donovan could man the right side, but Klinsmann has used him mostly as a second forward over the last four matches (the Gold Cup group contests plus the pre-tourney friendly against Guatemala.)

I won’t be shocked to see another center back come in, either Omar Gonzalez or Matt Besler. The problem is that both clubs have MLS matches over the next two weeks. LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena has already complained about player absenteeism for international duty, so that may be an obstacle for Gonzalez.

Zusi’s arrival may block a call for Besler; as Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes could potentially balk at losing two of his best men to a tournament that, honestly, doesn’t mean much beyond the player personnel subplots. (And thank goodness we have those to argue about, eh?)

Any changes must be made today – so we won’t have to wait long on this one.

Juventus president Agnelli’s 1-year ban lifted on appeal

Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) Juventus president Andrea Agnelli had his one-year ban for selling tickets to ultras lifted on Monday, but the Serie A club’s fine was doubled and it will have to play a match with one of its main sections closed.

[ MORE: Making sense of PL table in Man City’s world ]

Agnelli was banned for one year by the Italian soccer federation in September for his role in selling tickets to hardcore “ultra” fans that encouraged scalping. He was also fined 20,000 euros ($24,000).

The FIGC’s appeals court said it has changed Agnelli’s sanction “into a fine of 100,000 euros ($118,000) and a ban until today’s date.”

Juventus, however, was fined 600,000 euros ($708,000) and will have its Curva Sud closed for the home match against Genoa on Jan. 22.

The federation’s prosecutor, Giuseppe Pecoraro, had requested a 2 1/2-year suspension for Agnelli and also appealed the original decision.

Agnelli allegedly authorized the sale of season passes and other tickets. He acknowledged meeting with Rocco Dominello, an ultra fan linked to the Calabrian `ndrangheta crime mob who has since been sentenced to nearly eight years in prison for scalping.

But Agnelli said the meetings came only with large numbers of other fans at celebratory occasions, and that the club never intended to engage in illegal activity.

The 42-year-old Agnelli has led Juventus, the club his family has owned for nearly a century, since 2010.

Anti-mafia prosecutors said the `ndrangheta was involved in scalping among Juventus ultra fans for at least 15 years, guaranteeing order in the stadium in exchange for open ticket access.

Juventus denied any wrongdoing.

Juventus security director Alessandro D’Angelo and ticketing director Stefano Merulla have had their suspensions and fines canceled. D’Angelo was originally banned for 15 months, while Merulla had been handed a one-year suspension.

However, former marketing director Francesco Calvo had his appeal rejected and will be banned for one year and will have to pay a 20,000 euro ($24,000) fine.

WATCH LIVE: Everton vs. Swansea City

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Everton looks to continue its upswing while reversing the hoodoo of Swansea City when it hosts the Welsh side at Goodison Park on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Swans have not lost to Everton in three seasons, but sit bottom of the Premier League table.

Sam Allardyce started Gylfi Sigurdsson and Ashley Williams against the former side, while Paul Clement will hope to get an upset with Wilfried Bony up top.

LINEUPS

Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Martina, Holgate, Williams, Schneiderlin, Gana Gueye, Lennon, Rooney, Sigurdsson, Calvert-Lewin. Subs: Robles, Keane, Jagielka, Ramirez, Davies, Vlasic, Lookman.

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson, Roque Mesa, Fer, Carroll, Dyer, Narsingh, Bony. Subs: Nordfeldt, van der Hoorn, Rangel, Clucas, Sanches, Ayew, Abraham.

Timbers make it official: Savarese is the new boss

Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Portland Timbers have made it official, announcing the hiring of New York Cosmos architect Giovanni Savarese as the successor to Caleb Porter.

Savarese, 46, led the Cosmos to three NASL Championship Games in his first run as a manager, following a playing career that included stops at Millwall, NY/NJ MetroStars, and Swansea City. He attended Long Island University, and was capped 30 times with 10 goals for Venezuela.

[ BLANC: I turned down USMNT talks ]

He’s an intriguing hire for Portland, who won an MLS Cup but suffered from inconsistency under the highly-regarded Porter (twice missing the playoffs but twice earning the West’s No. 1 seed). While the Cosmos regularly spent well, Savarese navigated the uncertain waters of a nascent league with regular success.

From Timbers.com:

“I am both excited and proud to become the head coach of the Portland Timbers, and this is an ideal fit and outstanding opportunity for me as I take the next step in my coaching career,” Savarese said. “The passion, ambition and support surrounding this club is truly inspiring, and I am sincerely honored and grateful for this opportunity to lead it on the pitch and to build on the club’s history of success for the community and the incredible supporters of the Portland Timbers.”

The hiring has been rumored for some time. Though Savarese was loyal to the Cosmos, the NASL’s future has been hung in the hands of the legal system for some time due to a bold lawsuit against U.S. Soccer Federation. The NASL contends that the relationships between the USSF, Soccer United Marketing, United Soccer League, and Major League Soccer have conspired to stop the NASL from competing with MLS as a D-1 league.

LVG would only return to club football to get at Man Utd

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Leave it to The Daily Mirror to find that last bit of juice when it comes to Manchester United and former manager Louis Van Gaal.

Well, probably the last bit.

The Dutch manager said he does not expect to return to club football, unless one of the big boys in the Premier League offered him the chance to take a run at United. The Red Devils, of course, fired him shortly after an FA Cup title in order to hire Jose Mourinho.

[ MORE: WBA 1-2 Man Utd | Bournemouth 0-4 Liverpool ]

From The Mirror, quoting LVG at a Sunday night function in Rotterdam.

“I will probably not manage a club anymore,” Van Gaal said. “I would make one exception: If a big English club comes for me, than I would do it. Because then I can get the chance to get one over on Manchester United.’’

Could you see him getting a run at any of the Top Four contenders, even on a caretaker basis? Could Liverpool come calling if they tired of Jurgen Klopp one season, or might Arsenal or even Everton need a stopgap (should the Toffees spending come good)?