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

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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.

Ajax reunion at Palace as De Boer signs center back

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Crystal Palace has added much needed depth and youth to its corps of center backs with 20-year-old Ajax man Jairo Riedewald.

The left back in Ajax’s UEFA Europa League loss to Manchester United, Riedewald completed better than 92 percent of his passes in Eredivisie play. He also nabbed 2.2 interceptions per match.

[ MORE: Russia’s straw stadium ]

Fellow Palace center backs James Tompkins, Scott Dann, and Damien Delaney average age is 31.3.

Riedewald played for Palace boss Frank De Boer at Ajax. From Palace’s official site:

“He will be an excellent addition to our squad, Jairo is a young player but already has a lot of experience. I know he is looking forward to playing in the Premier League.”

Riedewald played the majority of his Eredivisie matches at center back, but has 18 appearances as a defensive midfielder and another 12 at left back.

He’s Palace’s second addition of this summer, the other being a loan of Ruben Loftus-Cheek from Chelsea.

Russian farmer’s straw stadium pokes fun at World Cup costs

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KRASNOYE, Russia (AP) Russia is desperate to control its spending on the 2018 World Cup, and a farmer might just have the answer – straw.

In a project straight out of the “Three Little Pigs” fairytale, Roman Ponomaryov has built a straw replica of the 43 billion ruble ($700 million) stadium in St. Petersburg which will host World Cup semifinals.

His arena made of 4,500 straw bales comes with tiered seating for 300 and flagpoles. It hosted its first tournament – for local teams only – last weekend using modified soccer rules.

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“It’s good to get people excited and create a sports atmosphere ahead of the World Cup,” Ponomaryov said in a recent interview.

The real St. Petersburg Stadium has drawn ire for its cost, corruption scandals, delays, and workers’ deaths.

Ponomaryov is a fan of the Zenit St. Petersburg club and says he modeled his straw stadium on Zenit’s new home in a gentle dig at the problems around the construction.

“It seemed pretty strange … how the cost of the stadium and its construction timeframe were increasing,” he said. Russia’s total World Cup budget is around $10.7 billion.

Zenit has accepted the straw stadium with good humor, offering Ponomaryov a ticket to a game at the real thing.

The harvest will keep him on the farm for the next few weeks, though, and he has in mind another project – organizing a Straw World Cup.

Spain’s sports court opens disciplinary procedure vs. Villar

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Spain’s administrative court for sport has initiated disciplinary procedures against Spanish Football Federation president Angel Maria Villar after he was arrested and jailed in a corruption probe.

The opening of the disciplinary procedure on Monday clears the way for Spain’s sports authority, the Higher Council of Sport, to rule whether it will temporarily suspend Villar when they meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. local time (1700 GMT).

The court’s decision had been expected since Thursday, when the Higher Council of Sport asked the court to act against Villar following his arrest.

Villar, his son Gorka, federation vice president Juan Padron, and Ramon Hernandez, the secretary of the regional football federation of Tenerife, were arrested last Tuesday when police raided the national federation’s headquarters and other properties.

The four were arrested on charges of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

National Court judge Santiago Pedraz ordered last week that the Villars and Padron remain in jail without bail after questioning them. Hernandez’s bail was set at 100,000 euros ($116,000).

The elder Villar is FIFA’s senior vice president and also a vice president of UEFA. He’s been president of the Spanish federation since 1988.

Judge Pedraz said the 67-year-old Villar is suspected of misappropriating private and public funds received by the federation “at least since 2009.”

MLS rejected $4 billion deal which wanted promotion/relegation

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Major League Soccer has confirmed it brushed aside a $4 billion TV deal which insisted on promotion and relegation coming into place in North America’s top-flight.

A report from the Sports Business Journal stated that the owner of NASL side Miami FC Riccardo Silva gave a presentation to the league and owners on June 26, offering a 10-year deal for the domestic and international TV rights from 2023 with one clause: promotion and relegation had to become commonplace in MLS.

Of course, Silva, who founded the media company MP & Silva who put in the bid, would love for there to be promotion and relegation in MLS as his team cannot currently rise above the second-tier NASL.

Jeff Carlisle from ESPN has the following statement from Dan Courtemanche, MLS executive vice president of communications.

“As was stated to Mr. Silva both in person and in a subsequent letter, Major League Soccer is prohibited contractually from engaging in discussions about our media rights with other distributors. We are not in a position, nor are we interested, in engaging with Mr. Silva on his proposal.”

“It is also important to note that since its inception, MLS, like the other North American leagues, has dealt directly with its domestic broadcast partners, rather than through agents and brokers. This ensures that the league and its partners can structure an agreement that addresses all elements, such as scheduling, marketing and digital distribution, that are required for a successful partnership.”

This deal would quadruple the current annual TV deal MLS has with Fox, ESPN and Univision, but it has been stated that no new deal can be discussed until at least 2021.

With cities across the U.S. and Canada lining up to pay the $150 million MLS expansion fee, league commission Don Garber has stated multiple times that promotion and relegation is not needed in the U.S. Soccer pyramid.

With USL and NASL now both second-tier, the only way they can become a top-tier franchise is by buying into MLS with two markets set to be selected later this year from 12 current expansion bids, plus David Beckham’s franchise in Miami still pushing ahead with plans to join the league.