Belgium v United States

Happy Birthday Jurgen Klinsmann, what’s in store for the US next?


Today is Jurgen Klinsmann’s 49th birthday. Many happy returns, Herr Klinsmann.

It has been two years and a day since Klinsmann took charge of the US national team on the eve of his 47th birthday.

So have the USA improved under Klinsmann’s 732 days of stewardship?

Let’s look at the journey so far.

After his first six months of charge, murmurings of discontent were beginning to reverberate throughout the US soccer community. Many weren’t happy with the job the much lauded German coach was doing.

In his first six games the USA lost four, drew one and beat Honduras 1-0 in Florida. Klinsi had picked tough opposition, with Belgium, France, Mexico and Ecuador the opponents. But the jury was still out on Klinsmann as 2012 arrived.

However things got better, as marquee friendly wins helped the German coach get a footing with the USA’s ambitious fans.

First the US beat Slovenia away to round off 2011, and then came the historic 1-0 win in Italy as Michael Bradley was the hero in Genoa. A 5-1 rout of Scotland in Jacksonville was followed by a heavy defeat to Brazil, and despite a defeat to Jamaica and a 1-1 tie in Guatemala City, Klinsmann’s men safely negotiated their passage through to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

(MORE: History repeating, Klinsmann and Eriksson’s time in Mexico)

A spirited 2-2 tie with Russia rounded off the year, with the European based Yanks showing their was plenty of depth in the squad.

But there was a storm brewing as 2013 arrived.

And up until March of this year, things weren’t going so well. Landon Donovan was left out of his plans after taking a self-imposed sabbatical and many didn’t agree with the way Klinsmann was treating the prodigal son of US soccer.

Good times ahead as Klinsmann approaches his 50th birthday?

Then the US lost 2-1 in the Hexagonal to Honduras. Soon pandemonium broke out, as Klinsmann’s methods and man management were questioned by an anonymous player speaking to the national press. Rumors of discontent with the German’s reign began to spread like wildfire. And all of this came on the eve of perhaps the USA’s biggest World Cup qualifier, a home tie against Costa Rica in snowy Denver.

However that tumultuous period was the turning point.

A 1-0 win in the near white-out conditions vs. Costa Rica, followed by a historic 0-0 tie in the Azteca against Mexico, put the US firmly back in the hunt to make the World Cup.

And despite a heavy friendly defeat to the classy Belgians in Cleveland in May, 11 straight wins later, here we are.

(MORE: Klinsmann’s improvement bid on the line in crucial World Cup qualifier)

Klinsmann may be celebrating his birthday quietly today, or probably in is helicopter above California somewhere, but plenty of national team fans will be celebrating with him and wishing him many happy returns.

A year ago, that wouldn’t have been the case. But if you feel like it, go wish Jurgen a happy birthday on his Facebook page.

The USA have come a long way in such a short period of time. There have been ups and downs but now Klinsmann is producing results and an incredibly strong squad to go with it. Some still aren’t impressed, but I think the Nats have improved drastically since 2011.

July 29 2014 marks Klinsmann’s 50th birthday. That date also marks just over two weeks after the FIFA World Cup will have finished in Brazil.

What will we all think of Klinsmann then?

MLS Cup Playoffs: FC Dallas 2-2 (3-5 agg.) Portland Timbers

Fanendo Adi, Portland Timbers FC
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The game in 100 words (or less): The Portland Timbers are headed to their first MLS Cup in club history after defeating FC Dallas, 5-3 on aggregate, in the Western Conference finals (2-2 draw in the second leg). Fanendo Adi scored in Sunday’s second leg, giving Caleb Porter’s side a 4-1 aggregate lead before Ryan Hollingshead and Blas Perez scored inside the last 25 minutes to give Oscar Pareja’s bunch a late lifeline, but Lucas Melano’s spectacular tap-in sealed the Timbers’ trip to MLS Cup. The third seed heading into the playoffs, Portland bounced Sporting Kansas City in an epic penalty shootout in the knockout round and outlasted the Vancouver Whitecaps in the conference semifinals before knocking off the West’s top seed over two legs to advance to MLS Cup 2015. No matter who advances from the East finals later on Sunday, Portland will play away in MLS Cup, to either the New York Red Bulls or Columbus Crew SC.

[ MORE: Previewing the MLS weekend ]

Three Four moments that mattered

54′ — Adi fires past Gonzalez to make if 4-1 — Oscar Pareja elected to go with Walker Zimmerman at center back on Sunday, dropping regular starter Zach Loyd to the bench. On the game’s opening goal, it was Zimmerman who wound up on the ground as Adi received the ball, turned and fired a massive away goal past Jesse Gonzalez.

68′ — Diaz’s magical ball curled home by Hollingshead — Mauro Diaz is a wonderful magician capable of playing the kill through ball from anywhere on the field — this we’ve known for quite some time. His chipped through ball to set up Hollingshead’s goal was extraordinarily brilliant, even for him.

73′ — Perez heads home the free kick to pull within one — Would you be surprised to hear that it was Diaz who set up FCD’s second goal? His free kick was Perez-finding missile and found the head of the Panamanian striker at the top of the six-yard box, where 34-year-old headed home with ease.

90+5′ — Melano rounds Gonzalez, seals MLS Cup berth — Poor Jesse Gonzalez. Absolutely schooled and posterized by Lucas Melano. What a way to sew up a place in the championship final.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Mauro Diaz

Goalscorers: Adi (54′), Hollingshead (68′), Perez (73′), Melano (90+5′)

La Liga & Serie A: Real Madrid bounce back; Juventus on the charge

Gareth Bale, Real Madrid CF
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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights:

Eibar 0-2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid bounced back from back-to-back La Liga defeats with a 2-0 victory away to Eibar on Sunday. Gareth Bale (below video) and Cristiano Ronaldo (penalty kick) provided the goals to keep Rafa Benitez‘s bunch (27 points) third in the league, two points behind Atletico Madrid and six behind leaders Barcelona.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Getafe 2-0 Villarreal
Rayo Vallecano 0-3 Athletic Bilbao
Sevilla 1-0 Valencia

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup ]

Roma 0-2 Atalanta

Losing at home to sides currently in a relegation battle — rarely a good idea, especially if you fancy yourselves title challengers, but that didn’t stop Roma from doing just that on Sunday. Alejandro Gomez and German Denis scored the goals to knock off a 10-man Roma side (Maicon – 81st minute) and keep Rudi Garcia’s bunch (27 points) from gaining ground on any of the three teams currently ahead of them — Inter Milan, Napoli and Fiorentina — all of whom play on Monday.

AC Milan 4-1 Sampdoria

M’Baye Niang scored twice, while Giacomo Bonaventura and Luiz Adriano (below video) added single tallies for AC Milan (23 points) to keep pace with the top-five pack in Serie A. After 14 rounds of games, the Rossoneri sit sixth, a point outside fifth (UEFA Europa League) and five points out of third (UEFA Champions League).

Palermo 0-3 Juventus

Don’t look now, but here come Juventus. Sunday’s 3-0 triumph over Palermo makes it four straight wins in the league for Massimiliano Allegri’s side — a run that pushes them all the way up to fifth in the league (24 points), just six points off the pace of leaders Inter, who play on Monday. Mario Mandzukic (below video), Stefano Sturaro and Simone Zaza scored the goals for the world’s most frightening fifth-place team.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Torino 2-0 Bologna
Chievo 2-3 Udinese
Frosinone 3-2 Hellas Verona
Genoa 1-2 Carpi
Empoli 1-0 Lazio

Monday’s Serie A schedule

Sassuolo vs. Fiorentina (1 p.m. ET)
Napoli vs. Inter Milan (3 p.m. ET)

Arsenal’s injury crisis — add Sanchez, Cazorla, Koscielny to the list

Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC
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From title challengers to just hoping to hold on to a top-four place while Arsene Wenger is forced to play reserves and academy players because half of his star players are currently out injured — the annual story of Arsenal.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Oct. 27, when Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both went down with injuries in the same game, marked the unofficial start of Arsenal’s 2015-16 injury crisis, but things didn’t really get going full bore until the last seven days, when five more players — four of them full-time starters — picked up injuries that will keep them out of action for anywhere between three weeks and three months.

Added to the list last weekend: Francis Coquelin (knee – three months minimum), Mikel Arteta (calf – three weeks)

Added to the list on Sunday: Alexis Sanchez (hamstring – MORE DETAILS), Santi Cazorla (knee), Laurent Koscielny (hip)

Following Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Norwich City, Wenger said Koscielny “could not walk” due to the hip spasm that forced him out of the game after just 11 minutes. He also divulged that Cazorla, who could not be subbed off because Wenger had already used all three subs late on, played the second half “on one leg.” Sanchez came into Sunday injured after picking up a hamstring injury in Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Sunday’s PL roundup — Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs all draw ]

Arsenal fans were up in arms during the summer transfer window — let’s be honest, the following is true of every transfer window the last five years — crying out, “We must buy, we must buy.” Have a look at Arsenal’s complete injury list at the moment, and try to say, “They didn’t need to buy in the summer.”

In chronological order: Danny Welbeck (knee – early 2016 return), Tomas Rosicky (knee – Christmas time return), Jack Wilshere (leg – Christmas time return), Theo Walcott (calf – December return), Mikel Arteta (calf – three weeks), Francis Coquelin (knee – three months minimum), Laurent Koscielny (hip – to be assessed), Alexis Sanchez (hamstring – to be assessed), Santi Cazorla (knee – to be assessed)

WATCH: PL Download — Crystal Palace: South London and Proud

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Check out the latest episode of Premier League Download, a look inside Crystal Palace and the club’s passionate supporters.

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Win, lose or draw it’s always a party for the fans of Crystal Palace and Roger Bennett travels to Selhurst Park to learn how the beloved team went from Championship strugglers to a Premier League success story.

[ WATCH: Past episodes of PL Download ]