A few conclusions, notes from Monday’s U.S. national team roster announcement

2 Comments

The most important take-away is that Jurgen Klinsmann’s mind is far from made up as the hour nears for those most-critical of World Cup roster decisions – real career maker and breakers, they always are.

We know his mind is not made up because of Tim Ream.

There are several relatively new faces on the U.S. roster announced this morning, just 48 hours ahead of Wednesday’s friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Aug. 14 in Sarajevo – meaningless beyond the impact they have on these important individual choices. But a few of them are new to the full national team, based mostly on Klinsmann getting a better look under the hood.

But what about Ream, mostly a forgotten man on the national team, having apparently drifted far, far down the central defense depth pool? We know so because the Bolton FC man was not part of the U.S. Gold Cup squad, and Klinsmann used a fairly long ladle to get deep into the pool on that one.

So Ream, having last made an appearance in October of 2011, remains in play, perhaps able to leapfrog Oguchi Onyewu, who wasn’t exactly impressive in his brief Gold Cup appearance before injury took him out of the equation.

What else we can glean from Klinsmann’s choices:

Most MLS men left behind: So don’t read a single thing into the fact that guys like Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler – quite important to their MLS clubs – aren’t on the roster. They are fine, and all can feel free to begin perusing the Brazilian tourist guides, barring injury going forward, obviously. Eddie Johnson will make the trip overseas (along with Sounders teammate Brad Evans) but he was suspended for this week’s MLS match anyway.

(We’ll have just a little more on this later.)

The curious case of Timothy Chandler remains as mysterious as ever: As this is a roster of mostly European-based types, and as Chandler was absent from the summer national team goings-on, you would certainly think the outside back would be part of this roster. But history has taught us that Chandler always seems to have a reason for backing out – unless this is a case of the Klinsmann striking first, doing the “backing out” instead.

I checked with the U.S. Soccer spokesman in Sarajevo; Chandler is not injured. He was on the bench for Nurnberg over the weekend in Germany.

Danny Williams is also still in the picture – but he’s got a lot of catching up to do: His recent move from Hoffenheim to has yet to pay dividends, as the German-American midfielder has one appearance (off the bench) in his new club’s first two league matches. He was not fit enough for Gold Cup duty, which allowed Kyle Beckerman to re-establish himself as an important role player in the pool. Williams is in the 23 for Wednesday.

Newbies getting their looks: Four players are into a U.S. national team camp for the first time: John Brooks, Cody Cropper, Aron Johannsson and Bobby Wood. All but Johannsson were part of the U.S. under-20 program previously. Johannsson has applied to FIFA for a change of association after having previously appearing for Iceland’s under-21 team. As his paperwork remains incomplete, it seems unlikely that we’ll see him Wednesday. Best chance for one of the new fellows: Brooks is a center back, and this United States roster is a little light on the central defenders.

The book on Brooks’ name: His full name is Jonathan Anthony Brooks Jr. … but he’ll be going by John Brooks, according to U.S. Soccer staff.

Watford signs Will Hughes from Derby County

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Watford has completed the capture of 22-year-old central midfielder Will Hughes, a fantastic transfer for one of England’s younger talents.

Hughes, despite his young age, racked up 189 appearances for Derby County (despite missing significant time in 2015 for an ACL tear) and now gets his first shot at the Premier League, and with it potentially a chance to push his way into the England fold. Hughes has been a staple for the England youth system, making 22 appearances for the country’s U-21 side but is yet to feature for the senior team.

The fee for the transfer was undisclosed but reports have tabbed the amount at around $10 million.

Hughes came close to making the Premier League with Derby County on multiple occasions, reaching the Championship playoffs in both 2014 and 2016. Now, he’ll battle the likes of Valon Behrami, Tom Cleverley, Etienne Capoue, Abdoulaye Doucoure for a spot in Watford’s midfield.

The club release confirmed that Hughes has not yet completed his medical, and will do so when he returns to the U.K. from competing in the U-21 European Championships in Poland.

New Zealand 0-4 Portugal: Ronaldo, Portugal win Group A

Leave a comment

New Zealand gave the 2017 Confederations Cup all they had, but they go home empty-handed as Portugal won the Group A finale 3-0 to advance to the knockout round.

Portugal held much of the possession as expected, but they found little at the end early on. The first true chance fell to Cristiano Ronaldo in the 24th minute, who latched onto a Ricardo Quaresma cross from wide right and produced a powerful header, but it was poorly directed straight to New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic for the easy save.

[ RECAP: Mexico eliminates Russia with 2-1 comeback ]

Ronaldo had another headed chance minutes later, but he rocketed the attempt back off the post. Portugal would eventually find the opener just past the half-hour mark via the penalty spot. Danilo was clearly shoved by a pair of defenders on a set-piece, and Ronaldo easily dispatched the spot-kick for a 1-0 lead.

The favorites would double their lead just a few minutes later as Eliseu on the overlap came down the left flank and cut horizontally into the box. He fed a charging Bernardo Silva, and the in-demand Monaco attacker jumped to meet it and poked home. Silva was unable to celebrate after turning his ankle heavily on the landing, but he would come back onto the field.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Portugal finished things off with 10 minutes to go in the game as Andre Silva burst through the midfielder, shucked his defender, and fired past Marinovic to seal the game for good. Nani added a fourth The win means Portugal finishes level on points with Mexico at the top of Group A, winning the group on goal differential thanks to Silva’s final goal.

Mexico 2-1 Russia: Comeback seals semifinal place

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mexico again produced a poor first half, but were saved in the final 45 minutes as Juan Carlos Osorio led the CONCACAF squad to the semifinals of the 2017 Confederations Cup.

Right off the bat, there was a controversial moment. Just five minutes into the game, Yuri Zhirkov burst into the Mexico box and went to ground under a challenge from Hector Moreno. The referee waved play on, but it appeared on replay that Moreno tripped Zhirkov. Nevertheless, no call was made and no word came from the video assistant referee.

[ RECAP: Portugal eases by New Zealand 4-0 ]

The hosts had another huge penalty shout, but the referee again waved play on as Fedor Smolov was sent flying to ground as Nestor Araujo contacted his leg from behind in the 17th minute. After about a minute of play, the VAR called for a review, but even after a look at the monitor, the referee decided there was not obvious reason to reverse the call.

With Russia applying all the pressure, they would find the breakthrough in the 25th minute. A pair of fantastic saves from Memo Ochoa went for naught as Alexandr Erokhin whiffed, but he was able to find Aleksandr Samedov who struck low past Ochoa for the opener.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

The lead wouldn’t last long. Mexico didn’t exactly seem sparked by the deficit, but they would draw back level against the run of play just past the half-hour mark. It appeared that Nestor Araujo’s looping header was meant to set up a teammate at the far post, but it ended up chipping Igor Akinfeev and tucking inside the woodwork for the equalizer.

After halftime, Mexico scored completely out of nowhere. A bombed clearance out of the back by Hector Herrera seemed an easy collect for Akinfeev, but as the ball bounced high up into the air, Hirving Lozano charged it down and headed the ball under feeble pressure from the Russian goalkeeper. The ball bounced unchallenged into the net, and Mexico took a shock 2-1 lead.

Mexico appeared to have a third to pad the lead, but VAR took 34 seconds to correctly reverse the call as replay spotted goalscorer Hector Moreno in an offside position on the delivery. Russia was doomed to defeat when Zhirkov was given a second yellow card for a clear elbow to the face of Miguel Layun. Somehow, the hosts still had one big chance in the 72nd minute despite the disadvantage, but Igor Smolinkov somehow missed the net on what should have been a tap-in.

The win for Mexico sees them into the knockout stage, but they fail to win the group, finishing level with Portugal on 7 points but coming up short on goal differential by one. Mexico will be without Andres Guardado in the semifinals, as he was shown his second yellow card of the tournament in the first half.

Report: Arsenal owner calls Bellerin to state intentions

Getty Images
Leave a comment

According to a report by Spanish radio station Cadena SER, Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke has personally called defender Hector Bellerin to tell the Spaniard he would not be sold.

The 22-year-old experienced a serious regression at the Emirates last season, and with media speculation surrounding his potential departure, Kroenke wanted to make sure his intentions were clear. Reports had linked Bellerin with a return to his home country, most notably to Barcelona.

With Bellerin under contract through 2021 having just signed his extension last summer, it’s clear the club has decided who they believe keeping should be a priority.

The defender lost his place briefly down the stretch run last season, finding himself on the bench in seven of the club’s final 17 Premier League matches. Despite that, Arsenal still clearly values Bellerin’s talent and durability and hope to ward Barcelona’s interest off. Bellerin didn’t help cool speculation when he bought a house in Barcelona just a short time ago.

Reports say that Arsenal would not take any less than $57 million for their right-back.