Chances to impress growing precious and few; U.S. faces Bosnia-Herzegovina in a friendly in Sarajevo

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  • Several important U.S. starters will sit this one out
  • The Eastern European nation is 13th in current FIFA rankings
  • Tim Howard, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore are the U.S. headliners

Jurgen Klinsmann has tinkered for more than two years now, experimenting with personnel and formations while working the levers to find the very best version of the current United States national team.

But time is growing short before the U.S. boss, now blessed with the nodding approval of most American soccer fans, begins closing out this “experimental phase” and looking to tighten up the operation. That means chances to impress will be precious and few going forward.

In fact, Wednesday’s friendly in against Bosnia-Herzegovina may be the one and only chance remaining for some of the faces who arrived into Sarajevo on Monday for a few quick practices and the mid-week match inside Asim Ferhatovic Hase Stadium. Kickoff on ESPN2 is set for 2:30 p.m. ET.

Klinsmann has summoned mostly European-based player to face the world’s 13th-ranked team according to FIFA. Bosnia-Herzegovina currently tops its World Cup qualifying group, although it’s a relatively weak assembly.

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard, Roma midfielder Michael Bradley, Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones and Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore (who is currently on a four-game scoring streak, a signature accomplishment at international level) are the front-line U.S. men in this particular group. Expect all to start.

Beyond them, there may be four U.S. men in Sarajevo who have more or less secured their spot for Brazil next year. (The United States has a place all but mathematically booked for the 2014 World Cup; expect that to happen during the pair of qualifiers coming up in early September.)

(MORE: Hearing from Jurgen Klinsmann on the Clint Dempsey omission)

That means the bulk of Wednesday’s 22-man roster – it was 23 before a hamstring injury removed center back Michael Orozco Fiscal from consideration – still has some proving ahead. A few of the ‘tweeners, like Eddie Johnson or Sacha Kljestan (pictured), are better positioned than others for spots on the 23-man World Cup roster.

But for a formerly forgotten man like Tim Ream, in his first U.S. camp in almost two years, or for versatile defender-midfielder Brad Evans, this chance is pure gold. If they get time, which seems especially likely in Ream’s case, they simply must make an impression on the boss.

Same goes for four youngsters getting their initial, up-close inspection from Klinsmann. They are mostly here for introductions into the full program, but that doesn’t mean they can’t surprise the coach with a special performance, if they happen to get on the field.

Among that foursome is promising center back John Brooks and Iceland-raised striker Aron Johannsson, whose paperwork from FIFA arrived only on Tuesday afternoon.

(MORE: Chances just increased of seeing Aron Johannsson on Wednesday)

This may be another chance for Geoff Cameron to prove his value as Klinsmann’s potential utility knife on next year’s roster. Having recently shown he can be a holding midfielder at international level, and having demonstrated in the Premier League that he can hold his own at right back, a shortage of center backs may require the former Houston Dynamo to take up his old spot in central defense Wednesday.

(MORE: Michael Orozco Fiscal withdraws due to injury)

Most of the MLS-based national team regulars aren’t in Sarajevo. That group includes Landon Donovan, commanding star of the show during the United States’ recent Gold Cup crowning, and Clint Dempsey, who just made a head-spinning move from England’s Tottenham to the Seattle Sounders of MLS. For a mid-week contest, and considering the MLS types are so critical to their teams’ ongoing playoff push, Klinsmann left them stateside for this one.

The United States remains on its record 11-match winning streak, which began June 2 with a 4-3 victory over Germany.

(MORE: A few notes and conclusions from U.S. roster announcement)

Transfer rumor roundup: Van Dijk to Chelsea, Ox to Anfield

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More and more players are being linked with Manchester United, but — believe it or not — the Red Devils aren’t the only club seeking talent.

DiMarzio is reporting that Antonio Conte is close to securing the services of Southampton center back Virgil Van Dijk, insisting the Dutch back is Conte’s top choice ahead of Juventus power house Leonardo Bonucci (which isn’t to say there isn’t room for both). The price? An eyebrow-raising $77 million.

[ MORE: Confederations Cup scenarios ]

Meanwhile, Conte is selling talented Bertrand Traore outside the Premier League. A solid season on loan at Ajax upped interest in the 21-year-old striker, and L’Equipe says it’s a $22 million move to Lyon for Traore.

How much do you think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is worth? Liverpool may think his value is as high as $32 million, as The Independent reports that Arsenal is prepared to sell the Southampton Academy product to the attacker-heavy Reds.

Meanwhile, Serge Gnabry‘s wild journey looks to have another stop despite a purchase from Bayern Munich this summer. Gnabry was one of Germany’s heroes at the Olympics and left Arsenal for Werder Bremen last summer. He thrived, and earned a deal to Bayern, but Kicker brings quotes from a Hoffenheim player that are hopeful of a loan for this season.

Messi offers to pay $558,000 to avoid 21-month jail sentence

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi has offered to pay an additional fine of 500,000 euros ($558,000) to ensure he avoids a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud that a judge is expected to suspend, a Spanish state prosecutor said Friday.

State prosecutor Isabel Lopez Riera told The Associated Press the fine-for-time deal was presented by Messi’s lawyers to the judge who will rule on whether to suspend Messi’s sentence – as is widely expected. Lopez Riera said she has told the judge that her office is not opposed to the deal.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Lopez Riera said Messi’s lawyers have made a similar offer for the Barcelona player’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi. He is offering to pay 360,000 euros ($402,000) to avoid his 15-month sentence for helping his son cheat on his taxes.

In Spain, prison sentences under 24 months for first-time offenders can be suspended by a judge.

The government attorney representing Spain’s Tax Office in the case will also be able to weigh in on the proposed deal. As state prosecutor, Lopez Riera is impartial in the case as a defender of the public interest.

Last year, a court in Barcelona found Messi and his father each guilty of three counts of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million) from 2007-09. The unpaid taxes were from money made through endorsement deals, not Messi’s salary paid by Barcelona.

Messi was fined 2 million euros and his father 1.5 million euros. Both were originally sentenced to 21 months, but his father’s sentence was later reduced to 15 months.

In the last two weeks, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and former Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho have been accused by a Madrid-based state prosecutor of having defrauded Spain’s Tax Office of millions of euros (dollars) in unpaid taxes.

Both have denied wrongdoing.

WATCH: Pair of inspiring Academy videos from Men In Blazers

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Men In Blazers produced a pair of videos on two teens from rival academies that should give all young players a sense of gratitude and inspiration for their chances in American soccer.

New York City FC Academy center back Prince Amponsah and New York Red Bulls Academy destroyer Amadeo Chapru-Tate get the mini-doc treatment from Roger Bennett.

Amponsah comes from Ghana, and his family moved to the United States where their son found his way to the youth national team.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Chapru-Tate comes from Haiti, adopted by his parents after a three-year process. His first game saw him score an own goal, but that was not a sign of what’s to come for the 15-year-old.

Confederations Cup: Scenarios before final group matches

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Seven of eight nations remain alive for the knockout rounds after two-thirds of the group stage at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.

Only New Zealand has been eliminated, though the underdogs aren’t the sort of nations who will quit ahead of its group finale against Portugal.

That’s one of two Saturday matches, along with Russia versus Mexico, with two more on the docket for Sunday when Germany meets Cameroon and Chile duels with Australia.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

We’ve seen zany finishes at the Confederations Cup before, as the U.S. beat Egypt 3-0 and Brazil topped Italy 3-0 on the final day of group play in 2009 to send the Americans past Italy and into the knockout rounds despite a tournament-opening 3-1 loss to the Italians.

Group A

Draws will be enough to send Mexico and Portugal into the knockout rounds, with Mexico currently leading the group by virtue of a single goal scored (The two sides drew 2-2 in the opener).

We mentioned New Zealand’s status as a wild card, but hosts Russia will be under immense pressure against Mexico. The cynic will note that the tournament’s location could help the Russians beyond simple home-field advantage, while a bigger cynic may not that Mexico has been the beneficiary of plenty of officials’ whistles and non-whistles in recent years.

The safe bet is Portugal to win and Mexico to advance via draw or win.

Group B

No one’s safe, but Chile is feeling very good about its chances coming into Sunday’s match against Australia in Moscow. The Chileans battered Australia at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and a draw would give them a place in the next round.

The Socceroos need a two-goal win to pass Chile and assure a spot in the next round. A one-goal win could also do the trick for Australia if Germany loses and Australia outscores the Germans (who currently hold a one-goal advantage).

Germany knows it’s result-and-in for them, while Cameroon faces the longest odds. Not only do the Africans need to upset the Germans, but they need a two-goal win and help. If Cameroon won by one, it would fail to pass Germany.