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)

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”