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

5 Comments
  • 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)

MLS Snapshot: Jozy double downs Dynamo, Toronto wins 2-0

Associated Press
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): Toronto FC had too much firepower for defensively challenged Houston, and the hosts carved up the Dynamo for a 2-0 win north of the border. Giovinco was creative and flashy if not sharp, and Jozy Altidore was the benefactor as the American bagged both goals. After an early spell of Houston possession off the opening whistle, Toronto dominated from start to finish, with the midfield bossing the game.

Three moments that mattered

16′ – Raheem Edwards on the ball out wide, he burst into the box and – seeing Giovinco draw 2 defenders in an offside position – he cut back for Altidore who finished cooly from the spot. Too easy for the opener.

32′– Jozy doubled his lead as he played an absolutely brilliant one-two with Giovinco. The Italian popped it over the top as Altidore slipped through the line, and the USMNT star had the simplest of finishes.

85′ – Houston looked to get back into things by pouring men forward, but to no avail. The closest they came was off a corner as Alex ripped off a shot that sailed over the bar.

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

Man of the match: Victor Vazquez/Marco Delgado

Goalscorers: Jozy Altidore (16′, 32′)

Juventus bumped by Atalanta at the death

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Juventus is still in firm control of the Serie A title race, but they were dealt a slight setback as Atalanta secured a 2-2 draw with a dramatic 89th minute equalizer in Bergamo.

Dani Alves had given Juventus the lead in the 83rd minute on a header after a brilliant far-post cross by Miralem Pjanic, but Remo Freuler answered late as he grabbed a point.

The goal came on a fortunate bounce as Pjanic and substitute Stephen Lichtensteiner got tangled up on the ball and failed to clear, and the ball squirted to Freuler who suddenly found himself free in front of Gianluigi Buffon. The Juventus keeper came off his line to smother the chance, but he failed to completely collect, and the ball again popped free. Freuler followed up the loose ball, and with a trio of Juventus defenders flying in, the 25-year-old Swiss attacker knocked it in.

The draw was deserving for Atalanta, who had controlled the game for much of the first half, and went ahead just seconds before the break on a goal by Andrea Conti. Atalanta outshot Juventus 7-4 in the first half, 3-1 on shots on target. Juventus took over control in the second half, and got back on level terms just five minutes after the break as Juventus loanee Leonardo Spinazzola put one in his own net.

Alves’ goal put Juventus in front, but that lead only lasted six minutes. Juventus goes nine points clear at the top of the Serie A table with the draw, but Roma has the chance to cut that to six if they can beat Lazio at home on Sunday.

MLS Week 8: Litmus tests across the board

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Week 8 in MLS action could teach fans a lot about clubs with plenty to prove.

With questions still abound regarding teams like NYCFC, New England, Seattle, Portland, and New York Red Bulls, all those teams have a chance to make statements regarding their potential strength this season.

[ MORE: Week 8 MLS Power Rankings ]

In addition, struggling teams such as Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Montreal all have opportunities for much-needed points against arguably weaker opposition.

Let’s take a look at the weekend slate chronologically:

Toronto FC vs. Houston Dynamo
7:30 p.m. ET Friday

Toronto got a pair from Giovinco last time out, and sitting near the bottom of the crowded East mid-tier, they need points fast to avoid finding themselves in a hole behind the top of the table. There’s goals in this one, with Houston defensively challenged and Cubo Torres on fire to start the year.

Montreal Impact vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
3:00 p.m. ET Saturday

An all-Canadian clash actually serves as a vitally important match for both clubs. With each side near the bottom of their conference standings, they both need a result badly to jump-start the campaign. A draw does nobody any good here moving forward.

Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids
4:00 p.m. ET Saturday

The Lions are one of 2017’s surprises, and Cyle Larin is on an absolute tear. Unfortunately, so far, anyone who shuts down Larin shuts down Orlando City. That said, good luck to Colorado shutting down an early MLS Golden Boot challenger.

Cyle Larin has 6 goals in 6 games this season (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images).

NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

New York has seen bumps on the early-season road, but overall remains a strong Supporter’s Shield contender. They face a big test against another strong Eastern Conference side, and a win here would make it three straight, all over good competition. Chicago is reeling after its defeat to Toronto, out-shot 9-1, but has another chance to pick up a road win before heading back home.

Columbus Crew vs. NYCFC
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Columbus has been poor on the road, but they return home to Mapfre Stadium to take on a strong NYCFC side. This game could potentially teach us a lot about whoever comes out on top, as both look to build separation from the rest of the pack in the East. Both have lost two of three, but both still appear strong up front, and three points in this game could prove to be a marquee win to point to later in the season.

Minnesota United vs. San Jose Earthquakes
8:00 p.m. ET Saturday

Minnesota United, owners of one of the worst starts to the season, has shown signs of life. Can they keep it going against another team struggling for points?

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers
8:00 p.m. ET Saturday

This is a marquee matchup, and with FC Dallas unbeaten so far, represents a huge test but also a huge opportunity for Portland to announce itself as a true top contender in the West. They’re top of the table, but have played at least one more game than most teams just below them. Can the Timbers find a way through the strong Dallas D?

Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake
8:30 p.m. ET Saturday

A big rivalry game with big table implications, Sporting KC has the unfortunate luck of catching RSL after hiring Mike Petke and not before. This should be a fun one.

Seattle Sounders vs. New England Revolution
10:00 p.m. ET Saturday

We still don’t know exactly what New England is. For every step forward they’ve taken one back, and for every setback they’ve had they’ve found a way through. This is a fantastic test. There are plenty of excuses for a potential loss with the team going cross-country to face one of the league’s best attacks, but a result could be a true statement.

LA Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union
10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

With Philadelphia struggling and now traveling a long way, this should be a chance for the Galaxy to turn things around. Should be.

Atlanta United vs. D.C. United
3:00 p.m. ET Sunday

Atlanta is back home for the first time in over a month. They have slipped a bit since the torrid start, but still appear a dangerous club. D.C. will have its work cut out.

Asian FIFA executive pleads guilty to bribery charges

Getty Images
1 Comment

A guilty plea was entered early Friday by senior Asian Federation (AFC) official Richard Lai to bribery charges, leading FIFA to suspend the 55-year-old indefinitely.

Lai has served as the head of the Guam FA since 2001, and is a member of the FIFA audit and compliance committee. He was also formerly a member of the AFC executive committee, and currently sits on the AFC marketing committee. Lai is a United States citizen.

The guilty plea confirms more than $1 million in bribes accepted by Lai, including those from Kuwaiti officials looking to increase their influence over FIFA voters in the confederation. Two unnamed AFC executives, including one Kuwaiti, were also named as co-conspirators.

“One of the functions the defendant Richard Lai performed for Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 in exchange for the funds they sent him was to advise them on who was supporting which candidates in AFC and FIFA matters, including elections, and who Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 should recruit to support their chosen candidates,” a Department of Justice document published on Friday said.

That wording seems to indirectly implicate Qatari executive Mohamed bin Hammam, who was banned for life by FIFA in 2011 for bribery.

“I would like to thank the American authorities for their continued efforts to stamp out corruption from football,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement following the plea. “I am happy to confirm once again, that FIFA will provide whatever assistance is needed by the U.S. and any other authorities around the world.”

Lai has also been provisionally suspended by the AFC.