U.S. roster announcement delayed until weekend, at earliest

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U.S. Soccer officials have delayed the roster announcement, originally set for Thursday, until the weekend, at earliest.

U.S. Soccer spokesman Michael Kammarman told me late last night that Saturday is the tentative target – but it would not surprise me if this gets pushed into early next week, just before the team arrives into Kansas City for a few days of training ahead of Friday’s contest at Sporting Park.

Jurgen Klinsmann had hoped to name the roster for the remaining pair of World Cup qualifiers today. But injuries and Major League Soccer’s schedule, and the combined, complicating effect of both, are mucking up the works. It all goes to underscore just how tricky this one is for the U.S. manager, with more moving pieces than usual at work.

Thus, U.S. Soccer wanted to see out the weekend matches to access availability, and the subsequent ripple effect, of a few familiar faces.

The starting point for Klinsmann, as he has repeatedly said, is that he wants the best team possible for next week’s home match against Jamaica in Kansas City and the qualifier finale in Panama.

(MORE: Anthony Brooks, Michael Bradley ruled out for U.S. roster)

Michael Bradley and Anthony Brooks have already been ruled out. That’s according to Klinsmann himself, who also said expects Clint Dempsey (pictured) and Landon Donovan to be available.

Here’s where things get dicey – and it’s mostly twisted up in Major League’s Soccer decision to play through FIFA dates:

The Seattle Sounders stand to lose three players for two matches to the call-ups. Not only are Sigi Schmid’s men targeting a Supporters Shield, both matches are Cascadia Cup contests – and Schmid will be loath to lose Dempsey, Eddie Johnson or Brad Evans (or any combination thereof) for these contest.

Further complicating things are the whispers and wonders about how a Supporters Shield would impact Schmid’s ongoing employment around CenturyLink? Voices in the game are wondering if claiming a Supporters Shield would be enough to get Schmid a new deal, regardless of what happens in the playoffs (where Seattle has not done well previously).

(MORE: Injuries undermining U.S. plans for final World Cup qualifiers)

Then we have Sporting Kansas City, the Los Angeles Galaxy and perhaps Real Salt Lake, all three of which stand to lose two U.S. internationals each.

Los Angeles was thinking “Supporters Shield possibilities” two or three weeks ago. Now Bruce Arena’s team could be one loss away from tumbling out of playoff positioning entirely. Yikes!

So the guess here is that a little negotiating is going on. As in: “Can we keep this guy for this match, or can he arrive late into your camp?” Or perhaps, “Can we get that guy back after Friday’s qualifier in Kansas City, so that he doesn’t travel down to Panama?”

source: Getty Images
Seattle’s Sigi Schmid … tangled up in all this.

In any scenario, how one player comes through the MLS weekend – That is, 100 percent healthy or something south of that? – may have a trickle-down effect on these ongoing discussions. And for any player that may bail out for one of the U.S. matches, Klinsmann has to line up a replacement, one from abroad or from an MLS team that may also be reluctant to give up one of their best players.

Oh, one other complicating factor: several U.S. players sit on yellow card warning, set to miss the finale if they collect a booking next week at Sporting Park.

To be clear, clubs are required to release players for FIFA qualifiers, and Klinsmann values his time with these guys in camp. He wants them in camp, no question, and clubs don’t have any choice if the players are summoned. But the U.S. manager also understands the politics of it all and values relationship, so he is likely to bend here and there. After all, it’s not the players’ fault or the MLS coaches’ fault that Major League Soccer continues to plow through these FIFA dates.

La Liga releases schedule: First El Clasico coming in December

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It’s Christmas in July for fans of La Liga Friday as the Spanish league published its schedule for the upcoming season.

Defending champions Real Madrid travel to Deportivo La Caruña on August 20, the opening match of the season while its rival Barcelona hosts Real Betis.

As it’s La Liga, the first date most fans searched for was the first El Clasico of the season, and the biennial battles between Real Madrid and Barcelona will take place on December 20 and May 6, with Real Madrid hosting the first match.

The first match comes just ahead of the Spanish winter break, while the second match comes at a busy period at the end of the season, where both teams will be hoping to still be competing in the UEFA Champions League.

Other interesting matches to keep an eye on in the first few weeks of the season include Real Madrid hosting Valencia in week two, the Barcelona derby between Barca and Espanyol in week three and Atletico Madrid taking on Sevilla in week six.

Here’s a look at this year’s La Liga schedule.

Conte: Costa “situation was very clear” in January

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At this point, there is no doubt Diego Costa‘s future lies away from London and Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte broke his silence on the Brazilian-born Spain international striker, saying he’s been ready to move on from Costa since January, when Costa and Conte had a disagreement following a big-money offer from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian during the winter transfer window.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

“I don’t like to talk about players who are not here but the only thing I can tell you [is that] in January, the Costa situation was very clear, for the club for him and his agent,” Conte told reporters Friday. “For me the situation is closed.”

It’s an amazing turn of events after Costa scored 20 Premier League goals in Chelsea’s title-winning 2016-2017 season, including 14 goals through the end of December. But after falling out with Jose Mourinho a year earlier, the same issue happened again under Conte, with Costa proving much less effective down the stretch.

But Conte and Costa were able to put their differences aside on the field, photographed multiple times hugging after wins, as well as after winning the title.

Costa is reportedly now agitating for a move back to his former club Atletico Madrid, but the Spanish club’s transfer ban until the next window complicates matters. In a World Cup year, would Costa be willing to sit out half a season just to leave Chelsea?

If Costa’s time in the Premier League is up, he’ll go down as one of the league’s best pound-for-pound goalscorers. He scored 52 goals in 89 Premier League appearances, with seven more cup goals in his three-year spell at Chelsea.

And if he is gone, defenders across the Premier League will sure be happy to wave goodbye.

Sparta Prague signs France midfielder Rio Mavuba

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PRAGUE (AP) Sparta Prague says it has signed France midfielder Rio Mavuba to a three-year contract.

The 33-year-old Mavuba comes from French club Lille, which he joined in 2008. Before that, he played for Bordeaux and Spanish club Villarreal.

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Mavuba was on the France team at the 2014 World Cup.

He is the 10th player signed by Sparta after Italian coach Andrea Stramaccioni took charge in May.

Mexico 1-0 Honduras: Pizarro strikes early to put El Tri in Gold Cup semifinals

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Mexico had little trouble dispatching Honduras as El Tri won 1-0 in Glendale, AZ and eased into the Gold Cup semifinals.

Just four minutes into the game, Mexico took the lead as they got Honduras on its heels, with Rodolfo Pizarro sticking the ball in at the far post at the end of a scramble. Jesus Duenas carved a ball through the defense, and while Elias Hernandez whiffed on the tap-in, Pizarro was right behind him to finish the chance.

Mexico settled in after scoring, while Honduras tried to out-muscle El Tri, with the latter receiving a pair of yellow cards in the first 45 minutes. There were precious few other chances throughout the first half, with Honduras completely incapable of creating anything in the attacking half.

Mexico continued to dominate out of the halftime break, but they lost Monterrey midfielder Jesus Molina in the 65th minute with discomfort, replaced by Chaka Rodriguez. The best moment for Honduras as they chased the game late came in the 78th minute as Jose Corona made a spectacular save when substitute Alexander Lopez nearly scored directly from a corner. They came close again in stoppage time after a set-piece as Alfredo Mejia scuffed a shot agonizingly wide.

Honduras ended their Gold Cup without a single goal scored. They technically defeated French Guyana 3-0 in the group stage, but that came on the typical forfeit scoreline, whereas the actual game played ended in a 0-0 draw.

Meanwhile, Mexico will take on Jamaica in the semifinal in a rematch of last tournament’s final.