Discussing the United States starting lineup vs. Panama

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Jurgen Klinsmann’s starting 11 is out for tonight World Cup qualifier in Panama City:

  • In goal: Brad Guzan

Klinsmann says the guy deserves a start, and we wrote recently about how its hard to argue the point. The Aston Villa No. 1 has little to prove at this point, although the opportunity to nudge up a little closer to U.S. No. 1 Tim Howard makes his night in Panama City worth watching.

  • Along the back line: Brad Evans, Clarence Goodson, Michael Orozco, Edgar Castillo

Klinsmann will probably take four center backs to Brazil next year (or perhaps up to five, depending on how we count versatile man Geoff Cameron). Goodson (pictured) remains in a good spot, although young Anthony Brooks could continue to climb in the depth chart.

Orozco? Well, Klinsmann really likes the guy, so there’s always a chance. But he can’t afford any kind of error tonight.

Castillo was an off-the-bench revelation Friday; a good performance tonight and he could really improve his Brazilian chances.

  • In the midfield: Alejandro Bedoya, Sacha Kljestan, Kyle Beckerman, Mix Diskerud, Graham Zusi

Zusi has nothing to worry about. Beckerman is less secure but in OK shape. Besides, Klinsmann knows all of the RSL man’s strengths and limitations by now, so he’s either on the bus or he ain’t, and not much us going to change tonight. As for the others …

It’s probably a “no margin for error” zone. Especially for Bedoya, who needs to bounce back strong from a real stinker against Jamaica. It was extra harmful because Klinsmann had given him a start specifically as a reward for good play leading up to that Jamaican contest, although mostly in lesser competitions.

It’s not too much of a stretch to say that Kljestan’s or Diskerud’s ongoing chances could hinge on good performance tonight. Someone really needs to grab the opening here, the spot behind Michael Bradley for the linking role.

  • Up front: Jozy Altidore

This is all about trying to get the poor guy’s confidence up … getting his head right after dealing with this mess at Sunderland. Another goal would help.

Aron Johannsson did so much right Friday against Jamaica in his U.S. debut as a starter. Next, he’ll have to finish a chance – assuming he gets into the match at some point, which seems likely. Still, Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, Landon Donovan and (most likely) Herculez Gomez remain ahead of the young Icelandic-American, so this is an opportunity he simply cannot afford to waste.

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.