clint dempsey

U.S. World Cup roster examination – Who is going to Brazil?: FORWARDS


Compared to the overwhelming options in the center third of the field, this one is a relative piece of World Cup cake.

As three veteran players have done plenty to prove their worth, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann really has two questions to answer: First, does he take four or five strikers? And then, who are the extra one or possibly two (once we get past Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson, all of whom have their gold chip in pocket)?


(Estimated number of spot available: 4-5):

Start making plans, guys … you’re going to Brazil!: Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore Eddie Johnson

Dempsey may be struggling to make his mark on MLS, but he has a long and telling history of manufacturing big moments in the U.S. shirt. Don’t be afraid to buy the extra pair of flip flops, Deuce, you’ll be feeling the sand of Rio on those Texas toes.

source: Getty Images

So will Altidore, no matter how far he sinks into the swampy mire at Sunderland. Hopefully, all that gets better. But if it doesn’t, Klinsmann will not forget about Altidore’s fabulous summer, or that he put away four vital goals in final round qualifying, including back-to-back game-winners against Panama and Honduras.

Eddie Johnson scored some big goals this year, including the game-winner as his Americans clinched a World Cup berth against Mexico. (Can’t you still hear the Columbus crowd crowing: “Dos a cero!”) He is the most athletic of U.S. strikers and has great instincts and timing around the six, quite something to have at the ready when in need of a late goal. So he’s on the charter.

The really interesting thing is that Herculez Gomez would have been on this list just a few months ago. But a summer injury allowed Johnson to slip inside Gomez on depth chart, and now the Xolos de Tijuana man (uh … should it be “Xolos de Tijuana hombre?”) may have to hold off a late challenge from Aron Johannsson, 22, who looks to have tremendous upside.

“Upside” doesn’t get you on a World Cup roster, but two impressive performances in qualifiers last week and on Tuesday will move the Icelandic-Alabaman significantly in that direction.

For you Chris Wondolowski fans: I love the guy, and he represents MLS as well as anyone I have ever known. But I ask you once more, which guy do you subtract from this list? Until you can name that guy, this isn’t a debate.

On the bubble: Herculez Gomez, Aron Johannson, Terrence Boyd

Still in the conversation … but just barely: Chris Wondolowski, Juan Agudelo

(MORE: Where the goalkeepers of the U.S. player pool stand) 

(MORE: Where the defenders in the U.S. player pool stand)

(MORE: Where the midfielders in the U.S. player pool stand)

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.