Jurgen Klinsmann

Early approval: Klinsmann extends contract, will serve as U.S. head coach, technical director through 2018

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You certainly can’t argue with the results. CONCACAF champions and top finisher in their World Cup Qualifying group, the U.S. has done all it can under Jurgen Klinsmann, but at some level of international coaching, your final judgment usually comes after the World Cup. Fall flat on your face on the biggest stage, and people will likely forget how you got there.

For Klinsmann, however, judgement came early, with U.S. Soccer announcing the national team boss has extended his contract through the next cycle. Renewing through 2018, the 49-year-old German received a vote of confidence that should transcend whatever happens in Brazil. He also added the technical director’s title to his business card – another sign the USSF is all-in on Klinsmann.

“One of the reasons we hired Jurgen as our head coach was to advance the program forward,” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement announcing the extension. “[W]e’ve seen the initial stages of that happening on the field and also off the field in various areas.”

That success saw the U.S. reclaim the Gold Cup this summer. The team followed by winning their World Cup Qualifying group for the third straight cycle. Along the way, a 12-game winning streak set the mark for longest in program history, with the U.S. now ranked 14th in the FIFA World Rankings.

Aside from the U.S. winning all its games, there was little more Klinsmann could have done in his time in charge. Qualifying for Brazil while changing the way they win games, the U.S. accomplished exactly what Klinsmann was asked to deliver.

“I am very fortunate to continue the work we started more than two and half years ago,” said Klinsmann. “It’s exciting to see the progress we have made, and we continue to make improvements on all fronts.”

As much progress as there’s been on the field, there’s been as much progress in the perception of Klinsmann’s performance. Whereas the coach was the target of regular skepticism and critique going into the last round of qualifying, with doubts reaching their peak in the days before the U.S.’s home qualifier against Costa Rica, Klinsmann’s won critics over with results, the product of which has earned him an extension.

“He has built a strong foundation from the senior team down to the youth teams,” Gulati said, “and we want to continue to build upon that success.”

Hence the technical director designation, a move that effectively hands Klinsmann a promotion for the work he’s done since 2011. Though many assumed Klinsmann’s philosophies were already bleeding through the U.S. Soccer apparatus, now the former Germany and Bayern Munich coach as the title to match his influence.

“The role of Technical Director is a huge challenge and also a huge opportunity as we look to keep connecting the dots to the Youth National Teams, Coaching Education, the Development Academy and the grassroots efforts in this country,” Klinsmann said. “For sure it means more work, but also many more fulfilling opportunities.”

With the U.S. slowly changing the way their team is playing at the senior level, the technical director role ensures the concepts Klinsmann has instilled at the highest levels trickle down. The degree to which youth teams are matching the senior team’s style is at his discretion.

“It is vital that we stay focused on the development of our youth players and make sure the messages we are providing the senior team are being spread through our Youth National Teams as well the U.S. Soccer Development Academy,” said Klinsmann. “With Tab [Ramos] as our Youth Technical Director we will be able to continue to connect the dots and see more improvement.”

If connecting dots was the theme of Klinsmann’s remarks, it was an appropriate one. With this extension, U.S. Soccer is connecting the dots between their 2014 and 2018 cycles, a move that ensures the progress that started when Gulati turned to Klinsmann can continue beyond Brazil.

Men in Blazers podcast: Jurgen Klopp pod special

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog sits down with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp to give you a taste of his new documentary on the eccentric German boss.

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Klopp hails “unbelievable” player performance to send Liverpool to Europa League final

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 05:  Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool gives instructions to captain James Milner of Liverpool during the UEFA Europa League semi final second leg match between Liverpool and Villarreal CF at Anfield on May 5, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp didn’t want any of the credit after Liverpool defeated Villarreal 3-0 at Anfield to send the Reds to Basel with a spot in the Europa League final.

“Wonderful night – a brilliant game from my side,” Klopp said to BT Sport after the game. “What power, what a performance, what attitude with the readiness, motivation, emotion in the game – everything.”

Liverpool held 60% of the possession and out-shot Villarreal 25-6, including 12-2 among shots on target.

“We go to Basel. We take 50,000, 60k, 70k Liverpudlians with us – maybe 100k – not in the stadium, but in the city,” Klopp said of the upcoming final. “Everybody is invited. It is a nice city by the way, close to my home! Let’s go there, create an atmosphere and do our best again. It is well deserved and I am really, really pleased for all the boys.”

Klopp, who hails from Stuttgart, Germany which is under a three hour drive from Basel, made the call to start Daniel Sturridge and Emre Can.

Sturridge was on the bench for the first leg against Villarreal when Liverpool was held scoreless and played the full 90 minutes in their loss to Swansea over the weekend. This time, he forced the opening own-goal and scored the second. Can, meanwhile, hasn’t played in a month due to an ankle injury, but he was a force in front of the Reds back line.

“The only thing we said at half time was that the first half an hour was a big emotion,” Klopp said after the game. “It was great but then the last 15 minutes of the first half we lost patience. We didn’t move them over the pitch as much and tried to go down the middle, but there was no space so we lost balls. We defended well though so nothing happened. The second half plan was to keep going with the emotional football plus using your brain little a bit more and in the end it was brilliant – wonderful goals. The whole night was unbelievable.”

“We have to create atmospheres like this in each Premier League game too.”

Barcelona’s Neymar left out of Brazil’s Copa America squad

RECIFE, BRAZIL - MARCH 25:  Neymar of Brazil reacts  during a match between Brazil and Uruguay as part of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifiers at Arena Pernanbuco on March 25, 2016 in Recife, Brazil.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Barcelona star Neymar has been left off Brazil’s squad for the Copa America, which will be played in the United States next month.

Brazil’s coach Dunga accepted the Catalan club’s request to use the striker either at the Copa America or at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August – and the Olympics won.

Dunga’s squad, named on Thursday, includes seven players under the age of 23 – all of whom will be eligible for the Rio games.

Dunga says “We are bringing a competitive team for an important tournament.”

Brazil is in Group B with Ecuador, Haiti and Peru and starts its campaign on June 4 against the Ecuador in Pasadena, California.

The competition, which is celebrating its centenary, will take place for the first time outside of South America.

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Squad:

Goalkeepers: Alisson (Internacional), Diego Alves (Valencia) and Ederson (Benfica).

Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Fabinho (Monaco), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Douglas Santos (Atletico Mineiro), Miranda (Inter Milan), Gil (Shandong Luneng), Marquinhos (Paris Saint Germain), Rodrigo Caio (Sao Paulo).

Midfielders: Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Elias (Corinthians), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Rafinha (Barcelona), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Lucas Lima (Santos) and Willian (Chelsea).

Forwards: Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich), Hulk (Zenit), Ricardo Oliveira (Santos) and Gabriel (Santos).

2-time defending champions Sevilla back in Europa League final behind Gameiro brace

SEVILLE, SPAIN - MAY 05:  Kevin Gameiro of Sevilla FC celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA Europa League Semi Final second leg match between Sevilla and Shakhtar Donetsk at Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan on May 05, 2016 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Sevilla is getting pretty good at this European competition thing.

The two-time defending Europa League champions are back in the finals after topping Ukranian giants Shakhtar Donetsk 3-1 in Seville thanks to a pair from Kevin Gameiro plus an insurance goal from Mariano.

With the aggregate even at 2-2 coming into the second leg, Gameiro got things started in the ninth minute all by himself when he pilfered the ball off Maksim Malyshev in the attacking half and stuck it home into the far post. Shakhtar hit back just before halftime when former Arsenal striker Eduardo finished off a wonderful through ball by Marlos that split the Sevilla defense, tying things at 1-1 and the aggregate at 3-3.

[ MORE: Liverpool into Europa League final after running Villarreal ragged ]

But with Shakhtar still trailing on away goals, Sevilla put things away straight after the break when Gameiro again proved vital. The 28-year-old Frenchman took a feed from Grzegorz Krychowiak and finished from a very tight angle. Mariano left no doubt when he struck a stunning curler that bent inside the left post and put Sevilla 3-1 up.

Sevilla has not failed in European play since they dropped out of the Europa League qualification round to Hannover 3-2 on aggregate in August 2011. They won the title in 2014 on penalties after drawing 0-0 with Benfica in Turin, and they took down Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 3-2 in last year’s final from Warsaw.