Herculez Gomez of the U.S. speaks to the media before attending a national soccer team practice session at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico

Herculez Gomez’s bid to get back into U.S. national team scene starts tonight in Los Angeles

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How convenient for U.S. international striker Herculez Gomez that his bid to regain status with the United States national team begins just down the road from Jurgen Klinsmann’s place in Southern California.

Gomez, who was in South Africa with the 2010 U.S. World Cup team, is fit and ready once again for Club Tijuana. The team is just into its preseason ahead of the 2014 Clausura, and the initial preseason contest is tonight at the StubHub Center against Club America.

That also happens to be the national team’s training ground, where Klinsmann will gather his team in less than two weeks for the annual January camp. More on Gomez’s bid and the Xolos is here from Scott French, including some revealing quotes on where things went sideways in fall rehab for the veteran striker.

Here’s the issue for Gomez, who looked like a strong candidate to make the World Cup team as recently as last April. Back then he had a starting spot for the two matches that righted the U.S. World Cup qualification efforts, the snowy-white win over Costa Rica and the telling draw in Mexico City. Now some of the numbers are working against him.

If we just look at the men who will play at striker, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore are shoe-ins (assuming good health). Eddie Johnson scored big goals for the team last year, taking full advantage of his opportunities, some of which were down to Gomez’s injury absence. He’s in a good spot.

And now Aron Johannsson has shown how good he can be. His performances for AZ keep impressing – although this potential move to Celtic could prove fateful. This young man has a big upside.

(MORE: Would a Celtic transfer for Johannsson be a good idea?)  

Four outright strikers is about all the 23-man roster can handle. Gomez did play wide in the system when last seen as a starter, but that was before Landon Donovan returned to good graces. Donovan, although roughly the same age, is faster and more versatile than Gomez. Plus … well, he’s Landon Donovan, a.k.a. the best player this country has ever produced.

Either way, all Gomez can do is the very best he can do. Klinsmann likes him, and with good reason: he’s a likeable guy, and that counts for something in the final estimation. Klinsmann talks a bunch about “givers and takers,” so Gomez is in good shape if he can create an “all things being equal” situation with talent and production.

By the way, Klinsmann will be at the StubHub Center tonight. Gomez’s chance to gain some ground begins right there.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.