us soccer

U.S. national team gets a day off in Brazil following Monday’s training game


Everyone knows how Jurgen Klinsmann likes grueling fitness work and time in the gym for his players: in a nutshell, early and often. The team’s German boss sees little value in a lot of lollygagging about.

So it says something when Klinsmann takes his foot off the pedal to give his team some rare time off.

Klinsmann has decided the team needs a little break following Monday’s closed-door training match with Sao Paulo. The United States, again looking at different combinations and playing pretty much the entire 26-man camp, won this match 2-1. That’s about it as details go. (For “why” the team and its staff don’t like to provide details on these informal training matches, see the bottom of this post.)

The team has worked every day (twice on many of them, with the second session perhaps being a workout in the gym) since the ongoing January camp opened Jan. 6. The only exception so far was the travel day into Brazil (which is hardly a “day off,” considering it was an overnight flight, and considering the travel delays that extended the time in transit).

How will most players (some of whom gathered in bunches into the night on Sunday to watch the NFL conference championship games) spend their day off? Best guess here is: sleeping and leisurely lollygagging about.

The team is sequestered at an urban Sao Paulo hotel, the same in which they’ll house themselves this summer in Brazil. In this way, this summer will look more “World Cup 2006” than “World Cup 2010” for the U.S. players. Eight years ago the team housed itself right in the middle of Hamburg, the beautiful, underrated city in Germany’s northern reaches. By contrast, four years later the team was based at a resort way outside of Johannesburg, which meant spending more or less the entire non-soccer time “on base.”

After the “sleeping in and resting” part, players, coaches and staff are doing the Brazilian churrascaria thing. And (assuming you’re a meat lover), that’s a fine, find thing.

One more little tidbit: conversations are apparently still going on regarding any roster changes to the camp upon arrival later this week back into California. So here’s a heads-up: I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see Michael Bradley pop up in the camp, getting in a few days of work with the team ahead of its Feb. 1 friendly against South Korea.

“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.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

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.