Fabian Johnson’s injury reminds us: lots of moving parts around U.S. national team top lineup

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We know that Tim Howard will be in goal as the United States lines up this June in Brazil.

We know Michael Bradley will supply the midfield brain, organizing the center, filling gaps with prudence and connecting the lines sensibly, as he always does.

With a bit less certainty, we think Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are first choices at center back.

Past any of that, when it comes to the U.S. national team’s top lineup for World Cup Brazil 2014, it’s all a bit of a stew-in-progress, isn’t it? Jurgen Klinsmann has plenty of chopped fresh vegetables, spices and meats on hand, so to speak, but hasn’t quite settled on the final recipe.

(MORE: Fabian Johnson suffers weekend injury)

Fabian Johnson’s injury over the weekend truly drives that point home. There are, and will continue to be, plenty of moving parts as Klinsmann puts the pieces together. And that’s without any further, destabilizing elements being introduced, like another injury or confidence sinkholes (like the one that Jozy Altidore seems to have stepped into.)

Let’s just take a quick look at some connected parts, how Johnson’s injury could shape or shake-up the order:

  • DaMarcus Beasley’s performance at left back has made him the top U.S. pick at that spot. That left Johnson has the United States’ best alternative at left midfield, or quite close to it.
  • With Johnson ably manning the left, Landon Donovan would be free to play on the right, or even centrally if Clint Dempsey can’t get his game pointed in the right direction. Now all of that is in question.
  • If Donovan plays on the left, that makes a starting spot more likely for Graham Zusi on the right.
  • Or, could we see a return to the left side for Dempsey, where he played so often through the Premier League years? It’s a fairly attack-minded position in Klinsmann’s preferred formation, a modified 4-3-3, so it’s hardly a stretch for the Seattle Sounders DP.
  • If Johnson isn’t available or in form, the chances that Brek Shea lands a roster spot would seem to increase, assuming he can keep logging minutes in England. Somewhere. (Which is why he needs to stick around Barnsley a little longer, as we suggested the other day.)
  • If Johnson is available, that even gives Klinsmann the option of playing the Bundesliga man on the left, deploying Dempsey as the most highly positioned forward – not his ideal spot, but it might be the best option by June – with Donovan tucked in behind. The odds for this one aren’t strong, but it’s not that far-fetched either.

These are just the moving parts connected someone with one man, Fabian Johnson.

The ongoing instability at right back, the expanding choices at striker, the lack of a natural left back, the form of Dempsey and Altidore all come with their own implications and ramifications. And that’s without factoring in further injury; and you can almost bet we’ll have some of that.

See … lots of moving parts.

Video: De Rossi, Roma make classy visit to Hillsborough memorial

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On many occasions there are instances where teams and individuals exemplify the fact that real-life occurrences are more meaningful than sports.

Ahead of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League meeting, Italian giants AS Roma visited Anfield –where they will face Liverpool in the competition’s semifinals.

After walking around the venue where the two sides will compete in less than 24 hours, Roma captain Daniele de Rossi and the rest of the Roma squad visited the Hillsborough memorial at Anfield to pay tribute to the 96 victims lost in the 1989 event that rocked the entire country.

De Rossi was seen laying a floral arrangement on the site, along with a note from the club that read, “In memoria delle vittime di Hillsborough AS Rome.”

Liverpool, Roma ride major emotions into the UCL semifinals

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Four clubs remain in this season’s UEFA Champions League competition, and while two of the teams have been considered heavy dogs in the fight all year long the other two sides look to continue on their storybook run.

Liverpool, Roma, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have found themselves in the semifinals of this season’s UCL, creating a strong mix of storylines as the tournament heads towards its most critical point.

[ MORE: Everton gets past Newcastle behind Theo Walcott’s strike ]

Anfield will be the site for Tuesday’s first leg between Liverpool and Roma, with both sides still riding major highs from their victories in the last round.

The Reds enter the final four after having disposed of fellow Premier League side Manchester City in relatively dominating fashion. Meanwhile, Roma completed a seemingly impossible comeback against Barcelona to progress in the competition.

Liverpool is led by three of the year’s top goalscorers, including Mohamed Salah — who has scored eight goals in the UCL and 41 across all competitions.

For Roma, much of the side’s success has been predicated on finding defensive strength at the right moments throughout the tournament.

Despite falling behind 4-1 in their first leg defeat to Barca in the previous round, Edin Dzeko and Co. rallied for a 3-0 win at the Stade Olimpico to stun the Catalan club by holding Lionel Messi and his side in check.

Manager Eusebio Di Francesco will have to find creative ways to halt the Liverpool attack though over the course of two legs, with the Reds boasting the top attack in this year’s UCL.

Liverpool has scored 33 goals in 10 UCL matches, while only conceding seven in the process.

Keeper Ederson hopeful he can score this season for Man City

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The prospects for a goalkeeper scoring during a match are usually uncommon, but that hasn’t halted Manchester City’s number one choice from aiming to break the trend this season.

Ederson — who has moved into the starting role at the Etihad Stadium with relative ease in 2017/18 — has dreamt of scoring a goal of his own for the Premier League champions in waiting.

“I heard the fans chanting my name, asking me to take the penalty but Gabriel went there,” Ederson said. “Unfortunately he missed it and Bernardo happily scored. But if the manager have asked me to go there, definitely I’d score.

“I’m not sure if I would be able to do set-pieces, but I’m good at penalties, either using power or technique on shooting it. But City have [their] regular penalty-takers and we are well-served.

Citizen supporters chanted for the goalkeeper to take a penalty kick over the weekend in the team’s 5-0 win over Swansea City.

However, Gabriel Jesus was the man selected for the opportunity, but had his attempt saved by Lukasz Fabianski before Bernardo Silva was in the right spot to score the game’s fifth goal.

“If Pep asks me to take it, I’m there,” Ederson said of the penalty kick. “Hopefully it will happen [before the end of the season], I’d like to score.”

This isn’t the first time Ederson has discussed exploring opportunities outside of the net, though.

The Brazilian shot-stopper has long been a fan of former Brazil international goalkeeper Rogero Ceni — who scored 65 goals for club side Sao Paolo.

Earlier this season, the 24-year-old joked around with the media, saying that he’d be more than happy to fill a role in the midfield when City was experiencing some injury issues within the squad.

Everton 1-0 Newcastle: Walcott blast has Toffees up to eighth

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Everton earned a 1-0 win against Newcastle on Monday behind Theo Walcott‘s second-half strike at Goodison Park.

The victory puts the Toffees into eighth place, leaping over Leicester City for the time being — as the Foxes have an extra game in hand.

[ MORE: Sweden coach says Ibra must reach out to have shot at World Cup ]

The former Arsenal man broke the deadlock six minutes into the second half when Walcott blasted the ball into the roof of the net following a lofted cross from Yannick Bolasie.

For Walcott, it’s his third goal since joining Everton in 2017/18 from the Gunners.

The visitors had their fair share of opportunities on the day, particularly through Ayoze Pérez, who was active all throughout the match.

Perez nearly broke the deadlock after the half hour mark when he tested goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the 31st minute with a diving save in the bottom left corner.

Phil Jagielka came close four minutes later when his close-range attempt narrowly missed the top left corner after Michael Keane‘s flicked header off a corner kick.

The Spanish forward was at it again in the second stanza, and nearly found the back of the net when his header was saved in the center of the goal off of a cross from Kenedy.

Newcastle pushed hard for an equalizer in the dying moments, and even played up a man for a few minutes when Leighton Baines was tended to for a head injury, but the Magpies couldn’t even the score.