Johnson of the U.S. steps away from Nosworthy of Jamaica during their World Cup qualifying soccer match at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio

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.

WATCH: Walcott compares Wenger speech to Pacino

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What if Tony D’Amato of American football was Antoine Dumond of the world’s game?

Theo Walcott says Arsene Wenger inspired him to make that comparison after a recent pregame speech, a fiery number that convinced the Arsenal attacker how badly his manager wanted to win the Premier League.

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Speaking to Arsenal TV for a series of questions on former and current teammates — and Wenger — Walcott shared a pretty funny tidbit:

“The manager did a speech the other day. I won’t be able to do the speech because it was that good.”

“It genuinely reminded me of the film ‘Any Given Sunday’. I actually said that to him, and I was little bit embarrassed.’ You remind me of that film, that speech,’ I didn’t know if he had seen the film.

“Just showing the passion and how hard, and how long it’s been as well. He really wants it, like all of his players.”

Here’s the thing, though: Walcott doesn’t give us the answer as to whether Wenger has seen “Any Given Sunday”. And how about you, Theo, do you see yourself in Willie Beamon or Cap Rooney?

CAS rejects Serbia’s challenge to Kosovo joining UEFA

Supporters of Kosovo's national soccer team raise Kosovo flag during their international friendly soccer match at Adem Jashari Stadium in Mitrovica, Kosovo on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Kosovo host Turkey for their second friendly match of the country's national football team. Turkey won the match 6-1. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Serbian soccer federation’s appeal against Kosovo joining UEFA has been rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The court ruled that Kosovo met the standard of UEFA entry rules because it is “recognized by the majority of the United Nations member states as an `independent state.”‘

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Serbia argued that Kosovo, which joined European soccer’s governing body last May despite not being a U.N. member, should be blocked.

CAS decided that because “there is no formal recognition of countries by the U.N.,” then acceptance of Kosovo’s statehood by most countries was valid for the soccer application.

European soccer federations voted 28-24 in favor of Kosovo’s entry to UEFA after Serbia led opposition to its former province.

Serbia and its allies, including Russia, have not recognized Kosovo since the Balkan republic declared independence in 2008.

UEFA’s decision led to Kosovo joining FIFA one week later, and being fast-tracked into a 2018 World Cup qualifying group.

Still, Ukraine hosted Kosovo in neutral Poland in October, because its government also does not recognize Kosovo’s statehood.

Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”