Rounding up the U.S. national team’s pre-World Cup schedule

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About three months from now, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann will gather his team for a pre-World Cup training camp. Yes, it’s just about time to talk about pre-World Cup training camp. Oh. Joy.

Every pre-World Cup camp comes attached to friendlies (usually three) that will help sort the final lineup choices, combinations and such.

There’s still a lot of “I” crossing and “T” dotting for the federation, but we know a lot today about what the U.S. national team’s pre-World Cup schedule will look like.

Remember, unlike other years, there will be no friendly once Klinsmann’s men arrive into Brazil; teams may play friendlies up to five days before the competition begins, and the U.S. arrival schedule does not permit it. (Well, no “public” friendlies, that is, none that any of us will see. The team can play closed-door matches.)

  • The federation has announced a March 5 match in Europe against Ukraine. Circle this one; the roster picked for the match in Ukraine promises to look very similar to Klinsmann’s final 23-man roster.
  • The federation continues to work out details of a proposed early April match with Mexico, most likely in Arizona. As this is no FIFA date, look for an MLS-heavy assembly, similar to the lineup Klinsmann’s deployed in last week’s win over South Korea. (With one big exception: Michael Bradley will surely be part of this one.)
  • The team will gather sometime in early- to mid-May at Stanford University outside San Francisco.  ESPN FC’s Doug McIntyre reported earlier this week that a May 27 friendly would finish off that part of the camp. The report said potential opposition included Sweden, Serbia and Turkey.
  • Word was out a few weeks ago that Red Bull Arena would probably host a match. Still no date for that one, but best bet is June 1. Coaches like to emulate the pace of first round games; June 2 would more accurately emulate actual World Cup schedule, but that’s a Monday.
  • SI.com has reported that the team would depart from Florida for its base in Brazil on June 8, one day after its final match before actual tournament competition. The June 7 contest is all but booked for Jacksonville. You know who likes Jacksonville? Landon Donovan likes Jacksonville! Or have you forgotten about the man’s hat trick against Scotland there two years ago?
  • The ESPN FC report cited Nigeria as the most likely opposition for the Jacksonville contest. That makes sense, as the next time Klinsmann’s bunch is on the field in an actual match, they’ll be up against another African team – in a match they probably have to win for any realistic hope of advancing out of the first round.

Jonas nets 2 late goals to keep Benfica in title hunt

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Jonas scored two late goals to lead Benfica’s 3-1 comeback win at Pacos Ferreira on Saturday, keeping it close to Portuguese league leader FC Porto.

Jonas equalized in the 72nd minute and gave the defending champion the lead in the 88th.

[ MORE: Man United-Chelsea meet in giant Sunday PL clash ]

Rafa Silva added a third goal after the host was reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when Gian dos Santos was shown a direct red card.

Luiz Phellype gave Pacos Ferreira the lead in the ninth.

The double increased Jonas’ league-leading tally to 27 goals.

Benfica moved to within two points of Porto before the pacesetter visits Portimonense on Sunday.

Sporting Lisbon is third at five points behind Porto. It hosts Moreirense on Monday.

Orlando City trades defender Jose Aja to Whitecaps for allocation money

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The Vancouver Whitecaps have struck a deal with an Eastern Conference side to help solidify their back line.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson leads Werder Bremen to win ]

On Saturday, the Cascadia club finalized a deal to acquire Orlando City defender Jose Aja in exchange for $125,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) for 2019.

Additionally, Orlando could receive another $100,000 in TAM if Aja remains on the Whitecaps roster next season and a 2021 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick if Aja is in Canada for the 2020 campaign.

Aja has made 25 appearances for Orlando since coming to MLS in 2016 from his native Uruguay.

The timing of the deal is intriguing, given Tim Parker’s willingness to exit the Whitecaps ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

PST reported on Thursday that Parker is seeking a move back to the East Coast, and the New York-native is being tracked by several Eastern Conference sides, including the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United and the Montreal Impact.

Parker is considered one of the top American defenders in MLS, and is actively seeking a massive pay raise ahead of the new season, after making just under $100,000 in 2017.

PL Sunday preview: Red Devils battle Chelsea at Old Trafford

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It will surely be one of the biggest fixtures of the season when Manchester United and Chelsea get together on Sunday, and for both clubs a victory could be vital in projecting their form for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.

Meanwhile, a crucial meeting at Selhurst Park pits teams on opposite ends of the table against one another. Crystal Palace enters the weekend levels on points with 18th-place Swansea, while Tottenham could leap Chelsea for fourth if results go in favor of Spurs.

[ MORE: Liverpool continues to score at lightning pace against West Ham ]

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The injury bug has hit Palace hard as of late, with a total of 12 senior team players being left out of Roy Hodgson‘s squad. The list includes Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye and Mamadou Sakho, which won’t make things easy against a talented Spurs side.

Tottenham have had a ton of success in this fixture recently, winning the last five encounters and only allowing one goal in the process.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have hit the ground running in the second half of the season thus far, picking up a league-high 15 points in the Premier League since the start of 2018.

If there is a saving grace for the Eagles though, it is that Palace has been solid at home this season, and gone unbeaten in nine of its last 10 fixtures at Selhurst.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN

After a pair of draws from the PL sides kicked off their Champions League Round of 16 campaigns midweek, United and Chelsea can now focus their attention back to England; at least for the time being.

Jose Mourinho’s team came away from Seville with a crucial scoreless draw after the hosts tested goalkeeper David De Gea on numerous occasions, while Chelsea were close to pulling out a victory against Barcelona had it not been for a big-time mistake from Andreas Christensen late in the match.

Nonetheless, this is a fixture that always garners significant attention, especially from the Blues, who tend to have a better go of it. United has won just once against Chelsea in their last 14 fixtures, with the lone victory coming last season.

That said, Antonio Conte and his side have failed to exemplify consistency this year, and that includes road matches. The Blues have just two road wins in their last nine attempts across all competitions, which bodes well for the Red Devils.

The good news for Chelsea is the recent form of attacking duo Willian and Eden Hazard. The Brazilian was constantly in dangerous positions up the pitch against the Blaugrana in their recent UCL encounter, nabbing the lone goal for the Blues, while Hazard has scored six times in his last six PL matches.

The 2 Robbies: Unstoppable Liverpool, Man United-Chelsea and more

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In today’s episode, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss Liverpool’s emphatic win over West Ham (0:17), breakdown an extremely complicated relegation situation where nearly half of the league is in jeopardy of going down (10:05), before closing the show with a preview of tomorrow’s Man United v. Chelsea match (28:10).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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