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Aron Jóhannsson’s latest goal a reminder: U.S. forward picture starting to look pretty clear

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Twenty-two goals in all competitions is not a bad way to say ‘Hello’ to the Eredivisie, and for U.S. international Aron Jóhannsson, that’s only seven months worth of work. After his latest salvo in AZ Alkmaar’s 1-1 draw on Saturday with Utrecht, the 23-year-old is up to 22 all-competition goals this season. To put that in perspective, Jozy Altidore scored 31 times in his much ballyhooed 2012-13, also with the North Holland club.

Another American hopeful was also on the field today at the AFAS Stadion, but Juan Agudelo couldn’t match his countryman’s impact. In his fifth league appearance with his new club, the Stoke CIty loanee went 73 minutes without a shot on goal. Jóhannsson only managed one greater, but heading home Roy Beerens’ 21st minute cross from the edge of the six-yard box, the Alabama-born striker recorded his 14th league goal of the season.

There was a time not so long when Jóhannsson’s chances of going to Brazil seemed more wish than reality, but with his performances in Holland only reinforcing what we saw at the end of 2013, a player that wasn’t even in the pool this time last year has become a near-lock. Along with Altidore and D.C. United’s Eddie Johnson, Jurgen Klinsmann seems to have three sure bets at forward for this summer’s World Cup squad.

When you consider the positional flexibility of Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, the entire U.S. forward corps may be set. When talking about alternatives, Steve Davis debated the virtues of Agudelo, Terrence Boyd, Herculez Gomez, and Chris Wondolowski, but the debate may end up more complicated. Those four many not only be competing against each other, but they may also be competing against the extra midfielder or defender Klinsmann could add at their expense. With Dempsey and Donovan, the U.S. doesn’t need four true forwards, particularly since Dempsey is currently seen as a starter beneath Altidore up top.

Between three goalkeepers and the three apparent forward locks, the U.S. has 17 other spots to divide between the back line, midfield, and potentially another forward. Depending on injuries, potential match ups, or just fit, Klinsmann may decide a ninth player in the middle or at the back is more valuable than a fourth true forward. Given the players that already locks, he has that option.

As for Jóhannsson, here’s a YouTube-quality version of today’s goal. With efforts like this, he may be the third of three true forwards going to Brazil.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc2za-gDFxA]

VIDEO: 70-yard volley from Chile is nearly impossible to believe

Alejandro Camargo, Universidad de Concepcion
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His name is Alejandro Camargo, and he scored what might just go down as the best goal of 2016 on Sunday: an impossibly perfect volley from well beyond the halfway line.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

Miguel Pinto is the opposing goalkeeper whose long-range clearance, which covered about 50 yards during the final seconds of Universidad de Concepcion’s clash with O’Higgins in the Chilean first division, was taken off the fly, first-time, by the Argentine midfielder to seal a 3-1 victory for the home side.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

“The coach told us Pinto was always playing in advance of his goal, so I closed my eyes and hit it,” Camargo said after the game.

“Hit it and hope” has never looked so good.

Roma fans stay away from derby to protest new security barriers

A view of a huge section of empty seats as Roma fans desert derby in protest over security barriers, during a Serie A soccer match between Lazio and Roma, at the Rome Olympic stadium Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
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ROME (AP) Roma’s most ardent supporters stayed away from the derby match against Lazio in protest at barriers introduced at the start of last season in their area.

Normally filled with supporters waving huge banners, lighting flares and singing, half of the “curva sud” — southern end — of the Stadio Olimpico was left empty for Sunday’s match.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

Three of Roma’s locally born standouts held a meeting with the “ultra” fans during the week. Captain Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi asked the supporters to return, and the club itself has also tried to resolve the matter.

But the appeals had no effect.

In contrast, Lazio fans filled the northern end of the stadium as usual.

The plexiglass barriers were put in place by city officials for security reasons.

VIDEO: “Behind The Badge: Watford FC” — Episode 2

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In Episode 2 of Behind the Badge: Watford FC, watch the players’ recovery after a win against Leicester, a look at the club’s one-of-a-kind internship program and a flashback to a memorable moment in Watford’s history.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

To watch past episodes of Behind The Badge, including last season’s edition featuring a look inside Crystal Palace, head over to the full archive by clicking here.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Above video
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN

Pardew saves his job, says Palace owners “don’t know a lot about football”

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Alan Pardew, Manager of Crystal Palace thumbs up prior to the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Southampton at Selhurst Park on December 3, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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While some may advise that keeping a low profile would best suit Alan Pardew right now, Crystal Palace’s embattled manager is of a totally different mindset.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Following Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Southampton, in which Pardew’s side saved his job (for the time being), the 55-year-old Eagles boss and former player chose the first bright moment, Palace’s first Premier League win since Sept. 24, to hit out at the club’s new American owners with a scathing assessment of the footballing prowess, or perhaps lack thereof — quotes from the Guardian:

“The chairman got a bit edgy this week, as you’d expect. We have a lot of serious investors at the club who perhaps don’t know a lot about football so the chairman has been defending me.

“I always think as a manager at any level, particularly in the modern era, expect the sack. Just expect it; it’s coming at some stage, so just do your job as best you can. Every week, that’s what I try to do.

“Sometimes it’s hard to dress up six defeats when you’re the owner of the club and you have investors. Obviously there are things he’s got no control over but he’s tried to offer me all the assistance that he could. He’s been brilliant for me and I just want to say thank you to him really.”

With various reports linking Sam Allardyce and Roberto Mancini to a job which he still holds, it’s understandable that Pardew would be slightly on edge, quick to thump his chest and restake his claim as the right man for the job, but perhaps alienating and borderline embarrassing the new investors, who are now responsible for signing your paychecks, wouldn’t have been my go-to move.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

On the other hand, as Pardew rightly stated in the above quotes, his day of reckoning will eventually arrive, so what’s he really got to lose?