MLS Media Day: Tim Cahill talks Red Bulls, Australia, Everton

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Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill held court at MLS Media Day, providing an intriguing analysis on the Supporters Shield, the community that’s being built at the Red Bulls, and his preparations for the upcoming World Cup.

Any truth to rumors that you’re scheduled to play up front this year? 

I think it’s still early to say. I think it will be a big year for the Red Bulls but whether it’s an advanced role or in the midfield, I think it will pan out over the course of the season.

What are your thoughts on the increase in spending in MLS? 

It’s fantastic. The imprint the league is making on the world stage is significant. Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley and Julio Cesar are world class players so for MLS to have the intent of going for players like that is fantastic.

Discuss the competitive balance of MLS compared to the Premier League. 

Just because your club has the best players doesn’t mean you’re going to win. What’s gonna win is continuity, a strong foundation, a base of players who player day in day out and consistency. That’s the difference for the last 1.5 years the the Red Bulls. We formed a core here, a family atmosphere throughout the whole of last season. And we fought the whole season. We cleared that hurdle now it’s up to us as to take it to the next level.

The only way the league can get better is by having a system whereby you keep a strong majority of the players. The bar always has to raise regardless of how your last season was. A few years ago the Red Bulls were a commercialized team. Last year we won the Supporters Shield and now we’ll go anywhere and try to mix it up with the best of them. I feel winning the Supporters Shield, we were the most consistently team the whole year. I still feel we won the hardest thing to win, the Supporters Shield. This year the goal is to win MLS Cup.

Last year we were all learning. It was Mike Petke’s first year. This year, it’s going to be difficult but it’s just about finding the consistency.

Do you think winning the Supporters Shield changed the culture of the club?

100%. When I first came here, I said I want to win the Supporters Shield. Before that we were a team with no identity. I was OK to lose games 5-3 and I played deep so we wouldn’t concede goals. Now we’re pushing forward with establishing a community. I want this to be a family club.

Community, family, spirit – it all sounds a bit like Everton. How much did your time there influence how you feel now?

It was everything. Fans can only relate to trust. They now have a feeling, an identity, whereas before they felt they didn’t belong to something. It’s about having that connection. When I leave New York, I’d like to think I can leave the same important mark that I left at Millwall and the same I’ve lived with at Everton. This is what I’ve done throughout my career.

How do you juggle MLS with international demands? 

Personally, I need to play as many games as possible before going to the World Cup. I want to do well for Red Bulls which means automatically I’ll be ready to get on that plane for Australia come June.

During last season we would target how many points to get through a week. Kansas City led most of the way but then blew up. But we stayed consistent, just targeting the points and it worked because we won the Supporters Shield.

With the international schedule, MLS and our Champions League and Open Cup competitions, the Red Bulls are definitely going to need rotations. It’s going to be a difficult season but it’s also going to be enjoyable.

Did you contemplate a loan deal this year? 

Why do it? I just finished a massive season for the Red Bulls, in cup competitions and internationally. Yeah, it’d be great to go back to the Premier League but at what cost to the Red Bulls?

Given my ankle injuries from last year I needed to make sure I got healthy in the off-season and so that I could miss as few games as possible.

How is your preparation different now in MLS than in previous years in Premier League? 

If I stayed in Premier League, I would have to have retired from international football. The demands of flying back and forth from England to Australia and wanting to do justice to my club side would be too much. I take the same approach now as I’ve taken in past years – it’s just that in MLS the demand of games and travel time isn’t as high as the Premier League.

It hasn’t been easy coming to MLS. Physically, it’s demanding. Every player is exceptionally fit and it shows on the National Team.

Bobby Wood looks forward to working with Arena, praises Klinsmann

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A back injury kept Bobby Wood from United States men’s national team camp, but the Hamburg striker has been feeling good about the side’s World Cup fortunes since before the big win over Honduras.

Speaking with Hamburg’s team magazine, Wood gave a sprawling interview on his career and time with the national team. Wood praised Arena for scouting in Germany, saying the USMNT boss is a quiet coach who has his own style of playing, one that will prod the Yanks into the World Cup.

[ MORE: Complete USMNT-Panama preview ]

But the 24-year-old Hawaii-born striker saved his fondest words for ex-coach Jurgen Klinsmann, essentially calling him a career-saver. From HSV live (translated from German):

He’s very important to me. I believe if Jürgen had not been U.S. coach, then I might have stopped playing football or would have played somewhere in the fourth league.

That is why I am very, very grateful to him. At that time I was in a deep hole – it was real heavy. … He has believed in my quality. We are still in contact, he texts me.

Wood was a part-time player for 1860 Munich when Klinsmann first called him up to the national team side, and now he’s a Bundesliga striker who will be in demand if the club is relegated. Wood has also been mentioned as a target for Premier League clubs.

That’s a pretty good career jump. Klinsmann may have failed to deliver much of what he promised to the national team, but talent mining was done quite well.

USMNT-Panama preview: World Cup calm at stake

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Still wounded from the first two matches of the Hex but buoyed by its demolition of Honduras, the United States men’s national team faces an inspired Panama on Tuesday night in Panama City.

The Yanks arose from the ashes of losses to Mexico and Costa Rica to bury Honduras 6-0 Friday behind a Clint Dempsey hat trick and a goal and two assists from Christian Pulisic.

A win on Tuesday in Panama gives the U.S. something that can only soothe the nerves ahead of two summer qualifiers and the Gold Cup: Top Three status in the Hex (as is always expected).

Now the resurgent Americans face a Panama side which sits above them on the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table, having narrowed the gap on a Los Canaleros side who itself has narrowed its sights on a USMNT which burned them nearly four years ago.

[ USMNT-HONDURAS: Player ratings | Three things ]

Panama looked set to earn an interconfederation playoff berth with a 2-1 lead over the already-advanced U.S. when Graham “San” Zusi and Aron Johannsson led a shocking comeback at the Estadio Rommel Fernández to give Mexico the Hex’s fourth-place.

Los Canaleros shot out of the Hex gates with a win at Honduras and a 0-0 draw at home against Mexico, but fell 1-0 at Trinidad and Tobago on Friday thanks to Minnesota United star Kevin Molino.

Now licking its wounds while eyeing revenge, Panama will hope its pair of draws with the U.S. at the 2015 Gold Cup are the start they need to pick up a first home World Cup qualifying win over the States. Panama won the third-place match over the USMNT via shootout at the that tournament.

Boss Hernán Darío Gómez is no stranger to international battles having led Ecuador, Colombia, and Guatemala. He deployed a 4-5-1 against T&T, and could opt for that again but has usually used either a 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2 with two holding mids against deeper sides than the Soca Warriors.

The former has worked better, and the personnel sometimes serves as a surprise. Last time out, in a 0-0 draw against Mexico, Gomez kept Anibal Godoy and Luis Tejada on the bench in what looks like a 4-2-2-2 at times.

[ MORE: Making sense out of the 6-0 win ]

Bruce Arena faces his own issues. In addition to the absences of Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson, the USMNT lost Sebastian Lletget and John Brooks in the win over Honduras.

Lletget’s absence is quickly remedied by either Alejandro Bedoya or, more likely, Jermaine Jones, but Brooks is a bigger problem. The Hertha Berlin man cleaned up several messes made by Omar Gonzalez, the ex-LA Galaxy man who — for better or worse — may not have shaken Arena’s confidence thanks to their long relationship.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Geoff Cameron is his best option at CB, and could serve a similar purpose to Brooks. Still, he’s not 100 percent.

Gonzalez and Matt Besler worked well together a long time ago, but Tim Ream was Arena’s first choice when Brooks hit the turf with dehydration on Friday. There’s also wild card Walker Zimmerman, who would be taking the field in his highest-profile match yet.

Arena will want to take the match to Panama, even on the road. How will it look in front of Tim Howard? This is an option for Arena, though not one we expect:

Howard

Zusi — Cameron — Ream — Villafana

Jones — Bradley — Nagbe

Pulisic

Dempsey — Altidore

Instead, Arena will probably roll the bones with Gonzalez again, and keep things close to the Honduras win. It would be silly to break up the Villafana-Nagbe partnership on the left, and the top three isn’t changing one bit.

The question is whether Arena ruffles Jones, who is both combustible and not part of the long-term future. But Jones, like all of us, would’ve seen 6-0. So, probably, this:

Howard

Cameron — Gonzalez — Ream — Villafana

Bradley

Bedoya — Nagbe

Pulisic

Dempsey — Altidore

If Bradley provides the same picture-perfect cover for the back four and Pulisic continues to hum off the veteran big bodies of Dempsey and Altidore, the latter of which who is due a goal or two, the Yanks win. At worst, they’re beaten for pace by Alberto Quintero and stymied by Jaime Penedo. But the former can be covered by an in-form Howard, and the latter can only hold out for so long.

A draw puts the U.S. behind Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico ahead of two months off and the knowledge that both Mexico and Costa Rica are home for both June qualifiers.

Schweinsteiger waiting on visa, training in Mallorca

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Bastian Schweinsteiger is waiting on a visa to make his trip to Chicago official.

It’s a formality, albeit a bit trickier now given the political climate in the United States. The former Manchester United midfielder is training at Real Mallorca ahead of the move.

The transfer was announced one week ago, and Schweinsteiger is anxious to get back on the pitch. Set for a 1-year, $4.5 million deal, the midfielder has not missed any Chicago matches yet.

[ MORE: Under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

The Fire is 1-1-1 to start the new season under Veljko Paunovic, and has three home matches next: Montreal (Saturday), Columbus (Apr. 8), and New England (Apr. 15)

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.