Sacha Kljestan, Craig Conway

A few U.S. national team men desperately need to make big impressions next week

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Every invitation to the United States national team is an opportunity, and every player who has been summoned by Jurgen Klinsmann’s over the last two-plus years should know so. They waste chances at their own peril – because, really, who knows when the next one is coming if you aren’t named Donovan or Dempsey or Howard, etc.?

But some opportunities carry extra weight; Clearly we are at that point when it comes to a few of the U.S. figures who will gather in Frankfurt, and then fly into Cyprus on Tuesday’s for the next day’s friendly against displaced Ukraine.

We are talking serious Last Chance Saloon stuff here for a few guys still straddling the bubble.

(MORE: Klinsmann names squad for Frankfurt camp and Ukraine friendly)

A few of the fellows assembling Sunday in Frankfurt are in, period. Then we have a few are just too far away, without enough time to climb all the way back. But about those bubble types; let’s look at their situations:

Sacha Kljestan: Kljestan never looks bad in the U.S. shirt – but he never looks like a game-changer, either.  If he could so something in camp and (especially) Wednesday against Ukraine, he would go a long way to solidifying his position on that charter into Brazil. His competition for a midfield spot is probably down to Mix Diskerud and Benny Feilhaber, with one or maybe two spots open; Kljestan (pictured) is surely still ahead of Feilhaber but a little  behind Diskerud.

Alejandro Bedoya: Klinsmann needs wingers, figures comfortable attacking from wide areas (who can therefore stretch a defense a bit). And there are precious few of these fellows in the U.S. pool. Bedoya doesn’t really seem to have World Cup quality, but he’s alive in this thing because he does man a position where Klinsmann’s corps are so paper thin. Still, he has to show the manager enough, give Klinsmann reason to feel good about putting him on the plane to Brazil. Otherwise, the manager might just decide that he’s better off with someone else, even if that “someone else” isn’t a flank specialist.

Brek Shea: See Bedoya above … same deal.

Juan Agudelo: Now this could be the late, surprise run from a long-shot figure that we sometimes see. Given the (recent and discomforting) flux of the U.S. forward situation, there’s room for someone like Agudelo (or perhaps Terrence Boyd, who is also in the camp) to work his way up the order with a big camp and / or a goal in Cyprus. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt for Agudelo to toss in a few goals in the month or so ahead at his new, temporary Dutch home.

Danny Williams: He always seemed capable of getting back into the running, considering the German-American midfielder was a U.S. starter less than 18 months ago. Injuries and instability in his club situation conked Williams on the head, national team-wise in 2013. But here he is … still a young talent, and still blessed with a chance to make a late run if he can get on the field against Ukraine. It’s worth wondering whether Klinsmann might start Williams ahead of Jermaine Jones; the coach knows all too well, after all, what Jones can and cannot do at the holding midfield position.

(MORE: Do not read TOO MUCH into some of these surprise call-ups)

Klopp hopes for speedy solution in club, fans’ ticket-price dispute

Liverpool's fans wave flags during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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From his time at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp is used to a much more positive, family-like, everyone-pulling-in-the-same-direction atmosphere at his club of employment, so the present goings-on at Liverpool understandably have the Reds’ first-year manager feeling more than a little uneasy.

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Saturday’s late 2-2 draw with Sunderland wasn’t the first time Liverpool fans have headed for the exit before the final whistle, leaving Klopp feeling all alone, but it was the first time the fans have departed from Anfield early in a pre-planned, organized manner (Klopp missed the game himself with appendicitis). The Anfield faithful didn’t walk out on 77 minutes due to their team’s poor performance — Liverpool were 2-0 ahead at the time — but in protest of steadily rising ticket prices, which were unveiled at $111 per game to sit in the 132-year-old stadium’s new main stand next season.

Klopp, coming from the Bundesliga, where a season ticket at clubs the size of Bayern Munich and Dortmund doesn’t cost much more than a single-game ticket at many Premier League grounds, understands the fans’ frustration. At the end of the day, though, he works for the club, which is why he just wants the whole thing settled quickly, for the sake of his squad — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s not what we want. What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. We don’t want people to leave the stadium before the game is finished.”

An LFC TV appearance by Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, in which he was expected to answer fan-submitted questions, was consequently canceled on Monday due to the ongoing dispute.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

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The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.