Three Good Questions: Vancouver Whitecaps’ Jay DeMerit

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Jay DeMerit is approaching the one-year anniversary of an Achilles injury that cost him all but eight games of the 2013 season, but if Saturday’s performance at Providence Park is any indication, the 25-time United States international is ready to reclaim a space among the best defenders in Major League Soccer. Thanks in part to his performance, the Vancouver Whitecaps prevented the Portland Timbers from scoring an open play goal in their 1-1 draw at the Rose City Invitational.

After the game, the Vancouver captain talked to ProSoccerTalk about the Whitecaps’ coaching change, his goals for the 2014 season, and his health entering his fourth season in Major League Soccer.

PST: Martin [Rennie] was respected as a bright guy – a bright young coach. Carl is also a bright young coach, but the one difference between them: Carl [Robinson] has a [lot] of MLS experience. Are you seeing that difference in how he approaches things?

DeMerit: Yeah, I think so. That was always the talking point at the end of the season  when it matters, you need guys with [MLS] experience.

Carl certainly has that, both on a playing side and on a coaching side, as an assistant. He is a guy that can bring us to that next level. With only six weeks of him at the helm, we’re already showing the improvement. Hopefully we can take that now to the next level.

On whether veteran leadership is important amid changing coaches.

Very much so, and I know that’s Robo’s (Carl Robinson’s) vision as well, to keep some of the older guy. Kenny Miller, Andy O’Brien, myself — guys that have many, many years of experience — are just as important. As he moves into his next stage of his career as a head coach, he’s going to need all the help had can get, as well.

I think we’ve created a good team environment here, where we’re all in it together. It’s not Robo trying to be the boss. He’s there knowing he needs his leaders and we need him, too.

The best teams I’ve ever been on are the ones that are all together, and we’re defintiely starting to show that now here.

PST: At this point in your career, what kind of personal goals do you set going into a new year? Be one of the league’s best defenders? All-Star team? How do you measure your own performance?

DeMerit: First off, you want to be a leader on a good team. For me, the number one thing I can ever do is get respect form my teammates and my coaching staff. So that’s number one: To make sure I’m here and giving my all for this team.

Number two is to stay healthy. As you get older, that sometimes becomes an issue. So my goal this year is to stay healthy, to play as many games as I can for this club.

And thirdly, it’s always to test yourself against the best in the league, and for them to walk of fthe field knowing I was hard to play against. It’s always been my goal playing against the best players in the world, and that has to continue now.

I enjoy that. For me it’s all about the competition, and I love competing. This year doesn’t change that.

PST: How are you doing health-wise, especially after what happened last year?

DeMerit: It’s been fine. I haven’t missed a day of training yet. Obviously, I finished the last two months of the season, so that was a good indicator.

With serious injuries, you never really know. Once you get back on the field and get back to where you were, that’s a good sign for moving forward.

It’s been fine ever since. Of course, I have to stay on it. I’m 34, and I’ll be 35 this year. I have to make sure I do all the maintenance work required, as to where I’m at in my career.

On the mental aspects of returning from an Achilles injury.

At the end of the season, that was the biggest mental hurdle, not only to prove to myself but to prove to the club that I can still be the player that I was. That’s the first step.

Once I was able to do that, I moved into the offseason with a fair amount of confdence I’d be back. We were able to get the contract done, so I’m happy to be here and still being a leader of this team.

We have a good young group of guys, but we need the old guard to step in and be leaders this year, because there aren’t too many old guys on this team. I think a lot of us that are here are happy to play that role and are looking forward to a good season.

Chris Wondolowski thankful for call-up to national team

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Chris Wondolowski didn’t have to travel far when he got the call to join the U.S. national team ahead of two key World Cup qualifiers.

The U.S. will be playing Honduras on the home field of Wondolowski’s San Jose Earthquakes on Friday night as the Americans look to bounce back from an 0-2 start in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

“To represent your country is the ultimate pinnacle, especially as a soccer player in a World Cup qualifier in your hometown,” Wondolowski said. “I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. I’m very excited. I’m very honored to be a part of such a big game. It’s not necessarily the place we want to be, but it is an exciting place for U.S. Soccer right now. We have meaningful games in meaningful places.”

And Wondolowski might need to play a meaningful role with the U.S. short-handed at forward headed into the games against Honduras and then at Panama next Tuesday. Bobby Wood is out with a back injury, Jordan Morris has not practiced this week because of an ankle injury and Clint Dempsey said he might not be able to play 90 minutes after missing the final four months of the 2016 MLS season due to an irregular heartbeat.

That leaves just Jozy Altidore and Wondolowski as the only healthy forwards. The 34-year-old Wondolowski didn’t know whether he would get another chance at World Cup qualifying.

He didn’t get his first call-up to the national team until six years ago despite a prolific MLS career. He has played 35 international games, including two at the 2014 World Cup.

Wondolowski has scored 11 goals for the national team, but is most remembered for one he missed in the round of 16 against Belgium at the 2014 World Cup. With the game scoreless late in regulation, he had a chance at a game-winner but shot over the crossbar from inside the 6-yard box.

The U.S. lost 2-1 in overtime and Wondolowski has not played in any 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

“If you play well at the club level, you figure you can get a chance,” he said. “You never know if that will keep happening. You always have to cherish the times that you have.”

Wondolowski has done that by scoring 28 goals the past two seasons for the Earthquakes and one so far this season in three games. He doesn’t know if he will get a chance to play but has already been a valuable resource for his familiarity with the home stadium.

“They’ve been asking me about the field, the atmosphere,” he said. “I don’t have enough adjectives to tell them how great it is. The atmosphere you feel, the presence that the crowd provides throughout the game will lift you. It’s an amazing pitch, amazing fans, and hopefully we can get three points.”

After the losses to Mexico and Costa Rica last November that led to coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s firing and the return of Bruce Arena as coach, the U.S. has little margin for error.

The Americans are in last place in the six-team group that will send the top three teams to Russia in 2018 and the fourth into a playoff with the fifth-place nation from Asia.

“Some games you go in and you’re trying to implement things and work on your style,” Wondolowski said. “We’re worried about three points. Pretty, ugly, it doesn’t matter. Just grind it out any way possible.”

Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson dreams of “big club”

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This will unnerve Swansea fans.

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Gyfli Sigurdsson, 27, has scored eight goals and assisted 11 times in the Premier League as the Swans have dragged themselves out of the relegation zone.

Swansea boss Paul Clement recently stated that Sigurdsson has the same ability of players he’s coached at Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid and with his quality from set pieces, finishing in and around the box and dictating play, it’s hard to argue with that.

Speaking to Goal.com, Sigurdsson revealed that Clement’s kind words were appreciated and he feels he can play for a bigger club.

“Of course that’s very flattering. Maybe he was just trying to give me confidence,” Sigurdsson said. “Of course, it would be a dream to play for one of these big clubs. Hopefully if I continue doing well for Swansea and Iceland then in the near future, I can play in a big club. I am enjoying being one of the senior players, though.

“We may be in a tough spot, but I am kind of enjoying the pressure of that. I am trying to make the most of that and help the team to get three points every week.”

Late in the January transfer window it was reported that some top teams in the PL came in with bids for Sigurdsson and the former Hoffenheim and Tottenham Hotspur attacking midfielder is definitely entering his prime.

He’s scored 33 goals in 115 appearances for the Swans over the past three seasons since joining from Tottenham and perhaps the main criticism some people have of Sigurdsson is that he prefers to be a big fish in a small pond. During his time at Spurs he scored just eight times in 58 appearances in the Premier League but now it seems like he is ready to go to the next level.

Swansea will ask for over $35 million for Sigurdsson but with clubs like Everton and Arsenal rumored to be interested in his services, a nervous summer could be ahead for the South Wales side. Swansea’s Icelandic playmaker will be a man in demand, irrelevant of whether or not the Swans survive relegation.

Everton agree deal to buy land for new stadium

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Everton have moved a step closer to a new home on Liverpool’s waterfront.

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The Guardian is reporting that the Premier League have “agreed a deal to purchase land at Bramley Moore dock” which is where a new $375 million stadium is proposed for the Toffees.

Per the report, a deal has been agreed in principle with the landowners Peel Holdings and now Everton, led by new billionaire majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, will try to kick their new stadium project on. It is widely expected that the club will announce more details later on Thursday, with Liverpool City Council set to be heavily involved in the huge regeneration project.

Moshiri now has to acquire funding for the stadium and also get planning permissions from the council but things appear to be moving in the right direction.

Back in November 2016, Moshiri said having a stadium which “rewards the fans” was his “key aim” at Everton.

Everton’s search to find a new home after 125 years at Goodison Park has been exhaustive and frustrating. They’ve had three separate sites turned down since 2000 but with Moshiri’s arrival last February there is renewed optimism that building a new luxurious home in Liverpool’s docks is possible.

With Manchester City expanding the Etihad Stadium in recent seasons, Liverpool drastically improving Anfield, West Ham moving into the London Stadium, Chelsea closing in on securing a deal for a $600 million revamp of Stamford Bridge, plus Tottenham Hotspur moving into a new 61,000 home for the 2018-19 season, the rest of the Premier League is kicking on in terms of stadium expansion.

Moshiri has lofty heights for Everton and with Ronald Koeman as manager and plenty of funds promised to improve their exciting squad, the final major hurdle to overcome is the construction of a new home.

VOTE: Select Premier League Goal of the Month – March

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The 2 Robbies have selected their contenders for the Premier League Goal of the Month for March.

[ VOTE: Select your GOTM here ]

Now it’s your job to select the winner by clicking on the link above.

Watch the contenders in the video above and then vote for your favorite.

Enjoy.