Three things we learned in USA’s defeat to Ukraine

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During the USA’s 2-0 friendly defeat to Ukraine on Wednesday, head coach of the U.S. national team Jurgen Klinsmann found out plenty of things about his team.

Some good. Some bad.

But the most important thing is that the match was worthwhile, as some of the areas the U.S. need to work on between now and the World Cup this summer are glaringly obvious. This tuneup acted as the final audition for most of the USA’s European based players, so it was an important 90 minutes for many in the Stars and Stripes.

Let’s have a look at three things we learned in the defeat against Ukraine in Cyprus.

  • U.S. defenders Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler have nothing to worry about

When the U.S. team sheet for the friendly vs. Ukraine was announced, the most intriguing selections looked to be in central defense. That proved to be the case after the game too, as Oguchi Onyewu and John Brooks struggled to contain Ukraine’s lively attack. The first goal came from a miscommunication between Onyewu and Brooks, as the former stepped up high and Brooks remained deep to keep Denys Garmash onside, who teed up Andriy Yarmalenko for the opener. Several times the U.S. looked out of sorts at the back, which also saw a gaping central hole appear for Ukraine’s second goal, as putting together a makeshift defense was always going to be difficult. A back four needs time to gel, and with youngster Brooks still learning and Onyewu given one last chance to prove his worth before the World Cup this summer, it seems as though both could be long shots to be on the plane to Brazil. MLS duo Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler must feel pretty confident their place in the heart of the USA’s defense is secured after watching this match, especially as they have a water-tight partnership that has developed overt he past 12-18months. Hertha Berlin product Brooks is one for the future, while Onyewu’s future with the U.S. national team could be hanging in the balance.

  • Up top, the U.S. are looking a little light

Jozy Altidore played like he has done for most of the season in a Sunderland shirt as he lacked confidence and only had one header that went anywhere near the goal. Altidore cut a forlorn figure up front, and with the likes of Terrence Boyd and Juan Agudelo coming on late and not having a chance to impact the game the options now seem a little sparse. Someone who did was Aron Johannsson, as the Icelandic-American forward sent a sumptuous volley towards goal late on that was cleared off the line and his clever runs showed he’s of international caliber. Right now, Johannsson could jump ahead of Altidore and start a few friendlies before the World Cup, however it’s still a bit much to ask the 23-year-old who has just one goal and a handful of USMNT caps to his name, to lead the line this summer. But Klinsmann might have to.

  • Cameron is the USA’s starting right back

One of the few U.S. player to come out of the game with his head held high, Geoff Cameron proved he should be the USA’s starting right back in Brazil this summer. His marauding runs down the right flank in the first half were the only plus point for the U.S. and he was solid as a rock defensively throughout as the rest of the USA’s defense imploded. In his last twelve appearances for the USA he has played four games at RB, four at center back and four at holding midfield. His versatility is key for Klinsmann this summer and after the inept defensive displays from Onyewu and Brooks, the Stoke City defender could also slot in at CB with either Gonzalez or Besler. Right now, the USA’s other right backs, Steven Cherundolo, Michael Parkhurst and even the likes of Brad Evans, will find it extremely hard to jump ahead of Cameron in the depth chart.

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.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.