Position-by-position: Breaking down the U.S.’s squad for Mexico

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The most impressive part of this U.S. squad: the depth, particularly compared to the team assembled in Frankfurt ahead of the team’s match against Ukraine. Where that team ended up starting the likes of Sacha Kljestan, Edgar Castillo, and Oguchi Onyewu, the lineup that will start next week against Mexico will feature locks for this summer’s World Cup. In stark contrast to the squad that Bob Bradley took to South Africa, this summer’s team will be built around North America-based talents.

The most notable of which are Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and Landon Donovan, but they’re not why this camp is important. This camp is about Michael Parkhurst and DeAndre Yedlin. It’s about Brad Davis, Maurice Edu, and Luis Gil. And yes, it’s about Julian Green.

Though Jurgen Klinsmann’s sure to relish an opportunity to get so many of his regulars together, the real drama of next week’s out-of-window camp is about the 30-man preliminary roster – the one the U.S. will submit to FIFA mid-May. Who can cement their place on that list? Because without that, you’re out of the fight for the 23-man team that will leave for Brazil.

That’s what this camp all about, so position-by-position, here’s where each everybody stands ahead of next week’s test.

Goalkeepers: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

It’s amazing how clear the goalkeeper depth chart is. Then again, when we’re talking about a position where only one person can play at a time, perhaps there’s no room for ambiguity. Tim Howard (Everton) and Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) are clearly numbers one and two, after whom we get Rimando (a consistent call up), Johnson (Rimando’s backup, when the big two aren’t around), and Hamid. One through five: no debate; no doubt.

source: APDefenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Orozco (Puebla), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

Five of these guys are going to Brazil, and given how highly Klinsmann spoke of Michael Parkhurst after the January camp, the versatile Columbus defender seems very close. Add Geoff Cameron to the mix and whether there are spots available may depend on a.) what Klinsmann plays to do at left midfield (and how that affects Fabian Johnson), and b.) whether versatility within the squad means the U.S. can take more than eight defenders.

The most obvious candidate to snare that extra spot is in Europe, but center back John Brooks is staying with Hertha Berlin during this out-of-window friendly. But between his struggles against Ukraine, Cameron’s versatility, and DeAndre Yedlin’s (right) continued improvement for Seattle, the 20-year-old Sounder seems to have a shot, even if that would make five players who can play right back (Evans, Cameron, Parkhurst, Fabian Johnson being the others). It’s a long-shot, and in light of that depth it doesn’t make a lot of sense. But it’s a shot nonetheless.

As much as anybody on this team, Michael Orozco seems to have the thinnest chance of making this summer’s squad. Even on a roster without European call ups, the Puebla defender may be the team’s fifth-best center back.

source:  Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

The stakes are highest for Davis, Edu, and Gil. The rest of the guys are, presumably, on the plane, with Bradley and Zusi having served as regular starters throughout the qualifying cycle.

Edu has the longest odds. His lack of playing time at Stoke City left him on the outside looking over the last two years, but after an impressive start with the Union, Edu can play his way into consideration for a “what id Jermaine Jones, Bradley, or Beckerman get injured” spot. Even then, with Geoff Cameron and Brad Evans also capable of playing in the middle, the U.S. already has other options embedded in the squad.

Gil’s path is slightly different. His competition is more likely to be players like Mix Diskerud and Sacha Kljestan – midfielders who will can come off the bench and give the team a different look. Ultimately, this may cast the 20-year-old into the pool with Yedlin and Brooks – players Klinsmann my take for experience rather than purpose.

Among the people who could be hurt by the Julian Green switch is Brad Davis (right). Klinsmann already has a number of options who can play on the left, among them being Landon Donovan. It’s unclear what Davis would bring to the team that Donovan does not, and with players like Fabian Johnson, Eddie Johnson, Beasley and Green also capable of playing that side, Davis is a good bet tog et squeezed out. He needs to impress next week.

source: Getty ImagesForwards: Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Eddie Johnson (D.C. United), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

All eyes will be on Julian Green, who starts his transition from unknown to what U.S. fans hope will be a regular fixture in the squad. Expectations are unreasonably high for a player who most fans have never seen in action, but come next week, those expectations will become grounded in fact, one way or another. Based on how Klinsmann uses him alone, we’ll get a much better idea of where Green ranks against the other players vying for spots in Brazil.

And then there’s Chris Wondolowski (right), the player who has usurped Kyle Beckerman as the most debated part of the national team picture. For some, he’s an exemplar of the limits of Major League Soccer success. For others, including it seems Klinsmann, he’s somebody whose continues to defy doubts to keep himself on the edge of the World Cup squad.

It’s easy to look at the U.S. roster and ask “why would they make a place for Wondo,” but here we are, a little over two months ahead of the final roster announcement, and the San Jose captain has another shot to impress. His odds of getting to the World Cup are still long, but merely by being in this squad, he’s defied expectations. Like Edu, he could keep himself in frame as a backup plan should injuries befall players going to Brazil.

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.

Ligue 1 set to use VAR starting in 2018/19 season

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With video replay technology becoming more and more prevalent in soccer across the globe, another major European league has revealed it too will join those ranks.

[ SOURCE: LAFC set to sign third DP with Sporting CP’s Geraldes ]

Ligue 1 has announced that the French top flight will begin to utilize video replay and have a video assistant referee (VAR) starting in the 2018/19 season.

Major League Soccer and the German Bundesliga are just two of the major global leagues to implement the system thus far. In MLS, the technology can be used in four instances; when goals are scored, during penalty situations, when a straight red card is given and during cases of mistaken identity.

French outlet L’Equipe wrote on Thursday that Ligue 1 would also follow a similar structure in what decisions VAR officials will be reviewable.

Spain has also announced that it will introduce VAR in 2018, ahead of the next La Liga season.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 17

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The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

 

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

NYCFC busy on Thursday with Abdul-Salaam, Stuver additions

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New York City FC is moving on from the club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection, but they’ll be acquiring a solid defensive piece as the team continues to rebuild at the back.

[ SOURCE: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP ]

On Thursday, NYCFC announced a trade sending former 2015 first-round pick Khiry Shelton to Sporting KC in exchange for defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

Shelton, who spent three seasons with NYCFC, struggled to find playing time under manager Patrick Vieira, particularly once the organization drafted England youth international Jack Harrison in 2016.

Vieira and Co. will be getting back a player also selected in the 2015 SuperDraft in Abdul-Salaam.

With the departures of Ethan White, RJ Allen and Andraz Struna this offseason, the move certainly makes sense for NYCFC, who were severely lacking at the right back position heading into this week.

NYCFC signed Malmo defender Anton Tinnerholm on Wednesday to help improve the backline.

The Eastern Conference side also added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew on Thursday, with the 26-year-old presumably serving as the backup to Sean Johnson in 2018.