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.

Europa League preview: Arsenal in Serbia, Everton desperate vs. Lyon

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The twelve groups of the UEFA Europa League bring forth soccer on Thursday, with a bevy of matches dotting the continent.

[ MORE: Full Europa schedule ]

Here are the top five matches to keep an eye on.

Everton vs. Lyon — 3:05 p.m. ET

If you would’ve told Ronald Koeman his Toffees would walk into this match with just one point but sit only another behind Lyon, he’d probably tell you to take a hike. But Lyon drew 1-1 at Apollon Limassol and 1-1 at home to Atalanta, opening the door for Everton to finish the day in Group E’s top two slots.

Nabil Fekir and Real Madrid loanee Mariano Diaz have seven goals each for Lyon, while ex-Premier Leaguers Memphis Depay and Bertrand Traore are also key components of the French outfit’s attack.

Red Star Belgrade vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET

Arsenal in Europa has been pretty thrilling, with 3-1 and 4-2 wins under Arsene Wenger‘s belt ahead of the first of two with the 1991 European Cup winners. It’s a nice challenge for Canadian national team backstop Milan Borjan, who should be the man to try to thwart the Gunners in Serbia.

Hoffenheim vs. Istanbul Basaksehir — 3:05 p.m. ET

The favorites to win the group are dead last in the group as they welcome the perceived group underdogs from Turkey. The Super Lig runners-up have some familiar names on the roster with Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Eljero Elia, Mevlut Erdinc, Gokhan Inler, Aurelien Chedjou, and Emre Belozoglu.

AC Milan vs. AEK Athens — 3:05 p.m. ET

Milan has been burying goals in Europa play, with five at Austria Wien and three in a home win over Rijeka. Enter Athens, which has scooped up four points in group play and will look for a win to put them ahead of the group-leading Rossoneri.

Nice vs. Lazio — 1 p.m. ET

The only group with a pair of 2-0 teams. Mario Balotelli is plenty familiar with his Roman opposition from his time in Serie A.

Probe finds racial discrimination by England women’s coach

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LONDON (AP) Former England women’s team coach Mark Sampson racially discriminated against two of his players, a fresh Football Association investigation has concluded after initially dismissing allegations of wrongdoing and prompting a damaging public row with striker Eni Aluko.

Sampson was cleared of discrimination by earlier FA investigations but was fired last month because of an unrelated case of inappropriate conduct toward players in a previous job.

[ MORE: Champions League at halfway mark ]

Only now has a barrister considered new evidence about Sampson’s conduct toward England internationals Aluko and Drew Spence, with the details being released ahead of a parliamentary hearing.

“I have concluded that on two separate occasions, MS (Sampson) has made ill-judged attempts at humor, which, as a matter of law, were discriminatory on grounds of race,” barrister Katharine Newton wrote in the report.

One racially discriminatory comment by Sampson in 2014 toward Aluko requested her family members from Nigeria didn’t come to a game because of Ebola.

“MS (Sampson) did treat EA (Aluko) less favorably than he would have treated a player who was not of African descent,” Newton wrote. “MS had therefore subjected EA to less favorable treatment because of her ethnicity.”

During a team meeting in 2015, Sampson also asked Spence if she had been to prison, and then suggested she had been arrested four times. Newton concluded that the comment was made “because of her ethnicity.”

[ MORE: Hamid leaving DC United ]

FA chief executive Martin Glenn apologized to Aluko and Spence before the hearing. But Aluko told legislators that Glenn’s earlier conduct toward her was “bordering on blackmail” after he threatened to withhold payments from an 80,000 pound ($105,000) financial settlement unless she published a statement saying the FA “was not institutionally racist.”

With Aluko sitting behind him, Glenn later told the hearing that the player had not been blackmailed.

Instead Glenn said that an August tweet by Aluko – “at least we now know the FA’s stance on derogatory racial remarks by an England manager. Ignore, deny, endorse” – was a “clear breach of the agreement.”

Aluko, who was part of the team that finished third at the 2015 World Cup, has not played for England since making her 102nd appearance in April 2016.

There was a more apologetic tone from Glenn in his written statement on Wednesday, saying that Sampson’s conduct was “not acceptable” and he “would like to sincerely apologize” to Aluko and Spence.

“Our ambition has always been to find the truth and take swift and appropriate action if needed,” Glenn said. “It was our decision to have the original, second and final investigation to ensure that due diligence was taken. It is regrettable that Eniola did not participate in the first external investigation as this would have enabled Katharine Newton to conduct and complete her investigation sooner.”

Report: Hamid leaving DC United to “push himself” elsewhere

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Bill Hamid is taking his talents elsewhere.

The 26-year-old has been with DC United since 2007, making an even 200 appearances across all competitions.

[ MORE: Champions League at halfway mark ]

Hamid is thrice capped by the United States and widely considering to be one of the best shot-stoppers in the league, but the Washington Post’s Steven Goff says Hamid wants to showcase himself on a new stage.

“I want to push myself and see how far I can go because I know I have the work ethic and the hunger to take myself very far in this game. I know I can make it to the next level.”

Hamid is likely to wind up in Europe, and Goff said Danish club Midtjylland is the favorite. He’s also been scouted by Eintracht Frankfurt.

With a new United States men’s national team coach set to be appointed and Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, and Nick Rimando all on the back end of their time with the USMNT, Hamid has to look at himself as competing with Ethan Horvath and any number of young prospects.

Horvath is 22 and starting for Club Brugge. If their season continues on its pace, he’ll have a Belgian title and a Norwegian title under his belt.

U-20 players Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha Berlin), Brady Scott (Koln), and Justin Vom Steeg (Fortuna Dusseldorf) are in German systems, while U-17 World Cup starters CJ dos Santos is at Benfica.

Age when making European debut and club
Tim Howard, 24, Manchester United
Brad Friedel, 23, Newcastle United
Brad Guzan, 23, Aston Villa
Kasey Keller, 23, Millwall
Tony Meola, 21, Brighton and Hove Albion
Ethan Horvath, 19, Molde

Surprises, disappointments halfway through Champions League group stage

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Clubs have met each of their group mates once, giving us an imperfect but workable sample size for the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League group stage.

Five groups have a side boasting a 3-0 record, while four clubs have yet to seize a single point.

[ CHAMPS LEAGUE: Tuesday | Weds. ]

Some of the strugglers, like 0-1-2 Maribor and 0-1-2 APOEL, are not surprises. And it’s no shock to see Manchester United at perfect 3-0 given its draw.

Others? Well, that’s not the case.

Status down 

While Manchester United is a perfect 3-0 in Group A, raise your hand if you figured Benfica would have just one goal and zero points through three matches. Benfica’s also played two of its three home ties, making the knockout rounds a dream.

Atletico Madrid has found the UEFA Champions League Final in two of the last four seasons, but finds itself with work to do moving forward. Atleti’s Wednesday draw at Qarabag leaves it three points behind Roma and five back of leaders Chelsea. Diego Simeone’s men still host Roma and Qarabag, so points are out there.

Serie A play has been gorgeous for Napoli, who has failed to bring that momentum to Group F. It’s worth noting that a missed penalty by red-hot Dries Mertens could’ve earned the Neapolitans a point at Man City on Tuesday, but as it stands Napoli is three points back of Shakhtar and could be six back before the Ukrainians visit on Nov. 21.

It turns out you can’t sell everyone and expect the youth to come through shining. Monaco is at the bottom of a very winnable group, having lost at home to Porto and Besiktas. Still just three points behind RB Leipzig, they’ll need to win at Monaco and/or Besiktas to have any hope of the knockout rounds.

Borussia Dortmund got a rough deal from officials when it visited Wembley Stadium, but losses to Spurs and Real Madrid can happen in a group stage. Tuesday’s draw at APOEL Nicosia, however, is close to a backbreaker.

(Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images).

Status up

Spurs draw at Real Madrid may have been aided by a huge performance from Hugo Lloris, but goalkeepers — as you know — are actual components of a team. This is in fact a group of death, but the North Londoners are holding a scythe. If Mauricio Pochettino can lead a home win over Real Madrid at a raucous Wembley on All Saints Day, well, look out!

Cenk Tosun has gone from sleepy transfer target to the tip of many gossipers’ tongues, as Besiktas is a perfect 3-0 including wins at Monaco and Porto. Anderson Talisca and… wait for it… Ryan Babel (!!) have also starred for the Turkish powers who will almost certainly see the knockout rounds.

[ MORE: JPW sits down with Ederson ]

Pep Guardiola‘s done this Champions League dance, you know, and Manchester City has weathered all storms. That includes conceded two penalties — one was saved by Ederson — as a down performance versus Napoli still ended with a home win. If City can win at the Stadio San Paolo on Nov. 1, Pep can sleepwalk into the final two matches (though that’s not his style).

Roma has a classy draw at Chelsea and has gathered five points including four away from home. Mimic that mark and i Lupi will be a challenge in the knockout rounds.

Neymar was best pals with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez last season at Barcelona, but having a less-than-perfect relationship with Edinson Cavani hasn’t hurt a thing in Paris. Paris Saint-Germain is for real, scoring 12 times and yet to concede in wins over Bayern Munich, Celtic, and Anderlecht.

Grey area

Liverpool leads its group and advancing is really the only goal, but there’s something off-putting about the home draw against Sevilla. The 1-1 draw at Spartak Moscow looks better now that the Russians hammered Sevilla 5-1, but a return visit from Maribor next should help the Reds buttress their stock.

Be careful how finely you analyze a club as accomplished as two-time reigning champs Real Madrid, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s men don’t look so hot. Still well-positioned to move on, keep a close eye on how they look at Wembley in a few weeks.

Holding pattern

Chelsea‘s 3-3 draw versus Roma today was its first real stumble of the UCL, but there shouldn’t be too many alarm bells considering their injury problems and Roma’s desperation. Consider their status even, especially given their clever win at Atletico Madrid.

Jose Mourinho is doing a fine job with Manchester United, but it’s really hard to praise the club too much for doing what’s expected in a glorified Europa League group. Clearly Sir Alex Ferguson was involved in the icing some of the draw balls again…