Quick thoughts on the U.S.’s starting lineup for Mexico

1 Comment

The starting XI was just announced, and there are three surprises – calls which range from “I can kind of see that” to “what’s going on here.”

From least to most surprising:

1. Chris Wondolowski starts at forward over Eddie Johnson – This one is a little strange because Johnson is generally perceived to be closer to Brazil than “Wondo,” but the reasons why some see him as a lock don’t necessarily mean he’s above Wondolowski on the number nine’s depth chart. When Johnson has played, he’s been used wide more often than not, so in a camp where there were only two options to start at forward in front of Clint Dempsey, it’s not a total shock that Wondo got the call.

2. Tony Beltran starts at right back over DeAndre Yedlin – This may be surprising, but it is informative. Up until tonight’s lineup was announced, the path to Brazil seemed to be clearing out for Yedlin, and while that may still be the case, Beltran getting the call ahead of him does hint at how far Yedlin has to go. Maybe Klinsmann just didn’t want to throw the young right back in against Mexico, or maybe the January call up was more of a first time look than an indication of where the Seattle defender falls in the pecking order. Regardless, Yedlin, widely thought of as a likely starter tonight, begins the match on the bench.

3. Brad Davis starts at left midfield over Landon Donovan – Fans are not going to be happy about this one, but Brad Davis has clearly impressed Jurgen Klinsmann. Again. This isn’t new — the Houston star has regularly gotten more time than many predict — but starting over Landon Donovan is a mild shock. Whereas the LA Galaxy star was seen as potentially vying with Fabian Johnson for the starting spot in Brazil, now we have to reconsider where he (as well as Davis) fall on the depth chart. It will be interesting to hear Klinsmann’s rationale post-match

Here’s the full lineup (graphic to the upper right):

Starting XI: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Michael Parkhurst; Graham Zusi, Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley, Brad Davis; Clint Dempsey, Chris Wondolowski

Bench: Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu, Clarence Goodson, Julian Green, Bill Hamid, Eddie Johnson, Sean Johnson, DeAndre Yedlin, Luis Gil

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

Ian Walton/Getty Images
2 Comments

Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.