U.S. World Cup 2014 roster outlook: MIDFIELDERS

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Going into the Mexico camp, all us smart guys thought we had a pretty good handle on Jurgen Klinsmann’s midfield pecking order. Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones were the central pair, Graham Zusi was the obvious choice out right, while Landon Donovan and Fabian Johnson appeared to be competing for a spot on the left.

That description alone should have been a warning sign. Trying to describe Klinsmann as having a set anything is precarious, even if he has picked out players like Tim Howard, Bradley, and Clint Dempsey as being part of his core. But at left midfield? Klinsmann may not be looking for answers as much as he’s trying to find options.

Just because the way we write boils discussions down to starters, first choices, and best XIs doesn’t mean a coach thinks that way. At some point, we need to do a better job of saying “we don’t know.” We need to become better writers.

Last week, Brad Davis emerged as one of Klinsmann’s options. At least, he emerged as a more viable option than we’d previously thought. Before Mexico, the Dynamo star was seen as somebody fighting for his place on the plane, but after he got the start ahead of Landon Donovan, his spot needs to be reevaluated.

Donovan’s does, too, though we should tread lightly. The final arguments will be made in next month. For those on the bubble, making it to May’s camp gives you a shot. You don’t need to be in the 23 right now.

Two months before the 2014 World Cup, here’s how we see the midfield:

MIDFIELDERS

Michael Bradley is the obvious starter, and while Kyle Beckerman’s role seemed to free up the Toronto FC star last week, we’ll have to see how Klinsmann uses the Real Salt Lake anchor when Jermaine Jones is an option. While, in theory, the U.S. could use both Bradley and Jones on top of Beckerman, the U.S.’s three-man midfields have tended to leverage Clint Dempsey’s ability to drop back. Jones may not be a fan favorite, but Klinsmann has consistently put him in the starting lineup.

Elsewhere, Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi has the only guarantee, with the rest of the slots open to competition. In theory, Klinsmann needs one more option on the left to provide an alternative to Fabian Johnson (and, potentially, Eddie Johnson). He needs cover for Zusi on the right, and he needs somebody who can work more centrally, likely somebody who can play higher (since all of Beckerman, Bradley, and Jones can play deeper roles).

How many spots that leaves may depend on the forward situation. If Chris Wondolowski goes to Brazil, there are only three open spots in midfield. If “Wondo” (or, potentially Eddie Johnson) gets squeezed out, a fourth spot opens up in the middle.

With so many defenders able to play midfield roles (Beasley, Cameron, Evans, Johnson), Klinsmann can afford to take that extra forward. So who ends up going out of Alejandro Bedoya and Joe Corona (edge: Bedoya)? Does the battle between Mix Diskerud and Sacha Kljestan claim another spot (edge: Diskerud)? And are we really at the point where Brad Davis and Landon Donovan’s an either-or?

Probably not, but that may be the direction we’re headed. All of these players may need to make a claim in May.

  • Going to Brazil: Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi
  • On the bubble (three-to-four spots available): Alejandro Bedoya, Joe Corona, Brad Davis, Landon Donovan, Mix Diskerud, Maurice Edu, Julian Green, Sacha Kljestan, Brek Shea, Danny Williams

MORE: Goalkeepers and defenders | Midfielders | Forwards

Fan dies after falling off football stadium in Brazil

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SAO PAULO (AP) A Brazilian football fan has died after falling 25 meters from the top of Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paulo onto a parking lot.

The height is equivalent to an eight-story building.

Bruno Pereira da Silva, aged 23, suffered head injuries and died upon arrival at a local hospital on Sunday.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

He and other fans were attempting to jump to a section of the stadium where they could get a better view of the Sao Paulo state championship match between Sao Paulo and archrival Corinthians. The game ended 1-1.

Friends of da Silva told Brazilian media Silva was attending his first football match.

CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers: CRC, Honduras get off the mat

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The two traditional CONCACAF powers are riding high following Friday’s round of World Cup qualifiers, while the two other sides to qualify for Brazil 2014 are licking their wounds.

Honduras and Costa Rica both found themselves on the wrong side of shutout losses to the United States and Mexico, while Trinidad and Tobago injected itself into the discussion with a home win over Panama.

[ WATCH: CONCACAF qualifiers on Telemundo ]

What’s cooking for Tuesday? Read on:

Honduras vs. Costa Rica — 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Two sides which love to play physical, on-the-edge soccer meet on the heels of Friday losses. Expect Jorge Luis Pinto’s Catrachos to adapt after a 6-0 beatdown at the hands of the U.S., but they’ll have to do much, much better at home.

The dates at Estadio Morazan have to be the key for Honduras to climb into the Top Three, and it’ll be buoyed by memories of its 3-1 win over T&T two rounds ago. As for Costa Rica, Los Ticos aim to respond from conceding their first two goals of the Hex.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico — 7 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Kevin Molino’s strike gave T&T its first three points of qualifying, but its odds of getting a result against visiting Mexico aren’t nearly as good. The Soca Warriors desperation will be easy to see, as June’s qualifiers include trips to the U.S. and Costa Rica.

El Tri now has wins in two of its trickier Hex matches after adding Friday’s 2-0 win over Costa Rica to its upset of the Yanks in Columbus. Ten points through four matches would be exemplary; A draw or loss leaves the door open for Costa Rica to summit the Hex table.

United States vs. Panama — 10:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Read our extensive preview here, but the upshot is this: The United States can rise into the Top Three by beating Panama, while Los Canaleros will be happy to scoop a draw to stem any bleeding cause by Molino and T&T.

Argentina feels World Cup pressure; Brazil set to party

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SAO PAULO (AP) Argentina was the runner-up in the last World Cup. This time it’s under rising pressure just to qualify.

That pressure will be felt even more in its match Tuesday against Bolivia in the thin air of La Paz, which is located in the Andes at 3,650 meters (11,900 feet) altitude.

Argentina has not won a match there since 2005, upping the stakes a bit more.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

Meanwhile, South American rival Brazil will gear up for possible early qualification if it beats Paraguay in Sao Paulo. To advance, the South American group leader needs a victory and a few other results to fall its way. But win or lose, Brazil is heading for the World Cup in Russia with five rounds of qualifying remaining.

Argentina cannot be so confident.

Second-placed Uruguay faces a winnable match at lowly Peru, and fourth-placed Colombia has a real test at fifth-placed Ecuador. Sixth-placed Chile welcomes last-placed Venezuela in Santiago, hoping to climb back into qualifying position.

With five rounds to go, Brazil has 30 points – more than enough to secure a spot in previous World Cups. Uruguay has 23 and Argentina 22.

With Brazil almost sure to advance – and Venezuela, Bolivia and Peru struggling at the bottom – that leaves six teams fighting for the three remaining automatic spots for Russia. Another South American team could also advance in a playoff.

[ MORE: Wood looks ahead to working with Arena, praises Klinsmann ]

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ARGENTINA

Argentina put on a poor performance on Thursday, but managed to beat Chile 1-0 in Buenos Aires after a controversial penalty was conceded and converted by Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

The visitors will miss suspended Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano, which is making coach Edgardo Bauza think of dramatic changes to the team.

Before the win against Chile and the loss of Mascherano, Bauza was considering a defensive 5-4-1 formation in La Paz, hoping to save his players’ energy and capitalize on the ball-holding Mascherano. Now he may be forced into a more offensive formation that relies less on counterattacking.

Bolivian coach Mauricio Soria, who spared some of his main players in the 1-0 defeat at Colombia on Thursday, said his team will not be intimidated by the Argentine stars and should push hard against them. His team will be rested and in familiar surroundings.

“We hope we can make them feel a lot of their fears,” Soria said.

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BRAZIL

After the impressive thrashing of Uruguay 4-1 in Montevideo, Brazil is so close to the World Cup spot that many players are already looking for new challenges as Brazil chases it sixth World Cup title.

For the spot to be assured, Brazil needs to beat Paraguay and see Venezuela overcome Chile in Santiago. Also, Colombia needs to get its first win at Ecuador in 20 years.

Even if the “official” qualification doesn’t come, there will surely be a party at Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo.

Coach Tite, who has won seven straight games in qualifiers since he took over in September, had his best days at Corinthians. He won two Brazilian championships, one Copa Libertadores, and the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup title after a 1-0 victory over England’s Chelsea in Japan.

Defender Fagner, also a Corinthians player, will replace suspended Dani Alves.

“I feel no pressure, I want to enjoy every moment of this,” Fagner told reporters.

If he doesn’t do well, Tite has already brought Sevilla’s Mariano for a test.

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COLOMBIA

The Colombia vs. Ecuador match could be key to the aspirations of both teams: Colombia has 21 points, and Ecuador has 20.

The disappointing performance in the 1-0 victory over Bolivia on Thursday is making Colombia fans worry that their team might not qualify for the World Cup. The game in Quito promises to be even more complicated now that coach Jose Pekerman’s side has lost its best striker to injury. Luis Muriel had a right-leg injury and will likely be replaced by Miguel Borja or Carlos Bacca.

History does not favor Colombia: it has been 20 years since Colombia last beat Ecuador at the Atahualpa stadium.

Ecuador also has problems for the key clash. Striker Miller Bolanos and midfielder Christian Noboa will be out and their replacements are not yet set.

Bobby Wood looks forward to working with Arena, praises Klinsmann

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A back injury kept Bobby Wood from United States men’s national team camp, but the Hamburg striker has been feeling good about the side’s World Cup fortunes since before the big win over Honduras.

Speaking with Hamburg’s team magazine, Wood gave a sprawling interview on his career and time with the national team. Wood praised Arena for scouting in Germany, saying the USMNT boss is a quiet coach who has his own style of playing, one that will prod the Yanks into the World Cup.

[ MORE: Complete USMNT-Panama preview ]

But the 24-year-old Hawaii-born striker saved his fondest words for ex-coach Jurgen Klinsmann, essentially calling him a career-saver. From HSV live (translated from German):

He’s very important to me. I believe if Jürgen had not been U.S. coach, then I might have stopped playing football or would have played somewhere in the fourth league.

That is why I am very, very grateful to him. At that time I was in a deep hole – it was real heavy. … He has believed in my quality. We are still in contact, he texts me.

Wood was a part-time player for 1860 Munich when Klinsmann first called him up to the national team side, and now he’s a Bundesliga striker who will be in demand if the club is relegated. Wood has also been mentioned as a target for Premier League clubs.

That’s a pretty good career jump. Klinsmann may have failed to deliver much of what he promised to the national team, but talent mining was done quite well.