USMNT World Cup camp roundup: Bradley, Mix, Edu and… Alonso?

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Get ready for weeks worth of USMNT news now that reporters are hanging around Jurgen Klinsmann’s training camp (let alone the news that comes away from camp).

This morning is no exception, as two United States hopefuls, one lock and one frustrated non-USMNT participant talked World Cup.

We begin with Michael Bradley, the seemingly natural-born leader who has embraced his guts as the engine of the United States.

It’s easy to forget the changes that occur between a player’s World Cup appearances, and SFGate’s Tom FitzGerald gets his lead just right:

Since making his World Cup debut four years ago,Michael Bradley has gotten married, become a father, joined Aston Villa of the English Premier League on loan from his German club, played for two clubs in Italy’s Serie A league and was sold toToronto FC of Major League Soccer.

He is the man coach Jurgen Klinsmann is building his midfield around. A great deal is expected not just of Bradley’s playmaking but also of his leadership in the run-up to the tournament in Brazil.

“I embrace it, absolutely,” he said Friday between workouts at Stanford. “To be a player that is counted on by his coaches and his teammates to make a difference, to make plays, to be a leader – the challenge of all that excites me.”

That moves us on to a pair of midfielders who are perceived to be on the bubble for 2014 in Brazil: Mix Diskerud and Maurice Edu. The former is a 23-year-old hoping to cement his role as a Yank after choosing the USMNT over Norway in 2010.

And he’s thriving off the confidence he received in helping the States to the 2013 Gold Cup winners title.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“Every time we played a game, we were kind of certain, not cocky, but we knew we were going to win because we had good players,” Diskerud said. “And that’s a great mentality. It’s kind of the American mentality, I would say. You feel like you can beat any team, [whether] it’s Germany or Panama or whatever.”

The brashness of “Germany or Panama or whatever” is a brilliant bit from the middle man as he battles with elder statesman Maurice Edu for a place on the squad (though not exactly directly, there are only so many spots to be had).

Edu’s a curious case, having had a volatile time in his club career. He’s seen a historically-strong club go through a brutal shift (Rangers), watched as a high-profile move to the Premier League fizzled to find even fits and starts (Stoke City) and returned home to become an integral part of the 2014 Philadelphia Union.

And it’s almost all a continuation to the consternation felt by Edu when his status as a clear-cut American legend was stripped from him after Malian referee Koman Coulibaly took away his potentially-decisive goal against Slovenia in the 2010 World Cup.

From the Associated Press:

“When it first happened, I watched it a few times and didn’t know the call on the pitch, didn’t know the call afterward,” Edu said Friday. “To have been that close and have it taken away did kind of suck, but now the focus is try to do it again and have it count.”

While Edu admits that he still harbors regrets and “What ifs?” about his last World Cup, there’s an in-form MLS midfielder who may never get to ask those questions about his experience. Seattle Sounders maestro Osvaldo Alonso, 28, is now an American citizen but cannot get a release from the Cuban federation.

As MLSSoccer.com points out, Alonso received public plaudits from Klinsmann and could’ve easily made a dent in his World Cup plans over the past year:

“It’s been two years waiting for FIFA, Cuba and waiting for the paper,” said Alonso, who now says he’s 100-percent fit after battling various injuries early in the season. “I’m frustrated, talking with some people here, talking with some people there, nothing happens. I’m very upset. But I need to be ready to be (in Seattle).”

Thanks for nothing, Cuba.

That’ll do it for this morning’s wrap (in theory). Sixteen days ’til Klinsmann has to have his roster set at 23, and surely there’s plenty to come.

Sweden announces Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not return for World Cup

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s public flirtation and seeming committal to returning to the Swedish national team for the World Cup was a big tease.

Whether it’s his call or not is up for debate.

The Swedish Football Association reports that it’s spoken with Ibrahimovic and the 35-year-old LA Galaxy striker has declined the chance to return to the fold.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Sweden’s sporting director Lars Richt says Ibrahimovic has not changed his mind on international retirement despite his own words.

Sweden’s current team may have a role in that.

We imagine Richt and Sweden may be cushioning the blow for Ibrahimovic, especially if national team goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson is speaking on behalf of a team vibe when he speaks of Zlatan being “an individualist” who could ruin Sweden’s team-first concept.

Report: Fulham, NFL owner Khan agrees $700m price for Wembley

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Fulham owner Shad Khan also owns a National Football League team, and could have two top-flight teams from different nations playing in England soon.

For Fulham, the Cottagers are currently very much in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League and at the least will have a chance at qualifying through the playoffs.

[ MORE: TFC loses CCL Final in PKs ]

For the Jaguars, who have rarely needed all the seats in their stadium, it could mean a move to London if Khan goes through with what’s being reported as an accepted $700 million bid to buy Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium was also built with the design to host NFL games.

Here’s how ProFootballTalk’s Michael David Smith puts a bow on it (on one of the biggest days of the NFL calendar, nonetheless):

So it’s possible that there could soon be two iconic soccer stadiums in London with strong NFL ties, one which was built with NFL games in mind, and another that is owned by an NFL owner. The league is pouring serious resources into London.

It seems unlikely Khan would move Fulham from Craven Cottage, but there are other repercussions of this move for soccer in England.

There’s the potential for the England national team to no longer utlizie a permanent home, and the FA Cup and League Cup both potentially requiring new or rotating venues for their final rounds.

A lot to monitor here, and we’ll surely have all the details as they emerge from Khan’s crew.

TFC on CCL loss: “Feels the heart has been ripped from the chest”

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Michael Bradley went 90 minutes at center back, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco scored, and Toronto FC nearly, oh-so-nearly, became the first Major League Soccer side to win a continental title in the CONCACAF Champions League era.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

“We wanted to be the first (MLS side) to lift the CONCACAF Champions League trophy,” said goalkeeper Alex Bono, according to MLSSoccer.com. “We failed in that goal; that’s massively disappointing. … This is the way the game goes, it’s unjust; it feels the heart has been ripped from the chest sometimes.”

Bono made some big saves in regulation as TFC flipped its 2-1 first leg loss on its ear over 90 minutes, but Chivas Guadalajara scored all four of their penalty kick attempts as Jonathan Osorio hit the bar and Bradley set his effort on a path to the moon.

That part was possibly academic, as Chivas could’ve sealed it with their fifth penalty, but Marky Delgado’s miss of a perfect Sebastian Giovinco stoppage time cross is what sent the match into kicks.

Here’s how The Toronto Sun’s Kurt Larson framed his post-match interview with Delgado, described as one of the few players not to walk past the media after the loss:

“That’s football sometimes,” Delgado searched for words. “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it goes in. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s heartbreaking.”

It felt cruel to keep him standing there any longer.

“Wherever we are, we want to win,” the soft-spoken American said. “Unfortunately today we didn’t, but we know we dominated the game.”

And Bradley, in the season after Toronto won a trouble but also 18 months removed from missing a PK in the MLS Cup Final — not to mention marshaling the USMNT midfield in its monumental failure to qualify for the World Cup was mostly good in playing out-of-position.

“In the biggest moments, we threw caution to the wind and played with balls, bravery, and pride in ourselves, in each other, in our club and our city,” Bradley said on Canadian television outlet TSN.

They did, and now they must hope to win the Canadian Championship, MLS Supporters’ Shield, or MLS Cup to get another shot at qualifying for the Club World Cup.

Toronto loses CONCACAF Champions League in PKs

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Chivas Guadalajara scored on all of its penalty kicks to clinch a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League Final, breaking the hearts of Toronto FC in Mexico on Wednesday and earning a berth in the 2018 Club World Cup.

Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore scored in regulation as Toronto FC picked up a 2-1 win to reverse their first leg loss and push it to kicks.

Orbelin Pineda scored Chivas’ goal.

Hometown kid Jonathan Osorio hit the cross bar on Toronto’s second PK and Michael Bradley sent the fifth offering into outer space.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

Toronto flew out of the gates, and Rodolfo Cota came flying off his line to deny Altidore a 10th minute chance.

Alex Bono collected a header off a Chivas corner kick earned by a counterattack.

Pineda then made Toronto’s task even harder with a 19th minute goal, cooking Auro’s mark to reach a through ball and dancing around Bono for 1-0.

But Altidore was somehow unmarked for Nic Hasler’s pass despite five Chivas defenders and Cota inside the six-yard box, and TFC leveled the second leg at 1.

And TFC got the next goal through Giovinco, slipped through by Marky Delgado and taking advantage of a yard of space and a second to shoot with his fourth goal of the CCL knockout rounds.

The Reds kept coming in the second half, with Delgado winning a big 50-50 ball deep in Chivas territory and Victor Vasquez ripping a shot that Cota dove to smother.

Chivas found its footing in 58th minute, sending a shot over the bar before Jesus Godinez hit the post in the 61st (though his dive seemingly had the near post covered). Bono the next knocked a free kick over the bar from a similar position as the ball that beat him in the first leg.

Javier Lopez curled a vicious attempt just over the goal in the 72nd. He’d have the next best chances moments after Altidore subbed off with an apparent hamstring injury, but dribbled onto Bono’s lap and fired off the keeper.

Giovinco worked a 1-2 with Osorio and cruised a shot just wide of the far post in the 87th minute. Delgado then mailed a sitter over the bar in the first minute of stoppage time.