Clear message from Klinsmann’s roster: 2018 is in focus

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John Brooks, Julian Green, and DeAndre Yedlin average just over 20 years of age. They not only have a combined 0 appearances in World Cup qualifiers, they haven’t even been to a Gold Cup. As of this afternoon, however, each U.S. prospect has their ticket punched for Brazil, set to take up three spots on Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. Men’s National Team roster.

[MORE: Klinsmann reveals 23-man roster; Landon Donovan is not on the roster]

Go ahead and argue those three among the best the U.S. has to offer, but that’s an impossible case to make. There’s a far more likely story, here. In the face of a tough World Cup group and having inherited a long-term project with the U.S., Klinsmann had one eye on Russia 2018 when he named today’s squad. He’s clearly willing to sacrifice the limited benefit of taking a better, likely little-used, player for the experience his young trio will get through this summer’s tournament.

The strategy’s not new, but it’s certainly profound, considering it involves explaining to three worthy players why, despite having claims to being better at this point in their careers, they won’t be going to Brazil. Those players were likely Clarence Goodson, Brad Evans, and, most controversially, Landon Donovan – players who many have long seen as locks for this summer’s squad.

How do you sit Clarence Goodson down and explain this kid from Hertha Berlin, one who looked so poor against Ukraine in March, was going in his place? How do you tell Brad Evans ‘thanks for all your time, but Timmy Chandler and DeAndre have this’?

How do you explain to Landon Donovan that a 19-year-old somebody who looked physically suspect against Mexico has ended his hopes of a fourth World Cup?

What many didn’t anticipate was Klinsmann’s change of course. In leaving off players like Evans and Eddie Johnson, the U.S. boss has shown a willingness to put qualifying performance in an almost irrelevant context. At least, if you didn’t prove yourself indispensable by the time The Hex closed, you weren’t guaranteed a spot.

[MORE from SOCCERLY: Klinsmann’s son deletes cruel Donovan tweet, deletes account]

We also didn’t foresee his focus on 2018 being to great. Luiz Felipe Scolari famously took a 20-year-old Kaka to Japan/South Korea in 2002, but in attack, that Brazil squad was set to rely on Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Rivaldo. With those certainties, the back of Brazil’s roster didn’t matter.

For a U.S. team that looked set to leverage its flexibility, those final spots looked precious, particularly when the choices could be Donovan or Brad Davis, Evans or Chandler, Goodson or relying on Geoff Cameron for depth. Instead of avoiding those hard decisions, Klinsmann embraced them in favor of another goal: 2018.

This is why Sunil Gulati chose the former Germany head coach, and given what he did for the Nationalmannscaft  Klinsmann deference to youth shouldn’t be surprising. Germany’s current success owes a lot to Klinsmann’s willingness to embrace its new talent. The U.S. can only hope that the same plan will produce success during a 2018 tournament, because today’s choices have already brought Russia into focus.

Bilic, Fonte react to brutal home loss to Brighton

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Jose Fonte tried to shoulder some of the blame after West Ham United piled more pressure on its manager with a 3-0 home loss to Brighton and Hove Albion on Friday.

“It’s not only the manager, it’s the players as well,” Fonte said. “We have an unbelievable squad and should not be in this position.”

[ RECAP: West Ham 0-3 Brighton ]

Fonte said he understands why fans are booing the club, which has eight points and sits in the bottom half of the Premier League.

Given the club’s summer spending, with Javier Hernandez, Joe Hart, and Marko Arnautovic amongst the buys, pressure’s been on Bilic to deliver the goods. So far, the Irons have not.

Bilic did not deny his role nor his responsibility. From the BBC:

“It’s very hard for me to say anything clever now. I take full responsibility for it. I don’t want to hide.

“It is not a good situation and the board will do what they are going to do. It’s their decision.”

Not a man who feels like he’ll have his job much longer, but is it fair? A lot of West Ham’s key pieces are new, but surely they are not a club who should be peering over its collective shoulder to see the drop zone.

West Ham 0-3 Brighton: Gulls fly past Irons

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  • Murray heads Gross free kick
  • Izquiero strikes from distance
  • West Ham blanked at home
  • Murray earns, converts PK

Glenn Murray scored twice and Jose Izquiero also scored to lead visiting Brighton and Hove Albion past West Ham United 3-0 at London Stadium on Friday.

The loss will do nothing to ease the pressure on West Ham manager Slaven Bilic.

Brighton moves into 10th with 11 points, behind Newcastle United on goal differential. West Ham’s eight points keep them ahead of 16th place Everton, also on goal differential.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Brighton took a lead in the 10th minute when Premier League veteran Murray lost Pedro Obiang and turned Pascal Gross‘ free kick across a diving Joe Hart and inside the far post.

Murray now has PL goals for Brighton and Hove Albion, Bournemouth, and Crystal Palace.

West Ham had chances from Marko Arnautovic, Michail Antonio, and — perhaps most dangerous, a left-footed rip from Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez that nearly saw its way inside the far post.

And then… well, wow. Izquierdo darted inside from the left and hit his hard shot at Hart, who could only slap the ball inside his goal:

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Manuel Lanzini threatened with a slightly deflected 65th minute free kick, and the Irons wasted the ensuing corner.

A dizzying, creative run by Anthony Knockaert provided Murray a 1v1 with Hart, but a second touch allowed the keeper to close down the Englishman.

Murray earned Brighton a PK within a minute, unable to get past the block of Pablo Zabaleta. He took his shot well.

Malta captain mutes goal celebration after journalist slain

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Malta captain Andre Schembri says the car bomb slaying of a Maltese investigative journalist prompted him not to exult after scoring an historic goal.

Schembri’s temporary equalizer for Cypriot club Apollon in a 3-1 loss to Italian side Atalanta in the Europa League on Thursday made him the first Maltese player to score in proper European competition – excluding qualifying.

[ PL PREVIEW: Saints vs. West Brom ]

But instead of pumping his fist or leaping in joy over the achievement, Schembri hung his head as teammates mobbed him.

Schembri wrote on Facebook on Friday, “Celebrating my goal didn’t feel right after what happened in Malta this week.”

Malta has been stunned since Monday by the slaying of Daphne Caruana Galizia, an anti-corruption reporter whose targets included Malta’s leading politicians.

“When they killed Daphne I wasn’t able to sleep for three nights,” Schembri told the ANSA news agency. “Malta is Europe, it’s not the third world. We need to be united when faced with grief like this, to say that we’re better than all of this.

“I love my country and with that goal it came naturally to me to think about a reporter’s freedom and the life of a mother of three children.”

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. West Bromwich Albion

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  • West Bromwich Albion hope to choose from goalkeepers Ben Foster (back) and Boaz Myhill (hamstring) for the trip to St Mary’s. Hal Robson-Kanu (strain), James Morrison (calf) and Oliver Burke (hamstring) will all be absent for the Baggies.
  • Southampton are again without Jeremy Pied but have no other injury concerns.
  • Of all teams to have met in at least seven different Premier League campaigns, Southampton v West Brom has the lowest goals-per-match ratio in the competition (21 in 14 matches, 1.5 per match). 
  • Dusan Tadic has been directly involved in a goal in each of his last three PL appearances against the Baggies (one goal, two assists).

Two mid-table sides meet up in the south of England as Southampton hosts West Bromwich Albion at 13:20 p.m. Saturday afternoon. (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Both teams are struggling for form heading into the match. West Brom is winless in its last seven games while Southampton has just one win in its last five, coughing up a chance to defeat Newcastle a week ago.

It’s a big boost for Southampton though that Manolo Gabbiadini is back on the scoresheet after scoring twice against Newcastle. It was Gabbiadini’s first goal since the second week of the Premier League season.

At the other end, West Brom have a worry with both of its top two goalkeepers, Ben Forster and Boaz Myhill. recovering from injuries.

What they’re saying

Southampton manager Manuel Pellegrino on his team: “The reaction of the team was really good, but we have to start from the beginning with this spirit. Sometimes you have to be patient, because at the beginning teams have more energy, they are fresher and they can press you better. I think we feel comfortable with the ball. If we are precise with the ball and with our tempo, we can create more problems – it doesn’t matter who we are playing. We know that West Brom are really strong physically, and dangerous from set plays and on the counter-attack. That’s something we’ve been working on this week. Every single week we are learning from our last few games, and I feel that my players are better prepared.”

West Bromwich manager Tony Pulis on facing Southampton: “They’re a good footballing team. Pellegrino has come in with his own ideas and the way he wants to play. From watching them in a couple of games away from St Mary’s they seem a little more relaxed. They look a little more uptight at home. But I’m sure they’ll become the team everyone knows they can be.”

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Prediction

West Bromwich doesn’t look closer to stopping its slide down the table, especially on the road. Even with Jay Rodriguez returning to his former club, Southampton should find the offense to put Tony Pulis and West Brom away. Southampton 2-1 West Bromwich Albion