The USA have gone for a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond for their friendly against Azerbaijan in San Francisco on Tuesday night.
With Omar Gonzalez still nursing a knee injury, Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron starts at center back alongside Matt Besler in a new-look U.S. backline.
Left-footed Fabian Johnson is deployed at right back, while DaMarcus Beasley continues at left back. In midfield Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones form a formidable partnership in the engine room with Graham Zusi on the right and Alejandro Bedoya on the left. The diamond formation has been preferred with Bradley supporting the forwards and Jones playing as a pure holding midfielder.
Experimenting with formations and personnel is what these warm up games are all about.
Captain Clint Dempsey will be alongside Jozy Altidore in attack, as Jurgen Klinsmann selected what looks like his strongest XI from the start against Azerbaijan. The Eurasian nation are ranked 85th in the world but should provide the USMNT with a stern test as they prepare for their World Cup opener in Brazil in less than 20 days.
One of the most interesting areas to analyze will be in defense where Cameron and Besler have only started one game together in the past, a 2-0 win over Jamaica in October. With Gonzalez struggling to be fully fit, many are calling for Cameron and Besler to be the first-choice partnership in the heart of the USMNT’s defense this summer.
Let’s see how they fare at Candlestick Park in the first of three warm up games before the U.S. depart for Brazil.
U.S. starting lineup vs. Azerbaijan
Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Jones, Zusi, Bedoya, Bradley; Dempsey, Altidore
PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.
Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.
Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.
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No financial details were given.
The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.
Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.
Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.
The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.
[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]
Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.
He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.
MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.
That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.
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Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”
Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.
Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.
Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.
The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.
[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]
And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.
It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.
Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.
Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday