Coy but positive, Klinsmann leaves us in the dark about Altidore

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Amid the same press conference where Jurgen Klinsmann passed along the good news about Matt Besler, there was little new information about an equally pressing pressing concern. For all the uncertainty the U.S. experienced at the back on Monday once their starting center back left at halftime, the team was just as aimless at the top of its formation, where a 21st minute hamstring injury to starting striker Jozy Altidore forced Aron Johannsson into the game. Over the 69 minutes that followed, the U.S. missed its outlet man, struggling to pass through midfield as it kept the ball on the ground.

Unfortunately for Altidore, his hamstring injury is more severe than Besler’s, though the exact extent of the problem is unknown. With what’s become a trademark if positive coyness, Klinsmann managed to talk about his striker’s plight without providing specifics on the injury, let along a potential recovery.

From reporting by ESPNFC:

“We’ve got to see how he now reacts the next couple of days with his hamstring, and we’re full of hope that he comes back still in the tournament …”

“That’s what we’re going to work on every day. The medical staff is doing a tremendous job [for] weeks, so we still have the hope that Jozy will be back. How quickly, that is down to his healing process.”

Assume you didn’t see the way Altidore went down on Monday and are hoping he’ll be ready on Sunday. See anything in Klinsmann’s response that eliminates that possibility? Or, for that matter, describes it as improbably, likely, or any place on our uncertain spectrum? Perhaps the allusion to “in the tournament” does, but thanks to the head coach’s coyness, somebody could convince themselves the Altidore will play against Portugal.

Put yourself on the other end of that see-saw, though. Assume you saw the injury, think the hamstring’s done, and Altidore’s not coming back this tournament.

Now re-read Klinsmann’s quote. There’s nothing there that precludes that scenario, too. As it concerns Altidore’s injury, Klinsmann’s words are basically useless.

Don’t blame Klinsmann for that. If anything, respect him (and if not him, then his job). He’s trying to obscure the picture.

The U.S. boss went on to admit as much, though in doing to, he fully engaged the prospect of a Jozy-less future:

“I don’t want to go too deep into details, because obviously we want Portugal to guess a little bit as well, but when one of your key players is not available, does it change certain things? Absolutely, it does.

Jozy is a very strong key player in our group, so we’ll think about the right way to handle that situation.

We’ll still field 11. We’re not a man down.”

After reading all that, you probably have a gut feeling about whether Altidore plays. Of course, I have my own. Start with the caution we saw Klinsmann use toward Besler, add in the possible severity of Altidore’s injury, and I think he’s out. I think he’s way out. Not only do I not see Altidore featuring for Portugal, I doubt we’ll see him against Germany, either. If he comes back at all this tournament, I’ll be slightly surprised.

Do I know that with any certainty? Of course not. Klinsmann’s intent on making sure nobody knows if Jozy Altidore will be ready for Manaus. Given the information can only help the Portuguese prepare, you can’t blame him for leaving us in the dark.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”

Report: Chelsea planning Hazard, Courtois pay raises

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Eden Hazard has returned to his old self under Antonio Conte this season, and now Chelsea is hoping to lock down their star attacker.

[ MORE: Lukaku says decision has been made on Everton future ]

According to the Mirror, the Premier League leaders are planning on offering up a pay raise to Hazard, who has 11 league goals this season for the Blues.

Hazard signed a nearly $250,000 per week deal two seasons ago, but the Belgium international will likely rake in significantly more under the reported deal as Chelsea hopes to keep the 26-year-old away from Spanish giants Real Madrid and others.

The Mirror is also reporting that goalkeeper and Hazard’s Belgian teammate Thibaut Courtois is likely to be handed a raise is salary as well.

The shot-stopper is set be handed a deal roughly in the range of what Hazard is currently making after allowing just 21 goals in 28 PL matches this season.