USA Training & Press Conference - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

How will US line up vs. Belgium in Round of 16 clash?


With the U.S. taking on Belgium for a spot in the last eight of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, there are plenty of ways Jurgen Klinsmann can approach this one.

Looking at the two teams on paper, Belgium has more quality overall with plenty of players winning league titles in Europe and competing in the UEFA Champions League.

[ RELATED: Three key battles that could decide US vs. Belgium ]

[ RELATED: Altidore fit for U.S. ]

However, they haven’t blown teams away at the World Cup with two 1-0 wins and a 2-1 comeback victory to their name so far. Similarly the U.S. are tough to break down and aren’t likely to smash in three or four goals in a single game.

Let’s take a look at three options Klinsmann has, as the declaration that Jozy Altidore is now fit to play changes things considerably when it comes to the USA’s starting lineup.

Plan A: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…

After shutting down Germany and only losing 1-0 last-time out, many would argue that it was a decent showing from the U.S. against one of the favorites to win the World Cup. That said, Germany didn’t really get out of second-gear and if it wasn’t for Tim Howard’s heroics, Klinsmann’s side would have suffered a huge defeat that could have seen them knocked out. The only switch here is Bedoya coming in for Brad Davis, as the MLS winger failed to impact the game against Germany and was replaced early in the second half. Solid and steady.






Plan B: The cautious approach… 

If the U.S. are really worried about the attacking talents Belgium possess, this could be the way to go. Klinsmann could well go with an ultra-cautious approach, as his side showed they can bend and not break in their win against Ghana and grabbing a draw (that felt like a loss) against Portugal. This lineup would see Geoff Cameron coming in at right back and current right back Fabian Johnson pushing up to the right midfield spot. That way the U.S. would have plenty of height at the back to deal with the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini and Jan Vertonghen from set pieces. Also, having Johnson on the right wing could stop Eden Hazard from getting on the ball and causing serious issues for the USA.






Plan C: Fight fire with fire…

Okay, this one is out there, but let’s discuss it. With Altidore declared available to play, do you risk bringing him on as a sub and then having to sub him? Maybe you start him, give Jozy 60 minutes and then switch things up. Here is the ultra-offensive look at how the U.S. could line up, as there is one noticeable absentee in the lineup: Michael Bradley. That is not likely to happen, but it seems to me as though Bradley really hasn’t been comfortable in a more advanced role for the U.S. He is a much better player breaking things up in midfield and someone like Mix Diskerud slots in better as an out-and-out playmaker. The U.S. could get torn apart if they deploy this lineup, then again they could be two or three up at  half time…







“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.