Building off positives: Which 2014 USMNT players will remain in 2018?

17 Comments

Doing our best to not simply toss out “Requiem for a Team” posts in the wake of the United States 2-1 extra time loss to Belgium in the World Cup’s Round of 16, let’s look forward to the 2018 World Cup for a few hundred words.

Assuming the States continue to qualify through CONCACAF, how many of the 23 players to make the trip to Brazil will have plane tickets to Russia? Let’s take a look.

[ MORE: Analyzing Jurgen Klinsmann’s first World Cup with U.S. ]

[ MORE: Three things we learned in U.S. loss to Belgium ]

This is assuming form stays relatively-strong and bodies are relatively-healthy. Would you have thought Stu Holden, Benny Feilhaber, Jonathan Bornstein and Jonathan Spector would all be on the outside looking-in come Brazil? Maybe, maybe not.

Goalkeepers (age at time of 2018 World Cup):
Tim Howard (39)
Brad Guzan (33)
Nick Rimando (39)

Analysis: Rimando will likely cede the third spot to someone, while Guzan will be back in some role. Howard’s return will be based largely on whether he wants to continue playing internationally. Many keepers switch to ‘club-only’ status by the age of 39; Kasey Keller played for the US until he was nearly 38, while Brad Friedel stopped at age 34.

Pipeline (club, age at time of 2018 World Cup): Cody Cropper (Southampton, 25), Bill Hamid (DC United, 27), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire, 29), Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo, 33), Ethan Horvath (Molde, 23)

 
source:  Defenders:
DaMarcus Beasley (36)
Matt Besler (31)
John Brooks (25)
Geoff Cameron (32)
Timothy Chandler (28)
Omar Gonzalez (29)
Fabian Johnson (30)
DeAndre Yedlin (right, 24)

Analysis: It’s very difficult to believe Yedlin, Gonzalez and Brooks won’t all be on the scene in 2018, while the only name that seems a long shot for Russia duty, based on age, is Beasley. It’s reasonable to expect Cameron, Besler and Johnson will be in camp at the very least.

Pipeline (club, age at time of 2018 World Cup): Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting KC, 21), Will Packwood (Birmingham City, 25), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids, 24), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas, 23), Eric Miller (Montreal Impact, 25), Miguel Palafox (Leon, 23).


source: APMidfielders:
Kyle Beckerman (36)
Ale Bedoya (31)
Michael Bradley (30)
Brad Davis (36)
Mix Diskerud (27)
Julian Green (23)
Jermaine Jones (36)
Graham Zusi (31)

Analysis: A tricky group to diagnose, but certain names seem gone by 2018 (Beckerman and Davis for sure, with Jones having a chance considering Klinsmann’s love for the midfielder). Bradley and Green seem certain, and you’d say the same for Diskerud if not for the lack of playing time this tournament. Bedoya and Zusi are X-factors, but Klinsmann is likely hoping others make his decision easier.

Pipeline (club, age at time of 2018 World Cup): Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake, 24), Joe Corona (Tijuana, 27), Joshua Gatt (Molde, 26), Duane Holmes (Huddersfield Town, 23), Gedion Zelalem* (Arsenal, 21), Jordan Allen (Real Salt Lake, 23).

Forwards:
Jozy Altidore (28)
Clint Dempsey (35)
Aron Johannsson (27)
Chris Wondolowski (35)

Analysis: Wondolowski’s wondrous run is likely done. It feels counter-intuitive to rule Dempsey out of anything, but 35 is a real obstacle for someone who gets abused as much as the Texan. Altidore should still be fine, while Johannsson has a really good look at coming back, too.

Pipeline (club, age at time of 2018 World Cup): Juan Agudelo (unattached, 25), Terrence Boyd (Red Bull Leipzig, 27), Shawn Parker* (FC Augsburg, 25), Jerome Kiesewetter (Stuttgart, 25), Boxi Yomba (Atletico Madrid, 21), Jack McInerney (Montreal Impact, 25), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich, 25), Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo, 28)

*Not yet committed to United States.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms Man United contract talks

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in talks with Manchester United about extending his stay at Old Trafford beyond this season.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live

The veteran Swedish striker, 35, has scored 26 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions this season, and he has an option to extend his contract for another year. However, that option hasn’t been triggered yet by Ibrahimovic and United’s fans seem to be getting rather tetchy about the prospect of him not being around next season.

Ibrahimovic is enjoying life in England and revealed to the Manchester Evening News that he is in talks with the club about extending his stay in the Premier League.

“Let’s see what happens, we are talking,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have an option for another year, I want to do great as long as I’m here, so let us see, there is a lot of time. I’m enjoying being at a fantastic club, without doubts, one of the biggest clubs in the world with a great coach (Jose Mourinho).

“I know him before (from our time at Inter Milan), he’s a winner, he’s the perfect coach for this club. Being a Manchester United player, I don’t know how many people have that possibility but I am a Man United player, people wanted me here, I chose the club, I chose the best English club, that’s the way it works.”

Ibrahimovic also hinted that he would stay by stating he “never leaves a job unfinished” when talking about his dedication.

“I’m a person when I go into something I put my head 200 per cent, and I do what I’m good at. I go in, I go for the kill and I go out,” Ibrahimovic said. “And when I go out there is no complaints, that’s what I do. I never leave a job unfinished. I always go in, do my job, and in the way that is a fair play, a fair deal, that is what I do.”

With offers reported pouring in from Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, Ibrahimovic will likely have those kind of deals on the table next summer too. His current deal at United sees him paid over $310,000 per week but after joining from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer it could be one of the best pieces of business in United’s history if he helps them win the Europa League and/or finish in the top four in the PL this season.

If he leads the Red Devils back to the UEFA Champions League and has one more season as the talisman for Mourinho at Old Trafford, then leaves to finish out his playing days elsewhere, the legendary forward will go down as a hero in the eyes of United’s fans.

Portugal airport to be named after Ronaldo near his hometown

Getty Images
Leave a comment

FUNCHAL, Portugal (AP) Welcome to Cristiano Ronaldo Airport.

That will be the message awaiting passengers in the Madeira Islands from Wednesday, when the local airport will be renamed after the local star by the regional government.

Ronaldo is expected to attend a ceremony at the airport outside his hometown of Funchal on Wednesday, a day after his Portugal side lost 3-2 to Sweden in the city in a friendly.

The name change attracted a lot of attention locally, with many politicians opposing it.

Portugal’s squad landed on Monday at the airport displaying the trophy it won at the 2016 European Championship in France.

Funchal also has a Ronaldo statue and a museum about the player, as well a hotel complex named after him.

Arena reacts to USMNT draw, expects CONCACAF fight to end

2 Comments

Bruce Arena didn’t enjoy watching Tuesday’s 1-1 draw between the United States and Panama, but he’s not upset with the result.

“The referee didn’t blow his whistle too much, and that’s the way the game looked for 90 minutes,” Arena said.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Arena’s Yanks struggled to find their flow in the draw, ravaged by injuries to their back line. Arena praised his back four for their performance in difficult circumstances on the road with new teammates.

And he’s feeling a lot better than a week ago, when the U.S. had zero points and sat last in the table.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

“We’re obviously in better shape with four points in two games. We’ve made progress. Every game in qualifying is going to be critical for every team. Everyone’s in it. It’s going to be a battle for the second, third, and fourth spots.”

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

Panama 1-1 USMNT: Ugly, scrappy point for both sides

Leave a comment

The United States will finish the international break in the Hex’s fourth place after a 1-1 draw at Panama in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Clint Dempsey scored off a feed from Christian Pulisic to give the U.S. a brief 1-0 lead, and Gabriel Gomez leveled the score before halftime.

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Here’s the Hex table as it stands, with the U.S. on pace for a playoff spot against Asia’s playoff winner:

Mexico — 10 points
Costa Rica — 7 points
Panama — 5 points
———————
USMNT — 4 points
———————-
Honduras — 4 points
Trinidad and Tobago — 3 points

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The first 10 minutes were a bit frenetic, with the U.S. focused on adventurous first touch passes when it managed to earn the ball from Panama.

That feel wasn’t aided by the officiating, as Cesar Ramos was inconsistent in a very physical opening quarter-hour (and never pulled a single card).

Felipe Baloy flashed a header over the cross bar off a 16th minute corner kick as he lost Jozy Altidore and nodded back across goal. It was a bit of set piece foreshadowing, as Arena has yet to fix a long-held USMNT problem.

Christian Pulisic was fired up when Luis Tejada shoved him to the turf in the 20th minute.

Tim Ream bailed out Jorge Villafana, who wasn’t as composed and smart as his Friday versus Panama, sliding to divert Armando Cooper’s cross for a corner kick.

Jermaine Jones cued up Pulisic moments later, but the youngster had to wait for a bounding ball to settle before Panama conceded a corner. That opportunity was wasted by an overly aggressive Gonzalez, who was called for a foul before the ball arrived in the 18.

Howard saw his first danger and averted it when Alberto Quintero shook Zusi to rip a shot on frame. It was 0-0 after 32 minutes.

Then, the breakthrough. Dempsey moved to within a goal of Landon donovan’s all-time mark thanks to Pulisic, who cooked Felipe Baloy and held off Roman Torres before laying off to the veteran. 1-0, 39′.

The lead lasted all of three minutes, as Gomez pounced on a loose ball with the Yanks’ back line at sixes and sevens off a long throw-in. Gomez turned off Jermaine Jones and lost Villafana to bury his chance behind Howard. 1-1, 44′.

The second half began with more chunky play until Villafana blazed down the left wing on an overlapping run to cross for Pulisic, whose shot was forced out for a corner which led to nothing.

Dempsey then turned a Michael Bradley free kick to a waiting Jaime Penedo as the Yanks started to refind their flow.

Panama found a doorstep chance when Torres nodded down for Tejada, but Howard made an exceptional nether regions “leg” save to keep it 1-1.

Arena introduced Alejandro Bedoya for Darlington Nagbe with 20 minutes to play, a move that was a testament to the physical nature of the game.

Fittingly, it was creative work from Pulisic that helped the U.S. win a corner kick soon after, though Penedo claimed the offering.

More chances came Panama’s way, as the U.S. spent much of the late stages desperately clearing loose balls. On another night, with better finishing from Tejada, the Yanks would’ve been sunk.