Turkey v United States

Klinsmann jumps back into MLS debate with Facebook post

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Major League Soccer isn’t mentioned in Jurgen Klinsmann’s latest Facebook update, but the quality and culture around the United States’ domestic competition is the subtext of his post. Citing the U.S.’s finish in Brazil 2014 as a benchmark, the U.S. Men’s National Team head coach said the team needs to “add the work load,” going on to imply the current level of competition his players face needs to improve. The “tempo” and “rhythm” of the national team can’t move forward unless those qualities can be matched at club level.

Klinsmann also alluded to “off the field” factors, like understanding how to utilize recovery time, but his underlying point is a familiar one, one which strikes a more relevant note in light of Matt Besler’s potential move. While Major League Soccer is an improving league, it still doesn’t match the standard of Europe’s top competitions, something Klinsmann sees as an obstacle as the national team tries to move forward.

From Klinsmann’s Facebook post, dated July 3:

We get benchmarked at the World Cup and there is definitely stuff we have to improve and get better in. It’s many things off the field and many things on the field. Playing at that kind of a tempo, at that kind of a rhythm every four days – this has to become the norm. So our job as coaches is how can we make it clear that in order to get further and further we need to add the work load, we need to add the competition level, we need to make them understand what recovery time means, what their life off the field plays a role in many things you can achieve in your career.

It’s a common theme with Klinsmann: A soccer career is a lifestyle. It isn’t just defined by matches and the time you give your club in training. It extends to your off field preparation, your choices of how to rest and eat, or even the personal sacrifices you have to make to play against better competition. Being a professional athlete is a huge and well-compensated sacrifice, but if that’s what it takes in the soccer world to track down the world’s best, it’s a sacrifice players have to make.

At least, it’s one some players have to make right now. Players like Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard? Years of regular play in the English Premier League have built a foundation of experience. They’re capable of raising their level to match their opponents. As we also saw with Jermaine Jones, Bundesliga and Champions League experience meant the awe-factor of the World Cup was more muted. If those types of players move to MLS, there’s enough experience to draw on at the international level.

source: Getty ImagesBut what about a player like Matt Besler (right), who hasn’t put in that time at the higher levels? Or Omar Gonzalez, Graham Zusi, or perhaps more importantly, DeAndre Yedlin? Even Michael Bradley, who for all his European experience, never played regularly for a Champions or Europa League qualifier during his stops in Germany or Italy. If Klinsmann’s hypothesis is correct, perhaps Bradley’s return to MLS from Roma was a little premature at 26 years old?

Or maybe he’s an exception that shouldn’t obscure the rule: Major League Soccer may be a building ground, but it’s not a finishing school. While the likes to Yedlin, Luis Gil, Diego Fagundez, and Darlington Nagbe have had this platform to flash their potentials, MLS’s ceiling may prevent them from helping their national team improve. Staying at home, they may develop into the talented but limited products that have led the U.S. to where it is now.

More from Klinsmann:

We have to continue to communicate that, to show them and especially start to implement that with our Under-17, Under-18, Under-20, Under-21, which will be the future Olympic team because that’s the next Generation that’s going to break in. The more we get that message to those kids, the more we will benefit a couple of years from now. When you go out in the Round of 16, clearly it gives you the message you have a lot of work still ahead of you.

Telling people to get to Europe isn’t the only solution, though. Eventually, you want Major League Soccer to be able to rival that experience. Maybe players capable of playing for the truly elite clubs will always leave (MLS may never have a Real Madrid), but unless that’s the choice, you’d like to think players can achieve a higher potential at home.

Obviously, progress is being made. Players like Brad Davis, Chris Wondolowski, and Kyle Beckerman are limited, but thanks to MLS’s drastic improvement, they’ve turned into players who can serve a purpose at the highest level. Talents like Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans, and Clarence Goodson played valuable roles in qualifying. The improvement in Major League Soccer is having a huge impact for the U.S. national team.

But 2014 wasn’t the tournament where MLS broke through. With Besler standing out next to Beckerman and Zusi’s contributions, it was the tournament where it helped. As Klinsmann implies, the domestic league has some steps to take if it’s going to define its national team. The break through hasn’t happened, yet.

Watch Live: Guatemala vs. T&T; Canada vs. Guyana in Olympic qualifying

Canadian players wave to fans after a 2-1 loss to England in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Group B is set to kick off Thursday night at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, as Canada, third-place finishers at the 2012 Olympics, begin their quest to qualify for this summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Guyana versus Trinidad and Tobago is up first (6 p.m. ET) from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex, followed by the Canadians, who will take on Guyana (8:30 p.m. ET) in the nightcap.

[ WATCH LIVE: Guatemala vs. T&T live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

[ WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Guyana live on line on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The U.S. women’s national began its Olympic qualifying campaign in impressive fashion on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica, while Mexico jumped to the top of Group A with a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Sunderland terminate Adam Johnson’s contract after guilty pleas in sex case

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court, England, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. Johnson has pleaded guilty in court to one count of sexual activity with a child and another of grooming. The 28-year-old Johnson, who has made 12 appearances for England, denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
Peter Byrne/PA via AP
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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Sunderland has fired winger Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Johnson, who has played 12 times for England, continues to deny two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

Sunderland dismissed Johnson ahead of his trial resuming on Friday at Bradford Crown Court.

[ MORE: Top 5 Premier League storylines — Sunday’s top-four battle royal ]

In a statement, Sunderland announced Thursday that “in light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

The former Manchester City player joined Sunderland in 2012 for 10 million pounds (now about $14.5 million).

Week 26: Top 5 Premier League storylines — Top-four battle royal

Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, right, lifts the ball over Leicester City’s goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel but fails to score during their English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City at the White Hart Lane stadium in London Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
AP Photo/Alastair Grant
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Whoever says, “No one could have ever predicted Leicester City would be top of the league on Valentine’s Day,” is wrong.

One group of Premier League savants knew: the PL schedule makers, which is why this Sunday shall henceforth be known as “Super Duper Mega Uber Sunday,” as it’s 3rd versus 1st, and 4th versus 2nd.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Top-four battle royal, part 1

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — Sunday, 7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

Will Arsenal “Arsenal it up?” Will Leicester finally fall apart and blow the PL title, as they were supposed to have done weeks months ago? The battle of narratives in so strong in this one. Are Leicester really title favorites? Upon further review, they are. No PL team has won more points away from home this season than Leicester (28). Is another giant-slaying on the cards for the Foxes? At this point, who would be crazy enough to doubt them?

[ MORE: PL schedule, stream links ]

Top-four battle royal, part 2

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — Sunday, 11:15 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

The last time Tottenham were ahead of Man City this late in the season will have to have been the final day of the 2009-10 season, when Spurs qualified for the UEFA Champions League just ahead of City. Heading into Sunday, a single point is all that separates the sides. When they met earlier this season, Spurs hammered City, to the tune of 4-1. The importance of three points speaks for itself, as either side could surge into a commanding place in the title race with a victory on Sunday.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings | Schedule | Stats ]

Man United’s top-four hopes hanging by a thread

Sunderland vs. Manchester United — Saturday, 6:45 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

As the PL’s top-four teams have kept winning in recent weeks, so too have Man United, to an extent. With that, the Red Devils are no closer to Champions League qualification today than they were three weeks ago before their mini-run of 11 points from six games. Only Aston Villa (10), who are rock bottom of the league, have won fewer points at home this season than Sunderland (12). United are currently six points back of 4th, so with at least two of the four sides ahead of them guaranteed to drop points on Sunday, it’s a big, big weekend for United to take of their own business and apply a little pressure.

[ MORE: The latest on those Mourinho-to-United rumors ]

The Fallen On Hard Times But Someone Has To Win (Maybe) Derby

Crystal Palace vs. Watford — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET (Premier League Extra Time)

When 2016 began, Crystal Palace were 5th in the PL. Unfortunately for them, the clock also struck midnight on what had been a hugely successful season to that point — five losses and one draw since, and they’re now 12th in the league table. The story is eerily similar for Watford, who were 7th after a Boxing Day draw with Chelsea — five losses, a draw and a win later, they’re 10th. A single point is all that separates Saturday’s combatants desperately hoping to regain their early-season form.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Is Roberto Martinez’s employment under review? It might be

Everton vs. West Bromwich Albion — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

Everton will be a fascinating club to watch as the 2015-16 season winds down. There’s essentially no chance of them finishing in the top-four or -five (12 and 6 points back, respectively), and they look essentially the same side that massively disappointed en route to an 11th-place finish last season — they’re atrocious and hugely naive defensively, which has been a characteristic of Roberto Martinez-managed teams since, well, the beginning of his managerial career. $100 million is a lot of money to spend over four transfer windows without any discernible progress.

Men In Blazers podcast: Leicester, Spurs continue to defy the odds

Men In Blazers - Sept. 22
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Rog and Davo break down Leicester City’s 3-1 win at Manchester City, marvel at Spurs going second in the table, and talk about the headlines surrounding the mid-table clash between Chelsea and United.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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