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.

Cristiano Ronaldo could face tax-fraud charges in Spain

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MADRID (AP) Spanish prosecutors are considering whether Cristiano Ronaldo should face charges over allegations by the country’s tax agency that he defrauded the authorities of 15 million euros ($16.7 million) between 2011 and 2014.

Prosecutors said Thursday they have until the end of June to decide whether to charge the Real Madrid star, based on evidence from an investigation by tax officials.

The alleged irregularities were mostly related to money that Ronaldo had in the Virgin Islands.

Tax officials said Ronaldo adjusted his tax declarations and paid an extra 6 million euros ($6.7 million) in 2014.

Prosecutors said that if they decided to charge him, and if the Portugal captain was subsequently found guilty by a court, he would face a prison sentence of at least 15 months. However, it would be unlikely he would go to jail as a first-time offender.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi was convicted of tax fraud last year.

Terry: “I couldn’t care less” about 26th-minute farewell criticism

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John Terry is a man who… well, let’s just say, does things his way.

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For instance, remember the time Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League, by beating Bayern Munich, in penalties? Remember Chelsea’s post-game celebrations, which saw Terry, who was suspended for the final at the Allianz Arena, joyously jumping around with his teammates wearing his full kit, shin guards and all?

Was it over the top and a bit silly? Sure it was, but was anyone hurt or genuinely upset by it? Of course not. On Sunday, as Terry said goodbye to the only club he’s ever known (apart from a six-game loan spell at Nottingham Forest in 2000), he toed the line between what’s acceptable and what’s outlandish. Just like in 2012, Terry caused a minor uproar, and just like in 2012 he “couldn’t care less” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I couldn’t care less, I promise you. All I care about is celebrating with my Chelsea fans. Me and them have a wonderful rapport and have done for 22 years. Nothing that people write or say can ever get in the way of that.

“If that’s the way I want to go out, that’s the way I go out because I’ve been here 22 years, I’ve won so many trophies — so if I wanted to play one minute and come off, I would have done.

“I wanted to play 26 minutes because the shirt number means a lot to me and the supporters so as long as they are happy – and I was over the moon with the reception – I promise you I could not care less.”

“It was an unbelievable send-off from the supporters to help me to celebrate 22 years at the club.

“I’m very grateful to them, and it was something I will never forget. It was so emotional after the game, I was in bits.”

There’s something to be said about the success that Chelsea have had as a club, and the way its recency leads them to feel they are perceived by the outside world. Other clubs, “bigger,” most historic clubs — Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, for example — have been winning trophies pretty regularly for decades, while 70 percent of the major trophies (14 of 20) won in the club’s history have come since Roman Abramovich bought the club 14 years ago, in 2003. Chelsea is a 112-year-old football club.

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

Chelsea’s players and fans are so clearly away of their bought-and-paid-for status, thus everything is celebrated on the grandest scale, almost as if to legitimize their accomplishments (which stand up just fine on their own two feet) and standing within the hierarchy of English football. “Contrived” (and admittedly so) is the word that comes to mind and best describes Terry’s send-off.

No one in this space is saying there’s anything wrong with that, but everyone connected to Chelsea must realize and accept that it looks silly to supporters of the aforementioned long-time giants, and they’re going to be pointed at and laughed at every time they do it.

FA Cup: Three key battles between Arsenal, Chelsea

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The FA Cup final usually brings out terrific entertainment for the fans, and this Saturday’s finale should be no different.

When Arsenal and Chelsea take the field at Wembley Stadium, it will be the last chance this season for some of the Premier League’s stars such as Eden Hazard and Diego Costa for Chelsea and Alexis Sanchez and Mezut Ozil for Arsenal to bring glory to their club.

[ MORE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

The match features two teams heading in different directions. Chelsea, the Premier League champions are in the ascendency after a one-year hiatus out of European competition, while Arsenal finished outside the top-four places in the Premier League for the first time in 20 years under manager Arsene Wenger.

In addition, there’s plenty of other storylines to watch on the field, from whether it’s Costa, Sanchez and Ozil’s potential last matches with their respective teams to how Arsenal will deal without two of its three regular centerbacks they’ve used this season.

Here’s a look at three key battles on the field ahead of the FA Cup final:


Arsenal’s centerbacks vs. Diego Costa

Diego Costa may be a thorn in Chelsea’s side off the field when it comes to the constant speculation of a move away from Stamford Bridge, but on the field this season he’s been brilliant. Costa scored 20 goals in the Premier League and another goal in FA Cup action, and he contributes off the ball as well, drawing the defense in towards him while opening up space for teammates including Hazard and Willian.

Heading into Saturday, it’s unclear who on Arsenal will be tasked with marking Costa. Laurent Koscielny was issued a straight red card in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Everton and will miss the FA Cup final due to suspension while fellow centerback Gabriel left the field on a stretcher after suffering a knee injury. In addition, Shkodran Mustafi is still recovering from a concussion and is a doubt for Saturday.

That leaves Wenger with just Per Mertesacker and Rob Holding as healthy centerbacks, which could force Wenger to revert back to his usual four-man backline from the more recent three-man backline that’s been used.

Regardless of who Arsenal put out there, expect Costa to be at his best, attempting to physically dominate his opponent and get under their skin.


Nemanja Matic and N'Golo Kante vs. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez

Arsenal are at their best when they play through the middle of the field before finding runners out wide, setting up crossing attempts into the middle or perhaps another chance to play through the lines in the center of the field.

Standing in Arsenal’s playmaking duo of Mezut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez’s way are Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante. Kante, as Riyad Mahrez saw last year, does so much of the dirty work defensively that he allows his teammates including Matic and Hazard to bomb forward and either create or finish goal-scoring opportunities.

Kante will have his hands full dealing with Ozil and Sanchez in midfield, and Matic may need to sit a bit deeper to cut off the passing lanes, potentially taking him out of Chelsea’s counter attack.


Eden Hazard vs. Hector Bellerin

For all the speed that Hazard possesses on the ball, there’s at least one player on Arsenal who can keep stride pace-for-pace.

With Hazard likely lining up on the left wing, Arsenal’s right wing back Hector Bellerin will likely face Hazard up one-on-one at both ends of the field, setting up a fun encounter. With Bellerin’s speed and ability to track back, he may be open to a few 40-yard springs into space down the right wing, knowing that Hazard probably won’t be in hot pursuit.

But if Bellerin doesn’t end up with the ball and there’s an Arsenal turnover, Hazard on his own or against a centerback on the left wing could be a nightmare for Arsenal to deal with.

Man United, Man City come together to support terror victims

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The Manchester derby is known as one of the world’s fiercest rivalries, but in the wake of a devastating terrorist attack this week, both sides are joining together to support the city of Manchester and victims of the attack.

Manchester United and Manchester City announced Thursday they pledged together nearly $1.3 million into the We Love Manchester community fund. The fund was set up to assist the families of the 22 people who died and 64 people who were injured in the attack.

“The barbarism of Monday evening’s attack has shocked everyone,” Manchester United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward said in a statement. “Our clubs are right at the heart of our local communities in Manchester and it is right that we present a unified response to this tragedy. The money will help of course but the work of the two clubs and their respective foundation and community scheme can build on the fantastic spirit that Mancunians have shown in the immediate aftermath.”

Folks who want to donate to the fund can visit http://www.redcross.org.uk/manchester or http://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/redcross/ManchesterEmergencyFund.

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