Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Copa America 2016: Will USMNT go young in 3rd-place game vs. Colombia?

Leave a comment

For the second straight year, Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. national team is still alive heading into the final weekend of an international tournament. For the second straight year, Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. national team is set to feature in the third-place game of an international tournament.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | Copa America 2016 ]

One of the biggest questions surrounding Saturday’s consolation clash against Colombia, a rematch of the two sides’ opening group stage game, in Phoenix, Ariz., is to do with the starting lineup Klinsmann will select — specifically, its international experience (or lack thereof) that many desire.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from USA 0-4 ARG | Player ratings ]

The order in which certain players should play vs. Colombia, most to least…

Goalkeeper

Brad GuzanTim Howard … Ethan Horvath — Guzan had something of a shocker in the semifinal drubbing at the hands of Argentina, and he’s the only one of the above three ‘keepers without a stable club situation at the moment (Howard is headed to the Colorado Rapids where he’ll see out the rest of his career in MLS, while Horvath is on the cusp of winning the full-time starting job at Molde in Norway). Recency bias is a real thing, and it’s something Guzan must correct and exploit in order to achieve a favorable move away from Aston Villa this summer.

UPDATE: Klinsmann has since announced that Howard will start Saturday’s game.

Defenders

John Brooks … DeAndre YedlinGeoff Cameron … Fabian Johnson … Matt Besler … Steve Birnbaum … Edgar Castillo … Michael Orozco — With the exception of the Besler-at-left back experiment against Ecuador in the quarterfinals, Klinsmann has chosen the same back four of five times this tournament, and it paid off in spades. Before shipping four goals against Argentina, the USMNT had given up just three goals in four games, none of which were scored from open play. That’s good! It’s also a youthful enough group (average age: 25.8) that they’ll still be at, or approaching, the primes of their respective careers as the 2018 World Cup approaches and begins. More reps together now can only mean good things for that group down the line.

From left to right: Johnson, Brooks, Cameron, Yedlin

UPDATE: Brooks reportedly left Friday’s training session with an apparent injury.

[ MORE: Gulati assigns significance of winning third-place game ]

Midfielders

Darlington Nagbe … Christian Pulisic … Michael Bradley … Jermaine Jones  … Alejandro Bedoya … Perry Kitchen … Graham Zusi … … … … … Kyle Beckerman — For better or for worse, Bradley and Jones are still the best two-way midfielders in the player pool, and if Klinsmann is committed to the 4-4-2 (like he’s ever been committed to a system before), they would have to start together in a must-win game. Bradley will be 30 years old in the summer of 2018; Jones, 36; which means there’s a good chance they’ll start together the USMNT’s opener in Russia.

The up-and-comer most likely to break up the Bradley-Jones duopoly is, of course, Nagbe. To this point, though, he’s played just 36 minutes at Copa America 2016, which makes you wonder, “Why, exactly, is he on the roster if only to play 36 minutes in five games?” Speaking of not getting playing time, Pulisic has played all of 69 minutes thus far. So much for the “we must use this tournament to give experience to the new guys” narrative.

From left to right: Pulisic, Bradley, Nagbe, Bedoya

Forwards

Bobby Wood … Gyasi Zardes … Clint Dempsey … … … … … Chris Wondolowski — Dempsey’s not going to be around forever, and while his partnership with Wood was the best thing the USMNT attack managed all tournament, it’s time to start addressing (at least mentally) “what comes next?”

Wood is the best pure no. 9 in the entire player pool, meaning with any luck, the 23-year-old Hamburg man will seize that starting job for the next five to eight years. Zardes is very much a “Klinsmann guy,” even if he’s yet to be handed a regular position or starting job at this point. Everything, at least on paper, says that Zardes is more of a forward than a winger, but the 24-year-old has proven more than serviceable in a wide deployment time after time. It’s time to find out if he can play as a striker at the international level, though, and what better time to do so than in a meaningless (stakes-wise) third-place game?

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
Leave a comment

Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
1 Comment

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.

2018 MLS Mock Draft: LAFC, Galaxy hold the keys

@MLS
Leave a comment

Major League Soccer’s latest batch of hopeful rookies learn the next steps of their professional careers beginning Friday with the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.

There are several intriguing prospects, including accomplished Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and dangerous Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

An MLS mock draft is always tricky given the wildly varying opinions on players from the college game. This year, it’s even trickier as clubs without picks and some with multiple first round picks may be looking to move up and down even more than the norm.

Here’s how we think the draft could play out:

  1. LAFC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, CB, Stanford
  2. LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, FW, Wake Forest
  3. DC United – Francis Atuahene, FW, Michigan
  4. Montreal – Joao Moutinho, LB, Akron
  5. Minnesota – Wyatt Omsberg, CB, Dartmouth
  6. Orlando City – Ema Twumasi, FW, Wake Forest
  7. Montreal – Chris Mueller, FW, Wisconsin
  8. New England – Mo Adams, MF, Syracuse
  9. New England – Chris Lema, MF, Georgetown
  10. Real Salt Lake – Justin Fiddes, LB, Washington
  11. FC Dallas – Marcelo Acuna, FW, Virginia Tech
  12. San Jose – Brandon Bye, RB, Western Michigan
  13. Sporting KC – Ed Opoku, FW, Virginia
  14. Atlanta – Alex Roldan, MF, Seattle
  15. Chicago – Mason Toye, FW, Indiana
  16. New York Red Bulls – Alan Winn, MF, North Carolina
  17. Vancouver – Tristan Blackmon, RB, Pacific
  18. Sporting KC – Jon Gallagher, FW, Notre Dame
  19. New York City FC – Daniel Musovski, FW, UNLV
  20. Houston – Mo Thiaw, FW, Louisville
  21. Columbus – Brian White, FW, Duke
  22. Seattle – Tim Kubel, MF, Louisville
  23. Toronto FC – Oliver Shannon, MF, Clemson

There are a few players to keep an eye on for the later rounds that I won’t project for the first round due almost exclusively to first person bias (Some I’ve seen play in college, others at other levels). Afonso Pinheiro from Albany produced like crazy until this season, and Bowling Green defender Alexis Souahy has a skill set that could really transmit to the MLS level.

Mac Steeves (Providence) is a prototypical big body scorer, while Evansville’s heady Ian McGrath has a flair for the absurd and can play almost every position up the center of the pitch. Charleston’s Thomas Vancaeyezeele was a D-2 monster and is probably worth a shot earlier than people suspect.

Roma-Chelsea reports could see Dzeko, Batshuayi… and Sturridge on the move

Angelo Carconi/ANSA via AP
Leave a comment

Here’s a wild rumor out of Italy, as Gianluca Di Marzio has UEFA Champions League Round of 16 sides Chelsea and Roma working out a big transfer.

[ MORE: PST chats with Dzeko in July ]

Again, before we lay it out, we know that both clubs would not be able to use Cup-tied players in the UCL and that gives the rumor its unrealistic bent.

Chelsea reportedly is willing to send $62 million and striker Michy Batshuayi on loan to Roma in exchange for Edin Dzeko and Emerson Palmeiri. Reports say Roma is holding out for another $20 million, potentially add-ons.

Dzeko isn’t producing at his otherworldly rate of last season, but is far and away i Lupi’s leading scorer and bagged a brace against Chelsea in the UCL. And Batshuayi scored in Chelsea’s first two matches of the tournament.

There is something to the rumor, at least in terms of Emerson. The London Evening Standard quotes the player’s agent as saying talks are ongoing and the move is a “dream” one for Emerson, who is behind Aleksandar Kolarov on the left back depth chart since returning from injury.

Roma would need a UCL-eligible center forward, as Czech youngster Patrik Schick has been unable to find his scoring boots since a summer move from Sampdoria. Football Italia says, sensationally, that Roma would use some of the money to pry Daniel Sturridge from Liverpool.

Maybe the Emerson move goes through, but the striker swap feels like a headscratcher for Dzeko and Chelsea.