2018 World Cup

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Extremely early, Gold Cup glee-driven thoughts on a USMNT World Cup roster

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The United States men’s national team won its sixth Gold Cup title on Wednesday, topping Jamaica 2-1 on a late winner from Jordan Morris.

It’s the sort of goal that moves a 22-year-old forward’s name from pencil to pen on a World Cup roster, one the Yanks will hopefully be planning following qualifying under Bruce Arena.

Morris is one of several players who took hold of their chances to march into Russia via fine performances as part of the USMNT’s “B Team” in the Gold Cup, along with Darlington Nagbe, Matt Besler, and maybe Paul Arriola (This assumes you hadn’t already counted Omar Gonzalez).

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It seems to us there are six spots in play right now. The forward batch of four is set and Ethan Horvath will probably join Tim Howard and Brad Guzan in the goalkeeper corps.

Five defenders look set and the same amount of midfielders (Besler, Brooks, Cameron, Gonzalez, Yedlin, Bedoya, Bradley, Johnson, Nagbe, Pulisic), leaving three defender and three midfielder spots. It looks set to come down to Kenny Saief or Kelyn Rowe in the midfield, and Tim Ream or Graham Zusi at the back.

So what’s the United States’ 23-man roster look like for Russia right now? Here’s our best guess (and we’re thinking as Arena, not us):

Goalkeepers (3): Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath

Defenders (8): Matt Besler, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler, Omar Gonzalez, Jorge Villafana, DeAndre Yedlin, Graham Zusi.

Midfielders (8): Kellyn Acosta, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic, Kelyn Rowe.

Forwards (4):  Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris, Bobby Wood.

Bonus seven-man waiting list: Joe Corona, Dom Dwyer, Dax McCarty, Tim Ream, Kenny Saief, Danny Williams, Gyasi Zardes.

Russian farmer’s straw stadium pokes fun at World Cup costs

AP Photo/Oleksandr Stashevskyi
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KRASNOYE, Russia (AP) Russia is desperate to control its spending on the 2018 World Cup, and a farmer might just have the answer – straw.

In a project straight out of the “Three Little Pigs” fairytale, Roman Ponomaryov has built a straw replica of the 43 billion ruble ($700 million) stadium in St. Petersburg which will host World Cup semifinals.

His arena made of 4,500 straw bales comes with tiered seating for 300 and flagpoles. It hosted its first tournament – for local teams only – last weekend using modified soccer rules.

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“It’s good to get people excited and create a sports atmosphere ahead of the World Cup,” Ponomaryov said in a recent interview.

The real St. Petersburg Stadium has drawn ire for its cost, corruption scandals, delays, and workers’ deaths.

Ponomaryov is a fan of the Zenit St. Petersburg club and says he modeled his straw stadium on Zenit’s new home in a gentle dig at the problems around the construction.

“It seemed pretty strange … how the cost of the stadium and its construction timeframe were increasing,” he said. Russia’s total World Cup budget is around $10.7 billion.

Zenit has accepted the straw stadium with good humor, offering Ponomaryov a ticket to a game at the real thing.

The harvest will keep him on the farm for the next few weeks, though, and he has in mind another project – organizing a Straw World Cup.

USMNT stock up, stock down after Gold Cup group stage

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Bruce Arena took a look at 22 of the 23 men on his 2017 Gold Cup group stage roster, with everyone but NYCFC backstop Sean Johnson seeing time.

Six players received just 90 minutes, while only Alejandro Bedoya (203) and Dax McCarty (184) played more than the equivalent of two full matches.

Bedoya and Johnson were sent home after the group stage, along with Brad Guzan, Dom Dwyer, Cristian Roldan and Kelyn Rowe. Oddly enough, four of those six players were pretty good in the tournament.

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Before getting to the 22 men in question, perhaps it’s better to begin by asking if there were any of the first-choice players whose stock took a hit from being given the summer off. Given the Yanks’ remarkably disappointing performances in games one and two, it might be odd to suggest that any did, but Dom Dwyer and Jordan Morris’ performances at least guaranteed continued competition for Bobby Wood, Jozy Altidore, and Clint Dempsey. Jurgen Klinsmann listed Julian Green as a midfielder on the 2014 World Cup roster, and carried Dempsey, Altidore, Chris Wondolowski, and Aron Johannsson in Brazil.

Stock up

Alejandro Bedoya — Whether you rate the Philadelphia Union midfielder as a mainstay, an ancillary piece or just depth, Arena handed him the arm band and played him more than any other player. Looked better in the middle of the park than the wing.

Omar Gonzalez — Unsure you’ll ever feel supreme confidence with him as a starting CB against top competition, but he was composed and good in the air. Connected on 57 of 58 pass attempts.

Matt Besler — Ninety-six attempted passes led the team, as did his 87 correct offerings. The Sporting KC man has his place in the team, and World Cup experience to boot.

Kelyn Rowe — We’d be shocked if his departure back to New England had anything to do with his fine performances with the USMNT. Played a role in a conceded goal, but was a dynamic creator when his team was lacking that role.

Matt Miazga Finished 21 of 22 passes, scored a goal, and begged to be given more time to shine. Where Chelsea sends him on loan and how he fares will be closely monitored.

Jordan Morris — His seven shots and two goals led the team, and one even came with his left foot. Emblematic of the homegrown American talent, it was good to see him finish chances again.

Eric Lichaj Small sample size alert, but the three fouls he suffered in his lone game puts him behind just three players on average. Hoping Arena lets him play alongside the big boys.

Brad Guzan —  It has been a while since we saw the new Atlanta United backstop shine in a USMNT kit, and he did it twice. Clearly the 2 in the 1-2 with Tim Howard.

Dom Dwyer — Missed penalty aside, showed moxie and a nose for goal. Most importantly, he scored in a game where the ball wasn’t finding him; That’s a quality attribute for an international striker.

(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Stock down

Cristian Roldan — This should read “short term stock down.” At age 22 he should have plenty more chances to impress Arena and future U.S. coaches, but he certainly didn’t demand Russia consideration based on his 90 minutes.

Matt Hedges — If you searched our site for his name, you’d see no one has championed his call-up to the national team more but he was hurt for speed during his one-off appearance.

Graham Zusi — Not a right back, at least not in a system not focused to his strengths and weaknesses, but Arena’s continued use of the Sporting KC man in that spot show that our stock down might not be his stock down. That said, we’re open to the idea of him as a right mid.

Chris Pontius — An exceptional talent and industrious worker, he didn’t star and is 30 years old. Doesn’t change our opinion of the Union man, but probably hurts his World Cup dreams.

Gyasi Zardes — Like Zusi, this isn’t his fault. Unlike Zusi, Zardes was playing his natural position as he continued his recent malaise. The group stage allowed Jordan Morris to break out of the funk he brought with him from MLS; Zardes could do no such thing. Maybe this is a all just a step in his continued recovery process.

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Could go either way

Justin Morrow — Only saw 90 minutes as Jorge Villafana is going to get every chance to seize this job. That’s not an indictment on Morrow, though the Toronto FC left back did not do anything fantastic to demand more playing time (Leaning? Up).

Kellyn Acosta — Still think he’s a future mainstay on the team, but perhaps we see why Klinsmann elected to try him at left back rather than the center mid spot he plays for FC Dallas; His talent, athleticism, and ideas are outstanding, but he also shows his age often when the unexpected happens. At 21, this is going to get better… but by Russia? (Leaning? Up).

Dax McCarty — Along with Acosta, was a revelation in the friendly against Ghana. Did plenty of good in two 90-minute performances, but perhaps is yet to convince Arena or the fan base that he can be a Kyle Beckerman-style key piece of a roster puzzle. (Leaning? Up).

Paul Arriola —  Really liked his mettle, and in a coincidental statistic the U.S. is 6W-1D in matches he’s hit the pitch. At age 22, his slim hopes for the roster comes from contributing as a sub. Can he do it when it matters in the knockout rounds? Will he get the chance? (Leaning? Up).

Jorge Villafana — Can fly up and down the left flank, but still missing something in his own end and the final third. Still, he’s going to get every chance to allow Arena to keep Fabian Johnson at left back. (Leaning? Down).

Juan Agudelo — Bright and lively at times, missed the finishing touch that would have American fans recapturing their enthusiasm of years ago. (Leaning? Down).

Joe Corona — Scored a goal and showed he’s up for the challenge skill and vision wise, but also drifted out of the game at times and took one of the worst on frame penalties you’re going to see this year. (Leaning? Up).

Bill Hamid — Did what he needed to do against Nicaragua, but remains behind Howard and Guzan while waiting to see if Jesse Gonzalez is the eventual No. 3 for Russia (should the Yanks qualify for the 2018 World Cup). (Leaning? Up).

USMNT’s next World Cup qualifier headed for New Jersey

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We have a home for the United States men’s national team’s next 2018 World Cup qualifier.

The Yanks will tangle with Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, on Sept. 1. U.S. Soccer says it’s the first WCQ at the venue.

That match is four days ahead of an away qualifier in Honduras. The U.S. lost 4-0 in Costa Rica, and defeated Honduras 6-0 on American soil.

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Los Ticos are in second place in the Hex through six matches with 11 points, three points behind leaders Mexico and three ahead of the U.S.

Panama sits fourth with seven points.

Russia says TV deal for World Cup still far off

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MOSCOW (AP) Russia says it is far from reaching a deal with FIFA on TV broadcast rights for next year’s World Cup.

With the tournament a year away, there is still no agreement in place to avoid the embarrassing situation of games not being shown in the host nation. FIFA usually signs deals several years before major events.

Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko says FIFA wants $110 million from Russian TV channels, but they can only afford to pay $38-$40 million, in comments reported by Russian state news agencies.

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Mutko has previously accused FIFA of trying to force the Russian government to contribute.

A TV deal for the Confederations Cup test event was only reached last month, six days before the opening game. No financial details were made public.