Surprises from Monday’s U.S. national team roster announcement

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The Twitter world being what it is, the bigger surprises in today’s U.S. national team roster announcement were relatively weak noodles in the big bowl of potential shockers.

We already knew – or strongly suspected based on their weekend Tweets – that Eddie Johnson was in and Dutch league scoring leader Jozy Altidore was out.

Those would have been jaw-droppers without early radar warning ahead of Monday’s roster announcement from U.S. Soccer. The Americans play at Antigua and Barbuda on Friday, then meet Guatemala on Oct. 16 in Kansas City to close out semifinal round World Cup qualifying.

(MORE: The week ahead for the United States)

So here are the talkers off Monday’s United States roster announcement; U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann spoke with reporters after Monday’s announcement via teleconference.

Sacha Kljestan gets the call. He’s been stuck in an uncomfortable place internationally since he mans a position of relative strength. As a central midfielder, he’s been stuck behind Michael Bradley and a host of others, even if some of them lean more defensive in their tendencies than Kljestan.

So, Kljestan has languished mostly unused by the United States through 2012, his appearance in the American win over Italy as the notable exception.

Klinsmann mentioned having dispatched assistant Andreas Herzog to watch Kljestan last week against Malaga in Champions League play; they were especially happy with the Anderlecht man’s increasing tendency to play balls vertically and not just side-to-side.

No Jose Torres. No one can say Klinsmann didn’t get the young man plenty of chances. And plenty of warnings, too, that he needed to be more aggressive and find more ways to impact matches in a more substantial ways.

(Update: A U.S. Soccer spokesman just informed me that Torres is injured; I was unaware.)

No Chris Wondolowski, no Terrance Boyd – but Johnson … and Alan Gordon!: Klinsmann said the choice to add Johnson and San Jose’s Alan Gordon was tactical. The coming matches against Antigua and Barbuda and then Guatemala are likely to be gritty struggles against teams that want to dig in defensively. Klinsmann figures that their aerial ability will come in handy as the United States will likely need to spread the stacked back as wide as possible and look to attack in wide areas.

Wondolowski scores plenty with his head but he’s not quite as big as the other two and cannot, perhaps, quite match their athleticism nor their ability in banging around for balls near goal.

Landon Donovan gets the call: There was good news all around Monday morning when Donovan’s knee (injured Saturday in the Galaxy’s loss) responded about as well as it could. When U.S. team officials spoke to Donovan on Sunday night, the plan was to have an MRI on Monday and then make a go-no go decision on the national team.

But according to Klinsmann, Donovan awoke Monday feeling even better than expected. So he cancelled the MRI and got on a plane bound for Miami, where players were arriving all day Monday.

Brek Shea is in: The FC Dallas man is hurt (mostly a combination of several smaller injuries) and still playing at 2011 level. But here he is, probably more a concession to a lack of choices in wide areas as much as anything else.

We’ll have more later on the Jozy Altidore situation.

Coutinho saves Brazil from Neymar’s VAR humiliation

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Dominant Brazil needed stoppage time to find a way past Costa Rican backstop Keylor Navas and pick up a 2-0 win in Saint Petersburg on Friday.

Neymar embarrassingly saw an awarded penalty overturned when he flopped instead of shooting following a tug from Giancarlo Gonzalez, but Philippe Coutinho toe-poked a shot through Navas’ legs in the first of six stoppage time minutes.

Neymar would later add a goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time from Douglas Costa.

Brazil finishes the group stage with Serbia, while Costa Rica waits on Switzerland.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Brazil controlled the first 12 minutes of the match, but Costa Rica just missed a bid to make it 1-0 against the run of play.

Deportivo La Coruña midfielder Celso Borges darted into the box to drag a low shot just wide of the far post.

Gabriel Jesus had the ball in the back of the goal in the 26th minute, but was deemed offside. And Keylor Navas stymied another Brazil rush a minute later.

But Costa Rica’s packed-in camp held Brazil at bay into the break.

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Brazil fired out of the gates to start the second half, and Navas was again busy as Neymar clattered into him in search of a loose ball. Well, kinda loose.

When Philippe Coutinho’s hammered shot was blocked out for a corner, it simultaneously felt like Brazil’s goal was either inevitable or destined to not arrive.

Navas then pushed a Neymar point-blank bid over the bar.

Tite opted to bring on Roberto Firmino, but Navas kept up his heroics by collecting a header off another Brazil corner.

The possibility of a scoreless draw felt even more likely when Neymar stole the ball and whipped a 21-yard shot just off the upper 90.

Neymar looked to have a won a penalty kick when Gonzalez tugged him in the six, but VAR overturned the call.

Fabregas praises Vela vs. Germany, not impressed by Ronaldo

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Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas was left off the Spain squad for this summer’s World Cup, and has been working as a pundit for the BBC.

Friday morning found him posting a column — well, we doubt he handled the posting — on the tournament so far, one that talked about how Spain rebounded from a tournament-opening loss to win the World Cup.

[ MORE: Lichaj moves to Hull ]

Fabregas then touched on Cristiano Ronaldo’s World Cup, saying credit due to his four goals but also questioning how impressed anyone should be with three goals from set pieces and a fourth from a David De Gea gaffe.

You cannot say that he and Portugal have shown great combinations or tiki-taka football to score great goals.

You have to give him credit, of course, but his goals have come from set-pieces, penalties or mistakes.

Seems a bit of anti-Real Madrid carryover there, although the sentiment is real (Portugal has not been impressive despite its four points).

Fabregas then went on to highlight one particular performance in the tournament: Mexico and LAFC midfielder Carlos Vela’s work in El Tri‘s upset of Germany.

Vela left Real Sociedad to join Los Angeles FC at the start of the year and people seem to think that when you go to the MLS, or that type of league, your level drops.

That was not the case when he played against Germany, because Kroos could not shake him off. He tried but he could not influence the game.

See, Cesc: You can totally come to our shores and run point for a team. Toronto is really close to me, if you’re asking, but Philly, Columbus, and New York are reasonable enough drives.

USMNT back Lichaj finds new home in Championship

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Eric Lichaj is going to bring his Premier League promotion dreams to a new Championship club.

The 29-year-old USMNT fullback has been a key part of Nottingham Forest to the tune of 188 appearances since moving from Aston Villa in 2013.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

But he’s on the move, joining Nigel Adkins at Hull City on the heels of a three-goal season at Forest. He famously scored a pair of goals in a 4-2 FA Cup win over Arsenal, then naming his new dog Gunner.

“It’s a fresh start for me and I want to repay Hull City for the faith that they have shown in me by bringing me here. I’ll be working my hardest, as I always do, every day in training and on matchdays.”

The versatile American can play left or right back, and has pushed his way back into the national team picture. Lichaj has 15 caps with a goal for the USMNT.

Also, #AStarInStripes? We see you, Hull

Report: Minnesota United chasing Ecuadorian national teamer

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Minnesota United may be hoping another Ibarra can cure what ails its attack.

Romario Ibarra, 23, is on the Loons’ radar according to The Athletic‘s Kristian Dyer and Jeff Rueter, who say Minnesota would like to land the Ecuadorian when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Ibarra was limited to eight matches for Universidad Católica this season as he battled through a lingering metatarsal fracture. But he’s scored against Argentina and Chile in each of his appearances for the national team, both World Cup qualifiers.

From The Athletic:

Sources say that Ibarra’s contract is unlikely to make him a designated player, leaving Quintero as the club’s sole DP. (It could depend, in part, on the size of the transfer fee.) Based on league standards, his salary will likely be drawn from Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) contract seems likely.

Ibarra’s older brother Renato plays for Club America, and has 36 caps.

Minnesota is six points outside the West’s final playoff spot, and has scored just 17 goals in 14 matches.