Sporting Kansas City’s Teal Bunbury working way to health – but his national team place keeps slipping

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U.S. under-23 international Teal Bunbury is making good progress in his recovery bid following major knee surgery last August.

This story says he’s about halfway through the long road back from sustaining ACL and LCL damage. The Sporting Kansas City striker, a starter and the spear of his team’s three-forward setup at the time of his injury, does not want a specific timetable for his recovery. But if he is more or less halfway to health, Bunbury will get on the field in March, probably not quite in time for SKC’s early March kickoff to the 2013 season but training with the team, at least.

Bunbury could conceivably return in time to make little run for Jurgen Klinsmann’s “B” team that will make an appearance this summer; the national team’s second unit will be summoned for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, leaving the “A” side to the more critical business of World Cup qualifying.

The trouble for Bunbury is what has happened in the U.S. forward pool in the meantime.

Remember, Bunbury was tiptoeing the edges of the striker pool anyway. So, he has surely slipped further in the order. Specifically, here is what has gone on over the last six months or so to alter the order.

  • Seattle Sounder Eddie Johnson has re-emerged, showing Klinsmann a little something in those two final World Cup qualifiers in the semifinal stage.
  • Jozy Altidore has reinforced his position after that notorious October exclusion.

(MORE: Klinsmann talks about Altidore’s omission)

  • Young German-American Terrance Boyd keeps progressing nicely at Rapid Vienna, stacking the “good” ever higher in his quest to break into the upper echelon or U.S. strikers.
  • Chris Wondolowski has kept a low profile on the national team, but his record-breaking scoring in MLS and continued good attitude during time in Klinsmann’s team has kept the Earthquakes man in the picture.
  • Wondolowski’s San Jose teammate Alan Gordon has established himself as some part of this multi-layered equation.
  • Juan Agudelo, still just 20 years old, has fought past the Chivas USA clutter to remind everyone that he is still worth mentioning in this conversation.
  • D.C. United’s Chris Pontius, circling the outer markers of this busy national team “airport,” keeps pressing his case; Klinsmann says he is well aware of D.C. United’s splendid, versatile attacker.

And all that is not mentioning Clint Dempsey and Herculez Gomez, who have done little to damage their places at the top of the order.

MORE: Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team depth chart (from October)

After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.

VIDEO: de Bruyne delivers gorgeous assist on Lukaku goal

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It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal close in on Leno; Man City near Jorginho signing, and more

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Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.

According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.

Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.

It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.

(more…)

VIDEO: Mertens scores wonderstrike for Belgium

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After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.

Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]