Which “8 or 9” U.S. campers may land on next World Cup qualifier roster?

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When Jurgen Klinsmann says “8 or 9” of the talented Americans taking part in the January camp will land on the World Cup qualifier roster for a trip into Honduras, we understand it’s a ballpark number subject to injuries or other fluid factors.

Still, it’s a number, one that gives us something to grab hold of and build some speculation around.

So let’s have some fun with an exercise that falls somewhere between forecasting and guessing, and look at which players might find their way that list.

Some fall under “no-brainers,” a guy like Graham Zusi, for instance. Others will be determined by performance in the ongoing camp and in the Jan. 29 friendly in Houston against Canada.

So here’s an early look at which “8 or 9” Klinsmann may ultimately name:

  • GK Bill Hamid / or Sean Johnson: Because this will be a clear No. 3, and because at this point, these guys seem to remain interchangeable for purposes of the role (which amounts to “Break glass in case of emergency), it’s hard to make a distinction.  (Klinsmann, by the way, recently talked about the need for taking a third goalkeeper on qualifier trips. Basically, what if Tim Howard is hurt in training a day before the match, or during pre-game warm-ups? In that case, they need a game-day backup, most likely for Brad Guzan.)
  • CB Omar Gonzalez: If Carlos Bocanegra, Geoff Cameron and Clarence Goodson are healthy, then center back spots are filling quickly. Still, Klinsmann understands the need to begin blooding Gonzalez, so it seems smart to bring him on as many trips as possible. Perhaps this isn’t the best place to make the big change, but bringing the commanding Galaxy center back seems to make sense.
  • DF A.J. DeLaGarza: This is where it all gets a little complicated; Assuming the first choice right backs and left backs are available (roughly speaking, Steve Cherundolo, Michael Parkhurst, Fabian Johnson and Timothy Chandler) ,then there’s little room for all those U.S. outside back hopefuls now in camp: Tony Beltran, Connor Lade, Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow. In that case, the back line may be full. If anyone makes sense, it’s the versatile DeLaGarza, who can play on the right or in the middle. (Then again, so can Michael Parkhurst.)
  • MF Kyle Beckerman (pictured): He has slipped behind Danny Williams in the playing rotation, but Klinsmann loves the Real Salt Lake veteran’s professionalism and consistency in training, which keeps the collective intensity at high rev.
  • MF Graham Zusi: Pretty much a no-brainer based on his rise in 2012 in the program. Not to mention that Zusi can play centrally or, as he has recently in the U.S. shirt, wide on the right.
  • MF Mix Diskerud: It’s probably down to a choice between Benny Feilhaber and Diskerud. Feilhaber is slightly more attack-minded, with a better ability to pass through packed defenses. But Diskerud may be slightly more versatile, which helps.
  • FW Juan Agudelo: Maybe this should come with an asterisk, since the Chivas USA striker isn’t actually in camp yet. He remains in Great Britain on a training spell – and questions linger about whether he will even return to the States or leave on transfer? But for this list, same difference I suppose.
  • FW Eddie Johnson: The quality of competition is clearly better in this stage, but the Sounders striker was productive in two semifinal round appearances last fall. So, he’s earned it.

Champions League preview: Spurs host Leipzig, Valencia visits Atalanta

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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 ties kickoff Wednesday, including one being labeled as the biggest in a club’s existence.

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That would be Serie A side Atalanta, which hosts Valencia at 3 p.m. at Gewiss Stadium.

Atalanta had played in two consecutive Europa Leagues, but this is their first move into the Champions League. To make the knockout rounds is exceptional, and club president Antonio Percassi is fired up.

“We must be honest, this is the most important game in the history of this club,” Percassi told Sky Sport Italia. “It doesn’t seem real. It’s exciting just thinking that tomorrow we’ll be in a Champions League Round of 16. It’s wonderful for our fans too. … This is going to be a unique experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.”

Atalanta finished second in its group to Manchester City, and is fourth in Serie A. Valencia won its group.

There’s a Premier League side in action on Wednesday, too, as Spurs begin life without Heung-Min Son.

Jose Mourinho spun a tale about how badly Tottenham will need its fans against RB Leipzig, comparing the home-field advantage to an emergency rescue crew of sorts.

Leipzig is led by Julian Nagelsmann, who was once referred to as “Baby Mourinho” by his players.

The 32-year-old was quick to distance himself from the story.

“Tomorrow it is Leipzig against Tottenham, not Mourinho v. Baby Mourinho,” he said. “I have great respect for Mourinho. He has won lots of titles with big clubs, the Champions League twice. He has made his mark on European football at some big European clubs. I think it his 59th knockout game in the CL and it is my first so there is obviously respect there.”

Liverpool’s Robertson not a fan of Atletico Madrid theatrics

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Liverpool fullback Andy Robertson was not impressed with Atletico Madrid’s display as his side fell 1-0 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Reds fell behind on a fourth-minute Saul Niguez goal and couldn’t get a shot on target despite 73 percent possession in Spain.

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Atleti executed its plan to near-perfection, slowing restarts and taking advantage of counterattacking opportunities to assuage the constant pressure of Liverpool.

At times it was reminiscent of early-century Italian national team play, and both neutrals and Liverpool knew what they were in for once Atleti took the lead.

“We gave them the best possible start to get the fans behind them and then they can start falling over and things like that, trying to get under our skin a bit which I think we handled quite well to be honest,” Robertson told BT Sport. “We know we are better than (how they played). We put in a decent performance and we can be better than that. Luckily we have got a second leg to put it right.”

Given the performance and the reputation, you’d still fancy the Reds to “put it right” at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp thinks Atleti will feel plenty of pressure at Anfield, and he will certainly feel the officiating will be more to his liking.

Liverpool’s Klopp: ‘Our people will be ready’ for second leg at Anfield

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Jurgen Klopp didn’t have any issue with Diego Simeone’s defense-first Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Spanish side flummoxed Liverpool’s attack and the Reds didn’t manage a shot on target despite eight attempts and 73 percent possession at the Wanda Metropolitano.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

What Klopp didn’t appreciate was the referee’s work, though, implying that Polish official Szymon Marciniak was overwhelmed by the occasion. Marciniak has worked UCL matches for six seasons, twice overseeing quarterfinal ties.

Klopp was shown a yellow card in the second half, and the Liverpool boss felt Sadio Mane was harassed by Atleti. Klopp removed yellow-carrying Mane at halftime.

“He was targeted obviously,” Klopp said after the game. “The only thing they wanted was to make sure he got a yellow card. The score is 1-0, that’s all but you need to be really strong as a ref in this atmosphere. So many things happened, after 30 minutes already three players were on the ground. The first yellow card was a striker from us. I’m not sure they even got a yellow card, which is funny.”

Atleti’s Angel Correa was shown a yellow, while Klopp, Mane, and Joe Gomez were cautioned for Liverpool.

The Liverpool boss found himself laughing a few times, especially when he was asked about Simeone’s touchline personality.

Klopp said before the game that if the German was a four in intensity, then Simeone was a 12. Simeone followed suit by constantly urging the crowd to get behind the home side on Tuesday.

That didn’t bother Klopp, but he issued a public relations officer’s dream in reacting to it.

“Wow, wow,” he laughed. “That’s energy. I don’t think I have to do it that much (at Anfield). Our people will be ready. Welcome to Anfield. It’s not over yet.”

Klopp finished his remarks by saying of Jordan Henderson‘s removal from the game with a hamstring injury, “I hope it was a precaution, but I’m not 100 percent sure”

Haaland wins first leg after Borussia Dortmund-PSG comes to life late

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Erling Haaland scored twice in a mid-second half flurry as Borussia Dortmund beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The hosts also got an assist from teenager Giovanni Reyna, who became the youngest American to appear in a Champions League match.

Haaland now has 39 goals in 29 appearances between Red Bull Salzburg and BVB, 11 of those for his new German employer.

Neymar scored off a Kylian Mbappe goal for PSG, who brings an away goal back to the Parc des Princes for a March 11 second leg.

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Neymar had an early free kick, missing just wide of the far post.

Jadon Sancho troubled the keeper twice in the first half hour, first with a cross that Mats Hummels headed over goal. Then, Keylor Navas picked another Sancho offering out of the air.

Sancho kept serving, and Erling Haaland couldn’t turn a promising cross on target.

Dortmund walked into halftime with a scoreless match but a 7-2 edge in shot attempts. Neither of PSG’s shots were on target.

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Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre put in American teen Giovani Reyna in the 67th minute.

Two minutes later, it was 1-0 to the hosts through Haaland’s close-range goal.

Neymar replied from close range himself after a powerful, clever dribble from Kylian Mbappe led to a pass through the box.

But Haaland got his second in the 77th minute with a scorching shot that serves as the first senior assist of Reyna’s senior career with Dortmund (Watch it here).