Lineup prediction for United States-Honduras qualifier

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When predicting U.S. rosters and lineups under the current regime, one must always consider the “Klinsi Caveat.”

That is, the tendency of U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann toward unpredictability.

Anyone remember Jose Torres stationed at left back to begin the semifinal round of World Cup qualifiers? We rest our case.

That said, here is our best effort to dissect what Klinsmann will roll out today vs. Honduras. Given a shortage of offensive-minded choices in midfield, it will be safety first in the heat and humidity of San Pedro Sula – a strategic choice that is sure to rankle more than a few U.S. Soccer supporters.

(MORE: Tension high as U.S. final push begins; match preview with loads of links)

Seeing a selection of strikers (but not wingers) that looks stronger than a less inspiring choice of midfielders, expect to see a 4-4-2. The 4-3-3 that we saw late last year, with Eddie Johnson wide left? There will be time for that one … but not at Honduras in the final round opener.

GOALKEEPER: Let’s not pretend like there’s anything to discuss here. It’s Tim Howard, who will start his 23rd World Cup qualifier.

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DEFENSE: The back line looks fairly predictable given Steve Cherundolo’s injury. Timothy Chandler (about to be cup-tied) and Fabian Johnson are the clear choice at outside backs. Carlos Bocanegra, 33, may not be the starting center back as final round qualifying finishes, but he looks like the best choice to partner Geoff Cameron for starting it. The future is surely Omar Gonzalez, but it would be too soon to go with the commanding LA Galaxy center back alongside Cameron; just too much inexperience in a match with so much nervous tension attached.

MIDFIELD: Danny Williams seems the likely choice to sit deep. Technically, the arrangement may look more like a 4-1-3-2.

Yes, Torres, Brad Davis and Sacha Kljestan are available, all equipped with more technical craftsmanship and offensive string-pulling ability. And it will not be a shocker if Klinsmann deploys one of them along the left, to provide more width and more offensive push.

More likely, it will be Jones, who has played there before, leaning significantly to the inside. Yes, he remains an unstable element, liable to twist off and collect a card. (Or two!) But Klinsmann loves the confidence Jones inspires in players around him, and even depends to a point on Jones’ infectious, fearless warrior spirit.

Unless Clint Dempsey is deployed into the midfield in something than looks more like a 4-5-1, Bradley will be the most forward element in the midfield. He will still be a two-way presence, always keeping defensive discipline and reliably seeking to link with Williams through the middle when the United States wins the ball.

FORWARDS: Klinsmann loves Herculez Gomez’s work off the ball; it’s not hard to see why.  There’s a chance we could see Johnson or Jozy Altidore paired with the Santos Laguna striker as Dempsey moves into an attacking midfield role. That set-up would look more like a 4-3-1-2.

Lozano to Barcelona? Father says future decided after World Cup

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Mexican hero Hirving “Chucky” Lozano made the jump from Liga MX to European football last summer, and now may be set for an even bigger move.

We just won’t know until after the World Cup.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The goal scorer from Mexico’s 1-0 win over Germany will turn 23 in late July, and is coming off a 17-goal, 11-assist campaign with PSV Eindhoven.

He’s now being linked with Barcelona amongst other teams, and his father was asked about Lozano’s future. From ESPN:

“There have been approaches, but right now there’s nothing concrete,” Jesus Lozano said in an interview with ESPN when asked about reported interest from Barcelona and other teams.

“I think after the World Cup it will be clear if he stays at PSV or leaves for another team.”

So what do you think? Should the Mexican stay at PSV for playing time? I’m kidding… see how you sound, U.S. fans?

Nigeria beats Iceland; Argentina still alive

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Ahmed Musa scored a pair of terrific goals as Nigeria set up Group D for a thrilling final day with a 2-0 win over Iceland in Volgograd on Friday.

Gylfi Sigurdsson was arguably Iceland’s Man of the Match before he sent a penalty kick over the bar.

Nigeria now has three points, two more than Argentina and Iceland. Nigeria plays Argentina and Croatia faces Iceland on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Gylfi Sigurdsson swung a dangerous early free kick over the bar, then produced the game’s second chance. That one was caught by Francis Uzoho, the 19-year-old Deportivo de la Coruna backstop.

Nigeria’s breakthrough came courtesy a lethal counter attack, as Kenneth Omeruo headed a cross clear of the Eagles’ 18. Kelechi Iheanacho collected and found Victor Moses racing down the right flank.

Moses’ cross was collected by Musa with an unorthodox outside of the boot trap, allowing him a second against his surprised mark. Musa lashed home for 1-0.

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The game was delayed for a bit when Ragnar Sigurdsson was waylaid with a head injury.

Wilfred Ndidi had a rip deflected over the bar in the 57th, and Nigeria opted for a short corner.

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Musa then basically put it to bed when he cut into the 18 and danced around two defenders with the goalkeeper in between before putting a composed finish into the goal.

Iceland got new life through an 81st minute penalty kick awarded via Video Assistant Referee, but Gylfi Sigurdsson blazed it over the bar.

Jorginho to Man City? Italian report, Noel Gallagher say so

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I don’t know about you, but I like my transfer news served up piping fresh from the hot stove of Oasis.

Well, at least ex-members of Oasis.

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Noted Man City fanatic Noel Gallagher was performing in Naples on Friday with his band the High Flying Birds.

After pumping through a couple Oasis tunes and a cover of The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” on Thursday, the singer tossed a little banter toward the crowd.

You see, Man City really wants Napoli midfielder Jorginho, and Gallagher at least looks like a man in the know as Italy’s Corriere Della Sport is reporting that the midfielder is trading his blue shirts between countries.

Jorginho will cost City $57 million, according to the report, which follows this barb from Noel.

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.