U.S. national team in evolution; just look at the center backs

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Jurgen Klinsmann was always going to be an instrument of change for the United States national team.

But to see the extent – perhaps more in personnel selection than in tactics, as we all suspected initially – it helps to take a step back. Only they can we truly gauge the scope of the roster Klinsmann-inspired churn.

In fact, if we can draw a tight circle around the center back position, the evolution is truly dizzying.

Consider for a moment what the United States depth chart looked like at center back about 14 months ago, around the time Klinsmann was settling into his first winter camp. That January (of 2012) Klinsmann was taking his first extended look at some of the younger players – including a couple of “discoveries” now forming the backbone of his team.

The center back depth chart of that time looked something like this:

  • 1. Carlos Bocanegra
  • 2. Oguchi Onyewu
  • 3. Clarence Goodson
  • 4. Michael Orozco Fiscal
  • 5. Tim Ream
  • 6. Jay DeMerit
  • 7. Michael Parkhurst

If we take a look at it now, the evolution over just 14 or so months turns that list into something unrecognizable.

Klinsmann says Carlos Bocanegra is not necessarily finished with the national team. But the former U.S. captain does turn 34 in May, and it would seem that only through injury would Klinsmann try to stuff ketchup back into the bottle on this one.

It may be conceivable that Onyewu could grind his way back into the mix – but it seems like a stretch. Given his limited playing time and even more limited passing ability, all parlayed with the coach’s disdain for center backs who feel most comfortable hoofing the ball forward, I wouldn’t wager a paycheck on it.

Tim Ream may as well be part of the witness protection program far as Klinsmann and his staff are concerned. And DeMerit, bless his heart, is out for a long, long time. It’s difficult to see a road back to the national team there.

Meanwhile, look where the center back depth chart has landed today. Three of the guys at the top weren’t even on the list 14 months ago.

With the caveat that this list is just a guess at what Klinsmann’s chart looks like, this will probably resemble the central defensive pecking order at next year’s World Cup. And how about them Brazilian apples?

  • 1. Omar Gonzalez
  • 2. Geoff Cameron (pictured above)
  • 3. Clarence Goodson
  • 4. Matt Besler
  • 5. Maurice Edu
  • 6. Carlos Bocanegra
  • 7. Michael Orozco Fiscal

Colombia thrash poor Poland, set up must-win vs. Senegal

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Colombia thrashed Poland, to the tune of 3-0, in the two sides’ must-win game in Group H play at the 2018 World Cup on Sunday, getting goals from Yerry Mina, Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado to leave their destiny in their own hands ahead of Thursday’s decisive group finale against Senegal.

Poland have been eliminated with one group game still to play.

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Colombia could have scored two or three goals in the first half, with Cuadrado and Juan Quintero causing constant problems for the left side of the Polish defense, but the necessary finishing touch was consistently lacking until Mina headed home a James Rodriguez cross in the 40th minute.

Poland offered very little, both before or after Mina’s opener, as Robert Lewandowski was effectively contained with the vast majority of his touches coming 30 yards from goal and further out. After disappointing in their tournament-opening loss to Senegal, manager Adam Nawalka made a handful of changes to his lineup — dropping the likes of Arkadiusz Milik, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Kamil Grosicki — to no avail.

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Despite the scoreline remaining 1-0 for the first 25 minutes of the first half, Poland never looked threatening and were put to the sword by Falcao’s first career World Cup goal (missed the 2014 tournament due to a knee injury), courtesy of Quintero’s seeing-eye through ball.

James played provider five minutes later, when he slotted what might just be the pass of the tournament across the field, across the Polish defense, and found a streaking Cuadrado with acres of space in front of him. From one end of the field to the other, in no time at all.

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When Colombia (3 points) meet Senegal (4 points) on Thursday, they’ll need a win to overtake them for second place, or for Poland (0 points) to beat Japan (4 points), who currently sit top of the group — but that seems highly unlikely at this point.

VIDEO: England players ask for U.S. support during World Cup

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With England making the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup on Sunday after hammering Panama 6-1, now may be a little too late to get on the Three Lions bandwagon.

Well, maybe not…

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Comedian James Corden spent some time with the England team and put together the video above to try and entice Americans to support the English national team this summer with the USMNT, obviously, not at the World Cup in Russia.

With Jamie Vardy acting like a cowboy, Kyle Walker refusing to say soccer and Eric Dier getting a football helmet stuck on his head, it’s safe to say they had fun.

Japan, Senegal deliver enthralling draw

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  • Senegal, Japan both have four points
  • Mane, Wague twice put Senegal ahead
  • Inui, Honda equalize twice for Japan

Japan and Senegal played to an entertaining 2-2 draw in Yekaterinburg to leave Group H finely balanced heading into the final round of games.

Sadio Mane and Moussa Wague twice put Senegal ahead but Japan fought back with goals from Takashi Inui and Keisuke Honda to grab a point.

Both teams now have four points heading into their final group games, with Japan facing Poland and Senegal playing against Colombia on Thursday.

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Senegal started superbly and Mane was denied by a timely block when he got a shot away from close range early on. But the Liverpool man wasn’t to be denied his first World Cup goal.

Shortly after a cross from the right was only half cleared and Youssouf Sabaly’s shot was punched out by Eiji Kawashima but straight into Mane as the ball ricocheted off him and in. A slightly fortuitous goal from Mane but Senegal deserved the lead.

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Japan had a few opportunities from distance and grew into the game as an equalizer arrived before half time.

Nagatomo controlled the ball superbly and he played it inside to Inui who curled home a beauty into the far corner to make it 1-1.

Senegal then had a great chance on the break but Niang’s shot was saved by on the onrushing Kawashima.

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At the start of the second half Osaka’s header lacked power as N’Diaye saved, then at the other end Niang volleyed over in an end-to-end encounter.

Osako then squandered a wonderful chance after a fine move down the right saw Shibasaki cross to him six yards out but the Japanese forward somehow missed the ball entirely.

Japan went even closer soon after as Inui again curled a beautiful shot in on goal from the left side of the box but this time his effort pinged off the crossbar and went over.

Wague then put Senegal ahead as they worked the ball from the left to the far post and the 19-year-old right back arrived to smash home as the Lions of Teranga celebrated.

Osako had a shot superbly blocked by Salif Sane but then Senegal shot themselves in the foot as N’Diaye came for a cross and got it all wrong.

That led to Honda having a simple tap in to make it 2-2 and that is how an entertaining encounter finished.

Report: Salah may quit Egypt national team

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Mohamed Salah is said to be considering his future with the Egyptian national team.

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The Liverpool and Egypt star, who wasn’t fit enough to play in the Pharaohs opener against Uruguay but scored in their 3-1 defeat to hosts Russia earlier this week, is said to be fed up with being used as a political pawn as Egypt based themselves in Chechnya during the tournament.

A report from CNN claims that Salah isn’t happy with what’s been going on in Egypt’s World Cup base in Grozny, as the report states he feels he is being used as a political symbol for Chechnya.

The leader of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, had the following to say via social media about the 26-year-old superstar.

“Mohamed Salah is an honorary citizen of the Chechen Republic! That’s right! I gave Mohamed Salah a copy of the order and a pin at a celebratory dinner that I gave in honour of the Egyptian team.”

Salah will likely play against Saudi Arabia in Egypt’s final Group A game on Monday, but his future with the Egyptian national team seems to be in doubt.