Preview: U.S. vs. Jamaica

2 Comments

• The United States has already qualified for the 2014 World Cup, regardless of the results in its final two matches against Jamaica and at Honduras. Meanwhile, Jamaica is in last place in the final group, with just four points out of eight matches.

• Jamaica gave Colorado Rapids forward Deshorn Brown his first international call-up for the match. The U.S. will be without forwards Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson. Dempsey is recovering from an injury, and Johnson left camp early with a fresh groin strain.

The United States hosts Jamaica on Friday (6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) with World Cup qualification already secured. Now, head coach Jürgen Klinsmann and his staff can begin fine-tuning their roster and deciding who they will take to Brazil next summer.

Jamaica hardly has any chance to earn fourth place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal and face New Zealand in a two-legged playoff for a spot in the tournament. The Reggae Boyz, in sixth right now, need two wins against the U.S. and Honduras and Mexico and Panama to lose their final match after tying each other on Friday.

That doesn’t mean Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., will be a relaxed atmosphere. Jamaica proved to be a difficult opponent in both of the last two rounds of qualifying, with the U.S. needing a last-gasp winner from Brad Evans to secure all three points back in June. Each of the last three games between the teams have been decided by one goal.

With an injury-depleted squad, Klinsmann’s lineup on Friday will likely be different than what fans are used to seeing. In his press conference on Thursday, the coach hinted that Geoff Cameron could start at center back in place of the injured Omar González, and he said Eddie Johnson was due to start at forward until he picked up an injury.

That could open the door for Aron Jóhannsson to get his first start for the U.S. since filing for his one-time switch from Iceland. He has been on a tear for AZ Alkmaar, scoring four goals in his last four appearances and seven overall to start the season. For Jamaica, Deshorn Brown could get his first start during his Rookie of the Year-candidate season in Major League Soccer.

Predicted U.S. lineup (4-4-2): Tim Howard — DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans — Alejandro Bedoya, Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi — Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore

What they’re saying

U.S. head coach Jürgen Klinsmann on putting together a roster with qualification in the bag: “The thought process was the same as all the previous qualifiers. We want to win these games. … These games already count toward the World Cup in 2014 in terms of the internal competition and the mentality we are trying to build.”

Jamaica assistant coach Vin Blaine on his team’s chances to advance: “We are aware that we are in a difficult situation, and we have to depend on other results to stand a chance to advance, but when we take the field on Friday, we will only be focused on what we have to do. … I really don’t think the USA are going to come and play us hard knowing that they already qualified for the World Cup. I don’t think they will come and play with the same intensity as if they were trying to qualify.”

U.S. left back DaMarcus Beasley on the team’s mentality: “Right now, there are spots for Brazil, and everyone knows that. There’s 23 spots that go on the plane next summer. You want to be one of them that’s on the plane.”

Prediction

Jamaica really needs a win, but its quality has sorely lacked for much of the Hexagonal round. The U.S. has enough quality that it should expect to take all three points, regardless of whether they are needed or not. Anything less than a U.S. win, especially in a raucous atmosphere in Kansas City, would be shocking and worrisome.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

Photo by Visionhaus
Leave a comment

Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho doesn’t have attacking options, but he does have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.

Solskjaer: Manchester United ‘looked mentally tired’ versus Burnley

Solskjaer reacts to Manchester United loss
Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

OIe Gunnar Solskjaer doesn’t have the answers to what ails Manchester United without Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba, and he can’t even fake it.

The United boss could only hang his side’s 2-0 loss to Burnley on sharpness, as the Red Devils out-attempted the visitors by a 24-5 margin.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

United also had 72 percent of the ball, but Burnley’s whole philosophy is cool with you having the ball if you don’t have the lead.

The Red Devils never looked quite ready to grab that, either, from the moment an early Aaron Wan-Bissaka cross sailed through the six absent receiver. From the BBC:

“The boys looked mentally tired towards the end, we didn’t find that creativity,” Solskjaer said. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. When you are at Man United you are privileged because you are playing for the best club in the world.

“Sometimes you go through periods like that and it is a test I am sure they are going to come through.”

It’s all formulaic from the Norwegian manager. “The we’re United and it’s a special place” struck all the right chords when he first took the reins at Old Trafford, but the club hasn’t bought much quality since then and it’s ringing hollow as the depth fails to bail them out.

Spoiler alert: He did.

You can accept that Solskjaer is going nowhere and also accept that the whole thing is not going to improve any time soon. United should absolutely be in the Top Four given the failings of Chelsea, but cannot stop tripping over its own feet.