Jurgen Klinsmann’s post-game comments after Jamaican win

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It took his team about 60 minutes to wear down  and then crack open Jamaica, but the eventual 2-0 win over the visitors clinched first place in the final round qualifying group for manager Jurgen Klinsmann and his team.

Here are the “highlights” of what the manager had to say, starting with an explanation of why it took so long for the United States to find its feet Friday at Sporting Park.

Klinsmann said the first half “obviously did not go as they would have liked” and that he urged his team to find another gear at intermission:

Well, we expected a tight game. Jamaica is not coming here to give us points. … They are very well organized. They closed the spaces down in the first half. They are physically a strong team and they can always hurt you on a counter break. They hung in there and made sure we didn’t find those gaps to create chances.

“We said at halftime, ‘Guys, you have to raise the bar here. You have to raise the tempo.’ That’s what we did. After 55 or 60 minutes, we passed it through faster, there were a lot of positive sequences, one touch, and that’s how you open up any team. I felt on the bench it was just a matter of time until we got the first goal.”

It doesn’t sound like there was any “message sending” in regards to Landon Donovan’s halftime removal. Klinsmann did say, however, that the left-sided midfielder’s halftime substitution (never a great moment for any player – and surely not something that has happened often in Donovan’s career) was not about those recent ankle issues.

The sub at halftime, we discussed as a coaching staff, as we always do. There were options that we had. We thought we had to do something to speed up the game. We thought Landon had trouble getting into the game, but he was not the only one, other players as well in the first half.

“We talked about moving Landon up top with Jozy, but we thought Aron [Johannsson, who would have been replaced in that case] had some chances and maybe he puts one in. And then it was a simple performance-based decision, but it is no problem at all.”

Later, Klinsmann was asked what he hopes Donovan “takes from” being removed at half. Again, the manager more or less shrugged. He said it was “no big deal.” And it probably isn’t … because we are talking about Landon Donovan, after all. The guy has a lot of good performances with the national team to balance out a stinker here and there. It’s different with a younger guy who hasn’t proven himself the way Donovan has over such a long period.

We spoke right after the game, I told him [Donovan] we wanted to make a change, we thought that you are not getting into the game the way you hoped to. Everybody has a bad game, and some other guys had a bad game, too. It’s no big deal.”

Klinsmann also said DaMarcus Beasley’s second-half removal was due to a hamstring issue, which the manager said puts his starting left back in question for Tuesday’s match in Panama.

Related, he said discussions would take place tonight on any roster changes ahead of Tuesday’s match. “There will be a couple of changes. Not many, but a couple,” Klinsmann said. Remember, Clarence Goodson, Chris Wondolowski and others were in the stands tonight, not dressed for the contest.

On the starting lineup, Klinsmann said he thought Alejandro Bedoya deserved a start after a good spell with his club and thanks to those late, bright performances in the Gold Cup. He admitted it was a difficult choice not to start Graham Zusi.

Graham was fine with that. I told Graham to be ready at halftime, that ‘You are going to play in your home stadium, don’t worry about that.”

Klinsmann is not a manager who is blind to such things, a player’s desire to perform in front of his home fans and such. (Not all coaches care about that stuff.) The manager noted that his goal would be “a special memory for him. He deserves that.”

(MORE: Aron Johannsson’s first U.S. start not perfect, but promising)

(MORE: Initial takeaways from U.S. win over Jamaica)

(MORE: 10 quick halftime thoughts from U.S.-Jamaica qualifier)

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina squad

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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.

Modric urges humility after big win, stunning goal (video)

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There are few teams who’ve looked as strong as Croatia at the World Cup in Russia.

[ RECAP: Argentina 0-3 Croatia ]

Zlatko Dalic’s men now have a pair of shutout wins against decent competition, topping Nigeria 2-0 over the weekend before hammering Argentina 3-0 on Thursday.

The nature of those performances will have many, us included, debating just how far Croatia can run in this tournament. Veteran midfielder Luka Modric is hoping his team doesn’t do the same.

Let’s not be euphoric or get ahead of ourselves,” Modric said. “Of course this win will boost our confidence for the next game, and we have shown we can create opportunities, but let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground.”

Modric noted that Willy Caballero‘s howler “was a shot in the arm,” but added that they had played a “perfect game.”

That’s true. And while so much focus will be on Messi’s struggles, don’t sleep on the terrific performance of Vatreni. 

Modric also seemed to bristle when asked about shutting down Messi.

“I don’t want to talk about other players. We are happy with our own performance. We wanted to cut out Messi receiving the ball because he is the most dangerous player.”

Croatia smashes disheveled Argentina

AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan
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Ante Rebic, Luka Modric, and Ivan Rakitic have Croatia in the knockout rounds and Argentina on the verge of World Cup disaster.

Croatia scored a trio of second half goals, one aided by a Willy Caballero howler, in a 3-0 win in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday.

Argentina will enter its final match against Nigeria on the outskirts of the knockout rounds regardless of how Nigeria-Iceland ends on Friday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Ivan Perisic forced a big save out of Wily Caballero for an early Croatia corner kick that came to nothing.

Messi had a chance stopped inside of 10 minutes, then started a play that Dejan Lovren blocked for a corner in the 13th.

Enzo Perez missed an open goal off a poor Croatia giveaway in the 30th minute.

There were a pair of fouls not out of place on a red card lowlight reel, one for each team, but neither resulting in a sending off.

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Croatia took the lead through Caballero’s gaffe and Rebic’s smash in the 54th.

Argentina nearly answered moments later. After a mazy Messi dribble, Argentina regained possession in the 64th minute, spearheaded by a Gonzalo Higuain run that led to a corner.

Croatia came close to making it 2-0, as Mario Mandzukic couldn’t turn a flick on frame and instead saw it glide into the outside of the goal.

Then Modric put the match to bed as the clock hit 80, an absolute beauty. Another huge defensive mistake allowed Mateo Kovacic to cue up Rakitic for the third.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

WATCH: Caballero blunder punished as Rebic rip puts Argentina on ropes

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Willy Caballero has made one of the bigger blunders in recent World Cup history.

His Argentina side needs at least a point from Thursday’s match-up with Croatia, and the match remained scoreless into halftime.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But 10 minutes after the break, Caballero flubbed a clearance in a big way.

The Argentina goalkeeper then could only watch as Ante Rebic kept his composure to blast a side volley into the goal.

It was a fine finish, to be sure, but not possible without such a terrible gaffe.