Herculez Gomez’s bid to get back into U.S. national team scene starts tonight in Los Angeles

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How convenient for U.S. international striker Herculez Gomez that his bid to regain status with the United States national team begins just down the road from Jurgen Klinsmann’s place in Southern California.

Gomez, who was in South Africa with the 2010 U.S. World Cup team, is fit and ready once again for Club Tijuana. The team is just into its preseason ahead of the 2014 Clausura, and the initial preseason contest is tonight at the StubHub Center against Club America.

That also happens to be the national team’s training ground, where Klinsmann will gather his team in less than two weeks for the annual January camp. More on Gomez’s bid and the Xolos is here from Scott French, including some revealing quotes on where things went sideways in fall rehab for the veteran striker.

Here’s the issue for Gomez, who looked like a strong candidate to make the World Cup team as recently as last April. Back then he had a starting spot for the two matches that righted the U.S. World Cup qualification efforts, the snowy-white win over Costa Rica and the telling draw in Mexico City. Now some of the numbers are working against him.

If we just look at the men who will play at striker, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore are shoe-ins (assuming good health). Eddie Johnson scored big goals for the team last year, taking full advantage of his opportunities, some of which were down to Gomez’s injury absence. He’s in a good spot.

And now Aron Johannsson has shown how good he can be. His performances for AZ keep impressing – although this potential move to Celtic could prove fateful. This young man has a big upside.

(MORE: Would a Celtic transfer for Johannsson be a good idea?)  

Four outright strikers is about all the 23-man roster can handle. Gomez did play wide in the system when last seen as a starter, but that was before Landon Donovan returned to good graces. Donovan, although roughly the same age, is faster and more versatile than Gomez. Plus … well, he’s Landon Donovan, a.k.a. the best player this country has ever produced.

Either way, all Gomez can do is the very best he can do. Klinsmann likes him, and with good reason: he’s a likeable guy, and that counts for something in the final estimation. Klinsmann talks a bunch about “givers and takers,” so Gomez is in good shape if he can create an “all things being equal” situation with talent and production.

By the way, Klinsmann will be at the StubHub Center tonight. Gomez’s chance to gain some ground begins right there.

VIDEO: Portugal lead Iran at HT; Spain 1-1 Morocco

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We’re through the first 45 minutes of Monday’s Group B finales at the 2018 World Cup, and things are happening. A quick rundown…

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos combined to commit a disastrous gaffe at midfield, resulting in a goal for Khalid Boutaib in the 14th minute. At this point, Spain would have finished second, behind Portugal, and headed to the far more difficult side of the knockout bracket.

Five minutes later, it was Iniesta who, with a little help from some slightly lesser geniuses, unlocked the Moroccan defense to set up Isco for an emphatic finish. La Furia Roja moved back to the top of the group, on goals scored.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

In the afternoon’s other game, Portugal and Iran appeared destined for a 0-0 scoreline at halftime, until Ricardo Quaresma unleashed a stunning, outside-of-the-foot curler from outside the box to beat the goalkeeper and put Portugal ahead — both on the day, and in the table. As things currently stand, Portugal would win the group and Spain would finish second.

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 4

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In the fourth episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England players have been preparing for their next match in an unusual way, Argentina has a huge meltdown, and more.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

Click play on the video above to watch the fourth episode in full.

Atlanta leads way with six All-Star Fan XI selections

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It may be hard to believe with all the World Cup festivities going on, but the Major League Soccer season is nearly halfway over.

[ MORE: Toronto FC’s 2018 has been far from their cup-winning 2017 ]

And that means it’s almost All-Star time.

The MLS All-Stars will continue their recent tradition of facing a European superpower in August, with Juventus being welcomed to the United States in early August.

But, which players from MLS will we see in action?

Last season’s expansion sweetheart Atlanta United leads the way in the fan voting with six players from the Eastern Conference side voted into the Fan XI, including attackers Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco, Darlington Nagbe and Josef Martinez.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender/captain Michael Parkhurst also made the team from Atlanta.

In all, only five clubs were represented based on the Fan XI, with the LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Los Angeles FC’s Carlos Vela and Laurent Ciman, Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi and Portland Timbers star Diego Valeri each rounding out the squad.


Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United)

Defenders: Michael Parkhurst (Atlanta United), Laurent Ciman (Los Angeles Football Club), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Miguel Almirón (Atlanta United), Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)

Forwards: Josef Martínez (Atlanta United), Zlatan Ibrahimović (LA Galaxy), Carlos Vela (Los Angeles Football Club – EA SPORTS™ “More Than a Vote” Challenge)

Saudi Arabia steals late win over Egypt in Group A finale

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Saudi Arabia pulled off a late 2-1 win against Egypt on Monday in their Group A finale, as the two nations ended their 2018 World Cup run in the group stage.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Salem Al Sawsari scored in the fifth minute of second half stoppage time to give the Saudis a late winner in the match, as the attacker struck the post in the dying moments before the ball crossed the line.

The Pharaohs took the lead in the 22nd minute, after a tremendous run from Mohamed Salah and lob over the Saudi Arabia goalkeeper.

Salah has two goals at the World Cup for Egypt, who were already eliminated heading into Monday’s match.

Saudi Arabia was granted a chance to equalize prior to halftime, however, goalkeeper Essam El Hadary brilliantly stopped Hattan Bahebri’s penalty kick in the 41st minute to preserve the Egypt advantage.

El Hadary became the oldest player in World Cup history to appear in a match at the age of 45.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

The Egypt keeper wasn’t as lucky the second time around though, with Salmon Al Faraj converting a penalty kick in the 51st minute.

Saudi Arabia finishes group play in third place on three points, while Egypt goes winless in its three matches.