U.S. World Cup 2014 roster outlook: GOALKEEPERS AND DEFENDERS

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The goalkeeper position has been a given throughout the cycle, but just over one month before of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s pre-World Cup camp convenes, the defense is coming into focus, too. Perhaps the order of the depth chart isn’t as clear as in goal, where the position’s one (Tim Howard), two (Brad Guzan), and three (Nick Rimando) are indisputable, but the names on the tickets are becoming evident. We don’t know who’ll make it into Jurgen Klinsmann’s ideal 11, but we’re starting to get a good idea of the options.

In the wake of last week’s friendly against Mexico, here’s how we see the U.S. roster picture for Brazil 2014:

GOALKEEPERS

This is where I apply analysis to something that’s obvious. If you’re unaware that Tim Howard will be starting June 16 against Ghana, you probably don’t know who the U.S. number one is, let alone which goalkeepers will serve as backups. Sorry, but introducing Howard, Guzan, and Rimando’s beyond the scope of this post.

The goalkeeping situation is so clear, we don’t even bother with a bubble, but it’s probably worth mentioning who’d get called in should somebody get injured. Like the main roster, that picture is crystal clear. If one man goes down, the Chicago Fire’s Sean Johnson will get the call. D.C. United’s Bill Hamid waits in the wings’ wings.

  • Going to Brazil: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando
  • On the bubble: none

DEFENDERS

There’s still an inordinate amount of incredulity about why Klinsmann’s using natural midfielders at fullback, but whether fans like it or not, the picture is pretty evident. Players like DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Evans are not only locked into the squad, they could start in Brazil. Critics may not see the virtues of Evans over somebody like Geoff Cameron, but Klinsmann does. As far as the final squad (and lineup) is concerned, that’s all that matters.

Not that there’s any doubt about Cameron’s spot, either. He’s a lock, as are Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, and Clarence Goodson. We’ve added Michael Parkhurst to the group, too. Given his versatility, performances against South Korea and Mexico, and the gap between the Columbus captain and the rest of the list, Parkhurst’s likely to go.

As for the rest of that list, odds are nobody from “the bubble” makes it. That’s partially because of the versatility of players like Parkhurst and Cameron, partially because Fabian Johnson, a possible starter at left midfield, could also get time at left back. There just aren’t backup spots that need to be filled, and once you look at the needs at midfield and forward, the roster’s flexibility looks more likely to be used there rather than in defense.

  • Going to Brazil: DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, Fabian Johnson, Michael Parkhurst
  • On the bubble (zero-to-one spots available): Tony Beltran, Anthony Brooks, Edgar Castillo, Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Orozco, DeAndre Yedlin

MORE: Goalkeepers and defenders | Midfielders | Forwards

Liverpool fans stranded after flights to Kiev canceled

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Close to 1,000 Liverpool supporters have been stranded as they tried to get to Kiev, Ukraine for the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid on Saturday.

Travel operator Worldchoice Sports had three flights full of fans heading out to Kiev fully booked but just 24 hours before their departure, fans were told the flights had been canceled due to landing spots not being available in the Ukrainian capital on Friday and Saturday.

That issue led to the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, reaching out to the Mayor of Kiev, former heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko, to try and sort out the problem between the specialist travel company and Kiev’s Boryspil airport. Anderson then claimed he and Klitschko agreed to two more landing spots being available.

However, only one extra replacement flight has since been arranged by Worldchoice Sports and that still leaves hundreds of Liverpool fans without a way to get to Kiev, even though many of the fans on the flight have tickets for the game.

Worldchoice Sports said the following in a statement, with the main issue said to be the size of the aircraft chartered by the company:

“We have exhausted all avenues to try and get landing slots. We have had them from Liverpool airport and Manchester airport and we have applied for slots in the correct manner and timeframe with the authorities. To reiterate this problem IS with Kiev. We have managed to get a three-night flight secured very late in the day. We are currently offering people booked on the two-night stay the opportunity to use this. Despite some reports in the media this afternoon this is the only flight we have been able to secure.”

Both the club and UEFA have tried to intervene and help out where they can but it appears that hundreds of Liverpool fans will miss out seeing their team in a European final due to a complication with landing slots.

Brazil tests Willian up front with Neymar and Jesus

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TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) Brazil’s second pre-World Cup training featured Willian in the attack with Neymar and Gabriel Jesus on Thursday, a hint that coach Tite might change his starting lineup.

Willian played with the two star strikers for about one hour in the first training with footballs at the Granja Comary ground in Teresopolis, outside Rio de Janeiro.

[ MORE: Commisso “hopeful” of $500m USSF deal ]

Tite did not use his starting midfield to play with the trio. He also used defenders Marquinhos and Miranda during the entire hour, suggesting former captain Thiago Silva will be on the bench for the moment.

If Willian is brought on to the team, Tite could remove midfielder Renato Augusto from the starting lineup, put Philippe Coutinho in his place, and open a gap for Willian.

Since last year, Tite has said he needs a “pacemaker,” and considers Coutinho one of his main options for the role.

Beijing Guoan’s Augusto is under pressure after unconvincing performances in Brazil’s midfield.

Augusto’s spot is also eyed by Fred, one of the surprises of Tite’s squad.

The midfielder said he admired Brazil players who began a World Cup on the bench and later became starters, such as Mazinho (1994) and Kleberson (2002).

“We can get inspiration from them, these players worked very hard to get their spot,” Fred said. “But if I have to be out I will keep working hard.”

Fred also said he was torn between a transfer to Manchester United or Manchester City.

Fred said he had an offer from City in January, and both were now talking to his Shakhtar Donetsk club about a transfer.

“Maybe after the World Cup I will make the choice,” the midfielder said. “Now I am only thinking about the World Cup.”

Fred said he believes his future is outside Ukraine, and doing well in the English Premier League like other Brazilians such as Chelsea’s Willian.

Tite is counting on only 18 of the 23 players in his squad at training in Teresopolis.

Winger Douglas Costa and Fagner are still recovering from injury.

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino and Real Madrid’s Casemiro and Marcelo will only join on Monday after the Champions League final.

Training on Thursday was attended by four-time World Cup winner Mario Zagallo.

Liverpool owner Henry reflects on history, takes shots at Suarez, Coutinho

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Terrific AP reporter Rob Harris sat down for a chat with Liverpool owner John Henry, and the American businessman didn’t hesitate to unleash some prime quotes.

Liverpool, of course, is preparing for the weekend’s UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and feeling its oats a bit.

[ MORE: Ronaldinho marrying 2 women ]

Henry is no exception, saying of departed Reds stars Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, “They’ll be watching this weekend and could have been playing.”

And his shots didn’t stop with the Barcelona stars. He extended it to all of La Liga. From the AP:

“You don’t want to be in the position where players want to go somewhere else, even if it is a great club like Barcelona,” Henry said. “It’s hard to understand why players would want to go to a league where the competition is so weak. They must play 30 or so meaningless matches per year waiting for Champions League matches.”

Henry also talks about his takeover, selling Fernando Torres, and how Anfield pushes Liverpool past the competition. Read the whole interview here.

Ronaldinho reportedly marrying two women at same time

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Ronaldinho always had a knack for making the difficult look simple.

He’d better hope that skill extends to a pretty unique marital arrangement.

The retired 2002 World Cup champion is going to marry two women at the same time, Priscilla Coelho and Beatriz Souza, in August.

[ MORE: Commisso “hopeful” of $500m USSF deal ]

Apparently he’s been living with the pair since December, having dated Coelho since 2013 and Souza beginning in 2016.

Ronaldinho, 38, co-existed in a three-pronged offense with Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o, so maybe?

From Yahoo! Sports:

Bigamy and polygamy are illegal in Brazil, but Ronaldinho’s case is a little different. He’s not planning to marry one woman, and then the other; he’s planning to marry both at the same time. That’s considered a three-person civil union, and they do exist in Brazil. The first one, between two women and a man, was recognized in 2012. Another was recognized in 2015, between three women who intended to raise a child together.