USMNT World Cup camp roundup: Bradley, Mix, Edu and… Alonso?

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Get ready for weeks worth of USMNT news now that reporters are hanging around Jurgen Klinsmann’s training camp (let alone the news that comes away from camp).

This morning is no exception, as two United States hopefuls, one lock and one frustrated non-USMNT participant talked World Cup.

We begin with Michael Bradley, the seemingly natural-born leader who has embraced his guts as the engine of the United States.

It’s easy to forget the changes that occur between a player’s World Cup appearances, and SFGate’s Tom FitzGerald gets his lead just right:

Since making his World Cup debut four years ago,Michael Bradley has gotten married, become a father, joined Aston Villa of the English Premier League on loan from his German club, played for two clubs in Italy’s Serie A league and was sold toToronto FC of Major League Soccer.

He is the man coach Jurgen Klinsmann is building his midfield around. A great deal is expected not just of Bradley’s playmaking but also of his leadership in the run-up to the tournament in Brazil.

“I embrace it, absolutely,” he said Friday between workouts at Stanford. “To be a player that is counted on by his coaches and his teammates to make a difference, to make plays, to be a leader – the challenge of all that excites me.”

That moves us on to a pair of midfielders who are perceived to be on the bubble for 2014 in Brazil: Mix Diskerud and Maurice Edu. The former is a 23-year-old hoping to cement his role as a Yank after choosing the USMNT over Norway in 2010.

And he’s thriving off the confidence he received in helping the States to the 2013 Gold Cup winners title.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“Every time we played a game, we were kind of certain, not cocky, but we knew we were going to win because we had good players,” Diskerud said. “And that’s a great mentality. It’s kind of the American mentality, I would say. You feel like you can beat any team, [whether] it’s Germany or Panama or whatever.”

The brashness of “Germany or Panama or whatever” is a brilliant bit from the middle man as he battles with elder statesman Maurice Edu for a place on the squad (though not exactly directly, there are only so many spots to be had).

Edu’s a curious case, having had a volatile time in his club career. He’s seen a historically-strong club go through a brutal shift (Rangers), watched as a high-profile move to the Premier League fizzled to find even fits and starts (Stoke City) and returned home to become an integral part of the 2014 Philadelphia Union.

And it’s almost all a continuation to the consternation felt by Edu when his status as a clear-cut American legend was stripped from him after Malian referee Koman Coulibaly took away his potentially-decisive goal against Slovenia in the 2010 World Cup.

From the Associated Press:

“When it first happened, I watched it a few times and didn’t know the call on the pitch, didn’t know the call afterward,” Edu said Friday. “To have been that close and have it taken away did kind of suck, but now the focus is try to do it again and have it count.”

While Edu admits that he still harbors regrets and “What ifs?” about his last World Cup, there’s an in-form MLS midfielder who may never get to ask those questions about his experience. Seattle Sounders maestro Osvaldo Alonso, 28, is now an American citizen but cannot get a release from the Cuban federation.

As MLSSoccer.com points out, Alonso received public plaudits from Klinsmann and could’ve easily made a dent in his World Cup plans over the past year:

“It’s been two years waiting for FIFA, Cuba and waiting for the paper,” said Alonso, who now says he’s 100-percent fit after battling various injuries early in the season. “I’m frustrated, talking with some people here, talking with some people there, nothing happens. I’m very upset. But I need to be ready to be (in Seattle).”

Thanks for nothing, Cuba.

That’ll do it for this morning’s wrap (in theory). Sixteen days ’til Klinsmann has to have his roster set at 23, and surely there’s plenty to come.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

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