Did the John Brooks, Jermaine Jones partnership work for the USA?


LONDON — As they so often do, the U.S. national team defended for their lives and put their bodies on the line against Colombia at Craven Cottage on Friday night.

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In the end they coughed up two goals in the final 30 minutes and lost 2-1 after Jozy Altidore’s early penalty kick put them ahead, but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was pleased with the way his team performed in a hostile atmosphere in London where Colombians made up the vast majority of the 24,000 plus crowd.

One of the big surprises came before kick off as Klinsmann started two German-Americans at center back together, as he continues to experiment by playing veteran Jermaine Jones out of his usual central midfield role with John Brooks his partner in the heart of the USA’s defense.

How did the defense do, Jurgen?

“I saw some individual performances that were just fun to watch. John Brooks seems to grow in his role and Jermaine Jones had adapted to that kind of center back leadership role with ease,” Klinsmann said. “Greg Garza seems like he has always been with us but he wasn’t with us at the World Cup and I think DeAndre Yedlin, besides a couple of mistakes, did well. Overall throughout the team. I am really pleased with that game, obviously you want a positive result but this game gave us a lot.”

Did Klinsmann learn that Jones, 33, and Brooks, 21, can play together long-term? We will have to wait and see. However the German born duo were full of praise for the performance of one another when asked after the game.

“For us it was good, it was fine. It is good for us because we can talk a little bit German,” Brooks said when asked about playing alongside Jones. “That makes it easier for us to communicate, so it was good.”

[ RELATED: Player ratings for USA vs. Colombia ]

As for Jones, he enjoyed playing alongside Brooks as they managed to keep Colombia at bay for large chunks of the match as they U.S. sat back and soaked up intense pressure.

“It is good. He is a young boy and a tried to help him to come in,” Jones said. “Of course both of us are unhappy that we lost that game but I think when you see the whole game, the way we worked together is not so bad.”

Brooks, a regular center back who plays for Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga, was asked if he’s had to help Jones fit into his new role in the backline.

“No not really,” Brooks smiled. “He has so much experience, so it is no problem for him. He helps me out, I help him. It is perfect.”

With Jones ripping it up in from central midfielder with the New England Revolution in Major League Soccer, many see Klinsmann’s decision to play him out of position as a strange one. When asked by ProSoccerTalk after the defeat to Colombia, Jones made it clear where he prefers to play, but is enjoying being a leader for the USA.

“I always say that my favorite position is midfield, when somebody asks me,” Jones said. “I want to always play in midfield but center back is different. It is not a big deal. I can play it if the coach needs me in that position. Anywhere I play, when I am the pitch I always try to be a leader and help the team. Now I am in the back I have the whole game in front of me. It makes it a little bit easier to see the whole game. We had some small mistakes that we have to learn from but I try to always be a leader.”

Are Jones and Brooks the long-term partnership at center back for the USA? Who knows. Klinsmann now has a plethora of options with Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler (who started the USA’s first two games at the World Cup together) plus Omar Gonzalez left off this squad as he focuses on LA Galaxy’s MLS Cup charge.

Brooks doesn’t mind who he plays with going forward and enjoyed the challenge against some of the finest attackers on the planet and the world’s No. 3-ranked team.

“I don’t care who I play with, everybody on the field or on the side is good enough to play. I don’t care,” Brooks said. “Every game is a good test and especially against guys like James and Cuadrado. It was a lot of fun… The pace was fast, you saw that. It was a good game, a tense game, but I thought we did a good job.”

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

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Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard price ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.

From Goal.com:

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).

Report: Chelsea, Real $38M apart on Hazard

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How much for Hazard?

Real Madrid are willing to pay $127 million, no small fee, to bring Eden Hazard from Chelsea, but that’s well off the Blues’ evaluation according to Sky Sports.

Chelsea sees Hazard’s price as $165 million. Belgian writer Kristof Terreur told Sky that Hazard wants his future sorted by June 4.

[ MORE: Bayern wins double ]

The Blues’ superstar is entering the final year of his contract, and could begin negotiating with other clubs in January and leave on a free transfer.

Hazard turns 29 in January. He recorded 19 goals and 16 assists in 51 matches this season, his best output in a Blues uniform.

The report says Chelsea feels no pressure to sell Hazard, but it would be a surprise if it dug in its heels too deeply considering the state of the Belgian’s contract.

Even for Chelsea, letting over $100 million walk out the door is wild, and for all Hazard’s won with Chelsea there’s also been consternation under several managers and a more than occasional habit of disappointing on the table.

MLS roundup: Timbers end road trip with emphatic win in Philly

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in MLS…

[ MORE: USA topped by Ukraine in U-20 World Cup opener ]

Philadelphia Union 1-3 Portland Timbers [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Just when everyone had begun to take the Union seriously — to give them the respect befitting a first-place team — Jim Curtin’s side fell flat on its face and fell out of the Eastern Conference’s top spot. Saturday’s defeat to the suddenly streaking — and homeward bound — Timbers snapped Philadelphia’s six-game unbeaten run (four wins).

24-year-old attacker Brian Fernandez, signed as a Designated Player earlier this month, made his first MLS start and marked the occasion with two first-half goals (31st and 36th minutes). Diego Valeri added the third (87th) after Kacper Przybylko pulled the Union back to 2-1 in the 47th.

Now, with 14 points from their 12-game road trip to start the season, Portland heads home for 17 of their final 22 games to be played inside a newly renovated — and expanded — Providence Park. The gap between themselves and a Western Conference playoff place is just four points.

New England Revolution 1-1 D.C. United [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

With the Union slipping up and dropping all three points, D.C. United made the most of their opportunity to return to the top of the East on the back of Wayne Rooney‘s 90th-minute penalty kick to snatch a 1-1 draw with (what will soon be) Bruce Arena’s Revolution.

Juan Agudelo put the home side ahead with a header in the 61st minute, and the lead held firm for nearly the final half-hour. Alas, video review reviewed a handball late in the game, which presented Rooney the chance to play the part of hero. He duly obliged and hammered his spot kick past backup goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who replaced Matt Turner following his 56th minute red card for cleaning out Rooney.

Arena is expected to take charge of Revs training this week and make his debut as head coach next Sunday, when his new side visits… his old side, the LA Galaxy.

Colorado Rapids 3-2 Columbus Crew SC [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Don’t look now, but the Rapids have won two straight games under interim head coach Conor Casey and appear set on clawing their way out of the league’s basement.

Sure, they blew a pair of leads at home, but they also hit back with another goal of their own every time Crew SC drew level, culminating in a stunning winner from Nicolas Mezquida.

The gap between Colorado and 23th place is now just three points, as expansion side FC Cincinnati come closer and closer on the horizon.

Elsewhere in MLS

Chicago Fire 1-1 New York City FC [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 FC Dallas [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
FC Cincinnati 0-2 New York Red Bulls [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Minnesota United 1-0 Houston Dynamo [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Sunday’s MLS schedule

Sporting Kansas City v. Seattle Sounders — 6 p.m. ET
Toronto FC v. San Jose Earthquakes — 7:30 p.m. ET

Will winning the double be enough to keep Kovac at Bayern?

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BERLIN (AP) Niko Kovac is the first to win a domestic double in Germany as a player and coach, yet it may not be enough to keep his job as Bayern Munich coach.

[ MORE: Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey ]

Kovac, whose side defeated Leipzig 3-0 in the German Cup final on Saturday, a week after clinching the Bundesliga title, is yet to be given assurances in public from the club that he will remain in charge, despite bringing a successful end to what had been a testing season.

The pressure and uncertainty appeared to cast a shadow on what was Kovac’s second successive German Cup win — he was Eintracht Frankfurt coach when the side defeated Bayern in the final last year.

“Last year I was leaving the team. This year everything is a little less emotional, no tears, but still, I’m happy,” Kovac said.

“Sometimes I would really wish that things went a little differently. It’s difficult to turn the wheel back. We should all work on it, we’re all human. We should make sure that we get along with each other.”

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Kovac, who won the double as a player in 2003, acknowledged the cup win on Saturday was “very important” as “it shows that we have worked well.”

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was again coy when pressed on the coach’s future.

“At the end of the day, we have to get titles. Of course the coach plays a central role,” Rummenigge said. “It was never an issue for us with the term that he has until 2021, that he would simply not be there anymore as coach beforehand.”