Predicting how Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT will line-up in 2014 finale vs. Ireland

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US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is faced with a number of unpleasant decision to select his final starting lineup of 2014, a team to face Ireland in Dublin on Tuesday.

The team, as it stands following the release of four players to the MLS teams, is not a great roster of players who fit into a team together. It’s got just one true, international-caliber central midfielder and a number of younger winger/forward hybrids all vying for one starting spot and one 20-minute sub appearance.

There’s plenty of talent up and down the squad, but how does each piece fit into a starting 11? My best guess at Klinsmann’s final starting 11 of 2014:

Goalkeeper and defenders — Nick Rimando, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, Greg Garza

The No. 1 keeper starts the first of a two-game run of friendlies, and the top in-camp backup takes the second. That’s been the MO under Klinsmann for a couple years now.

For the first time in his brief USMNT career (four appearances), Garza struggled a bit in Friday’s high-tempo game against Colombia. Tuesday offers a great opportunity for Garza to display the lessons he learned against the current FIFA No. 3 team in the world, and grow as a player. Don’t be surprised when Timothy Chandler inexplicably starts at left back, instead.

Cameron still doesn’t have a full-time position at Stoke City, but his best position for the USMNT has long been center back. Problem is, there’s a number of players — many of whom are much younger — even with, or ahead of, the 29-year-old. He’s still the USMNT’s second-best center back, behind Besler. The Besler-Cameron duo would be great for results going forward, but could slow the development of players like Omar Gonzalez and John Brooks.

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Midfielders — Kyle Beckerman, Mix Diskerud, Miguel Ibarra, Alejandro Bedoya, Bobby Wood

Wood has become a go-to choice off the bench for Klinsmann ever since the World Cup. He’s not done much of note in those games, but when Klinsmann favors a player, he gives him run-out after run-out. It feels like it’s about time he gives him a surprise start.

While Ireland pose a lot less threat going forward than Colombia, Klinsmann will still attempt to set up a team capable of controlling the game in the middle-third and limiting chances, rather than go all-out and try to pin the Irish deep with attack after attack. Problem is, to do so, he’ll have to drop Diskerud deeper in the midfield and play Bedoya centrally.

It’ll likely look and work like a mess — with the usual exception of Beckerman — until a change is made after 60 minutes of dysfunction.

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Forward — Jozy Altidore

He’s been the guy at center forward for the last five year, he’s the guy now and he’s the guy for the next five years. He needs minutes. He’s not going to get minutes anywhere until the next international break. He played well against Colombia. Need we go on?

What he also needs is a strike partner, as evidenced playing alongside Rubio Rubin on Friday. Wood’s natural tendency from wide left will be to cut inside and play off Altidore. Put a highly technical player or two around the high work rate and hold-up play that Altidore provides, and it might just work.

Southgate, England players sound off on racist abuse

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England took care of business in Monday’s 6-0 thrashing of Bulgaria, but the Three Lions had to endure some horrendous racist abuse from the crowd during the game.

The match was paused on two occasions I’m the first half by the match officials after racist chanting could be heard from a section of supporters, and a large group of Bulgarian fans were ejected towards the end of the half. However, racist abuse continued during the match from small pockets of fans in the stadium.

[READ: England v. Bulgaria delayed after racist abuse from stands]

“I have to say that the officials were on to everything very quickly,” England manager Gareth Southgate told ITV after the match. “We reported everything immediately when we heard things, we had constant communication with the fourth official and the referee. I was in contact with the players, all the way through the first half in particular, and then again at halftime.

”We know it’s an unacceptable situation, and I think we’ve managed to make two statements. By winning the game, but also we’re raised the awareness of everybody to the situation. The game was stopped twice, I know for some people that won’t be enough, but we as a group were on board with that process.”

Raheem Sterling, who scored a brace in the win, also sounded off on social media, as did former England and Arsenal star Ian Wright.

Ultimately, UEFA and the match officials followed the protocol, but the sad part about this is that England and the officials had a plan for racist abuse, and it was predictable that it would happen.

In a statement after the game, the FA confirmed they would be asking UEFA to investigate what happened. However, any punishment is too little, too late for the players who endured the abuse.

Kane, Sterling star as England rout Bulgaria

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On a night where racist abuse from the stands in Bulgaria marred the overall spectacle, England’s players produced an incredible result and spectacle for the visiting fans, with all things considered.

Harry Kane scored once and assisted on three others as England rolled over Bulgaria, winning 6-0 on Monday evening in the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria. Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley both scored a brace for the Three Lions and Marcus Rashford’s thunderbolt from a tight angle gave England the opening goal it needed.

The blowout result was the perfect response after England had suffered its first loss in qualifying for a decade, losing on Friday, 2-1 at the Czech Republic. The six goals England put past Bulgaria was also the fourth time out of six games that England had scored at least five goals in a match. The only other time, aside from the defeat, was a 4-0 win last month at Wembley Stadium over Bulgaria.

This story will be updated.


Racist abuse delays England v. Bulgaria qualifier

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England raced out to an impressive 4-0 lead at Bulgaria by halftime, but the wonderful attacking display was marred by horrendous incidents from the crowd.

The match in the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria was stopped on two occasions with announcements being made to ask sections of the crowd to stop their abusive language. This comes with the stadium already serving a partial stadium closure due to racist chanting from the crowd in previous qualifiers.

Below is UEFA’s protocol on how to intervene in these situations, and what transpired from lead writer Joe Prince-Wright.

Tottenham re-signs goalkeeper Vorm

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With Hugo Lloris set to miss at least another two months of action with a broken elbow, Tottenham has turned to a familiar face to provide some cover between the pipes.

Tottenham announced Monday it had re-signed goalkeeper Michel Vorm to a contract through the end of the 2019-2020 Premier League season. Vorm spent five seasons with Tottenham after signing from Swansea City in 2014. However, after playing second-fiddle to Lloris and later serving as the third backup behind current Tottenham No. 2, Paulo Gazzaniga for the past couple of seasons, Vorm was released at the end of last season.

Its certainly a boost for Tottenham that a player with a long history at the club and plenty of experience was available to help in this situation. Similar to Liverpool picking up Adrian after Alisson Becker’s injury, Tottenham know what it’s getting in Vorm and may play him a few times if Gazzaniga needs a night off in the next few months.

According to Vorm, he had been home in his native Netherlands and was watching the game when he saw Lloris get injured.

“Obviously I saw straight away that he had a bad injury and at the time I thought about how bad it was, Vorm told Tottenham’s website. “After the game I spoke with Jan (Vertonghen), he told me what was going on and I spoke also with Toni (Jimenez, our goalkeeping coach) and, yes, during the week I got the phone call to ask if I was open to come back and help out. I’ve kept in contact with a lot of the players and also with Toni. We were speaking quite regularly and on Thursday he called me, we had the conversation and from there on, it went very quickly.”

In his five seasons with Tottenham, Vorm made a total of 47 appearances in all competitions. He saw plenty of time in the League Cup, FA Cup, UEFA Europa League and Champions League during his stay at White Hart Lane.