USMNT Friendly Preview: Denmark

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  • The series is somewhat even, with US winning once, drawing three, and losing twice
  • Denmark is one of the few European sides not to be scheduled a Euro qualifier this window
  • Clint Dempsey is injured and unavailable for the match, having picked up a hamstring knock

The United States begins the March international window with a road friendly in Aarhus Wednesday, and it’s safe to say the road to the 2018 World Cup begins now.

[ MORE: How might they line up? ]

Jurgen Klinsmann traversed his way through the post Brazil friendlies like just that, and we saw more of the regulars than maybe we expected. Here, in Denmark, Klinsmann shook things up with his roster, and we’re likely to get a good look at some of the fringe players who could be options come 2018.

Denmark

With the Danes clustered into Euro 2016 qualifying Group I – the only group with five countries instead of six – they don’t have a qualifier scheduled for this window. Instead, they’ll play a pair of friendlies against the US and France.

While they aren’t gearing up for an immediate impactful match, coach Martin Olsen is still likely to deploy a very strong lineup. With their five-team Euro qualifying group, there’s little room for error. Denmark sits atop the group, but just a point ahead of Portugal who bested them in Copenhagen back in October. Their group is in even further disarray considering Serbia and Albania are appealing the result of their match that was halted by fan violence. Depending on who (if anyone) collects the three points from that match, Denmark could be even at the top with Albania or looking to fend off three other countries just below them. It’s a chaotic group.

As a result, they’ll look to get their first-team in good form with such a gap in qualifying matches (they go from November to June without one). Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen is the star, and he will provide a stiff test for the US midfield and back line. There are few other household names on their roster, but some may recognize Nicolas Bendtner from his Arsenal days. Now at Wolfsburg, the striker is second fiddle to Europe’s most in-form striker Bas Dost, but still has collected his fair share of goals given his limited playing time. Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel – son of the legendary Peter Schmeichel – is the starter in goal and is in form with his club despite their position in the table.

United States

The US comes into this game looking for plenty of answers. There are fresh faces on the roster who will look to make an impact should they receive the chance to do so. Cody Cropper, Ventura Alvarado, and William Yarbrough will be looking to become recognizable names.

There are also a host of players who didn’t make the World Cup roster having just burst onto the scene, but could stamp their name into Jurgen Klinsmann’s regular list. Gyasi Zardes is hoping for a true opportunity to translate his solid MLS form into the national team spotlight. Tim Ream, Danny Williams, Rubio Rubin, and Brek Shea have all been in the national team picture in the past but, for a myriad of reasons, haven’t burst through the brick wall to become a regular just yet.

There’s the curious case of Julian Green, who needs a good showing not only for his own confidence having been frozen out of the Hamburg side for the duration of his loan spell, but also to prove to the world that Hamburg is making the mistake and not Green. It will be interesting to see if he gets significant playing time, just a sniff of the pitch, or nothing at all.

Finally, despite Dempsey’s injury, there are still familiar faces hoping to be the focal point of the transition between World Cup cycles. Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson (who hasn’t featured since the World Cup due to injury), and Nick Rimando are all in that mix.

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.”