Dust settles but questions remain for USMNT, Klinsmann’s future

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Do you want him in, or out?

It’s not your decision, but many fans of the U.S. national team, and U.S. Soccer as a whole, have been debating the future of Jurgen Klinsmann as the head coach of the USMNT and the technical director.

[ MORE: Klopp’s top targets emerge ]

Klinsmann, 51, has now been the head coach of the U.S. for over four years. In that time he has won a Gold Cup (2103) and led the U.S. to the last 16 of the World Cup (2014). Those, plus a smattering of impressive friendly wins away in Europe, have been the highlights, but plenty of lows have continued to roll in over the last few months, as questions regarding whether or not the German coach is the right man for the job have continued to linger, and now they’re festering.

[ MORE: The end for Klinsmann? ]

President of the U.S. Soccer Federation, Sunil Gulati, has already said Klinsmann’s job was safe regardless of the outcome of the CONCACAF Cup match, which the U.S. lost to Mexico 3-2 after extra time on Saturday. That scoreline flattered the U.S. as they sat back in a defensive shell (something we saw throughout the World Cup in Brazil and against many of the elite nations they have faced over the past four years) and couldn’t cope with the constant attacks launched by El Tri. The loss provided plenty of people with ammunition to say: Klinsmann has to go.

That is not just a knee-jerk reaction to a defeat to a bitter rival, but the rearing of a violent under-current which has been sweeping through USMNT fans for quite some time and has manifested into a wave of negativity against Klinsmann, the playing style he promotes, his staff and his players.

[ MORE: Behind-the-scenes at Klopp’s unveiling

The latter two parties can certainly not escape the blame, but like any coach of any team worldwide, the buck has to stop with Klinsmann amid the lack of progress over the past four years since Bob Bradley was fired for a Gold Cup final defeat to Mexico, also at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. Klinsmann stated that winning the Gold Cup this summer was crucial. The U.S. finished fourth in its second worst-ever performance. He also stated reaching the Confederations Cup was crucial. Those hopes were dashed by Saturday’s defeat. And then there’s the hope of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, which hang by a thread after Andi Herzog’s side were beaten by Honduras in the semifinal of the qualifying tournament on Saturday, just hours before Mexico beat the U.S.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USA 2-3 Mexico ]

Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT

Many can’t argue that Klinsmann is capable of building successful youth programs and systems for teams to flourish long-term. Look what he did in Germany before and during the 2006 World Cup, as Die Mannschaft immediately bore the fruits of his and Joachim Low’s labor with a third place finish, and then replicated that achievement at the 2010 World Cup before winning it all in 2014. Klinsmann helped put that in place and with plenty of promising young players selecting the U.S. over other nations, plus improvements being made across the infrastructure of U.S. Soccer, his role as technical director of U.S. Soccer seems a natural and good fit.

However, the percentage of games he has won as U.S. boss has now dipped to 55.25 percent, which is lower than his spell in charge of Germany and his 44 games at Bayern Munich, and there needs to be some more accountability. That is the biggest concern for fans and those observing the U.S. national team. Increasingly Klinsmann doesn’t seem to be taking the blame solely on his shoulders and amid the constant lineup changes and lack of continuity in who he selects (and comments about whether they play in MLS or Europe) in which formation, the USMNT has become a rudderless ship drifting into the murky waters of obscurity on the international stage. The lack of identity on this team is troublesome and leaves the outlook for the future looking bleak. Will the next three years under Klinsmann be like that last four? He has previously stated that the target at Russia 2018 must be to reach the semifinals. Right now, that seems a long way off.

Speaking in his post-game press conference after the loss to Mexico, here’s what Klinsmann had to say, via MLSsoccer.com, about how the U.S. can move on from a disappointing spell.

“A loss is always difficult to swallow, there’s no doubt about it, especially when there’s a lot at stake,” Klinsmann said. “It means that you have to work even harder than you ever did before in order to turn the results around and make things happen….

“We have to get out group together and rethink the next couple of months,” he continued. “Obviously, we’re going into World Cup qualifying already in November, and we have to kind of sit together and discuss things–who we’ll be counting on, how we want to build toward the next couple of games. There’s not much time in between, because World Cup qualifying is World Cup qualifying. So there will be a lot of conversations coming up in the next couple of days.”

A lot of those conversations, from fans at least, will be about Klinsmann’s future as the national team’s head coach. Those are just and fair, as Klinsmann has failed to get any more out of a player pool with largely the same, if not more, talent than Bradley had between 2007-11.

The calls for Klinsmann to move on from being the head coach of the USMNT and move “upstairs” to continue in his role as a technical director are growing.

What this U.S. side needs now is re-invigoration, fresh ideas and a new approach. The overwhelming feeling from the masses is that after four years of stagnation, Klinsmann is no longer the right man to push this program forward.

Adams: RB Leipzig ‘really, really excited’ to face PSG in UCL semifinal

Tyler Adams RB Leipzig
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Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig hero? The 21-year-old American midfielder wasn’t the hero RB Leipzig fans — or U.S. men’s national team fans, even — expected to celebrate on Thursday, but that’s the reality after he scored an 88th-minute winner (WATCH HERE) to knock off Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Man City want Thiago; Man Utd still chasing Sancho ]

The victory sends Leipzig to its first-ever UCL semifinal appearance, where they’ll face French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday. Adams didn’t start the game — he came on as a 72nd-minute substitute — and while he found that a bit disappointing at first, the New York Red Bulls academy product played his part and provided a far greater impact than anyone could have expected — quotes from CBS Sports (video below):

“It was very difficult. For the first 70 minutes, it was a close game so when I came on I wanted to bring energy and help the team in any way possible. Getting your first goal is unexpected for me — I’m not a typical goalscorer — but I’m happy that I could help the team.”

“Coming into this game, I was told that I wasn’t going to start but I needed to be ready to come off the bench and make an impact. I had to get myself in the right mindset to help the team in any way possible. We had a great game plan and everybody gave everything that they had. Not everybody is necessarily 90-minutes fit right now after a three-week holiday, so we had to be prepared and we were.”

“We’re really, really excited. We know that Paris are a great team, we saw what they did against Atalanta yesterday and they’ve got really good players. Now it’s about recovering in the right way, getting ourselves right mentally and working on the game plan. We’re confident in ourselves, you saw that today.”

USMNT’s Tyler Adams’ goal sends RB Leipzig to UCL semifinal (video)

Tyler Adams goal
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Tyler Adams goal: The American scored an 88th-minute goal, which proved to be the game-winner, to send RB Leipzig to its first-ever UEFA Champions League semifinal appearance on Thursday, knocking off Atletico Madrid 2-1 in the process.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

All three goals were scored in the second half after a forgettable first half was short on scoring chances, and it was Adams, who came into the game as a 72nd-minute substitute who delivered the decisive blow.

Atleti’s first chance of the game came in the 10th minute. Stefan Savic rose above the crowd to get his head to Renan Lodi’s floated free kick, but Peter Gulacsi managed to get both hands on the ball and keep it from crossing the goal line despite backpedaling and falling to the ground.

Atleti’s best chance of the first half came when Yannick Carrasco went dangerously close to putting Atleti ahead in the 13th minute, but Gulacsi was quick to cover his near post and palm the ball wide. After starting brightly, it was virtual radio silence from Los Rojiblancos after that.

To be fair to Atleti, it wasn’t any better for Leipzig — in fact, it was worse in the opening 45 minutes. To illustrate their inability to create scoring chances, let alone shots, a stat: despite holding more than 62 percent of possession at halftime, their four shots were taken by their defensive midfielder (1), a center back (1) and another center back (2).

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

Leipzig’s first shot taken by an attacking player came in the 51st minute, and it resulted in the game’s opening goal. It began with a prolonged period of possession to free Marcel Sabitzer down the right side of Atleti’s penatly area. The Austrian cross into the box floated ever so dangerously toward the penalty spot, and Dani Olmo arrive just in the nick of time to glance it past Jan Oblak.

Atleti were handed a lifeline in the 70th minute, though, as Lukas Klostermann was badly beaten by Joao Felix as he made a diagonal run into the penalty area and received the ball near the penalty spot. Klostermann cut him down from behind and gave away a penalty kick. It was Felix, who only entered the game as a substitute in the 58th minute who stepped up and converted past Gulacsi, with ice in his veins.

Coincidentally enough, it was Felix’s introduction — and immediate impact on the game — which appeared to necessitate Adams’ introduction to stifle the Portuguese’s threat. The rest, as they say, is history.

Up next for Leipzig is a semifinal clash with Paris Saint-Germain, who needed a stoppage-time comeback to knock off Atalanta and advance from Thursday’s quarterfinal.

Transfer news: Man City want Thiago; Man Utd still chasing Sancho

Man City Thiago
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In the latest transfer news, Man City have entered the race to sign Thiago Alcantara, Manchester United aren’t giving up on Jadon Sancho, and an entire squad has been put up for sale…

[ MORE: World Cup winner Matuidi reunites with Beckham at Inter Miami ]

Man City enter race for Thiago

On Wednesday, Bayern Munich manager Hansi Flick endorsed Thiago’s heavily rumored move to the Premier League after negotiations over a new contract had reportedly reached an impasse. That seemed to pave the way for Thiago, who’ll be out of contract next summer, to move to Liverpool, the most commonly reported destination in recent weeks. Not so fast, according to a report out of Germany, as Manchester City and Pep Guardiola, who worked with Thiago while at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, have reportedly entered the race. Liverpool are reportedly only willing to pay $35 million for the free agent-to-be.

Man United still chasing Sancho

Despite Borussia Dortmund’s increasing annoyance over a lack of progress in negotiations for winger Sancho, Manchester United continue to pursue the 20-year-old Englishman and have reportedly put all other transfer business on hold while doing so. According to another report, the contract Man United offered to Sancho would have resulted in the player taking a pay cut upon completing the move.

[ MORE: Thiago to Liverpool: Bayern boss urges Premier League move ]

Lacazette to Juventus

According to a report out of Italy, Juventus have made initial contact with Arsenal over a possible deal for forward Alexandre Lacazette. The 29-year-old has two years remaining on his contract, but the thinking here seems to be that Lacazette is quite clearly the no. 2 forward behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Juve are prepared to offer the Frenchman a chance to be more of a star man.

Fire sale at Valencia

Valencia have put their entire squad, with the lone exception of Jose Gaya, up for sale in an attempt to balance their financial books. The La Liga side’s desperate need for funds comes as a result of missing out on all European competitions after finishing ninth in the league, combined with the financial hardships brought about by COVID-19. Clubs all around Europe have been alerted to Valencia’s fire-sale approach. It remains to be seen how much of a “deal” can be had, or if Valencia can squeeze maximum value out of each player with so little leverage.

Key battles in Champions League quarterfinals

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The UEFA Champions League quarterfinals take center stage this week and we’re going to select one key battle which should determine the outcome of all four games.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

With Manchester City the favorites against Lyon, a massive clash between Barcelona and Bayern Munich, plus an intriguing tie between RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid, the final few games in the 2019-20 Champions League campaign will be so tight to call.

[ MORE: Man City beat Real Madrid ]

In the next few days the Champions League quarterfinals will excite as the mini tournament in Portugal begins.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate to reach the last eight and Pep Guardiola’s boys will be confident but wary after Lyon dumped out Juventus in the Round of 16. Bayern v. Barcelona should be all-out attack, while Atletico v. Leipzig will be full of grit.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, and there will be one heck of a show over the next few days.

Below is a look at the key battles, as well as how to watch and follow all of the Champions League quarterfinal fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League quarterfinals

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


Team news

Diego Simeone has gone extremely defensive — even for him — by selecting defensive midfielder Marcos Llorente as a second striker alongside Diego Costa. Meanwhile for Leipzig, U.S. men’s national team youngster Tyler Adams is on the bench.


Key battles

RB Leipzig – Atletico Madrid: Dayot Upamecano v.Diego Costa

This should be an epic head-to-head. Costa loves the one-on-one scraps and Upamecano is among the finest center backs in Europe right now. The young Frenchman doesn’t get bullied often but Costa will have a good go. Costa has hardly been prolific in his second spell at Atletico but he so often sets the tone for their scrappy displays under Diego Simeone. Leipzig like to play a back three at times and that could leave space for Costa to run at Upamecano. This will be intriguing. Watch out for Costa to put down his marker early on with elbows and everything else flying at Upamecano.

Barcelona – Bayern Munich: Lionel Messi v. David Alaba

Barcelona - Bayern
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Okay, so, we know how Jerome Boateng v. Lionel Messi went before. Somewhere, somebody is still using that gif of Boateng tangling his own legs like spaghetti as Messi bamboozled him to score at the Nou Camp. So it’s probably best if versatile Austrian star David Alaba goes up against Messi. It’s likely that Alaba will play at the back but he should basically mark Messi, and when (or if, because this is Messi) he gets the ball back he has the quality to start attacks. Bayern and Barcelona both score plenty of goals but defensively they have to improve if they’re going to win the Champions League this season.

Manchester City – Lyon: Aymeric Laporte v. Memphis Depay

Everyone is tipping Man City to beat Lyon easily, but that’s what everyone said about Lyon against Juventus. Memphis Depay is a real threat up top and Lyon usually do very well against Man City. Pep Guardiola needs Aymeric Laporte to be at his very best and it is likely he and Fernandinho will again line up together at center back. Laporte will line up on the left and Memphis will start on the right side of Lyon’s central strikers, so this will be a battle to look out for. Laporte has class but his pace is sometimes questioned and if City leave him exposed on the break, Memphis can take advantage of those situations.

Atalanta – PSG: Marten de Roon v. Ander Herrera

Yes, that Marten de Roon from Middlesbrough. The Dutch midfielder has been a sensation at Atalanta and does most of the dirty work for Gomez, Zapata et al. to score boat loads of goals. His battle in the engine room against Ander Herrera will be crucial. Marco Verratti is out injured and that is a big blow, especially with Kylian Mbappe and Angel di Maria out too for PSG. Neymar and Icardi will be looking for the midfield to give them the ball as much as possible and if that happens, PSG could run riot. That said, if De Roon can win that battle with Herrera, Atalanta’s attackers can cause PSG’s defense big problems. Whoever wins the midfield battle will win this game. It should be tight and full of goals. Enjoy.