AP Photo/ Moises Castillo

Furthering the fallout: More questions from USMNT’s loss to Guatemala

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Unfortunately for USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States men’s national team, there aren’t European matches or even a full slate of MLS matches to take our minds off the carnage we witnessed last night Guatemala.

So we write more.

Disclosure: I love watching Major League Soccer and hope it continues its rise as a player in the world’s game. I also generally would prefer United States men’s national team members to be playing meaningful minutes at the highest level possible, and know that there are currently as many as 10 leagues in the world where that can occur — most of them in Europe — ahead of MLS.

[ USMNT: Match recap | Player ratings | Three things ]

It’s also important to note that Klinsmann’s roster omissions are not strictly MLS based. Defenders Jonathan Spector, Eric Lichaj and Tim Ream have not been given good chances to regularly play under his watch, and they play in England’s Championship (As an aside, I’d love to see a tournament between MLS and the Championship to settle some things). Destroyer of sorts Perry Kitchen is with Scotland’s Hearts and could’ve done a job in last night’s miserable loss to Guatemala.

And there’s a batch of MLS super fans, sometimes disguised as analysts, who dwell so heavily on which of their favorite domestic-based players aren’t being chosen by Klinsmann that it becomes near impossible to separate their legitimate gripes from the pathological features of their problems.

[ MORE: Why a Tuesday win would make everything pretty alright ]

Finally, there’s an argument to be made that Klinsmann’s sheer lunacy in Friday’s loss isn’t about player selection, rather where he put them (Michael Orozco aside. He doesn’t even start for his club).

Consider that Klinsmann’s absurd choices to play several players out of position would’ve looked much better and likely performed significantly better if they had just been lined up, well, adequately.

How they started vs Guatemala

Howard

Cameron — Gonzalez — Orozco — Castillo

Diskerud

Yedlin — Bedoya

Bradley

Wood — Dempsey

Wouldn’t this have been better/more natural?

Howard

Yedlin — Gonzalez — Orozco — Castillo

Cameron

Bedoya — Bradley — Diskerud

Wood — Dempsey

Even if he needed to go 4-4-2 and play Bradley as a No. 10, that still would’ve been preferable to putting Diskerud on the left than using Bedoya on the flip of his preferred right.

[ KLINSMANN: “I take the blame” for loss ]

Now here’s the thing: there is absolutely no debating that MLS provides plenty of options at natural positions who could’ve been called up. Without delving too far into who I think is or isn’t good enough to cut muster, let’s assume Klinsmann wanted cover in a traditional 4-4-2. Which of these players wouldn’t have deserved a chance over playing a maximum of five players at their second-choice (at best) position?

Left backs (and Castillo was fine once he settled into Friday’s match)
DaMarcus Beasley, Justin Morrow, Chris Tierney, Robbie Rogers, Brek Shea.

Right backs
Michael Parkhurst, Sean Franklin, Tony Beltran, Raymond Gaddis, Chance Myers

Left mids
Brad Davis, Graham Zusi, Chris Rolfe, Sebastien Lletget, Lamar Neagle, Chris Pontius

Okay, so the right back ranks are extremely slim, but the point remains that bringing some of this crop would’ve helped supplement his team. Consider that of the players listed as defenders, five of the seven were center backs and Yedlin is clearly considered a winger.

It’s also almost like he doesn’t want to give a true DCM a run while Jermaine Jones is suspended, almost as if to say, “Don’t get any ideas guys, he’s mine forever.” And we know Matt Miazga and Tim Parker were with the U-23s and both John Brooks and Matt Besler picked up injuries, but what about Matt Hedges? Brad Evans? Chad Marshall? Either is preferable over Orozco, and it’s not like the Liga MX back is a spring chicken being prepped for the Copa America (He’s 30).

Here’s Orozco’s blistering form for his club from Transfermarkt (I almost feel bad… it’s not like the defender is demanding to start for his country. Klinsmann just called him up and plugged him. Was he supposed to say no?).

Orozco form

Look, I’m well aware of my limitations as a soccer mind in comparison to someone of Jurgen Klinsmann’s experience. That’s not a potshot. I’m not going to tell you m word is gospel, but these aren’t exactly lofty theories that I proffer.

What the heck is going on?

Dele drives Spurs past Norwich City

Tottenham Hotspur match recap and highlights
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A win is a win, even if Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-1 home defeat of Norwich City was anything but convincing in London.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son scored as Spurs climbed sixth in the table with 34 points.

Teemu Pukki scored for the spot for the Canaries, who remain dead last and six points off the safe spaces.


Three things we learned

1. Spurs can score in 2020: The Premier League had not been kind to Jose Mourinho’s men since a they twice came back in a 2-2 draw with these same Canaries at Carrow Road. In fact, Spurs went 315 Premier League minutes without a goal before Dele got his first half marker on Wednesday. Losses to Saints and Liverpool were joined by a weekend draw at Watford, so this win was vital (Spurs thrice scored over two FA Cup matches versus Middlesbrough).

2. Bounces go the way of Spurs: Norwich can forgive itself for feeling a bit snakebit considering how poor Spurs looked for most of the day. Dele’s shot or cross was deflected high toward the back post, where Heung-min Son was able to nod it over the line from extreme close-up range.

3. Serge Aurier shines: Bad Serge Aurier shows up quite a bit, but the full back had a great day on Wednesday. Aurier had an assist to go with two interceptions and three tackles. He was a menace and stuck into 50-50 battles, earning plaudits on the day.


Erik Lamela was lively early for Spurs, seeing a free kick deflected out for a corner and another chance saved by Tim Krul.

Dele put Spurs ahead when he lunged past Christoph Zimmermann to poke a Serge Aurier cross past Krul. Heung-min Son set up the play with a lay-off to the Ivorian.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

VAR was kind to Todd Cantwell early in the second half, as the sliding midfielder put his studs into Lamela and it was worth only a yellow card.

Spurs youngster Ryan Sessegnon fouled Max Aarons in the 68th to give Norwich a chance from the spot, and a long review did not lead to a reprieve. Pukki beat Lloris low and to the right for 1-1.

But Dele’s cross floated to Son for a back post winner and blushes were spared for Mourinho.

Leicester City smashes West Ham, loses Vardy

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Leicester City snapped a two-match losing run with a 4-1 defeat of West Ham United on Wednesday.

The third-place Foxes move to 48 points, but lost Jamie Vardy and Nampalys Mendy to first half injuries.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Harvey Barnes and Ricardo Pereira set each other up for goals and Ayoze Perez scored twice late in the win.

Mark Noble scored a penalty of his own for the losing side, whose 23 points are out of the drop zone on goal differential. The Irons have played one fewer match than everyone but Liverpool.


Three things we learned

1. Barnes rides high:  Harvey Barnes is having an uneven season in the Premier League, like many to just turn 22. But the youngster is certainly on an upswing, having scored in a weekend loss at Burnley and collecting a goal and an assist on Wednesday. His six assists lead the Foxes, and may just be the tip of the iceberg.

2. More of the same from West Ham (and that’s not good): David Moyes‘ West Ham looks a lot like Manuel Pellegrini‘s West Ham, which isn’t a surprise given the latter’s better reputation in recent seasons. It’s a draw and two losses since the 4-0 win over an abject Bournemouth, and the Irons’ match-in-hand on the relegation field is against Liverpool (who they still face twice). Felipe Anderson is set to miss a month and that won’t ease concerns either.

3. Vardy injury, defense a big concern: The league’s leading scorer got his leg stretched out on the pitch and was favoring his gluteal area in the first half, eventually limping off the field. Losing him would ask a lot of Kelechi Iheanacho.

The Foxes also would be wrong to overlook another goal conceded, even if it came by controversial penalty. Leicester has conceded in seven of eight league matches,  and five included multiple goals. It’s not a huge worry in a 4-1, but a trend indeed.

Man of the Match: Barnes.


Jamie Vardy cut into the box early but his first touch betrayed him and couldn’t get full power on a shot to Darren Randolph.

The in-form Barnes got the Foxes in front by turning a Ricardo Pereira dinked pass into the open goal.

An injury to Nampalys Mendy accelerated the return of Wilfred Ndidi to the pitch, the midfielder returning in the 34th minute.

Vardy was then forced off the pitch with an apparent back injury, bringing Kelechi Iheanacho into the fold in the 44th minute.

Barnes then returned the favor to Pereira, who whistled his effort into the goal in the fifth minute of first half stoppage time.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

But hold on.

Noble needed just five second half minutes to pull one back for David Moyes’ men, as Sebastien Haller won a suspect penalty off Ndidi.

Kasper Schmeichel made a fine save on Michail Antonio to keep it 2-1.

Leiceste regained control and looked the only threat to make it 3-1 after that, with Perez converted a penalty after Angelo Ogbonna fouled Kelechi Iheanacho.

The Nigerian forward then set up Perez for his second to salt away the win.

Leicester City’s Vardy limps off pitch versus West Ham

Jamie Vardy injury
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January is not being kind to English forwards.

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy limped off the pitch at King Power Stadium on Wednesday, an apparent upper leg injury the cause.

It was a non-contact injury, as Vardy pulled up lame after clearing the ball.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Kelechi Iheanacho replaced Vardy, who leads the Premier League Golden Boot race by one goal over Sergio Aguero.

Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham was injured in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal, while Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford are all nursing long-term injuries.

That had led many to infer that England manager Gareth Southgate might ask Vardy to reconsider his international retirement, but here we are.

Leicester City is in the thick of a Top Four chase in the hopes of returning to the UEFA Champions League, and losing Vardy would be a monumental blow.

Griezmann’s second half brace saves Barcelona from shock upset in Ibiza

Barcelona survives Copa del Rey scare
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Like a college kid on Spring Break, Barcelona vastly underestimated the power of Ibiza.

One of the biggest clubs in the world had loads of trouble in its Copa del Rey Round of 32 meeting at UD Ibiza on Wednesday.

Barcelona barely got past the third-tier side thanks to two Antoine Griezmann goals and a comeback 2-1 win at the Estadi Municipal de Can Misses.

UD Ibiza playing in a 5,000-seat stadium, took a ninth-minute lead and had more shot attempts as late as the 65th minute. New manager Quique Setien was left to sweat it out.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Somewhat fitting that a man named Pep got the early goal. Josep Caballe Martin has more yellow cards than goals in Segunda B this season.

Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, and an injured Luis Suarez were among the players left behind, but this wasn’t a massively depleted Barcelona side. Arturo Vidal and Jordi Alba were brought off the bench.

Frenkie de Jong set up Griezmann for a 72nd minute equalizer, and Griezmann added his second off an Alba feed in the fourth minute of stoppage time.