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Who would replace Jurgen Klinsmann if he was fired?

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With many in the U.S. soccer community calling for USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to be fired following the two World Cup qualifying defeats in the past week, the next logical question is simply: who next?

That’s a tough one to answer, and probably the main reason why Klinsmann is still in a job despite a steady decline in results and performances over the past 12 months.

[ MORE: State of the USMNT ]

Klinsmann took the majority of the flak as the U.S. lost to Mexico and Costa Rica to leave them bottom of the Hexagonal after the opening two games of the final round of 2018 World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region. The latter defeat was the more disappointing result as the USMNT lost 4-0 in San Jose and some players seemed to down tools in the second half with shambolic defending ruthlessly exploited by Los Ticos.

Now that Klinsmann has had five years in the job, the calls for him to be fired are louder and clearer than ever. Many suggest that U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati (who stated last week that Klinsmann will be in charge throughout the Hex campaign) doesn’t need to have a ready-made replacement lined up with the U.S. not having another World Cup qualifier until March 2017.

What if Gulati is on the lookout for a new man to take charge of the USMNT? Who would be a good fit?

Here’s a look at the contenders…


Bruce Arena

With Arena out of contract at the LA Galaxy, the former U.S. national team head coach from 1998-2006 expects to sign a new deal and be in charge of LA next season. That said, with his vast experience and knowledge of the U.S. player pool, could Arena help steady the ship and sign a two-year contract to lead the USMNT to World Cup qualification and then in Russia in 2018?

He is no nonsense and although some may question his tactics, his success in LA over the past eight years (three MLS Cups) suggests he knows exactly what he’s doing with a group of talented individuals. Arena has a knack of getting extremely talented players to buy into a team-first ethos. The U.S. needs that in abundance. He wouldn’t be a long-term option but if U.S. Soccer cares about solely making the World Cup (from a financial and prestige standpoint it should be at the front of the queue) then hiring Arena makes sense. He has that quarterfinal appearance at the 2002 World Cup on his resume too. Very handy.

Guus Hiddink

Similar to Arena, Hiddink would be a short-term solution but he’s shown he can re-energize squads lacking in confidence. The veteran Dutch coach has done that twice successfully at Chelsea, most recently last season, and he’s had success in the international game with South Korea, Australia and with Russia (well, if you look at EURO 2008 at least). He would again be someone who wouldn’t change the infrastructure but would instead focus solely on coaching the team. His lack of CONCACAF knowledge could be an issue but his vast experience at club and international level prove he’s no stranger to adapting to new situations.

Peter Vermes

Highly regarded in MLS circles, the former U.S. national team player has developed a winning culture and strong identity at Sporting Kansas City. He is seen by many as in a cluster of more experienced MLS coaches who could make the step up to the national team job. Vermes has criticized Jurgen Klinsmann at times, especially for the way he’s handled Sporting KC’s skipper Matt Besler, and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He has previously been involved with the U.S. as a U-20 coach but with SKC ticking along nicely but failing to truly compete for MLS Cup in each of the last three seasons since winning it in 2013, perhaps now is a good time for Vermes to step up and move on.

Sigi Schmid

Out of work following his firing from the Seattle Sounders, Schmid is a vastly experienced and respected coach in U.S. soccer circles. He has helped nurture so many talented young players from his days with UCLA and then with the U.S. youth national teams and as an assistant of the USMNT. The identity he built at the Seattle Sounders when they entered MLS in 2008 and over the past eight years is to be admired. Could he replicate that direct, incisive style with the U.S.?

Bob Bradley

There’s a sense that there’s unfinished business for Bradley and U.S. Soccer. The former has of course only just taken over at Swansea City in the Premier League but the New Jersey native is not happy with the way he and his coaching staff were treated back in 2011 when Gulati replaced them with Klinsmann and his staff. Many fans of USMNT are now hankering for a return to the Bradley era, one which almost delivered the Confederations Cup in 2009 and was steady and dependable. The USMNT is anything but that right now.

Jason Kreis

Again, another candidate who has just taken on a new job, Kreis will be busy trying to turn Orlando City into a force in Major League Soccer. An impressively calm individual who has past experience of shaping the entire philosophy and culture of a club when he started off the Real Salt Lake project. Kreis turned RSL into MLS Cup champs and their playing style was admired across North America. It didn’t work out for him at New York City FC for many reasons out of his control (DP players, lofty expectations from the hierarchy etc.) but he still has one of the most thoughtful soccer brains among American coaches. Maybe not his time yet, but in the future he’ll be in the discussion as long he can turn Orlando into a regular playoff contender in MLS.

Europa League field: Who can Chelsea, Arsenal draw?

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There are 32 teams left in the quest for two spots at the Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan, one of which will earn an automatic spot in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Europa League wrap ]

The intrigue in the field took a hit when Rangers and AC Milan failed to advance, meaning there will not be an Old Firm Derby or Milan Derby inside of UEL play.

And Maurizio Sarri‘s last two clubs, Napoli and Chelsea, are seeded for the Round of 32 draw, so they will not meet for at least one more round.

Both Chelsea and Arsenal can draw anyone from the group of unseeded teams, with no English teams in the field. Arsenal-Celtic? Chelsea-Lazio?

Seeded teams
Bayer Leverkusen
Red Bull Salzburg
Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Dinamo Zagreb
Arsenal
Real Betis
Villarreal
Eintracht Frankfurt
Genk
Sevilla
Dynamo Kiev
Chelsea
Napoli
Valencia
Inter Milan
Benfica

Unseeded teams
Zurich
Celtic
Slavia Prague
Fenerbahce
Sporting Lisbon
Olympiacos
Rapid Vienna
Lazio
Malmo
Krasnodar
Rennes
BATE Borisov
Viktoria Plzen
Club Brugge
Shakhtar Donetsk
Galatasaray

Emery praises Arsenal teen: “His personality is very important”

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Unai Emery played the kids in Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Qarabag on Thursday at the Emirates Stadium, as the Gunners claimed the top spot in their group.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 1-0 Qarabag ]

Bukayo Saka, Carl JenkinsonJoe WillockEddie Nketiah, and Zech Medley all got meaningful playing time for the Gunners, and Emery specifically liked Saka (17).

Emery, like Arsene Wenger, believes very much in getting experiencefor his kids.

From The London Evening Standard:

“We have a responsibility to every young player to give them chances to train with us,” Emery told Standard Sport. “We are very demanding of ourselves in his performance. We give them these chances in the games like today when we can do that. They show us positive things in every match.

“Today Saka played with a good performance, with a very big personality. We were speaking at half-time, they were trying one-on-one against the opposition. Not every action was good for us but his personality is very important, continuing in the second half to try to do one-on-ones and break lines with his quality.”

Will anyone have made enough of an impact to get some time in the Premier League? We’ll see, but remember that this Gunners system has sent Reiss Nelson on loan to Hoffenheim.

Also, to put this in perspective: Saka was born six days before Sept. 11, 2001. This class of youngster in the Arsenal system is coming, and coming fast.

Europa League roundup: Arsenal wins; Rangers, AC Milan bounced

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Twenty-four games in about four hours: It’s the Europa League group stage, and it’s reached its conclusion.

[ MORE: Mourinho: “Job done” in UCL ]

A very young Arsenal claimed its group, Celtic bunkered down but couldn’t advance to the knockout rounds, and rivals Rangers couldn’t quite find the offense needed to complete a promising UEL campaign.


Rapid Vienna 1-0 Rangers

Steven Gerrard‘s promising first European campaign as first team manager has ended thanks to a goal from sub Dejan Ljubicic in Austria. A very even game, Rangers could not find a way past Richard Strebinger.

Arsenal 1-0 Qarabag

Alexandre Lacazette‘s 17th minute goal gave the Gunners a leg up on the group lead in a game with a bunch of unusual faces on the pitch. Carl Jenkinson, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, and Saka Bukayo were among the starters, and Lacazette left for Zech Medley in the 63rd minute as Arsenal saved its best for a trip to Southampton on Sunday (No offense to Mesut Ozil and Laurent Koscielny, who went 90 minutes each).

MOL Vidi 2-2 Chelsea

We’ve already shown you Willian’s terrific free kick, and this match in Hungary was plenty entertaining for a relatively inconsequential outing. Ethan Ampadu scored an own goal two minutes after Chelsea took the lead, and MOL Vidi led 2-1 when Olivier Giroud restored the stalemate in the 75th.

Celtic 1-2 Red Bull Salzburg

The visitors dominated and finally found a way past goalkeeper Craig Gordon through a 67th Moanes Dabbur marker. Celtic went down two with Fredrik Gulbrandsen adding to the score line.

RB Leipzig 1-1 Rosenborg

Matheus Cunha’s goal just after halftime looked to have prodded RBL above Celtic and into the Round of 32, but Tore Reginiussen leveled for the Norwegian side.

Olympiacos 3-1 AC Milan

Gennaro Gattuso’s men are out of Europe after a four-goal second half.

Elsewhere
Villarreal 2-0 Spartak Moscow
Lazio 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Sevilla 3-0 Krasnodar
Marseille 1-3 Apollon Limassol
Rennes 2-0 Astana
PAOK 1-3 BATE Borisov
Genk 4-0 Sarpsborg
Dynamo Kiev 0-1 Jablonec
Besiktas 0-1 Malmo
Akhisar Belerdiyespor 0-0 Standard Liege
Slavia Prague 2-0 Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Copenhagen 0-1 Bordeaux
Dinamo Zagreb 0-0 Anderlecht
Sporting Lisbon 3-0 Vorskla Poltava
F91 Dudelange 0-0 Real Betis
Ludogorets Razgrad 1-1 FC Zurich
AEK Larnaca 1-5 Bayer Leverkusen
Spartak Trnava 1-0 Fenerbahce

FIFA won’t be bound by politics over sharing Qatar World Cup

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Political tensions won’t prevent FIFA from deciding whether to place some World Cup games outside Qatar, the head of world soccer’s governing body said Thursday.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino used a summit of soccer nations in Qatar to gather support for his mission to add 16 teams to the 2022 tournament – a move that would require the tiny, energy-rich nation sharing games in the region.

[ MORE: Gerrard proud of Rangers in exit ]

That would be complicated by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cutting ties with Qatar in 2017 in an ongoing political dispute that prevents flights between Doha and the boycotting countries.

Qatar won a vote in 2010 to host the World Cup with 32 teams and is only building eight stadiums. A 48-team tournament is already planned for 2026 in the United States, Canada and Mexico, but Infantino wants to fast-track that expansion and add 16 more games for the first World Cup in the Middle East.

“Is it feasible to do it only in Qatar? Difficult probably,” Infantino said. “Is it feasible to have a few games being played in neighboring countries? Well, maybe this is an option, of course.

“I’m not that naive not to know not to read the news and not to know what is going on. But now we are in football, we are not in politics, and in football, sometimes the dreams come true.”

Given 32 teams compete for the World Cup and there are 211 nations in FIFA, adding more slots in 2022 is likely to be embraced by the members given they have already approved expansion of the event beginning in 2026.

Infantino used a trip to Doha in October to ask the emir of Qatar if he would consider allowing matches to be shared with nations that are part of an economic and travel boycott against his country.

“If there is something that I could do which is good for football worldwide, then we should look at it,” Infantino said at a news conference in Doha before heading to Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup. “I have the chance and I’m lucky enough to be able to look into that without having to be bound by any political considerations, but looking at it from a purely sporting perspective.”

Infantino did use a speech to politicians at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina last month to discuss using the World Cup in 2022 to bring countries together by spreading games beyond Qatar.

The 2022 tournament is already being cramped into a 28-day window to minimize the disruption to top European leagues because it was moved from June and July to November and December due to the extreme heat.

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