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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.

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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.

How will USMNT line up versus Costa Rica?

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Saturday brings a first look at the United States men’s national team in 2020, though Gregg Berhalter’s bunch won’t look anything like its best self.

The Yanks have an almost exclusively MLS roster for the match, with Hobro’s Christian Cappas, Wolfsburg II’s Uly Llanez and unattached 17-year-old Bryang Kayo in the fold.

Many of Berhalter’s best MLS stars won’t be in Carson either for the 3:55 p.m. ET Saturday kickoff. Jordan Morris, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley are the biggest names.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Ronald Gonzalez’s Ticos will be similarly hampered, although more of Costa Rica’s A-side play in MLS and domestically.

We’ll leave the breakdown of the visitors for a later date, but who will rep the U.S. in Saturday’s Starting XI?

The travel roster includes keepers Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid, and Matt Turner, as well as defenders Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, Reggie Cannon, Julian Araujo, Chase Gasper, Justen Glad, Mark McKenzie, and Sam Vines. Listed midfielders Sebastian Lletget, Jackson Yueill, Brenden Aaronson, Cappis, Kayo, and Brandon Servania are joined by forwards Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola, Jonathan Lewis, Jesus Ferreira, and Ulysses Llanez.

Goalkeeper is anyone’s guess, but Johnson’s got the most run of the three during the Berhalter era. The younger Turner or more accomplished Hamid may step in there.

It would be surprising to see any other center backs besides Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long given what we know of Berhalter and his respect for regulars. Reggie Cannon should start at right back and it’s between Chase Gasper and Sam Vines for the left. We’ll choose Vines out of intrigue.

Jackson Yueill, Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, and Gyasi Zardes are safe bets to start, and this would seem a spot to give Jonathan Lewis more than subs’ run. That leaves one spot, and we’re pegging Brandon Servania to be the one chosen of four midfielders aged 17-20.

There’s also the matter of whether FC Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira will be internationally cleared to play Saturday. We sure hope he will be!

How do you think Berhalter will line them up?


How Berhalter may go

Johnson

Cannon — Zimmerman — Long — Vines

Yueill — Servania

Arriola — Lletget — Lewis

Zardes


What we’d like to see

Turner

Cannon — Zimmerman — McKenzie — Vines

Yueill — Cappis — Servania

Arriola — Ferreira — Lewis

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Report: Sheffield United in ‘advanced talks’ for $22M Norway star

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Sheffield United is ready to add one of the game’s brightest young talents to its blossoming Premier League side.

Norway midfielder Sander Berge is the name, and he’s been linked with Liverpool amongst others over the past few months.

Berge turns 22 next month and already has 20 caps for Norway in addition to 113 senior appearances for Genk in Belgium and 43 more for Valerenga in his home country.

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The defensive midfielder has chipped in six goals and four assists. He won the Belgian Super League with Genk last year and has a career-best four goals so this season.

It shows what success brings to a club, as Sky Sports reports that Berge turned down a move to Bramall Lane in the summer.

The fee is said to be $22 million, which isn’t small but completely reasonable given his stature for club and country.

This may move may join the Lys Mousset purchase as one of the Blades’ smartest bits of business, especially as Chris Wilder‘s men look for success on multiple fronts. Their success as a newly-promoted side is one of the great stories of the European season, and a place in Europe would be a fantastic achievement.

From The Yorkshire Post:

“It is going well, no doubt about it,” Wilder said. “On the Premier League front and in the Cup. You probably would not think it, but the win at Millwall has given me an enormous amount of pleasure in confirming, not even seeing, what my team is about. Players have come in with the likes of the skipper (Billy Sharp) and other players who are really driving it forward and want to produce individual performances and the atmosphere is good.”

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Espanyol identify 12 fans who racially insulted player

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BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish club Espanyol says it has identified 12 fans who racially insulted an Athletic Bilbao player in the Spanish league last weekend.

Espanyol said on Monday in a statement that nine of the fans were club members and would face punishment that could include suspension or a full-time ban.

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It said a report of its analysis of the video images of Saturday’s game at RCDE Stadium were sent to authorities.

The club reiterated its “categorical condemnation of any displays of violence and racism.”

The fans made monkey noises directed at Athletic forward Inaki Williams, who is black. Television images showed Williams confronting the section of Espanyol fans who taunted him after he was substituted late in the game in Barcelona.

The Spanish league said it will seek a partial stadium closure for Espanyol and will raise the incident with the Spanish soccer federation’s competition committee, which handles disciplinary issues.

Transfer rumors: West Ham want $44M midfielder, Barca eyes Rodrigo

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West Ham United is being linked with a big transfer splash, and it’s not even a striker.

Uruguayan midfielder Nahitan Nandez is the man in question, and West Ham is reportedly tempting Cagliari with a $44 million offer this January.

Nandez, 23, arrived from Boca Juniors for less than half that fee this summer, and has chipped in a goal with three assists for Tommaso Giulini’s sixth-place Serie A side.

He’s got 31 caps for his national team, and is averaging 1.5 tackles per match with Cagliari. Nandez is also averaging a key pass and 1.1 successful dribbles per league outing.

Football-Italia says that Cagliari will try to tie Nandez to a new deal with a $44 million release clause if the move to West Ham is unsuccessful.

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Meanwhile Barcelona’s pursuit of a Luis Suarez replacement isn’t limited to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, according to Marca.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu admits that Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno is interesting his coaches.

“We don’t talk about players from other teams. But [Rodrigo’s] name is on the table of the coaches, and a replacement will arrive. I do not know whether it will be from Barcelona B or from outside. I like many players.”

The Spaniard has eight goals in 21 caps, and turns 29 in March. Rodrigo has four goals and 10 assists in 23 matches across all competitions this season.

Valencia beat Barcelona this weekend to send the Blaugranas three points back of La Liga leaders Real Madrid.