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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.

Cruzeiro relegated from Brazilian top flight for first time

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Brazilian side Cruzeiro was relegated from the top flight for the first time in the club’s 98-year history following a 2-0 defeat to Palmeiras on the final day of the season.

Cruzeiro required victory and a loss by Ceara at Botafogo to stay safely in the Brazilian Serie A, but neither came to pass.

Palmeiras midfielder Ze Rafael scored in the 58th minute to send the visitors on their way, with fellow midfielder Dudu finished things off in the 84th minute. Referees ushered the players off the field immediately after the conclusion of the match as Cruzeiro fans rioted in the Mineirao stadium, ripping out seats, setting off smoke bombs, and clashing with police.

Cruzeiro finished 17th in the 20-team table, three points back of Ceara in 16th. In the Brazilian top flight, the bottom four teams are relegated. CSA, Chapecoense, and Avai were also relegated. Cruzeiro had won the Brazilian Serie A as recently as 2013 and 2014, winning four titles in its history. They also have six Copa do Brasil titles, most recently winning the league cup in 2017 and 2018.

Flamengo ran away with the championship, finishing on 90 points, 16 points clear of second-placed Santos and third-placed Palmeiras who both finished level on 74 points. Palmeiras had challenged for the title, but fell off at the end of the season with a five-match winless run through November.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United v. Arsenal

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Two struggling London sides meet Monday when West Ham United hosts Arsenal (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The sides might’ve expected they’d be within close proximity at this point on the fixture list, but two wildly disappointing seasons means the three points between the Gunners and Irons comes with the former in 11th and the latter 16th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s been nine matches since Arsenal beat someone, 11 since it happened in the Premier League. West Ham hasn’t been much better, winning once in its last 10.

Freddie Ljungberg has yet to win as Arsenal interim boss, while West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini could see his current stint in London end without more results like the Nov. 30 win at Chelsea.

Monday versus Arsenal would qualify.


Injuries/suspensions

West Ham United: OUT —  Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid. QUESTIONABLE — Michail Antonio.

Arsenal: OUT — Dani Ceballos. QUESTIONABLE — Rob Holding.


Probable lineups

West Ham United: Martin; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks; Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.

Arsenal: Leno; Kolasinac, Sokratis, Luiz, Bellerin, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s Antonio sees an opportunity: “The only three teams that are really performing are Liverpool, Leicester and Man City. Everyone else is getting beaten, and it means we’ve had a missed opportunity so far this season. We started the season off brightly, the best start we’ve had for four years, but then we’ve had a slump. Everyone’s having a slump and this is our slump. Now it’s time for us to start turning up. We’ve been in this situation before and we know how to dig in and pull ourselves up again.”

Arsenal’s Ljungberg on setting targets: “I don’t think we should stop talking about the top four, but for us it’s about concentrating on what we’re doing here now and not look up, down, sideways. We just need to work on our own game and our own confidence.”


Prediction

Really, you wouldn’t want to predict anything from these sides right now besides goals. We’ll give an edge in desperation to the hosts and a 2-2 draw.

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

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Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

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Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.