Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

World Cup qualifiers: Injured USMNT up for fight?

4 Comments

Two of the USMNT’s best players have pulled out of the squad due to injury as the Yanks face two massive World Cup qualifiers in the next eight days.

Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson were injured in Bundesliga play this weekend, a rough start to the week for Bruce Arena as he prepares for a Friday home tilt with Honduras before a March 28 match at Panama.

Johnson was almost certainly going to play left mid or left wing for Arena, while Wood had a terrific chance to play alongside Jozy Altidore in a 4-4-2.

[ MORE: Wenger reportedly wants Arsenal stay ]

Throw in DeAndre Yedlin, and Arena’s not off to a flying start.

The U.S. is dead last in World Cup qualifying after beginning life in the Hex with a 2-1 home loss to Mexico — Wood scored the goal — and a 4-0 humiliation at Costa Rica.

Honduras beat perceived group minnow Trinidad and Tobago after a 1-0 loss at Panama. They also have good road acumen, losing 1-0 at full-strength Argentina and drawing at Mexico in a September WCQ.

Anyone who’s watched early season Houston Dynamo has seen the danger that lurks with Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto in attack, not to mention Anderlecht’s Andy Najar and Tenerife’s Anthony Lozano.

So how worried should U.S. supporters be?

Probably not too much.

[ MORE: Dempsey, Morris score for Seattle ]

Honduras is a good CONCACAF side, to be sure, but the USMNT should operate beyond injury concerns when it comes to Los Catrachos.

The Yanks beat Honduras 2-1 the last time they met, a July 2015 Gold Cup match. That was a lineup that had Ventura Alvarado next to Timmy Chandler, Kyle Beckerman at holding mid, and Gyasi Zardes at left mid. Yeah, seriously. And they won.

Before that it was a 1-1 draw in Florida, and a 3-1 win in the 2014 Gold Cup semi.

Plus, the Yanks were without Geoff Cameron, Clint Dempsey, and Tim Howard in the last round of qualifiers. If that wasn’t enough for Jurgen Klinsmann to keep his job a few more months, than day-saving Arena can’t be excused for not having two wide men and a striker.

Here’s a lineup Arena can use (although his decision not to call in Timmy Chandler because of a one-match suspension is a bit baffling. Will the Bundesliga left wingback get a call for Panama?).

Howard

Zusi — Cameron — Brooks — Beasley

Bradley

Nagbe — Bedoya

Pulisic

Altidore — Dempsey

versus

Quioto — Lozano — Elis

Najar — Boniek Garcia

Espinoza

Izaguierre — Figueroa — Figueroa — Beckeles

Escober

Reports: Alli unlikely to play in England’s second Group G match

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Leave a comment

The Three Lions may not have taken all good news away from the team’s 2-1 win over Tunisia in their World Cup opener.

[ MORE: Russia races past Egypt, likely en route to next round ]

Several reports are suggesting that England will likely be without Tottenham playmaker Dele Alli in their second Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

Alli was forced out of England’s opener with a thigh strain, which gave manager Gareth Southgate the decision to put in Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There isn’t a timetable for the 22-year-old’s return to the pitch, but his absence will definitely present a major question for Southgate heading into the rest of group play.

Without Alli in the starting XI, it’ll likely be between Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard to fill the role where Alli normally sits.

In the case of Lingard, who started against Tunisia, the England boss would have to bring in another starter if Southgate opts to have the Red Devils attacker sit in as the number 10.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
Leave a comment

Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

whufc.com
Leave a comment

West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”