Fabian Johnson’s injury reminds us: lots of moving parts around U.S. national team top lineup


We know that Tim Howard will be in goal as the United States lines up this June in Brazil.

We know Michael Bradley will supply the midfield brain, organizing the center, filling gaps with prudence and connecting the lines sensibly, as he always does.

With a bit less certainty, we think Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are first choices at center back.

Past any of that, when it comes to the U.S. national team’s top lineup for World Cup Brazil 2014, it’s all a bit of a stew-in-progress, isn’t it? Jurgen Klinsmann has plenty of chopped fresh vegetables, spices and meats on hand, so to speak, but hasn’t quite settled on the final recipe.

(MORE: Fabian Johnson suffers weekend injury)

Fabian Johnson’s injury over the weekend truly drives that point home. There are, and will continue to be, plenty of moving parts as Klinsmann puts the pieces together. And that’s without any further, destabilizing elements being introduced, like another injury or confidence sinkholes (like the one that Jozy Altidore seems to have stepped into.)

Let’s just take a quick look at some connected parts, how Johnson’s injury could shape or shake-up the order:

  • DaMarcus Beasley’s performance at left back has made him the top U.S. pick at that spot. That left Johnson has the United States’ best alternative at left midfield, or quite close to it.
  • With Johnson ably manning the left, Landon Donovan would be free to play on the right, or even centrally if Clint Dempsey can’t get his game pointed in the right direction. Now all of that is in question.
  • If Donovan plays on the left, that makes a starting spot more likely for Graham Zusi on the right.
  • Or, could we see a return to the left side for Dempsey, where he played so often through the Premier League years? It’s a fairly attack-minded position in Klinsmann’s preferred formation, a modified 4-3-3, so it’s hardly a stretch for the Seattle Sounders DP.
  • If Johnson isn’t available or in form, the chances that Brek Shea lands a roster spot would seem to increase, assuming he can keep logging minutes in England. Somewhere. (Which is why he needs to stick around Barnsley a little longer, as we suggested the other day.)
  • If Johnson is available, that even gives Klinsmann the option of playing the Bundesliga man on the left, deploying Dempsey as the most highly positioned forward – not his ideal spot, but it might be the best option by June – with Donovan tucked in behind. The odds for this one aren’t strong, but it’s not that far-fetched either.

These are just the moving parts connected someone with one man, Fabian Johnson.

The ongoing instability at right back, the expanding choices at striker, the lack of a natural left back, the form of Dempsey and Altidore all come with their own implications and ramifications. And that’s without factoring in further injury; and you can almost bet we’ll have some of that.

See … lots of moving parts.

David Beckham to appear on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

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Major League Soccer stands to land a small side dish of mainstream media love as David Beckham appears on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon later this week.

In fact, global soccer’s most iconic star – no, we won’t call him so forever, but until someone wrestles that moniker from him, it belongs to Beckham –will appear Friday on Fallon’s last show before the Super Bowl. So, the famous “football” man will be on before our country’s annual, ultimate American football game. There’s some morsel of irony in there, no?

Fallon, of course, will soon inherit the fabled lead chair of The Tonight Show.

As for this week’s appearance on Late Night, expect a lot of underwear talk. Yes, underwear talk.

That’s because Beckham, who counts H&M underwear among his endorsement portfolio, has a Super Bowl commercial set for Sunday … a fairly revealing commercial that is tied into a bit of a tricked up social media gambit. (See lots of Beckham uncovered below.)

But surely they’ll mention Beckham’s ongoing efforts to secure that Major League Soccer franchise in Miami, so MLS is likely to be part of the conversation.



Learning a few things about Toronto FC, MLS contracts and big-deal architect Tim Leiweke


The Toronto Star’s opus on the Canadian club’s pursuit and acquisition of England international Jermain Defoe is chalk full of great, juicy details.

Word of warning: it is a leeeengthy piece. But if you’ve got a few minutes, and if you’re into the nitty-gritty of MLS, it’s worth the read.

The connecting thread of the piece is Tim Leiweke’s aggressive makeover and efforts to get this wandering club back on the trail.

But anyone who knows much about MLS understands what Leiweke can do; he was the architect behind the single most significant MLS personnel move in league history, the David Beckham snatch. So the real juice in the Star’s piece is found in all the smaller bits.

Not all of the great details we learn are necessarily about Toronto. For instance:

  • The LA Galaxy’s pursuit of Frank Lampard was never a huge secret. But we know a little more now, as Leiweke (or someone with the club or with MLS) apparently revealed the that the Chelsea veteran’s MLS rights belong to the LA Galaxy. (It would apparently be on a “discovery,” which is really just a technical point – but it’s still kind of amusing the think of the longtime England international as being “discovered” by anyone.)
  • Encouraging everyone around the club to “think big,” Leiweke approached Toronto manager Ryan Nelsen for high caliber internationals to pursue. Nelsen handed over his wish list of 100, which was soon filtered down to 10.
  • If it wasn’t going to be Defoe to lead the TFC strike force, it was going to be Italian international Alberto Gilardino, who has 57 caps for his highly successful country.
  • Signing Defoe required nine separate contracts. Nine! Who knew?

There’s more in the article. That’s really just a teaser. It is great reporting.

Sprucing up Crew Stadium with a new video board


The thing to keep in mind about Crew Stadium in Ohio is this: It was the first large-scale, professional soccer stadium constructed. (I have long pretty much avoided the clumsy ol’ “soccer specific” stadium moniker.)

It’s almost 15 years old now, which is about half the shelf life of modern athletic facilities. We can debate about whether that’s good or bad or sustainable or whatever, but that’s the way it is right now.

So Crew Stadium, built on a budget anyway – completely understandable considering it as a complete leap-of-faith venture from Lamar Hunt all along – is bound to be showing its age in some spots. One of those “age spots” was seen in embarrassingly stark detail last year when the facility’s video board caught fire before a match.

Clearly, that’s a bad night.

Well, no more of that! In addition to keeping the fans safe from exploding display boards, the announcement of a new video board around Crew Stadium will help spruce up the Major League Soccer team’s facility.

Here’s a picture of the new board, courtesy of the team.



Oguchi Onyewu scores a big goal for Sheffield Wednesday

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We’ve got a bit of a “good luck, bad luck” thing going for former American international Oguchi Onyewu.

Onyewu, still holding out some hope for catching Jurgen Klinsmann’s eye ahead of this summer’s World Cup, scored big huge goal for his new club.

Just getting  on the field is news for the big center back, who didn’t play a single minute for Queens Park Rangers before moving in the January window. His goal Saturday for 10-man Sheffield Wednesday (this was Onyewu’s second appearance for the club where U.S. Soccer hero John Harkes first made his European bones) helped put the club into the FA Cup’s fifth round in a 2-1 win over League Two Rochdale.

Clearly, that’s the good part.

The unfortunate part is the timing of what happened next. A big game from the club’s new January acquisition may have been a bigger talker around the club but for some news that dropped just after the match. The club officially named Stuart Gray head coach, giving him a two-and-a-half year deal. He had been named interim manager on Dec. 1.