Jose Villarreal

Jurgen Klinsmann struggling to get USMNT players released for Olympic qualifying

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Don’t look now, but the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship is just over a month away from kicking off, and Jurgen Klinsmann is beginning to worry about which key players will and won’t be available for the start of the United States U-23 team’s qualifying campaign.

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While Klinsmann won’t be coaching the U-23 squad himself (he’ll be busy with the senior team in their Confederations Cup playoff against Mexico on Oct. 10), Klinsmann’s role as technical director and overseer of the entire U.S. Soccer program makes him the one responsible for liaising with the involved players’ club sides.

In a video released by USSoccer.com on Monday (above video), Klinsmann explains the intricacies — and difficulties — of getting the club teams of that many quality players to release their prized possessions for international duty when they don’t necessarily have to do so.

“We need help from the clubs overseas, we need help from the clubs here in MLS, in order to get the players released, especially [since] the Olympic qualifiers start outside of the release dates, so we badly need those players in order to qualify for Rio de Janeiro. Hopefully we get the support by all the clubs to get the players in.”

The tournament is scheduled to begin Thursday, Oct. 1, when the Yanks will face Canada at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., and that’s a problem, because the international window for early October doesn’t begin until Monday, Oct. 5. The US U-23 squad will play its three games in Group A on Oct. 1, 3 and 6. Two teams advance from each four-team group. The two semifinals winners advance to the final and automatically qualify for the 2016 Olympics.

Regarding players likely to be called up to the Olympic qualifying team, the following players’ club teams have league games that will conflict with Klinsmann’s request to release them for the start of the tournament:

  • Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC — Saturday, Oct. 3, vs. New York Red Bulls
  • Rubio Rubin, FC Utrecht — Oct. 3, vs. Excelsior
  • Matt Miazga, New York Red Bulls — Oct. 3, vs. Columbus Crew SC
  • Gedion Zelalem, Rangers (on loan) — Oct. 3, vs. Falkirk
  • Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas — Oct. 4, vs. Houston Dynamo
  • Tommy Thompson, San Jose Earthquakes — Oct. 4, vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
  • Luis Gil, Real Salt Lake — Sunday, Oct. 4, vs. Colorado Rapids
  • Jose Villarreal, LA Galaxy — Oct. 4, vs. Seattle Sounders
  • Dillon Serna, Colorado Rapids — Oct. 4, vs. Real Salt Lake
  • Fatai Alashe, San Jose Earthquakes — Oct. 4, vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
  • Tyler Turner, Orlando City SC — Oct. 3, vs. Montreal Imapct
  • Christian Dean, Vancouver Whitecaps — Oct. 3, vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Key players perhaps unaffected due to their various club situations:

  • Emerson Hyndman, Fulham — currently playing for U-21 side
  • Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tottenham Hotspur — currently playing for U-21 side
  • Paul Arriola, Club Tijuana — currently a bench player

October is just about worst time of the calendar year for the Americans in which CONCACAF could have planned to stage this tournament, from a player availability standpoint — MLS’s 2015 regular season will be winding down at that time with the season’s final matchday taking place Oct. 25.

Perhaps breaking apart the “tournament” and spreading it out over the September and October international dates would have better suited Klinsmann and the US U-23 team, but contrary to popular belief, CONCACAF doesn’t exist simply to cater to the US and Mexican federations on any and all matters.

Qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio is by no means a foregone conclusion for the American men (remember the 2012 qualifying debacle?), and potentially being forced to begin their quest without a number of their best players will only make it more of a challenge and require the group’s depth to exceed expectations.

MLS Snapshot: New England Revolution 2-2 LA Galaxy

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One game in 100 words: The action-packed first half was no model for the future. Both teams begun an offensive onslaught that had the score tied, 2-2, at the halftime whistle. The pace slowed later on in the drenched, rainy conditions at Gillette Stadium. Although the Galaxy were without Irish international Robbie Keane supplying first-rate experience and quality up front, the goals were present to offer a winnable game for LA, with rookie Ignacio Maganto stepping up and Zardes applying the opportunistic striker’s touch. New England were missing vital players–Lee Nguyen, Chris Tierney and Jermaine Jones (left this game injured)–but in the end still find themselves slotted at second place in the Eastern Conference. LA stands at fifth place in the West.

 

Goals

New England: Teal Bunbury 5′, Diego Fagundez 37′

Los Angeles: Ignacio Maganto 18′ ,Gyasi Zardes 27′

 

Three moments that mattered

5’ — Bunbury ready at the back post — Recent USMNT call-up Juan Agudelo drilled a spinning through ball to midfielder Scott Caldwell on the left side of the box, and he consequently knocked a pass to the opposite post as Teal Bunbury rushed to meet it with his right foot. LA goalie Jamie Penedo dove hard to the ground, but Bunbury elevated his shot just enough for the goal. The Revs were off and running.

27’ — Zardes pulls Galaxy ahead —  Ignacio Maganto, haven pinpointed a lobbed pass to Jose Villarreal, his back to the goal, and the Galaxy youth product flicked a exceptional back heel to Gyasi Zardes running into the box on goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth’s right. Kevin Alston slid to the turf aiming to block the impeding attempt, but Zardes hit it at the perfect time to beat Shuttleworth in the lower corner.

37’ — Fagundez levels it — The Revolution had confidence in their homegrown star to confidently rifle in this one, and Diego Fagundez met these expectations wonderfully. Off a set piece located on the outskirts of the penalty area, the Massachusetts native struck a curving try that bent downward and into the back of the net. Penedo’s side-to-side run wasn’t quick enough and the Galaxy had relinquished their advantage already.

 

Lineups

New England: Charlie Davies (Kelyn Rowe 69′); Bobby Shuttleworth; London Woodberry, Andrew Farrell, Jose Goncalves, Kevin Alston; Scott Caldwell, Jermaine Jones (Andy Dorman 35′), Teal Bunbury, Diego Fagundez (Daigo Kobayashi 77′), Juan Agudelo

LA: Gyasi Zardes, Jose Villarreal (Alan Gordon 28′–Edson Buddle 69′); Jaime Penedo; Dan Gargan (Mika Vayrynen 65′), Omar Gonzalez, Leonardo, Oscar Sorto; Stefan Ishizaki, Juninho, Baggio Husidic, Ignacio Maganto

MLS Snapshot: LA Galaxy 2-0 Chicago Fire

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One game in 100 words (or less): It was not the most exciting season opener if you’re looking for a hard-fought shootout. From a statistical perspective, the Galaxy held the majority of possession (53 percent) and tallied four more shots on target than Chicago did. LA took control of midfield and Chicago’s offensive newcomers appeared useless. But really, the downfall for the Fire hinged on the squad’s weak defense, noticeable on the first goal to Villarreal, which should been a fairly standard clearance. Managing a goalless draw would have been the best case scenario for Frank Yallop’s side, as the Fire will pray this performance won’t signify a familiar narrative in 2015.

Goals

LA Galaxy: Villarreal 65’, Keane 81’

Chicago Fire: None

Three moments that mattered

42’ — Zardes misses on the doorstep — The other best chance of the game beside the lone score of the night was Gyasi Zardes’ wonderful opportunity to grab the first-half lead. Stephan Ishizaki sprinted to the endline and zipped a low cross toward the penalty area, intended for Robbie Keane, who made a crafty flick across the face of the net to put the ball out in front of Zardes. The Homegrown standout slid to the goal line but could not bury it.

65’ — Young Villarreal pounces on Fire mishap— Ishizaki had made his presence felt all night, though in this instance, his cross into the penalty area from far outside the box was certainly clearable. Chicago defenders stood still, and Jeff Larentowicz essentially fed Jose Villarreal the ball in open space and primed the 21-year-old for a low finish. With the departure of Landon Donovan, the Galaxy faithful will hope Villarreal is merely getting warmed up for a breakout campaign.

81’ — Keane ices it — Reigning MLS MVP Robbie Keane always positions himself exceptionally to nab the score, and that’s why, regardless of age, the Irishman is usually the most dangerous player on the pitch in MLS competition. Omar Gonzalez identified a gap in the Fire’s backline prior to sending a looping cross for Husidic, and the Bosnian’s aerial deflection set up Keane for a blasted right-footed volley.

Lineups

Los Angeles: Brian Rowe; Dan Gargan (A.J. DeLaGarza 83′), Omar Gonzalez, Leonardo, Robbie Rogers; Stefan Ishizaki, Juninho, Kenney Walker (Baggio Husidic 63’), Jose Villarreal (Alan Gordon 70’); Robbie Keane, Gyasi Zardes

Chicago: Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz, Eric Gehrig, Joevin Jones; Chris Ritter (Matt Polster 63’), Matt Watson (Michael Stephens 56’), Harrison Shipp, Shaun Maloney; Quincy Amarikwa, Kennedy Igboananike (Guly 72’)

Rafael Baca, José Villarreal sent to Cruz Azul’s B-team in Mexico’s second division

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Two months after being part of Cruz Azul’s winter raid on Major League Soccer, both Rafael Baca and José Villarreal find themselves in the Mexican second division, with the Mexico City-based club announcing the players have been sent to Cruz Azul Hidalgo – the club’s B-team which plays in the Liga de Ascenso.

Michael Farfan, who moved from the Philadelphia Union to Cruz Azul this December, will stay with the parent club, but for Baca and Villarreal, the reassignment becomes a setback. The Mexican-born Baca, who spent the last three seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes, was a starter in Major League Soccer before making the move to Mexico. The 20-year-old Villarreal, a product of LA Galaxy’s academy, made 22 appearances last season before going on loan to La Machina.

Through the first seven games of Cruz Azul’s Clausura season, none of Baca, Farfan, or Villarreal have made an appearance, with only Baca having dressed for Luis Fernando Tena’s squad. According to the club’s website, Baca and Villarreal make the move to the second division team in an attempt to help their adaptation process, with Cruz Azul hoping time training with Hidalgo coach Joaquín Moreno will improve each player’s “footballing rhythm.”

Undoubtedly, neither player moved south to play in the second tier, but for Baca, the move to Liga MX may have been motivated by more than competitive reasons. Moving south not only allowed him to return to the country of his birth but likely represented a financial decision. The 24-year-old made only $49,500 last year while starting 28 games for San Jose.

For Villarreal, a return to Los Angeles looks more likely by the day. Cruz Azul has an option to buy the U.S. U-20 international, which casts his move to the second-tier in a different light, but whereas once La Machina were once having Villarreal train with the A-team (and appear with the club’s U-20s), the Galaxy attacker has now, perhaps temporarily, been deemed more of a Hidalgo-level talent.

Cruz Azul dips into MLS, signs Baca, Farfan, Villarreal

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Cruz Azul, with what the club itself called a surprise set of signings, has turned to Major League Soccer for three new players, a shock triple swoop la Machina hopes will help them compete for the upcoming Clausura’s crown. In San Jose’s Rafael Baca, Philadelphia’s Michael Farfan, and Los Angeles’s Jose Villarreal, the Mexico City club are getting three players capable of starting in Major League Soccer, signings  that will raise a number of eyebrows north of the border.

As of Sunday, none of the players’ Major League Soccer teams had confirmed the news, with San Jose going so far as to tell multiple outlets that Baca remains under contract for 2014. Adam Serrano, who covers the LA Galaxy for LAGalaxy.com, reports that Villarreal’s move iss a year-long loan with an option to buy, raising the possibility that all three players could be on similar deals. But with (bizarrely) the league’s official web site unable to get its clubs’ representatives to confirm the moves, we’re still in the dark as to if, how, and why three Major League Soccer players landed with Cruz Azul.

On Sunday, the trio were unveiled along with Marco Fabian, Fausto Pinto, Xavi Báez – Cruz Azul’s other additions to a team that finished fourth in the Apertura’s qualification stage. In the Liguilla, the team was seen out of the tournament by fifth seeded Toluca, with the club website acknowledging they need to “reinforce many parts of the team” if they’re to improve on their fall result.

Baca just completed his third season with the Earthquakes, starting 28 games and recording two assists. A linchpin along side Sam Cronin in San Jose’s midfield, Baca had made 79 appearances since debuting for the team in 2011, scoring twice while assisting on nine goals.

Michael Farfan broke out as Philadelphia’s playmaker in 2012 and was selected to the All-Star Team but never found a groove in his first full last year under John Hackworth. The 25-year-old, also having completed his third season in Major League Soccer, had four goals and nine assists  in 82 games.

Villarreal is a homegrown player for Los Angeles who has also appeared for the United States’ U-18, U-20, and U-23 national teams. The 20-year-old debuted for the Galaxy in 2012 and has made 13 appearances, scoring two career goals.

 

The trio’s debut with their new club could come as early as Jan. 4, with Cruz Azul opening the 2015 Clausura at CONCACAF champions Monterrey. By then, we should know something about how the players ended up in Mexico. Still, with their new team having unveiled the players at a Sunday press conference, it’s truly bizarre that the league’s own machinery can’t get somebody to confirm the moves.

Rumors about Cruz Azul’s potential swoop have been circulating since last week, but without announcements from the league, the whys and hows of La Machina’s signings remain a mystery, even though the club unveiled their new players on Sunday. Whether these are outright sales or temporary loans remain to be seen.

Perhaps the only certainty beyond the trio having signed contracts in Mexico: Cruz Azul have certainly “surprised” MLS followers with their triple swoop.