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Top Free Agents Available for MLS clubs

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We’re three weeks into the season and MLS teams can now take stock in what they have, and what they’re missing.

Thanks to the demise of the North American Soccer League as well as the increased allocation money available to MLS clubs, there are a whole host of MLS-level players who have suddenly found themselves unemployed as we get towards the end of March. Some of these names could very well impact MLS clubs, if not at the very least provide depth.

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Let’s take a look at some of the available players who are waiting for a call, in no particular order:


Jermaine Jones

A lightning rod for his play on the field and comments off it, Jermaine Jones is a former UEFA Champions League player with many years of U.S. Men’s National Team experience.

It’s kind of shocking that he hasn’t landed with a club, though part of that could be because the LA Galaxy were ready to move on, his outspoken nature, and the fact that he’d like to stay with his family in Los Angeles.

However, if LAFC or the Galaxy change their mind, or Jones agrees to move to another market, he could absolutely add value in a team’s midfield, either as a starter or a spot starter.


Jacob Peterson

After a stellar goal-scoring college career at Indiana, Peterson developed into the kind of hard-working, hard-running forward that is perfect in Peter Vermes’ system in Kansas City. While he didn’t always light up the scoresheet, Peterson was always there to provide defensive pressure to opposing backlines, run the channels to open up space for his teammates, and score a few goals himself.

The 32-year-old scored six goals in 21 appearances for Atlanta United last season and could absolutely be a strong option for a club off the bench.


Chance Myers

Peterson’s former teammate at SKC, Myers has never fully found his pre-injury form since he tore his Achilles’s tendon in 2014. The speedy right back made just one appearance for Portland – playing behind the terrific Alvas Powell in 2017, but if he’s finally overcome some of the injury problems, he provides a really experienced, well-tested defender to any club in need of some back line experience.


Simon Dawkins

Dawkins second spell with the Earthquakes didn’t go as well as his first. After spending a pair of seasons with Derby County in the Championship, Dawkins returned to San Jose in 2016 on a Designated Player contract but managed just five goals and two assists over two seasons, with no goals or assists in 2017. If Dawkins is willing to take a pay cut, he’d be a great speedy asset for a team struggling to create offense.


Gideon Baah

The 26-year-old centerback never worked out in two injury-plagued seasons with the New York Red Bulls. Baah was in preseason training with the LA Galaxy but wasn’t offered a contract. If he’s over his injury troubles, an MLS team can do worse than a player capped for Ghana and still in his prime.


Kevin Alston

A former first overall selection who has been called up to multiple January USMNT camps, Alston has been through a lot during his playing career. He’s suffered plenty of muscle injuries but the toughest was when he was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia, a rare but treatable form of leukemia. Thankfully, Alston recovered and spent the last two seasons with Orlando City, mainly playing for Orlando City B in 2017. If given a chance, Alston provides a very experienced mind as an outside back, and could provide plenty of guidance to a team filled with young players for a season or two.


Bobby Burling

The veteran centerback had his option declined at the end of the 2017 season with the Colorado Rapids but he was part of the Rapids side that defended its way to second in the table. While injuries have shortened his career, Burling could be a solid depth signing for a club in need of a hulking centerback.


Patrick Nyarko

The speedy winger had a rough 2017 after a strong 2016 in the red and black of D.C. United, and was let go at the end of the season. Though he’s now 32-years old, Nyarko can still provide a spark from the wing and change the game off the bench. His goal record and assist record doesn’t lie, with 24 goals and 49 assists in 236 career regular season matches.


Josh Gatt

It appears that the injuries may have finally caught up to Josh Gatt. The former high school prodigy who signed with SC Rheindorf Altach (over a commitment to Indiana University) as an 18-year-old, suffered three successive torn ACLs during his time with Molde. Gatt made his way back to the U.S. and featured for both Minnesota United and the Colorado Rapids, failing to make a difference for either club.

Perhaps the expectations were too high, but if his knee is feeling good, Gatt can provide the kind of game-changing speed that teams desire. Hopefully he can get one last shot.


Danny Szetela

Szetela has enjoyed a brilliant last few years with the New York Cosmos, but with the Cosmos not playing professional soccer in 2018, Szetela should have been a candidate for any club looking for a solid central midfielder. The former U.S. international can still raise his game to the MLS level, and his calmness under pressure will help any club should they pick him up.

Klinsmann talks USMNT player form, laments Gyau, Boyd, Gatt injuries

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As we wait for Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster call-ups for this month’s World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala, the USMNT boss has given us a few names — albeit mostly obvious ones — in an interview on USSoccer.com.

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Klinsmann says injured striker Jozy Altidore is coming with the team, while implying that usual obvious choices Brad Guzan, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson and John Brooks will join red-hot Bobby Wood on the squad.

He also mentions players we haven’t seen in a while — or at all — as on his radar despite long-term injuries.

From USSoccer.com:

“We have players that are injured a bit longer than we thought. We feel for them, but we are also waiting for them, players like Terrence Boyd, like Joe Gyau, like Josh Gatt, or even Aron Johannsson out for a couple months. These players are not forgotten. They play a wider role in building our group, our core, for 2018 in Russia. So hopefully they get back on track as quickly as possible. But in the short run, like a hamstring with Jozy, we will manage it, we will make the best out of it, but it has an effect on the roster. There’s no doubt about it.”

To be fair to Klinsmann, that’s a good portion of an entire generation of potentially-impactful U.S. attackers there. Molde winger Gatt is back running after a third knee surgery in September, while the promising Gyau hasn’t played for the U.S. since tearing a meniscus against Ecuador in October 2014. Boyd had a small setback in his recovery when he had a cyst removed from his knee last month.

Wins in both matches will assure the States a spot in the Hex, which begins in November and will include six CONCACAF sides battling for three automatic berths in the 2018 World Cup (plus one inter-continental playoff berth versus Asia’s fifth-place side).

[ MORE: Fellaini defends himself against “thug” label ]

The U.S. is level on points with Trinidad and Tobago but leading on goal differential after a win against St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and a draw with T&T. Those latter two will play twice in the same window, and T&T will be expected to win both.

The States beat and drew Guatemala in the third round of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, but needed to sweat out the round after entering the final match day with advancement in question. Klinsmann knows the challenge ahead in Guatemala City (March 25) before the home leg in Columbus four days later.

Gold Cup success expected, balanced U.S. squad set to shine

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Okay Jurgen, we salute you.

This Gold Cup roster is everything you promised it would be. A mixture of young and old, MLS, European and Mexican based players and above all giving a shot to those who previously missed out.

But looking at it now, how strong is the U.S. national team’s depth less than a year to go before World Cup 2014?

Well, apparently Klinsmann believes the mixed 23- man squad he has picked can win the Gold Cup this summer. That’s for starters.

With Mexico struggling under Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre, the U.S. really have a terrific shot of going all the way this summer. That is something Klinsmann and his coaching staff are embracing and they expect the fringe players to put on a show and bring home the trophy.

“We are excited about a roster for the Gold Cup that really has a shot of winning it. This tournament gives us a huge opportunity to see where a lot of the players are.” Klinsmann continued. “The players that are representing us in this Gold Cup, they clearly know that this a huge opportunity to prove their value and their case to the coaching staff one year prior to the World Cup. So, two big things, one is to win the competition and two, allow the players to build their case for the World Cup.”
Win. Win. Win.
That is obviously what U.S. fans will want to hear from their coach. But for me, the strength in depth across several different soccer regions is something that is extra impressive. Out of 20 outfield players, seven hail from MLS teams, seven from Europe and six from Mexico. Klinsmann’s coaching staff have brought together players from across the globe. The balance is there for all to see.
Competition will arise between these hopefuls as they aim to break into the World Cup squad. Only six players from the recent Hexagonal qualifying squads were included in this Gold Cup roster, leaving plenty of chances for others to step up to the plate.
Josh Gatt and Mix Diskerud are exciting talents from Scandinavia, Joe Corona and Edgar Castillo will get chances to shine after breaking through at Club Tijuana while MLS youngsters Jack McInerney, Will Bruin and Corey Ashe have the opportunity to prove they belong on the international stage.
Klinsmann has been good to his word. Everyone who deserved a chance to show what they have is on this roster. Who will be around for the next batch of World Cup qualifiers remains to be seen.
But the U.S. don’t just have a shot at winning the Gold Cup. In my eyes they are the favorites.

United States national team depth chart: Looking at Graham Zusi and other right-sided attackers

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Five U.S. matches over the last month has generated significant movement on the U.S. depth chart – perhaps more shuffling than in any month-long stretch in Jurgen Klinsmann’s time in charge, which is now approaching two years.

Over A few days we’ll continue to examine the U.S. depth chart, making our best educated guesses at how things stack up on Jurgen Klinsmann’s big board inside the manager’s Southern California offices.

Next up: RIGHT-SIDED ATTACKER

If we identify a couple of positions where some movement in the depth chart is not only possible but likely over the coming 12 months – before the big list of names bound for Brazil is revealed, that is – it surely is the outside attacker spots.

First off, we have to say “outside attacker” because Klinsmann’s teams lately haven’t really had “wingers,” nor are they the domain of outside midfielders, per se. Under Klinsmann, the tactical deployments appear to be something more like “positional suggestions,” with players assigned general positions and then set free to make of them what they will (on the attack, that is – there seem to be more specific defensive duties).

Herculez Gomez, who started on the left earlier this year, and right-sided installment Graham Zusi patrol their sides differently, for example. The disparate choices may combine more with the overlapping back, or may prefer to cut inside more frequently to hook up with Clint Dempsey. They may be more aggressive in taking on defenders or just generally look to create chances in varying areas of the field. Among guys like Eddie Johnson, Brad Davis, Brek Shea and Fabian Johnson, those most often chosen under Klinsmann to pull flank duty, there is ample stylistic variation afoot.

Further complicating the picture is which men are stationed behind the outside attackers? Are they more offensively or defensively inclined? (Because the answer affects team, defensive balance.) Are they more comfortable crossing from the end line, or better at the centering efforts from that 20- to 25-yard range? (Because the answer affects offensive balance.)

All that said, nobody has laid claim to one of these positions (on either side) the way Zusi (pictured) has. He started a bit slowly, less accustomed to receiving balls and creating in wider areas. But Klinsmann’s deployment of Zusi out wide coincided roughly with his shift to the wider channels at Sporting Kansas City, and it has all served to put the 26-year-old midfielder in wonderful shape in the U.S. pool.

Past that, this thing is a real mish-mash. Quick, who is ideally behind Zusi along the right?

See?

Is it Eddie Johnson, who performed the role adequately when Zusi was suspended two weeks ago? (“Adequately” will cut it for a home qualifier versus CONCACAF competition, but may look quite pedestrian when the quality of opposition rises in Brazil. And ultimately, isn’t that what we are talking about?)

Is it Fabian Johnson, who could only shift over to the right if the left-sided options became more plentiful? Is it Sacha Kljestan, who has mostly been a flank man (although one who leans significantly inside) under Klinsmann?

If Zusi falls to injury, does the pull to re-introduce Landon Donovan into first-team graces reach critical mass?

Or what about the up-and-comers in the pool, the likes of Alejandro Bedoya or Josh Gatt, who hope to move up the ordering with bright Gold Cup performance, assuming they are named to the final roster later this week.

And can we talk about any midfield or attacking position without mentioning Stuart Holden, who could certainly play along the right? No, we can’t. That would be silly. Of course he is an option – and we’ll know more about how much or one once the Gold Cup games begin in July.

U.S. RIGHT-SIDED ATTACKER ordering

  • 1. Graham Zusi
  • 2. Eddie Johnson
  • 3. Herculez Gomez
  • 4. Landon Donovan
  • 5. Stuart Holden
  • 6. Fabian Johnson
  • 7. Sacha Kljestan
  • 8. Jose Torres
  • 9. Josh Gatt
  • 10. Alejandro Bedoya

In review:

U.S. goalkeepers

U.S. right backs

U.S. left backs

U.S. center backs

U.S. holding midfielders

U.S. linking midfielders

Coming up later today: left-sided attackers

 

Lineup prediction for United States vs. Canada

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HOUSTON – The easy picks are Kyle Beckerman, Omar Gonzalez, Graham Zusi and Eddie Johnson, all of whom seem lead pipe locks to start Tuesday against Canada.

(Let’s make that “overmatched” Canada – but that’s another story.)

Based on what I saw last night at the public practice, on what I’ve heard from the three weeks of workouts at the Home Depot Center and on, well, just some good, old-fashioned dart throwing, this is my best guess on how Jurgen Klinsmann will line up his men for tonight’s 8 p.m. CT kickoff in Houston.

Apologies, right away, on the completely lame lack of guess at goalkeeper. Tally Hall was especially strong early in the camp, from what I understand, but Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid caught up and, well, each one has been as solid as the other two. Being honest, I have no idea.

(MORE: Omar Gonzalez more confident)

(MORE: Appearance and reality on Klinsmann’s harsh words)

  • There aren’t a lot of natural outside backs in camp, so Tony Beltran and Justin Morrow are great bets to play at some point, if they don’t start.
  • LA Galaxy veteran A.J. DeLaGarza has mostly been working as a center back in camp, but we know he can also play on the right. That’s where his previous caps were earned. So he could wind up anywhere along the back line. But I do expect Matt Besler to get his first cap alongside Gonzalez in the middle of the U.S. defense.
  • Brad Davis is one of the more experienced men in camp, even if he has just five U.S. caps and no time previously under Klinsmann. Still, considering the lack of midfield options here in Houston, and since this is the Dynamo man’s hometown and home stadium, I like him to start.
  • Beckerman has played 11 times under Klinsmann, including seven starts. He’s been the undisputed camp leader. He’ll be in the first 11.
  • Zusi could find himself along the right as we saw him last year, although that was in a 4-3-3 look, which is a different set of responsibilities. With Zusi in the middle, the possibilities along the right include Gatt, Brad Evans, Alejandro Bedoya, Mix Diskerud and Benny Feilhaber. Clearly, the attack structure would look different with “wingers” like Gatt or Bedoya out there, as opposed guys who want to lean inside, like Diskerud, Evans or Feilhaber.
  • Remember, Gatt closed out 2012 in the starting lineup in the U.S. draw with Russia. And by most accounts, that was a good day for the winger.
  • Johnson and Juan Agudelo are the two most talented strikers in camp, although Chris Wondolowski will almost certain get on the field at some point.