Tuesday Kicks: U.S. World Cup Qualifying Morass & More

A quick roundup of essential soccer links for the day:

  • A must-read on the USMNT WCQ on-going meltdown.
  • Recall that more than soft Chivas USA red card issued during Sunday’s SuperClasico? It never happened.
  • Also, Chivas USA has re-signed back-up goalkeeper Tim Melia, 26, to an unspecified contract extension, the club announced today.
  • The Galaxy has named their Dallas Cup roster.
  • Former Cal State Northridge soccer standout Devin Del Do, 26, of Valencia has signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League.
  • Mia Hamm’s LA Fest Celebrity Soccer Challenge is set for Sunday at Home Depot Center.
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Thursday Name Dropping: Lampard, Gonzalez, Barrett & More

*Because of goals like that it’s unlikely we’ll see Frank Lampard in a Galaxy shirt any time soon and at least one influential English manager feels the the same way.

*The deconstruction of the U.S. loss in Honduras continues as does the discussion over the role LA Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez played in the World Cup qualifying setback. My perspective: Gonzalez is young, he’s still a better option than the aging or inadequate options we’ve seen at the position previously. I’m not alone in that assessment.

*Staying with Wednesday’s qualifiers, check out the role former Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts played in Jamaica’s stunning result at the Azteca Stadium.

*And speaking of former Galaxy players, guess who is on his way back to MLS.

*Finally, National College Signing Day is a bigger deal for pointy-balll football than the real version, but here’s who signed where as far as the Galaxy Academy and Chivas USA Academy is concerned.

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CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Schedule Released

The big games against Mexico occur in March south of the border and in September north of it. Is that enough time to schedule a trip to the Azteca and strike that off your stadium bucket list?

Here’s more from the Associated Press:

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The United States opens the final round of World Cup qualifying at Honduras on Feb. 6 and plays three of its first four games on the round.

The Americans play at Mexico on March 26 and host El Tri on Sept. 10, according to the draw conducted Wednesday.

Seeking its seventh consecutive World Cup appearance, the United States hosts Costa Rica on March 22 and then goes to Mexico four days later. The Americans are at Jamaica on June 7, host Panama four days later and are home against Honduras on June 18.

They play at Costa Rica on Sept. 6 before hosting Mexico, then host Jamaica on Oct. 11 and close at Panama four days later.

The top three teams in the hexagonal qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the fourth-place team advances to a home-and-home playoff against the Oceania champion, likely New Zealand, for a spot in the 32-nation tournament.

 

 

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Weekly Column: Four more reasons to worry about tonight’s U.S. World Cup Qualifying game

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EJ Returns: Eddie Johnson, once so prolific in a U.S. jersey returned against Antigua & Barbuda Friday– and promptly scored two goals (AP Photo).

Worried about the chances of the U.S. joining Mexico and four other teams in the Hexagonal tonight?

We give you four more areas of concern — and more reason to worry — in today’s column. Read it here.

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Depleted U.S. Needs World Cup Qualifying Win Today Against Regional Minnows

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Jurgen goes for the jugular: U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann will exhort his troops this afternoon against a tiny foe the U.S. can not afford to take lightly (AP Photo).

The pressure is on a U.S. team without playmaker Landon Donovan. Associated Press Sports Writer Tim Reynolds has more on the game that airs at 3:55 p.m. on the new BeIN Sports Network:

With the World Cup qualifying standings a mess, the U.S. national team has found a way to simplify things: win and win.

There are other ways the U.S. could reach the final round of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but the Americans are fixating now on the route that sounds easiest but will be the most difficult.

If the Americans win their next two games, starting with a road test against Antigua and Barbuda on Friday night, they will move on no matter what happens in the other remaining Group A matchups.

Sputter in those games, though, and the Americans could be ousted long before anyone expected.

“I never had, as a player or as a coach, any issues with pressure,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We all have the highest expectations. I have the highest expectations for my own work. I’m very proud to have this opportunity, so I will do everything to give everything I have. And I know that if the players realize what this week is about, then we’ll get the job done.”

It’s been a challenging few days already for the Americans, who summoned 24 players into camp for these matches — the game at Antigua is followed by a sold out one in Kansas City, Kan., on Tuesday night against Guatemala. By the time the plane left Miami for Antigua on Thursday morning, that group was pared to 20, after the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan (knee), Brek Shea (abdominal), Edgar Castillo (foot) and Fabian Johnson (flu) were ruled out by injury and illness.

Johnson should be healthy enough to play Tuesday. Donovan, Shea and Castillo will not play in either match.

“We play in big games every week,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “I don’t think anyone’s really worried or nervous. We’ve got winnable games. Whether we win them or not, we’ll see.”

The U.S., Guatemala and Jamaica all have seven points in the standings (three for a win, one for a tie, none for a loss) through four matches. Antigua and Barbuda has one point, and if the qualifying round ended after four matches, the Americans and
Guatemalans would advance based on goal differential.

No matter what happens Friday in either the U.S.-Antigua or Guatemala-Jamaica matches, nothing will be decided until Tuesday. None of the three teams jostling for the two spots can advance or be eliminated Friday. However, with a win, any of those three
teams would control its own fate heading into the final match.

“That’s World Cup qualifying,” Howard said. “Very few teams cruise through, no matter what region of the world you’re in. World Cup qualifying is hard. It doesn’t surprise us that we’re here. It’s never easy. I think we’ve qualified for the last five or six World Cups, whatever it’s been, and I don’t think we ever walked through qualifying. That’s just the way it is, and we always seem to get the job done.”

The U.S. beat Antigua 3-1 at Tampa, Fla. in its qualifying opener in June, a match that was hardly one-sided. It wasn’t put away until the latter portion of the second half, when Herculez Gomez scored to wrap it up for the Americans, who acknowledged they were tested.

“You learn out of your mistakes,” Klinsmann said.

And with Antigua having nothing to lose now, plus fueled by being at home, another challenge is expected this time.

“They could have beaten Guatemala in both games. They tied Jamaica. This is not an easy game,” Klinsmann said. “It’s going to be a difficult game because, for them, it’s the game of the decade. They want to prove everything against the United States.”

U.S. Soccer officials said it’s their understanding that the 10,000-seat venue in St. John’s, Antigua, is sold out. About 80,000 people live on the island.

“We’ve got to come out with momentum,” Gomez said.

It’s equally important to leave with momentum. The Americans tied Guatemala 1-1 on the road in June, so that would suggest the game in Kansas City on Tuesday will be far from easy.

Klinsmann said he welcomes that part.

“This week, it’s about points,” he said. “It’s about six points and moving on.”

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Former LA Galaxy, Chivas forward Alan Gordon gets belated U.S. Men’s National Team Shot

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Gonzo Gordo: The unlikely MLS career of Alan Gordon has taken an unusual turn with the U.S. National Team (Associated Press File Photo).

A player who was never respected by fans (or frankly the media) when he played in Southern California now has a chance at World Cup qualifying glory. Eat your heart out Jozy Altidore! Associated Press Sports Writer Tim Reynolds has more:

MIAMI (AP) — Long Beach native Alan Gordon celebrates his 31st birthday next Tuesday. Maybe U.S. Soccer will give him a cap.

Gordon is the fifth-oldest player currently in camp with the U.S. national team, which is prepping for two matches that essentially decide if the Americans will continue having a chance to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Of the 24 players picked by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann for these enormous games, Gordon is younger than only defenders Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra, along with goalkeepers Tim Howard and Nick Rimando.

Combined, those four players have 279 appearances — caps, in soccer vernacular — for the U.S.Gordon has zero.

But he’s having a breakout season with the San Jose Earthquakes: His 13 goals in 23 games translate to a 0.9-goal-per-90-minute ratio, the best in Major League Soccer. So Gordon got the call to be part of the U.S. side for these qualifiers, first on Friday on the road against Antigua and Barbuda, then in Kansas City on Oct. 16 against Guatemala, the match that coincides with his birthday.

“I’m happy to be here,” Gordon said. “It doesn’t matter what age I am. I’m playing good soccer right now. The coaches here feel that I can be of some help, and I hope I can prove them right.”

Klinsmann said Gordon earned his chance.

“I think it’s great to see,” Klinsmann said. “He’s a guy that went through ups and downs. He saw it all. He struggled physically. He had a lot of injuries. But he always had the right spirit toward his job. He never took things for granted. He worked always hard and he’s a giver.”

The U.S., Guatemala and Jamaica each has seven points after the first four matches in this qualifying round, while Antigua and Barbuda has one. For the U.S. to reach next year’s regional finals, four points — which the Americans would get with a win and a
tie — would seem to be the most probable requirement.

Dogged by injuries in recent years — including hip surgery last year — Gordon acknowledges that he thought his window of having a chance with the national team had closed. But he was summoned to join the Americans for their friendly at Mexico over the
summer (the U.S. pulled off a 1-0 victory, though Gordon did not play), and Klinsmann apparently kept watching him in the weeks that followed.

When the Americans opened training in Miami on Tuesday, Gordon seemed to fit right in, even though he’s the only player on the roster without a cap and is nearly nine years older than the team’s youngest member.

“Some guys are just late bloomers and I see that all over the place,” Howard said. “He’s been good. He’s come in and he’s really got his head down, and he’s been a good guy to be around off the field. He works hard on the field. He knows what his strengths
are and what his abilities are and he plays to them.”

It’s not just luck, either. Or the fact that he’s putting the ball in the net for the ‘Quakes.

There simply was a point when Gordon got tired of being hurt. So he changed his ways, working harder and trying to take advantage of whatever time is left in his career.

“I had to spend some extra time, be a better professional and take it a lot more serious and do a lot more work than other guys do,” Gordon said. “Come early, stay late — that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Gordon may still be a long shot to actually play — only Klinsmann knows where he sits on the depth chart for certain — though his odds figure to have improved by default in recent days. The U.S. ruled Landon Donovan and Brek Shea out of these two
qualifiers earlier this week because of injuries, meaning what was a 24-man roster is down to 22.

So there might be need for a goal-scorer who’s playing well right now, like Gordon.

“I’m blessed to be here,” Gordon said. “And I’m just going to enjoy it and do the best I can and try to help the team, if I can.”

Klinsmann points to Gordon as an example that, as he said, “the door is always open” for players who keep working.”It’s another opportunity again for Alan Gordon after he came with us to Mexico,” Klinsmann said. “It shows them that if they stay focused and work hard and give everything they have, there are chances for 2014 in Brazil.”

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LA. Galaxy’s Landon Donovan undergoes precautionary MRI after all*

*Updated

Yup, guess there was more to that LD knee injury.

The Galaxy released a statement at 2:15 p.m. today:

Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan will return to Los Angeles tonight after being ruled out of the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers with a knee injury. Donovan traveled to Miami to join up with the U.S. National Team on Monday and was evaluated by U.S. Soccer medical staff Tuesday morning.

Donovan suffered the injury late in the Galaxy’s 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at The Home Depot Center. He will be further evaluated by club doctors after returning to Los Angeles .

U.S. Soccer also released a statement from Jurgen Klinsmann, who will replace both Donovan and FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea — who has an abdominal strain — on the roster:

“It’s unfortunate for Landon and Brek that they won’t be able to play,” said Klinsmann. “Landon was very optimistic over the weekend when his knee was feeling much better, but now he needs time to recover. We knew Brek was a question mark coming in, and now we have a clear picture of where he stands. We feel confident that the group we have will get the job done.”

Is there more to this Landon Donovan injury after all? AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds has more:

MIAMI (AP) — Landon Donovan missed a workout Tuesday to have an MRI on his left knee while the U.S. national team began getting ready for two World Cup qualifying matches.

There was no immediate word on the test result, though U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann did not sound worried. Donovan was hurt Saturday while playing for the Galaxy, but saw some improvement before boarding a flight mONDAY to join the American team in Miami.

“We’re very, very positive on Landon,” Klinsmann said. “Just to be 1,000 percent sure, he’s doing an MRI. He was supposed to do that actually in L.A. (Monday) morning, but he skipped it because he felt so good.”

U.S. Soccer officials expected to receive word about Donovan’s status later Tuesday.

About 10 of the 24 players on the roster missed the morning practice for a variety of reasons — from jet lag to treatment of minor injuries. Klinsmann expects the full roster to be available for a gym session later in the day, and the assumption is that they would all be ready for training Wednesday as well.

Klinsmann announced the roster Monday for the two matches that could be critical to the Americans’ bid to play in the 2014 tournament in Brazil. The U.S. plays at Antigua and Barbuda on Friday and is home against Guatemala next Tuesday.

The U.S., Guatemala and Jamaica all have seven points after the first four matches of Group A play in this qualifying round, and only two of the three will advance. Antigua and Barbuda has one point through four matches. For the U.S. to reach next year’s
regional finals, four points — a win and a tie — would seem the most probable requirement.

Donovan is the national team’s career leader in several categories, including goals (49), assists (48) and matches started (130). U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said he dined with Donovan after arriving in Miami and suggested he wasn’t concerned about whether the team’s best scorer would be available Friday.

“I don’t really worry about the senior players,” Howard said. “Landon always seems to get the job done. … If he’s fit and ready to play, he’ll be raring to go.”

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Injured LA Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan a doubt for U.S. World Cup Qualifiers

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With U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann scheduled to announce Monday his U.S. squad for the two upcoming World Cup qualifiers, the last thing he needed to hear about was a possible knee injury to key midfielder Landon Donovan.

But that’s exactly what happened Saturday in the Galaxy’s disappointing 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake in Carson (more on that later), with Donovan forced to come out of the game 10 minutes from time after landing on Real Salt Lake defender Jmison Olave as he attempted to go past him down the left flank.

“It didn’t feel good,” Donovan said after the game, adding that he did not hear a “pop.”

Donovan said he would be examined as soon as possible. When asked if the injury would take him out of the U.S. squad for the games against Antigua & Barbuda Oct. 12 and Guatemala four days later he said that was “TBD” (to be determined).

Donovan has had more than his share of injuries since Klinsmann took over as U.S. coach, missing several crucial games.

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Could road USMNT WCQ games be unavailable to most American soccer fans on TV?

Maybe. Associated Press Sports Writer Ronald Blum has more:

NEW YORK (AP) — Add U.S. road World Cup qualifiers to the soccer games many American television viewers may not be able to see.

The new beIN Sport network said Wednesday it had acquired rights to U.S. road qualifiers this year and next along with all other qualifiers in the North and Central American and Caribbean region for the 2014 tournament, except for matches involving Mexico.

The network, launched last week by the Al-Jazeera Sport Media Network, is available to only about 7 percent of U.S. television households. It can be received in the 8 million homes that subscribe to its tier on DirecTV and DISH, which are available in 34 million
households in all.

While the U.S. Soccer Federation owns rights to its home qualifiers, Traffic Sports USA bought rights to the road games from the CONCACAF nations that owned them, and Traffic resold them to beIN.

“We don’t control the rights for our away matches but have talked with beIN Sport and know that they have an aggressive plan to expand distribution over the weeks and months to come,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said in an email. “Obviously, we’d like as wide a distribution in the US as possible for our WCQ matches.”

The U.S. has remaining road qualifiers this year in the semifinal round at Jamaica on Sept. 7 and at Antigua and Barbuda on Oct. 12.

Rights to home U.S. qualifiers are held by ESPN. In qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, eight matches on ESPN2 averaged 787,000 viewers and two matches on ESPN averaged 734,000. The U.S. qualifier at Guatemala in June was resold from Traffic to Integrated Sports Media and available only on pay-per-view.

The new network also has rights to Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A, France’s Ligue 1 and
England’s second-tier League Championship. In addition, it has rights to South American World Cup qualifiers and the 2015 Copa America.

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