USMNT: Top 5 MLS Call-ups We’d Like to See

First a few updates:

• Turns out former German U-21 starter Fabian Johnson is ineligible to play in the upcoming U.S. friendlies (Costa Rica, Sept 2; Belgium, Sept 6). He needs to have his change-of-association bid appproved by FIFA before he can suit up for the Americans, even in a non-official match. Apparently, coach Jurgen Klinsmann knew about this and called Johnson in anyway, just so he could train with the U.S. team and get a feel for what it would be like to join the Yanks.

• According to Soccer by Ives, Klinsmann will name former Chivas USA coach (and Bayern Munich assistant) Martin Vasquez as his first assistant. The contract details are being worked out, and Vasquez, who played for both the U.S. and Mexican national teams, will continue as the interim first assistant until the terms are settled.

• Some injury concerns produced a little lineup reshuffling this week: Fulham midfielder Clint Dempsey will skip the Costa Rica game in California and join the team in Brussels for the Belgium match. He is battling back spasms. FC Dallas defender Zach Loyd and Chivas USA left back Heath Pearce have withdrawn from the U.S. camp with hamstring troubles, and have been replaced by Birmingham City defender/midfielder Jonathan Spector and D.C. United attacker Chris Pontius.

Pontius is healthy again after an injury-marred sophomore season with DC, and he has seven goals and two assists this year. His selection got us thinking about some other MLSers who are worth a national-team look. Drumroll please….

5. Dan Kennedy, GK, Chivas USA—The U.S. is probably more secure at goalkeeper than at any other position, but Kennedy should get a call-up simply as reward for the unbelievable season he’s having in 2011. He stands on his head on a weekly basis for the Goats. See here:

4. Todd Dunivant, LB, Los Angeles Galaxy—The U.S. has been looking for an adequate left back for what seems like eons. Why hasn’t Galaxy mainstay Dunivant been given another shot? His first cap went pretty well:

3. George John, CB, FC Dallas—Might be a good idea to lock him down before Greece does. He’s a big (6-3), agile central defender who is good on set pieces. And he’s only 24:

2. Brad Davis, LM, Houston Dynamo—He’s had looks with the USMNT before, but Davis, 29, is in the form of his life right now, leading MLS with 13 assists. His latest, and best, was Aug 20 versus Real Salt Lake (scroll to the 3:40 mark):

1. CJ Sapong, F, Sporting Kansas City—Could the U.S. use a big, extremely athletic target forward who can hold the ball up, get his teammates involved, and also has a nose for goal? Yes, please. Look at this kid:

And here:

Sapong has three goals and four assists in 19 starts for SKC this year.

Monday Morning Re-Start: BPFL, Rampant Manchester Sides,Yanks Abroad, MLS

Did you have Edin Dzeko (four goals, 21 pts)  in your BPFL team this week? No? How about Wayne Rooney (three goals, one assist, 19 pts)? Hey, even Yank keeper Tim Howard, who kept a clean sheet and saved a penalty in Everton’s 1-0 win over Blackburn, would have netted you 14 points this week.

There was a reason the league average was 55 points and the high was 139. Manchester United blitzed Arsenal 8-2—yes, 8-2—while Man City trounced Tottenham 5-1. In addition to Howard’s penalty save, Man U keeper David De Gea stopped a spot kick. American Clint Dempsey scored in Fulham’s 2-1 loss to Newcastle; Chelsea defender Jose Bosingwa struck a long-distance goal in the Blues’ 3-1 defeat of Norwich; Man U midfielder Ashley Young had two goals and three assists in the Red Devils’ romp; and Liverpool midfielder Charlie Adam had a goal and an assist to lead his team to a 3-1 win over Bolton.

In short, there loads of points to be had for BPFL players, and as a result, several teams scored pretty high totals yet still lost their head-to-head matchup. Prison Mike, to name one example, scored 71 points but still lost his Gameweek 3 match … to his brother’s team. Ouch.

Mike has 124 points in the past two weeks—a Top 10 total—yet he is 0-2 on the season.

Useful Shot, That continues to set the pace, romping 84–41 over the Disgruntled Numpties to go 2-0 for the season and top the table with 146 points. The Colorado Keeper, who expressed some mild reservations about the EPL site last week, is nevertheless thriving, having racked up 138 points and a 2-0 record. The Backpost team, Sleeping Giant, has a win and a draw on the season and 99 points, good for 13th place.

The head-to-head results and league standings are up; go check them out at the Premier League site.

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Following Howard and Dempsey on the Yanks Abroad front were Robbie Findley (remember him?), who scored the lone goal in Nottingham Forest’s 4-1 loss to West Ham, and George John, the FC Dallas defender who was reportedly on his way to EPL side Blackburn. Apparently that move is now off, for undisclosed reasons, and John will rejoin FCD for their US Open Cup semifinal match at Seattle on Tuesday.

While John stays put, another American is supposedly on the move, as various reports have U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley on his way to Serie A side Chievo.

And in the best Yanks Abroad news of the day, American midfielder Stuart Holden is scheduled to return to action tomorrow, suiting up for Bolton’s reserves against Fulham’s.

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Major League Soccer rolled out a Hurricane Irene–truncated schedule—three matches were postponed—but there was still plenty of good stuff, including a 6-2 romp in Seattle and an astounding comeback in Kansas City. Go check out our Week 24 column at the league site.

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The Premier League will break for international fixtures next week, so Gameweek 4 of the BPFL will kick off on Sept 10. Look for a post from co-commissioner MGlo later this week. And speaking of the international dates, the U.S. plays Costa Rica on Friday, Sept 2 (11:00 pm ET, ESPN2, Galavision), and Belgium on Tues. Sept 6 (2:30, ESPN).

Los Angeles, Dallas Roll in CCL Group Play

Both the LA Galaxy and FC Dallas won CONCACAF Champions League games on Thursday to go 2-0 in group play, and both games were impacted by weather, in slightly different ways.

A few hours before they kicked off against Costa Rican champions Alajuelense, the Galaxy learned that their game scheduled for Sunday evening in New York had been postponed to Oct 4, due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Irene.

That allowed coach Bruce Arena to start midfielder David Beckham and defender Omar Gonzalez, two players he had planned to rest for the MLS tilt against the Red Bulls.

It worked out well, to put it mildly: Gonzalez headed in a Beckham corner kick for LA’s first goal just before halftime, and Beckham sprung Sean Franklin on the right in the 77th to set up the second goal, which came after Franklin found Chad Barrett in front of the net. LA won 2-0 to stay on top of Group A. Highlights ahead:

The weather played a more direct role in Toronto, where the CCL game between the Reds and FC Dallas was delayed repeatedly and finally suspended on Wednesday night, then rescheduled for the following morning at 10:00 a.m., hence the sparse crowd at BMO field in the highlights below. Jack Stewart, an American defender the hoops acquired from NASL (D-II) side NSC Minnesota Stars on Aug 15, got the goal in a 1-0 Dallas win.

Hurricane Irene Forces MLS Schedule Changes

The DC United–Portland game scheduled for tomorrow evening was moved up from a 7:30 p.m. start to a 2:00 afternoon kickoff, and both of Sunday’s MLS matches, including the sold-out New York–Los Angeles match, were postponed to later dates as the league anticipated the arrival of Hurricane Irene along the Eastern seaboard.

Citing “general public safety concerns,” MLS made the following schedule changes (courtesy of MLSSoccer.com):

D.C. United vs. Portland Timbers (at RFK Stadium)
NOW: Saturday, Aug. 27 at 2:00 p.m. ET*
WAS: Saturday, Aug. 27 at 7:30 p.m. ET

*Major League Soccer, in collaboration with D.C. United and Portland Timbers, will continue to monitor the path of Hurricane Irene before making a final determination as to the status of the game between both clubs, originally scheduled for Saturday at 7:30pm ET at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

A further update on the status of this game will be provided by 12:00 p.m. ET tomorrow (Friday).

UPDATE: This game has now been postponed. Reschedule date is TBD.

Philadelphia Union vs. New England Revolution (at PPL Park)
NOW: Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 8:00 p.m. ET (Galavisión)
WAS: Sunday, Aug. 28 at 7:00 p.m. ET (Galavisión)

New York Red Bulls vs. LA Galaxy (at Red Bull Arena)
NOW: Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
WAS: Sunday, Aug. 28 at 7:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)

Klinsmann Calls 24 for Sept Friendlies, Including German-American Fabian Johnson

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann (still getting used to that) called in 24 players for upcoming friendlies against Costa Rica (Sept 2, 11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and Belgium (Sept 6, 2:30 p.m., ESPN).

He made five changes from the team that tied Mexico on Aug 10, leaving out Germany-based players Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Edson Buddle, and Ricardo Clark, along with new Philadelphia Union midfielder Freddy Adu.

In their places Klinsmann called in Colorado Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, former German youth international Fabian Johnson (top right), Fulham attacker Clint Dempsey, in-form striker Jozy Altidore of AZ Alkmaar, and Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury.

German-American Timothy Chandler, who was invited for the Mexico friendly but withdrew because of a minor injury, is also in the current group. He plays his club ball for FC Nuremberg, lining up in defense or midfield.

Of the absent Bradley, Jones, and Clark, Klinsmann told the USSF website, “All three of these players are trying to sort out their club situations, and the deadline for transfers is a week away. They have also not been playing matches, so for these reasons we decided to select different players for this roster.”

But the name on most observers’ lips when the roster was released yesterday afternoon was that of Johnson, a 21-year-old defender-midfielder who plays his club ball for Hoffenheim.

Like Chandler, Johnson was born in Germany to an American serviceman father and German mother. He has played for 1860 Munich and Wolfsburg, and was a starter, alongside Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, on the German U-21 team that thrashed England 4-0 for the 2009 UEFA Under-21 Championship.

Johnson will have to file an allegiance switch with FIFA if he is to play in any official competitions with the U.S. (a move that would then tie him permanently to the U.S. senior team).

For Hoffenheim, Johnson plays right midfield (and has drawn two penalties and produced one assist in three league games this season), but he can also play on the backline or as a holding midfielder.

The Costa Rica game will be played at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., and the Belgium match is scheduled for King Badouin Stadium in Brussels.

Here is the complete U.S. roster:

GOALKEEPERS (2): Bill Hamid (D.C.United), Tim Howard (Everton)

DEFENDERS (9): Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Edgar Castillo (Club America), Timmy Chandler (FC Nuremberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Jose Torres (Pachuca)

FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)

What do you think of the roster? Surprised to see Castillo get another nod? (We are.) Happy to see Johnson and Chandler in the team? Any other complaints, surprises? Let us know in the comments.

Border Battle: Mexico U-22 Team Calls In California Native Joe Corona

Former San Diego State midfielder Joe Benny Corona, who has one of the best names in CONCACAF and plays for a team (Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente) that can say the same, has been called in by the Mexico U-22 national team for a couple of friendlies against Chile.

Corona, who drew national notice last year for his performance in a friendly against the LA Galaxy, is also eligible to play for El Salvador (his mother’s birthplace) and the U.S. (he was born in Los Angeles), and all three countries have approached him.

Former U.S. coach Bob Bradley named Corona to his provisional roster for the Aug 10 friendly against Mexico, but that roster was scrapped when Bradley was dismissed. Current U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann sent USSF staffer Brian Quinn to scout Corona in a recent match against Puebla (and U.S. winger DaMarcus Beasley).

In this profile by Jeff Carlisle (go give it a read), Corona says he probably would have accepted Bradley’s invitation, but even if he had, his international future would still be up for grabs. Corona won’t be tied to any nation until he plays in an official FIFA competition with a national side.

He says he hasn’t made up his mind, and is not troubled by the decision at the moment.

His parents, on the other hand, are clear about their preference. They started their family in Los Angeles, and then returned to the U.S. three years later (following a brief stint in Mexico) “for the greater educational opportunities,” according to Carlisle. Re-settling in San Diego, they sent their son to Sweetwater High School, and eventually, San Diego State. Their boy also played on various Southern California club teams during this time, including Aztecs FC, Hotspur USA FC, and the San Diego Nomads (onetime home of Steve Cherundolo and Frankie Hejduk).

So which nation do Corona’s parents want him to play for? … Mexico, of course.

“That’s one thing where they’re on the same page,” he tells Carlisle.

Backpost Fantasy League: Gameweek 2

We know you’re frustrated. So are we. We even upped the ante on our BPFL picture up there, as a kind of consolation for the ridiculous non-performance of the site through two weeks of thwarted BPFL action. We hope it eases the pain a little.

Here’s Our Man at the Valley with the latest:

This past Thursday I wrote a first draft for this post. I naively assumed that the site would be fixed and running perfectly by now, so I focused on whether or not you took advantage of the free transfers offered up by the site and who the unlucky losers were in our division.

I even started a paragraph with, “Now that the site seems to be working….”

Silly me.

So I guess I should start with an apology—for leading most of you into this mess.

The lesson: Procrastinate whenever possible. That, and Barclays and its EPL website really are awful. How can the first FAQ on the site not be, what the f*** is up your a**?

And it’s not just our league. Most Head-To-Head (HTH) leagues that I’ve looked at have the same info as ours.  Some have generated fixtures, but haven’t posted results from those fixtures (even for Gameweek 1).

Yesterday I got the message “there’s been an unexpected error while processing your request” when trying to transfer. Have you seen that one? Of course you have. This whole damn thing is an unexpected error at this point.

Still, unless we jump ship to another website (perhaps next week if the league structure isn’t fixed), we should concentrate on the Barclays site (but feel free to short Barclays stock and trade in any EA Sports games you might own).

The clear frontrunner in our division is Useful Shot, That. For the second week in a row, he scored the most points in our group. Currently he’s in the top 400 amongst entrants who identify themselves as being from the USA.

Pretty impressive, that.

So those of us who were paying attention all benefitted from a free Wild Card at the start of Week 2. It will certainly level the playing field within our division, as contestants were given the opportunity to see an EPL team’s first choice lineup and react accordingly. Given the colossal screw-ups inflicted by the EPL website, though, it seems like a fair result.

The first question is, did you take advantage of it? Did you get rid of Rio Ferdinand and his troublesome hamstring? Did you drop Cesc Fabregas and his troublesome homesickness? If the answer is yes, you’re probably in much better shape than you were a week ago.

The next question is how did you do this week? Did you have Ryan Taylor of Newcastle and his 12 points (all for just 4.0 million)? Or did you have Didier Drogba of Chelsea and his 1 point (for just 10.5 million)?

Here are some beginner’s tips on Transfers and Substitutions: Any transfers to your squad of 15 are effective as soon as you hit the Confirm Transfer button (the main Transfer page has a Make Transfer button; that will send you to a page where you either Confirm, Cancel, or Change the transfer). If you want to undo that transfer after you have Confirmed it, it will cost you 4 points for the coming Gameweek, unless you’ve got a transfer in reserve (you can carry over a maximum of 1 transfer at any time).

As for substitutes, you can switch and swap your starting 11 out of your squad of 15 as many times as you want up until the deadline for the Gameweek—at which point your squad is locked for that week (subject to any automatic substitutions that the site will make to replace players who didn’t play).

Yes, the site will make those subs, provided it doesn’t encounter any “unexpected errors” in the process. Thanks for your patience, folks, and congrats again to the Useful Shots.