U.S. Roundup: Klinsmann Postpones Team Selection, Spector Signs with Birmingham, Convey Looks to Resume Nats Career

U.S. Soccer tweeted the news today that new coach Jurgen Klinsmann will not announce his first roster as U.S. boss until tomorrow. He was originally slated to name his team today for the Aug. 10 friendly with Mexico, but is still in the process of contacting players personally.

Klinsmann is expected to call 20 players, one of whom, according to Soccer By Ives, which cited a report from Germany, will be Timothy Chandler.

SBI also reported that Jonathan Spector and Eric Lichaj will not be on Klinsmann’s first roster. Spector just signed a two-year deal with Championship side Birmingham City and will take the time to settle in with his new club. Lichaj suffered a slight hip injury in Aston Villa’s preseason trip to Hong Kong and is reportedly not an option for Klinsmann at left back for next Wednesday’s game.

Left back has long been a problem area for the USMNT, and while Lichaj has shown promise there in his few appearances for the national team, if he can’t go next week, there may be another, recently neglected option ready to step in: Bobby Convey of the San Jose Earthquakes.

For reasons that have never been made explicit, Convey and former coach Bob Bradley did not get along, and the Premier League veteran, now 28, has not appeared in the U.S. shirt since February 2008. If you doubt that there was bad blood between Convey and the departed coach, take a look at what Convey told the MLS website about Klinsmann:

“He bases [selections] on playing ability. I think that’s a great thing for everyone, not just myself. He will play the best players and not just the people that he likes the most.”

Zing.

Convey was initially reluctant to play left back, but has recently accepted the role with his club team, a development that could revive his national-team career. As he told MLS recently:

“Obviously, left back has been the weakest position for the national team, and for a long time. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to play last year. That spot’s open and I started there in the All-Star Game, so we’ll just see.”

That we will, possibly as early as tomorrow.

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West Ham Puts Exclamation Point on Relegation Campaign with Brawl at Season-Ending Dinner

West Ham United, home of U.S. defender Jonathan Spector, sealed its relegation fate this past Sunday when it surrendered a 2-1 lead at Wigan and lost 3-2. (For the record, Spector started the game, and the Hammers were still up 2-1 when he was substituted in the 61st minute.)

The club still has one match remaining, but yesterday it held a season-ending dinner at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel. At £275 a head (roughly $440), you might think the event would be a tony, fairly sedate affair.

You would be wrong: According to various  reports, police had to be summoned to the hotel after a fan turned nasty following a conversation with Senegalese striker Demba Ba.

Here’s Ba talking to the Daily Mail

“It was a crazy situation. This guy came to me when we were sitting at the table. There were two players per table and Manuel Da Costa was with me.

“This guy came and asked for an autograph so I gave him his autograph. Then he asked me nicely how I was feeling so I just said I was tired from the game and that it was a tough game. And then he just replied ‘Oh, we’re tired watching you play every weekend.’

“I was surprised and told Da Costa what the guy had said. Then the guy all of a sudden started screaming at me like crazy. I tried to calm him down but he didn’t want to.”

Things escalated from there, and punches and dinner plates were thrown, tables overturned, and, reportedly, racial epithets hurled.

Not good times.

West Ham fans are understandably frustrated that their team is going down, but we gotta say, Ba was a curious target for this fan’s ire. He scored seven goals in 12 appearances for the Hammers this season—including two in Sunday’s game that staked his team to a 2-0 lead.

You’d think he’d be dead last on any nutjob’s list of players to confront about the awful season.

In any event, West Ham plays out the string on Sunday against Sunderland, at home. Some extra security may be in order.

No word on Spector’s experience of the Grosvenor fracas.

Dempsey Bags Two, Spector One, Jones Is Man of the Match: Yanks-In-England Weekend Wrap

It was a big weekend for Americans in the Premier League as Clint Dempsey scored both goals in Fulham’s 2-0 win over Stoke City, Jonathan Spector buried one in West Ham’s 2-2 draw with Everton, and new U.S. national teamer Jermaine Jones went the distance and was named Man of the Match in his debut for Blackburn, which downed West Brom 2-0.

Jones is on loan from German side Schalke 04, and his first performance in England drew praise from Blackburn manager Steve Kean, who said of his new signee, “He’s not even fully fit, but he’s got everything.”

Dempsey’s goals were his team-leading eighth and ninth of the season. They pulled the Cottagers further out of the relegation zone, and got us wondering—as rumors of Deuce transferring to Liverpool resurfaced this week—how productive Dempsey might be if he played for a “big four” team. We may find out before he’s done over there.

Erstwhile defender Spector continued to shine in a midfield role, scoring his fourth goal in all competitions from that spot this season. He beat U.S. teammate Tim Howard with a side footed shot into the roof of the net to give the last-place Hammers a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute.

West Ham held a 2-1 lead into injury time and were on the verge of a desperately needed three points—until Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini found a late equalizer.

Click here to see Dempsey’s and Spector’s goals.

At Villa Park on Saturday, U.S. keeper Brad Friedel, who is facing bankruptcy after investing millions in a soccer academy in his native Ohio, put aside his personal woes to make several key saves and preserve Aston Villa’s huge 1-0 win over third-place Manchester City.

Friedel backstopped Villa to another win today—a 2-1 victory at Wigan that put more distance between the Villans and the drop zone.

Yesterday at the Reebok Stadium, U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden and Bolton fell to Chelsea 4-0. Holden started and played 87 minutes. Bolton has tumbled to 10th in the standings after their bright start, having claimed just eight points from their last 10 games.

Yanks In England—Weekend Wrap

For the latest on MLS offseason doings, including Wednesday’s Re-Entry Draft, and the Pacific Northwest rivalry set for 2011, check out the Postgame over a MLS.

Now let’s take a look across the pond, where Yanks were in the thick of top-of-the table action, relegation battles, and a meaty Mick McCarthy quote.

The Jonathan Spector Renaissance continued on Sunday as the U.S. national teamer—who began his youth career as a striker and plays defender for the U.S.—started in midfield for West Ham for the second straight game.

Clearly, his two-goal outburst against Man Utd in midweek Carling Cup action counted for something, as manager Avram Grant stuck with the American, partnering him with the Hammers’ central midfield linchpin, Scott Parker, who returned from an illness.

Spector went the distance, and he nearly tied the game in the 44th minute on a surging run into the Sunderland box, only to shoot wide after losing his balance under defensive pressure.

That effort came 10 minutes after 20-year-old Jordan Henderson had put the Black Cats in front, expertly finishing a great cross from Ghanaian international Asamoah Gyan, who appears to be bouncing back nicely from his heartbreaking World Cup experience last summer.

Sunderland entered the game unbeaten at home in the Premier League this season, and they kept that run alive, holding on to the 1-0 lead until the final whistle. The loss drops West Ham back to the bottom of the table.

In London, Clint Dempsey started, went the distance, and set up Fulham’s only goal in a 2-1 loss to Arsenal.

Fulham’s U.S. striker Eddie Johnson came on for a two-minute cameo at the end.

The Gunners got two gorgeous goals from Samir Nasri to pick up the win and go top of the table as Man Utd was idle and Chelsea tied Everton and U.S. keeper Tim Howard, 1-1.

Howard started, played 90 minutes, made three saves, and picked up a yellow card in the draw, which came courtesy of an 86th minute equalizer from Jermaine Beckford.

Stuart Holden sat out Bolton’s 1-0 loss to Manchester City on Saturday. The U.S. midfielder is nursing a strained quadriceps.

Marcus Hahnemann was demoted last week, as Wolves manager McCarthy reinstated Welshman Wayne Hennessy ahead of Wolverhampton’s 3-2 win over Sunderland on November 27.

Here’s McCarthy on the change, which is apparently permanent:

“Marcus had no problem with it. He was absolutely terrific. I’ll be sticking with Wayne. I wouldn’t have just put him in for one game [the win over Sunderland] and if we’d got beaten and he’d made a mistake, changed it. That would have been grossly unfair. He’s got to be given another chance. He was our number one, the top jolly, wasn’t he? He had a tough time and then Marcus came in [last year]. But we’d not kept a clean sheet, we’d not been winning games and it was my decision to change it.”

The top jolly was not smiling on Saturday after Blackburn—7-1 losers to Man Utd the week before—pumped three goals past him in a 3-0 blanking at Ewood Park.

Wolves join West Ham in the cellar, where the teams are tied on points (12) and goal difference (-13).

In other weekend games, Birmingham City tied Tottenham 1-1, Stoke City and Wigan drew 2-2, and West Brom continued its excellent season with a 3-1 romp at home over Newcastle.

There’s an All-American clash tonight as Aston Villa, backed by their American owner, Randy Lerner, and with three U.S. players on their roster (keepers Brad Guzan and Brad Friedel and defender Eric Lichaj) travel to Anfield to take on Liverpool and their American owner John Henry.

The game is also a homecoming of sorts for Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier, who led Liverpool from 1998 to 2004.

Both clubs are off to slow starts—Liverpool’s in 10th place, Villa 15th—and in need of points.

Spector Returns in Style

After weeks of being mired on the bench (or not even dressing) for West Ham in the Premier League, U.S. defender Jonathan Spector got a start in the Carling Cup yesterday and made the most of it, scoring two goals in the Hammers’ stunning 4-0 quarterfinal win over Manchester United, Spector’s former team.

The rangy Illinois native, who began his youth international career as a striker, started in midfield last night, and opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, athletically heading home a lob from Victor Obinna.

Fifteen minutes later, he and Obinna combined again, as Spector made a beautiful solo run, laid a ball into the box for Obinna, and when it got away from the Nigerian winger, pounced on the loose ball and buried it from nine yards.

Carlton Cole scored the Hammers’ other two goals on this snowy night at Upton Park, completely skinning Man U centerback Johnny Evans on both.

The victory puts West Ham in the semis with Arsenal, 2-0 winners over Wigan yesterday.

Today, Birmingham City takes on Aston Villa while Ipswich Town hosts West Brom to determine the other semifinalists.

EJ Debuts, Spector Disappears, Howard in a Wild One: Yanks in England, Weekend Wrap

Eddie Johnsonremember him? —made his first Premier League appearance for Fulham in nearly 11 months, coming on for fellow Yank Clint Dempsey in the 82nd minute of Fulham’s 2-1 win over Wolverhampton and U.S. keeper Marcus Hahnemann.

Fulham dominated the early stages, yet went down 1-0 on a goal by Jean Claude Jelle van Damme in the 10th minute. They tied it just after halftime on a goal by new signing Moussa Dembele of Belgium, who went on to win it in stoppage time with a rocket of a free kick.

The Cottagers will need Dembele (and Dempsey, and probably Johnson) to step up, as they lost England international Bobby Zamora to a broken leg after a challenge by Wolves midfielder Karl Henry in the 28th minute. Zamora will miss at least four months.

The game was a chippy affair over all, with nine yellow cards shown, along with one red, to Wolves’ Christophe Berra in the last minutes.

In North London, American Stuart Holden again got the start in central midfield and went the distance for Bolton but, after hanging tough for an hour, Wanderers lost defender Gary Cahill to a red card and were overwhelmed 4-1 by Arsenal.

Tim Howard and Everton hosted the U.S. keeper’s old team, Manchester United, and staged an electrifying comeback to gain a 3-3 tie. Trailing 3-1 as stoppage time began, the Toffees got goals from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta in the dying minutes to snatch a point.

They were on the attack again when the referee blew the final whistle—literally, as Everton charged upfield—moments after Arteta’s goal. Everton coach David Moyes was not pleased with that, but he will, of course, take the point.

Howard made a circus kick save off a deflected Paul Scholes tracer from distance in the first  half.

Chelsea removed most of the drama from its encounter with former coach Avram Grant and last-place West Ham just two minutes in, when Michael Essien buried a cross from Didier Drogba.

Salomon Kalou doubled the margin in the 17th minute, and Essien struck again in the 83rd.

The Hammers’ ever reliable midfielder Scott Parker pulled one back for the home team—and became the first player to score against Chelsea in four games this year (that’s 17 for, 1 against for the Blues)—in the 84th, but it was too little too late.

Jonathan Spector did not dress for West Ham, which is pointless on the season and has given up 12 goals in four games.

In non-U.S.-related games, plucky Blackpool climbed to fourth in the table with a 2-0 win over fellow promotion team Newcastle, prompting the first entry in the Ian Holloway campaign for quote of the season:

“I am more than delighted with that. If there was a better word than delighted, I would like to think about it now and say it. I might make my own up—‘phantasmagorical,’ whatever. If you think about the end of last season, the trouncing we got here, if you look at how short a period of time it is, if you look at the quality they have got, I am absolutely delighted. My boys get stronger and better all the time and I have got to be careful that I don’t burst with pride about them.”

It may not be the winner, but it’s a solid start.

Blackburn and MLS alum Ryan Nelsen tied big-spending Manchester City on the road, 1-1, but Nelsen had to leave the game just before halftime after a rough challenge left him dinged up.

West Brom held visiting Tottenham to a 1-1 draw, and nearly won the game with three clear chances in the final 10 minutes.

Sunderland traveled to Wigan and got a goal from a player familiar to U.S. fans, one Asamoah Gyan, aka “Baby Jet,” who was making his debut for the Black Cats. The goal did not stand up, though, as Antolin Alcaraz headed in an 86th minute equalizer and the teams split the points.

Finally, Liverpool reflected the malaise at the club in the wake of its American owners’ debt woes, turning in a lackluster performance in a 0-0 road draw with Birmingham.

As the league site put it, “Liverpool were indebted to a superb display from goalkeeper Jose Reina for earning a point from a goalless draw with Birmingham City.”

See what they did there? Indebted? Cheeky. From the official website, no less. We doubt NFL.com would ever do something like that.

Birmingham dominated the game and blew three solid chances, as well as an opportunity to tie Man U in third place in the standings. They’re currently in fifth.

U.S. keepers Brad Friedel and Brad Guzan, along with young American defender Eric Lichaj, travel to Britannia Stadium with Aston Villa to take on Stoke City today.

Dempsey Scores, Spector Flubs: Your Meaningless Premier League Game of the Week

There was almost nothing at stake in yesterday’s meeting between Fulham and West Ham at Craven Cottage. West Ham was all but mathematically assured of staying up, and Fulham had advanced to the May 12 Europa League final and would be resting players for the game.

Sure, Fulham could move into the top half of the table with a win, while three points for West Ham would vault it over some of the teams ahead of it in the standings. There was also the odd fact that West Ham hadn’t lost a league game at Craven Cottage since 1966.

But apart from those straws, and pride and professionalism, there wasn’t much to grasp at, motivation-wise. Nobody told that to U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey, though. Playing with a cast on his right thumb, Dempsey hit the bar with a terrific shot in the 26th minute, then opened the scoring just before halftime, corralling a pass from Simon Davies and slipping a shot inside the near post.

An unlucky own goal by West Ham striker Carlton Cole put Fulham up 2-0 in the 58th minute, but Cole pulled one back for West Ham just three minutes later, heading in a Scott Parker free kick.

Now the Hammers had some life, and started creating some chances. An equalizer seemed within reach until U.S. defender Jonathan Spector coughed up the ball to Erik Nevland just outside the area on the left in the 80th minute. Nevland squared it for substitute Stefano Okaka to tap in: 3-1 Fulham.

Guillermo Franco scored in stoppage time to make it 3-2, but it was too late for West Ham. Thanks in large part to Spector’s gaffe, they lost a league match at Craven Cottage for the first time in 44 years.

With his second poor performance in a row, Spector is not exactly peaking as the World Cup approaches. Dempsey, on the other hand, is hitting his stride. Still not sure what happened with that apparently broken right thumb, though.

Click here for the game highlights.