Rapinoe Left off U.S. Roster for SheBelieves Cup
Rapinoe Left off U.S. Roster for SheBelieves Cup avatar

With the second edition of the SheBelieves Cup rapidly approaching U.S. WNT coach Jill Ellis has invited 25 players to training camp starting February 20th in Orlando ahead of the tournament that will pit the Americans against three of the top teams in the world in Germany, France, and England.

Rapinoe's . (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Rapinoe’s . (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Most of the expected names are included with the exception of Megan Rapinoe. Ellis gambled on including the difference making winger on last year’s Olympic squad but the gamble failed to pay off with Pinoe looking far from recovered from a knee injury as the Americans flamed out with their earliest ever exit from the Mundial.

Rapinoe participated in U.S. WNT’s January camp in Carson, California but apparently did not do enough to earn a spot on this roster. Reports out the camp indicated that Rapinoe was healthy, although it may be that she still has not come all the way back from last year’s ACL surgery.

Ellis continues to introduce new players into the mix, with four uncapped players headed to Orlando. Goalkeeper Jane Campbell, midfielders Sarah Killion, Rose Lavelle and Brianna Pinto are the debutantes. Lavelle was selected by the Boston Breakers with the first pick in January’s NWSL Draft while Campbell went to the Houston Dash with 15th overall pick. Although new to the senior side Killion will be among friends, having been part of the 2012 U20 Women’s World Cup winning team alongside Morgan Brian, Julie
Johnston, Samantha Mewis and Crystal Dunn.

Brianna Pinto at the January training camp. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Brianna Pinto at the January training camp. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The most intriguing name on this roster is 16-year-old Pinto, who becomes one of the youngest players to be brought into camp with the U.S. Women’s National Team. A central midfielder, Pinto will not celebrate her 17th birthday until May 24 and was a mainstay with the US at last year’s U17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan.

Ellis will have to trim just two players from this group to get down to the required 23 player roster for the SheBelieves Cup. Each of the four teams will play each other one time with the nation that gains the most points claiming the championship.

The Americans won the inaugural SheBelieves in 2016 with nine points. Germany finished in second with six points with England and France bring up the rear with one point each.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
DEFENDERS (7): Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Sarah Killion (Sky Blue FC), Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Brianna Pinto(CASL)
FORWARDS (6): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea Ladies FC), Alex Morgan (Olympique Lyonnais), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (UCLA), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Lynn Williams (NC Courage)

March 1, 2017 7 PM ET WNT vs Germany Talen Energy Stadium;
Chester, Pa.
Game Preview | Match Guide Ticket Info | Buy Tickets
FS1

March 4, 2017 5 PM ET WNT vs England Red Bull Arena; Harrison,
N.J.
Game Preview | Match Guide Ticket Info | Buy Tickets
FOX

March 7, 2017 7 PM ET WNT vs France RFK Stadium; Washington,
D.C

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Ramos Calls 20 for U20 World Qualifiers
Ramos Calls 20 for U20 World Qualifiers avatar

Camp has ended and Tab Ramos has selected what he considers his best 20 available players to compete for one of four U20 World Cup spots up for grabs at CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers beginning next Friday, February 17th in Costa Rica.

Christian Politic was impressive. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Christian Politic will not star in this tournament for the U20’s. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The regional tournament is not on the FIFA calendar which is why you won’t find Christian Pulisic on this list. Also absent from this group are European based players Josh Perez, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Gedion Zelalem, Haji Wright, Weston McKinnie, Matthew Olosunde, and others.

Some on that list may land on the team’s World Cup roster, should the Americans navigate the CONCACAF tournament successfully, as expected.

Ramos has selected a diverse group of players with 11 coming from MLS, four from professional clubs around the world, including two from Fulham, along with three from the college ranks.

Luca De la Torre  in action for Fulham. (ISI Photos/Jed Leicester)

Luca De la Torre in action for Fulham. (ISI Photos/Jed Leicester)

The Fulham duo is a diverse pair themselves. Midfielder Luca De la Torre is the more familiar name to American soccer fans, having been a mainstay for the U.S. at various youth levels while fullback Marlon Fossey is a more recent addition to the U.S. youth picture.

Los Angeles born but raised on the U.K. island of Jersey, Fossey debuted for the U.S. at the Slovakia Cup with the U19’s last April. The CONCACAF tournament will be the first chance for a lot of American fans to take a look at the Fulham prospect.

Both U.S. goalkeepers come from the college game with Ramos selecting Georgetown keeper JT Marcinkowski, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s son
Jonathan, out of the University of California.

Sporting Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown has been handed the captain’s armband and will be expected to lead the U.S. defense having just returned to SKC after a year spent playing with B team of Portuguese giants Porto.

De la Torre and New York Red Bulls prospect Tyler Adams are each expected to have a big role in the U.S. midfield while Brooks Lennon, recently loaned by Liverpool to Real Salt Lake, is one to watch up front.

The U.S. will compete in Group B with the top two teams advancing to a second group. The top two sides from that group will advance to the U20 World Cup which begins play in South Korea on May 20.

February 18, 2017 4 PM ET U-20 MNT vs Panama Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; Tibas, Costa Rica

February 21, 2017 5:30 PM ET U-20 MNT vs Haiti Estadio Nacional; San Jose, Costa Rica

February 24, 2017 5:30 PM ET U-20 MNT vs St. Kitts and Nevis Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; Tibas, Costa Rica

All three group games will be televised on Univision Deportes.

GOALKEEPERS (2): Jonathan Klinsmann (University of California), JT Marcinkowski (Georgetown)

DEFENDERS (6): Marlon Fossey (Fulham F.C.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake), Aaron Herrera (New Mexico), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC.), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Coy Craft (FC Dallas), Luca De la Torre (Fulham F.C.), Jonathan Gonzalez (CF Monterrey), Jeremiah Gutjahr (Indiana University), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake), Eryk Williamson (University of Maryland)

FORWARDS (3): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake), Emmanuel Sabbi (UD Las Palmas)

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Ramos Calls 20 for U20 World Qualifiers
Ramos Calls 20 for U20 World Qualifiers avatar

Camp has ended and Tab Ramos has selected what he considers his best 20 available players to compete for one of four U20 World Cup spots up for grabs at CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers beginning next Friday, February 17th in Costa Rica.

Christian Politic was impressive. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Christian Politic will not star in this tournament for the U20’s. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The regional tournament is not on the FIFA calendar which is why you won’t find Christian Pulisic on this list. Also absent from this group are European based players Josh Perez, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Gedion Zelalem, Haji Wright, Weston McKinnie, Matthew Olosunde, and others.

Some on that list may land on the team’s World Cup roster, should the Americans navigate the CONCACAF tournament successfully, as expected.

Ramos has selected a diverse group of players with 11 coming from MLS, four from professional clubs around the world, including two from Fulham, along with three from the college ranks.

Luca De la Torre  in action for Fulham. (ISI Photos/Jed Leicester)

Luca De la Torre in action for Fulham. (ISI Photos/Jed Leicester)

The Fulham duo is diverse pair themselves. Midfielder Luca De la Torre is the more familiar name to American soccer fans, having been a mainstay for the U.S. at various youth levels while fullback Marlon Fossey is a more recent addition to the U.S. youth picture.

Los Angeles born but raised on the U.K. island of Jersey, Fossey debuted for the U.S. at the Slovakia Cup with the U19’s last April. The CONCACAF tournament will be the first chance for a lot of American fans to take a look at the Fulham prospect.

Both U.S. goalkeepers come from the college game with Ramos selecting Georgetown keeper JT Marcinkowski, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s son
Jonathan, out of the University of California.

Sporting Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown has been handed the captain’s armband and will be expected to lead the U.S. defense having just returned to SKC after a year spent playing with B team of Portuguese giants Porto.

De la Torre and New York Red Bulls prospect Tyler Adams are each expected to have a big role in the U.S. midfield while Brooks Lennon, recently loaned by Liverpool to Real Salt Lake is one to watch up front.

The U.S. will compete in Group B with the top two teams advancing to a second group. The top two sides from that group will advance to the U20 World Cup which begins play in South Korea on May 20.

February 18, 2017 4 PM ET U-20 MNT vs Panama Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; Tibas, Costa Rica

February 21, 2017 5:30 PM ET U-20 MNT vs Haiti Estadio Nacional; San Jose, Costa Rica

February 24, 2017 5:30 PM ET U-20 MNT vs St. Kitts and Nevis Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; Tibas, Costa Rica

All three group games will be televised on Univision Deportes.

GOALKEEPERS (2): Jonathan Klinsmann (University of California), JT Marcinkowski (Georgetown)

DEFENDERS (6): Marlon Fossey (Fulham F.C.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake), Aaron Herrera (New Mexico), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC.), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Coy Craft (FC Dallas), Luca De la Torre (Fulham F.C.), Jonathan Gonzalez (CF Monterrey), Jeremiah Gutjahr (Indiana University), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake), Eryk Williamson (University of Maryland)

FORWARDS (3): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake), Emmanuel Sabbi (UD Las Palmas)

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Can Yedlin and Chandler Solve Arena’s Fullback Dilemma?
Can Yedlin and Chandler Solve Arena’s Fullback Dilemma? avatar

With a pair of crucial World Cup Qualifiers rapidly approaching against Honduras and Panama next month Bruce Arena has decisions to make, notably at fullback, a position the U.S. MNT coach has labeled a position of need.

The Graham Zusi fullback experiment that played out over the recent U.S. MNT camp and in a pair of friendlies versus Serbia and Jamaica, along with veteran DaMarcus Beasley’s international recall underline Arena’s concerns.

Fabian Johnson is a versatile player. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Fabian Johnson is a versatile player. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Most of the coach’s worries have been focused on the left side of the defense, with Greg Garza and Jorge Villafana recent additions to the pool in addition to Beasley. Of course, Arena always has the option of turning to Fabian Johnson, although the Borussia Monchengladbach handyman prefers to operate further up the field.

But if the left side of the defense is causing Arena some sleepless nights the reinstated national team boss can rest easy in the knowledge that he has two viable candidates to man the right flank in DeAndre Yedlin and Timothy Chandler (suspended for the Honduras match).

In fact, the pair may hold the solution to Arena’s dilemma on both wings. Let’s take a look.

German-American Chandler is having the best season of his Bundesliga career and having replaced Yedlin as a starter in the waning days of the Jurgen Klinsmann era the Bundesliga man might be considered to be in the pole position. The since deposed national team supremo went so far as to cast aspersions on Yedlin’s decision to move down from the Premier League to Newcastle in the second flight of English soccer, perplexing given the competitive nature of the English Championship.

The knock on Chandler has always been that his performances for the U.S. MNT have never matched his Bundesliga output, leading some to question Chandler’s desire to play for his father’s nation.

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard recently caused a firestorm when told ESPN that “he (Arena) will bring an atmosphere where wearing the U.S. shirt will matter again. It will mean everything. And that’s always been our foundation. No matter how good you think we’ve gotten at football, our foundation has always been our hard work, our willingness to go down to places and put in a shift. I think we got away from that a little bit.”

And Howard wasn’t done, telling USA Today, “having American roots doesn’t mean you are passionate about playing for that country.” The U.S. MNT hero of Brazil added this capper, “I know there were players that came in that it didn’t matter as much too.”

Howard later walked back his remarks, praising the passion that Jermaine Jones brings while attempting to make the case that he was not singling out the foreign born players.

Chandler in action against Costa Rica. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Chandler in action against Costa Rica. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

U.S. MNT tea leaf readers took Chandler to be one of Howard’s targets but at 26 years old Chandler is at the height of his prime and his form with Bundesliga surprise packet Eintracht Frankfurt can hardly have escaped Arena’s notice.

Then there is Yedlin. Having made his international debut just that February, Yedlin’s inclusion on Klinsmann’s 2014 World Cup roster was something of a bolt from the blue but when the games began the then Seattle Sounder wowed, first as a winger and then when forced to step in at fullback to replace the injured Fabian Johnson.

Yedlin earned a move to Tottenham but couldn’t make the breakthrough, going to Sunderland on loan. Questions surrounding Yedlin’s ideal position should have been laid to rest with his solid defensive work in helping Sam Allardyce and the Black Cats stave off relegation but a full back logjam at Spurs led Yedlin to choose to take one step back with relegated Newcastle in order to move his career forward.

Yedlin  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Yedlin’s playing time at Newcastle will benefit the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The move has worked a charm for the 23-year-old speedster who has worked his way into coach Rafa Benitez’ starting 11 while garnering praise from at least one pundit as the best fullback in the Championship.

So, presuming good health and continued solid play from the duo, who should Bruce Arena send out to face Honduras from the start on March 24?

Why not play them both?

Yes, Chandler is primarily a right-sided player but the Frankfurt man has experience on the left and given his current level of play in what is arguably the best league in the world it is difficult to make a case that any of the other left fullback candidates available to Arena is better suited for the cauldron of CONCACAF Qualifiers than Chandler.

And while Yedlin is operating in the second division of the English game his play on both sides of the ball with Championship table toppers Newcastle has gotten better by the game. A perfect illustration comes from Yedlin’s play in the Magpies two most recent matches. Yedlin provided both assists in a 2-2 draw versus QPR on February 1st, three days before securing a 1-0 win over Derby with an injury time header to save off the line with his goalkeeper beaten.

As with all positional battles, Arena is hampered by his lack of time with his potential selections. Players at January camp in Carson, California will be more familiar to new/old coach but familiar or not, it should be clear to Arena that his three best fullback options are Johnson, Chandler, and Yedlin.

Chandler and Yedlin (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Chandler and Yedlin both  could potentially be in the starting line-up. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Playing Yedlin and Chandler together gives Arena the luxury of using Johnson in the midfield or even further up the pitch as a winger in a 4-3-3.

After examining the options available, I think that this is a luxury that Arena should choose to indulge.

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Rampone and Williams- NWSL and U.S. WNT Stars Talk to GotSoccer
Rampone and Williams- NWSL and U.S. WNT Stars Talk to GotSoccer avatar

Cupcakes and champagne were the order of the day at A+E’s midtown Manhattan offices this past Thursday morning when the National Women’s Soccer League announced a partnership that included the network taking an equity stake in the league while also agreeing to broadcast the NWSL Game of the Week every Saturday during the season.

A handful of the league’s brightest stars turned up at A+E’s funky office space and were happy to talk to reporters about the new partnership, the state of the league, or just about anything.

Christie Rampone (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Christie Rampone was happy to get back on the field. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

GotSoccer spoke to two players at opposite ends of their career arc with both club and country, Sky Blue FC veteran Christie Rampone and 23-year-old North Carolina Courage striker Lynn Williams and both sounded excited to get back on the field.

Not surprisingly long time U.S captain Rampone, a two-time World Cup winner, and three-time Olympic Gold Medalist was at ease with all the fuss while Williams was bubbling with excitement.

And why not? The rising star has been on quite a run since winning the NWSL Championship with the Western New York Flash in October. Since then Williams, winner of the NWSL Golden Boot as the league’s top scorer, has been crowned league MVP, made her full U.S. WNT debut, and scored her first international goal.

Oh, and her team, the Flash pulled up stakes in Western New York and moved to North Carolina and are now known as the North Carolina Courage.

So, if Rampone, a mother of two has seen it all, for Williams this is all new. Williams laughed when asked if all her recent success gets her recognized, before telling GotSoccer about her first celebrity moment.

“My boyfriend plays basketball in Nebraska and I went to one of his games and a little girl came up to me and I was like, what?” Williams relayed, her surprise still audible. “And I think that’s the first time time somebody’s ever recognized me; when I was just in a little town in Nebraska.”

While Rampone may have never had the high wattage fame of some of her better-known teammates from Mia Hamm to Abby Wambach to Alex Morgan the 41-year-old U.S. WNT legend remains one of the U.S. WNT’s most accomplished players with 311 national team caps.

Rampone stepped away from international play last season and on Thursday revealed that the national team will honor her brilliant career in March in her home state of New Jersey.

In a news making mood last Thursday at the A+E headquarters, Rampone revealed that “I think this will be the last summer” for her playing career. Rampone then let slip to a trio of reporters that the national team will be “celebrating it (her career) next month at Red Bull (Arena) at the SheBelieves game.”

Rampone seems happy to take the match in from the stands. “I don’t need to play,” the longtime U.S. WNT captain said, “I just want to go out and just celebrate the team in a great game against France.” (The U.S opponent at Red Bull Arena is England).

“I kind of went in quiet and I want to leave quiet. That’s just my personality and who I am,” Rapinoe said. One of the players Rapinoe will be likely be watching from the comfort of the stands is Williams, a player who did not begin her national team career quietly.

Lynn Williams (ISI Photos/Bob Drebin)

Lynn Williams  in action against Romania in November, 2017. (ISI Photos/Bob Drebin)

Although Williams was not a regular in the national team youth ranks her breakout season in NWSL was rewarded with a call-up by U.S. WNT coach Jill Ellis and if Williams ever felt overlooked, she quickly put an end to that.

How quickly? Williams needed just 49 seconds to score her first U.S. goal after coming into a friendly at halftime versus Switzerland last October. Not that she is taking anything for granted.

“It’s different,” Williams told GotSoccer when asked about her rapid rise. “I think my life has gotten a little more hectic than I’ve ever had before but the national team is awesome.”

“I love playing there (with the national team) I’m just hoping to keep growing as a player, and hopefully solidify a spot on that team but,” Williams said, “we’ll see.”

So, while Williams strives to prove herself Rampone heads into her final season prepared to do whatever coach Christy Holly needs her to do. “I’m very open minded to the fact that I don’t have to play every minute of every game,” Rampone said.

“It’s the coach’s choice how many minutes I will play if I play at all,” the veteran conceded. “For me,” Rampone said, “it’s being able to help the youth, help the girls continue to grow and have this league grow because we want to stay on top of the world. We want to be the best team in the world and I think this is a great platform for all these players to come in and experience it and if I can help in any aspect I’m going to try and do that.”

Of course, Williams is one of those young players and perhaps as good an example as any of what NWSL can do for a player. The notion of being a “poster child” for the league brought a laugh from the player although Williams recovered to say, “I think it’s awesome.”

“I think the national team players bring so much to the league,” but Williams said echoing a theme on the day, “I also think there are so many great players in the league that just aren’t on the national team.”

“This league,” the Golden Boot winner stated, “has amazing players.” “I think in the past without this league if you weren’t through the national team pool you just kind of fell through the cracks.”

With NWSL entering it’s fifth year – unprecedented for a professional women’s soccer league in the U.S. – perhaps some of those cracks are being filled.

SheBelieves Cup

March 1, 2017
16:00
England v France
Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pennsylvania
March 1, 2017
19:00
United States v Germany
Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pennsylvania
March 4, 2017
14:15
France v Germany
Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
March 4, 2017
17:00
United States v England
Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
March 7, 2017
16:00
Germany v England
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.
March 7, 2017
19:00
United States v France
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.

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Morris and Feilhaber Lead U.S. MNT to a Win Over Jamaica
Morris and Feilhaber Lead U.S. MNT to a Win Over Jamaica avatar

Bruce Arena claimed the first win of his second term at the helm of the U.S. MNT when his charges defeated Jamaica 1-0 Friday night in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Morris scored the game winner for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Morris scored the game winner for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Arena changed most of his players along with his strategy from last Sunday’s 0-0 draw against Serbia. The home team dominated possession in Chattanooga against an inexperienced Jamaica side but in a familiar refrain, the Americans struggled to find the net until Jordan Morris broke the deadlock at the 58th minute.

Midfielder Benny Feilhaber, exiled for so long by Jurgen Klinsmann, was instrumental in the goal, showing the deft touch that had so many calling for his inclusion on the U.S. MNT in recent years. Feilhaber took a pass from Dax McCarty before completing a sweet one-two with Morris to who finished his chance nicely.

Feilhaber was able to break down the Jamaican defense and set up the game winner. (ISI Photos/Hunter Dorton)

Feilhaber was able to break down the Jamaican defense and set up the game winner. (ISI Photos/Hunter Dorton)

Feilhaber has made the most of his opportunity but he is not the only one. Morris outperformed his forward partner Juan Agudelo who, despite a few clever touches, faded as the match progressed.

Late camp invite Jorge Villafana gave a composed effort at the left fullback spot, combining with midfielder Sebastian Lletget to fine effect. Lletget impressed over these two friendlies and will be pressing for a place on Arena’s roster come March.

Center backs Walker Zimmerman and Steve Birnbaum were never under much pressure but the duo was very solid and Arena will have taken note. The Graham Zusi at fullback experiment continued and while the SKC man was good going forward he was badly exposed for speed on a rare Jamaica counter, a problem for a fullback.

Chris Pontius had some positive moments but overall had a quiet night and Dax McCarty, while effective at times, made some bad turnovers that could have been costly against better opposition.

The U.S failed to impress on Friday or last Sunday against Serbia although Arena did receive some encouraging performances ahead of the big World Cup Qualifier versus Honduras on March 24th. The new again U.S. MNT coach will have just a few days to integrate his MLS campers and the European contingent ahead of the Honduras game, not an easy task.

Then again, if it was easy the job would never have been available.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
JAM 0 0 0

USA – Jordan Morris (Benny Feilhaber) 58th minute

Lineups:
USA: 12-Luis Robles (22-David Bingham, 46); 19-Graham Zusi (capt.) (3-Brad Evans, 68), 15-Steve Birnbaum, 21-Walker Zimmerman, 14-Jorge Villafaña (7-DaMarcus Beasley, 86); 20-Dax McCarty (6-Darlington Nagbe, 63); 23-Chris Pontius (11-Alejandro Bedoya, 74), 10-Benny Feilhaber (4-Michael Bradley, 62), 18-Sebastian Lletget; 8-Jordan Morris, 9-Juan Agudelo
Subs not used: 1-Nick Rimando, 2-Greg Garza, 5-Chad Marshall, 17-Jozy Altidore
Head coach: Bruce Arena

JAM: 1-Andre Blake (23-Ryan Thompson, 46); 3-Damion Lowe, 5-Alvas Powell, 6-Sergio Campbell (4-Ladale Richie, 61), 8-Oniel Fisher, 9-Ewan Grandison, (2-Rosario Harriott, 78), 10-Romario Williams (16-Jourdain Fletcher, 83), 11-Cory Burke (14-Shamar Nicholson, 83), 12-Michael Binns, 15-Je-Vaughn Watson, 18-Owayne Gordon (7-Omar Holness, 56)
Subs not used: 17-Kevon Lambert, 19-Dwayne Ambusley
Head coach: Theodore Whitmore

Stats Summary: USA / JAM
Shots: 10 / 4
Shots on Goal: 3 / 0
Saves: 0 / 2
Corner Kicks: 7 / 3
Fouls: 17 / 14
Offside: 2 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
JAM – Ewan Grandison (caution) 10th minute

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U.S. MNT Face Jamaica in Final Friendly Before Huge March WCQ
U.S. MNT Face Jamaica in Final Friendly Before Huge March WCQ avatar

Game two of Bruce 2.0 kicks off tonight in Chattanooga, Tennessee against regional rival Jamaica and Arena has let slip a couple of key changes.

In fitting with the new sense of openness around the national team Arena has confirmed that New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles will don the starters gloves and that the team will be ditching the one forward system that striker Jozy Altidore has expressed his displeasure with.

David Bingham (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

David Bingham minding the net during a training session. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The choice of the veteran Robles over San Jose netminder David Bingham is in keeping with Arena’s mandate to win now, well in March and in the rest of the coming World Cup Qualifiers.

Arena also let it be known that he will hand starts to Mexican-based fullback Jorge Villafana and FC Dallas center back Walker Zimmerman. Villafana is currently a member of Liga MX club Santos Laguna but has not seen the field for some time, leading to speculation that the defender might be on his way back to MLS.

Zimmerman has drawn praise from Arena throughout January camp, so it is no surprise that the 23-year-old is getting this opportunity. With Matt Hedges back with his FC Dallas club, there are just three center backs in camp, Steve Birnbaum, and Chad Marshall, along with Zimmerman, although Seattle veteran Brad Evans could fill in.

Altidore has been given the captain's armband. . (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Altidore is set to start the match. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

With Arena committed to trying a two forward set tonight the presumption is the Altidore will be paired with Jordan Morris, with Juan Agudelo expected to feature off of the bench.

Altidore is in the pole position to start up front in the March Qualifiers so it makes sense that the Toronto FC hitman would start in the two forward set tonight. Morris replaced Altidore in Arena’s first match versus Serbia with Agudelo a late sub.

Both strikers missed solid goal chances but otherwise showed well in the time they were given and Arena has been generous in his praise of the strike duo, so the sense is that a big night could propel either one up the depth chart.

Jermaine Jones is ineligible for the March 24 Qualifier in San Jose against Honduras, so he has been released to join his new L.A. Galaxy teammates. Sacha Kljestan has also left camp, to attend the birth of his son, opening up two spots in the midfield.

Galaxy man Sebastian Lletget performed well in 45 minutes versus Serbia and could be in for a start but the formation will have a lot to say about who joins presumed automatic starter Michael Bradey in the center of the park.

Arena may opt for an old favorite of his, the 4-4-2 but that setup can leave a team short in the midfield. The new boss won’t be experimenting with the three back system that so famously blew up in Jurgen Klinsmann’s face against Mexico in November but what about a 4-1-3-2?

The formation would allow Bradley to play the deep defensive/orchestrator role that Arena seems to favor for the U.S. captain, would have the numbers in midfield and would still allow Altidore to play off another forward.

An interesting side note in tonight’s match is that the surface at Finley Stadium is not natural grass. The American men have not played on an artificial surface since 1994. Playing on substandard, artificial surfaces has been a big issue with the U.S. Women’s team and with negotiations between the U.S. WNT and U.S. Soccer ongoing the choice of Finley Stadium and the decision not to lay sod over that artificial turf is noteworthy.

Jamacia feature five MLS players and two players that ply their trade in American second division USL sides. Reggae Boyz keeper Andre Blake is coming off of a breakthrough year with the Philadelphia Union, so the struggling American attack is unlikely to get any freebies tonight in Chattanooga.

Jamaica was a particular thorn in the side of Arena’s predecessor beating Klinsmann’s side in a World Cup Qualifier in Jamaica in September 2012 and losing to the Jamaicans at home for the first time ever at the disastrous 2015 Gold Cup.

(ISI Photos/Josh Todd)

Jamaica has cost the U.S. trouble in recent matches. (ISI Photos/Josh Todd)

But with four crucial qualifiers coming up in March and June the U.S. doesn’t have time to worry exacting revenge on the Reggae Boyz. No, Arena needs to use this last (scheduled) friendly until March to determine who he can trust to dig the Americans out of a 0-2 Hex start, a start that cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job and put the U.S. in jeopardy of missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1990.

Here is the upcoming World Cup Qualifier schedule for the U.S. MNT

March 24, 2017 7:30 PM PT MNT vs Honduras Avaya Stadium; San Jose, Calif. FS1, Univision Networks

March 28, 2017 TBD MNT vs Panama Estadio Rommel Fernandez; Panama City, Panama beIN SPORTS

June 8, 2017 TBD MNT vs Trinidad & Tobago Home

June 11, 2017 TBD MNT vs Mexico Away

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NWSL and A+E Announce Partnership and Game of the Week on Lifetime
NWSL and A+E Announce Partnership and Game of the Week on Lifetime avatar

On what NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush called ‘ “a transformative day for our league,” the National Women’s Soccer League and A+E Networks announced a partnership that will see the television company take on an equity stake in the league in addition to broadcasting a Game of the Week every Saturday during the season on Lifetime.

Jeff Plush (ISI Photos)

Jeff Plush stated that it was a transformative day for the NWSL. (ISI Photos)

The partnership goes well beyond the traditional sports league/broadcaster relationship with A+E signing on as an investor in the NWSL while A+E network Lifetime becomes an official sponsor and the broadcast partner of the league.

Lifetime’s commitment to broadcast a Game of the Week is a huge boon for a league that had just three regular season matches (and the playoffs) televised on Fox last season, although fans were able to watch on YouTube.

The broadcast deal is for three-years and the arrangement includes the founding of a new collaborative venture, NWSL Media, which according to the new partners will act as the league’s media arm dealing with international sponsorship rights while managing all digital assets for the league. Included will be a revamped NWSLsoccer.com plus new apps on ios and android.

Still, Commissioner Plush was reluctant to use the term untraditional to describe the arrangement, saying instead, “it’s an authentic relationship.” President and CEO of the A+E Networks Nancy Dubuc sees a good fit with Lifetime and the NWSL. “We don’t see Lifetime as just a television brand,” Dubuc told a gathering of press and interested parties at A+E Network headquarters in Manhattan Thursday morning. “We see it as a female media brand.”

That female media brand was not put off by the ongoing contract talks between U.S. Soccer and the U.S WNT, although the A+E boss was quick to hand off a question on the matter to U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, whose organization remains the league’s primary backer.

GotSoccer asked Dubuc if this deal indicated a level of confidence from A+E that the parties would reach an agreement in time for U.S. WNT members to join their NWSL clubs for the season.

Duboc passed the baton to Gulati who drew laughs from the crowd when he jokingly tried to hand it back. Once the guffaws subsided Gulati expressed confidence, “that we will have a CBA with the Women’s National Team.”

Gulati enumerated three reasons for that confidence. “I’d make three comments about that,” Gulati began. “There are a number of meetings scheduled over the next few weeks, they’ve have had a change of leadership and there is a very different tone to the discussions, that’s point one. Two is, we’ve still got some time between now and the start of the season and three, maybe most importantly, the national team players are a very important part of the league, a very important part of the league and I don’t want to underestimate that.”

(ISI Photos)

(ISI Photos)

“The league,” Gulati continued, “and A+E’s commitment is far beyond just the national team players. We have a broadcaster for national team games, this is about the league about long term development of the league and as Nancy and Jeff both said it’s more than just broadcasting 20 plus games, it’s a complete partnership with an equity stake with a commitment to make stars of these players.”

Gulati reiterated his confidence that the CBA will be wrapped up “in plenty of time for the season,” noting that it is really a much broader deal.” “We’ve got a couple of hundred players in this league,” the U.S. Soccer President said, “not 25.”

No financial arrangements were released.

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12 Groups File to Join MLS
12 Groups File to Join MLS avatar

12 groups beat the deadline to be a part of MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s Expansion Jamboree, lining up to pay the $150 million or so dollars it will take to join America and Canada’s domestic soccer league.

(ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

(ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

With Atlanta and Minnesota taking the field this March as teams 21 and 22 and LAFC set to make it 23 next season, Garber continues to reserve the league’s 24th spot for David Beckham’s Miami franchise.

That leaves these 12 groups to try and convince Garber that they have what it takes fill spots 25, 26, 27, or 28. The league will judge the applicants in three areas, via the MLS press release.

1. Ownership – Description of ownership structure and financial information.
2. Stadium – Details on the proposed site, financing plan, required governmental approvals and support from public officials.
3. Financial Projections, Corporate Support and Soccer Support – Business plan, financial projections and commitment letters for stadium naming rights and jersey-front sponsor. Applicants also provided an overview of support from the soccer community.

Here are the 12, which includes two from North Carolina. Charlotte, North Carolina, Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, Nashville, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Indiana, Phoenix, Arizona, Sacramento, California, St. Louis, Missouri, San Antonio, Texas, San Diego, California, Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg.

Sacramento’s bid is raising concerns due to the absence of any mention of Sacramento Republic FC, the USL franchise whose instant success since its 2014 USL debut had most observers tipping Sacramento for success in this expansion process.

The omission signals a dispute between managing partner and primary investor Kevin Neagle, who filed the bid through his corporation Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings, rather than Republic FC.

The Sacramento Bee reported that Sac Soccer does not control the rights to the Republic FC brand and that negotiations are underway between team founder Warren Smith and Neagle to purchase the Sacramento Republic FC brand if the group’s expansion bid succeeds.

Negotiations would appear to be off to a rough start, however, given the following statement from Republic FC.

“If the bid submitted yesterday by Mr. Nagle did not include Sacramento Republic FC, it was in violation of our agreements and without our authorization; and we will take this up with the appropriate parties immediately,” said the statement, released by Republic FC spokeswoman Erika Bjork.

A last minute bid from Indy Eleven was the surprise of the group, with the NASL club making a late decision to join the party.

The expansion process will feature an interesting game within the game as the two North Carolina bidders attempt to outdo each other knowing that the most the Tar Heel State can realistically hope for are one of the four available slots.

Garber and the MLS expansion committee will examine the expansion proposals as well as meet with potential owners over the next six months.

Team 25 and 26 will be announced by the end of this year and will take the field by the 2020 season. No date has been set for selecting teams 27 and 28.

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With U20 WC Qaulifiers Approaching Ramos Calls 24 to Camp
With U20 WC Qaulifiers Approaching Ramos Calls 24 to Camp avatar

With CONCACAF U20 World Cup Qualifiers rapidly approaching U.S. coach Tab Ramos has named a 24 player training panel for an 11-day camp set to run from January 31 through February 10 in Orlando, Florida.

Ramos (R) (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Ramos  has named his squad for the upcoming training camp. (R) (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The Young Yanks are preparing for the U20 World Cup Qualifying Tournament taking place in Costa Rica beginning on February 17 and wrapping up March 5. The top four CONCACAF nations will advance to the U20 World Cup in South Korea this May.

Via ussoccer.com Ramos laid out his goals for the camp. “Our objective for this camp is to continue our preparation for the U-20 World Cup qualifiers,” the coach said. “After having a fitness camp followed by a camp with a combination of fitness and local games, now we are looking to get into game rhythm and select the final roster.”

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jonathan Klinsmann (University of California; Newport Beach, Calif.), JT Marcinkowski (Georgetown; Alamo, Calif.), Brady Scott (De Anza Force; Petaluma, Calif.)

DEFENDERS (7): Hugo Arellano (LA Galaxy; Norwalk, Calif.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (New Mexico; Casa Grande, Ariz.), John Nelson (Internationals SC; Medina, Ohio), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City; Lee’s Summit, Mo.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC; Oviedo, Fla.), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union; Media, Pa.)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; Salt Lake City, Utah), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; Wappingers Falls, N.Y), Coy Craft (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), Jonathan Gonzalez (CF Monterrey; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Jeremiah Gutjahr (Indiana University; Bloomington, Ind.), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake; Park City, Utah), Jonathan Suarez (Queretaro F.C.; Orange County, Calif.), Eryk Williamson (Maryland; Alexandria, Va.)

FORWARDS (6): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; Bethesda, Md.), Brooks Lennon (Liverpool F.C.; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC; Plantation, Fla.), Victor Mansaray (Seattle Sounders FC; Des Moines, Wash.), Emmanuel Sabbi (UD Las Palmas; Libertyville, Ill.), Brandon Vazquez (Atlanta United FC; Chula Vista, Calif.)

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Zelalem Loaned to Venlo in Dutch 2nd Flight
Zelalem Loaned to Venlo in Dutch 2nd Flight avatar

For the second consecutive year, U.S. youth international Gedion Zelalem has been loaned by Arsenal to a second division European club raising doubts about the 20-year-old’s future.

Zelalem (ISI Photos/Michael Zemanek)

Zelalem in action for Rangers (ISI Photos/Michael Zemanek)

Last year it was Glasgow’s Rangers, this year Zelalem has landed in the Netherlands with Eerste Divisie table toppers Venlo, a significant step down from Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, a rumored suitor linked with the Arsenal midfielder earlier in the transfer window.

As far back as 2015 since replaced U.S. MNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann said of Zelalem, “I think he is already on the level where he can definitely play on the senior team,” calling the German-born prospect, “a special case.”

And that was before Zelalem declared for the U.S. MNT. Landing Zelalem, who was eligible for Ethiopia through his father, as well as Germany, his birthplace, was considered a major coup for Klinsmann and U.S. Soccer but the wispy midfielder’s career has since stalled.

Zelalem has been unable to crack Arsenal’s deep midfield after raising hopes on both sides of the Atlantic with his debut in an F.A. Cup tie versus Coventry all the way back in 2014.

Gedion Zelalem . (ISI Photos/Ben Queenborough)

Gedion Zelalem  was unable to cement a place in the Arsenal squad.. (ISI Photos/Ben Queenborough)

Despite that early promise Zelalem has yet to make his Premier League debut and can point to just 10 appearances in Cup play for the Gunners.

Zelalem’s foray north to Rangers was rated as something of a mixed bag, but consider that Emerson Hyndman has already matched Zelalem’s one goal total from 21 games in just two appearances and the Bournemouth loanee is playing in the Scottish Premiership.

Still, Zelalem was expected to battle for first team minutes at the Emirates this season, instead, his only first team action came in a pair of EFL Cup matches.

Now it is on to the Netherlands. With Dutchman Andries Jonker at the helm of its Academy, the Netherlands has become something of an incubator for young Gunners, with Zelalem becoming the fifth Arsenal prospect loaned to the Lowlands nation this year.

The style of play in the Netherlands seems better suited to the American internationals game than the more robust Scottish game but with Venlo aiming for promotion to the Eredivisie, Zelalem will have to produce.

As his U20 U.S. teammates, Matt Miazga and Emerson Hyndman can attest there are no guarantees in big time soccer. None of this means that Zelalem won’t eventually make his way at Arsenal, he signed an extension shortly before this loan, but that U.S. MNT senior debut looks farther off than ever, making these next months perhaps the most important of Gedion Zelalem’s career.

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Nagbe a Bright Spot as U.S. MNT in Arena Return
Nagbe a Bright Spot as U.S. MNT in Arena Return avatar

Bruce Arena’s debut two is in the books, a 0-0 tie against a Serbia team minus all of its first choice players. So did we learn anything? We did and here are three of those things.

1) Darlington Nagbe Has Skills.

After waiting for years to get the right to play for the U.S. MNT Nagbe had some sort of falling out with Jurgen Klinsmann last year which came to light when he declined a call-up prior to Klinsmann getting the ax.

It looked as if the talent-rich Portland midfielder might have played his last game for the U.S. MNT after accumulating just 11 caps. Then Arena replaced Klinsmann and new brooms, etc and Nagbe was asked back into the U.S. setup.

Nagbe put in a fine performance and definitely has gave Arenal something t think about. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Nagbe put in a fine performance and definitely has gave Arenal something t think about. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Arena started Nagbe on the left side of the midfield on Sunday and the Liberian-born attacker showed us all he was worth the wait. Ghosting past defenders Nagbe with ease he came close to breaking the deadlock on a couple of occasions and was, without doubt, the best American on display in San Diego.

Will Nagbe earn a key role for the crucial March qualifiers? We don’t know yet but he certainly passed today’s audition.

2) So Does Benny- Still

Jurgen Klinsmann wanted nothing to do with exuberant Sporting KC maestro Benny Feilhaber for most of his tenure but that new broom of Arena’s quickly swept the creative midfielder back into the U.S. MNT picture.

Feilhaber (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Feilhaber came off the bench and impressed. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Sacha Kljestan was preferred to Feilhaber by Arena in the coach’s first match back with the national team since 2006 but Benny made the most of his late cameo versus Serbia, connecting on several incisive passes including a sweet outside of the foot pass that sprung Jordan Morris for a late goal chance.

Morris skyed his effort but Arena had to like what he saw from Feilhaber in his return and with Kljestan headed home for the birth of his son – congratulations!- Benny figures to see plenty of playing time next Friday versus Jamaica.

3) Michael Bradley – Leading from the Back

For much of the Klinsmann Era Michael Bradley was shoehorned into an attacking midfield role that didn’t and doesn’t suit him. Against Serbia Arena started the captain in front of the back four and the Toronto FC man looked very much at home.

Bradley led well from the back. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Bradley led well from the back. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Bradley’s tenacity, lung-busting field coverage and ability to deliver a long pass while still getting forward from time to time are well suited to the role, especially if Kljestan, Feilhaber or another applicant can fulfill the attacking midfield role.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
SRB 0 0 0

Lineups:
USA: 1-Nick Rimando; 19-Graham Zusi, 15-Steve Birnbaum, 5-Chad Marshall, 2-Greg Garza (14-Jorge Villafaña, 69); 4-Michael Bradley (Capt.), 13-Jermaine Jones (18-Sebastian Lletget, 46); 11-Alejandro Bedoya (23-Chris Pontius, 65), 16-Sacha Kljestan (10-Benny Feilhaber, 77), 6-Darlington Nagbe (9-Juan Agudelo, 87); 17-Jozy Altidore (8-Jordan Morris, 74)
Subs not used: 3-Brad Evans, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 12-Luis Robles, 20-Dax McCarty, 21-Walker Zimmerman, 22-David Bingham
Head coach: Bruce Arena

SRB: 1-Filip Manojlović; 3-Nemanja Miletić, 5-Nikola Maraš, 7-Srđan Plavšić (17-Lazar Jovanović, 81), 10-Aleksandar Paločević (9-Marko Mrkić, 64), 11-Marko Gobeljić (2-Marko Klisura, 84), 13-Nikola Ćirković, 14-Nemanja Ćalasan (4-Miloš Simonović, 55), 15-Stefan Panić, 16-Jovan Đokić (6-Marko Jevtović, 77), 18-Saša Jovanović (8-Enver Alivodić, 63)
Subs not used: 12-Ognjen Čančarević
Head coach: Slavoljub Muslin

Stats Summary: USA / SRB
Shots: 12 / 8
Shots on Goal: 1 / 2
Saves: 2 / 1
Corner Kicks: 2 / 7
Fouls: 18 / 14
Offside: 5 / 5

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Sacha Kljestan (caution) 57th minute
SRB – Nikola Ćirković (caution) 80

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Arena Names 1st U.S. MNT Roster Since 2006 for Serbia Showdown
Arena Names 1st U.S. MNT Roster Since 2006 for Serbia Showdown avatar

Bruce Arena named his first U.S. MNT match day roster since 2006 on Friday, cutting his squad from the 32 players who participated in the team’s January camp to the 23 man group that will face Serbia, Sunday afternoon in San Diego.

Arena looks like to be sticking with the staff he knows well. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Arena will be looking forward to second time round. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

The stakes won’t be quite as high for Arena and the U.S. on Sunday as they were in Germany almost 11 years ago, the Serbia match is after all a friendly unlike Arena’s final game at the U.S. MNT helm, a 2-1 loss to Ghana that ended the 2006 World Cup for the Americans.

A variety of injuries suffered by various players throughout the camp, which ran from January 10 until the 27, meant that Arena had only to deliver the bad news to five players on Friday morning.

The coach had not been looking forward to the delivering the news, telling reporters on Thursday, “they’re making the task of trimming this roster basically impossible.”

Wondolowski  (ISI Photos/Casey Valentine)

Wondolowski will be helping to lead the younger strikers on the squad. (ISI Photos/Casey Valentine)

The biggest name in the quintet was Chris Wondolowski and it is not unreasonable to assume that the 34-year-old San Jose Earthquakes striker has donned the stars and stripes for the final time.

Of the other four healthy scratches, goalkeeper Brian Rowe came into camp as an injury replacement and was not expected to travel. That leaves Taylor Kemp, Keegan Rosenberry, and Wil Trapp, a trio of younger players who should see more opportunities going forward.

Arena was always going to go with the safer choices with the U.S. MNT languishing at the bottom of the Hex standings with a 0-2 record and a pair of crucial World Cup Qualifiers coming up in March.

Still, Rosenberry supporters will be disappointed that Arena chose novice fullback Graham Zusi over the young Philadelphia standout while Trapp’s omission will frustrate those who would like to see the Columbus midfielder given some playing time with the nats.

Gyasi Zardes  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Gyasi Zardes was a late injury victim.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Gyasi Zardes was a late injury victim picking up a minor right knee contusion and joining Dallas duo Matt Hedges and Kellyn Acosta, goalkeepers Bill Hamid and Stefan Frei on the injured list while Kekuta Manneh headed back to Vancouver earlier in camp while awaiting final approval to play for the U.S. having recently acquired his U.S. passport.

With the U.S. facing Jamaica on February 3 in Chattanooga, Tennessee most of the 23 players on this roster figure to see the field over these two friendlies.

U.S. MNT schedule: Sunday, January 29. U.S. MNT vs Serbia at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California.

Tuesday, March 3. U.S. MNT vs Jamaica at Finley Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

World Cup Qualifiers
March 24, 2017 TBD MNT vs Honduras Home
March 28, 2017 TBD MNT vs Panama Away

U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION:
GOALKEEPERS (3): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls)

DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Unattached), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Greg Garza (Atlanta United FC), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders FC), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna, MEX), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union)

FORWARDS (3): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC)

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

Major League Soccer teams opened preseason training camps all across the country this week providing plenty of fodder for this week’s MLS Big – 5.

1) Dempsey on the Mend!

And that is good news, whatever MLS club you root for. It came as something of a shock for American soccer fans late last season when it was revealed that “Deuce” was suffering from heart trouble and Dempsey’s health understandably took priority over soccer concerns.

Dempsey will definitely be missed.(ISI Photos/Joshua Weisberg)

Dempsey is on the mend.(ISI Photos/Joshua Weisberg)

Dempsey would miss Seattle’s surprise MLS Cup winning run but the second all-time U.S. MNT goal scorer seemed to be in good form at the MLS Cup and during the Sounders victory parade.

This week Seattle GM and President Garth Lagerway told reporters after a Sounders training session that Clint Dempsey has been given the go-ahead to participate in practice.

Dempsey “is healthy enough to train,” Lagerwey said. “That has been determined. But we’ve still got some mileposts we’ve got to hit along the way as we continue to progress him. I don’t want to set any expectations because we’ll either hit them or we won’t. There is no timetable. We’re not prepared to put any more structure on it than that.”

2) Ian Harkes Follows in his Dad’s Footsteps – Signs with DC

Ian Harkes, the MAC Hermann Trophy winning son of former U.S. MNT captain and current coach at USL club FC Cincinnati John Harkes signed a Homegrown contract with his father’s former club DC United this week.

Ian Harkes (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Ian Harkes joins DC United. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Speculation that Europe was in the cards for the younger Harkes makes this signing a potential coup for United and it has to be a popular move with the DC fanbase.

Although Ian is a defensive midfielder, in his time at Wake Forest the son showed that he shares his father’s knack for scoring spectacular goals, although he may never match Dad’s 1990 Goal of the Year, a 40 plus yard blast that beat England number one Peter Shilton when John was playing for Sheffield Wednesday.

3) Captain Dax Shipped to ChiTown.

It has been an odd couple of weeks for the New York Red Bulls beginning with rumors regarding coach Jesse Marsch and then Sporting Director Ali Curtis, and now this.

Dax McCarthy training in the recent USMNT camp. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Dax McCarthy training in the recent USMNT camp. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The Red Bulls traded team captain Dax McCarty to Chicago for $400,000 in GAM (General Allocation Money). 29-year-old McCarty is playing the best soccer of his career, recently earning a call to the U.S. MNT January camp. Still, the move makes some sense for the Red Bulls, who have a younger, cheaper replacement in Sean Davis ready to step in and can use this money to fortify other weaknesses, did someone say center back?

But replacing McCarty’s influence in the locker room may be a bigger challenge, which brings us back to Marsch and Curtis. Since Curtis abruptly hightailed it out of Los Angeles just before the MLS SuperDraft, the club’s Sporting Director has been incommunicado, doing nothing to disabuse rumors that Curtis has been ousted, despite Red Bulls statements that all is well.

As for Chicago, they couldn’t be happier. McCarty will slot into a revamped Fire midfield alongside former Galaxy MLS Cup winner Juninho while new DP signing, Serbian forward Nemanja Nikolic will be be looked on to provide goals for what figures to be a much improved Chicago Fire squad.

4) Freddy Who? Freddy Adu!

The long and winding road that has been the career of one-time American Pele, Freddy Adu has turned off at Portland Timbers preseason camp in Tucson, Arizona. Courtesy of their time together with the U.S. U23 team that failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, Timbers coach Caleb Porter has offered Adu a trial.

Freddy Adu (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

Freddy Adu was once regarded as the American Pele.  (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

Given that Adu was unable to make an impact in a one and half year stint with NASL side Tampa Bay Rowdies it is fair to say Adu’s chances of sticking with Portland are slim.

Another blast from the past, although it was a much more fruitful past, is Oguchi Onyewu who is training with the Philadelphia Union. Injuries slowed the former U.S. MNT standout, who last played in the English Championship for Charlton during the 2014-15 season. Philly coach Jim Curtin and Sporting Director Earnie Stewart both downplay the possibility of Gooch suiting up for the Union, although Stewart told reporters, “never say never. That’s the way soccer is. Obviously, we are looking for an experienced center back and I guess it’s pretty easy to see he fits the mold.”

The union has also handed a trial to Fafa Picault, who less than a year ago emerged from nowhere to land a U.S. cap in a friendly versus Puerto Rico. The New York City-born speedster was playing for St Pauli of the Bundesliga 2 when a four-goal outburst fired up the hype train.

That train has since derailed and so Picault finds himself in Philadelphia camp looking for a job. He is still just 25 and if Curtis and Stewart can get Picault back on track they might have a made a steal.

5) Jones to L.A. – Spector Comes Home for the First Time

It was a move that had been expected for months but Jermaine Jones and the L.A. Galaxy finally made it official last Wednesday; the U.S international is a member of the Galaxy. L.A. acquired Jones’ rights from the Colorado Rapids on December 13 but it took over a month for the sides to work out the details.

Jones (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Jones finally made his move to the Galaxy. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Jones is the rare veteran to come to L.A. in an off-season that has seen Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, Steven Gerrard and even coach Bruce Area depart.

Sometimes U.S. international Jonathan Spector has landed in Orlando after spending his entire in career in England. The versatile defender and occasional midfielder originally signed with Manchester United before moving on to West Ham and eventually Birmingham City, where Spector has played since 2011 and should provide the Lions with solid play and veteran presence.

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