World Cup: Friday wrapup

World Cup: Friday wrapup

By Adam Vaccaro
CSNNE.com

What happened Friday: The Twitterverse read like an obituary for American soccer during and immediately following halftime as the United States came out flat against Slovenia and suffered for it, going down early 2-0. But just minutes into the second half, Landon Donovan dismissed such notions with a beautiful individual effort to get the Yanks back into it. The American attack heightened as the half wore on, culminating in a sliding goal by Michael Bradley to complete the spirited comeback and tie the match. The 2-2 score would hold.

The draw was a thriller, but the bad taste in the collective American mouth spawns from a horrible (and frustratingly undefined) called foul that disallowed a Maurice Edu game-winner. Replays show nothing indicating a foul, but the call cost the United States the victory regardless. The Yanks, however, have only themselves to blame for how gut wrenching the call proved. The match showed what the US is capable of when firing on all cylinders, but it especially underscored how crucial it is that the team gets out to better starts. Look for more defensive intensity early on against Algeria on Wednesday.

Also Friday: Americans quickly shifted focus to England's tilt with Algeria and they got the result they wanted. England was unable to take control of the game and Algeria, like Slovenia earlier in the day, proved to be a threat by holding the Three Lions to a scoreless draw. Les Fennecs played surprisingly well defensively and were able to possess the ball and England just couldn't put together much in the way of opportunity. The Three Lions have put themselves in a tough spot, but they're still quite alive moving into the final stage of group play.

Serbia whetted our collective appetite, kicking off a big day of soccer by upsetting Germany 1-0. In a match perhaps too full of bookings, Die Mannschaft saw the worst of it, losing striker Miroslav Klose in the 37th minute after two cautions. Almost immediately, Liverpool's Milan Jovanovic collected the game's only goal from a beautiful Serbian set-up. The Serbs came through in a match they needed to win and Group D will see quite a final week as a result.

What it all means: Things still look pretty good for the Stars and Stripes. Group C is going to go down to the wire, so here's the deal: if the United States beats Algeria it will advance to the second round. It's a can't-lose match, but America has to look at it as a must-win; victory could give the team the group's top spot, and relying on a draw in the other match is not ideal. England finds itself in the same spot. It's possible that the Three Lions get away with a draw (if they score a few goals to break a tie with the United States), but a win would put the team right into the Round of 16. The US and England were supposed to breeze through Group C, but Algeria and Slovenia have hindered those plans. Still, strong showings from the two favored sides on Wednesday will send them both forth.

Group D is now anyone's for the taking. Australia and Ghana will dictate the entire landscape as the group's final matches approach, but Serbia's win today makes things very interesting. The result alerts the soccer world that the Serbs are still a threat after many dismissed the team following its disappointing loss on Sunday. Next Wednesday will mark the deciding matches in both Groups C and D and should make for a fantastic day of soccer.
What to watch on Saturday: Group D is undecided as is, but if Australia could win against Ghana, it would mean chaos. Under such circumstances, each team would enter the final set of matches locked at three points apiece. The Aussies will be without their best player Tim Cahill was sent off against Germany with a red card and their minus-four goal differential will need to be substantially improved on should the group come down to tiebreakers, but a victory tomorrow would put the all four teams in a win-and-in situation next week. If you don't want to see that...well, I guess you're probably Ghanaian, in which case that's totally reasonable.

Also Saturday: Japan and the Netherlands should put on a very entertaining match in the early morning. It will also go a long ways towards determining Group E, as the two teams currently sit atop its standings. A win for either side will give it a very clear advantage going into the final week of group play. Japan impressed in upsetting Cameroon last week, but containing Holland will be a tough task for the Blue Samurai.

Cameroon and Denmark will look to get back into the competition. Three points would undoubtedly be huge for either side regardless of how the early match goes. Samuel Eto'o said this week that he aims to be more central to the Cameroon attack than the Lions' game plan called for against Japan, so look to see the star and captain with the ball frequently.

Question of the Day: Will Harry Kewell play for Australia? The Socceroos are a defense-first type of squad but they must win Saturday's match if they want to stay even with the rest of the group. Goals, then, are in serious demand. Cahill's suspension leaves the team without its most consistent scoring threat. Kewell can provide offense even in advanced age and claims to be fully recovered from a groin injury, but the Aussie medical staff isn't so sure. If he does go, his presence will be a huge boost for a 'Roo squad that's been granted second life in the wake of Friday morning's madness.

Full schedule (all times EDT): Netherlands v Japan Durban Stadium, Durban 7:30 a.m.; Ghana v Australia Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg 10:00 a.m.; Cameroon v Denmark Loftus Versfeld Stadium, TshwanePretoria 2:30 p.m.

Quote of Note: Our goal was to win, but it was still a situation where we couldn't lose ... at the end of the day a tie keeps us alive. - US coach Bob Bradley following his team's match against Slovenia.

Jurgen Klinsmann fired as coach of United States soccer team

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Jurgen Klinsmann fired as coach of United States soccer team

NEW YORK - Jurgen Klinsmann was fired as coach of the U.S. soccer team Monday, six days after a 4-0 loss at Costa Rica dropped the Americans to 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena is the favorite to succeed Klinsmann, and his hiring could be announced as early as Tuesday. Arena coached the national team from 1998 to 2006.

Qualifying resumes when the U.S. hosts Honduras on March 24 and plays four days later at Panama.

"While we remain confident that we have quality players to help us advance to Russia 2018, the form and growth of the team up to this point left us convinced that we need to go in a different direction," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "With the next qualifying match in late March, we have several months to refocus the group and determine the best way forward to ensure a successful journey to qualify for our eighth consecutive World Cup."

A former German star forward who has lived mostly in Southern California since retiring as a player in 1998, Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley in July 2011 and led the team to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup title and the second round of the 2014 World Cup, where the Americans lost to Belgium in extra time.

The USSF announced in December 2013 a four-year contract extension through 2018, but the successful World Cup was followed by poor performances. The U.S. was knocked out by Jamaica in last year's Gold Cup semifinals and lost to Mexico in a playoff for a Confederations Cup berth. The team rebounded to reach this year's Copa America semifinals before losing to Argentina 4-0. But this month Mexico beat the Americans 2-1 at Columbus, Ohio, in the first home qualifying loss for the U.S. since 2001.

And last week, the Americans were routed in Costa Rica, their largest margin of defeat in qualifying since 1980. They dropped to 0-2 for the first time in the hexagonal, as the final round of World Cup qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean is known.

While there is time to recover, given the top three teams qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia and the fourth-place finisher advances to a playoff against Asia's No. 5 team, players seemed confused by Klinsmann's tactics, such as a 3-4-1-2 formation used at the start against the Mexicans.

"Today we made the difficult decision of parting ways with Jurgen Klinsmann," Gulati said. "There were considerable achievements along the way ... but there were also lesser publicized efforts behind the scenes. He challenged everyone in the U.S. Soccer community to think about things in new ways, and thanks to his efforts we have grown as an organization and expect there will be benefits from his work for years to come."

The U.S. had not changed coaches in the middle of qualifying since the USSF made the position a full-time job and hired Bob Gansler in 1989 to replace Lothar Osiander, who also at the time was a waiter at a San Francisco restaurant.

Klinsmann made controversial decisions, such as dropping Landon Donovan from the 2014 World Cup roster while taking along relatively inexperienced players such as John Brooks, Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin. Brooks and Green were among five German-Americans on the 23-man U.S. World Cup roster, which drew criticism from some in the American soccer community.

He coached the team to a 55-27-16 record, including a U.S.-record 12-game winning streak and victories in exhibitions at Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. He has worked in the past year to integrate more young players into the lineup, such as teen midfield sensation Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris.

Arena, a 65-year-old wisecracking Brooklynite known for blunt talk, was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010. He coached the University of Virginia from 1978-95, then coached D.C. United to titles in Major League Soccer's first two seasons before losing in the 1998 final. As U.S. coach, he led the Americans to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals in the team's best finish since 1930.

He was let go after the team's first-round elimination in 2006. Gulati unsuccessfully courted Klinsmann, who won the 1990 World Cup with West Germany and the 1996 European Championship with Germany, then coached his nation to the 2006 World Cup semifinals.

When Gulati and Klinsmann couldn't reach an agreement, the USSF hired Bradley, who coached the team to the second round of the 2010 World Cup. A year later, the Americans stumbled in the Gold Cup, and Klinsmann replaced Bradley.

Arena coached the New York Red Bulls of MLS from July 2006 to November 2007, then was hired the following August by the Galaxy. He led the team to MLS titles in 2011, '12 and '14.