Report: Jordan Morris has torn ACL, set to miss entire season

Seattle Sounders’ worst fears for Jordan Morris’s knee injury look as though they’ve been realized. Stuart Holden has reported that the Sounders and US National Team forward has suffered a torn ACL in his team’s first match of the CONCACAF Champions League.

https://twitter.com/stuholden/status/967491302227980289

Morris suffered the injury in the 83rd minute with Seattle down 2-1 to Santa Tecla while taking a shot on goal and immediately went down. Seattle had already used all 3 of their substitutes and played the remainder of the match down a man.

It is still unknown the extent of the injury as the Seattle Sounders have yet to confirm the report.

A study by Robert H Brophy, M.D. et al from 2012 found that 72% of soccer players who suffered ACL injuries returned to soccer after surgery. An article by Dr. David Geier that referenced the study also noted that the average recovery time after surgery was 12.2 months. The same study also determined male athletes were more likely to return than females and younger athletes more likely than older ones.

This should bode well for Morris’s recovery although it looks like it will be a long one and it should be considered highly unlikely he’ll return to the pitch in 2018.

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An unthinkable reality: An English take on the USA’s World Cup failure

The USA aren’t going to the World Cup.

I didn’t think I’d ever have to write that sentence. I can’t believe I’m doing so now.

When the final whistle blew in Trinidad on Tuesday night, it was 3AM here in the UK. I didn’t sit through 90 torturous minutes, as the reality of the USA’s World Cup failure slowly sank in. Instead, I woke up to a melting pot of despair. The USA had lost. Panama and Honduras won.

The United States’ failure to qualify for the World Cup isn’t just devastating on a nation level, it’s global. The World Cup will be a worse tournament without the USA. It will be a worse tournament without the likes of Ghana, Chile and the Netherlands too. But the USA’s absence hurts more.

They’ve reached the Round of 16 in back-to-back tournaments. Their passion both on the field and in the stands has been fantastic to see. But most importantly, they’ve been improving.

Soccer is a big deal in the USA now. Sure, it could still get even bigger. But the fact is, people have started to fall in love with the game. The biggest reason for the surge in support is probably because of how well they battled at the 2014 World Cup. They might have gone out to Belgium, but they won a lot of people’s hearts over that day.

But those hearts were all broken with Tuesday’s result in Trinidad.

Embed from Getty ImagesThe USA have been to seven successive World Cup’s. They’ve not missed the tournament since 1986. To put it into perspective, England have missed a World Cup more recently than the USMNT, as the Three Lions failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

There is a real sense of entitlement when it comes to World Cup qualification here in England. Many fans don’t even watch many of the qualifiers. They just expect to see England at the main event. And yes, for the past 20 years, qualifying has been easy for the Three Lions. They’ve only lost four of their last 56 World Cup qualifiers.

That’s as many as the USA lost in this year’s Hexagonal alone.

But qualification for the USA should be a straightforward task too. The quality of teams across the CONCACAF region is improving, but the USA should not be finishing behind the likes of Panama and Honduras. There is no excuse for that, regardless of who is the head coach and who’s in charge of the United States Soccer Federation.

Tuesday night’s defeat to Trinidad will surely go down as the most embarrassing and heartbreaking night in US Soccer history. It sure feels like that now, and I’m sure it will still feel like that for a long time.

Taylor Twellman summed up the emotion of USA fans on ESPN after the game. He was incensed and rightly so.

But this must now act as the catalyst for change for the USA. A lot of fingers are being pointed. There are a lot of places to look for where things have gone wrong over the past couple of years. But there is no greater time to bring about large-scale changes than when staring at a reality like the USA is right now.

A new coach will surely be needed. Some players will have played their last game for the USMNT. Others will now step forward. Changes will be made as to how the USA scouts players, how it develops them. It will take time. But the USA now has time. They will not play a competitive game again now until the 2019 Gold Cup.

I might not be American, but I believe in US Soccer. I believe in MLS. And I believe that the USA’s World Cup failure will be the catalyst for change, the catalyst for a brighter future. Things can only improve from here…

World Cup Qualifying Preview and Prediction: USA vs Costa Rica

2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier (CONCACAF): USA vs Costa Rica

Red Bull Arena – Friday, September 1 – 18:55 ET (23:55 BST)

Match Odds: USA 7/10 – Draw 23/10 – Costa Rica 4/1

USA vs Costa Rica: Preview

The USA (2-2-2) host Costa Rica (3-1-2) in a crucial World Cup qualifier at Red Bull Arena on Friday night. The United States have not lost a game since Bruce Arena took over as head coach from Jurgen Klinsmann. But the USA’s last defeat did come in their 4-0 qualifying loss at Costa Rica last December.

That heavy defeat left the USA bottom of the Hexagonal after back-to-back defeats. Klinsmann’s time was up and Arena was brought back in. Things have improved dramatically since.

The USMNT now sit third in the Hex, three points behind Costa Rica with four games to go. If they can win here, they will move ahead of Los Ticos on goal difference.

Recent form suggests the USA should prove too strong. They are unbeaten in 14 under Arena and have won five-straight games. They beat Costa Rica 2-0 on their way to winning the 2017 Gold Cup Final against Jamaica last month and are on a roll.

Costa Rica haven’t played since that semifinal loss to the United States at last month’s Gold Cup. They started the Hex in blistering form, scoring six goals in two games without conceding. But they have since won just one of their four qualifiers.

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They still have a squad strong enough to win any game in qualifying, but they must get back to where they were at this stage last year. They went unbeaten from June to January last year, posting a 7-0-3 record in that run.

The USA haven’t lost a home World Cup qualifier to Costa Rica since 1985. They have won six of their last eight home games against Los Ticos since that loss 32 years ago.

USA vs Costa Rica: Team News

USA head coach Bruce Arena hasn’t included any surprise call-ups in his squad for the upcoming qualifiers. 18 of the 26 players play in MLS and are in optimum shape at this stage of the regular season. While stars from European clubs such as Christian Pulisic, Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson will all expect to start. Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore will all pick up a suspension if they receive yellow cards on Friday night.

Costa Rica will have to cope without star winger Joel Campbell. He is recovering from knee surgery and is ruled out for some time. Los Ticos do still have top talent to call on though, with Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas the standout name in the roster. Seven MLS players are included in the Costa Rica squad, including Vancouver duo Kendall Waston and Cristian Bolanos as well as Portland’s David Guzman and NYCFC’s Rodney Wallace. San Jose Earthquakes’ Marcos Urena might start up front.

USA vs Costa Rica: Key Points

USA’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Costa Rica’s last five: W/D/W/W/L

Key Stat: The USA are unbeaten in 14 games since Bruce Arena took over from Jurgen Klinsmann last December. They’ve gone 9-0-5 under Arena in 2017.

Key Player: Clint Dempsey – The USA veteran needs one more goal to become the USMNT’s all-time leading goalscorer. He is currently tied with Landon Donovan on 57 and will break the record if he finds the back of the net here. He has four in his last seven internationals and comes into Friday’s game in good form with the Sounders. He’s also the leading scorer in the Hex coming into Friday’s fixtures.

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USA vs Costa Rica: Prediction

USA 2-0 Costa Rica – The USA have won their last two home qualifiers without conceding a goal. That shouldn’t change on Friday as they arrive in high spirits with an experienced squad of stars. Costa Rica’s qualifying campaign is almost the complete opposite of the United States’. They started well but now look vulnerable and a resurgent USMNT should get the job done at Red Bull Arena on Friday.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: Panama vs USA

Competition: 2018 World Cup Qualifier – Panama vs. USA
Venue: Estadio Rommel Fernández – Tuesday, March 28 – 22:00 ET (03:00 BST) 
Match Odds: Panama 12/5 – Draw 11/5 – USA 21/20

Match Preview

Panama host the USA in a crucial World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night, with just one place and one point separating the sides going into the fourth round of fixtures in a fiercely competitive Hexagonal.

Panama are one of CONCACAF’s toughest sides to break down. They lost 1-0 to Trinidad on Friday night, with Kevin Molino’s goal the only strike they have conceded in three qualifiers so far.

They opened the Hex with a 1-0 win at Honduras and followed it up by holding Mexico to a 0-0 draw at home. Panama have never qualified for a World Cup but sit just three points off Mexico going into Tuesday’s games and know that they will remain on track if they can avoid defeat against the USA.

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That will be no easy task, given how the US men’s national team dismantled Honduras at Avaya Stadium on Friday night. The manner of the 6-0 win in Bruce Arena’s first competitive game since taking over as head coach once again in November was unexpected but incredibly impressive.

Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey tore the Honduran defence apart, while Michael Bradley thrived in the lone defensive-midfield role, even grabbing a goal himself as the USA sent out a statement of intent to their CONCACAF rivals.

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Few changes are expected for Tuesday’s trip to Panama City and the aim will be for the US to try and score early to force the hosts to come forward. Their approach worked perfectly against Honduras and will surely be adopted once again here.

The challenge will now be to follow that result up with another strong performance as they look to move into the top three of the Hex. Tuesday’s game will be the last qualifier until June so Arena knows the team must leave Panama with at least a point.

The USA have never lost a World Cup qualifier to Panama but have not beaten them in their last two meetings, both coming in the 2015 Gold Cup with the Panamanians beating the USMNT on penalties in the 3rd place playoff.

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Team News

MLS fans will be familiar with a number of faces in the Panama lineup on Tuesday. Former LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo will be looking to keep the US out, helped by Seattle’s stalwart Roman Torres. Toronto’s Armando Cooper will likely play alongside San Jose’s Anibal Godoy in midfield, with former Quakes teammate Alberto Quintero looking to cause trouble from out wide. Former MLS strikers Blas Perez and Gabriel Torres will be looking to make an impact, but it will likely have to come from the bench.

Bruce Arena will have to change his starting lineup as Sebastian Lletget and John Brooks are both at home dealing with injuries picked up on Friday. Jordan Morris has left the squad as his ankle problem means he can’t take to the field, so he’s returned to Seattle for treatment. Alejandro Bedoya is likely to come into the starting lineup in place of Lletget, while Jermaine Jones is available again after serving his suspension and might get a start. 

Key Points

Panama’s last five: W/L/W/W/L

USA’s last five: L/L/D/W/W

Key Stat: Panama have gone nine games without conceding more than a single goal in a match. They have only let in four goals in those nine games.

Key Player: Clint Dempsey – Fresh from scoring a hat-trick in Friday’s 6-0 demolition over Honduras, Dempsey will be looking to fire the USA to a second consecutive win in an equally important game. He has found the net in two of the last three meetings with Panama and will expect to cause their solid defence some serious problems on Tuesday.

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Score Prediction

Panama 1-1 USA – This looks set to be a much trickier contest than Friday night’s for the USMNT but they will not expect to leave Panama with anything less than a point. They have the quality to beat Panama but have been tied at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes the last two times they have faced them and might just have to settle for the same result here in what is a vital game for both sides.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: USA vs Honduras

Competition: Major League Soccer – USA vs. Honduras
Venue: Avaya Stadium – Friday, March 24th – 22:30 ET (02:30 GMT
Match Odds: USA 4/9 – Draw 14/5 – Honduras 13/2

Match Preview

The USA’s World Cup hopes are hanging precariously in the balance ahead of a huge qualifier against Honduras on Friday night at San Jose Earthquakes’ Avaya Stadium in California, with Bruce Arena taking charge of his first competitive game since replacing Jurgen Klinsmann as the head coach.

Klinsmann’s final game in charge came in the US national team’s most recent qualification game – a devastating 4-0 loss at Costa Rica, leaving them bottom of the Hexagonal after two matches. A loss to Honduras on Friday would make it almost impossible for the USA to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in just over a year.

No team has ever qualified for the game’s biggest tournament after picking up just one point from their opening three Hexagonal matches, so not only do the US need to avoid defeat, they need to take the game to Honduras and breakdown what is expected to be a stern defensive setup.

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Los Catrachos sit fourth in the Hex after winning one and losing one so far. They opened with a surprise 1-0 home loss to Panama but picked up in their second game to beat Trinidad & Tobago 3-1.

They will be looking to follow that result up with at least another point in their first road game here. If they can avoid defeat to the US on Friday, the Hondurans will no doubt be feeling a lot more confident about their chances of playing in Russia next summer.

They have some dangerous attacking assets that MLS fans – and Houston Dynamo supporters in particular – will be familiar with already this season. Romell Quioto, Boniek Garcia and Alberth Elis can all create chances out of nothing and will be looking to hit an injury-stricken USA backline on the counter wherever possible.

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Bruce Arena has been dealt a few major injury blows in the lead up to this pivotal game, with Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson all sidelined. All three would have been expected to start and so adjustments will have to be made.

Add in the fact that Jermaine Jones is suspended and Jordan Morris is struggling with an ankle injury picked up in last Sunday’s win over the Red Bulls and it’s easy to start questioning the team’s chances of getting three points on the board.

That said, the US have more than enough depth to cover for the losses and have no fewer than 19 MLS players in the squad. All of them should be fresh as we’re only three weeks into the regular season and that could prove to be a major boost on the night. 

Christian Pulisic is also set to start his third-straight qualifier and the 18-year-old Dortmund star comes into the game high in confidence after starring in the Bundesliga and Champions League in recent weeks.

Victory is expected. A draw would leave the USMNT with an enormous task on their hands. But defeat would surely spell catastrophe for the nation’s hopes of qualifying. It’s an enormous game and one the hosts have to deliver in.

Team News

As mentioned above, Arena has been hit with a number of injuries to key players based in Europe. Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson are all out. Jordan Morris is a doubt, but could make an impact off the bench, while Jermaine Jones is suspended. Jozy Altidore looks certain to lead the attack, with Clint Dempsey in line for a return the starting lineup after recovering from his irregular heartbeat problem that ruled him out of action for the backend of 2016. It’s unclear how the defence will lineup but it’s likely we’ll see Geoff Cameron fill in at right-back, with John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez pairing up in the centre of defence and Jorge Villafaña operating down the left side.

Honduras will look to their MLS-based stars to shine brightly at Avaya Stadium on Friday. Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis offer devastating pace, while Maynor Figueroa and Roger Espinoza provide them with experienced defensive cover, and that will surely be needed as the USA have to take the game to the visitors.

Key Points

USA’s last five: D/L/L/D/W

Honduras’s last five: D/W/L/L/W

Key Stat: The USMNT have only lost one of their last 31 World Cup qualifiers on home soil, although that did come in their latest home game against Mexico back in November.

Key Player: Christian Pulisic – The Dortmund winger has been in excellent form over the last few weeks, scoring three times in five games in March. He is young enough to be able to handle the volume of games but will be tested with handling intense pressure in a huge game for his country on Friday night. He might only be 18, but Pulisic has already proven he is a special talent and will look to shine here.

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Score Prediction

USA 2-1 Honduras – This is likely to be an extremely nervy evening for USA supporters but one that should end in an all-important victory given the quality of the team. There are some key absentees but Bruce Arena has enough tools at his disposal to get the job done. Honduras will be a real threat on the counter but ultimately the hosts should pull through.

USMNT star DeAndre Yedlin completes £5m move to Newcastle from Spurs

US International right-back DeAndre Yedlin has completed a move to English Championship side Newcastle United for a reported fee of £5 million after making just one senior appearance for Tottenham Hotspur.

Yedlin’s move to Newcastle should guarantee him first-team football as he has replaced Dutch full-back Daryl Janmaat, who joined Watford earlier today.

The 23-year-old moved to England from the Seattle Sounders in January 2015 but struggled to force his way into Mauricio Pochettino’s plans.

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A loan move to fellow Premier League side Sunderland last September saw Yedlin develop his talents under Sam Allardyce, but he was still behind Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier in the Spurs pecking order once returning to North London and so a move elsewhere makes sense.

Yedlin will have undoubtedly angered Sunderland fans with a move to fierce north-east rivals Newcastle but he is now looking to impress on a weekly basis under Rafa Benitez as the Magpies look for an immediate return to the top flight.

Yedlin made a total of 23 league appearances for Sunderland last season, and became an integral part of the team as they escaped relegation, starting all of the Black Cats’ final 13 matches.

He will now hope to build on those displays at the top end of the Championship with his new teammates, while regular playing time will also keep him at the forefront of Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT plans.

Is the move to Newcastle a good one for DeAndre Yedlin? Is he too good for the Championship?

Getting Stuck In: The Great American Hype Machine

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into The Great American Hype Machine as the nation waits for a world class player to emerge…

I was used to waiting. It’s part of the deal when you interview celebrities. This time, in 2004,  I was waiting to interview a soccer prodigy.  He was supposed to call at 10am. It reached 1pm. I called the Nike representative that set up the interview and asked if she could call him. She rang back an hour later and said he would be calling me in ten minutes. Two more hours went by. I called the Nike rep back again. She apologized and said he was busy playing an intense game of FIFA with friends during some downtime. He finally called at 5pm and didn’t even apologize for making a grown man wait.

You see, Freddy Adu has been making everyone wait his entire professional career. He has shown glimpses of magic with US youth teams but he has been an utter dud everywhere else he has gone. He has played for 13 teams in eight countries over a 12-year career so far. But is it all his fault? He has to take some of the blame for sinking faster than the Titanic. Some say bad attitude, bad practice habits, laziness, no commitment to defence are among some of his problems. My buddy Eric and I theorize about why he continues to move from club-to club and we just assume that he does something behind the scenes to piss off his managers. Some would just say he sucks. But some blame the ‘Great American Hype Machine’.

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Yes, we Americans are guilty of cranking up the Hype Machine to epic levels. We are always waiting for our Messi, our Ronaldo, our Pele – but we just get Adu. When Adu signed a pro contract with MLS side DC United at the age of 14 (debatable), we were all swept up in the Hype Machine with no idea he would be spat out 12 years later. Before he ever kicked a ball professionally, Nike gave him huge money and soft drink company Sierra Mist created a cool ad that debuted during Adu’s first pro game. It featured him with Pele on a soccer field competing for the last bottle of Sierra Mist. The ad sprouted from the American soccer intelligentsia saying Freddy Adu was the “next Pele” (Hype Machine at its worst). Even Pele bought in: “His left foot is fantastic. It’s like Mozart. God gave Freddy the gift to play soccer. If he is prepared mentally and physically, nobody will stop him.” Pele may have been an all-time soccer talent, but he’s not an all-time talent evaluator.

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Adu is only 26 (debatable) and mentally and physically he seems shot. Many think his career has finally come to an end because he now plays for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the NASL, a division below MLS. He shows glimpses of being a decent player but when I found this headline the other day I wondered if Freddy was doing ok: “Freddie Adu has gone from ‘next Pele’ to vacuum cleaner salesman on Twitter”.

This brings us to the next great product of the Great American Hype Machine: Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic. There is surely no way this kid will be the next Adu, right? Yes, the Machine has churned out hope-to-nope players like Julian Green and Juan Agudelo, and may take down Jordan Morris and Bobby Wood, but I think (and I hope) Pulisic is different. Here’s a few reasons why:

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  • He is 17 (not 14) and is being groomed with smarts by one of the best clubs for developing talent in Europe.
  • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp loved him when he was Dortmund’s manager and saw him excel with their youth academy and destroy fools with the US U17 squad (20 goals in 34 appearances).
  • He is humble, respectful, hard working and technically sound (rare for an American player).
  • He is strong for his size, doesn’t back down from anyone (see his work against some of the strongest players in Germany).
  • He feels American. With all due respect to Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson and the other German-Americans on the US squad, he is from Hershey, Pennsylvania so he feels authentic.
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When Pulisic became the youngest player to score two goals in the Bundesliga this past spring, I went bonkers. It convinced me that he was for real. No fugazi. Legit. Not just a good American player but considered a great European prospect. I mean, when a headline like this appears in the Daily Mail, I believe the hype: “Liverpool face competition from Real Madrid and Manchester City in pursuit of Borussia Dortmund whizzkid Christian Pulisic.”

Are you kidding me? Pulisic wearing the kit of my beloved Liverpool? An American, dancing around the midfield to You’ll Never Walk Alone on one of those special European nights at Anfield? I just hope the Hype Machine leaves him alone. Because if he does come down with a bad case of Adu-itis, I don’t know how much more waiting I can take.

Copa America Preview and Prediction: USA vs Colombia

Competition: Copa America Centenario – USA vs. Colombia 

Venue: Levi’s Stadium, California – Saturday, June 4 – 21:30 ET (02:30 BST)

Match Odds: USA 13/8 – Draw 11/5 – Colombia 7/4

Match Preview

USA and Colombia kickstart the 2016 Copa America Centenario on Saturday night as they face off at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California in the tournament’s opening game.

Both sides will have high hopes for this tournament. Colombia will look to continue to impress at international level, while the US Men’s National Team need to repay the passionate support of their fans with strong performances on home soil.

USA come into the game off the back of four-straight wins and it’s important they perform well in this tournament as the nation is desperate to see the national team continue to develop ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

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The big stage has always been the place to show off talent and how progression is going. Jurgen Klinsmann knows that and with USA hosting the tournament, the weight of expectation on a good group of players has been intensified.

A below-par showing may mean that there is time for a change at the helm and so a good start to the Copa America is needed.

Colombia stunned the footballing world with their displays at the World Cup two years ago. The rise of their captain, James Rodriguez was perhaps the most remarkable feat from that tournament and he was rewarded by earning a big-money move to Real Madrid.

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They come into this tournament off the back of three consecutive wins, ending a poor run which saw them win just one of seven prior to their recent turnaround.

Manager Jose Pekerman knows what his side are capable of. They struggled at last year’s Copa America in Chile, winning one game and scoring just one goal in four games before being eliminated on penalties by Argentina in the quarter-finals.

But they enter this tournament as one of the more favoured sides and will need to show the form they did two years ago in Brazil if they are to succeed.

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Colombia are missing notable strikers Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez from their squad, so they may be slightly short up front but they still have quality all over the pitch and are rightly favourites on paper.

This will be the 18th all-time meeting between the two nations. Colombia hold the advantage based on history, winning 11 of the previous clashes. USA have only won three games against the South American side, the most recent of which came in a friendly in 2005.

Team News

USA look set to go with a 4-3-3 setup as they have done successfully in recent friendly games. Clint Dempsey will spearhead the attack, with fellow MLS stars Gyasi Zardes and Graham Zusi fighting for spots out wide along with Bobby Wood. Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley and Alejandro Bedoya look the most likely starters in midfield, though Kyle Beckerman may be considered due to his more defensive capabilities. Tim Howard is expected to start in goal.

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Colombia have tried various formations in recent friendlies but are likely to start with a 4-2-3-1 setup, with Carlos Bacca leading the attack. James Rodriguez will sit in behind him, with Juan Cuadrado and Edwin Cardona likely to play out wide. Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina will start in goal.

Key Points

USA’s last five internationals: L/W/W/W/W

Colombia’s last five internationals: D/L/W/W/W

Key Stat: Colombia are undefeated in the last three matches between the two sides (W2 D1), conceding just one goal in that time.

Key Player: James Rodriguez – James was, in many people’s eyes, the best player at the 2014 World Cup. He has struggled at club level with Real Madrid this season but returning to his key role for his home nation could spell trouble for the USMNT. His vision, as well as the ability to pull off the spectacular at any moment, makes him almost impossible to stop when on form.

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Score Prediction

USA 1-2 Colombia – Opening games always provide excitement and USA will have the benefit of the home crowd in Santa Clara on Saturday. However, Colombia have key players in key areas which should see them edge this one by a single goal. Both will expect to trouble each other’s defences but ultimately, the Colombians have a stronger attacking force and that is likely to show.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: Guatemala vs USA

Competition: CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier – Guatemala vs. USA

Venue: Estadio Mateo Flores, Guatemala – Friday, March 25 – 22:00 ET (02:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Guatemala 17/2 – Draw 100/30 – USA 1/3

Match Preview

Guatemala host the USA in an important World Cup qualifier on Friday night in what will be the first of two games between the nations in five days.

Both sides have played two games so far in Group C of CONCACAF qualifying, with the USA topping the group ahead of Trinidad and Tobago on goal difference. Guatemala sit in third place, but know that picking up at least one good result against the USA over the next week will keep their hopes alive.

Guatemala have never qualified for a World Cup but did reach the Hexagonal stage of qualifying in 2006, where they finished fifth and narrowly missed out the intercontinental playoff spot.

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Los Chapines fell 2-1 to Trinidad before thrashing St Vincent and the Grenadines 4-0 in their first two Group C games. Back-to-back losses to the USA this week will all but end their hopes of qualifying, so Guatemala need to try and make home advantage count on Friday evening.

The US Men’s National Team are entering two important games as the double header against Guatemala will be Jurgen Klinsmann’s last chance to assess his squad ahead of this summer’s Copa America Centenario.

The German head coach has said the USA “badly want to get the job done before the Copa America if possible” and he is targeting six points from the two games against Los Chapines this week.

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An opening 6-1 win over St Vincent and the Grenadines was followed by a 0-0 draw in Trinidad. The USA have only won two of their last eight games away from home and a win on Friday would be a real boost.

Klinsmann has called up an experienced squad for these games. He will expect his side to record two victories as all attentions will turn to this summer’s Copa America as soon as this home-and-home series with Guatemala is over.

These nations have met at this stage of CONCACAF qualifying in each of the past five World Cup cycles. The USA have posted a 7-0-5 record in those qualifiers but have only won one of the five games in Guatemala (W1 D4).

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Team News

Jurgen Klinsmann has called up 26 players for the upcoming home-and-home series with Guatemala over the next five days, with 13 MLS stars in the latest squad. There are eight players looking to appear in their first World Cup qualifying matches, while 15 members of the squad travelled to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. Bobby Wood will be one to watch as the Union Berlin forward will hope to continue to shine if given the chance to in attack.

Guatemala have called up 24 players for the two qualifying games against USA, with six attackers named to the roster. MLS fans will be familiar with Colorado Rapids midfielder Marco Pappa as well as Carlos Ruiz, who played for five MLS clubs between 2002 and 2013. Moises Hernandez (FC Dallas) and Rodrigo Saravia (Columbus Crew) have also made the squad and will hope to impress.

Key Points

Guatemala’s last five: D/L/W/W/W

USA’s last five: L/W/D/W/W

Key Stat: The USA are unbeaten in 21 consecutive matches against Guatemala – their longest current unbeaten run against any other international side.

Key Player: Marco Pappa – Americans will be familiar with Guatemala’s Marco Pappa. The midfielder in currently in his seventh MLS season after joining the Colorado Rapids this offseason. He is nearing full fitness now and will need to be at his best to break down the USMNT defence and give Guatemala a chance of winning this game.

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Score Prediction

Guatemala 1-1 USA – Clashes between these two in Guatemala have proven to be low-scoring affairs in recent history and a close-fought battle is expected here. The USA are favourites and have a much stronger squad. But Guatemala will be tough to break down and could pick up another home draw in what is an important qualifier for both nations.

Getting Stuck In: The American definition of “world class”

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into whether the U.S. have ever produced a world-class soccer player and looks at three candidates…

When will the U.S. produce a world-class soccer player? It’s a fair question. We haven’t come close and probably won’t unless we get some of our best athletes from American football (throwball) and basketball to make the switch to soccer. We need the Stephen Curry’s and Russell Wilson’s of the world to fall in love with the game at six years old, see the financial potential of soccer (MLS would likely need to trash the salary cap), and then maybe, just maybe, we could produce a world-class player.

But wait. On further inspection, maybe we have produced a world-class player. Ok, maybe not an outfield player, but what about a goalkeeper?

People in the know say Americans make great net-minders because of the hand-eye coordination it takes to play basketball, baseball and American football – the three sports most commonly played by youngsters when growing up. It’s why there have been three American goalkeepers who I would categorise as “world class.” We are not talking Ronaldo or Messi calibre here, but within the ‘keeper fraternity, there are three top guys: Tim Howard, Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller. Let me make a case for each one:

Brad Friedel

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Friedel is one of my favourite U.S. players to have played the game. He comes from Ohio but has a legit English accent to this day due to his lengthy playing career in England. The man owns a ton of Premier League records playing for Liverpool, Blackburn, Aston Villa and Tottenham. He makes many people’s top 10 list for the best Premier League goalkeepers of all time. But his most impressive work came with the U.S. Men’s National Team, most notably during the 2002 World Cup when the U.S. made a magical run to the quarterfinals. Friedel was arguably the best ‘keeper in the tournament behind Germany’s Oliver Kahn. In that tournament Friedel made two non-shootout penalty saves, which is almost unheard of at such a high level. Kahn was out of his mind, making world-class save after world-class save, but Friedel was not far behind.

You probably need to win a World Cup to be considered truly world class in today’s game, but look at a player like Iker Casillas. He’s a World Cup winner but has looked terrible for a few years now – have you seen him with Porto lately? Friedel was at the top of his game well into his late 30’s and early 40’s. Longevity, class, talent and one of the most accurate long kicks in the world surely mean Friedel was knocking on the door of being labelled world class.

Kasey Keller

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I put Keller slightly behind Friedel. But only slightly. His cat-like reflexes and cool demeanor made him a fan-favourite when he was with Millwall. And we all know how tough those fans can be. He played with Tottenham and Borussia Monchengladbach as well as Fulham and Leicester City during his time in Europe. But he was best known for being capped with the USMNT 102 times. The highlight of his career came in a historic win over Brazil, in which he made a staggering 13 saves, many from point-blank range. This prompted Romario to say: “That is the best performance by a goalkeeper I have ever seen.” Keller was a real good guy, who was a leader, great communicator and was able to dictate the pace of the game from the back. So what if he sulked at times for not being picked as first choice? We have all done that.

Tim Howard

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Yes, we all know about the record 16 saves made against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup, which says a lot about Howard but more about the questionable U.S. backline. But it’s his club career where he has really distinguished himself. He was bought by Manchester United and played incredibly well during his first year, being named to the best XI in the Premier League. Unfortunately Alex Ferguson (the manager) never forgave him for blowing it in the Champions League against Porto. He was buried, and to make it even worse, was replaced by the great (insert sarcasm here) Roy Carroll. Everton signed Timmy and boy, was that good business! He has appeared in over 350 games for the Toffees over a ten-year period, making save after save on his way to becoming endeared by the Goodison Park faithful. His shot-stopping ability is world class. Unfortunately his work on crosses is not as good as it could be. That’s why he is third on this list behind Keller and Friedel. But hey, nobody’s perfect.

I may never see another crop of American goalkeepers like Friedel, Keller and Howard in my lifetime. But what concerns me is that the next star between the sticks is yet to step forward. Friedel and Keller have retired. Howard’s form has slipped to the point of backup and he is set to return to MLS with the Colorado Rapids this summer.

What about Guzan? Good start to his Villa career, not so good this year. Sean Johnson? Bill Hamid? Good MLS ‘keepers but not worth mentioning, even though I just did. Cody Cropper may be in line for greatness, but right now he is playing for Championship side Milton Keynes Dons.

Wow, I just got a world class headache.