With the USMNT’s March friendlies against Denmark (March 25, ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMás, UDN) and Switzerland (March 31, FOX Sports 1, UniMás, UDN) quickly approaching, time is running out for the players to convince the coaching staff they should be included for the matches that start the honing process for the all-important 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer. The staff will have plenty of opportunity to watch the player pool in action this weekend – and so will fans!
Check out all the MNT players in action with their clubs across the globe (All TV times ET):
The spotlight is on the kickoff of the 20th season of Major League Soccer when the 2014 defending champion LA Galaxy hosts the Chicago Fire. World Cup vet Omar Gonzalez stands at one end with MNT neophyte Gyassi Zardes as the pair stare down Fire ‘keeper Sean Johnson at the other. (10 p.m., UniMas)
The FA Cup quarterfinals kick off with a trip to famed Wembley Stadium on offer in one of the oldest and most prestigious cup competitions in the world. Brad Guzan and Aston Villa host West Bromwich Albion in the first leg (12:30 p.m., FOX Soccer Plus). In another final eight matchup, Reading midfielder Danny Williams continues his resurgence as the Royals head to League One side Bradford City (7:45 a.m., FS1). In the only Premier League match of the weekend, DeAndre Yedlin’s Spurs travel to QPR with a huge opportunity to pick up points in the race to reach European competition next season (10 a.m., NBCSN).
In Germany, Fabian Johnson is fresh off scoring his first goal of the campaign and Borussia Moenchengladbach travel to Mainz looking to keep their hold on third place in the Bundesliga table (12:30 p.m., GolTV).
South of the border, Club Tijuana look to maintain their lead at the top of the Liga MX Torneo Clausura after going 6-1-1 in the first eight matches. Joe Corona hopes to continue to earn minutes after recovering from injury, while Greg Garza will be kept out as a precaution after a minor hip injury on the weekend. Meantime, defender Michael Orozco has started all eight games for Puebla and has helped his side to fourth place as they travel to Chiapas (10 p.m., UDN).
MLS has a host of matches available on DIRECT KICK/MLS LIVE, led by the debut of Jozy Altidore alongside MNT compatriot Michael Bradley at Toronto FC when they square off against cross-coast Canadian rivals Vancouver Whitecaps (6 p.m.). Check local listings for the full MLS schedule.
Last things first – the U.S. Under-17 MNT has a chance to book their ticket to the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup. Currently sporting a 3-0-0 record at the top of Group A in CONCACAF Qualifying, a win against host Honduras would guarantee advancement to this fall’s tournament in Chile (FOX Soccer Plus, 10 p.m.).
The big draw will be the debut of the newest additions to MLS, with 60,000 plus packing the Citrus Bowl to watch Orlando City FC hosts NYCFC. Brek Shea is hoping for a jumpstart to his career wearing the purple of the Lions, while Mix Diskerud kicks off his domestic professional career with the Big Apple’s newest MLS entrant NYCFC (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, 5 p.m.). Matt Besler will marshal the backline and Graham Zusi appears to be ready to go when Sporting Kansas City hosts the new look New York Red Bulls (FS1, 7 p.m.), while MLS Cup finalists New England Revolution will be without their MNT contingent in Seattle as Jermaine Jones and Lee Nguyen are still sidelined for the opener against U.S. captain Clint Dempsey, MNT defender Brad Evans and Sounders FC (FS1, FOX Deportes, 9:30 p.m.).
WHAT ELSE TO CHECK OUT …
Alejandro Bedoya returns from the infirmary to join his Nantes teammates when they meet Stade de Reims, who hover three points above the relegation zone … Jonathan Spector’s Birmingham City side have surpassed their point total from last season, and hope to climb into the top half of the table against Midlands rival Derby … It could be young versus younger in Holland when Aron Johannsson and AZ Alkmaar travel to face Rubio Rubin and FC Utrecht on Sunday … Finally, Eintracht Frankfurt’s starting right back Timmy Chandler gets an early look at the RheinEnergieSTADION in Cologne, which will host USA-Germany on June 5.
CHICAGO (March 2, 2014) – U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called Birmingham City defender Jonathan Spector into training camp in advance of the USA’s friendly against Ukraine on March 5 in Cyprus. The roster now includes 22 players, who will train Monday in Frankfurt, Germany, before departing the following day.
The versatile veteran can play a variety of positions on the back line. He has a chance to make his first appearance for the MNT since the historic 1-0 victory against Italy on Feb. 29, 2012, in Genoa.
The USA-Ukraine match was previously set to be played in Kharkiv, Ukraine, but the location was changed due to current conditions in the country. Kickoff at Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium in Larnaca is set for 2 p.m. ET (9 p.m. local), and the match will be broadcast on ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMas and ESPN Deportes Radio. Fans can also follow the match live on Twitter @ussoccer.
The match falls on the only FIFA international fixture date before May, making this the one opportunity for European-based players to play for the National Team prior to the start of the World Cup preparation camp. The team began gathering in Frankfurt on Sunday, March 2, for two days of training before traveling to play for the first time in Cyprus.
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (3): Cody Cropper (Southampton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Oguchi Onyewu (Sheffield Wednesday), Will Packwood (Birmingham City), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (Barnsley), Danny Williams (Reading)
FORWARDS (6): Juan Agudelo (Utrecht), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar)
U.S. defender Jonathan Spector is putting together his busiest season to date since playing in England. Before Spector joined Birmingham City, it was relegated to The Championship following the 2010-11 Premier League campaign. But Spector and the Blues are very much in the hunt to return to the top flight for 2012-13.
U.S. Men’s National Team defender Jonathan Spector is currently playing the most important role of his professional tenure in England. After several seasons of off-and-on playing time within the Premier League, Spector is a key component for a Birmingham City team that is enjoying a rousing run that has the team in prime position to return to England’s top flight.
Before Spector arrived to the Blues in August of last year, Birmingham had been relegated to The Championship. The team has been on a roll over the past two months, not losing a match since its 1-0 road loss on Dec. 19, 2011, to Crystal Palace. During the unbeaten stretch, the Blues have been 6-3-0 in league play and 8-4-0 overall to move into third place.
“We’ve been on a great run as of late,” Spector said. “We knew it was going to take a while to work our way up the table because we had a few games in hand because of the Europa League. We knew that we weren’t going to be in the hunt initially. Now we’re up to third, and I think we’re two points off automatic promotion, and six points off first place, which is a great spot to be in. But we also know there are teams behind us who are fighting to work their way up the table, as well.”
The 26-year-old Arlington Heights, Ill., native is seeing more playing time with Birmingham than he has during any other previous season at West Ham United or Manchester United. Spector has played in 25 league matches and 37 in all, earning the starting nod in every match. Before Saturday’s contest against Barnsley, the Blues still have 17 league games on the docket through April.
While Spector cannot predict where he could potentially fit in within the U.S. Men’s National Team under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann down the road, the consistent playing time bodes well for him.
“It’s just been beneficial for me individually in a sense that I’m playing week in and week out and having this run of games,” Spector said. “You’re bound to improve and sharpen up on certain things, which I’ve been able to do. In past seasons, whether it’s through injuries or just being in and out of the team, it certainly makes it more difficult. Fitness isn’t an issue for me with the number of games we’ve played. Within the team I’ve started more games than anyone else, and I feel great.”
Spector has enjoyed this sense of regular stability and his heightened role at Birmingham. Spector had some stretches over the previous five seasons at West Ham when he was a frequent contributor, but there were times within the Premier League when he had hoped to contribute much more.
“I’ve been in the Premier League for so many years but was not always playing consistently,” Spector said. “Injuries were a big part of that for a couple seasons when I was at West Ham and I had two surgeries that kept me out for lengthy periods of time unfortunately. With all the changes in management and things like that, there wasn’t a lot of stability. So I just felt it was time for me to move somewhere where I would play consistently. I’m certainly getting that this year.”
Spector is not used to being on this side of the promotion/relegation dynamic, but as long as Birmingham continues its torrid pace, his Championship tenure could be a brief one.
“It’s exciting being where we’re at,” Spector said. “We’re right on the coattails of promotion and first place in the league, and we’d love to be right up there at the end of the season. If we can win the automatic promotion, that would be great. At the very least, we expect a playoff spot.
“After playing in the Premier League for a number of years, the goal has always been to get back to that.”
Spector is well known for his versatility on the pitch. He started the season in the midfield, but as of late Spector has dropped to Birmingham’s back line, which has allowed only six goals in 15 regular-season home matches.
“I started off playing the season at center midfield, which I was really enjoying,” Spector said. “But Stephen Carr got injured for a lengthy period of time, so obviously I knew I’d be playing as a fullback. I have enjoyed playing there as of late. It’s a bit of a change from what my role was at the beginning of the season, but I have enjoyed playing as a fullback. It’s on the right side, as opposed to left back, where I played for an entire season a couple years ago with West Ham.”
There have been moments during Spector’s professional time in England where he has been more of a fallback option. But with Birmingham manager Chris Hughton’s side, Spector has been a go-to factor in the starting roster because of the adaptability he brings to the table.
“It’s not as if I’m changing [positions] week in and week out,” Spector said. “But I also think after playing in a position for a few games you grow into it and you get more accustomed to it initially. Your mindset has to change in terms of what your role is within the team. I just think I’m naturally suited for both roles, whether in the midfield or as a defender.”
Spector said that Blues supporters are certainly latching onto the promotion sentiment now that Birmingham is six points behind first-place West Ham and only two points behind second-place Southampton.
“At the start of the season, the fans didn’t have the same expectations as the players in the sense that the players all felt that we could achieve promotion in this first season,” Spector said. “The fans were slightly more cynical, and probably rightfully so with the number of changes at the club. But I think now the fans feel, after seeing our performance and the run we’ve been on, I think they feel that’s certainly something we can achieve as a club.”
- A member of the U.S. squad that reached the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final
- One of seven players to start all five games during the USA’s run to the final of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, his 11 appearances in 2009 nearly doubled his career total
- Vastly experienced at the youth level, he represented the USA during the U-17 World Cup in 2003, the U-20 World Cup in 2005 and Olympic qualifying in 2008
- Became the youngest American to play for Manchester United’s first team after being signed in September 2003 at the age of 17
Date of Birth
Mar 1, 1986
Arlington Heights, Ill.
Birmingham City (England)