Friday September 2nd, 2011

We've got a FIFA week of international games, including the U.S.' friendly vs. Costa Rica (Friday, 11 p.m. ET, ESPN2,, but there's plenty to talk about from Planet Fútbol, including MLS, the Premier League, Yanks abroad and the close of the European transfer window. The 'Bag is pumped to answer your questions, so let's dive in:

Any thoughts on U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann naming Martín Vásquez as his No. 2? Strengths? Weaknesses?

-- @LeCornballer

Let me start off by saying it's rare to hear so much talk about an assistant coach for the U.S. national team. Quick, can you name the No. 2s for Bob Bradley, Bruce Arena, Steve Sampson and Bora Milutinovic? (The answers are, respectively, Mike Sorber, Mooch Myernick/Dave Sarachan, Clive Charles and Timo Liekoski). If you're looking at it from this perspective, Klinsmann's announcement this week that Vásquez will be his full-time top assistant doesn't seem out of the ordinary. The 47-year-old Vásquez, whose claim to fame used to be that he was the first person to play for both the U.S. and Mexican national teams, has a resume that's similar to previous No. 2s. He has worked as an assistant in MLS to Bradley, Preki and Sampson. He was a head coach for one season (2010) at Chivas USA, and he also was Klinsmann's top aide for just short of one season at Bayern Munich.

Yet Vásquez's hiring (which hasn't yet been sealed with a contract) becomes a bigger deal if you subscribe to the arguments of respected German writers who've followed Klinsmann's previous head coaching experiences for the German national team and Bayern.'s Raphael Honigstein broke down Klinsmann's pros and cons in a recent column, arguing that Klinsmann's choice of a No. 2 was far more important than it is for most coaches since Klinsmann was "a good manager, not a coach" -- in other words, a superb motivator and public face who delegated major tasks to his assistants. German journos would say an important part of Germany's run to the 2006 World Cup semis was the tactical acumen of Jogi Löw, who was Klinsmann's No. 2 (and who led Germany to the semis in '10). At Bayern, Honigstein argues, top lieutenant Vásquez "made little to no impression on the Bayern players." On Twitter, Honigstein called Vásquez's hiring "very bad news" for U.S. fans.

I have a lot of respect for my colleague (who's a dynamite Twitter follow here), but I'm also keeping an open mind on Vásquez with the U.S. team. Yes, Vásquez lasted only 10 months with Klinsmann at Bayern, but the team was just three points out of first place when they were fired, and the Bayern experience didn't keep U.S. soccer from hiring Klinsmann. Yes, Vásquez's one season as a head coach at Chivas USA was a losing one (8-18-4), but he would have stayed on had he not objected to what he saw as meddling by the team's owners. Vásquez was also a lieutenant at Chivas to two MLS Coach of the Year winners (Bradley and Preki), so his overall record as an assistant is pretty good.

Vásquez won't have the respect issues with the U.S. players that he had at Bayern, and he also could be a vital link to Mexican-American players who might be choosing which national team to represent. Klinsmann has said that he wants the U.S. national team to reflect the Latino population, and Vásquez will be an important part of that strategy. Klinsmann also told me last month that Vásquez has useful attributes on a day-to-day basis with the team. "Martín is a very strong implementer, a very strong communicator on the training field," Klinsmann said. "He has tremendous qualities there." Vásquez was so clearly Klinsmann's sounding board during the U.S.-Mexico friendly that it's no surprise the head coach has decided to make Vásquez his permanent No. 2.

Still, it's fair to say that there are skeptics about this appointment, and they will only be swayed by how the Klinsmann regime performs moving forward.

Who were the winners and losers of the transfer deadline?

-- @StayfunLako

The biggest winners were the teams that did their business before the deadline hit and were able to go through preseason training mixing in their new players. Manchester United hasn't skipped a beat and is getting a lot out of Ashley Young and Phil Jones already, while I still think goalie David De Gea will come around. Barcelona got their prizes (Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sánchez) a bit later, but they both have looked good. Man City spent a ton of money, but Sergio Agüero and Samir Nasri are truly exciting signings. I was also impressed by the choices made by Liverpool (big money but useful players, though keeping Raul Meireles might have been advisable), Roma (Simon Kjaer, Maarten Stekelenburg, Miralem Pjanic, Fernando Gago, Bojan Krkic), Fulham (Bryan Ruiz and Zdenek Grygera) and Napoli (Goran Pandev, Gokhan Inler).

Losers? Hate to say it, but I think Arsenal is going to have a tough time qualifying for next year's Champions League unless it makes a major move or two in January. It's not that this week's deadline signings were bad (Mikel Arteta, Yossi Benayoun, Park Chu-Young, Per Mertesacker and André Santos), but the drop off after losing Nasri and Fabregas is still there. I loved Real Madrid's signing of Fábio Coentrão, but José Mourinho didn't get Neymar, and Nuri Sahin has been injured. Empty-pockets Everton lost Arteta and Jermaine Beckford, and I don't think bringing in Royston Drenthe will make up for it. Newcastle still hasn't replaced Andy Carroll, and while Spurs is getting credit for standing up to Luka Modric, it still appears that Tottenham underestimated how much Chelsea would be willing to pay for him.

If the L.A. Galaxy fails to win the MLS Cup, is it time for Bruce Arena to go?

-- @Enricesar1979

I'd be surprised if Arena got fired for not winning MLS Cup. I know that Galaxy owner AEG has made Arena the highest-paid American soccer coach, but the fact is that he has done an amazing job turning a laughingstock Galaxy team into the side with the best record in MLS. Honestly, I followed the 2008 Galaxy all over the country for my book, and that was a terrible team despite having David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle. Despite being hamstrung by the salary cap, Arena turned things around by revamping the defense and making the right choices on players who earn $100,000 or less. It's obvious that AEG wants to win this year's MLS Cup on the Galaxy's home field, but unless L.A. is a total flop in the playoffs I think Arena will be back next year.

What happened to Clint Dempsey to Arsenal?

-- @SurfCityJay

Nothing happened before the transfer deadline, nor was there any real printed chatter about the possibility other than a report. I checked out the rumor but got nothing that would make me comfortable reporting it. What I've learned over the years is that it's better to be right than to be first, and one big error will be remembered longer than the 50 times you got it right. Tracking the transfer deadline on Twitter is more fun when you're following the right people. I put together a list to help.

What does Jurgen do on Friday Night with the formation?

-- Tim Westfield

Tough call, since the U.S. is without Dempsey, Steve Cherundolo, Michael Bradley, Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones. I'm thinking we could see the 4-1-4-1 Klinsmann used against Mexico last month, perhaps with a bit more attacking flavor considering the opponent is Costa Rica (which doesn't have stars Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell). One big question for me is whether Brek Shea has enough in the tank to start. Shea has played 315 minutes since last Wednesday, including 90 in Dallas's U.S. Open Cup loss on Tuesday to Seattle. After thinking about it some more, here's my best guess:

Goalkeeper: Tim Howard.

It would be surprising to see Bill Hamid instead.

Defenders: Timmy Chandler, Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra, Edgar Castillo.

Finally we should get another chance to see Chandler in a U.S. uniform. Goodson is healthy after missing last month's camp, so I expect we'll see him in place of Michael Orozco Fiscal. (Tim Ream is another possibility). Klinsmann has said that Bocanegra will be a central defender, not a left back. That leaves Castillo as the most likely option on the left in camp. He didn't play well for the U.S. last month, but one bad game won't get you written off.

Defensive midfielder: Maurice Edu.

We could see Jeff Larentowicz here in the role that Beckerman played last month, but I'm leaning toward Edu.

Attacking midfielders: Robbie Rogers, Landon Donovan, Sacha Kljestan, José Torres.

Rogers is the most likely option on the right wing. Klinsmann said this week that Donovan is better off playing centrally behind the front line than out wide. Kljestan has trained centrally this week, and while Torres was better in a central spot than on the left last month, I figure he'll pinch in centrally anyway. Shea would figure to play on the left at some point, either from the start or as a sub.

Forward: Jozy Altidore.

Altidore has been on a good run lately with AZ, so he should get the start here. One big caveat on all these lineup choices is the possibility that Klinsmann will try to put as close to an A-team as possible on the field against a tougher Belgium team on Tuesday. (He won't have Donovan, however.) If Klinsmann would rather save his A-listers for Tuesday, we could see a lineup against Costa Rica that includes Larentowicz, Ream, Orozco Fiscal, Teal Bunbury and/or Juan Agudelo.

See you next week!

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