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Klinsmann on U.S. vs. Mexico: 'It's a huge opportunity'

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Klinsmann on U.S. vs. Mexico: 'It's a huge opportunity'

It's been nearly 81 years since the U.S.-Mexico tug-of-war was born. Aldo ‘Buff’ Donelli, who eventually became the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1941, hit four goals past El Tri in the first-ever meeting between the two bordering nations in a 1934 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match.

In front of just 10,000 at the Stadio Nazionale in Rome on May 24, it would mark the last taste of victory for the U.S. for 46 years -- a 2-1 qualifying win in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. on November 23, 1980 in preparation for the 1982 event in Spain -- before the contest, as we knew it, would morph into one of the most heated international rivalries of our time.

Despite a 17-32-14 all-time record against Mexico, the U.S. has firmly avowed its supremacy over its neighbors in recent years. The Yanks have accumulated a 12-5-5 record since 2000 and have been on the winning end of four "Dos a Cero" scorelines (Three in World Cup qualifiers, one in the 2002 World Cup Round of 16) since 2001.  

On Wednesday, it will rear its head for the 64th time in a 65,000-seat Alamodome in San Antonio.

[MORE: U.S. Soccer headlines ahead of match vs. Mexico]

“It’s a huge opportunity playing Mexico in any kind of environment and in any kind of game," head coach Jurgen Klinsmann told USSoccer.com. "I see this kind of a game as a huge opportunity for players to come in and play in front of a sold-out stadium and loud crowd, a lot maybe pro-Mexico, but these are the games where you mature and where you try to express yourself and show what you have, and therefore we are thankful that we can play this game.”

The 22 players called in by Klinsmann predominantly hail from Major League Soccer and Liga MX this time around, with Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin granted permission from their European clubs, Hamburg and Tottenham Hotspur, respectively. With the likes of Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Brad Guzan, Fabian Johnson, Alejandro Bedoya and Aron Jóhannsson unavailable, Klinsmann said this U.S. roster is unlikely to resemble the one that will be announced for the Gold Cup this summer. 

The match may not be scheduled on an official FIFA date either, but Klinsmann, who has yet to lose to El Tri since his appointment in 2011, has not lost sight of its significance.

"It's still U.S. against Mexico," he said. "It’s still sold out. It’s still both teams wanting to win and the players wanting to impress."

[RELATED: Klinsmann names 22-man roster for U.S. vs. Mexico]

A proverbial trait encircling Klinsmann's tenure and a formula for his coaching philosophy has been his proclivity for giving up-and-comers windows of opportunity to make the grade in a U.S. uniform, steadily reiterating his open-door policy.

Historically speaking, the former World Cup champion may have his critics for his roster call-ups from time to time, but his unwavering allegiance to rewarding in-form players and those weathering the ebbs and flows of their careers is his valued commodity.

Orlando City's Brek Shea is a prime example. Klinsmann's drawn-out experiment with lineups and formations has precipitated Shea's emergence as a left back after spending the majority of his professional career in a more advanced position. In the face of the flak Klinsmann received since the adjustment, his decision to stand by the 25-year-old has been validated. Shea's game is progressing as he continues to string fine performances together at the club and international level, notably scoring against Chile and Switzerland, all while playing a new position. 

"It’s very important that the players understand that even if they’re not with us for a long stretch of time that they’re always observed," he said. "We always watch them. We kind of suffer with them when things are not going so well.

"Often people say with a national team program that once you’re in you’re always in, and once you’re out you’re not getting back in anymore. That is not true. There’s always an open door no matter what phase of your career you are as long as you show that with your performances.”

With bragging rights for the taking, U.S.-Mexico is a baptism by fire. It can make or break a player and the maturation process will be on display once again in Wednesday's friendly clash, another bridge to the greater platform that will grant Klinsmann's fringe players to stake their claim in a raucous atmosphere on home soil.

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

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NBC Sports Chicago

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

Manchester City is coming off a season in which it dominated the English Premier League to the tune of a record 100-point season.

City is kicking off the preseason of its title defense in Chicago. City takes on Borussia Dortmund at Soldier Field on Friday night.

The last time the reigning Premier League champions were in Chicago was when rivals Manchester United came to Soldier to take on the Chicago Fire in 2011.

The Citizens won’t have the full arsenal of stacked stars for its U.S. tour, which also includes stops in New York and Miami as part of the International Champions Cup. Many of the team’s best players are getting a break after playing in the World Cup. Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, one of the stars of the tournament, is one of six Man City players to reach the semifinals.

Paul Dickov, who played for City for nearly 10 years between 1996 and 2008, is on tour with the team and talked about City’s preparations.

“The reason the clubs want to come to the States and play in International Champions Cup is the facilities are fantastic, the training facilities, the hotels, the treatment they get and just give them the best preparation going into what’s going to be a hard season,” Dickov said. “Nobody has won the Premier League back-to-back titles for nearly 10 years now so it’s going to be tough. Coming here and being able to prepare the way they can in the United States is going to put them on a long way to regain the title again.”

City brought the Premier League trophy to Wrigley Field on Thursday for the Cubs-Cardinals game. Dickov got to throw out the first pitch. The Scotsman threw a strike, much to his relief.

“I was quite calm beforehand, but I must admit when I got out there and I had to walk out there both hands started getting a bit sweaty,” he said. “I managed to make it and I got a fantastic reception off the Chicago Cubs fans so thank you to everybody at Chicago Cubs for having me there. It was great. Something I’ll never forget.”


Dickov compared Cubs fans to City fans in the way both teams struggled for a long time before finding success.

“They stuck by us through thick and thin when things weren’t as great,” Dickov said of Man City fans. “I suppose it’s a little bit like the Chicago Cubs here in Chicago. The fans turn out, they get 30-40 thousand, great atmosphere, back their team.”

While promoting the game, the Premier League trophy made multiple stops in Chicago, including with the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on an off day.

City also took the trophy and new signing Riyad Mahrez, who just joined Man City from 2016 champions Leicester City, to Haas Park in Logan Square. Haas Park includes a soccer field donated by Manchester City and the American embassy of the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

“The outcome of it has been great,” Dickov said. “Thousands of children and families benefiting, not just from the soccer part of it, but the education program as well. To be down there the other day for the full day and seeing the joy in the kids face seeing soccer here and the other activities that are on is great because, yeah, football is fantastic, soccer is fantastic and when you’re out there and you play you want to win, but it’s important, especially from Manchester City’s point of view, the city and the community. The stuff that they do off the field is second to none and it’s giving something back.”

Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai

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USA TODAY

Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai

The Fire have secured the transfer of midfielder Aleksandar Katai from Deportivo Alavés of the Spanish La Liga, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

This season’s breakout playmaker has been signed with Chicago through 2019, with a 2020 club option. Before the transfer, Katai was on loan from Alavés, which was set to expire after July.

The Serbian player has emerged as one of the most important pieces of the Fire’s offense this season. Since joining the club on Feb. 6, Katai has scored eight goals in 18 league matches, tying forward Nemanja Nikolić for the most on the team. Katai also has three assists in 2018.

The 27-year-old’s biggest game of the year came against New York City FC last month when he scored two goals to lead the Fire to 3-2 victory. His production this season in the MLS has been much more significant than it was in 23 matches with Alavés, where Katai only tallied three goals and four assists.

His transfer fee is unknown but, according to Sam Stejskal of MLSsoccer.com, he will be a “Targeted Allocation Money player” for the rest of this season and will not be a Designated Player until 2019. Whatever the official price was, acquiring Katai for a lengthier amount of time seemed like a must.

Throughout this season, the Fire were rumored to be in talks with legendary Spanish striker Fernando Torres. On Tuesday, he signed with Sagan Tosu, a Japanese club. The Fire signed Katai the next day, showing that the team was possibly waiting for Torres to leave the market.

Chicago will face the Philadelphia Union Wednesday night at Toyota Park, where Katai will look to continue his impressive season.