U. S. kicks off campaign

World Cup cycle for the U.S. Men’s National Soccer team begins on Jan. 4 when Head Coach Bob Bradley put 24 hopefuls through the first training sessions at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. The U.S. is readying for its 2011 campaign kick-off on Jan. 22 versus Chile in an international friendly at The Home Depot Center.

Bradley explained the purpose of this very crowded training camp dominated by MLS players, many of whom are seeking their first caps. “The timing is right to assess many of the younger players and to broaden the player pool as we look forward to the next three years,” said Bradley. “These extended camps give the coaching staff an opportunity to work with these players closely, and at the same time expose them to what the environment and expectations are like at the international level. We have a good feel for the veteran players in the pool, several of whom are coming off long seasons, and we certainly expect many of them to be part of the program for the important tournaments this year.”

Among the players called up by Bradley are New York Red Bulls defender Tim Ream and forward Juan Argudelo, both of whom made their international debuts last Nov. 17 against South Africa in the Nelson Mandela Challenge Cup, which the U.S. won, 1-0, when 17-year-old Argudelo became the youngest player to score for the men’s national team. Two others called into camp that made their debut in the win over South Africa are forward Teal Bunbury from Sporting Kansas City in MLS and Mikkel Diskerud of Stabaek. The U.S.’s first competitive tournament this year will be the CONCACAF Gold Cup here next summer.

Findley, Buddle move

Twenty-five-year-old, U. S. striker Robbie Findley is expected to sign a two-and-a-half year contract to play for English club Nottingham Forest, pending the granting of a British work permit. Forest plays in the second-tier, League Championship, and has its sights set on a promotion to the English Premiership, the top flight division in England. Findley led Real Salt Lake to the 2009 MLS championship. He has 11 international appearances with the U. S., including three matches in last summer’s World Cup.

“We had a lot of competition in the race to sign Robbie and there’s no doubt that we had to work very, very hard to try and convince him this was the right place to come,” Forest manager Billy Davies said. “It’s a great challenge for him and a great challenge for us as well but there’s no doubt that he can score goals and, more importantly, with the pace he’s got he can be a real handful.”

LA Galaxy forward Edson Buddle was on trial at English Premier League club Birmingham City in hopes of a transfer. According to City’s coach Alex McLeish, who said that Buddle did okay, “He has gone back (to the U.S.) and we will keep the door open.”

Reis, Conrad sign

Goalkeeper Matt Reis, 35, will stay put in Foxboro as he recently agreed to a new contract with the New England Revolution of MLS. Reis was limited to a mere 14 games last due to a series of injuries; he played 188 games with 75 wins, 757 saves and 50 shutouts, all team records. Meanwhile, Chivas USA has signed U.S. national defender Jimmy Conrad. The 33-year-old Conrad was selected in the recent MLS re-entry draft; he spent the last nine years with the Kansas City Wizards and played 28 times for the U.S.

Barcelona in U.S.

Barcelona FC announced that it will play England’s Manchester United, AC Milan and America from Mexico during a 2011 pre-season tour to the U.S. next summer. The United match is scheduled for July 30 in Washington D.C., with the game against Milan on Aug. 3 in Miami. The tour will conclude in Dallas on Aug. 6 with Barcelona taking on America. The team’s last U.S. visit was in 2009.

English Premiership

Manchester United now sits atop the English Premier League with Sunday’s 2-0 win over Sunderland. United’s goals were scored by forward Dimitar Berbatov. Argentine forward Carlos Tevez scored twice to lead Manchester City to a 3-1 win at Newcastle to put City at second in the league standings. In other games last weekend, Wigan beat Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-1; West Ham United crawled out of the bottom of the standings with a surprising 3-1 victory at Fulham. Also, Stoke City beat Blackburn Rovers, West Bromwich Albion topped Bolton, 2-0, and Tottenham Hotspurs beat Aston Villa, 2-1.

Inter Milan names Leonardo

The European and Italian champion International of Milan (Inter Milan) named Brazilian Leonardo as its new coach. The Brazilian, who was recently fired from Inter’s rival, AC Milan, replaces Rafael Benitez, whose contract was terminated after only six months. His first match in charge will be against second-place Napoli on Jan. 6.

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