Juan Agudelo’s role for U.S. this summer far from assured

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Juan Agudelo’s return to practice and potential ability to supply minutes to the ailing Red Bulls will be a weekend talker.

And with Jozy Altidore’s status in question (Wednesday’s injury doesn’t appear to be serious, but incidents involving the head certainly deserve added precaution), it’s easy to assume that Agudelo’s part in the coming U.S. national team camp is gaining importance.

But is it?

It’s fair to ask whether Agudelo, the young striker whose recent injury occurred while wearing the U.S. under-23 shirt, will even be among Klinsmann’s call-ups when the full national team gathers in Orlando in a couple of weeks.

Earlier this week we posted a revealing Klinsmann Q&A from U.S. Soccer. The piece was all about scouting and the growing, extensive U.S. network’s role in assessing individuals’ form and fitness in the most comprehensive way possible.

Part of that, of course, is determining how previously injured players are progressing in their recovery bids. As Klinsmann points out, there’s a difference between Player X being back on field and Player X regaining previous levels of potency – returning to levels that reaped national team attention in the first place.

Here’s what Klinsmann said, using U.S. center back Oguchi Onyewu, who recently returned from injury at Sporting in Portugal.

Gooch comes back now from injury and just played his first game last week. We need to know now where he’s at. Next week, Andy Herzog is planning to go down to Portugal to see him train, to see him in his normal environment. We need to know that he’s sharp and he’s fit and that he’s already in a rhythm.

There’s a big difference between being healthy and fit. When a player comes back from injury and he’s ready to go and join the team training again, it doesn’t mean that he’s fit. He’s on the way back to fitness, and that usually takes another couple of weeks. You want to wait to bring a player into camp that’s not there yet. He’s healthy, yes, but maybe he’s not fit.

I look now at Danny Williams. He’s got a shoulder injury – not a very serious one – but it’s definitely something we’ll have to consider and talk to their medical staff and talking to the player and the coach and see how long that recovery time takes. If it just takes a week, then you say, ‘Okay, no problem. He gets back into a rhythm next week.’ If it takes longer than that, it might affect our planning for the May-June camp.”

Read those words, and then ask yourself if young Agudelo is on the list that Klinsmann has in pencil today? At the very least, you could say that Agudelo’s role in a U.S. this summer could depend on how he looks this week and next for the Red Bulls.

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga