Early reactions on Jurgen Klinsmann’s 27-man U.S. roster

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Here are the immediate, important points to consider as Jurgen Klinsmann has released the final 11 names from his Orlando training camp. This 27-man selection will be culled to 23 before three friendlies and a pair of World Cup qualifiers.

So, here goes …

  • The most significant omissions are Bolton center back Tim Ream, FC Dallas winger Brek Shea, New England midfielder Benny Feilhaber and Anderlecht midfielder Sacha Kljestan.
  • Ream and Shea are somewhat surprising. You can’t say as much about Feilhaber, nor about Kljestan. Feilhaber didn’t appear in the last two U.S. matches. And Kljestan simply hasn’t been a Klinsmann fixture over the last 9 months, with only sporadic appearances.
  • I know Kljestan’s omission has some folks in a twist, and fair enough. But it simply cannot be that much of a surprise. You may think the Anderlecht man should be on the roster, and that’s OK. But did you really expect it? Little has happened to indicate that it would. Based on the relative strength of the position (he’s a holding midfielder in Anderlecht’s 4-2-3-1) and based on Klinsmann’s past call-ups, it was always something of a longshot.
  • Shea’s omission is and isn’t surprising. On the one hand, the left-winger has been a Klinsmann staple over the last nine months. But Shea isn’t performing at top rev at the moment, and last week’s silly stunt surely didn’t help. (A goofball bit that cost the FCD man a three-game MLS suspension.)
  • Without Shea, things look a little narrow on this roster. Landon Donovan is the closest thing here to a true “wide” man. Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, Jose Torres, Danny Williams and Graham Zusi have played wide internationally before, but mostly as guys who tend to (and generally prefer to) tuck inside.
  • Edgar Castillo? Personally, I don’t see it. The coach obviously sees something many of us don’t.
  • Terrence Boyd’s presence may surprise some, seeing as he remains a reserve for Borussia Dortmund. Then again, he’s already been capped, so perhaps it’s not a big shocker.
  • Chris Wondolowski (pictured) and Herculez Gomez are proof that form matters – in most cases, at least. The omissions of Shea and Edson Buddle are also demonstrations that the coach will continue to weigh current capacity to get the job done.
  • Landon Donovan? No, he’s not performing well at the moment for the Galaxy – but who is? Donovan has earned some benefit of the doubt in my book. That is, he can still be a difference maker in certain moments. So I have no problem with bringing the L.A. attacker into the 27-man camp, at very least. The coaches can see where it goes from there. Besides, experience at this level counts, and Donovan certainly has that, now into his second decade with the U.S. national team.

The team will train in Orlando until May 25, when Klinsmann will select a final 23-man roster. The American are schedule to depart then for Jacksonville, for May 26 friendly against Scotland (8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, Galavision).

Report: Man City bid for Mendy rejected

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According to a report by Sky Sports, Manchester City has seen a bid for Monaco full-back Benjamin Mendy rejected, and will have to significantly increase their offer for the transfer to be completed.

The report states that Manchester City bid $58 million for the 23-year-old French international, but Monaco values Mendy at the $65 million level Man City paid for Kyle Walker, a world record for a defender.

[ MORE: Barcelona president warns PSG over Neymar move ]

Monaco is in an advantageous position in this situation, with Manchester City desperate for full-backs and Monaco not obligated to sell. Mendy’s current contract with the defending Ligue 1 champions runs through the summer of 2021.

City has already purchased Walker, but with the departure of aging full-backs Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy, and Bacary Sagna, the club is almost completely devoid at the position, with just Walker and Aleksandr Kolarov on the roster.

Mendy has shown blistering pace and great crossing ability, racking up 11 assists last season across all competitions, including four in seven Champions League appearances. His tackling numbers are also surprisingly competent for such a young defender, completing just about 50% of his attempted tackles during league play last season, and sporting a 64% completion rate in Champions League play.

MLS to add VAR replay in early August

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Less than a month from now, Major League Soccer will introduce Video Assistant Replay to its matches, the league confirmed Thursday.

VAR took its biggest jump forward yet when it was introduced at the 2017 Confederations Cup. Referees on the field were alerted by video assistants in a booth about questionable calls, and the on-field ref would then have the opportunity to review a decision themselves on a video screen.

The MLS press release read, “A fifth member of a game’s officiating crew, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), located in a booth at the stadium, will have access to all available broadcast angles and check all plays for potential clear and obvious errors or serious missed incidents in four game-changing situations — goals, penalty decisions, direct red cards, and cases of mistaken identity.” The league confirmed August 5th would be the introduction of VAR.Major L

For VAR to be successfully implemented and affect the flow of game as little as possible, the system will have to be tightly monitored as to not be used to challenge 50/50 decisions or those too close to call. In addition, quick decisions will be paramount to the system to keep confusion at a minimum and continue play as quick as possible.

There were examples of both good and bad use of VAR during the Confederations Cup. Early in the tournament, Portugal saw a goal correctly wiped off against Mexico thanks to a blatant offside call, with the decision coming 53 seconds after the ball hit the back of the net. However, later in the tournament, Chile saw a goal by Claudio Vargas controversially erased when the system was used to overturn an incredibly close call.

MLS says its decision to use VAR comes after three years of research and testing. It’s somewhat surprising the system is being implemented in the middle of a campaign, with any possible kinks to work out despite the stretch run of the regular season.

Back in early July, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said there is “nothing standing in the way of VAR” use at the 2018 World Cup.

Africa Cup of Nations moving to summer

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The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations has been moved to the summer, neutralizing the effect of the tournament on domestic leagues, the CAF has announced.

In the past, players were forced to choose between club and country with the tournament taking place in January and February. Now, players will not have to choose, and will be able to play for their country without missing any critical club time. Last season, clubs like Liverpool struggled in the absence of key players like Sadio Mane while they left to play for their country.

With the change to playing in June and July, teams will need to manage the heat of a summer tournament in Africa, although it wouldn’t be as bad as one might expect. The 2019 tournament is set to be played in Cameroon, where average temperatures in June start at around 87 degrees and fall throughout the month, reaching closer to 80 degrees by the start of July. Cameroon hosted Morocco in their most recent AFCON qualifier 10 days ago in Yaoundé, and the high temperature for that day (June 10) was 78 degrees.

The CAF also confirmed that the tournament will expand from 16 teams to 24 teams, despite qualification for the tournament having already begun. To fill out the additional slots, the CAF has not announced how it will change qualifying, but it’s likely that 2nd place finishers in all 12 groups would make the field, rather than the top three 2nd place finishers that currently progress. In the current format, the host country automatically qualifies, but still participates in qualification. Cameroon is currently leading Group B after one match.

Eight additional teams could pose problems for Cameroon, who admitted on Wednesday that preparations were behind schedule for the 2019 tournament. “Despite security concerns, social and economic crises, the government and President Paul Biya are totally engaged to do everything for the Nations Cup to go ahead,” said Cameroon Sports Minister Ismael Bidoung.

Finally, the CAF release confirmed that the tournament will, in the future, stay on African soil with only African teams. That means there will be no tournaments held in foreign nations such as China, and non-African teams will not be invited. Both were possibilities the organization was considering.

Barcelona president warns PSG over FFP

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Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is warning Paris Saint-Germain that even if they try to sign Neymar, they would condemn themselves to UEFA sanctions.

With PSG heavily linked to the Brazilian superstar, rumors suggest the French club is hoping to activate Neymar’s monstrous release clause set at $258 million.

However, that could have serious consequences, warns Bartomeu. “These clauses are impossible to activate if you want to comply with Financial Fair Play,” the Barcelona president told the Associated Press. “If someone doesn’t want to comply, then of course it can be activated.”

The Spaniard assured fans that Neymar is a critical part of Barcelona’s success.

“He has a contract for the coming four years and, of course, we count on him,” Bartomeu said. “He’s part of our team. He’s part of this trident [with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez].”

The 25-year-old signed a five-year contract extension last October that runs through the summer of 2021. Club vice-president Jordi Mestre also said he was “200 per cent” sure Neymar would stay with Barcelona.