Surprises from Monday’s U.S. national team roster announcement

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The Twitter world being what it is, the bigger surprises in today’s U.S. national team roster announcement were relatively weak noodles in the big bowl of potential shockers.

We already knew – or strongly suspected based on their weekend Tweets – that Eddie Johnson was in and Dutch league scoring leader Jozy Altidore was out.

Those would have been jaw-droppers without early radar warning ahead of Monday’s roster announcement from U.S. Soccer. The Americans play at Antigua and Barbuda on Friday, then meet Guatemala on Oct. 16 in Kansas City to close out semifinal round World Cup qualifying.

(MORE: The week ahead for the United States)

So here are the talkers off Monday’s United States roster announcement; U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann spoke with reporters after Monday’s announcement via teleconference.

Sacha Kljestan gets the call. He’s been stuck in an uncomfortable place internationally since he mans a position of relative strength. As a central midfielder, he’s been stuck behind Michael Bradley and a host of others, even if some of them lean more defensive in their tendencies than Kljestan.

So, Kljestan has languished mostly unused by the United States through 2012, his appearance in the American win over Italy as the notable exception.

Klinsmann mentioned having dispatched assistant Andreas Herzog to watch Kljestan last week against Malaga in Champions League play; they were especially happy with the Anderlecht man’s increasing tendency to play balls vertically and not just side-to-side.

No Jose Torres. No one can say Klinsmann didn’t get the young man plenty of chances. And plenty of warnings, too, that he needed to be more aggressive and find more ways to impact matches in a more substantial ways.

(Update: A U.S. Soccer spokesman just informed me that Torres is injured; I was unaware.)

No Chris Wondolowski, no Terrance Boyd – but Johnson … and Alan Gordon!: Klinsmann said the choice to add Johnson and San Jose’s Alan Gordon was tactical. The coming matches against Antigua and Barbuda and then Guatemala are likely to be gritty struggles against teams that want to dig in defensively. Klinsmann figures that their aerial ability will come in handy as the United States will likely need to spread the stacked back as wide as possible and look to attack in wide areas.

Wondolowski scores plenty with his head but he’s not quite as big as the other two and cannot, perhaps, quite match their athleticism nor their ability in banging around for balls near goal.

Landon Donovan gets the call: There was good news all around Monday morning when Donovan’s knee (injured Saturday in the Galaxy’s loss) responded about as well as it could. When U.S. team officials spoke to Donovan on Sunday night, the plan was to have an MRI on Monday and then make a go-no go decision on the national team.

But according to Klinsmann, Donovan awoke Monday feeling even better than expected. So he cancelled the MRI and got on a plane bound for Miami, where players were arriving all day Monday.

Brek Shea is in: The FC Dallas man is hurt (mostly a combination of several smaller injuries) and still playing at 2011 level. But here he is, probably more a concession to a lack of choices in wide areas as much as anything else.

We’ll have more later on the Jozy Altidore situation.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.