Looking at the lesser known USWNT’ers called into Tom Sermanni’s first camp

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Yesterday’s news was supposed to be about Tom Sermanni’s first callups, but when the U.S. Women’s National Team selections were announced mid-day, Tobin Heath’s move to Paris Saint-Germain swiped the headlines. Beyond that blockbuster, there are a number of subtle story lines within Sermanni selection, plots woven from the predictability that defined Pia Sundhage’s approach.

There was never any drama with the U.S.’s previous coach. Renown for her loyalty, Sundhage’s selections were so predictable that they’d be overlooked. Perhaps one or two new names would dot each team, but there’d rarely be any surprises. Even as Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux were assimilated into the team, the methodical nature of the process drained the intrigue. There was never an Eddie Johnson, where did this come from Jurgen moment. Every Sundhage callup was always (looking at the list) “Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh … Yep.”

Not that a coach should try to create drama. On the contrary, many see Sundhage’s reluctance to rock the boat as a key to the team’s recent success; however, that reluctance meant a number of good players may not have gotten chances other coaches would have provided.

Sermanni’s first team features a few of those names, though those inclusions are mostly because of the size of the call-in. To bring 29 players in for a look, you have to pick a few new faces.

Let’s go ahead and count down the surprises from 10-to-1 in terms of … let’s call it “intrigue.” We start with someone who’s no surprise at all (but deserves a mention):

10. Ali Krieger, D, Washington Spirit – Krieger is not a new name (she’s one of the best right backs in the world), but this is her first camp since tearing up her knee in Olympic qualifying. A strong following of devoted fans will be happy to see the former Frankfurt star back in action. She’s an obvious pick as Sermanni’s starting right back.

9. Whitney Engen, D, Liverpool – Engen’s signing in Liverpool earned some press, and despite the creation of the new NWSL, the former North Carolina standout plans to stay in England. She was one of the victims of Sundhage’s predictability. Despite strong play at both collegiate and WPS levels, Engen rarely got a look under the previous coach.

8. Ashlyn Harris, G, Duisburg/Washington Spirit – Harris has never been capped but has the talent to be a regular in the team. Under a new regime, players like Harris may be able to win coveted spots, like the place behind Hope Solo. She’ll join the Spirit once her German commitments end, with player and agent hoping to negotiate and early departure (her contract runs through May).

7. Kristie Mewis, M, FC Kansas City – The number three pick in last Friday’s College Draft, the former Boston College star represents a possibility for a thinning midfield. Not yet 22, Mewis can also slide farther up the field to play as an outright forward.

6. Crystal Dunn, D, North Carolina – The MAC Herman Trophy winner helped the Tar Heels reclaim their national title. Still 20 years old, Dunn has played in the middle at U-levels but projects as a wide option for the senior team.

5. Julie Johnston, D, Santa Clara – Like Dunn, a collegiate star who Sermanni will get a chance to evaluate in person. Johnston is also a potential solution for the once-precarious fullback situation.

4. Jane Campbell, G, Concorde Fire South – The high school senior is the biggest surprise on the team, passing over a number overseas and NWSL names that justified this selection. This could be Sermanni just wanting a first-hand look at a prominent prospect, but Campbell could have also gone to the concurrent U-20 camp. Players like Turbine Potsdam’s Alyssa Naeher or Western New York Adrianna Franch should have gotten this spot.

3. Yael Averbuch, D, Göteberg (Sweden) – Averbuch was not only hurt by Sundhage’s loyalty to the regular squad members but left out by system that didn’t use a real defensive midfielder. One of a handful of national team hopefuls who passed on the NWSL, Averbuch’s club performances hint she’s reaching the peak of her career.

2. Keelin Winters, M, Chicago Red Stars – Winters recent success at Turbine Potsdam makes her a key part of the new Chicago team. Capable of playing a defensive midfield as well as a box-to-box role, Winters has the versatility to be a good bench option for the national team.

1. Christen Press, F, Tyresö FF (Sweden) – Perhaps the most exciting callup, Press is a former MAC Herman Trophy winner spent last season in Sweden, where she elected to stay rather than joining the NWSL. He 17 goals in last year’s Damallsvensken were second only to German star Anja Mittag’s 21. With a slew of talents in front of her at forward, it will be difficult to crack the squad for a real game. But at least now Press is getting the chance.

Here’s Sermanni’s full call-in, courtesy of U.S. Soccer:

U.S. Women’s National Team Training Camp Roster by Position

GOALKEEPERS (5): Nicole Barnhart (FC Kansas City), Jane Campbell (Concorde Fire South), Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit), Jill Loyden (Sky Blue FC), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)

DEFENDERS (9): Rachel Buehler (Portland Thorns FC), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina), Whitney Engen (Liverpool FC), Julie Johnston (Santa Clara), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Heather Mitts (Boston Breakers), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)

MIDFIELDERS (10): Yael Averbuch (Göteborg FC), Shannon Boxx (Chicago Red Stars), Lauren Cheney (FC Kansas City), Tobin Heath (Paris Saint-Germain), Lori Lindsey (Washington Spirit), Carli Lloyd (Western NY Flash), Kristie Mewis (FC Kansas City), Heather O’Reilly (Boston Breakers), Megan Rapinoe (Lyon), Keelin Winters (Chicago Red Stars)

FORWARDS (5): Sydney Leroux (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), Christen Press (Tyresö FF), Amy Rodriguez (Seattle Reign FC), Abby Wambach (Western NY Flash)

Celtic’s Griffiths tears into Rangers chairman after “gulf” comments

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Celtic star Leigh Griffiths took the Old Firm bait and promptly swallowed the fisherman.

If you missed it, Rangers chairman Dave King said Celtic should’ve been even further ahead of their rivals given the setbacks handed to Rangers, who finally climbed back to the Scottish Premiership this season.

Celtic went unbeaten, drawing just four of 38 matches and finished 39 points ahead of Rangers on the table.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

If Celtic won all 38, they could’ve finished 47 points clear of Rangers. So, we guess the gulf could be bigger.

Here’s what Griffiths had to say:

“What was the gulf? 30-odd points. How does he expect that to be bigger? They were touting at the start of last season that they were going to win the league and this and that.

Joey Barton was coming up and saying he was going to be the best player in Scotland – he lasted a few months. In the first [Old Firm] game, they got hammered 5-1 and they got hammered 5-1 at the end of the season. So, the gulf couldn’t be any bigger. This season, they’ll be trying to bridge the gap.

“Ultimately it’s about what we do and if we are at our best nobody in Scotland can live with us.”

It was absurd talk from King, who doesn’t need to amp up one of the world’s best rivalries and also doesn’t have a leg to stand on considering the dominant season from the Bhoys. Wow.

San Jose adds Designated Player from Legia Warsaw

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Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili is the latest MLS Designated Player, as the Georgian will hit the pitch for San Jose this season provided his visa and ITC go through.

Qazaishvili comes from Legia Warsaw after five seasons with Vitesse in the Eredivisie. The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been capped 24 times, and scored in Georgia’s 2-2 draw with Moldova earlier this month in World Cup qualifying.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Equally adept at right or left wing, Qazaishvili posted a goal and two assists for Legia following his transfer from Vitesse. He scored 28 goals and added 13 assists in 121 matches for the Dutch side.

From SJEarthquakes.com:

“We were looking for a player, a younger, offensive player, that really excites the fans and has the possibility to stay with us for a long period of time. That’s what we found with Vako,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli. “We wanted a player that knows how to take on a defender one-on-one, that sees the goal and that also wants to bring a spark to our game.”

San Jose sits seventh in the Western Conference table, and only two teams — Colorado and DC — have scored fewer goals in MLS. Jahmir Hyka and Cordell Cato have been fine, but San Jose needed a better chance creator.

Qazaishvili, in theory, fits the bill. If he has half the impact of fellow Legia export Nemanja Nikolic, San Jose is cooking with gas.

Transfer rumor roundup: Van Dijk to Chelsea, Ox to Anfield

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More and more players are being linked with Manchester United, but — believe it or not — the Red Devils aren’t the only club seeking talent.

DiMarzio is reporting that Antonio Conte is close to securing the services of Southampton center back Virgil Van Dijk, insisting the Dutch back is Conte’s top choice ahead of Juventus power house Leonardo Bonucci (which isn’t to say there isn’t room for both). The price? An eyebrow-raising $77 million.

[ MORE: Confederations Cup scenarios ]

Meanwhile, Conte is selling talented Bertrand Traore outside the Premier League. A solid season on loan at Ajax upped interest in the 21-year-old striker, and L’Equipe says it’s a $22 million move to Lyon for Traore.

How much do you think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is worth? Liverpool may think his value is as high as $32 million, as The Independent reports that Arsenal is prepared to sell the Southampton Academy product to the attacker-heavy Reds.

Meanwhile, Serge Gnabry‘s wild journey looks to have another stop despite a purchase from Bayern Munich this summer. Gnabry was one of Germany’s heroes at the Olympics and left Arsenal for Werder Bremen last summer. He thrived, and earned a deal to Bayern, but Kicker brings quotes from a Hoffenheim player that are hopeful of a loan for this season.

Messi offers to pay $558,000 to avoid 21-month jail sentence

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi has offered to pay an additional fine of 500,000 euros ($558,000) to ensure he avoids a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud that a judge is expected to suspend, a Spanish state prosecutor said Friday.

State prosecutor Isabel Lopez Riera told The Associated Press the fine-for-time deal was presented by Messi’s lawyers to the judge who will rule on whether to suspend Messi’s sentence – as is widely expected. Lopez Riera said she has told the judge that her office is not opposed to the deal.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Lopez Riera said Messi’s lawyers have made a similar offer for the Barcelona player’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi. He is offering to pay 360,000 euros ($402,000) to avoid his 15-month sentence for helping his son cheat on his taxes.

In Spain, prison sentences under 24 months for first-time offenders can be suspended by a judge.

The government attorney representing Spain’s Tax Office in the case will also be able to weigh in on the proposed deal. As state prosecutor, Lopez Riera is impartial in the case as a defender of the public interest.

Last year, a court in Barcelona found Messi and his father each guilty of three counts of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million) from 2007-09. The unpaid taxes were from money made through endorsement deals, not Messi’s salary paid by Barcelona.

Messi was fined 2 million euros and his father 1.5 million euros. Both were originally sentenced to 21 months, but his father’s sentence was later reduced to 15 months.

In the last two weeks, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and former Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho have been accused by a Madrid-based state prosecutor of having defrauded Spain’s Tax Office of millions of euros (dollars) in unpaid taxes.

Both have denied wrongdoing.