Picking apart the U.S. Women’s roster for upcoming Germany, Netherlands friendlies

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If there was ever a time to show a preference for the U.S.’s Europe-based soccer players, the upcoming international break would be it. Yet for the women’s national team’s early April friendlies at Germany and the Netherlands (Apr. 5 and 9), head coach Tom Sermanni has elected to call in a predictable squad. Yes, names like Tyresö’s Meghan Klingenberg and Western New York Flash’s Adrianna Franch opened some eyes, but throughout the rest of the 23-woman team, the U.S.’s squad offered few surprises:

Goalkeepers: Nicole Barnhart (FC Kansas City), Adrianna Franch (Western New York Flash), Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit)

Hope Solo is recovering from a wrist surgery that will keep her out until June. Jill Loyden, who seemed to have claimed the backup’s role, is out with a broken hand. That left the veteran Barnhart, the recently capped Harris, and a void.

Sermanni has elected to call in Franch ahead of Jane Campbell, the 18-year-old he brought in to the Jacksonville camp, and Alyssa Naeher, who has only conceded 11 goals in 12 starts for Turbine Potsdam in Germany. That leaves Franch, a recent graduate of Oklahoma State who is set to embark on her first professional season, to join the senior team in Germany.

Though the third-choice keeper will likely be irrelevant, it was one of the most anticipated selections of the April roster. Sermanni elected to go with Franch, somebody he’s already seen in a previous camp. rather than take a look at Naeher.

source: Getty ImagesDefenders: Rachel Buehler (Portland Thorns FC), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina), Whitney Engen (Liverpool, England), Julie Johnston (Santa Clara), Meghan Klingenberg (Tyresö, Sweden), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC, pictured, right), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)

The only real surprise here is Klingenberg, who is just as likely to get time in midfield as defense. The former North Carolina Tar Heel has two career caps, with former head coach Pia Sundhage previously flirting with the idea of converting her to a fullback’s role. Just coming off shoulder surgery, the 24-year-old’s inclusion was Thursday’s biggest surprise.

The recalls of Dunn and Johnston are mild eye raisers, but at this point in the Sermanni era, each seem so close to being regular selections that it’s not worth marveling when they get called in. Dunn, in particular, looks to have secured a regular recall, with the MAC Hermann Trophy winner seeming to establish herself as Sermanni’s second choice at right back.

Midfielders: Yael Averbuch (Göteborg, Sweden), Shannon Boxx (Chicago Red Stars), Lauren Cheney (FC Kansas City), Tobin Heath (PSG, France), Kristie Mewis (FC Kansas City), Heather O’Reilly (Boston Breakers), Megan Rapinoe (Lyon, France)

Again, no real surprises here, though those wondering if Sermanni was giving players extended tryouts during the Algarve Cup could read something into the continued inclusions of Yael Averbuch and Kristie Mewis. With Carli Lloyd’s shoulder injury keeping her out for up to six more weeks, Averbuch should see regular time in the middle of the park.

Mewis, fresh out of Boston College, is more in Dunn and Johnston’s boat. It’s no surprise to see her called in, but her playing time will still be iffy.

Forwards: Sydney Leroux (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), Christen Press (Tyresö, Sweden), Abby Wambach (Western New York Flash)

Don’t expect this foursome to change anytime soon. It is arguably the deepest and most talented position for any team in international soccer.

The foursome also seem to have found a balance. Press is playing more as a right wing/midfielder in Sermanni’s typically 4-4-2 formation. Morgan and Wambach are starting up top with Leroux playing the supersub’s part. When Wambach needs a rest, she switches with Leroux. Everybody’s getting time.

Who didn’t get called in?

Lindsey Horan, F, Paris Saint-Germain – If you expected Sermanni to lean toward recalling Europe-based players, the exclusion of Horan was a surprise. The 18-year-old PSG regular has 11 goals in 16 Feminine Division matches, but she also failed to make an impact during limited time at the Algarve Cup.

Sarah Hagen, F, Bayern Munich – The 23-year-old striker has 13 goals in 24 Frauen-Bundesliga appearances, but at 5’11”, she also projects as more of a target striker. In a squad that has Abby Wambach to target and Alex Morgan playing along the defense’s line, it’s difficult to see where she fits.

Hagen deserves a look, and the upcoming camp gave Sermanni a chance to recall her, but for a new coach who is still familiarizing himself with the player pool, the April friendlies may be too soon for Bayern’s promising forward.

Amber Brooks, D/M, Bayern Munich – Brooks’ double in her Bundesliga debut may have raised her profile ahead of Thursday’s callup, but there are still questions as to whether she possesses the quickness to fulfill a defensive midfielder’s role. That’s the position she’s most likely to compete for in the national team.

As a U-level standout and an accomplished collegiate player, Brooks is destined to get a chance. But that opportunity may not come until she returns stateside and can impress Sermanni if (when?) she joins the Portland Thorns.

Camille Levin, D, Göteborg – Having established herself as a regular in Sweden, the former Cardinal seems like another player who will eventually get a call. Yet when you look at the defensive depth in a team that’s called in nine players capable of playing at the back, Levin seems squeezed out. She may be making an impact in Sweden, but Sermanni’s is a numbers game. Which defender should be dropped to make room for Levin?

The 22-year-old seems destined to get a look, particularly with two-plus years separating Sermanni’s team from the next World Cup. On Thursday, the number just didn’t work in her favor.

Alyssa Naeher, G, Turbine Potsdam – Long jams on the depth charts of Sermanni’s field positions explain why Horan, Hagen, Brooks, and Levin were excluded, but Naeher’s snub is a little more confusing. The 24-year-old is starting for the second place team in Germany, one that’s established a good defensive record.

Is that enough to stake a place in the team? Not necessarily, but when Hope Solo is out, and Jill Loyden is out, who do you have left?

Sermanni likes Franch enough to justify her recall, but there’s a certain logic behind leaving the young keeper with her club ahead of her first pro season. With the Germany-based Naeher performing well ahead of a camp that starts in Germany, this was the time to call her in.

That she wasn’t makes you wonder what would have to happen for Alyssa Naeher to get a look with her national team.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace

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  • Liverpool will still be without Philippe Coutinho due to a back injury.
  • Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne also miss out, but Daniel Sturridge is fit.
  • Crystal Palace has won three-straight games against Liverpool in the Premier League.
  • Both teams have scored in each of the last 10 meetings in all competitions between Liverpool and Crystal Palace, averaging 3.9 goals per match.

For the second-consecutive week, Liverpool will have to play without Philippe Coutinho, who is still missing with a back injury.

However, that didn’t seem to be an issue last week against Watford as Liverpool scored three goals, but it was the leaky defense that allowed Watford to score three goals themselves. (Watch live at 10:00 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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Crystal Palace meanwhile also allowed three goals last week but couldn’t score any of its own as it was humbled, 3-0 to Huddersfield. Crystal Palace’s squad is still struggling to adjust to manager Frank De Boer‘s free-flowing style of play and Wilfried Zaha will miss Saturday’s encounter.

But working in Crystal Palace’s favor is Christian Benteke and the club’s three straight wins over Liverpool. It will surely be an open and exciting match at Anfield.

What they’re saying

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on Crystal Palace: “We played Crystal Palace a few weeks ago. I’m not 100 per cent sure about the line-ups in that game, but Phil and Zaha were on the pitch and they will not be [this weekend]. I’m not sure if Adam played in this game, but that’s how it is…The only thing we know is it’s a tough game, probably both teams were not overly happy – we were not really disappointed about our first game, but it was how a first game can be, there are things to improve and it’s always like this, but even then we could’ve won which I think everybody knows.”

Crystal Palace manager Frank De Boer on his system of play: “I am not a manager who suddenly after a defeat decides to change things around and as I say I did see some very positive points so I am not going to change the system. We don’t need to use adapting to a change in style of our play as an excuse, it’s not so difficult and quite easy to play. The Premier League is so competitive that you have to work hard as a team to get a result because if you don’t you get punished. The players don’t want to use the new system as an excuse and I think everybody understands what we want but we have to execute it better.”

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Prediction

Liverpool’s centerback pair of Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren looked better midweek in the UEFA Champions League against Hoffenheim, but it’s another challenge to face Benteke and a motivated Crystal Palace team. Still, the speed of thought and pace on the field of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane should prove to be the difference. Liverpool 3-2 Crystal Palace

Blaise Matuidi completes move from PSG to Juventus

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PARIS (AP) France midfielder Blaise Matuidi completed his move from Paris Saint-Germain to Juventus on Friday.

Matuidi arrived in Turin for a medical on Wednesday but the move finally went through Friday, PSG said in a statement.

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No financial details were given, but Juventus will reportedly pay PSG 20 million euros ($23 million) plus bonuses for the player, who had a year left on his contract. PSG did not say how long Matuidi’s contract is with the Italian champion.

The French club, runner-up to Monaco last year, is trying to balance the books after buying Neymar for 222 million euros ($261 million) and could not afford to lose Matuidi on a free transfer.

(more…)

Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs. Manchester United

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  • Manchester United have won two of its last three Premier League meetings with Swansea City (D1), this after losing the previous three all by a 2-1 scoreline.
  • Romelu Lukaku is looking to become the fifth player to score in his first two PL apps for Man Utd (also Ibrahimovic, Martial, Macheda, Saha).
  • Swansea City will be without forward Fernando Llorente (transfer) and playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson (transfer to Everton)
  • Manchester United are still without Luke Shaw and Ashley Young, both of whom are injured.

Two teams on two completely different trajectories meet up in South Wales as Swansea City hosts Manchester United (Watch live at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Manchester United are trending up, coming off an impressive 4-0 win over West Ham in the opening weekend in which new signings Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic starred and dominated the game.

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Swansea City on the other hand are trending down, slumping to a scoreless draw last week and this week seeing the club lose its top player, Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton.

What they’re saying

Man United manager Jose Mourinho on his team’s start to the season: “It’s just the beginning. Last season, we started with three matches and nine points and we finished sixth. So it’s not because of a very good first day that I’m going to lose my stability and my discipline and let the players think differently from myself.”

Swansea City manager Paul Clement on facing Man United: “We have confidence because of what we did against Manchester United last season, while the record between these two clubs is quite interesting. Our record in the Premier League against Southampton, for example, is not very good, but against United it’s quite encouraging.

“We are looking forward to playing in front of our fans again and hopefully we can do well for them.”

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Prediction

Swansea City will have the force of its fans behind it as well as recent good performances against Man United. However, Jose Mourinho’s men should buck the trend and win this one without too much of a fight. Manchester United 3-0 Swansea City

Reports: Liverpool reject latest Barcelona offer for Coutinho

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Barcelona has reportedly upped its offer for the services of Philippe Coutinho. But the response from Liverpool has remained the same.

According to multiple reports, Liverpool has rejected a third Barcelona offer for Coutinho, believed to be worth up to $151.5 million. Coutinho put in a transfer request a week ago but Liverpool has remained firm on its desire to keep Coutinho for this season. Liverpool has not yet publicly commented on Barcelona’s latest transfer bid.

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Coutinho meanwhile is still off the field for Liverpool due to a back injury, the club states.

“Phil is not available; he is not training so far, so there is nothing new,” manager Jurgen Klopp told reporters. “It is always how it is with injured players, there is no real time on when he is back.”

The Brazilian midfielder signed a new five-year contract with Liverpool just last January and the deal doesn’t have a buy-out clause. But should Liverpool accept a new bid for Coutinho, he’d become the second-most expensive transfer behind fellow Brazilian Neymar.

It’s unclear whether Barcelona will shift focus to other targets such as Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele or Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann as a replacement for Neymar.