Chelsea at Wembley without Lampard, Terry? That feels weird

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The FA Cup semifinals kickoff in a little over an hour when one of relegation-embattled Wigan or second-tier Millwall will take another step in their Cinderella run. While those stories are sure to garner tremendous attention once full time’s blown at Wembley, I’ve been focused another piece of news from this weekend’s matches in London – a factoid that both makes me feel old and doesn’t feel quite right, given what these players still have to offer.

Based on London correspondent Dominic Fifield’s reporting for The Guardian, it looks like neither Frank Lampard nor John Terry will play a part for Chelsea against Manchester City on Sunday. I’m not talking being held out of the starting XI. I’m talking about no place on the bench, no need for a kit – you’re not even in the 18, guys. I hope the shrimp’s fresh in your box because you’re watching from the suites.

From Fifield’s piece:

The impact of the changing of the guard at Chelsea will properly hit home in FA Cup semi-final with the interim manager, Rafael Benítez, expected to leave John Terry and Frank Lampard out of his lineup to confront Manchester City.

Both senior England internationals have been regulars for their club at Wembley since it reopened, with Lampard having started all of Chelsea’s 11 visits to the arena and Terry missing only one Community Shield in that time. More strikingly Lampard has played in 32 of the 34 semi-finals or finals of the Roman Abramovich era, missing only the two League Cup semis of 2008 with a thigh injury, with Terry playing in 27.

I’m not saying Benítez should include Terry or Lampard. Chelsea has a very deep team, and there’s justification for each player’s diminishing role.

But people may use this as a log on the fire they”ve been prepping to roast Lampard and Terry’s careers. With the two Blues icons fading, there seems to be a subtle race to be the for person to correctly predict when their Chelsea days are done. A sea of naive explorers guiding their ships into the void, one will luck on the right day, put a flag in it, and triumphantly emerge to celebrate their fortune.

Perhaps it’s continued resentment from Chelsea’s oligarch-fueled rise, because critics seem to be giving Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes more leeway at Manchester United. Ledley King got all the time he wanted at Spurs. Even Jamie Carragher’s obvious and prolonged decline was treated with less predatory fervor than the quest to sign off on Lampard and Terry.

In Terry’s case, there’s likely some misplaced ‘ding-dong, the witch is dead’ reaction ready to burst. Regardless, there seem to be a lot of volunteers ready to hand these legends their coats.

It’s a shame, because they still have more to give. Chelsea’s squad has become so bloated by conflicted planning (hello, Marko Marin) they may not sem themselves having room for Lampard. He’s likely to move the summer. And while Terry seems to be accepting he’s not one of the club’s top two (or maybe three) center halves, it remains to be seen if his transition is as graceful as Lampard’s, a transition that ultimately didn’t secure a place at the club.

Each player has more of give. Perhaps they’re not starters for Champions League-contending teams, but you could see Lampard playing a part at a place like Manchester United. And you can see Terry starting and playing well for most teams in the league.

That doesn’t mean they should be in the 18 tomorrow against City, but it’s good to keep these things in perspective. They’re out of Chelsea’s team on Sunday, but there’s still quality there.

USL granted 2018 2nd-division sanctioning by U.S. Soccer

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U.S. Soccer has officially granted the United Soccer League second-division sanctioning, behind first-division Major League Soccer, for the upcoming 2018 season, as well as first-division status for the National Women’s Soccer League.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan unveiled by Liga MX side Club Leon ]

USL, which will feature 33 teams in 2018, had been granted temporary second-division sanctioning, alongside the North American Soccer League, in 2017. As NASL’s demise continued and accelerated — the league will not begin play this spring, opting instead for a late-summer kickoff, after a number of its teams either folded or jumped ship to USL — USL, with the help of MLS, quickly pounced to capitalize — from U.S. Soccer’s statement:

Sanctioning allows NWSL and USL to operate a Division I and II league, respectively, during the 2018 season and includes a two-year pathway to full compliance with the Professional League Standards. USL has demonstrated substantial progress toward reaching full compliance since being granted provisional Division II sanctioning in 2017.

Conspiracy theorist’s take: USL supplanted NASL as the U.S.’s second-most viable professional men’s league — and more importantly, being granted official second-division status — paves the way for MLS to, at some point well down the line — say, 2030 or so — implement its own multi-tiered system of promotion and relegation, featuring anywhere between 60 and 80 teams, while still remaining a single-entity structure closed to the lower reaches of the sport in America, as the lines separating MLS and USL have only become more and more blurred in recent years.

[ MORE: Donovan ready to “win championships” after ending retirement ]

MLS realizes that public demand for promotion and relegation in the U.S. has grown significantly louder in recent years — particularly given the climate of the sport after the men’s national team failed to qualify for the World Cup, and subsequent ongoing presidential-election campaign — thus an open-but-not-really-open system which satisfies neither side will eventually be the end result.

Wenger called ref Dean “not honest,” “a disgrace” to earn ban

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LONDON (AP) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accused a referee of being “not honest” and called him “a disgrace” in a rant inside the match officials’ changing room that led to a three-match touchline ban for one of English soccer’s most experienced coaches.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

The English Football Association published Tuesday the written reasons behind its decision to ban Wenger for being abusive toward referee Mike Dean after Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Dec. 31.

In his match report given to the FA, Dean said Wenger “was pointing aggressively at me saying, ‘You’re not honest’ on numerous occasions.” Dean then said Wenger said “you’ve done this to us many times before, you’re supposed to be professional, you’re a disgrace.”

[ MORE: Newcastle sale talks collapse — Staveley, not Ashley, out ]

Wenger had been incensed at Calum Chambers being penalized for a handball and West Brom converting the resulting penalty to equalize late in the game.

The FA said “there is simply no justification for this behavior” and considered a stadium ban for Wenger.

Wenger was also fined $54,200 for his conduct.

FA Cup: Leicester, West Ham survive replays to reach 4th round

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Two more Premier League sides reached the fourth round of the 2017-18 FA Cup on Tuesday, winning their respective replays and joining 10 other top-flight clubs already through to the next round…

[ MORE: Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Leicester City 2-0 Fleetwood Town

Kelechi Iheanacho moved to Leicester from Manchester City for $33 million this summer and has, through his first half-season in the East Midlands, failed to live up to that price tag. In nine PL appearances, he is yet to score his first league goal. Tuesday, however, saw the 21-year-old Nigerian international put forth a bit production and performance more befitting a player of his promise and pedigree.

Manager Claude Puel picked a side consisting of first-team regulars and lesser-used squad players for the Foxes FA Cup third-round replay against League One side Fleetwood Town. It was Iheanacho, who started alongside/just behind target man Islam Slimani, who shown brightest with a pair of goals, in the 43rd and 77th minutes, to send Leicester into the fourth round. Iheanacho’s second, the one that put the game away for Leicester, was originally ruled out for offside, but was eventually after consultation of the video-assistant referee.

Leicester will travel to League One side Peterborough in the fourth round, on Sat. Jan. 27.

[ MORE: Newcastle sale talks collapse — Staveley, not Ashley, out ]

West Ham United 1-0 (AET) Shrewsbury Town

It took far longer than Hammers fans would have liked — or expected — but West Ham, over the course of 120 minutes, survived the Cupset bid of third-division Shrewsbury Town. With eight minutes remaining before Tuesday’s replay went to penalty kicks at the London Stadium, 21-year-old defender Reece Burke fired home from inside the box to break the scoreless deadlock.

West Ham will be away to the winner of the replay between Bournemouth and Wigan Athletic (Wednesday), on Sat. Jan. 27.

Elsewhere in FA Cup replay action

Mansfield Town 1-4 Cardiff City
Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Carlisle United
Reading 3-0 Stevenage

Wednesday’s FA Cup replay schedule

Chelsea vs. Norwich City — 2:45 p.m. ET
Swansea City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 2:45 p.m. ET
Wigan Athletic vs. Bournemouth — 2:45 p.m. ET

Report: Newcastle sale talks between Ashley, Staveley collapse

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Talks between Mike Ashley and Amanda Staveley over the much-desired and -rumored sale of Newcastle United are off, according to a report from Sky Sports and various other UK news outlets.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Sky has quoted a source close to Ashley as having said: “Attempts to reach a deal (with Staveley) have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time.” (Full quote below)

Ashley, the club’s current and long-beleaguered owner, has been seeking a potential buyer since putting the club up for sale back in October. Staveley emerged as the front-runner (the only runner, perhaps) in the days following Ashley’s announcement, and reportedly tabled an offer of $335 million in early December before reportedly offering something closer to $400 million a couple weeks later.

Ashley selling the club — and doing so before the end of the January transfer window, which now appears nigh impossible — appeared to be one the few scenarios in which Rafa Benitez would remain the Magpies’ manager beyond the end of the current Premier League season (Newcastle currently sit 15th, just three points clear of relegation) after constant rumors of his discontent and lack of financial backing last summer.