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.

New York Red Bulls ink goalkeeper Luis Robles to new deal

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The “Iron Man” will keep up his amazing journey with the New York Red Bulls, after signing a new deal with the club on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder on verge of joining Los Angeles FC ]

Goalkeeper Luis Robles has extended his contract with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, as the American continues to raise his consecutive starts streak, which stands at 157.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the club’s release.

Robles joined the Red Bulls back in 2012 after playing in Germany, and the shot-stopper hasn’t missed a start ever since.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.

Premier League vet Scott Parker calls quits on playing career

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Scott Parker has announced his retirement from soccer after a stellar 20-plus year career in England.

[ MORE: Chile bests Portugal on PKs to reach Confed Cup final ]

The 36-year-old spent almost the entirety of his career in the Premier League, and played with seven teams during his time on the pitch.

“I believe now is the right time to move on to the next chapter in my life and career,” Parker said in a statement.

“I feel incredibly honoured and proud to have enjoyed the career that I have and I’ve loved every moment of it.”

Parker began playing with Charlton after coming up through the team’s youth academy, before completing a move to Chelsea in 2004.

Throughout his career, Parker also spent time at Newcastle, West Ham and Tottenham, before finishing up at Fulham this past season.

Three storylines when Mexico meets Germany in Confed Cup semis

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With a place in the final on the line tomorrow afternoon, it’s all or nothing for Mexico and Germany as they meet in the second semifinal at this summer’s FIFA Confederations Cup.

The two nations have had very similar paths in reaching the final four, after both accumulated seven points during the group stage and showed signs of improvement with every match.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s FIFA Confederations Cup action ]

Here are some of the key battles to watch on Thursday when Mexico and Germany square off for a place in the final.

How does Germany’s youth hold up vs. Mexico’s experience?

Even when Jurgen Low released his roster heading into the Confederations Cup, much was expected of the Germans. After a strong run of play during the group stage, Low’s men have lived up to the billing with an exciting young attack and an improving backline to match.

When Germany meets Mexico though, the defending World Cup champions will be taking on an El Tri side that has loads of international experience, and similar to that of Chile, the Europeans will surely receive all that they can handle.

At the tender age of 23, Julian Draxler captains the Germans and has been challenged with leading his nation throughout the tournament. The PSG attacker has been quality thus far, but he and his side will take on a whole different task on Thursday against a quick, feisty Mexican group.

Will Hirving Lozano be the difference in the attack?

Injuries and a key suspension will certain hinder Mexico in the semifinal round, but the bigger question is: how will Juan Carlos Osorio’s side cope with the losses?

El Tri know it will be without winger Andres Guardado due to yellow card accumulation, while striker Javier Hernandez is in question ahead of the Germany clash after reportedly training by himself on Monday.

Although Hernandez likely just needed rest after a busy season of matches in the Bundesliga, Mexico is still seeking a quality playmaker to replace Guardado on Thursday, one that they’re hoping with be Hirving Lozano.

The newly-signed PSV man has quickly become one of the top young faces in global soccer, and with three international goals for El Tri dating back to 2016, Lozano is the spark that Mexico needs.

El Tri must start fast

In all three of Mexico’s group stage matches Osorio’s side fell behind during the first half. While El Tri managed to come away unscathed to remain perfect in group play, it’s difficult to imagine that they will be able to pull off the same feat against a quality German side.

On the other hand, Mexico’s resilience has been impressive. In their opener against Portugal, El Tri pulled off a late winner against the reigning European champions, a result that likely set the tone for the team’s ensuing comebacks versus New Zealand and Russia, respectively.