Looking at the United States’ roster ahead of their Canada rematch

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We took a day to think about it, but even upon reflection, it’s difficult to find the twist, hidden gem, or angle on the 21-woman squad Tom Sermanni named for the U.S. Women’s June 2 trip to Toronto. Set to meet their Canadian rivals for the first time since last summer’s 4-3 semifinal win at the 2012 Summer Olympics, the U.S. will take will the usual cast of gold-collecting characters, save a couple of prominent injuries and one star who’ll be allowed to complete her French sojourn.

Let’s take a few minutes to break it down. Later in the day, we’ll double back with some long-winded analysis:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Nicole Barnhart (FC Kansas City), Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit), Jill Loyden (Sky Blue FC)

No Hope Solo, much to the diehards’ chagrin. She’ll train with the team ahead of the game at BMO but is still a few weeks away from coming back from wrist surgery. She might see some action against South Korea, games scheduled for June 15 and 20.

There’s also no future-Boston Breaker Alyssa Naeher, who’s set to come to the NWSL after two successful seasons starting for Frauen Bundesliga powers Turbine Potsdam. Instead, Tom Sermanni has called in Jill Loyden, whose broken hand has kept her for putting in a minute’s time with Sky Blue.

DEFENDERS (8): Rachel Buehler (Portland Thorns FC), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina), Whitney Engen (Liverpool), Julie Johnston (Santa Clara), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)

“I am Jack’s completely lack of surprise,” though with good reason. With the exception of Amy LePeilbet, recovering from knee injury, everybody’s healthy. This is the octet you’d expect to be called up. If you’re expecting someone new, you’ve got to ask either (a) who gets dropped, or (b) why should they call in nine defenders for one game? Especially when the game day quad will be 18, not 21.

Unfortunately, this 21 lacks a natural left back, even though converted attacker Kelley O’Hara has been very good on the national team-level in 2013. The concern is deeper on the depth chart, where the apparent second choice is attacking midfielder Kristie Mewis. Some of the central defenders are also options, as is Dunn, but it seems strange (and perhaps, inconsequential) that a team with the U.S.’s depth of talent still doesn’t have one natural left back on the roster.

But the bigger story here is at left-center back. Rachel Buehler’s the incumbent, yet Whitney Engen’s coming strong. Sermanni hasn’t settled into a clear starting pair, and two years out from the World Cup, there’ll be no need to do so before June 2.

MIDFIELDERS (6): Amber Brooks (Bayern Munich), Lauren Cheney (FC Kansas City), Tobin Heath (Paris Saint-Germain), Carli Lloyd (Western NY Flash), Kristie Mewis (FC Kansas City), Heather O’Reilly (Boston Breakers)

Amber Brooks – so touted for her play at U-levels; so successful as a midfielder and defender at North Carolina; so valuable to Bayern Munich’s strong Bundesliga finish – gets her first honest-to-goodness callup. She trained with the team in March ahead of games against Germany and the Netherlands. Now, she’s fully in, apparently taking the spot of Göteborg’s Yael Averbuch (or, depending on how you look at it, the injured Shannon Boxx).

Carli Lloyd’s made one appearance for Western New York since recovering from a shoulder injury, but she gets invited to the reunion. Megan Rapinoe, however, does not. She’s being allowed to stay with Lyon as the French powers compete in the finals of both Champions League and the French Cup.

Keep an eye on Lauren Cheney, one of the NWSL’s best players this season. She’s excelled as a number ten in Kansas City, but the U.S.’s current setup doesn’t have a role for that kind of player. She’s likely to start in central midfield, albeit in the box-to-box role where, while competent, she hasn’t made the impact she has with the Blues.

FORWARDS (4): Sydney Leroux (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), Christen Press (Tyresö), Abby Wambach (Western NY Flash)

This foursome in written in ink on every piece of scrap paper within Tom Sermanni’s reach. Bored in a bar? It’s on the napkins. Doodling at the counter while waiting for his car? Both little custom post-it notes sitting by the pencil bin have “Morgan-Wambach-Leroux-Press” printed across the top. If those four are healthy, they’re coming in, making life difficult on the Sarah Hagens and Lindsey Horans of the world.

Morgan and Wambach are expected to start, especially with #chasingmia still a #realthing. Wambach sits on 155 career goals, three short of the legendary Mia Hamm’s all-time record. Though she hasn’t started every game since this became a chase, Wambach hasn’t always been in form. Now, after recovering from her early-season concussion with Western New York, she is. She should get the call at BMO on June 2.

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”