Tom Sermanni names United States team for upcoming South Korea friendlies

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Don’t expect a repeat of last week’s long-winded thought experiment. As for the issues discussed then — lack of turnover, depth at left back — we’ll hit those as we go through the 23-woman roster Tom Sermanni has selected for June 15th and 20th’s matches against South Korea.

In short, there’s reason to think both of those concerns may turn out to be little more than the bored musing that fly around at a downpoint in a team’s cycle. Sermanni’s been on the job six months, and we’re still well away from the 2015 World Cup. Each selection is going to include curiosities as the staff tried to evaluate the player pool. Some curiosities will be positive (hey look – it’s Morgan Brian). Others will require some thought (um, Jill Loyden hasn’t played in a while).

We’re still two years out. Right now, it’s a lot of bluster about very little movement.

Not that there’s anything wrong with bluster. Here are our thoughts on the team:

Goalkeepers: Nicole Barnhart (FC Kansas City), Jill Loyden (Sky Blue FC), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign)

No surprises here. Expect Solo, omitted from the team that faced Canada, to regain her starting spot. She was untested in her NWSL return (the only decent chance Portland generated two weeks ago coming off a penalty kick). With Barnhart assumed to be Solo’s current backup, might as well call in Jill Loyden, whose recovery from a broken hand has kept her from playing for Sky Blue FC.

Well, kind of. Loyden’s been on Jim Gabarra’s recent game day rosters but has been unable to reclaim SBFC’s starting position from NWSL May Player of the Month Brittany Cameron. That status prompts the question: If Loyden hasn’t played all season and is coming off injury, why is she even being called in?

With a third keeper, you can afford to bring somebody in to evaluate. But that’s bad news for Washington’s Ashlyn Harris, who misses out on the squad. Harris had dealt with some fitness issues before the Toronto camp, but according to both U.S. Soccer and the Washington Spirit, she’s fine. Fitness wasn’t a factor.

The selections are also bad news for Boston’s Alyssa Naeher, who continues to have trouble drawing more attention from her national team. Her move stateside from Turbine Potsdam may re-ignite her cas.

Defenders: Rachel Buehler (Portland Thorns FC), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina), Whitney Engen (Liverpool), Meghan Klingenberg (Tyresö), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)

Meghan Klingenberg gets recalled, confirming her she’s still in the picture after being left off the team for Toronto. She’s the only surprise of an eight-woman group whose revelations will be in the XI (not 23). If Whitney Engen keeps getting starts along side Christie Rampone, we’ll know Sermanni wants the Liverpool defender to start consolidating her partnership with Christie Rampone. And if Crystal Dunn sees more time at left back, we’ll know she, not Kristie Mewis, is Kelley O’Hara’s likely backup.

Midfielders: Yael Averbuch (Göteborg), Morgan Brian (Virginia), Lauren Cheney (FC Kansas City), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Western NY Flash), Kristie Mewis (FC Kansas City), Heather O’Reilly (Boston Breakers), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign)

Welcome back, Yael Averbuch, who missed out on the team for the Canada game. But also give a welcome to Morgan Brian, the 20-year-old U-level standout the latest to get a some time with the senior  team.

A creative midfielder coming off her second year at the University of Virginia, Brian was part of the team that represented the U.S. at last year’s U-20 World Cup in Japan. Despite her talent, she’s a bit of a surprise call up, but if Sermanni uses his 22nd and 23rd spots as more than handshakes and backslaps to veteran troopers, the program will be better for it.

Amber Brooks and Julie Johnston miss out on this team, but the big news for most will be the return of Megan Rapinoe, which will spur another starting XI debate. Who is the first choice right midfielder? Rapinoe, at one point, had pushed Heather O’Reilly to the bench, but in terms of put wide play, O’Reilly continues to be one of the best in the world.

It’s another question that doesn’t need to be decided for two years. Not that we’ll refrain from dissecting it.

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

Carved in stone. And why not?

Doubling back to last week’s thought experiment, let’s think about what we’ve learned (or, had confirmed) between the Canada match and this selection:

  • On lack of new blood, when players like Brooks and Brian are being called in (in addition to Press, Dunn, Johnston, Averbuch, and Klingenberg’s roles in the setup), it’s hard to criticize the lack of turnover. And in that sense, it’s hard to see the Rachel Quon issue (players jumping from the U.S. pool to other nations) as a function of a closed system. The critique needs to be refined as …
  • What does an “in” player have to do to be dropped? Last time, this came up with Carli Lloyd, but Lloyd looked good in Canada, so it’s difficult to get too worked up about her getting the benefit of the doubt. This time, Jill Loyden got the call over Harris, but if Barnhart ends up suiting up against South Korea, Loyden’s inclusion can be seen as evaluating somebody who will compete for the No. 2 job (not merely a place in the squad).
  • The other issue discussed last week: Whether we’ll see another Becky Sauerbrunn – a player who can used the new domestic league to establish national team bonafided. Tom Sermanni has said it’s too early in the NWSL season to be making any judgments, though for players like Becky Edwards (Portland), Keelin Winters (Seattle), Jen Buczkowski (Kansas City), or Leigh Ann Robinson (Kansas City), the new league can be seen as augmenting previous established cases. When will we see a breakthough?

Ultimately, it’s bcoming more and more difficult to recycle to old complaints onto Tom Sermanni’s selections. Soon the debates will be more traditional ones – pure player versus player evaluations.

MLS playoff scenarios heading into the final weekend

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Time certainly has flown by, and just like that the MLS Cup playoffs are well within sight.

While the Eastern Conference is all locked up in terms of which teams will be in the postseason, seeding can change drastically on the final weekend.

[ MORE: Tab Ramos confirms interest in USMNT job ]

Meanwhile, the West sees three clubs vying for one final spot in what has proven to be a very intriguing battle over the last several weeks.

All eyes will be on three teams in the Western Conference as the San Jose Earthquakes, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake all have an opportunity to move into the sixth spot.

Below, PST takes a look at where clubs can finish in relation to the playoff race.

Eastern Conference

#1 seed: Toronto FC is locked into the top spot

#2 seed: NYCFC — clinches the two seed with a win; Chicago Fire — clinches two with win and NYCFC draw or loss; Atlanta takes two with win plus NYCFC loss/draw and Fire loss/draw

#3 seed: Fire — finishes third with win; NYCFC — takes third with loss to Crew and Fire win; Atlanta — third with win and Fire loss; Crew — finish third with win over NYCFC and don’t overtake NYCFC on GD, plus losses by Fire and Atlanta

#4 seed: NYCFC — fourth with loss to Crew and overtaken on GD, plus Fire win; Fire — finish fourth with loss and Atlanta win, plus NYCFC win or draw; Atlanta — takes fourth with loss and NYCFC/Fire wins; Crew — fourth with win over NYCFC, Fire win and Atlanta loss/draw

#5 seed: Crew — finish fifth with loss/draw; Atlanta — finishes fifth with loss and Crew win; Fire — takes fifth with loss and Atlanta/Crew victories; NYCFC — drops with loss to Crew, Atlanta win and Fire win/draw

#6 seed: New York Red Bulls are locked into sixth spot

Western Conference

#1 seed: Whitecaps — clinch top spot with win; Timbers — finish first with win and Whitecaps loss

#2 seed: Whitecaps — finish second with loss to Timbers; Timbers — second with loss/draw and Sounders/Sporting KC losses; Sounders — finish second with win and Whitecaps win

#3 seed: Timbers — third with loss and Sounders win; Sounders — loss to Rapids and Sporting KC/Dynamo losses; Sporting KC — finish third with win, Sounders loss and Whitecaps/Timbers draw; Dynamo — third with win, Sporting KC loss and Sounders loss

#4 seed: Whitecaps — finish fourth with loss to Timbers, Sounders/Sporting KC wins; Timbers — loss to Whitecaps, plus Sounders/Sporting KC victories; Sounders — finish fourth with loss/draw and Sporting KC win; Sporting KC — fourth with loss and Dynamo loss/draw; Dynamo — finish fourth with win and Sporting KC loss

#5 seed: Timbers — fifth with loss to Whitecaps and Sounders/Sporting KC/Dynamo wins; Sounders — loss to Rapids, plus Sporting KC/Dynamo victories; Dynamo — finish fifth with loss; Sporting KC — fifth place with loss and Dynamo win

#6 seed: San Jose Earthquakes clinch with win; FC Dallas takes sixth with win/draw and Earthquakes loss/draw; Real Salt Lake clinch with win/draw, Earthquakes loss and Dallas loss/draw

The next Pulisic? A 10-year-old American is heading to AS Roma

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With everything that has transpired since last week’s U.S. Men’s National Team debacle, American soccer fans can use a pick-me-up.

What better could there be than perhaps another young star-in-the-making? Dare I say, the next Christian Pulisic?

[ MORE: Bruce Arena is out as USMNT manager ]

Perhaps, but it’s way too early to say that.

His name is Alessandro Cupini, a 10-year-old from Kansas City, Missouri that is about to complete a dream that a soccer player of any age would be thrilled to achieve.

Less than two weeks ago, Cupini and his family announced that the Kansas City Fusion midfielder/striker would be accepting a spot in the AS Roma academy starting in the Spring 2018, after having trained with the club for the better part of two years off and on.

Pro Soccer Talk had the opportunity to speak with Cupini’s father, Eddie, ahead of his son’s big move to Italy.

“This is something that Alessandro has worked really hard for,” Eddie Cupini told PST. “There are times where I tell him that he needs to take a step back and be a normal kid, but he doesn’t have any of that. He’s an incredibly hard-working and driven kid that does more than most people regardless of his age.”

Alessandro — who recently turned 10 years old — isn’t the typically American youngster though, according to his father.

“There are times where I wish Alessandro would take a break and be a kid, but that’s just not in his desire,” Cupini said. “We built him a mini stadium downstairs where he trains basically every day after school. As soon as he gets home from school he’s doing work down there and always looking for other kids to come over to practice with.”

That’s where the comparisons to Pulisic can be worked into the conversation.

Pulisic followed a very similar path to the professional level when he left his hometown of Hershey, Pennsylvania at the age of 16 to sign with Borussia Dortmund. Now, he’s U.S. Soccer’s most promising star as the USMNT looks to rebuild.

“We’re very familiar with Christian’s story, and he’s certainly somebody that Alessandro looks up to,” Cupini said.

Cupini is already on the radar of U.S. Soccer and the Olympic Development Program (ODP), which helps identify young talent in the United States starting at the Under-12 level.

However, because of Cupini’s Italian heritage and his unique opportunity to move to Italy next year, Alessandro could potentially have the chance to represent either the USMNT or the Azzurri in the future.

“It’s a long ways away and we’re taking things slow in that regard,” Cupini said in regards to his son’s international plans. “We’d certainly be willing to explore our options, but I think it would be a real dream and his main goal to play for Italy.”

New Jersey-native and former Italy international Giuseppe Rossi made a similar career choice when it came down to choosing a national team. Despite living in the United States for much of his youth years, Rossi appeared for a number of Italy’s youth teams before holding a stint with the senior side from 2008 to 2014.

Prior to making the announcement that Roma would be where Cupini will ply his trade next year, the young American also had the opportunity to train with Italian academies Empoli and Atalanta.

“My father is from Rome, so for Alessandro to have the opportunity to play for his hometown club it was almost a no-brainer,” Cupini said. “We were very grateful to the other clubs for the chance Alessandro had to train with them, but Roma is a club that is very close to our family.

Leicester City 1-1 West Brom: Mahrez nets first goal of PL season

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The Foxes haven’t had the start to the season that Craig Shakespeare and Co. would have hoped for, but Monday’s performance was certainly a step in the right direction.

[ MORE: Mike Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale ]

Leicester City pulled out a 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion at the King Power Stadium, however, the Foxes remain in the bottom three of the Premier League.

Riyad Mahrez had plenty of chances on the day, and he rescued his side with 10 minutes remaining after powering home a strike into the far corner. The goal marks the Algerian’s first of the 2017/18 campaign.

Despite a frustrating opening hour, the visitors led on 63 minutes when Nacer Chadli curled home a brilliant free kick that left Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel stunned.

For the Belgium international, Chadli becomes West Brom’s seventh different goalscorer of the season.

Leicester nearly came out flying in the second stanza whenMahrez had an open chance in the center of the Baggies penalty area, however, the Algerian winger’s left-footed attempt was too high to hit the target.

[ MORE: Liverpool’s Lovren accuses Lukaku of deliberate stamp ]

Mahrez’s chance came just minutes after West Brom keeper Boaz Myhill was nearly sent off after the 34-year-old took out a streaking Jamie Vardy on the edge of the penalty box.

Monday’s result means both clubs have now gone six matches with a win in PL play.

Liverpool’s Lovren accuses Lukaku of deliberate stamp

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Saturday’s titanic clash between Liverpool and Manchester United ended in an uneventful draw, but that didn’t mean the match itself was short on drama.

[ MORE: Mike Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale ]

Reds defender Dejan Lovren wasn’t happy with Romelu Lukaku‘s action after the former made a tackle on the Man United striker during the first half of the 0-0 draw.

The Liverpool center back spoke ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League match against Maribor.

“I made a tackle there and I just felt he was over me and could just move away,” Lovren said in regards to the play in question. “To be honest, my point of view is that he did on purpose.”

Despite his claims of Lukaku’s malice, the FA has already come out and stated that they won’t take any action against the Belgium international.

“It is not my decision,” Lovren continued. “He seemed nervous during the game and maybe that’s why. Normally if you do it, you apologise.

“It happened and it’s over. Nobody can change it.”