Tom Sermanni

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.

Seven unheralded stars of this Premier League season

during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Bournemouth, England.
Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
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Look, it’s been a crazy year in the Premier League. Leicester City is top by five points, Chelsea is a bottom-half side, and not one of the league’s top three scorers hails from a team in last season’s Top Four.

So it follows that among the league’s other statistical leaders — advanced and traditional — are some surprisingly shining stars.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Or at least they aren’t mentioned a ton. We plan to rectify that here. By no means do we claim these statistical leaders without fault this season, but hats off to the good they’ve done (or, in some cases, the pain they’ve felt).

Most saves in a starring role

You wouldn’t know it from the goal totals these past few weeks, but Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been playing otherworldly between the sticks. His 87 saves lead the Premier League, and the Potters would be in the thick of a relegation battle if he hadn’t shone as brightly.

Ironman

Eleven players have played every minute of their side’s Premier League campaign this season (a 12th, Gareth Barry, has played all but one). Four of those 11 are goalkeepers, and six more are defenders. The only midfielder? Bournemouth’s South African standout Andrew Surman (above).

Top thief, too

Surman is also the league leader in interceptions with 92. The next seven players on the list, headed by Chris Smalling, are all defenders.

The most under-appreciated of the underdogs

Kante (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Leicester City has been fantastic, and people are quick to name Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as big parts of the table-topping effort at King Power Stadium. Then, perhaps they’ll say something about goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or defender Wes Morgan.

But how about the Premier League’s leader in tackles. Midfielder N'Golo Kante (right) has 115 tackles, 12 more than second-best Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace.

An all-expense paid journey to the massage parlor for…

Five players have been fouled more than 50 times this year, and you need to be around the ball a lot for that to happen. The four also-rans are Southampton’s Sadio Mane, Swansea City’s Andre Ayew, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Mahrez, but the man who deserved to skip to the head of the ice bath line is from Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 59 times. And that’s the amount of times the foulers were caught in the act.

Let Newcastle United’s captain climb in second, though; Fabricio Coloccini‘s 47 blocked shots are eight more than runners-up Neil Taylor (Swans) and Christian Fuchs (Leicester).

A man possessed

He hasn’t been heralded like a year ago, and most witnesses would tell you the midfielder’s been playing much worse. No, touches don’t equal success, but Cesc Fabregas‘ 2,027 credited touches are 74 more than the next player despite the fact that he’s the only player in the top four to have started less than 25 matches. He’s also completed 83 more passes than the closest competitor (Surman).

All-around stars

Advanced stats site Squawka uses an algorithm to generate statistics on who just might be the most complete player in the Premier League.

It’s certainly not foolproof, but the best player per-90 minutes would likely surprise you: Mousa Dembele of Spurs (Minimum 15 matches).

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As for who’s produced the most when numbers are averaged out over the entire game, one man rises to the top: Ross Barkley.

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Oft-targeted in the Premier League, Carvalho extends deal at Lisbon

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William Carvalho has been running through the rumor mill for ages, and Sporting Lisbon has made sure they’ll get their due if he ever stops somewhere else.

The Angola-born Portuguese defensive midfielder with 15 caps has extended his contract with Sporting through 2020, a date that carries him through his 28th birthday.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Carvalho is 23 now, and has been linked with loads of big name clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea, Arsenal to PSG.

His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.

“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”

Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.

Klinsmann hints at Euro-heavy roster for World Cup qualifiers

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Danny Williams #14 of the United States looks on before an international friendly against Brazil at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images
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If your favorite Major League Soccer players don’t make the cut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s next roster, don’t think you won’t see them in the red, white and blue this summer.

[ JPW: What’s the best XI for USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers? ]

Perhaps it’ll be different for the players who were a part of January camp — stars Lee Nguyen and Steve Birnbaum chief among them — but Klinsmann says the late start of the MLS season can affect fitness for the critical qualifiers home and away to Guatemala.

That means there’s a better chance to see in-form Championship midfielder Danny Williams (above) or Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez then, say, Orlando City’s Brek Shea or Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.

From USSoccer.com:

“We are basically looking all over the place. We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.

“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America?’ Probably not. The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. So we’ll be monitoring everyone.”

We’ve already covered the obstacle that is the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying playoff occurring at the same time as the Guatemala matches, but this is still good news for players in England, Germany and other European locales seeking caps in March.

Klopp on struggling Benteke: “He wants to score and we need him to score”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Christian Benteke of Liverpool reacts as he foiled by goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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Jurgen Klopp had his appendix removed this weekend, but it’s doubtful he’s feeling as sore as his big Belgian striker.

Christian Benteke had the opportunity to put himself in the good graces of Liverpool fans with a number of decent chances in Tuesday’s FA Cup loss to West Ham, but couldn’t get the job done.

[ MORE: Match recap | Watch Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

In one case, Benteke put himself in a prime spot only to lash his shot wide of the post. Instead, he’s now at 11 appearances without a goal (despite ripping nine shots against the Irons).

From the BBC:

“I don’t believe in the easy goal. He has to carry on like this. It’s not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard. He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months.”

Klopp maintained that Liverpool was “the better team” on the night — counterpart Slaven Bilic disagreed — despite conceding a pair of very similar looking goals.

The game could’ve avoided extra time through Benteke’s boots and body, but he couldn’t find his finish again.

The 25-year-old has seen his goal production drop by nearly half since joining from Aston Villa in the summer, and it’s sure to return… just maybe not under Klopp.