MLS rounds out All-Star roster, names 10 non-active players

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Major League Soccer’s agreement with their players’ association requires the league to name 32 total All-Stars, which seems weird on the surface. After all, only 20 are going to dress tonight against AS Roma.

Yet that’s the way the league can have the current All-Star game format while still recognizing enough players. Implicitly, the players want enough all-stars named to populate a typical two-squad format, be that format East vs. West, North America vs. the World, or Odd Numbered Birthdays vs. Even. It’s all about bonuses, it’s all about collective bargaining, and it’s also not that big a deal.

It is interesting, though, to see which players were named to the non-active squad. Picked by their peers, some of the selections look like legacy votes. Others seem like recognition for long-serving soldiers. Others seem like the ballots were cast last year. Regardless, they’re a sign of recognition from a players’ peers – a small indication of someone’s regard within the MLS fraternity.

That’s the context for today’s announcement, with MLS naming these 10 players to tonight’s non-active squad:

G: Tally Hall, Houston Dynamo
G: Donovan Ricketts, Portland Timbers
D: George John, FC Dallas
D: Jamison Olave, New York Red Bulls (pictured)
M: Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders
M: Juninho, LA Galaxy
M: Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake
M/F: Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers
W: Justin Mapp: Montreal Impact
W: Rodney Wallace, Portland Timbers

[MORE: Expect some heavy legs for Roma tonight in Kansas City]

Of course, the conversation around these selections is less about who made it than who didn’t. Among goalkeepers not on the active and non-active roster are Sporting KC’s Jimmy Nielsen and Seattle’s Michael Gspurning, last year’s two top keepers. Jose Goncalves, slowly becoming a favorite for defender of the year, is not among either team. Neither Michel nor Nigel Reo-Coker did enough in their half-season to sufficiently raise their profiles among their peers, and Marcelo Sarvas’s performance couldn’t draw enough votes away from teammate Juninho. Sporting Kansas City’s Claudio Bieler? Perhaps suffering from the same as Michel and Reo-Coker.

There is another aspect to the debate: doubting some of the selections. Osvaldo Alonso has missed a huge chunk of time, and Juninho hasn’t been the best midfielder on his own team. Rodney Wallace has been a great story, but it’s unlikely any Timber would take him over Darlington Nagbe (though Wallace may have made it as a defender). Diego Valeri is undoubtedly skilled and has impressed his opposition, but to what extent has that produced results (relative to other candidates)?

Then there’s Justin Mapp. In his 14th year in the league, the Impact veteran is having one of his most productive seasons. Is he more deserving than some of the other players we’ve mentioned here? I honestly don’t care that much. If part of players voting is the periodic recognition of a Mapp-like player — long serving, playing well, perhaps getting the benefit of sentiment — that’s fine by me.

After all, it’s not like he’s getting to play at somebody’s expense.

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

Photo credit: New England Revolution / Twitter: @NERevolution
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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”