Initial reactions: U.S. roster to play Costa Rica, Mexico in September

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The dust has hardly settled on United States head coach Jürgen Klinsmann’s roster selections for World Cup qualifiers at Costa Rica and against Mexico in September. That means it’s time for some gut reactions, categorized by player.

Landon Donovan: You had to know this one was coming. Donovan was the best player in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and his resurgence since rediscovering his passion for the game has been nothing short of remarkable. Klinsmann tried to keep the hype down when he talked to the press about Donovan during and since the Gold Cup, but Donovan was clearly a man on a mission to get back into a U.S. jersey in a meaningful game.

Clint Dempsey: Dempsey’s performances against two of the toughest opponents the U.S. will face in qualifying will go a long way toward evaluating his move back to Major League Soccer. The Seattle Sounders FC man hasn’t really made a stamp on any of the three games he has played for his new club, but it takes some adjusting for players once they join (or rejoin) the league, and he is still getting his match fitness back. But with Aron Jóhannsson on such a tear in the Eredivisie and Europa League, Dempsey’s chain could be shorter than ever this time around.

Aron Jóhannsson: Speaking of Jóhannsson, it would have been foolish not to call him in. The AZ Alkmaar man has scored five goals in seven competitive club matches in the young 2013-14 season. Assuming he gets more than nominal playing time, it will be interesting to see if he can turn top club form into goals on the international level, similar to Jozy Altidore’s scoring streak last season at the same club.

John Brooks: After a solid showing against Bosnia-Herzegovina a couple weeks ago, Brooks deserves to get a shot in a competitive match. Not to mention, Germany could still swoop in for him unless he is quickly cap-tied. The 20-year-old looked at least as competent as Omar González, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him start at least one of the games next month.

Brad Evans: This squad is thin on outside backs, which is probably the only reason Brad Evans is still on the roster. Steve Cherundolo is out with another knee surgery, and Timmy Chandler continues to be an enigma. Evans is a stopgap at best at the position, and he was exposed several times in the June friendlies and qualifiers.

Joe Corona: Probably the biggest surprise name of those left off the roster is Joe Corona. The winger showed well at the Gold Cup, and he has been called into several squads for meaningful competition. He is a technical and savvy player who is familiar with the Latin flair both U.S. opponents will bring, as he plays for Club Tijuana in Mexico. Alejandro Bedoya seems to have won a spot ahead of Corona, after completing a move to Ligue 1 side Nantes in the summer. Bedoya also had a solid showing at the Gold Cup.

Mix Diskerud: It’s continually baffling that Mix Diskerud gets called into the fold for the U.S. He played one good game at the Gold Cup, in the final against Panama, and looked average on every other occasion. Even Sacha Kljestan would have been a better choice.

What are your impressions of the roster? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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.”