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Updated U.S. World Cup roster outlook – Who’s in for Brazil?: MIDFIELDERS

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After the completion of the long January camp and the first United States match of a highly anticipated World Cup year (last weekend’s 2-0 win over South Korea), let’s look at which players appear to be shipshape for a golden seat on that charter into Brazil.

Don’t forget, the first match is just a little more than four months away.

MIDFIELDERS

If anyone made significant progress in January, they did so very quietly.

Long story short here: There are still lots  of decisions to be made.

Brad Davis, solidly on the bubble, needed a big camp and a big performance against South Korea to strengthen his position. While the longtime Houston Dynamo man didn’t exactly hurt himself, a bad turnover here and there and a failure to make a solid imprint on the game meant that it wasn’t the shining moment Davis really needed.

If anyone made significant progress in January, they did so very quietly.

Brad Davis, solidly on the bubble, needed a big camp and a big performance against South Korea to strengthen his position. While the longtime Houston Dynamo man didn’t exactly hurt himself, a bad turnover here and there and a failure to make a solid imprint on the game meant that it wasn’t the shining moment Davis really needed.

(MORE: Michael Bradley for  U.S. captain? You couldn’t do any better)

Mix Diskerud did OK, and he keeps inching ever closer to movement into that “roster lock” classification. Then again, by not grabbing hold of his opportunities any more forcefully than he has, Diskerud leaves himself open to a late charge from, say, Danny Williams, Sacha Kljestan or even Benny Feilhaber, who has moved into an “on the bubble” position since we last did this little roster examination exercise in October.

Speaking of the last time, Josh Gatt has fallen off the bubble list. Anyone who plays in Norway (or any of the Scandinavian lands) but wasn’t invited to the recent camp (as Diskerud was) probably isn’t having his name spoken in the ongoing U.S. coaching staff conversations.

On the other hand, you’d have to say Maurice Edu’s opportunity to get on the field (he’s now a featured piece of the puzzle at Philadelphia) will move him closer to the roster discussions, at very least.

Oh, and before anyone gets in a twist over Fabian Johnson exclusion, I added him to the list of defenders. In a perfect world, Johnson is probably a midfielder. (Those darting cuts inside from the left can be devastating!) But since he has played along the back line (left and right, in fact) for the United States, and given the team’s relative instability at both fullback spots, he’s probably just as likely to be in the rear guard as in the midfield.

  • Going to Brazil: Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi
  • On the bubble (2-3): Alejandro Bedoya, Joe Corona, Brad Davis, Mix Diskerud, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, Brek Shea, Jose Torres, Danny Williams

(MORE: Which goalkeepers and defenders are locks, and who is on the bubble?)

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Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.

Emre Can back in the Liverpool side ahead of Europa clash vs. Villarreal

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14:  Emre Can of Liverpool battles for the ball with Idrissa Gana of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on February 14, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Emre Can has recovered from an ankle injury and will be in Liverpool’s squad for their Europa League semifinal against Villarreal on Thursday night.

The German international has not played since April 14 when he was forced off in the Reds’ wild 4-3 win over Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool prepping for Villarreal ]

Giving his team update on Wednesday, manager Jurgen Klopp said Can is back in the team, although captain Jordan Henderson is still out. The Reds enter the second leg trailing 1-0 on aggregate.

Another positive note out of Melwood was the return of Danny Ings to first-team training. The 23-year-old striker signed with Liverpool last summer, but managed just eight appearances before having his season end to a torn ACL in October. Ings is still far away from his full return, but it was a good sight to see him back on the pitch and making progress in his recovery.

Disappointed Pellegrini rues lack of offense in Man City’s loss to Real

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 04:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi final, second leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 4, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images )
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Manchester City put in an uninspired performance against Real Madrid on Wednesday, losing the match 1-0 and falling out of the UEFA Champions League.

[ RECAP: Real Madrid 1-0 Man City ]

The match was decided by just one goal, but the scoreline was flattering to City as they failed to create any kind of real chances at the Bernabeu. Over the two legs, City managed just two shots on target.

While City were wildly disappointing in the second leg, manager Manuel Pellegrini did not think the match was that one-sided, saying both teams struggled on the attack.

I am disappointed because I think that was a very close game with two teams who did not create many chances. The two teams were working with no-one making a difference.

It is not the best thing changing a defender very early but I don’t think we had any problems in defence, we had problems creating, same as Real Madrid. They did not create many chances.

Real Madrid was not in top form, but they still could have scored three or four goals on Wednesday. Joe Hart had to come up with some big saves to keep things close, as the England goalkeeper was by far City’s most valuable player throughout the tie.

[ MORE: Liverpool preparing for Europa League match vs. Villarreal ]

The absence of David Silva through injury certainly hurt City’s attack, but there was very little service moving forward from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure. The poor play in the midfield left Sergio Aguero stranded alone up top, nearly invisible in the second leg.

Without service, Aguero was forced to track back to try and find the ball himself, leaving City no options to hit on the counter. For a tie between two of the most expensive teams in the world, neither side was truly impressive, but City surely disappointing.