Benny Feilhaber-2

MLS’s best ‘not selected’ U.S. squad (a.k.a., the all-snub team)

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Consider this our attempt to pick the biggest snubs, but with Jurgen Klinsmann calling up 22 North America-based players for next week’s camp in Arizona, it’s difficult to identify many players who were wronged. Sporting Kansas City’s Benny Feilhaber, who played so well for Peter Vermes during the 2013 Major League Soccer postseason, is the obvious name, particularly considering his place at the 2010 World Cup. Looking at the list of players that were called in, however, it’s hard to say Feilhaber should have clearly been chosen over Maurice Edu (who Klinsmann may just want to look at) or Luis Gil (an important part of the next cycle).

Nobody was really expecting the likes of Mike Magee or Dax McCarty to make a late push for this team. With Klinsmann having cycled through so many players during his tenure, we had a good idea of where everybody stood before Wednesday’s announcement. When U.S. Soccer announced the invites for next week’s camp, most of the surprises (Edu) were in the team, not out.

(MORE: Position-by-position: Breaking down the U.S.’s squad for Mexico)

In lieu of some legitimate controversy, let’s have some fun. Let’s look across Major League Soccer, take inventory of the U.S.-eligible players, and ask what a 23-man roster would look like if we were limited to Klinsmann’s snubs. Consider it a quick, accessible way to see how big the step down is from next week’s 22-man team, but also consider it a light, mostly meaningless way to highlight that divide.

At some positions, the picks were obvious. There isn’t a ton of U.S. depth at forward and wide midfield (at least, not in Major League Soccer). The team runs deeper in central midfield, but the choices still weren’t difficult.

In defense, however, there were a number of legitimate snubs, particularly in the middle, where one starter from the 2010 World Cup couldn’t even make our bench.

(MORE: Players who need to impress in next week’s U.S. national team camp)

Goalkeepers: Jon Busch (San Jose Earthquakes), Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA)

Hall and Kennedy were easy choices, though picking Jon Busch over Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls) felt like a toss-up. Robles has been getting some deserved press for some great early season saves, but Busch’s performance throughout the 2013 season was overshadowed by the Earthquakes’ fall from first. The team finished with fewer goals allowed than in its 2012 Supporters Shield-winning season.

Others on the notepad: Robles; Troy Perkins (Montréal Impact)

source:  Defenders: Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Carlos Bocanegra (Chivas USA), Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake), George John (FC Dallas), Chris Klute (Colorado Rapids), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders), Kofie Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo)

The central defense may be the strength of our hypothetical team, with the league’s embarrassment of riches reflected in the All-Star caliber players left on the notepad. Even at right back, a player like Philadelphia’s Sheanon Williams can’t get into this team, though he is every bit as useful as (just different from) Ashe and Beltran. We gave those two the benefit of the doubt based on participation in previous U.S. camps, though that rule went out the window when we vaulted an improving Sarkodie over a number of players who have gotten Klinsmann’s call.

Others on the notepad: Jay DeMerit (Vancouver Whitecaps), Michael Harrington (Portland Timbers); Drew Moor (Colorado Rapids), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union), Seth Sinovic (Sporting Kansas City), Williams

Midfielders: Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Jeff Larentowicz (Chicago Fire), Justin Mapp (Montréal Impact), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Dillon Powers (Colorado Rapids), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Shea Salinas (San Jose Earthquakes), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew)

The fact that Mapp and Salinas are the only wide players in this midfield speaks to the lack of depth in those spots. Where quality options like Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo) and Luis Silva (D.C. United) can’t crack this team, Salinas and Mapp might be starters (in that game well never play). It’s not that they’re bad players – they immediately went into the notebook as I was compiling this team. It’s more that there’s very little competition at their spots.

Others on the notepad: Clark; Silva

(MORE [Soccerly]: Red, White, Blue & (Julian) Green)

Forwards: Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes), Steven Lenhart (San Jose Earthquakes), Mike Magee (Chicago Fire)

Steven Lenhart? Noooo, the internet says, but the man is a legitimately useful player, part of the reason he has four major team honors on his résumé. He might not start for this team, but he’s a great option to have late. Same goes for Gordon, though the starters are pretty clear. Magee playing off Bruin is a combination that would thrive in a down Gold Cup.

Others on the notepad: C.J. Sapong (Sporting Kansas City).

Pep Guardiola: “Maybe I’m not good enough”

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Pep Guardiola has admitted he “may not be good enough” for his players at Manchester City.

Ahead of City’s clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) Guardiola has been defended his squad after severe criticism from the media.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

City were hammered 4-0 at Everton last weekend, their worst league defeat since 2008 and Guardiola’s worst-ever league defeat as a manager.

With plenty pointing the finger of blame at goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and City’s defense, their manager put himself in the firing line.

“They are good players. I have respect for the guys, so why would I say the guys are not good? So I don’t understand the lack of respect for the professionals when they have been amazing players, and [people saying] they are not good enough for me. Maybe I am not good enough for them,” Guardiola said. “They are Manchester City players, top players. They have a lot of quality. They have shown that many times in the past and this season.”

Mind games.

Guardiola, 46, is no doubt facing the biggest challenge of his season as City look to at least seal a top four spot in this his debut season in England. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has already “said goodbye to the title” and if they lose against red-hot Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium then more questions will be asked of his tactics and if they can work in the Premier League.

So far the possession-based slow build up style has been hot and cold for City, with plenty of counter-attacking teams in the PL (Chelsea, Spurs, Everton, Leicester etc.) having a field day against a shaky defense.

Despite being 10 points off the pace, Guardiola is sticking by his philosophy. One thing really sticks out to me from his first few press conferences in England: “We will see if my style of play can work in the Premier League.”

So far, it’s not.

Watch Live: Liverpool vs. Swansea City (Lineups, Stream)

SWANSEA, WALES - MARCH 16:  Kyle Naughton of Swansea City is closed down by Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on March 16, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Liverpool host Swansea City to Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Reds aiming to stretch their unbeaten run at home in the Premier League to 18 games.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Jurgen Klopp is a little concerned with the number of games his team have had to play over the past few weeks, but a victory against the struggling Swans would momentarily move his side just four points behind leaders Chelsea who play on Sunday.

As for Swansea, new manager Paul Clement knows a win would take his team out of the relegation zone and with new signings arriving that would be a massive boost. It would also be a massive ask for the Welsh side to get anything at Anfield but this may be a good time to play Liveprool after their midweek trip to Plymouth in the FA Cup and the EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton coming up on Wednesday.

In team news Liverpool start with Philippe Coutinho once again, while Joel Matip is on the bench after the Reds finally settled the dispute with Cameroon. Swansea hand debuts to new signings Martin Olsson and Tom Carroll.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino. Subs: Karius, Sturridge, Moreno, Lucas, Origi, Matip, Woodburn

Swansea City: Fabianski; Olsson, Mawson, Fernandez, Naughton; Cork, Carroll, Fer; Sigurdsson, Llorente, Routledge. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Amat, Fulton, Dyer, Borja, McBurnie

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.