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).

Ligue 1: Falcao, Balde score to keep Monaco close to PSG

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PARIS (AP) French champion Monaco got back to winning ways with a 2-0 home win against Caen on Saturday.

Monaco lost three and drew one of its previous four games in all competitions. But coach Leonardo Jardim’s side was largely in control against a Caen side that started brightly and faded after Keita Balde’s opening goal and first for Monaco.

“It was important to win, to get a bit of confidence back,” Jardim said. “We’ve been working hard and the players were very serious today.”

Captain Radamel Falcao scored his league-leading 13th from the penalty spot in the 59th, confidently sending goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre the wrong way.

The win moved second-place Monaco within three points of Paris Saint-Germain, having played one game more. Unbeaten PSG is away at bitter rival Marseille on Sunday.

Falcao’s partnership with teen star Kylian Mbappe was crucial to Monaco’s charge to the league title and the Champions League semifinals last season. Mbappe left to join PSG in a high-profile move — as did several other key players — but Falcao’s new partnership with the unselfish Balde looks a promising one.

“We’ve lost a few players and we need a bit of time, it’s been a bit difficult for us,” Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic said. “I hope we can stay at the top of the table and that the young players can shine. We have a lot of quality here.”

Balde has been sharp in his handful of appearances since joining from Lazio in the offseason, but mainly as a link player and a provider.

This time, the Senegal forward finished off the move as he ran onto Thomas Lemar’s perfectly weighted pass into his path, cut across a defender on the edge of the penalty area and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.

Lemar almost created another goal when his corner was headed against the crossbar by Brazilian defender Jemerson late in the first half.

Falcao put the game beyond doubt from the spot after Slovenian midfielder Jan Repas fouled attacking midfielder Rony Lopes.


After a tricky start to his tenure at Nantes, Italian coach Claudio Ranieri has turned things around.

Nantes beat Guingamp 2-1 at home to move up to third place, extending Ranieri’s unbeaten run to eight matches after losing the first two.

Nantes, which scored through defender Chidozie Awaziem and midfielder Abdoulaye Toure, is just two points behind Monaco.

The 2 Robbies: Terriers Triumph And Chelsea Leave It Late

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe start today’s show off by discussing Huddersfield Town’s surprising win against Manchester United (00:20), Jose Mourinho’s measured post-match interview (03:50), praise Manchester City again (10:30), discuss Sean Dyche’s next move (16:10), analyze that exciting match between Chelsea and Watford (18:30) and finally, weigh in on Slaven Bilic’s future at West Ham United (27:30).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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La Liga: Barca win to maintain lead, but Valencia won’t go away

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona regained a four-point cushion atop the Spanish league with a ho-hum 2-0 win over visiting Malaga and surging Valencia dismissed Sevilla 4-0 at home on Saturday.

Barcelona faced last-placed Malaga in the closing match of the day, with added pressure from second-placed Valencia, which has won five in a row.

Barcelona is unbeaten after starting with seven straight wins and drawing with Atletico Madrid last week.

Seldom-used Gerard Deulofeu opened the scoring for Barcelona after just two minutes, and Andres Iniesta celebrated his first of the season in the second half thanks to a brilliant assist by Lionel Messi.

Defending champion Real Madrid hosts Eibar on Sunday.

Barcelona benefited from a flagrant referee misjudgment to get its go-ahead goal against Malaga. Left back Lucas Digne was allowed to center the ball after it clearly crossed the byline, and Deulofeu acrobatically back-footed it inside the net.

Despite the blow, the visitors got back up and managed to neutralize Barcelona for most of the first half, but lost striker Diego Rolan just before the second period. The Uruguayan import was forced off by injury.

Without Rolan, Malaga lacked bite in its pressure of the home backline, and Barcelona was able to polish ball circulation and find Messi with more frequency.

Messi received a clean pass from defender Javier Mascherano, drew the defense, and dropped a perfect pass for Iniesta, whose shot was deflected by defender Roberto Rosales on its way to the upper left corner.

Malaga surrendered and Barcelona dominated the rest of the way.


Gonzalo Guedes opened the scoring for Valencia near halftime with a majestic strike from outside the box after deftly outmaneuvering two defenders on the chase.

Simone Zaza added his eighth league goal after the break with a spin and low cross shot. Santi Mina came off the bench and scored the third with just five minutes to go, finishing off a speedy counterattack for the hosts.

But the show was all Guedes, and the Portuguese midfielder rounded off his great game with the closer, subtly poking the ball over goalkeeper Sergio Rico in added time.

Sevilla has lost three in a row in all competitions. Managed by Eduardo Berizzo, the team started off red-hot in La Liga but has floundered lately, ranking fifth.

 

Serie A: Napoli’s perfect season ends after draw with Inter

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MILAN (AP) Napoli’s perfect start to Serie A finally came to an end on Saturday in an enthralling 0-0 home draw with Inter Milan, the only other unbeaten side in the Italian top flight.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]

There were plenty of chances at the San Paolo, and Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic was kept busier than his Napoli counterpart Pepe Reina.

It was the first time since April and a 2-2 draw at Sassuolo that Napoli has failed to win in Serie A.

Napoli remained top of the standings, two points above Inter and six above Juventus and Lazio, which face Udinese and Cagliari respectively on Sunday.

[ TACTICS SESSION: Inside the brilliant mind of Kevin De Bruyne ]

Napoli was looking for a ninth successive league win. It was boosted by Lorenzo Insigne passing fit to start after injuring a thigh on Tuesday in the Champions League defeat at Manchester City.

Inter was full of confidence after Mauro Icardi’s hat trick helped it win last week’s derby against AC Milan, but it hadn’t won in Naples in 20 years.

Napoli almost went in front but Handanovic pulled off a stunning double save to deny first Jose Callejon and then keep out Dries Mertens’ rebound attempt from point-blank range.

Handanovic then kept out an effort from Insigne following a great ball over the top from Marek Hamsik.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “We deserved the punishment of defeat” to Huddersfield ]

Inter went close shortly before halftime but Reina did well to fingertip Borja Valero’s close-range attempt over the bar.

Insigne had more chances after the break, going closest with a curling effort just past the right post.

Hamsik also fired narrowly wide, and Handanovic parried a powerful shot from substitute Piotr Zielinski.

Mertens should have won the match for Napoli in the final minute but Handanovic was again on hand to keep out his close-range volley.