Benny Feilhaber-2

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


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).

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.