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

11 Comments

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).

Timbers send Nagbe to Atlanta for allocation money

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The Portland Timbers have traded midfielder Darlington Nagbe to Atlanta United in exchange for $1.65 million in allocation money.

Portland is also sending defender Gbenga Arokoyo to Atlanta and receiving a 2018 international spot as part of the trade.

[ RECAP – City hammer Swansea ]

Nagbe, who has become a regular on the U.S. national team, has been with the Timbers since the team joined MLS in 2011. He was selected with the second overall pick in that year’s MLS SuperDraft.

He has 27 goals and 30 assists in 214 matches with the Timbers. His goals are the second-most since the team joined MLS.

“Thank you, Portland, and everyone that supported my family and me the past seven years,” he said in a statement released by the Timbers.

Nagbe, 27, has 24 appearances with the national team and one goal.

Wenger says schedule congestion catching up to Arsenal

Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Much like their 3-1 loss to Manchester United, Arsenal dominated the chances but couldn’t find the back of the net enough to get three points.

Unlike that Red Devils defeat, however, the Gunners were stout at the back against a lively West Ham United and picked up an away point from a nil-nil draw on Wednesday.

[ RECAP: West Ham 0-0 Arsenal ]

Wenger was content enough with the result, as he continued to be in the chorus of managers who lament the congested Premier League schedule around the holidays. From the BBC:

“We had so much of the ball, but it was very frustrating because we could even have lost it at the end. They’re happy to defend, they did that against Chelsea and Manchester City, so we couldn’t find the opening and the few chances we had we missed.

“When you play every three days, you lose your sharpness.”

That’s true, and to his credit Wenger didn’t try to say West Ham had one day’s more rest (which they did). As Man City runs away with the league and Manchester United doesn’t look fit to drop back to the back, the race for the final two Top Four spots is as congested as the schedule. Arsenal needs to turn some of its shot-heavy performances into goal-heavy cruises sometime soon.

Mourinho: Derby defeat didn’t help, but United overcame fatigue

Martin Rickett/PA via AP
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho said the Manchester Derby nearly caught up to his men in Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Bournemouth at Old Trafford.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 1-0 Bournemouth ]

The Manchester United manager says that’s not on account of emotions or let down, but simply the volume of matches his Red Devils have played and the extra rest afford the visitors.

Romelu Lukaku climbed Nathan Ake to find United its opener, and the hosts were defending plenty in the second half. But United was able to endure on a soggy night at home, and maintain its place second on the Premier League table.

From the BBC:

“Fatigue, yes, but hangover – no. The game was a big one, and a defeat does not help in your recovery – victories help, defeats don’t. They were difficult opponents and difficult conditions. If we had scored the second it would have been a calm night for us.”

That said, this felt like one of the matches United would’ve drawn last season, and Lukaku was a difference maker as were David De Gea and Phil Jones at the back.

And Mourinho would not mail in the title race despite Man City’s 11-point advantage and continued league dominance.

“It is only over in May, if it is over now I go on holiday to Brazil or Los Angeles.”

Guardiola lauds Man City after record 15th straight win

Leave a comment

Pep Guardiola is breaking records pretty much every time Manchester City step onto the pitch right now.

[ RECAP – City hammer Swansea ]

On Wednesday they set a new Premier League and English top-flight record for the most consecutive wins in history, with City winning 4-0 away at Swansea to seal their 15th-straight win and stay 11 points clear of the table.

City beat Arsenal’s previous record of 14-straight wins in the Premier League from February to August 2002, and now they remain unbeaten with 17 games of the season gone.

Guardiola now holds the record for most consecutive wins in the top-flight of Spanish, German and English soccer with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Man City respectively. He’s a machine and he’s turned Man City into one.

Speaking to the BBC after beat Swansea, Guardiola was delighted with the win, especially coming so soon after the energy-sapping Manchester derby win at Manchester United on Sunday.

“Considering we have a lot of games in our legs, a demanding game at Old Trafford three days ago, we were solid, we were serious and we made a good performance,” Guardiola said. “You suffer and enjoy, like a manager you see many things. When the team play good we are happy. Our feeling – we understand what we want to do. We play good inside, outside. I’m so happy for David (Silva), we cannot disguise his quality but in the past he didn’t score too much goals. He’s sharp, he’s in an amazing condition.”

Man City’s manager rightly pointed towards David Silva‘s brilliance as the Spanish playmaker scored twice at Swansea and he’s now scored four times in his last three games, including a late winner against West Ham and setting City on their way to a win at United on Sunday.

With the record now in hand and Man City also stretching their club-record unbeaten run in the top-flight to 25 games, is there a risk his side will be complacent as the bookmakers have slashed their PL title odds to 1/25?

“That is not going to happen. We are so demanding for our players. We can lose, we can drop points but complacency, never happened in the past, the present or the future,” Guardiola said. “Winning 15 games in a row gives us a lot of confidence. If people are happy watching us that is the best gift.”

Ahead of the festive season, Man City are the gift which keep on giving and they have to be up their with the best teams English soccer has ever seen.

Less than halfway through the 2017-18 season they show no signs of slowing down and the Premier League title is simply theirs to lose.

More records will fall this season as an imperious, attacking unit has been fine-tuned by Guardiola. We are watching history being made in beautiful fashion.