Breaking down the surprising inclusions (and how they’ll help in Brazil)

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For every cut, there’s a player that pushed somebody out of the team. Often, theirs are the more interesting stories. We can look at the Landon Donovans and Clarence Goodsons of the world and come up with a theory as to why they’re not going, but what is it about those other, borderline players that got them over the hump?

As we hear more from Jurgen Klinsmann, we’ll get better explanations for why the 23 players he named to the U.S.’s World Cup squad are going to Brazil. More likely than not, the more iffy players will have to win hearts on the field.

[MORE: Klinsmann reveals 23-man roster; Landon Donovan is not on the roster]

Here are some of those more iffy players and what they can offer next month in Brazil:

John Brooks, Hertha Berlin – A young, central defender, Brooks seemed to play himself to the brink of contention with a poor March showing against the Ukraine. If preparing for 2018 was a factor in today’s thinking, however, Brooks is an obvious choice. At 21 and already starting in the Bundesliga, Brooks projects as a potential first XI player in Russia. In Brazil, he’s purely a squad option.

Timothy Chandler, Nuremburg – Three weeks ago, he was a long shot, to most. Then word got out Klinsmann and his staff where inquiring about his fitness. Now the German-born American looks like a contender to start at right back against Ghana.

Brad Davis, Houston Dynamo – Davis is one of the most limited players on this roster, but he may also be one of the more reliable. His set piece delivery could prove valuable at the end of matches, part of the reason Klinsmann called on him to help kill off games during the last rounds of CONCACAF qualifying. Despite those virtues, Davis will be one of the toughest sells for fans who’ll rightly ask why he’s going in Donovan’s spot.

Mix Diskerud, Rosenburg – Diskerud was seen as on the bubble, but Klinsmann’s nod to 2018 may have pushed the young midfielder over the top. He’ll offer an attacking option off the bench should Klinsmann see the need to deploy a more advanced midfielder (without messing with Clint Dempsey).

Julian Green, Bayern Munich – Was he guaranteed a spot in exchange for his switch? Some will never be convinced otherwise, but in Brazil, he still serves a purpose. The U.S. needs a change-of-pace option from wide – a need that kept Brek Shea in the World Cup picture for too long. Green is still young, raw, and inexperienced, but he fills that role.

Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes – As with Davis, fans will look at Wondolowski’s lack of physical skills and never be convinced he’s an international-, let alone World Cup-, caliber player. Klinsmann, however, has long been headed in this direction. Late, against bunkered teams, he could be the first forward off the bench.

DeAndre Yedlin, Seattle Sounders – Given the team’s other options at right back — Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson — this is as much a 2018 choice as any, but Yedlin may still be able to help. As a late defensive substitute for Graham Zusi, the 21-year-old Sounder could have value,. He also has three weeks to show he can offer something at his natural position.

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.