Cut USMNT players: Did Klinsmann already know final 23 before camp?

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If you’re a conspiracy theorist, you will love these quotes emanating from two of the U.S. national team players who were cut at the final hurdle.

Both Michael Parkhurst and Brad Evans were back in action for their respective Major League Soccer sides on Saturday, just hours after missing out on a trip to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

As you would expect, both players were asked a multitude of questions about their time in California at camp and their responses were particularly frank and very intriguing.

Asked whether the USMNT head coach already had his mind made up about his final roster before camp even started, Columbus Crew defender Parkhust had the following to say to The Post-Dispatch after the Crew beat Chicago 2-0.

“I just think that his mind was set up even before the camp was started.” Parkhurst said. “That makes it a little easier to swallow knowing I don’t think I could have done anything else.”

While Evans had a lengthy chat with the Seattle Times after playing for Seattle in their 2-2 draw with Vancouver on Saturday, he also wonders if Klinsmann’s mind was already made up before the 10 day training camp began.

source: AP
Evans celebrates his crucial goal against Jamaica in World Cup qualifying.

“I don’t know. Part of me says yes. Part of me says no. I don’t know,” Evans said. “It’s something I haven’t even thought about. It’s tough to think about that (stuff). It can drive you nuts. I had no idea [the cut was happening]. We were walking into the locker room, got pulled aside and that was it. Chop, chop and you’re out of there. [Klinsmann] just said, ‘I have to make a roster decision today and you’re not a part of it.’ So that’s where we left it. I got up and said goodbye to the players and that was it.”

Both Evans and Parkhurst have plenty of reasons to be feeling pretty miffed about being left off the final World Cup roster. Despite his versatility Evans was ousted in favor of his Seattle teammate DeAndre Yedlin. The 20-year-old talent has only got two caps for the USMNT, while Evans has stepped in admirably on several occasions and bagged a crucial winning goal against Jamaica during qualifying for the 2014 tournament.

Parkhurst switched Europe for MLS over the offseason and has been solid and dependable for Columbus throughout the 2014 MLS season so far. He can operate at both right back and center back and would also give Klinsmann a versatile option in the backline, an area where the U.S. aren’t looking particularly strong. Instead Klinsmann selected 21-year-old John Brooks in defense, even though the Hertha Berlin youngster has looked shaky at times and has just three caps to his name compared to Parkhurst’s 25.

Parkhust and Evans have legit reasons to be peeved… but I’m not sure whether Klinsmann’s mind was made up before a 10-day camp where ever player, in theory, should have started on a clean slate, regardless of what they did in previous outings for the USA.

As we saw with Klinsmann’s decision to cut Landon Donovan, relying on past glories is not something the USMNT head coach is big on. Evans and Parkhurst were victims of that.

Pep sticking with Bravo for final: “Locker room more important”

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Petr Cech and Ederson will watch from the bench as their clubs start the League Cup Final on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola announced that Manchester City will turn to Claudio Bravo between the sticks against Arsenal, which has already appointed David Ospina as its backstop for the final.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

And if you think Pep, having seen his side lose to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup, should go back to Ederson for the final, he gets it.

“You can have an opinion, I am the manager. We are here for Claudio. He saved two lots of penalties. He deserves to play in the final. The locker room is more important than the final.”

The points aren’t completely independent, of course, but at this point the final is pretty darn important as Man City could see its trophy potential drop from 4-2 in little more than a week’s time.

Bravo has played just 45 minutes in the Premier League, against Liverpool in relief of Ederson, but has been the man for each of eight League and FA Cup matches.

City has just one clean sheet in that group, but won the seven matches apart from the 1-0 Wigan defeat. Two of those, against Wolves and Leicester, came in penalty kicks.

Arsenal gets AC Milan in Europa League Round of 16

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Arsenal’s path to the UEFA Champions League just got a whole lot tougher.

[ MORE: Arsenal loses 2nd leg, advances ]

Already eight points back of the Premier League’s Top Four, the Gunners have drawn Gennaro Gattuso’s AC Milan in the UEFA Europa League’s Round of 16.

The first leg is March 8 at the San Siro before moving to the Emirates a week later.

Milan is currently 7th in Serie A despite its big-spending summer, and faces a similar problem to the Gunners; Gattuso’s men need to make up eight points on Lazio and seven on fifth-place Inter Milan.

Elsewhere, Moscovian sides CSKA and Lokomotiv got no favors with trips to Lyon and Atletico Madrid, respectively.

Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund will be pleased to see Red Bull Salzburg, while the latter’s sister club, RB Leipzig, was held apart from it by a draw with Zenit Saint-Petersbug.

Here’s the draw in full.

UEFA Europa League Round of 16
Lazio vs. Dynamo Kiev
RB Leipzig vs. Zenit St Petersburg
Atletico Madrid vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
CSKA Moscow vs. Lyon
Marseille vs. Athletic Bilbao
Sporting Lisbon vs. Viktoria Plzen
Borussia Dortmund vs. Red Bull Salzburg
AC Milan vs. Arsenal

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.