US vs Azerbaijan preview: All eyes on Donovan-less 23 as prep rolls on

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Tuesday night’s World Cup preparation match is going to get loads of attention, especially as United States 23-man roster snubs continue to complain about Jurgen Klinsmann’s decisions.

Unhappy Landon Donovan, Clarence Goodson and others won’t be on hand for the States, which will test out Klinsmann’s final unit for the first time since last week’s roster announcement.

As an aside, I understand the frustration and anger from anyone omitted from the roster, but these guys aren’t exactly bathing themselves in glory, are they? Unless this is a symptom of a sick locker room, part of me wishes Donovan could’ve left his vocal response in line with his classy Facebook post.

And so all eyes will be on any youngster that hits the pitch on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET against Azerbaijan, a sneaky and stingy squad that’s performing as well as it ever has in national history.

Led by Berti Vogts — you’ll remember him from March’s hullaballoo when he was added to Klinsmann’s US staff — the Milli are ranked No. 85 in the world and should be a win for the States (especially on the road halfway across the planet).

But Vogts led the nation to a 1W-6D-3L record in a relatively-weak UEFA World Cup qualifying group, including home draws with Russia and Israel and a win over Northern Ireland. The road wasn’t kind to the Azerbaijan side, but the only time it lost in qualifying by more than one goal were 2-0 and 3-0 losses to Portugal.

Unless you follow Topaz Premyer Liqası — the Azerbaijan’s top flight — you won’t recognize too many names on Tuesday, but keep in mind that this is a stingy team.

That’s good for the States, who needs to find a way to break through on goal and also won’t be challenged too much on a back line that has many US supporters concerned. The Yanks have allowed two goals in back-to-back matches, and have a 1W-2D-2L record in their last five matches (all friendlies).

Still the firepower will be in full — sorry, Landon Donovan fans — on Tuesday for the first time in a while. The States truly should pop up a multiple-goal win and fans will certainly be monitoring, and overanalyzing, how Klinsmann’s arranges his Starting XI. Yes, the World Cup excitement is going to plow ahead toward fever pitch, and Tuesday should get pretty loud in San Francisco.

For more on the match, and Azerbaijan, check out Soccerly’s preview here.

AC Milan completes signing of forward Kalinic

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MILAN (AP) Big-spending AC Milan has signed another player, completing the transfer of Croatia forward Nikola Kalinic from Fiorentina.

In a brief statement on Tuesday, Milan said it signed Kalinic “on a loan deal with obligation to buy.”

Kalinic has signed a four-year contract through to June 30, 2021.

Milan has been in negotiations with Fiorentina for the 29-year-old Kalinic for a while, and he missed training last week as he attempted to push through the move.

Milan, which was bought by a Chinese-led consortium in April, has spent more than 200 million euros ($234 million) in the offseason, signing Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva, Ricardo Rodriguez, Franck Kessie, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu, Lucas Biglia and Mateo Musacchio.

Alan Shearer has a message for Wayne Rooney

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Alan Shearer finally has a friend.

On Monday Wayne Rooney scored in Everton’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City (see in the video above) and he became just the second-player in history to reach 200 goals in the Premier League.

Rooney, 31, still has some way to go to catch Shearer’s all-time record of 260 goals in the PL but the former Manchester United striker has a few more years left in the tank to try and get as close as he can.

Take a look at the video below as Shearer (or, Mary Poppins to Newcastle fans) delivers a message to Rooney.

What’s next for Julian Green, and what’s gone wrong?

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Julian Green will have a new team again soon, in all likelihood.

A Stuttgart publication says Green is on the transfer market this month, just eight months after moving from Bayern Munich to the then-2.Bundesliga side for less than $500,000.

Now 22, Green is three and a half years removed from Jurgen Klinsmann’s long campaign to get him into a USMNT shirt. It’s been a little less time since he scored in extra time against Belgium in the World Cup, but also less than a year since he scored goals in consecutive USMNT matches. That shouldn’t be overlooked.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

Green scored one goal in 10 appearances for Stuttgart, who was promoted to the Bundesliga at the end of last season. He fell out of favor there, but was far from poor. Green completed 87 percent of his passes and averaged 1.3 dribbles per game (only four teammates had more, though 10 matches is a smaller sample size).

Before that, he spent parts of three seasons with Bayern Munich and made just four appearances, taking a loan to Hamburg in 2014-15 that saw him banished to Hamburg II after just five appearances.

What gives? Whether attitude or skill, Green has a lot of work to do to get back to a level where he’s a reasonable USMNT call-up (Green has a respectable three goals in eight call-ups, netting against Cuba and New Zealand in Oct. 2016). Still, it’s far from over for Green at 22.

There are legit questions here, as the list of not high-profile players Bayern Munich has used in its senior team at a young age and blossomed elsewhere isn’t necessarily impressive (at least relatively speaking). Nils Petersen, Thomas Kraft, and Sandro Wagner are exceptions to the rule. Better put: Bayern has a really good idea what it’s doing when it lets young players walk, and it begs discussion on the best path for Green.

It seems likely he could get a move to another 2.Bundesliga club, and there’s an outside shot he could get a look in the top flight. It would be interesting to know where the interest lies abroad. Would it be hard to acquire a work permit for France or Spain (England seems a hard sell)? Could a move to a free-flowing Eredivisie club work?

Obviously Major League Soccer clubs would welcome his talent and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t be a useful piece in the United States’ top tier, even if on a short-term move as he looks to regain confidence. Would Green see it as below him?

Arsenal’s Wilshere sent-off after brawling in U-23 match vs. Man City

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Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere isn’t standing around waiting for his next team, he’s fighting.

Period.

Wilshere got into with several members of Manchester City’s U-23 side in a match on Monday, with the English midfielder taking exception to a hockey-style hip check from City’s Matthew Smith.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

Shoving the 17-year-old Smith, Wilshere saw the City man take a tumble and stay prone. Still riled up, Wilshere tangled with City’s Tyreke Wilson.

Wilshere and Wilson were sent off.

Given his injury history, we’re not surprised Wilshere took exception to a hard and needless foul in a U-23 match.

The Arsenal man has been linked with moves to Newcastle, West Ham, AC Milan, and Sampdoria, but Arsene Wenger wants to keep Wilshere at the Emirates Stadium.