Building off positives: Which 2014 USMNT players will remain in 2018?

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Doing our best to not simply toss out “Requiem for a Team” posts in the wake of the United States 2-1 extra time loss to Belgium in the World Cup’s Round of 16, let’s look forward to the 2018 World Cup for a few hundred words.

Assuming the States continue to qualify through CONCACAF, how many of the 23 players to make the trip to Brazil will have plane tickets to Russia? Let’s take a look.

[ MORE: Analyzing Jurgen Klinsmann’s first World Cup with U.S. ]

[ MORE: Three things we learned in U.S. loss to Belgium ]

This is assuming form stays relatively-strong and bodies are relatively-healthy. Would you have thought Stu Holden, Benny Feilhaber, Jonathan Bornstein and Jonathan Spector would all be on the outside looking-in come Brazil? Maybe, maybe not.

Goalkeepers (age at time of 2018 World Cup):
Tim Howard (39)
Brad Guzan (33)
Nick Rimando (39)

Analysis: Rimando will likely cede the third spot to someone, while Guzan will be back in some role. Howard’s return will be based largely on whether he wants to continue playing internationally. Many keepers switch to ‘club-only’ status by the age of 39; Kasey Keller played for the US until he was nearly 38, while Brad Friedel stopped at age 34.

Pipeline (club, age at time of 2018 World Cup): Cody Cropper (Southampton, 25), Bill Hamid (DC United, 27), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire, 29), Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo, 33), Ethan Horvath (Molde, 23)

 
source:  Defenders:
DaMarcus Beasley (36)
Matt Besler (31)
John Brooks (25)
Geoff Cameron (32)
Timothy Chandler (28)
Omar Gonzalez (29)
Fabian Johnson (30)
DeAndre Yedlin (right, 24)

Analysis: It’s very difficult to believe Yedlin, Gonzalez and Brooks won’t all be on the scene in 2018, while the only name that seems a long shot for Russia duty, based on age, is Beasley. It’s reasonable to expect Cameron, Besler and Johnson will be in camp at the very least.

Pipeline (club, age at time of 2018 World Cup): Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting KC, 21), Will Packwood (Birmingham City, 25), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids, 24), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas, 23), Eric Miller (Montreal Impact, 25), Miguel Palafox (Leon, 23).


source: APMidfielders:
Kyle Beckerman (36)
Ale Bedoya (31)
Michael Bradley (30)
Brad Davis (36)
Mix Diskerud (27)
Julian Green (23)
Jermaine Jones (36)
Graham Zusi (31)

Analysis: A tricky group to diagnose, but certain names seem gone by 2018 (Beckerman and Davis for sure, with Jones having a chance considering Klinsmann’s love for the midfielder). Bradley and Green seem certain, and you’d say the same for Diskerud if not for the lack of playing time this tournament. Bedoya and Zusi are X-factors, but Klinsmann is likely hoping others make his decision easier.

Pipeline (club, age at time of 2018 World Cup): Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake, 24), Joe Corona (Tijuana, 27), Joshua Gatt (Molde, 26), Duane Holmes (Huddersfield Town, 23), Gedion Zelalem* (Arsenal, 21), Jordan Allen (Real Salt Lake, 23).

Forwards:
Jozy Altidore (28)
Clint Dempsey (35)
Aron Johannsson (27)
Chris Wondolowski (35)

Analysis: Wondolowski’s wondrous run is likely done. It feels counter-intuitive to rule Dempsey out of anything, but 35 is a real obstacle for someone who gets abused as much as the Texan. Altidore should still be fine, while Johannsson has a really good look at coming back, too.

Pipeline (club, age at time of 2018 World Cup): Juan Agudelo (unattached, 25), Terrence Boyd (Red Bull Leipzig, 27), Shawn Parker* (FC Augsburg, 25), Jerome Kiesewetter (Stuttgart, 25), Boxi Yomba (Atletico Madrid, 21), Jack McInerney (Montreal Impact, 25), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich, 25), Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo, 28)

*Not yet committed to United States.

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”