Omar Gonzalez

Gonzalez, Keane, Marshall out, Boswell, Edu, Franklin in for MLS All-Stars

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Major League Soccer’s squad for Wednesday’s All-Star Game underwent a minor makeover on Saturday, with the withdrawal of three players forcing Caleb Porter to call in reinforcements. In place of Omar Gonzalez, Robbie Keane, and Chad Marshall, the Portland head coach, who will lead MLS’s stars against Bayern Munich this week, has called on Bobby Boswell, Maurice Edu, and Sean Franklin.

Though Galaxy teammate Landon Donovan is still scheduled to take part in Wednesday’s game, Gonzalez and Keane have been excluded, with Los Angeles scheduled to host the San Jose Earthquakes on Friday. Marshall, who missed Monday’s game against LA after a car accident, has also been withdrawn from the squad.

“Given the limited minutes that Omar and Robbie would need to play due to having a game on Friday and the injury to Chad, I felt we needed to bring in Sean, Bobby and Maurice to provide us with more cover in the back,” Porter said in a statement released by Major League Soccer. “This will also allow us to manage the other players’ time so everyone is ready for their matches on the weekend.”

In their first years with United, Boswell and Franklin have solidified a defense that’s helped D.C. to second in the Eastern Conference. Edu, in his first year back in MLS, has split time between defensive midfield and center back with the Philadelphia Union.

The Marshall injury couldn’t be helped, but with Gonzalez and Keane excluded because of scheduling, it’s worth asking if there were alternatives. Could MLS had done a better job of scheduling the All-Star Game? In a World Cup year, probably not. The league already pushed back the mid-season event because of Brazil 2014. With European seasons quickly approaching, this date was one of the last opportunities to play the game.

The better question is whether Porter’s replacements are the best available, but at this point, I don’t have much patience for the discussion. Boswell wasn’t the best center back missing from the roster, but who knows if players like Drew Moor, Chris Schuler, and Giancarlo Gonzalez made plans after being excluded from the initial squad. Franklin’s had a good year, but picking a left back (Justin Morrow) would have been nice. And whether Edu is being brought in as a midfielder or defender, he’s a justifiable choice, even if you don’t think he’s ideal.

I would have been fine if they named Frank Lampard. Or tried to get David Villa or Kaká to make an appearance. It’s an exhibition, it’s a showcase, and after the initial roster is named (and the non-dressed All-Stars are picked), might as well play to the spectacle.

At this point, though, bring on the game. Need to fill some spots? Let’s see who can show up. Sure, try to be fair about it, but hell, Michael Farfan was an All-Star two years ago. Boswell, Edu, and Franklin are certainly worthwhile picks, given the circumstances.

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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