Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Who will USMNT boss Arena call-up for his 30-man January camp?

Leave a comment

The Associated Press referred to Bruce Arena’s 48-player USMNT depth chart, and said the player pool is between 50-60 players.

Isn’t that a reason for an exercise?

The new-old USMNT coach will call about 30 players to camp in January, a group largely based in Major League Soccer, and Arena has four months before he needs to name the roster for two massive World Cup qualifiers in March.

[ MORE: PST’s MLS Coach of the Year ]

Well, 38 players currently in MLS have been called up by Jurgen Klinsmann in the past 12 months. Tony Tchani is now committed to Cameroon, but the rest of that MLS crew could very well earn a look. So 37 plus a solid batch of Klinsmann-ignored folk (Think: Feilhaber, McCarty, Hedges) needs to be whittled down to about 30.


Goalkeepers

This one’s tricky. The bulk of USMNT goalkeeping depth is in Major League Soccer, and Arena will probably take more than usual to January camp.

With Tim Howard out, the only two certainties would seem to be Molde’s Ethan Horvath (Norway plays an unusual season schedule) and DC United’s Bill Hamid.

ORLANDO, FL - APRIL 03:  Bill Hamid #28 of D.C. United yells instructions to his team during a MLS soccer match between DC United and the Orlando City SC at the Orlando Citrus Bowl on April 3, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
Hamid (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images).

Then there’s a batch of MLS-based keepers. We think 37-year-old Nick Rimando is done with the USMNT. Zack Steffen is a wild card after leaving Bundesliga side Freiburg for Columbus, but seems unlikely to be in Arena’s pecking order.

We suspect two of Luis Robles, David Bingham, Sean Johnson, and Bobby Shuttleworth could be under consideration, with two of the capped players getting nods.

In:  Ethan Horvath, Bill Hamid, Luis Robles, David Bingham
Next out: Sean Johnson, Bobby Shuttleworth
Question marks: Nick Rimando, Zack Steffen
Injured: Tim Howard


Defenders (10)

Want to know why Fabian Johnson keeps getting put at left back? Because MLS isn’t exactly flying high when it comes to American full backs.

So while Arena will have to leave some pretty talented center backs out of the mix, you’re going to see some unusual names on the outside.

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 13:  DaMarcus Beasley #7 of the Houston Dynamo in action during their game against the Orlando City SC at BBVA Compass Stadium on March 13, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Beasley (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

This could open up a spot for a blast from the past in DaMarcus Beasley and/or Robbie Rogers, and we’ll even sneak a veteran in at center back: Drew Moor is far removed from his last cap (2008), but he’s been outstanding and Arena will have seen a lot of him in reviewing footage of Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley at Toronto FC.

In: Matt Besler, Matt Hedges, Steve Birnbaum, Keegan Rosenberry, Walker Zimmerman, DaMarcus Beasley, Justin Morrow, Jonathan Campbell, Brandon Vincent, Drew Moor
Next out: Tim Parker, Robbie Rogers, Justen Glad
Question mark: Brad Evans


Midfielders (12)

Welcome back, Benny Feilhaber. The crowd that’s used up every ounce of their hope tank to see the soon-to-be 32-year-old Sporting KC midfielder back on the USMNT stage is getting their just desserts. He’ll join Sacha Kljestan, Darlington Nagbe, and Dax McCarty is getting a chance to impress eyes that don’t belong to Jurgen Klinsmann.

New York Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty reacts towards the fans after an MLS playoff soccer match against the D.C. United, at RFK Stadium, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, in Washington. McCarty scored the only goal and New York won 1-0. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
New York Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

This group will see a lot of usual suspects and probably be heavy on attack-minded guys considering Arena sees Michael Bradley as a No. 6.

And, yes, Kelyn Rowe (or Ethan Finlay) is going to take a backseat to a move I doubt Arena can resist: Landon Donovan in the new U.S. crest.

In: Michael Bradley, Sacha Kljestan, Benny Feilhaber, Alejandro Bedoya, Darlington Nagbe, Graham Zusi, Dax McCarty, Kelyn Acosta, Wil Trapp, Jermaine Jones, Ethan Finlay, Landon Donovan
Next out: Kelyn Rowe, Fatai Alashe, Sebastian Lletget, Scott Caldwell
Question marks: Lee Nguyen, Kyle Beckerman, Mix Diskerud (Yeah, I know).


Forwards (4)

This group isn’t much of a challenge. Altidore is going to start, and Morris will probably join him. Gyasi Zardes was essentially developed by Arena with the Galaxy, and Agudelo has bagged enough goals in MLS and abroad to get a chance ahead of the field (though Chris Wondolowski just keeps scoring for San Jose and Alan Gordon, well, someone had to vouch for his inclusion under Klinsmann. Was it his LA coach?).

CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 09:  Gyasi Zardes #11 of Los Angeles Galaxy attemps to break away from Leiton Jimenez #30 of Club Tijuana at StubHub Center on February 9, 2016 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Zardes (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images).

In: Jozy Altidore, Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes, Juan Agudelo
Next out: Khiry Shelton, Mike Grella
Question marks: Alan Gordon, Chris Wondolowski

Follow @NicholasMendola

Three things we learned from Arsenal v Chelsea in FA Cup final

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON — Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup final on Saturday at Wembley as the Gunners won the FA Cup for the third time in four years and a record-breaking 13th time.

[ MORE: Gunners win FA Cup

Arsene Wenger has now won seven FA Cups, more than any other manager in history, as he denied Antonio Conte and Chelsea the chance to secure a famous Premier League and FA Cup double.

Here’s what we learned from an intense FA Cup final as Arsenal won their 13th FA Cup, becoming the most successful team in tournament history.


MERTESACKER A MAN MOUNTAIN

Per Mertesacker, Arsenal’s club captain, had not started a single game in the 2016-17 season.

His first start was in the FA Cup final at Wembley against Chelsea and the German defender (affectionately nicknamed the ‘Big F****** German’ or BFG by his adoring fan) stood tall, using one of his telescopic legs in the first half to deny Costa and throwing his body on the line to block shots and make vital interceptions.

Mertesacker was only throw into central defense because Laurent Koscielny was suspended and both Gabriel and Skhodran Mustafi were injured in the past week.

He was incredible in marshaling Arsenal’s backline and along with David Opsina kept Chelsea at bay before Ramsey grabbed the winner late on.


TAYLOR GETS HUGE DECISIONS CORRECT

“Did Arsenal get lucky?” is one of the main questions you will hear after this game.

They weren’t. Referee Anthony Taylor got the key decisions correct. The first goal was flagged for offside but he overruled his linesman to allow the goal to stand and although Aaron Ramsey was in an offside position, he wasn’t interfering with play, so that was the right call.

There may have been a handball by Sanchez in the build up but that was missed totally and the decision to overturn the offside flag was the correct one.

In the second half Victor Moses then clearly took a tumble to try and get a penalty kick as he received a second yellow card. No complaints and another brave, but good, call from Taylor.

Two key decisions went Arsenal’s way, but they were the right calls. Chelsea can not complain.


WASTEFUL CHELSEA BLOW DOUBLE

Diego Costa may well have played his last game for Chelsea as a move to the Chinese Super League beckons this summer. It sounds harsh, but Chelsea may not miss the Spanish international as much as everything thinks.

Although he scored to make it 1-1, Costa could have scored a hat trick. He took too long to get his shot off just after Arsenal went ahead as three Gunners defenders blocked his effort, and he then raced clear of Rob Holding but failed to get past David Ospina in another first half chance. He then drilled a shot straight at Ospina in the second half with Chelsea trailing 2-1.

It wasn’t just Costa who was guilty of missing chances though.

Pedro blazed over from a glorious position in the first half and in the second half he curled wide, while Victor Moses had an effort saved down low by Ospina.

Chelsea have come up short in attack in a few big games this season, including the 3-0 defeat at Arsenal, 2-0 defeats at Tottenham and Manchester United and now the FA Cup final.

Antonio Conte will be searching very quickly for the phone numbers of Alvaro Morata, Romelu Lukaku et al.

Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea: Gunners win FA Cup in dramatic fashion

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON — Arsenal won the 2016-17 FA Cup after beating London rivals Chelsea in a dramatic Wembley final on Saturday.

The Gunners took the lead controversially through Alexis Sanchez and had numerous chances to extend their lead in the first half.

Chelsea were reduced to 10 men late in the second half with Victor Moses shown a second yellow card, but Diego Costa equalized just when they appeared down and out. Moments later Aaron Ramsey popped up to head home the winner and despite late chances for both teams the Gunners held on for victory.

Arsenal have now won the FA Cup in three of the past four season, with the north London club now winning a record 13 FA Cups and manager Arsene Wenger has now secured his seventh FA Cup, the most by any manager in history.

[ MORE: FA Cup box score, stats ]

Arsenal got off to the perfect start, albeit in controversial fashion, as the ball broke to Sanchez it appeared to hit his hand but the Chilean raced through and barged past Aaron Ramsey to smash home a low shot. Ramsey was clearly in an offside position as the linesman flagged but referee Anthony Taylor overruled the decision and the goal stood. 1-0 to the Arsenal.

At the other end the ball broke kindly to Diego Costa but three Arsenal defenders charged in to block his shot.

Arsenal then missed a host of chances to doubled their lead as Mesut Ozil beat Thibaut Courtois but Gary Cahill hooked off the line, then Danny Welbeck hit the post with a header and the follow up from Ramsey bounced off his chest and hit the post.

Chelsea had a great chance as a long ball forward found Costa who beat Rob Holding and raced into the box but David Opsina saved bravely to keep Arsenal ahead.

The Gunners then went agonizingly close once again before half time as Welbeck’s shot from close range was blocked by Courtois and then as the ball rolled towards the goal Cahill was again on hand to clear. Pedro blazed a chance over the bar for Chelsea before half time but Arsenal led and were incredibly unlucky not to be further in front.

In the second half Chelsea, as expected, came flying out of the traps. N'Golo Kante had an effort saved, then Per Mertesacker made a fine tackle on Costa before Opsina saved superbly from Moses.

Pedro flashed a shot wide and Chelsea kept pouring forward as they became increasingly susceptible on the break as Sanchez found Hector Bellerin brilliantly but Courtois caught his poor cross.

Another huge moment of controversy arrived with just over 20 minutes to go as Moses went down in the box after being closed down by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and referee Taylor decided to book the Chelsea man for simulation. That was Moses’ second yellow of the game and Chelsea were down to 10-men.

Just when it looked like Chelsea had no hope, Willian clipped a hopeful ball into the box which Costa chested down and his shot into the ground took a slight deflection off Mertesacker and in. 1-1. Game on.

Less than three minutes later the Gunners were back in front as substitute Olivier Giroud, who had been on the pitch for a matter of moments, clipped in a delightful cross which Ramsey headed in to make it 2-1 and sent the Arsenal fans wild.

Bellerin raced clear late on but his low shot across goal squirmed inches wide, then Opsina made a wonderful save from Costa and Ozil hit the post, however none of that mattered as Arsenal held on to win their third FA Cup in four years and end Chelsea’s hopes of securing the double.

LIVE, AT THE HALF: Rampant Arsenal lead Chelsea in FA Cup final

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal lead Chelsea 1-0 at half time of the 2016-17 FA Cup final, but they should be so much further ahead.

[ LIVE: Follow the FA Cup final here ]

Alexis Sanchez put Arsenal ahead in controversial fashion as Aaron Ramsey was clearly in an offside position and flagged for offside, but referee Anthony Taylor overruled his linesman to allow the goal to stand.

Ramsey didn’t touch the ball but was remarkably close to it when Sanchez raced through to score.

Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck and Ramsey had further chances to score with Gary Cahill twice clearing off the line, while Chelsea had two chances through Diego Costa but he couldn’t convert.

Click on the link above to follow all the action from Wembley live.

What a first 45 minutes!

VIDEO: Moving tribute to Manchester bombing victims at FA Cup final

Getty Images
Leave a comment

At the FA Cup final on Saturday at Wembley there was a moving tribute to the people killed in the Manchester bombing attack earlier this week.

On Monday a suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured a further 67 after detonating a bomb outside Manchester Arena following an Ariana Grande concert.

Ahead of the FA Cup final, Arsenal and Chelsea came together to salute everyone impacted by the atrocity.

Watch the moving video below as 90,000 stood in silence to show their solidarity.