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

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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

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Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!

Ozil to Manchester United?!? Wenger reacts to gossip

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Sometimes, even the biggest Arsene Wenger detractors have to feel for the guy.

Coming off a thrilling late win in Serbia, one that saw Olivier Giroud cap off a team goal straight out of the creative Wenger playbook, the manager should’ve been discussing how to stretch those good vibes into this weekend’s visit to Goodison Park.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

Yet no. Instead of talking about how the Gunners would respect the struggling Toffees, Wenger had to address speculation from several outlets claiming Mesut Ozil would move to Manchester United, perhaps as soon as January.

Feeling it? No, no Wenger was not feeling it. From Arsenal.com:

“We have to deal with all kinds of speculation when the players are at the end of their contracts. On the other hand, to be professional is to give 100 per cent as long as you are somewhere. For the rest, we came out many times and said that’s the situation. It [the media] can come out tomorrow and say that he extends his contract here. It will be exactly the same, it will not change anything. When you play the next game, commit 100 per cent. … When a player plays for Arsenal Football Club, his commitment cannot be linked with the length of his contract, it has just to be linked with the responsibility and the ambition he has to win the football game.”
Of course most big clubs have to deal with such drama on a year-to-year basis and, yes, having Ozil and Alexis Sanchez still in town was completely avoidable. But the idea that Ozil could leave, for free, to Manchester United? We’re sure Gooners the world over will be thrilled with the gossip.

MLS Decision Day preview: Much at stake

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Four teams can claim a Western Conference second round berth, while four more can earn a valuable first-round bye in the East.

Yep, there’s plenty to play for beyond the West’s final playoff spot Sunday during Major League Soccer’s Decision Day, when every team will take the pitch for 4 p.m. ET kickoffs.

[ MORE: Conte feels pressure ]

Here’s what we do know regarding the playoffs:

  1. Supporters’ Shield winning Toronto FC gets a first round bye, while No. 6 seed New York Red Bulls are headed to the road for a first round playoff
  2. New England, Montreal, Philadelphia, Orlando, DC, Minnesota, Colorado, and LA will not make the playoffs
  3. Full stop.

So, yes, this will be fun.

First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference Standings ahead of Sunday’s extravaganza:

Eastern Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Toronto FC 33 20 8 5 72 35 37 13-3-1 7-5-4 68
x – New York City FC 33 16 8 9 54 41 13 10-4-2 6-4-7 56
x – Chicago 33 16 7 10 61 44 17 12-3-2 4-4-8 55
x – Atlanta 33 15 9 9 68 38 30 11-2-3 4-7-6 54
x – Columbus 33 16 5 12 51 47 4 12-2-3 4-3-9 53
x – New York 33 13 8 12 51 46 5 9-6-2 4-2-10 47

— New York City FC controls its bye destiny, though Columbus could join them on 56 points and would pass them on tiebreakers (wins).

— If that happens, Chicago could claim the second bye with a win or draw in Houston (The Fire owns the goal differential tiebreaker).

— If New York City and Chicago lose or draw, Atlanta could finish second with a home win over TFC.

— Columbus can finish second with a win and non-wins for Chicago and Atlanta.

Western Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – Vancouver 33 15 7 11 49 47 2 9-5-3 6-2-8 52
x – Portland 33 14 8 11 58 49 9 10-4-2 4-4-9 50
x – Seattle 33 13 11 9 49 39 10 10-5-1 3-6-8 50
x – Sporting KC 33 12 13 8 39 27 12 10-6-1 2-7-7 49
x – Houston 33 12 11 10 54 45 9 11-4-1 1-7-9 47
San Jose 33 12 7 14 36 58 -22 9-5-2 3-2-12 43
FC Dallas 33 10 13 10 43 47 -4 7-7-2 3-6-8 43
Real Salt Lake 33 12 6 15 47 54 -7 8-4-4 4-2-11 42

Byes

— Vancouver finishes first with a win or draw at Portland. The ‘Caps could finish as low as third with a loss to Portland and a Seattle win versus Colorado.

— Portland finishes first — and wins the Cascadia Cup — with a win over visiting Vancouver.

— Seattle can claim a first round bye with a win over visiting Colorado and a Vancouver win over Portland.

— Sporting KC can finish second with a win at Real Salt Lake and non-wins for Portland and Seattle.

Final playoff spot

— San Jose claims the sixth seed with a home win over Minnesota. They can also finish sixth with a draw joined by non-wins for FC Dallas at home to LA and Real Salt Lake at home versus SKC.

— FC Dallas claims the sixth seed with a win over LA and a San Jose draw or loss versus Minnesota. FCD gets sixth with a draw, and a San Jose loss coupled with a RSL loss or draw versus SKC.

—  Real Salt Lake gets sixth with a win over SKC, and non-wins from San Jose and Dallas. RSL could also get sixth with a draw and losses for San Jose and Dallas.

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Schedule
FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy
DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
San Jose vs. Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC
Houston vs. Chicago
Seattle vs. Colorado
Philadelphia vs. Orlando City
Portland vs. Vancouver
Montreal vs. New England
New York City vs. Columbus
Atlanta vs. Toronto

Predictions

— NYCFC hangs on for a draw against Columbus, earning a bye, leaving Chicago to host New York Red Bulls and Atlanta off to Columbus for the first round of the playoffs (We have Toronto beating Atlanta on Sunday).

— Vancouver and Portland draw, while Seattle beats Colorado. The ‘Caps and Sounders get byes, while Seattle takes back the Cascadia Cup.

— San Jose beats Minnesota, gaining the West’s sixth seed. The Quakes head to Portland for the first round, while SKC hosts Houston.