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USMNT: Takeaways from Arena’s camp roster

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Bruce Arena released his 32-man roster for this January’s USMNT camp, a group which will provide the lineups for friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica.

[ REPORT: Bradley offered Norway job ]

There are a lot of names which won’t surprise thanks to either regular inclusion or Arena’s awesome Facebook Live sessions and media conference calls where he was wide open about prospects like Keegan Rosenberry or Sebastian Lletget.

He’s here?!? And he isn’t?!?

The heading may lead you to believe the exclamation points are made in anger, but that’s in no way the case; Seeing a new coach’s roster release — especially for an MLS-only January camp — is a fascinating exercise not unlike popping out to the Christmas tree on the morning of Dec. 25.

So, thanks, Santa Bruce Arena.

We’ll get to the omissions — at least perceived ones — in a bit, but let’s start with the names that leapt boldest off the page. Kekuta Manneh is a thrilling prospect, one who would be a household names were it not for injury and his status in the Vancouver market (which is fun to watch for diehards but rarely gets national TV time). Both Manneh (The Gambia) and goalkeeper call-up Stefan Frei (Switzerland) have not yet been cleared to represent the United States.

Vancouver Whitecaps' Kekuta Manneh, of Gambia, celebrates his goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy during the second half of an MLS soccer game on Saturday, April 19, 2014, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)
Manneh (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

[ MORE: Revisiting Arena’s first run with USMNT ]

There’s also DC United right back Taylor Kemp, who hasn’t had a chance to rep his nation since a 2008 turn with the U.S. U-20 side. Chris Pontius has also battled injury, but DC and now Philadelphia fans will understand why there’s a group which has long-clamored to see him wear red, white, and blue.

Tommy McNamara seems to be getting the most buzz amongst omissions, and others will mention NYCFC teammate and once-future-Landon-Donovan (we kid) Mix Diskerud.

But what about Justin Morrow? From Notre Dame to Toronto FC, the intrepid fullback has succeeded every time he’s asked to raise his game. It’s a crowded midfield, but New England’s Kelyn Rowe is a name that could’ve easily got a look.

Again, some of these names may be dealing with undisclosed injuries, so they may not be true omissions.

It’s different now (in reality and the media)

At the risk of looking like high-level subtweeting, there’s a respected-enough soccer mind in social media who has already begun showcasing the difference in respect between Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann.

Arena called up Graham Zusi as a right back for the United States national team’s January camp, a move that doesn’t normally need to be justified. National team coaches have needs that cannot be fixed in a transfer market, and the U.S. has a number of unavailable right backs in Europe right now (Eric Lichaj, DeAndre Yedlin, Jonathan Spector among them).

Again, this is totally cool.

Yet if you’re of the mind to say it’s cool because Zusi played a handful of games at right back last season, then you better not have raged when Klinsmann defenders pointed out that left wing Fabian Johnson spent a decent-enough portion of his career at left back.

[ MORE: What counts as success for Arena’s second run? ]

Sporting Kansas City's Graham Zusi, right, avoids a tackle by Los Angeles Galaxy's Tommy Meyer while heading toward the goal during the second half of an MLS soccer game Saturday, July 19, 2014, in Kansas City, Kan. (AP Photo/Topeka Capital-Journal, Chris Neal)
Zusi (AP Photo/Topeka Capital-Journal, Chris Neal)

Yes, a serious tournament is much different than a January camp that should see the Yanks succeed against Jamaica (and probably versus a much-weakened Serbia, too). And it’s good to have a reminder that a legendary acumen in United States soccer history allows more leeway with fans than a guy who scored a ton of goals in Europe.

No need to name names, let’s be old school and proper, but suffice to say this: we’re in a new era and we clearly all want it to work. Maybe it’s simply a honeymoon stage, but it will be interesting to monitor how quickly it might sour.

And, oh, the super vets

Arena would want to strike a balance between new blood and totally eschewing players who became fixtures under Klinsmann, especially on the MLS side, but it’s still a bit surprising to see Chris Wondolowski and Nick Rimando.

Both are still among the best at their positions in Major League Soccer, and there can be few qualms with their inclusions aside from younger names missing out. There also needs to be a batch of players to show new guys the ropes, yes, even under a new boss.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Bruce Arena the coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy looks on during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 match between Liverpool FC and Besiktas JK at Anfield on February 19, 2015 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Arena (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

With Jones and DaMarcus Beasley, there’s little question they still offer something at a higher class than what’s being left off the roster.

The call-ups of Wondolowski, Rimando, and Chad Marshall show that Arena’s focus is much more short-term, and that’s a hole dug by Klinsmann’s 0-2 start to World Cup qualifying. If the Yanks were 2-0, or had claimed four points from the first two matches, maybe we see Khiry Shelton, Tim Parker, or Bobby Shuttleworth instead.

Plus, the delicious irony and borderline sardonicism of a late rescue goal from Wondolowski in March is too much to pass up.

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$280m? Who cares? Salah is the rare “unsellable” player

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The gossip reports are out there, with lofty claims that Real Madrid and Barcelona are willing to pay as much as $280 million dollars for Mohamed Salah.

Normally that figure triggers something in my brain that screams, “Sell! Sell! Sell before they realize what they’ve offered!”

[ MORE: Best PL summer buys ]

That’s not happening with Mohamed Salah.

This isn’t an inflated fee for a young English player like Ross Barkley or John Stones, nor is it a club throwing a lofty and desperate figure at a very good but supremely overvalued player like Philippe Coutinho. Even Raheem Sterling, who I advocated selling, has proven replaceable.

In the case of Salah, his Golden Boot figure is likely to dwarf any in the Premier League era. He’s at 28, three behind Luis Suarez’s 31. Cristiano Ronaldo has bagged 31 once Alan Shearer and Andy Cole hold the modern record with 34.

Salah needs six to tie Shearer. Here’s Liverpool’s run-in: Crystal Palace (A), Everton (A), Bournemouth (H), West Brom (A), Stoke City (H), Chelsea (A), Brighton and Hove Albion (H).

Five of those teams absolutely hemorrhage goals. Would you bet against Salah?

By the way, Salah has 10 assists, too. Sure Jurgen Klopp deserves credit for buying and deploying the Egyptian wizard, but

When Klopp argued that Liverpool was not a selling club, this is the exact example to follow. Selling Coutinho — again, not trying to poke the bear that is ornery overvaluing fan — is fine in a world where your club has Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah

But selling one of Europe’s leading scorers is almost never okay for a club challenging for a Champions League crown and with the clear caliber of a Premier League title hunter.

I’d argue that for this club, one who has sold Coutinho and Suarez, there is not a fee that meets Salah straight-on.  He’s 25 and living in the air just below Lionel Messi and Neymar.

The Messi comparisons I keep reading are fun but still unbelievably premature by every stretch of the imagination. By the time Messi was Salah’s age he had league seasons of 34, 31, 50, and was en route to a 46-goal mark. He posted 68 combined assists over those four seasons.

If this is somehow an aberration, and Salah cannot find this form ever again, well, that’s bad luck and a risk worth its weight in standard setting.

There is not a replacement player.

There is no fee.

Say it again now.

Dangerous playmaker Silva joins Montreal Impact (video)

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Alejandro Silva’s got a creative mind, and that’s something Montreal will welcome with open arms.

The Uruguayan signed with the Impact this week, joining Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taider as playmakers in Quebec.

[ MORE: Top PL summer buys ]

Silva, 28, is a right-sided and forward-playing Argentine who can also play right back if necessary.

The Impact lost two of three to start the season, winning this weekend’s 401 Derby versus Toronto FC to put a number in the win column.

Lanus has been a fertile ground for Major League Soccer clubs in recent years, with Lucas Melano (Portland Timbers) and Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United) making the move to North America.

The South American club has also sent Gustavo Gomez to AC Milan and Oscar Benitez to Benfica.

Kante squashes PSG rumors: “I am at home” with Chelsea

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
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At least one and erhaps two big Premier League clubs are going to finish outside of the UEFA Champions League this year.

As it stands now, those clubs are Arsenal and Chelsea. The former could still seal a spot in the UCL via winning the Europa League but Chelsea needs wins and help from the field to find a way into the fray.

[ MORE: Best PL summer buys ]

An absence for either side will send UCL-bound vultures over the rosters of the failed clubs, hoping to woo the best players with Champions League dreams.

N'Golo Kante has been a name bandied about as a potential departure should Chelsea miss its mark, with the French star mentioned as high atop Paris Saint-Germain’s wish list.

The midfielder, who turns 27 at the end of the month, has moved to squash those rumors (from The London Evening Standard):

“I am at home. It is my club, I am a Chelsea player.

“We will fight until the end to finish in the top four and to get in a Champions League position. We also have the FA Cup to play for – it is a good competition. Last season we failed in the final. It is the only trophy we can win this season, so we have to give everything to get to the final and win it.”

That’s good, because we’re looking forward to seeing what a midfield with Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko could do with an offseason together.

Yet is there anyone out there doubting Kante’s intentions?

Who’ve been the most impactful Premier League summer buys?

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It’s been a heck of a season for Premier League transfer buys, and that includes a bevy of intra-league purchases.

So who’ve been the best imports? Probably a safe bet to set some parameters.

[ MORE: Alonso, Pedro have Morata’s back ]

We won’t count players like Aaron Mooy, who’s Huddersfield Town purchase was formalized after a loan, or those who returned from loan like Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen or Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere.

We’ll also opt against a couple Chelsea loanees signings, if just to whittle our list. Ruben Loftus-Cheek was magnificent before a long-term injury at Palace, and Kurt Zouma probably just sits beyond the Top Ten.

Mainz loanee Jonas Lossl of Huddersfield Town fits the bill, too. And for injuries: Who knows how high  Benjamin Mendy would’ve surged up this list?

Stats culled from WhoScored and Squawka.

Honorable mention – Antonio Rudiger, Mario Lemina, Richarlison, Alexandre Lacazette, Mat Ryan, Bernardo Silva, Steve MounieKyle Walker, Alvaro Morata, Florian Lejeune.

10. Jordan Pickford, Everton — Under siege at Sunderland for most of last season, Pickford probably expected smoother sailing than this: the Everton backstop has been forced into making the most saves in the Premier League (95). Fifty-four of those required him to dive. Only four teams have allowed more goals than Everton, which explains why some of you might be scratching your head at his inclusion.

9. James Tomkins, Crystal Palace — I thought the signing was silly, but Tomkins is nearly unrivaled in terms of interceptions per game in league play. Palace hasn’t been a defensive powerhouse, but his former club West Ham looks terrible since he moved across London.

8. Davinson Sanchez, Tottenham Hotspur – There have been bumps along the way — Sanchez is 21 — but he’s blessed with the speed to make up for his and others mistakes. A fine passer, Mauricio Pochettino should only further benefit from his career progression.

7. Ahmed Hegazi, West Bromwich Albion — Hegazi’s 2757 minutes played are the most amongst field players in the Premier League (though Alfie Mawson, Harry Maguire, Jack Cork, and Lewis Dunk could pass him by playing more than an hour in their match-in-hand).

6. Harry Maguire, Leicester City — The Foxes badly needed to lower the age of their center back corps, and can count their purchase of Maguire from Hull City as a coup. Perhaps no player other than Wilfred Ndidi has been as influential for Claude Puel‘s bunch.

5. Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United — Lukaku started dispelling myths about his production versus big teams when he was one of the lone stars in United’s Super Cup loss to Real Madrid. While he’s been up-and-down in terms of goals in said contests, his hold-up play and work ethic have been better than expected. His 21 key moments (14 goals, seven assists) are even with Roberto Firmino and trail only Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, and Leroy Sane. Anthony Martial is the closest United comparison, and he has 14. Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard have 12.

4. Pascal Gross, Brighton and Hove Albion — The Ingolstadt transfer’s promise was quickly realized, and he’s posted five goals and eight assists. On a team with the fourth-lowest goal total in the league, that’s impressive. The only players with more PL assists: De Bruyne, Sane, Dele, David Silva, Salah, Pogba. Gross also ranks third in the league in crosses per game.

3. Nemanja Matic, Manchester United — It’s hard to fin the numbers to meet the eye test, but Matic flat out makes his team better. Maybe it’s organization, maybe it’s toughness, but there’s little doubt United is better in the middle of the park while former club Chelsea has struggled to find the same form since he skipped town. Advantage: Mou.

2. Ederson, Manchester City — Look only to last season’s status of City net minders to know how important the sweeper-style passing keeper is to Pep Guardiola‘s side. The Brazilian has pushed himself into competition for the starting gig at one of the World Cup favorites.

1. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool —  There is no other answer here, and Harry Kane’s injury essentially gift wraps the Golden Boot to the Egyptian. There was a question as to whether he’d bring his Serie A flourish over to England, and that seems absurd now.