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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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Newcastle linked with targets as Benitez begins transfer quest

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Newcastle United’s players have canceled their Christmas party, as manager Rafa Benitez admits he’s working on January gifts for the St. James’ Park set.

The Magpies have one point from their last eight matches, and face Arsenal, West Ham, and Manchester City in the run-up to the New Year, closing off a run of five matches in 16 days with Brighton and Stoke.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City vs. Spurs ]

Benitez says he’s begun talks with managing director Lee Charnley about the January window. The team is expected to make moves whether Mike Ashley completes a reported sale of the team or not. From Sky Sports:

“At this time it is just to talk about ideas,” he said. “You might say ‘I would like to sign this player’ and someone will say ‘£40m’ – maybe it is not realistic.

“The main thing, we had this conversation, then we have to move forward quickly. I don’t know the details but at least we were talking about that. We have to progress and it is so obvious that we have to improve things.”

Newcastle has been linked with a number of notable names a few weeks from the start of the January market, including Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, prolific Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun, as well as Liverpool’s Danny Ings and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw.

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace

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  • Leicester leads all-time 26W-18D-23L
  • Foxes 3W-1D vs. Eagles since Oct. 2015
  • Palace won at Leicester in Feb. 2015

The Claude Puel revolution at Leicester City has the Foxes surging up the Premier League table, and Saturday’s visitors from Crystal Palace are making moves of their own (Watch live Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Leicester has won four-straight matches, the latest a 4-1 beatdown of Southampton at St. Mary’s, and returns to King Power Stadium with a chance to make a dent on the five-point deficit between the Foxes and the Top Four.

 

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

After beginning the season 0-7, Crystal Palace has claimed 14 of 30 points to move from 20th to 18th on the table. Roy Hodgson’s men have two wins and four draws in their last six matches.

What they’re saying

Leicester’s Harry Maguire on the task at hand:

Palace’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek on his high-flying loan spell from Chelsea: “It’s what you aspire to be when you’re younger. Right now it’s a case of trying to improve as much as I can and to keep the performances up. As long as I’m enjoying it I think I’ll do well, so I’m really happy. The experience of playing week in week out and the physical side of things, getting my body used to playing games – sometimes three in a week – has been a massive thing for me, especially when I haven’t played for two years regularly. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to get away from Chelsea, to play regular football, get my body used to it, get more robust and I think once you have that then it’s a platform to play better.”

Prediction

This could be a fun one, with names like Zaha, Townsend, Loftus-Cheek, Vardy, Mahrez, and Gray ready to bless the match with pace and creativity. Goals have come in bunches when Leicester’s on the pitch, and we’ll call it 2-1 to the Foxes.

RBNY’s Grella heads to Columbus (through Colorado)

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Mike Grella didn’t get to pick No. 20 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft, but that didn’t stop Columbus from getting their hands on the New York Red Bulls veteran.

Colorado selected Grella with the third overall pick, then sent him to Columbus for a second round pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.

[ MLS: Ousted “blacklisted” by MLS? ]

The only other pick was made by Minnesota United, who took Tyrone Mears from Atlanta United.

Grella, 30, is a well-traveled Duke product who has played in England and Denmark. He scored 18 times with 13 assists in 89 matches for the Red Bulls, but missed most of the 2017 season with a pair of knee injuries.

It’s a good gamble for the Crew, and an extra draft pick for 2019. Second-round picks have become long odds to make MLS rosters, with Tommy McNamara and Aaron Long the last impact players to come out of the round. That was in 2014, and both needed changes of scenery before hitting their MLS strides.

John Cena makes entertaining Premier League predictions

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We do not recommend putting any money on John Cena’s Premier League predictions for this weekend.

The actor and WWE star was the guest picker on the BBC site on Friday, and admitted his soccer knowledge doesn’t extend much further than Cristiano Ronaldo and a tour of Tottenham (he has a fondness for Spurs, it seems).

[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea vs. Southampton ]

But his actual selections are quite amusing. From picking matches based on species to trying to anger his fiancee’s Arsenal supporting brother, Cena brought the goods.

Our favorites:

Why West Ham will win at Stoke: “Who doesn’t love a good ham? It provides you with nourishment, happiness and a sense of community. It is always served at a big family function gathering. I like West Ham. 0-1.”

Why Southampton will win at Chelsea: “From where I am from, in Massachusetts, Southampton is a pretty cool place, so I am going to have to pick them, only because of how it relates to the States.”