Starry nights: MLS Team of the Week – Round 16

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ProSoccerTalk’s Best XI from Week 16 in Major League Soccer includes a trio of three-goal scorers.

Goalkeeper:

Chicago’s Sean Johnson (pictured)

Rationale, motive and intent: Toronto’s Milos Kocic was heroic in keeping his team in the game late Saturday against the relentless waves of New England attacks. But he also allowed five goals over two matches, so it’s harder to pin the medal on his chest. So this one goes to Chicago’s Johnson, whose eight-save night was just enough to nudge aside Portland’s Troy Perkins for the spot.

Back line:

New York’s Brandon Barklage

Philadelphia’s Carlos Valdes

Portland’s David Horst

Chivas USA’s Rauwshan McKenzie

Rationale, motive and intent: Valdes looked like the Valdes of early 2011 with hardy work at PPL Park as his team took apart Sporting Kansas City. Horst cleared, kicked or tackled almost everything that came his way and was a beast on offensive restarts, scoring once and coming close two other times in Portland’s win over Seattle. McKenzie, a center back, played a big part as Chivas USA made steady progress in the standings with four of a possible six points over four days.

As for Barklage, if you don’t know why he gets a spot, then you’re not spending enough time with ProSoccerTalk. So, you know, get on that, eh?

Midfield:

Los Angeles’ Landon Donovan

New York’s Joel Lindpere

Portland’s Diego Chara

Montreal’s Felipe Martins

Rationale, motive and intent: We’ve already talked about Donovan’s leading role in a breakthrough week for the Galaxy. Lindpere ran and ran and ran, then ran some more as his team pulled a tie and a win out of four tough days, which included cross-country travel. Chara put in the dog-tough, screening work as the Timbers removed some pressure from the heated situation around Jeld-Wen Field. Speaking of putting in the work: Montreal’s Felipe Martins was a bugger to contain over two matches, registering a goal and two assists as the expansion Impact lost on the road but prevailed at home.

Forwards:

Houston’s Will Bruin

Toronto’s Danny Koevermans

Rationale, motive and intent: Both players had three goals over two matches, doing their parts – even if their teams failed to register a win. They can’t do everything.

Reina faces hearing over links with trio connected to mafia

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ROME (AP) Outgoing Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been summoned to a hearing at the Italian football federation over his association with people with links to the mafia.

Reina, along with Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica, is to face the FIGC’s disciplinary committee after an investigation by Naples’ anti-mafia department.

It is reportedly one of the reasons why Napoli decided not to renew Reina’s contract, with the former Liverpool goalkeeper set to move to AC Milan on a free transfer.

The FIGC says Reina “has had and continues to have inopportune association and friendship with Gabriele Esposito, Francesco Esposito and Giuseppe Esposito.” It adds that that includes holidays and “an exchange of favors.”

Cannavaro, who had two spells with Napoli, retired at Sassuolo last year. Aronica also spent several years at the southern club before joining Palermo in 2013.

Iran names initial squad for World Cup

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Jalal Hosseini and Vouria Ghaffouri have both been left off Iran’s provisional 24-man squad for the World Cup.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz did not say why Hosseini, a Persepolis defender, and Ghaffouri were not included.

There was space for midfielders Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi, however. Both played with Greek club Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv in August 2017. Iran does not recognize Israel and its supreme leader has threatened the country in the past. Both Shojaei and Hajsafi missed matches with the national team after the game.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh, a 24-year-old forward who plays in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, is also in the squad, which was announced Sunday.

In the midfield, Queiroz chose Saeid Ezatolahi, although the Amkar Perm player will miss the team’s first World Cup match because he was given a red card in a game against South Korea in qualifying.

Nottingham Forest midfielder Ashkan Dejagah was also chosen.

Goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh of Portuguese club Maritimo made the squad. His father, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, was Iran captain and goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Iran will play in Group B at the World Cup with Portugal, Spain and Morocco. The team will play warm-up matches in Turkey and Greece before heading to Russia.

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)

Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (KV Oostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al Saad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)

Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiakos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds FK), Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa)

Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiakos), Mahdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa Sports Club), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (SC Heerenveen)

Six Premier Leaguers named to Argentina, but no Icardi

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Argentina’s World Cup roster features a number of the usual suspects, particularly up front, but Serie A’s top goalscorer has been surprisingly left off the list of 23.

[ MORE: Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan ]

Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s squad was made official on Monday, which includes the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.

The Albiceleste won’t be taking Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi though, which has raised some questions about the decision.

Icardi led all scorers in Italy’s top flight this season, scoring 29 goals in 34 Serie A matches, while Paulo Dybala edged out the final striker spot in the Argentina squad.

Dybala is teammates with Higuain at Italian giants Juventus.

Meanwhile, six Premier League players were named into the South American nation’s squad, including goalkeepers Sergio Romero (Man United) and Willy Caballero (Chelsea), as well as Nicolas Otamendi (Man City), Marcos Rojo (Man United) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).

Men in Blazers POD: FA Cup recap, UCL final preview and more

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Rog and Davo recap a spite-fueled, snear-filled, peak Phil Jones FA Cup Final, preview this weekend’s Champions League tilt between Liverpool and Real Madrid and eulogize Big Sam… gone the opposite of too soon. Plus, World Cup rosters and MLS.

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