MLS All-Star team finalized; where were the “snubs”?

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Major League Soccer finalized its All-Star roster Sunday, adding seven names to the fans’ choices.

D. C. United manager Ben Olsen, in charge of the All-Stars for the July 25 match against Chelsea, added five names: Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Kyle Beckerman and forwards Eddie Johnson and Chris Pontius.

Then commissioner Don Garber added two more Commissioner’s picks, both defenders: Philadelphia’s Carlos Valdes and San Jose’s Ramiro Corrales.

Valdes was added because he plays for the host club, Philadelphia, which didn’t have a player otherwise. (Well, also because Valdes is a quality center back; but having a Union player involved was the tipping point, of course.) And Corrales is the last remaining “96er,” the final man still playing from Major League Soccer’s debut year. There are better left-sided players, but it’s hard to argue the pick.

So the MLS roster looks like this:

Goalkeepers: Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA), Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City)

Defenders: Steven Beitashour (San Jose Earthquakes), Aurélien Collin (Sporting Kansas City), Ramiro Corrales (San Jose Earthquakes), Jay DeMerit (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Heath Pearce (New York Red Bulls), Carlos Valdes (Philadelphia Union)

Midfielders: Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders FC), David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Forwards: Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Now for the “snubs.” A trio I would like to have seen at PPL Park next week:

New York’s Dax McCarty

The Red Bulls sit third in the East, and no one has done more than the team’s ridiculously busy holding midfielder to get the injury-battered club there. Thierry Henry certainly has contributed mightily, but the DP striker just hasn’t been around as much. McCarty has played all but six minutes this year, and his work rate and steady distribution is the very engine of this team. Henry has missed 8 of 19 starts so far, and McCarty was more responsible than anyone else as Hans Backe’s team has kept right on grinding, scooping up just enough points without their top man.

Columbus’ Andy Gruenebaum

What a story this guy has been. The longtime backup to William Hesmer has demonstrated everything you’d want in a starting goalkeeper, doing all the little things to communicate with his defenders and handling all the routine plays. Meanwhile, he’s been a shot-stopping beast, keeping Columbus in games repeatedly with the big save. The Crew has just 17 goals in 17 games, 18th of 19 teams in MLS. But thanks to Gruenebaum’s heroic stuff between the pipes, Robert Warzycha’s team remains within the playoff contention zone.

San Jose’s Marvin Chavez

As it is, San Jose has three of 18 All-Star roster spots, so I get it. Four is just too many. Still, Chavez’s work deserves recognition (even if it’s just in places like this blog). The speedy two-way midfielder has been the “final piece” in a lot of ways at Buck Shaw, an effective wing presence whose speed can stretch defenses vertically and across the field. Wondolowski can clearly score goals, but he’s more effective with steady service and when defenders have to come out of the middle, reducing the crowd and cluster effect closer to goal. Chavez, easily one of the top off-season pickups, coming over in a lopsided trade from Dallas, is just the man to do that – and San Jose has the league’s best record as a result of it all.

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

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A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

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Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.

Modric urges humility after big win, stunning goal (video)

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There are few teams who’ve looked as strong as Croatia at the World Cup in Russia.

[ RECAP: Argentina 0-3 Croatia ]

Zlatko Dalic’s men now have a pair of shutout wins against decent competition, topping Nigeria 2-0 over the weekend before hammering Argentina 3-0 on Thursday.

The nature of those performances will have many, us included, debating just how far Croatia can run in this tournament. Veteran midfielder Luka Modric is hoping his team doesn’t do the same.

Let’s not be euphoric or get ahead of ourselves,” Modric said. “Of course this win will boost our confidence for the next game, and we have shown we can create opportunities, but let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground.”

Modric noted that Willy Caballero‘s howler “was a shot in the arm,” but added that they had played a “perfect game.”

That’s true. And while so much focus will be on Messi’s struggles, don’t sleep on the terrific performance of Vatreni. 

Modric also seemed to bristle when asked about shutting down Messi.

“I don’t want to talk about other players. We are happy with our own performance. We wanted to cut out Messi receiving the ball because he is the most dangerous player.”