Starry nights: MLS Team of the Week – Round 19

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ProSoccerTalk’s Best XI from Week 19 in Major League Soccer includes a guy you may have heard of. They sometimes call him “Becks.”

Goalkeeper:

  • Sporting Kansas City’s Jimmy Nielsen

Rationale, motive and intent: Blessed with a good defense and a team structure that keeps the ball in the other fellow’s end, your presumptive All-Star starter hasn’t needed to be sensational and overly involved too often in 2012. Saturday at Columbus was the exception as the White Puma (high-five on the nickname, dude) led the way in a 2-0 win.

Back line:

  • Seattle’s Adam Johansson
  • Philadelphia’s Carlos Valdes
  • Chicago’s Austin Berry (pictured, right)
  • Houston’s Jermaine Taylor

Rationale, motive and intent: Johansson had two assists in the Sounders’ draw inside Red Bull Arena. When outside backs get two assists, they’ll have to ask beg not to be included on my team. Valdes was solid on defense and was later “Carlos on the Spot” to poke home the Union’s last-second game-winner. Berry is having an unbelievable rookie season, and Taylor keeps looking like a man who can siphon a lot of the pain out of Geoff Cameron’s departure from the Dynamo back line.

Midfield:

  • FC Dallas’ Fabian Castillo
  • Toronto FC’s Terry Dunfield
  • L.A. Galaxy’s David Beckham
  • Houston’s Geoff Cameron
  • Chicago’s Pavel Pardo

Rationale, motive and intent: Castillo’s goal and assist were huge as Dallas won for the first time in 14 matches. I covered Dunfield’s week full of awesome here. And I wrote about Beckham’s big bag of awesome here.  Cameron’s passing and presence, as he returned from a two-game injury absence, helped overwhelm 10-man D.C. United. Pardo did the midfield work (especially when the Fire went a man down) and turned a wonderful free kick into the game-winner.

Forward:

  • San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski

Rationale, motive and intent: Wonder Wondo has a league-leading 17 goals after his hat trick Saturday against Real Salt Lake. Only complaint: he’s taking a lot of the drama out of the Golden Boot race, running with the doggone thing just halfway through the season.

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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