alvaro fernandez

It’s Tuesday, and Álvaro Fernández is still a Seattle Sounder

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TUKWILA, Wash. – A funny thing happened at Seattle Sounders practice on Tuesday: Álvaro Fernández showed up.

That may not sound remarkable. After all, Fernández is a Seattle Sounder player, but amid Monday rumors the Uruguayan attacker would be sent on loan to Colombia’s Deportivo Cali, the appearance of “Flaco” was significant. If the 26-year-old’s about to take a break from the Pacific Northwest, neither he nor the club are acting like it.

“I guess when you score a couple of goals, rumors start,” head coach Sigi Schmid told media after Tuesday’s practice, his team preparing for Wednesday’s meeting with European champions Chelsea.

“[There’s] nothing I’m aware of right now,” Schmid said, having just finished a long conversation with general manager Adrian Hanauer and technical director Chris Henderson. “Everything’s just rumors. [Fernandez has] two goals in our last two league games. He’s done well from that stand point.”

Rumor, innuendo, smoke – we still haven’t seen fire around the Fernández speculation, though you can see why it’s there. Seattle has filled their allotment of designated players with Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales and Fernández. If the Sounders are to make a big move by the time the transfer window closes on July 27, they may need to free up a spot. While not every big move requires a designated player spot (see: all-star Eddie Johnson), the type of transactions that generate weeks of idle speculation require designated player caché. With Montero and Rosales integral to Seattle’s 2012 plans, Fernández is the clear third of three.

But not being as important as Montero or Rosales, two all-star-caliber players, is a lot different than being in the bargain bin. As Schmid notes, Fernández has been productive of late, scoring the opening goal in Seattle’s last two MLS matches. But those are Fernández’s only goals of the season, and ranking 13th on the team in minutes played, Flaco carries the distinction of being one of the club’s best compensated players ($300,000, this season) without being a lock for Schmid’s starting XI.

Last year, Fernández’s nine league goals were second on the club, with Flaco scoring every 215 minutes. This year, Fernández is scoring once every 460 minutes, leaving him fighting for time in a midfield picture crowded by the emergence of Alex Caskey and rookie Andy Rose. Fernández has made 14 league appearances. Caskey and Rose have each made 13.

Ultimately, Fernández’s immediate future may have less to do with his play than his status. While he may not be performing to his $300,000 salary, that’s not money Seattle’s hurting to reclaim. The Designated Player spot, however, is scarce.

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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