Houston Dynamo practices this week? No place for the timid

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So, you want to be a professional soccer player?

You’ve got a little skill. You know how to strike a ball. You’ve worked that speed ladder and showed the doggone thing who is boss, right?

Now you think you can run with the big dogs, with the lads who play for pay?

Here’s what I suggest: start with Houston Dynamo practices this week. Because those bad boys are going to be super intense, somewhere between soccer practice and cage fighting. As they say, if you can make it there …

Here’s what the Houston Chronicle said about the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s 3-1 loss at already eliminated Philadelphia.

Kinnear tore into his team afterward, delivering an expletive-laced tirade that could be heard down the hall at PPL Park. No doubt he was incensed by the Dynamo’s listless play and lack of fire, which was unacceptable in the critical match.

From there, Kinnear offered some on-the-record quotes that are as close as he ever comes to criticizing his team. “It wasn’t good enough. That’s how I’ll leave it. I’m just disappointed.”

(MORE: Brad Davis says you can’t miss that “desire”)

I’ve said this plenty of times before: There is nothing fancy or secret or groundbreaking about the way the Dynamo do things. Kinnear is still fairly young (45) but is far and away the longest serving MLS coach at his current position for one simple reason: he demands accountability on the field.

That’s it. It’s all the little things. Getting into the right places. Making the correct decisions. Tracking back faithfully. Marking on set pieces. Fighting for second balls with Jack Bauer intensity. Being a good locker room presence.

Every manager wants these things; Kinnear demands it. And for those who can’t quite make the grade in any one area, Kinnear thanks them and moves them along.

Right now, too many players aren’t getting it done. Rookie Kofi Sarkodie gets caught with the ball too often, and then goes down too easily when it happens. Ricardo Clark may cover a lot of ground, but his passing looks a bit slow and overly contemplative right now. There’s more, those are just the first things that come to mind.

And for Kinnear’s part, that 4-3-3 (or whatever it was in Philadelphia) may need a re-think, perhaps back to the well-rehearsed roles everyone had in the 4-4-2.

Because 1-3-3 over their last seven (6 of a possible 21 points) is not going to get it done, especially not when the club is healthy, with pretty much everyone available for selection.

So, yes … go ask about joining up in the Dynamo practices this week. It is not going to be pretty, technical, tika-taka stuff.

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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