Dax McCarty hearts Tim Cahill; and vice versa

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At the risk of beating this to death, even after it’s surely been beaten to death, let’s talk about three main midfield men for the New York Red Bulls.

Rafa Marquez has turned up gimpy once again. If he doesn’t make it back before the playoffs, that means the former Mexican international will have played in 12 matches in 2012. That’s an absolutely horrid return on the DP dollar for the league’s most visible franchise.

(A bad return in terms of competition, that is; New York is presumably recouping some of the salary outlay in merchandise and exposure for the Red Bull parent brand throughout Mexico. Otherwise, why in the world would the man still be there?)

In his absence, Dax McCarty returned happily to the position in which he has excelled this year, a holding midfield role. He had been pushed out wide to the right when Marquez got back in the lineup two weeks ago.

Third man into this pile is Tim Cahill. How do McCarty and Cahill reckon they are doing as a tandem? Swimmingly, by the sound of it. This is what they had to say about things following last week’s comprehensive romp over Toronto (a 4-1 result).

What Cahill had to say:

With Dax playing with you, there’s a lot of energy between us. We want to win every ball, we want to clear every ball. We want to run and do other people’s jobs and our own jobs. I suppose it feels like the best combination at the moment or the team. It’s a nice partnership.”

And then what McCarty had to say:

I really enjoy playing with Tim in the middle. He hit the nail on the head. In this league, you play against some pretty athletic midfields, some pretty good midfields. Obviously, with our older guys, Rafa [Marquez], Teemu [Tainio], they’re our more experienced guys, their positioning is fantastic. Sometimes you need guys who can cover some ground in there. So with me, I just try to make sure we’re solid defensively and then I let our special players who can attack make magic and go forward.

In a word: telling.

(Of course, if you believe one very important man around Red Bull Arena, Thierry Henry, the club cannot win an MLS Cup without Marquez. So, there’s that.)

I suppose we should insert a fourth man into the conversation here: Tainio. Not so far back, Tainio was a valued midfielder. But the Finnish veteran is 32 now, and 2012 has been a rough go with injuries. When he’s on the field now the team’s speed (in thought and in quickness) through midfield falls.

Well, it falls compared to the McCarty-Cahill combo. With Marquez as a point of comparison, it’s probably a wash.

By the way, the piece linked above from Big Apple Soccer points out this little statistical gem: the Red Bulls are 0-4-3 when Tainio starts.

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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