Advice from U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard’s on defending free kicks: don’t foul in the first place

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KANSAS CITY – The United States back line has been the least of its trouble, a slip from Clarence Goodson here, or a slide there from Geoff Cameron notwithstanding.

Three of five goals conceded by the United States in five matches have come on direct free kicks. One of those was in the second half against Guatemala back in June, when Marco Pappa reminded everyone that he can hit a swell free kick, and that he change the game in an instant when handed a good dead ball situation.

Two months later, the United States went up a goal against Jamaica down in Kingston. But fouls from U.S. midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Maurice Edu provided the home team with two big opportunities to aim direct free kicks at Tim Howard’s goal. Sure enough, they converted both, spelling the difference in a 2-1 Jamaican victory.

So, the problem isn’t defending per se. It’s fouling in dangerous areas, which leads to free kicks, which … well, you can connect the dots.

I asked Tim Howard today if there was anything in particular the United States defenders and midfielders could work on to quash this alarming tendencies for fouling in dangerous spot, or if it was just an awareness issue?

“Yeah, just not doing it,” he said.

Howard recalled a run at Everton where something similar was happening, where too many free kicks and corner kicks were proving painful and costly. The manager addressed it by harping on the need to avoid giving away those chances.

“If you can drill it into people’s heads, they don’t do it,” Howard said.

“That’s just getting lazy, not concentrating, getting a little bit fatigued. I think it’s the easy way out of defending, to give away fouls in dangerous areas. I think, 25 yards from goal, the only way you should give away fouls is if the guy is clear in one goal. Otherwise you’ve got to trust your defenders, you’ve got to trust your goalkeeper. You just can’t give away fouls.”

source:  It’s a particularly prickly issue in this one because Guatemalan striker Carlos Ruiz is a peach at drawing fouls. And Pappa (right), as we know, can finish them.

“It’s tricky,” U.S. center back Geoff Cameron said,” because he looks to initiate the contact. But then if there’s too much contact, he’s looking to draw the foul.”

There’s one more issue to consider here, however, that works to the U.S. advantage. Clint Dempsey reminded reporters just before Monday’s evening workout at Livestrong Sporting Park that “home cooking” and CONCACAF tend to cook up well together. He pointed out the number of juicy opportunities on free kicks the other fellows tend to get when the Americans are visiting. But in fairness, he knows the Americans get a bunch of them at home, too. (They certainly did against Jamaica last month in Columbus.)

So, maybe it won’t be such a problem tomorrow, after all.

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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