Picking apart the U.S. Women’s roster for upcoming Germany, Netherlands friendlies

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If there was ever a time to show a preference for the U.S.’s Europe-based soccer players, the upcoming international break would be it. Yet for the women’s national team’s early April friendlies at Germany and the Netherlands (Apr. 5 and 9), head coach Tom Sermanni has elected to call in a predictable squad. Yes, names like Tyresö’s Meghan Klingenberg and Western New York Flash’s Adrianna Franch opened some eyes, but throughout the rest of the 23-woman team, the U.S.’s squad offered few surprises:

Goalkeepers: Nicole Barnhart (FC Kansas City), Adrianna Franch (Western New York Flash), Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit)

Hope Solo is recovering from a wrist surgery that will keep her out until June. Jill Loyden, who seemed to have claimed the backup’s role, is out with a broken hand. That left the veteran Barnhart, the recently capped Harris, and a void.

Sermanni has elected to call in Franch ahead of Jane Campbell, the 18-year-old he brought in to the Jacksonville camp, and Alyssa Naeher, who has only conceded 11 goals in 12 starts for Turbine Potsdam in Germany. That leaves Franch, a recent graduate of Oklahoma State who is set to embark on her first professional season, to join the senior team in Germany.

Though the third-choice keeper will likely be irrelevant, it was one of the most anticipated selections of the April roster. Sermanni elected to go with Franch, somebody he’s already seen in a previous camp. rather than take a look at Naeher.

source: Getty ImagesDefenders: Rachel Buehler (Portland Thorns FC), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina), Whitney Engen (Liverpool, England), Julie Johnston (Santa Clara), Meghan Klingenberg (Tyresö, Sweden), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC, pictured, right), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)

The only real surprise here is Klingenberg, who is just as likely to get time in midfield as defense. The former North Carolina Tar Heel has two career caps, with former head coach Pia Sundhage previously flirting with the idea of converting her to a fullback’s role. Just coming off shoulder surgery, the 24-year-old’s inclusion was Thursday’s biggest surprise.

The recalls of Dunn and Johnston are mild eye raisers, but at this point in the Sermanni era, each seem so close to being regular selections that it’s not worth marveling when they get called in. Dunn, in particular, looks to have secured a regular recall, with the MAC Hermann Trophy winner seeming to establish herself as Sermanni’s second choice at right back.

Midfielders: Yael Averbuch (Göteborg, Sweden), Shannon Boxx (Chicago Red Stars), Lauren Cheney (FC Kansas City), Tobin Heath (PSG, France), Kristie Mewis (FC Kansas City), Heather O’Reilly (Boston Breakers), Megan Rapinoe (Lyon, France)

Again, no real surprises here, though those wondering if Sermanni was giving players extended tryouts during the Algarve Cup could read something into the continued inclusions of Yael Averbuch and Kristie Mewis. With Carli Lloyd’s shoulder injury keeping her out for up to six more weeks, Averbuch should see regular time in the middle of the park.

Mewis, fresh out of Boston College, is more in Dunn and Johnston’s boat. It’s no surprise to see her called in, but her playing time will still be iffy.

Forwards: Sydney Leroux (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), Christen Press (Tyresö, Sweden), Abby Wambach (Western New York Flash)

Don’t expect this foursome to change anytime soon. It is arguably the deepest and most talented position for any team in international soccer.

The foursome also seem to have found a balance. Press is playing more as a right wing/midfielder in Sermanni’s typically 4-4-2 formation. Morgan and Wambach are starting up top with Leroux playing the supersub’s part. When Wambach needs a rest, she switches with Leroux. Everybody’s getting time.

Who didn’t get called in?

Lindsey Horan, F, Paris Saint-Germain – If you expected Sermanni to lean toward recalling Europe-based players, the exclusion of Horan was a surprise. The 18-year-old PSG regular has 11 goals in 16 Feminine Division matches, but she also failed to make an impact during limited time at the Algarve Cup.

Sarah Hagen, F, Bayern Munich – The 23-year-old striker has 13 goals in 24 Frauen-Bundesliga appearances, but at 5’11”, she also projects as more of a target striker. In a squad that has Abby Wambach to target and Alex Morgan playing along the defense’s line, it’s difficult to see where she fits.

Hagen deserves a look, and the upcoming camp gave Sermanni a chance to recall her, but for a new coach who is still familiarizing himself with the player pool, the April friendlies may be too soon for Bayern’s promising forward.

Amber Brooks, D/M, Bayern Munich – Brooks’ double in her Bundesliga debut may have raised her profile ahead of Thursday’s callup, but there are still questions as to whether she possesses the quickness to fulfill a defensive midfielder’s role. That’s the position she’s most likely to compete for in the national team.

As a U-level standout and an accomplished collegiate player, Brooks is destined to get a chance. But that opportunity may not come until she returns stateside and can impress Sermanni if (when?) she joins the Portland Thorns.

Camille Levin, D, Göteborg – Having established herself as a regular in Sweden, the former Cardinal seems like another player who will eventually get a call. Yet when you look at the defensive depth in a team that’s called in nine players capable of playing at the back, Levin seems squeezed out. She may be making an impact in Sweden, but Sermanni’s is a numbers game. Which defender should be dropped to make room for Levin?

The 22-year-old seems destined to get a look, particularly with two-plus years separating Sermanni’s team from the next World Cup. On Thursday, the number just didn’t work in her favor.

Alyssa Naeher, G, Turbine Potsdam – Long jams on the depth charts of Sermanni’s field positions explain why Horan, Hagen, Brooks, and Levin were excluded, but Naeher’s snub is a little more confusing. The 24-year-old is starting for the second place team in Germany, one that’s established a good defensive record.

Is that enough to stake a place in the team? Not necessarily, but when Hope Solo is out, and Jill Loyden is out, who do you have left?

Sermanni likes Franch enough to justify her recall, but there’s a certain logic behind leaving the young keeper with her club ahead of her first pro season. With the Germany-based Naeher performing well ahead of a camp that starts in Germany, this was the time to call her in.

That she wasn’t makes you wonder what would have to happen for Alyssa Naeher to get a look with her national team.

Crystal Palace – Chelsea, Watford – Norwich: Stream, How to watch

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Crystal Palace – Chelsea promises to be an intriguing clash at Selhurst Park on Tuesday (start time, 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a London derby, while Watford – Norwich is a massive game in the relegation battle (start time, 1pm ET online via NBCSports.com).

Christian Pulisic continues to be the main man for Chelsea as the USMNT star put in another superb display in their 3-0 win against Watford and the Blues remain on track to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. As for Palace, they have lost their last three games on the trot without scoring and Roy Hodgson’s side look destined for a midtable finish.

CRYSTAL PALACE – CHELSEA STREAM LIVE

WATFORD – NORWICH STREAM LIVE

As for Watford, they need a win to boost their survival hopes and if they get it, they will send bottom club. Norwich even closer to their relegation zone.

Below is everything you need to know ahead of Crystal Palace – Chelsea and Watford – Norwich.


Team news

Palace will be without James Tomkins, Jeffrey Schlupp and Martin Kelly, while Hodgson may bring back Cheikhou Kouyate and Scott Dann who were rested.

Chelsea will be without N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic through injury, as Billy Gilmour starts in central midfield.

Watford bring in Masina and Welbeck after the loss at Chelsea.

Norwich bring Pukki back into the starting lineup.

Odds and ends (full matchweek odds)

Crystal Palace are huge underdogs (+650) as Chelsea (-220) are the red-hot favorites given their three wins from their first four games of the restart. The tie at +335 is where the value is at because as we saw with Chelsea’s shock defeat at West Ham last week, they can be dominated from set pieces and hit on the counter. Those two aspects are huge strengths of Palace’s game.

Watford are the favorites (-152) while Norwich (+440) are hoping for their first win, and points, since the restart. The tie at +285 seems intriguing to me.

Predictions

We are all expecting a Chelsea win here but don’t be surprised if Wilfried Zaha has a day at makes it a very tough outing for this leaky Chelsea defense. Palace have been fired up and shocked Chelsea before but I think the Blues, led by Pulisic, have too much for Palace. 3-1 to Chelsea. As for Watford against Norwich, I’m going for a 1-1 draw. Watford have been bad since the restart and Norwich have nothing to play for, really. That is dangerous.

Transfer news: Ake to Man United; Rice to Chelsea

Nathan Ake Manchester United
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In the latest transfer news Nathan Ake has been linked with a move to Manchester United, while Declan Rice could be heading back to Chelsea.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Starting in Manchester, a post-game chat between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Nathan Ake has turned heads following Man United’s 5-2 win against Bournemouth at the weekend.

Apparently Solskjaer told Ake: “We need a left-footed centre-back, so keep going.”

Ake, 25, has been linked with a return to Chelsea (who have a $48 million buy-back clause) and Manchester City, but it appears Nathan Ake to Manchester United has some legs. Solskjaer has been looking for a new center back with Kalidou Koulibaly, Dayot Upamecano and others linked to line up alongside Harry Maguire.

Victor Lindelof has struggled at times and is ahead of Eric Bailly in the pecking order and Man United do need to strengthen their defense slightly as they have plenty of options in midfield and attack, although a new true holding midfield could be a must in the next few windows.

If Bournemouth are relegated from the Premier League, Ake will surely leave and Man United could pick him up for a lot less than $48 million.

Declan Rice to Chelsea
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Switching to west London, Declan Rice could be heading back to Chelsea this summer.

A report from The Times states that Chelsea want Rice, 21, to return and become a ball-playing center back to shore up their defensive unit.

The report goes on to state that the boyhood Chelsea fan is seen as the perfect successor to John Terry at the heart of the Chelsea defense.

Rice has shone in recent weeks and is the one player in West Ham’s team who has been consistent despite their struggles at the wrong end of the Premier League table this season.

Chelsea have been searching high and low for defensive reinforcements and want more power and strength at center back. Rice can play at center back and in a three he would be prefect. His main position is in holding midfield and his flexibility to strengthen Chelsea’s shaky defense would be key. Rice is close friends with Mason Mount and after leaving Chelsea’s academy as a 14-year-old he has forged out a very good career for himself as a regular for West Ham and England.

Rice would cost a huge sum and this move to Chelsea may hinge on whether or not West Ham are relegated in the final weeks of the 2019-20 Premier League season.

Mexico boss: Jimenez should move to Man United, if he leaves Wolves

Raul Jimenez Manchester United
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Mexico boss Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has said Raul Jimenez should move to Manchester United, if he leaves Wolves.

Jimenez, 29, has been consistently linked with a move to Manchester United, Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and other European giants and the in-form striker has scored 24 goals in all competitions for the Premier League side this season.

Now his El Tri boss has weighed in on the speculation and speaking to ESPN show Futbol Picante, Martino said he would prefer Raul Jimenez to join Manchester United over Juventus if he left Wolves.

“Looking at it from the outside today I cannot see a specialist No. 9 like Raul at United,” Martino said. “There are many forwards like [Marcus] Rashford, [Anthony] Martial and the boy who now plays as right winger: [Mason] Greenwood but since Romelu Lukaku left I can’t see a pure No. 9 like Raul. At Juventus he will have more of a fight because [Cristiano] Ronaldo shares the inside of the pitch with whoever plays alongside him, with [Paulo] Dybala or with [Gonzalo] Higuain and maybe he has a tougher fight there.”

Martino went on to state that he wants Jimenez to do whatever he feels happiest doing and moving to a ‘super club’ doesn’t always work out, as he knows from his one season in charge of Barcelona. Martino also brought up the fact that Jimenez has been at Atletico Madrid and Benfica before and that didn’t really work out, so perhaps staying at Wolves is best for Mexico’s star striker.

“Maybe he wants a bigger challenge because he feels that he is in good shape and has to take advantage of it, maybe he wants to stay in this place, maybe the options you read about are not real and do not exist,” Martino said. “I think the best thing is for Raul to make the decision based on the analysis he makes and with the consensus of his family because, when it comes to enjoying, not only the player suffers and enjoy, but also the family do it.”

Jimenez will be linked with plenty of top clubs this summer and he hasn’t exactly slammed the door on links to some of Europe’s big boys in the past. His manager at Wolves, Nuno Espirito Santo, responded to Martino’s comments by saying: “It’s not the moment to think about anything else. I’m sure Raul is totally, 100% focused on what he has to do at Wolves.”

Since he arrived at Wolves in the summer of 2018 he’s scored 41 goals in 92 games in all competitions and has become one of the top central strikers in the Premier League. His hold-up and link-up play is envied across the league and Martino is right, he would fit in well at Man United as Anthony Martial could move out wide.

Manchester United probably don’t need to sign another striker, though, so Jimenez heading to Juve or one of the Spanish giants makes more sense. Watch this space.

PHOTOS: New Chelsea away kit for 2020-21 unveiled

New Chelsea away kit
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The new Chelsea away kit for 2020-21 has been unveiled and the Blues will wear it for the first time against Crystal Palace on Tuesday (start time, 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Chelsea have gone back to a sky blue away jersey and the design has a herringbone knit throughout, which is the same as their new home jersey for the 2020-21 season which debuted last week.

The west London club state that this away kit “adds an injection of millennial swagger – perfect for the confident, emerging talents lighting up Stamford Bridge under head coach Frank Lampard.”

When it comes to a a new Chelsea kit, or any new kit for that matter, there are always plenty of amateur fashion designers out there. But the response to this new away jersey has been largely positive.

They also have a new shirt sponsor in telecommunications company “Three UK” and you can’t really miss their sponsorship logo on the front of the shirt.

Check out the photos below to see what Christian Pulisic and Co. will be wearing in the Premier League next season, and Frank Lampard hopes it will be worn in the Champions League too as the Blues continue to push to seal a top four finish in his debut season in charge at Stamford Bridge.

This new Chelsea kit, like most kits, will divide opinion.