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.

Dortmund hammer Freiburg but gain no ground on Bayern

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Borussia Dortmund moved back within one point of Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich with a 4-0 win against Freiburg on Sunday.

[ LA LIGA: Real Madrid win to stay within striking distance of 2nd ]

Dortmund went ahead in the 11th minute when 19-year-old Jadon Sancho scored from the six-yard box after a run by Marco Reus. It was Sancho’s 11th Bundesliga goal this season.

Dortmund added three after the interval with goals from Reus, Mario Gotze and Paco Alcacer with a penalty.

[ MORE: PSG crowned Ligue 1 champions with five games left ]

In the day’s other game, Hertha Berlin was held 0-0 at home by bottom side Hannover, which ended an eight-game losing streak.

On Saturday, Bayern beat Werder Bremen 1-0.

With four rounds left, Bayern leads with 70 points, Dortmund has 69 and Leipzig is third with 61.

La Liga: Real Madrid win to stay within striking distance of 2nd

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: PSG crowned Ligue 1 champions with five games left ]

Real Madrid 3-0 Athletic Bilbao

Karim Benzema bagged a hat trick (WATCH HERE) — his 19th, 20th and 21st goals of the league season (second-most, 12 behind Lionel Messi) — to send Real Madrid to a comfortable victory over Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu. The result also keeps Los Blancos within four points of capital rivals Atletico Madrid in something of a battle for second place behind runaway leaders Barcelona.

Benzema has scored 10 goals in his last seven La Liga appearances, a run in which Madrid have complied a 5W-1D-1L record. Benzema failed to score in Zinedine Zidane’s re-debut as Madrid manager, but has scored eight goals in five games since.

Sunday’s game marked the 300th league appearance for midfielder and 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric in a Real Madrid shirt.

Getafe 3-0 SevillaWATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Sevilla’s hopes of returning to the UEFA Champions League following a one-year hiatus took a serious hit on Sunday, as Pablo Machin’s side was hammered by Getafe, the side which now occupies fourth place, two points ahead of them. Getafe continue to enjoy their meteoric rise through the Spanish ranks, as they were competing in the second division this time two years ago.

Two of the three goals the scored on Sunday came from the penalty spot, as Jaime Mata and Jorge Molina converted in the 35th and 45th+4′, respectively. Molina completed the scoring eight minutes into the second half.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Valencia
Levante 2-2 Espanyol
Villarreal 2-1 Leganes

PSG wins French league after 2nd-place Lille fails to win

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain clinched the French league title without kicking a ball as second-place Lille could only draw 0-0 at Toulouse on Sunday.

Lille had to win to have any chance of catching PSG, but PSG is now 16 points ahead of its only rival with five matches left after this weekend.

After failing to clinch the title in the past three matches, drawing one and losing two, PSG can celebrate the eighth title in its history ahead of its home game against Monaco later Sunday.

It is PSG’s sixth title in the last seven seasons, with only Monaco in 2017 breaking PSG’s dominance.

Although the title was long expected from a side scoring 92 goals in 32 games so far, it took longer than it should have.

PSG could have won it three games ago, but drew 2-2 at home to Strasbourg when a win would have clinched it.

Then PSG needed a draw at Lille last Sunday, only to lose 5-1 in the club’s heaviest defeat since Qatari investors QSI took charge of the club in June 2011.

A win away to Nantes would have sufficed, too, on Wednesday night only for PSG to lose 3-2 .

The 10 goals conceded in those three games made for PSG’s worst defensive record during a three-game spell since 1985.

Also Sunday, striker Kalifa Coulibaly scored twice as 13th-place Nantes beat 17th-place Amiens 3-2.

Later, Saint-Etienne needed a draw at Reims to move above Marseille and into fourth place.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Klopp hails Liverpool mettle in face of “proper banana skin”

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Jurgen Klopp knows that more than a few clubs would’ve slipped up Sunday at Cardiff City, given the hosts’ desperation and the visitors’ midweek triumph, but his Reds stood up to the test.

[ RECAP: Cardiff 0-2 Liverpool ]

Liverpool beat Cardiff City 2-0, scoring a pair of second half goals to go back atop the Premier League before Manchester City plays its final match-in-hand of the season in a midweek Manchester Derby.

“It was prepared to be a proper banana skin and we knew that, the boys were unbelievable,” Klopp said after his team kept a second consecutive clean sheet.

He insists that he’s not feeling pressure as Liverpool may need to win every one of its matches and get help to capture its first Premier League crown.

“I only know about me and I didn’t feel it (the pressure) we have to do it like we do it. We cannot change it. The boys try really with all they have, we only speak about the things we have to do. Their attitude is outstanding and it’s a tough season but a very positive one as well.”

Liverpool has two banana skins left, a visit from Huddersfield and trip to Newcastle, closing out the league slate with Wolves at Anfield.