MLS preview: New York Red Bulls at D.C. United

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Neither of these MLS heavies are where they want to be seven weeks into the season. Yes, there is still much soccer ahead. But there’s a lot of deflated return on high expectations so far in 2013 – and the pressure builds for something more with each passing week.

D.C. United cannot score.

One of the team’s prized young midfielders, Nick DeLeon, is hurt. The other, Chris Pontius, just isn’t delivering as expected. Dwayne De Rosario sat out United’s first pair of matches for some preseason foolishness, and now he’s hurt. Throw in Lionard Pajoy’s continued inability to find goal and get a five-game opening series with a lousy two goals.

That puts United 9th in the 10-team Eastern Conference, which is hardly the place anyone expected to find Ben Olsen’s team, one that missed a trip to the MLS Cup final by just a single goal last year.

Mike Petke’s Red Bulls are just a little better at 7th in the East. They are doing OK scoring goals – no surprise considering a roster filled with the likes to Thierry Henry, EPL veteran Tim Cahill and MLS A-lister Fabian Espindola. The Red Bulls’ obvious weakness is preventing them.

They might be a little higher today in the standings but for last week’s late, defensive collapse at Toyota Park. About to cruise Chicago with a 1-1 draw, the Red Bulls allowed two late goals to drop a 3-1 result, which was Chicago’s initial win this year.

As this preview piece points out, New York is therefore responsible for 75 percent of the goals that offensively challenged Chicago has put away in 2013. Not good.

This is one of Major League Soccer’s heavyweight rivalries. In fact, it’s their second meeting this year after an early (and rather peculiar) 0-0 draw back in Week 3. The Red Bulls did pretty much anything they wanted that day to the Olsen’s team, except for score. Petke’s group outshot United 24-5 that day at Red Bull Arena.

United goalkeeper Bill Hamid was quite The Man in that one.

(MORE: MLS rivalry backstories – New York and D.C. United)

Otherwise, Perry Kitchen has been big in United’s midfield. And center back Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald have been solid.

Dax McCarty has continued to impress in the Red Bulls’ midfield. Henry is still a game-changer, although he’s been limited with injuries again this year. He should have a big role today, apparently likely to start for the first time since these teams’ last meeting, back on March 16.

The full, fact-stacked match preview from MLSSoccer.com is here.

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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