Let’s not read too much into Jurgen Klinsmann’s comments on Landon Donovan

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There’s a school of thought that holds Landon Donovan is due some extra respect for the time he’s given to U.S. soccer, an argument that makes sense on a lot of levels. The man’s been playing for his country since his mid-teens, and the toll it’s taken contributed to his need to do walkabout this winter. If you’re going to pave a path into the national team for anybody, it’s going to be Landon Donovan.

But Jurgen Klinsmann’s not a paved path kind of guy. As we saw with Carlos Bocanegra’s exclusion from last round’s qualifying squad, the U.S. boss is an on-the-field guy, which is why these comments shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Speaking to assembled media in Washington, D.C. (and captured here by Reuters’ Simon Evans), Klinsmann hints we’re a ways away from seeing Donovan with the national team:

“I’m not talking names but there are players clearly ahead of Landon Donovan right now …”

“Things will develop over time, we will see how he will do in the next couple of weeks, months and we will look at the entire picture and make our calls.”

Donovan supporters who saw the LA star’s goal and assist against Sporting KC won’t like the sound of that. If they happen to subscribe to the theory that Donovan’s not only an obligatory choice but a must on the team sheet, Klinsmann’s words will be anathema. This is Landon Donovan we’re talking about.

But Jurgen Klinsmann can’t make his Bocanegra decision one day and open the door for Donovan the next. He can’t take a stand on Jozy Altidore last fall and roll out a red carpet for Donovan in spring. There are standards players have to meet, Klinsmann does a good job of articulating those to his players, and when you don’t meet them, your spot in the team isn’t assured.

Taking a prolonged period of time off from soccer doesn’t endear you to your national team coach. Donovan knew that when he took time off – time he deemed he needed to recharge . Add that sabbatical to the camps Donovan missed during Klinsmann’s first year-plus, and the national team icon has missed most of the team-building that’s happened since Bob Bradley left.

From Evans’ reporting:

“There is a chemistry being developed of a group and you have to feel where it is moving towards. He hasn’t been part of the development of that team most of the time over the last two years, so chemistry is extremely important,” he said.

“Most of the time, he was not part of that process, that was his choice and I totally understand that, it’s no problem. But at the same time we are moving forward at our speed and therefore it is not down to one game when you score a goal and say now I am back in the team – it doesn’t work that way.

Donovan will be watched and evaluated, Klinsmann went on to way. Just like anybody else. That may not be good enough for some, but at least it’s consistent.

And that consistency is why Donovan fans shouldn’t worry. If he keeps playing like he did against Kansas City, Donovan will be back in the national team in no time. It’s just how Klinsmann works.

Come fall, this will be a non-issue.

 

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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