Gold Cup dress rehersal against Guatemala promises a “good test” for USMNT

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Jurgen Klinsmann and company have one shot to collect their thoughts before this summer’s Gold Cup is upon the U.S. Men’s National Team.

With a squad full of World Cup hopefuls, many will look to earn their way into Brazil, but it won’t be easy.  The first hurdle for the United States in the Gold Cup will be Belize on Tuesday.

Before that is the friendly against Guatemala on Friday at 11 pm on NBC Sports Network.  Jurgen Klinsmann has already said the starting lineup for this match up will be the likely lineup for the beginning stages of the Gold Cup.

Guatemala did not qualify for the Gold Cup, but Klinsmann said he picked them because they will provide exactly the tune up the United States needs.

“They will make it very tight, they will have all the numbers behind the ball, and we have to find ways to break them down,” said Klinsmann in the pre-match press conference. “I think they can give us a good test for what we can expect in the Gold Cup. That’s the reason why we asked them to play the friendly. It’s going to be tricky.”

With DaMarcus Beasley handed the captain’s armband, the defender knows the upcoming competition is a special one for many on the roster.

“We’ve got a job to do” said Beasley. “Any advice I’d give the young guys who haven’t gotten a cap yet is take the opportunity. There’s a lot of guys including myself that got to the World Cup in 2002 – it was this exact tournament. So you don’t take it lightly, you play every game like it’s your last.”

The Guatemala match will be an intriguing warm up, given it remains to be seen how Klinsmann will make use of several players on the roster both old and new.  Landon Donovan returns to the national team fold, while younger players like Jack McInerney and Max Diskerud will look to heed Beasley’s advice.

The last time these two countries met, the USMNT knocked Guatemala out of the World Cup regional qualifiers and began an 11-match losing streak for Los Chapines.  The Central Americans will certainly be looking for revenge as well as any possible way to get out of their funk.

One thing fans should look out for, even if it’s not entirely likely, is for Brek Shea to get a chance to play against Guatemala. He’s not on the Gold Cup roster, but has been training and traveling with the team, and is in the friendly squad.  There may not be too many chances for Klinsmann to get a good look at Shea for the future, so now may be a good opportunity.

Another position with a microscope over it will be the right-back spot.   Look for both Michael Orozco Fiscal and Michael Parkhurst to battle things out.

Klinsmann only gets one chance to not just experiment but also get players to gel and work together in the system he’s devised for the Gold Cup.  It will be interesting to see how he makes use of it.

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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