Major League Soccer’s mid-season Rookie of the Year: Dillon Powers

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I’m not even going to pretend there’s an obvious choice here. Unless you didn’t read the headline, you know where we’re going with this one, but he may not even be the best rookie on his own team. And then there’s a certain defender in the northeast whose candidacy may gain momentum if New England’s defensive continues to shine. For now, though, we’re going with …

My pick: the Colorado Rapids’ Dillon Powers

Two winters back, Powers was rumored to be leaving Notre Dame after his junior year, the former U.S. U-20 midfielder set to forgo his last year in South Bend to start his professional career. Instead, the Texan decided to see out his NCAA eligibility, rounding out a senior year that saw him garner first team All-America honors.

When Colorado made him the 11th pick in January’s draft, Powers was that much more ready to go. As a result, the 21-year-old has been able to slot directly in the top of Oscar Pareja’s midfield, already accumulating 1561 minutes in his nascent career. With three goals and two assists, the former Fighting Irish midfielder has made a bigger, more immediate impact than most would have expected.

And not that he should get extra points for difficulty, but Powers has already provided us with one of the season’s highlights:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8_6k4OuBmk]

If that shot went into the stands, Powers would still our pick. Somebody behind DSG’s goal would have been seriously injured, and the special effects from Man of Steel wouldn’t seem so unrealistic after that carnage, but Powers would have still taken up this space.

Colorado was intent on going with youth this season, regardless, but with injuries to the likes of Martin Rivero, Powers hasn’t had any time to adjust to life in Major League Soccer. Which is fine, since it turns out he didn’t it.

Also in the picture: Deshorn Brown, Andrew Farrell; Long shot: Carlos Alvarez

If you want to give this award to Brown, you have my blessing. I know that’s what you were waiting for, and I’m happy to give it, because the effect a player like Brown has had on Colorado’s attack is obvious, Defenses have had trouble with the big 22-year-old’s, speed, size, and willingness. In 1297 minutes (18 games, 14 starts), the Jamaica-born forward has five goals and four assists, leaving him on pace for a very impressive final return.

Andrew Farrell’s numbers aren’t so impressive. Defenders’ never are. That’s not to say he hasn’t been a factor. The right back is a key part of the league’s best defense, and the difference when he’s out of the lineup is obvious.

Still, and this is where the objections come flying, there is a difference between a right back and a central midfielder, and while Farrell may very well be the better long-term prospect, position needs to be a factor in this discussion. If we’re talking about which player has had the better season — who has performed the best, not only absolutely but within the responsibilities of his position — Farrell’s position works against him.

If he’s been good but a central midfielder has been just as good, albeit in a more difficult role, shouldn’t the guy in the middle win out? It’s a potentially interesting debate.

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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