Montréal switches back to their spring set-up, stops the flood of goals

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With Marco Di Vaio back in Italy, something was bound to change for the Impact, but even if the Montréal’s leading goal scorer wasn’t back home dealing with a family issue, Marco Schällibaum’s team needed to be tweaked. They’d allowed 12 goals in their last four games, dropped points to the likes of Toronto FC and Chivas USA, and lost their hold on first in the East. Montréal had let the pack come back to them. For Saturday’s visit from FC Dallas, the Impact needed to try something different.

That something different was the re-introduction of the one-front. For most of their swoon, Montréal’s played a 4-4-2 – Schällibaum’s attempt to get Bologna loanee Daniel Paponi into the team, changing their set-up from the 4-5-1 (4-1-4-1) formation the Impact rode to the top of the conference. Davy Arnaud’s fitness was also a factor in the switch, but even after the captain’s return, Montréal has persisted with two up top, leaving them one lighter in the middle. On Saturday, however, Montréal was back to their five-midfield ways.

The result, as you’d expect from only 90 minutes of play, was somewhat inconclusive. The Impact kept a rare clean sheet in their 0-0 draw. On the balance of play, Montréal were probably the better side, though not so much better that Dallas deserved to go home empty handed. Ultimately, without Di Vaio in the team, the hosts were unable to produce a goal, dropping points at home.

There were reasons to think things could be better going forward. The increased influence Montréal had on the match was obvious, though that may have been a function of Dallas’s style, as well. The game’s slow tempo in tandem with the 4-1-4-1 versus 4-2-3-1 matchup meant the game would likely stay low scoring. But if Di Vaio was in the team and crafting the type of isolated openings he did during Montréal’s hot start, Saturday’s game could have looked a lot like those the Impact rode to the top of the Eastern Conference.

For a team with a particular need to protect a solid but slow central defense, dropping a man in the middle was always worth watching, but curbing a run that saw them leaking goals, a five-midfielder Montréal provided a little more evidence to suggest they need to revert to their spring formula. Perhaps Schällibaum sees a need to get an extra forward into the XI, but right now, he’s shunning something that works.

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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