Initial reactions: U.S. roster to play Costa Rica, Mexico in September

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The dust has hardly settled on United States head coach Jürgen Klinsmann’s roster selections for World Cup qualifiers at Costa Rica and against Mexico in September. That means it’s time for some gut reactions, categorized by player.

Landon Donovan: You had to know this one was coming. Donovan was the best player in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and his resurgence since rediscovering his passion for the game has been nothing short of remarkable. Klinsmann tried to keep the hype down when he talked to the press about Donovan during and since the Gold Cup, but Donovan was clearly a man on a mission to get back into a U.S. jersey in a meaningful game.

Clint Dempsey: Dempsey’s performances against two of the toughest opponents the U.S. will face in qualifying will go a long way toward evaluating his move back to Major League Soccer. The Seattle Sounders FC man hasn’t really made a stamp on any of the three games he has played for his new club, but it takes some adjusting for players once they join (or rejoin) the league, and he is still getting his match fitness back. But with Aron Jóhannsson on such a tear in the Eredivisie and Europa League, Dempsey’s chain could be shorter than ever this time around.

Aron Jóhannsson: Speaking of Jóhannsson, it would have been foolish not to call him in. The AZ Alkmaar man has scored five goals in seven competitive club matches in the young 2013-14 season. Assuming he gets more than nominal playing time, it will be interesting to see if he can turn top club form into goals on the international level, similar to Jozy Altidore’s scoring streak last season at the same club.

John Brooks: After a solid showing against Bosnia-Herzegovina a couple weeks ago, Brooks deserves to get a shot in a competitive match. Not to mention, Germany could still swoop in for him unless he is quickly cap-tied. The 20-year-old looked at least as competent as Omar González, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him start at least one of the games next month.

Brad Evans: This squad is thin on outside backs, which is probably the only reason Brad Evans is still on the roster. Steve Cherundolo is out with another knee surgery, and Timmy Chandler continues to be an enigma. Evans is a stopgap at best at the position, and he was exposed several times in the June friendlies and qualifiers.

Joe Corona: Probably the biggest surprise name of those left off the roster is Joe Corona. The winger showed well at the Gold Cup, and he has been called into several squads for meaningful competition. He is a technical and savvy player who is familiar with the Latin flair both U.S. opponents will bring, as he plays for Club Tijuana in Mexico. Alejandro Bedoya seems to have won a spot ahead of Corona, after completing a move to Ligue 1 side Nantes in the summer. Bedoya also had a solid showing at the Gold Cup.

Mix Diskerud: It’s continually baffling that Mix Diskerud gets called into the fold for the U.S. He played one good game at the Gold Cup, in the final against Panama, and looked average on every other occasion. Even Sacha Kljestan would have been a better choice.

What are your impressions of the roster? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 11 — Time to settle Groups A & B

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Day 12 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Monday, and with it begins the final round of group games to decide the 16 teams headed to the knockout rounds. For the next four days, we’ll be treated to four games each day.

Also, the end of 8 a.m. ET kickoffs. Hooray for sleeping in.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

First up, the conclusion of Group A, where both the hosts, Russia, and Uruguay have already advanced with wins in their first two games. Now, the two meet in the southwestern city of Samara to determine who’ll go through to the round of 16 as the group winners, and who’ll be the runners-up. Most likely awaiting either of them will be Spain and Portugal, pending the order in which they finish in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Speaking of Group B, Spain will finish group play against fourth-place and points-less Morocco, while Portugal have a tricky meeting with third-place Iran, who sit just a point behind the reigning European champions. The winner of Group B will face the runners-up of Group A, and vice versa.

Below is Monday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Monday, June 25

Group A
Uruguay vs. Russia: Samara, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt: Volgograd, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Spain vs. Morocco: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Portugal: Saransk, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Transfer rumor roundup: Emery raiding Sevilla; Wilshere’s suitor(s)

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Unai Emery has reportedly been in contact with at least one former player, Ever Banega, in an attempt to convince the Argentine midfielder to join him at Arsenal.

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Banega, who’ll turn 30 on Friday, played two seasons under Emery at Sevilla — where they won back-to-back Europa League titles (Banega was only at the club for the second and third of three straight from 2013-2016).

With Banega reportedly on the fence about whether or not to leave Sevilla again — he only just returned last summer after one season at Inter Milan — Emery is said to have made a personal call after Arsenal’s bid of roughly $23 million triggered the release clause in Banega’s contract. Sevilla will join Arsenal in the Europa League next season after finishing seventh in La Liga.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Jack Wilshere announced last week that he will leave Arsenal this summer — thus opening up the handful of games for which he was healthy and fit to play each season, perhaps for Banega — which leads us nicely to the final bit of transfer talk for Sunday: West Ham are interested in the 26-year-old, but are reportedly only willing to offer him a one-year contract.

The Hammers’ hesitancy is, of course, a response to his years-long battle with injuries — he’s made just 66 appearances over the last four PL seasons (three with Arsenal, one on loan to Bournemouth).

Two other clubs to keep an eye on, as they’ve reportedly indicated interest in Wilshere and/or been in contact already: Everton and Juventus.

Durmaz condemns Sweden fans’ racist abuse after World Cup loss

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KRASNODAR, Russia (AP) — Sweden midfielder Jimmy Durmaz says the racist abuse aimed at him over social media following the 2-1 loss to Germany at the World Cup has been “completely unacceptable.”

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

After coming on as a substitute, Durmaz gave away the free kick that led to Toni Kroos curling in an injury-time winner in Saturday’s group game. Durmaz has since been subjected to online abuse, including threats to his family.

Before a training session on Sunday, Durmaz — standing in front of the rest of the Sweden squad and beside coach Janne Andersson — read out a statement to the media from a mobile phone.

“When you threaten me, when you call me ‘Arab devil,’ ‘terrorist,’ ‘Taliban,’ then you have gone far beyond the limit,” Durmaz said in the statement, which was published on the Swedish Football Association’s website.

“And even worse, when you go after my family, my children, threaten them. Who does such a thing? It is completely unacceptable.”

Durmaz was born in Sweden to Assyrian parents who emigrated from Turkey.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“I am Swedish and I am proud to play in the Swedish national team. That’s the biggest thing you can do as a football player,” he said in the statement. “I will never let any racists destroy that pride. We must all stand against all forms of racism.”

The Swedish FA has reported the abuse toward Durmaz to police.

“We do not tolerate a player being exposed to threats and violations,” said Hakan Sjostrand, secretary general of the Swedish FA. “It is unpleasant and very upsetting to see the treatment that Jimmy Durmaz has suffered. Completely unacceptable.”

The loss to Germany left Sweden tied on three points with its opponent. Both countries are three points behind Mexico with one game left. Sweden plays Mexico in Yekaterinburg on Wednesday, with Germany taking on South Korea at the same time.