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“An underlying current of quality”

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In retrospect, Keegan Rosenberry could’ve seen it as a sign of something good.

Participating in a match to help USMNT reserves stay fit during the Copa America Centenario, Rosenberry wasn’t slotted with his Philadelphia teammates; The right back was plugged in behind winger Christian Pulisic for the U.S. side.

“At first I kinda thought it was a coincidence,” Rosenberry said. “What a chance to hopefully show well. But the more people I talked to, it seemed they wanted to get a proper look at me. As the season progressed, I didn’t think too much of it.”

[ MORE: Fire add new DP striker from Legia Warsaw ]

Still, that was one of just two experiences with the U.S. set-up. Rosenberry had not represented the Americans at any level when he was called up for a U-23 camp for college players only, listed as a midfielder, in 2015.

In the short period since, Rosenberry has grown into a player pegged as a to get a USMNT look under Bruce Arena, something the coach confirmed in a Facebook Q&A last week.

“I’m obviously very, very excited to even be in the discussion,” he said. “I can’t wait.”

Neither can U.S. fans eager to see how Rosenberry compares to DeAndre Yedlin and other options on the right. That’s pretty remarkable considering the right back showed up at Georgetown in 2011 at a different position.

“He was always playing as a center mid,” said Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese. “But my assistant, Zach Samol, saw him first and said he loved this kid because he’s so technical. He’s very clean, tough, quick. He tackles. He makes good decisions with the ball, and has good spring for not being a 6-foot kid, and his habits are really good.”

Wiese says Rosenberry became a right back by virtue of positional need. The Hoyas wanted him on the pitch, but had MLS prospects up-and-down the center of the park. Their holes going into Rosenberry’s freshman year were striker, center back and right back, and they filled them pretty well: Brandon Allen at striker (now with RBNY),  Cole Seiler at center back (Vancouver), and Rosenberry on the right.

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“At first it was a shock to my confidence because I played all my life in the middle, and I fancied myself there,” Rosenberry said. “To hear that (he’d play right back), it wasn’t the first thing I wanted to see. But then I saw the talent of the players on the team, and I thought if I could get on the field I’d play any position.”

He started every match of his four years at Georgetown and captaining the club the last two seasons. The Hoyas went to the national championship game in Rosenberry’s freshman year, and went to the third round twice and quarterfinals once in his final three seasons.

“That experience in college was so important because I felt like I was still developing physically and mentally,” Rosenberry said. “Being a captain there for a couple of years and trying to manage the personalities and egos and demands of 25 guys really helps you mature whether you like it or not, and it makes you be a leader. It was something that I really valued.”

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12: Cedrick Mabwati #11 of the Columbus Crew SC and Keegan Rosenberry #12 of the Philadelphia Union battle for position as they race to control the ball in the second half on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Philadelphia defeated Columbus 2-1. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Rosenberry battles for position with Columbus’ Cedrick Mabwati (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Rosenberry and Georgetown teammate Joshua Yaro were both selected by Philadelphia in the Top Three of this year’s SuperDraft. To wind up with Philadelphia was a boon for the Harrisburg, Penn., native. Rosenberry wasn’t a member of the Union’s Academy but had trained with now head coach Jim Curtin, and he admired the boss. He was inspired to put on the shirt.

Rosenberry played every minute for Curtin’s unit this season, completing almost 300 more passes than anyone on the team. Only attack-minded players Tranquillo Barnetta and Seb Le Toux completed more key passes than the rookie.

“Going to team like Philadelphia who I was familiar with before the draft, knowing some of the staff and some of the players and where to go for training, it makes you feel like you belong and I think it helped me with the transition period,” Rosenberry said. “I’m really thankful for that.”

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He admits a sour taste from bowing out to Toronto FC in the first round of the playoffs, but Jim Curtin’s Union wasn’t expected to make the postseason this season. Rosenberry was a big part of the surprise, his work earning him a nod as a finalist for the MLS Rookie of the Year award ultimately claimed by Jordan Morris.

Before the Union begin their follow-up run in MLS, Rosenberry will — barring a dramatic turn of events — represent the United States men’s national team at January camp under Bruce Arena.

Wiese sees a comparison between Rosenberry and a current USMNT player that the Georgetown coach helped recruit as an assistant at Notre Dame in 2005: Matt Besler.

There’s a natural comparison of the two players. Besler is taller, and Rosenberry a bit quicker, but both are praised for their inherent leadership and speak about the game in an analytical way.

“There’s just a real quality in both of those guys,” Wiese said. “There’s an underlying current of quality in everything they do, in terms of how they manage themselves, train, take care of their bodies, how serious they are about their approach to their craft and you’re like, yeah, of course they’re going to make it. Those are two guys you never have to ask to do anything twice. You never need to bring them into the office to chastise them for doing something off the field.”

[ MORE: What counts as success for Bruce Arena? ]

While Rosenberry says there was a chance he’d have to fill in at center mid following deep injuries to Philadelphia’s corps, he expect he’s a right back for life right now. And he’s grateful chance put him in that position once he left his youth club, Penn Fusion, for college in Washington, D.C.

“I took it as a challenge to hone myself as a better 1v1 defender and all the traits that come with the position,” he said. “The similarities between center mid and right back might not be too far off in terms of distribution and connecting passes and whatnot. Where it’s different is getting exposed as a defender 1-on-1 and trying to deny service where in the middle you’re maybe trying to slow things down, stop counter attacks, or funnel things one way or another. Interestingly enough, I think it made me more marketable. There are 3-5 midfielders on the field at all times, but there’s only one right back. From my sophomore year on, I viewed myself as a right back.”

And U.S. fans may be viewing him there for a while. Bring on January.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Premier League storylines: Matchweek 28

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Matchweek 28 is almost here in the Premier League and it’s time to focus on the top storylines ahead of the action.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Below we take a deeper look and preview the weekend’s biggest battles.


Liverpool’s quest for invincibility and immortality [ STREAM ]

  • Watford v. Liverpool, Saturday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

With the PL title having been in the bag for two or three months already, the Reds’ pursuit of history which can almost certainly never be matched is the last remaining point on their checklist. Not only are they unbeaten through 27 games and chasing Arsenal’s “Invincibles” of the 2003-04 season, they are already within 11 points of that famed Gunners side’s final tally (90)… with 11 games still to play. Jurgen Klopp‘s side has dropped two points, in a single draw back in mid-October, all season. That’s 18 straight wins. That’s over four months without dropping a point. Can they max out at 112 points? Can they avoid defeat for another two and a half months? The quest continues with a trip to 19th-place Watford on Saturday. Oh, those poor Hornets.


Chelsea lead the way in top-four/five race [ STREAM ]

  • Bournemouth v. Chelsea, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Given recent developments between Manchester City and UEFA, this season’s top-four race is now a top-five race for Champions League qualification. A race for top-four was already going to be mighty interesting with four sides separated by just three points, beginning with fourth-place Chelsea, prior to the announcement of Man City’s ban. Since then, the Blues snapped a four-game winless skid with a victory over Tottenham Hotspur and have a three-point advantage on fifth and sixth place. Simply put, it’s Frank Lampard‘s side’s spot to lose.


Fifth place is Man United’s to lose [ STREAM ]

  • Everton v. Man United, Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Now, two weeks after the ban, we have seven-horse race for fifth, beginning with current leaders Manchester United. From the Red Devils all the way down to Everton in 11th, five points separate the seven sides hoping to capitalize on City’s misfortune. Back-to-back victories over Chelsea and Watford have seen Man United leapfrog Tottenham and take the driver’s seat ahead of Matchweek 28. A victory at Goodison Park on Sunday would obviously keep them there while also effectively eliminating one of the six chasing sides right out of the starting gate.


Spurs slowly crumbling as injuries debilitate attack [ STREAM ]

  • Spurs v. Wolves, Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold)

And then there’s Spurs, who sat fifth for quite some time and looked like they might be able to hold on and challenge for fourth, even after Harry Kane suffered a torn hamstring and could miss the rest of the season. That was, of course, before Son Heung-min broke his arm, perhaps also resigning him to the same season-ending fate. Now, Jose Mourinho is left with Lucas Moura and Dele Alli as very much not-center-forward options to play center forward. If last Saturday’s loss to Chelsea was any indication, the final few weeks of soccer played by Spurs will not be particularly fun to watch.

Pardew confronted by frustrated Den Haag fans on training field

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Alan Pardew is experiencing a few — shall we say — growing pains in his first couple of months in charge of Eredivisie side ADO Den Haag, culminating in a number of frustrated fans entering the club’s training field and confronting the English manager on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Jurgen Klinsmann’s parting shots cause anger at Hertha Berlin ]

According to reports, around 10 supporters made their way onto the club’s training field to protest recent results. Den Haag have won just one of six games since Pardew was named manager on Christmas Eve. That lone victory came on Pardew’s debut all the way back on Jan. 19. Since then, they have lost three games and drawn two.

Talks between the fans and staff are said to have gone smoothly, but their mere presence is a clear indicator that Pardew isn’t exactly universally loved. With Den Haag currently sitting in 17th place — one spot and four points from the relegation playoff place — Pardew’s Dutch adventure is looking more and more like it’ll be just a six-month stay as his initial contract stated.

[ MORE: Man City makes statement, comes back in Madrid ]

Den Haag CEO Mohammed Hamdi commented on the fans’ protest with the following statement: “ADO Den Haag has one of the most loyal groups of fans in the Netherlands. They are so passionate and want to support the team. The club and supporters are supporting Alan Pardew and the team.”

Klinsmann’s parting shots cause anger at Hertha Berlin

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BERLIN (AP) Hertha Berlin thought it was done with Jurgen Klinsmann after his abrupt resignation as coach.

Not so.

[ MORE: Man City makes statement, comes back in Madrid ]

The publication of details from a 22-page diary that Klinsmann wrote during his short time at Hertha has caused a furor at the club and tipped an already testy break-up even further into acrimony.

Hertha general manager Michael Preetz said the club was checking its legal options. He was accused by Klinsmann of “catastrophic failures” and a “culture of lying.”

The Sport Bild magazine published details from Klinsmann’s journal on Wednesday, when it reported that one of the 55-year-old former great’s conclusions after quitting on Feb. 11 was that “the management team has to be replaced immediately. If that doesn’t happen, the great new signings will become average players after a while.”

With Klinsmann at the helm, Hertha spent an estimated $83 million on player signings in January – more than any other team in the world. The moves were made possible because of financier Lars Windhorst’s $250 million investment in the club.

[ MORE: Three things we learned: Real Madrid 1-2 Man City ]

Klinsmann was particularly critical in his journal of Preetz, whose functions he wanted to take over while he was still coach. Klinsmann had said he left because he couldn’t work with the German coaching model, where a team manager shares responsibility for player signings and welfare. Klinsmann wanted full control for every sporting aspect.

Klinsmann said former Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick had turned down the opportunity to coach Hertha in November — before he himself took over — because he couldn’t work under Preetz. That claim was rejected by Rangnick’s agent, Marc Kosicke, on Thursday.

In his journal, Klinsmann also made comments on every Hertha player, describing Salomon Kalou as “too old and content,” fellow forward Dodi Lukebakio as “not willing to suffer,” and the goalkeepers of “not being Bundesliga standard.”

Hertha president Werner Gegenbauer hit back at the “shabby allegations” and a visibly annoyed Preetz said the attacks were “perfidious and unworthy.”

[ MORE: Lyon scores memorable win over misfiring Juventus ]

Windhorst, who brought Klinsmann to the club in the first place, declined to comment. Interim Hertha coach Alexander Nouri, who worked as Klinsmann’s assistant for the 77 days he was at the club, said he “knew nothing” about the journal.

“It’s indisputable that the club is damaged,” Preetz said.

The club has other problems. Klinsmann’s tenure as coach did not go as planned – he was supposed to lead the club toward the European qualification places after he was appointed on Nov. 27. He left after an uninspiring record of three wins, three draws and three losses in the Bundesliga. Hertha was also knocked out of the German Cup by Schalke.

Nouri took over and Hertha earned a 2-1 win at Paderborn, but that that was followed last weekend by a 5-0 loss at home against Cologne. The Hertha fans mocked the players by singing “Oh wie ist das schon” (Oh, how wonderful).

Hertha is only six points above Fortuna Dusseldorf in the relegation zone ahead of their match on Friday.

CCL wrap: Stoppage-time GK goal saves Tigres; Henry’s Montreal grinds it out

Goalie goal
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Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League nearly featured an upset for the ages.

It will have to be content with a finish for all time.

El Salvador’s Alianza came back from a 4-2 aggregate deficit to nearly knock UANL Tigres out of the CCL, but Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman provided a stoppage time goal to eliminate the upstarts.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Tigres will now meet Ronny Delia’s New York City FC, who had little trouble holding up its first-leg lead over San Carlos.

Thierry Henry’s Montreal had to sweat out a scoreless draw with Saprissa, but rode its two away goals to a date with either Seattle or Olimpia.

Guatemala’s Comunicaciones and Club America are the final match of Wednesday, kicking off at 10 a.m. ET.

UANL Tigres 4-2 (5-4 agg.) Alianza

What a match. Down 2-1 after one leg, Tigres scored thrice in the first 23 minutes. Ex-West Ham man Enner Valencia struck first before Andre-Pierre Gignac score in the 17th and 23rd.

But Juan Carlos Portillo scored twice in nine minutes before halftime to put the away goals advantage in the Salvadorans’ corner.

Tigres out-attempted Alianza 19-6 but couldn’t get it done, and my goodness did it need shot No. 19 from its Argentine international backstop.

Great header for a goalie.

Montreal Impact 0-0 (2-2 agg.) Deportivo Saprissa

This was a dreadful match, but it won’t bother Titi too much; Henry’s men had just 31 percent of the ball and nearly scored anyway through Shamit Shome.

The Impact showed a lot of guts and discipline in frustrating the Costa Ricans, who were disappointed when Clement Diop made an incredible save in the 89th minute.

NYCFC 1-0 (6-3 agg.) San Carlos

Alexander Callens scored the lone goal of the contest, the damage done in Costa Rica last week.

Speaking of damage done, Delia had a “Welcome to CONCACAF officiating” moment.