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USMNT: Takeaways from Arena’s camp roster

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Bruce Arena released his 32-man roster for this January’s USMNT camp, a group which will provide the lineups for friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica.

[ REPORT: Bradley offered Norway job ]

There are a lot of names which won’t surprise thanks to either regular inclusion or Arena’s awesome Facebook Live sessions and media conference calls where he was wide open about prospects like Keegan Rosenberry or Sebastian Lletget.

He’s here?!? And he isn’t?!?

The heading may lead you to believe the exclamation points are made in anger, but that’s in no way the case; Seeing a new coach’s roster release — especially for an MLS-only January camp — is a fascinating exercise not unlike popping out to the Christmas tree on the morning of Dec. 25.

So, thanks, Santa Bruce Arena.

We’ll get to the omissions — at least perceived ones — in a bit, but let’s start with the names that leapt boldest off the page. Kekuta Manneh is a thrilling prospect, one who would be a household names were it not for injury and his status in the Vancouver market (which is fun to watch for diehards but rarely gets national TV time). Both Manneh (The Gambia) and goalkeeper call-up Stefan Frei (Switzerland) have not yet been cleared to represent the United States.

Vancouver Whitecaps' Kekuta Manneh, of Gambia, celebrates his goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy during the second half of an MLS soccer game on Saturday, April 19, 2014, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)
Manneh (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

[ MORE: Revisiting Arena’s first run with USMNT ]

There’s also DC United right back Taylor Kemp, who hasn’t had a chance to rep his nation since a 2008 turn with the U.S. U-20 side. Chris Pontius has also battled injury, but DC and now Philadelphia fans will understand why there’s a group which has long-clamored to see him wear red, white, and blue.

Tommy McNamara seems to be getting the most buzz amongst omissions, and others will mention NYCFC teammate and once-future-Landon-Donovan (we kid) Mix Diskerud.

But what about Justin Morrow? From Notre Dame to Toronto FC, the intrepid fullback has succeeded every time he’s asked to raise his game. It’s a crowded midfield, but New England’s Kelyn Rowe is a name that could’ve easily got a look.

Again, some of these names may be dealing with undisclosed injuries, so they may not be true omissions.


It’s different now (in reality and the media)

At the risk of looking like high-level subtweeting, there’s a respected-enough soccer mind in social media who has already begun showcasing the difference in respect between Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann.

Arena called up Graham Zusi as a right back for the United States national team’s January camp, a move that doesn’t normally need to be justified. National team coaches have needs that cannot be fixed in a transfer market, and the U.S. has a number of unavailable right backs in Europe right now (Eric Lichaj, DeAndre Yedlin, Jonathan Spector among them).

Again, this is totally cool.

Yet if you’re of the mind to say it’s cool because Zusi played a handful of games at right back last season, then you better not have raged when Klinsmann defenders pointed out that left wing Fabian Johnson spent a decent-enough portion of his career at left back.

[ MORE: What counts as success for Arena’s second run? ]

Sporting Kansas City's Graham Zusi, right, avoids a tackle by Los Angeles Galaxy's Tommy Meyer while heading toward the goal during the second half of an MLS soccer game Saturday, July 19, 2014, in Kansas City, Kan. (AP Photo/Topeka Capital-Journal, Chris Neal)
Zusi (AP Photo/Topeka Capital-Journal, Chris Neal)

Yes, a serious tournament is much different than a January camp that should see the Yanks succeed against Jamaica (and probably versus a much-weakened Serbia, too). And it’s good to have a reminder that a legendary acumen in United States soccer history allows more leeway with fans than a guy who scored a ton of goals in Europe.

No need to name names, let’s be old school and proper, but suffice to say this: we’re in a new era and we clearly all want it to work. Maybe it’s simply a honeymoon stage, but it will be interesting to monitor how quickly it might sour.


And, oh, the super vets

Arena would want to strike a balance between new blood and totally eschewing players who became fixtures under Klinsmann, especially on the MLS side, but it’s still a bit surprising to see Chris Wondolowski and Nick Rimando.

Both are still among the best at their positions in Major League Soccer, and there can be few qualms with their inclusions aside from younger names missing out. There also needs to be a batch of players to show new guys the ropes, yes, even under a new boss.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Bruce Arena the coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy looks on during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 match between Liverpool FC and Besiktas JK at Anfield on February 19, 2015 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Arena (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

With Jones and DaMarcus Beasley, there’s little question they still offer something at a higher class than what’s being left off the roster.

The call-ups of Wondolowski, Rimando, and Chad Marshall show that Arena’s focus is much more short-term, and that’s a hole dug by Klinsmann’s 0-2 start to World Cup qualifying. If the Yanks were 2-0, or had claimed four points from the first two matches, maybe we see Khiry Shelton, Tim Parker, or Bobby Shuttleworth instead.

Plus, the delicious irony and borderline sardonicism of a late rescue goal from Wondolowski in March is too much to pass up.

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Cole returns to Chelsea as youth team coach

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One of Chelsea’s best players in club history is back at his old stomping grounds in a new role.

Chelsea finally confirmed over their social media channels that former left back Ashley Cole is back at the club coaching in the academy, helping the next generation of stars grow and learn the games. Specifically, Cole is coaching the U-15 squad.

[READ: Top Premier League Storylines]

“I’m also doing my badges at the moment and so being here at Chelsea means I have the chance to coach every day, whereas maybe if I wasn’t working at a club it would be hard for me to get the hours in,” Cole told Chelsea’s website. “I’m learning not just how to be a coach and how to speak to people in a different environment but the side of coaching that you don’t see like planning the sessions and setting up the equipment.

“As a player, you just turn up for a session and do it. If it’s a possession drill, you just arrive and try to keep the ball but now I’m getting to understand that there are always ideas behind a particular session or practice. Organization has to be key and those are the little details that it takes to be a great coach.”

While plenty from Cole’s era have moved into the media for lucrative punditry roles, it’s nice to see players like Cole and his former teammate Frank Lampard, now Chelsea coach, go into coaching to help pass on some of the great lessons they’ve learned during their careers. .

Cole said in the interview that he wasn’t sure what was next after playing three seasons for the LA Galaxy and then joining Lampard at Derby County for the second half of last season. He added that he got his first taste of coaching kids while with the Galaxy, helping some of the academy players and taking part in video sessions.

“The Academy are very good at giving ex-players a route back to the club and a chance to learn as coaches,” Cole said. “They’re eager to bring in people who understand what it means to be at Chelsea and what it means to wear the badge. You have to be a top player to play for Chelsea so they want those top ex-players influencing and trying to help the next generation develop and be better players.”

Spanish FA once again opposes La Liga match in U.S.

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For the second consecutive season, La Liga and Relevant Sports have proposed a league match to take place this winter in the U.S.

And once again, the La Liga proposal doesn’t have the support of its national soccer federation.

[READ: La Liga wants to move Villarreal-Atletico Madrid to Miami]

Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), told reporters on Thursday that it would oppose the match taking place outside of Spain’s borders, keeping a consistent line in the sand on how far globalization can go in soccer.

“It would disrupt the competition,” Rubiales said, via AS. “To play a game in Miami, La Liga needs permission from five bodies that it doesn’t have.”

The five bodies Rubiales referred to are the RFEF, FIFA, CONCACAF, U.S. Soccer and MLS.

Last time around, Relevant Sports and La Liga announced a long-term, lucrative marketing contract to expand the brand’s footprint in the Americas, and soon after, petitioned to move Girona’s home game against Barcelona to Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, the home stadium of Relevant Sports owner Stephen Ross and his Miami Dolphins.

Ultimately, La Liga president Javier Tebas and Relevant Sports were unable to get permission from the RFEF or FIFA to hold the event outside Spain and it went off as expected in Girona. At the time, Spain’s player’s union and fans groups opposed the move. Tebas has filed a lawsuit in Spain to try to force the RFEF to approve their request, but it seems unlikely to be awarded and it surely doesn’t provide any good will between the two parties.

There’s been plenty of talk about bringing league games abroad before, but it has just been talk so far. The Premier League considered adding an extra game to the season to be played all over the world, but never went through with creating plans for matches.

Associations – not leagues, to be clear – have brought things like Super Cups abroad. For example, the RFEF moved the 2018 Spanish Super Cup to Tangiers, Morocco, while the France Football Federation has brought its national Super Cup match to both the U.S. and Montreal, Canada in recent years. However, the argument in favor of bringing those games abroad is they’re basically meaningless. Meanwhile, one result in a league season could – in theory – determine whether a team is relegated or not, especially if the margin is three points or less.

We could see another legal fight on our hands, so watch this space, there’s plenty more to come.

Rodgers excuses Maddison’s behavior after England departure

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Leicester City and England midfielder James Maddison made headlines for the wrong reasons after he was pictured last week watching the England match at the Czech Republic from a casino.

Despite the negative attention from Maddison’s decision to watch the game at that venue, he has the backing of his club manager, Brendan Rodgers.

“The kid went away with the international team and took ill while he was away,” Rodgers said, via the Guardian. “He wanted to stay and hopefully be ready for the second game. But the England medical staff – which I can understand, as he had flu and they didn’t want that to spread to his teammates – decided it’s best for him to leave the camp. So he leaves, gets some tablets with our guys at the club, then he feels better.

“He watched the game at home on his own on the Friday and then goes out at half-time – probably he’ll make better decisions in his life but he went to a casino on his own to sit and watch the second half by a poker table. The suggestions are he left England purposelessly and then goes to a casino but that’s totally not the case at all. But his eyes have been opened now to the wider world in terms of what he did. He knows in hindsight he’s made a mistake.”

Considering all that went on during England’s international break, from the poor performance in Prague to the horrible racism endured in Bulgaria, this is a bit of a silly scandal. To be honest, as long as Maddison is taking care of his body and himself, why does it matter if he was at a casino, or a pub, or anywhere?

However, there’s no denying that the optics look bad. Folks didn’t know that he arrived to England camp with the flu, or a flu-like illness at least, and the England medical staff are right to send him away to make sure no one else gets sick. He may have been feeling better by Friday and wanted to get out of the house. I think we’ve all been there after being sick for a few days.

The most important lesson for Maddison is to learn that his actions, out of context, can be misunderstood. In terms of soccer, after Ross Barkley’s performance for England, Maddison will have to prove in his club form that he should still have a place in the England team for the near future. There’s only two more international dates left before the 2020 Euros, so time is running out for Maddison to make an impact to Southgate.

Tierney, Lacazette available for Arsenal

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Arsenal are edging closer to finally having a full-strength squad.

Ahead of Monday’s prime-time matchup with Sheffield United, Arsenal manager Unai Emery confirmed that Kieran Tierney was in line to make his Premier League debut, while Alexandre Lacazette was back in full training and should be in the gameday squad.

“Today is Lacazette’s first training back with us,” Emery said in a press conference on Thursday. “He finished it well and he’s feeling well with his injuries. Tomorrow we will be training again and he will be with us. We will decide.

“The most important thing is that first he is training, then secondly it’s whether he can be with us and it depends how he can feel in the next days training with us, whether his ankle is not giving him any more problems.”

This is a huge boost to Arsenal, which has had to rely on some youngsters and have made some lineup changes to accommodate not having Lacazette on the field. Tierney meanwhile could step into a position where there’s already a decent starter, Sead Kolasinac.

Lacazette’s return also couldn’t have come at a better time. In Premier League action, Arsenal’s high-powered offense has been stymied, scoring just two goals in the last two league games. Meanwhile, against weaker defenses in the UEFA Europa League and the Carabao Cup, Arsenal has bagged a total of 12 goals.

The veteran Frenchman has scored two goals in three appearances so far this season, including a big goal just before halftime in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham. However, he suffered a long-term ankle injury in that match that has kept him on the sidelines for more than a month.

“[Tierney is] ready to play,” Emery later said. Now we have two options in that left-back role with Sead Kolasinac and him. We’re going to play a lot of matches after Monday. We will need every player. It depends how he comes into the first training with us, Sead, after his international matches. We now have two players in that position and we can use one on Monday, it depends how they are, one or the other.”

Tierney, the 22-year-old Scottish left back, has made two appearances for the Arsenal first team since recovering from a double hernia operation over the summer. Signed from Celtic for around $32 million, Tierney adds a skill that Kolasinac has struggled with – expert crosser of the ball into the box, where the likes of Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can score when given a decent chance.