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Projecting USMNT squad for March friendlies

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In a little more than two weeks, members of Gregg Berhalter’s first full U.S. Men’s National Team squad will be making their way to Florida, ahead of the first of two friendlies.

Since these friendlies are part of FIFA’s official international window, everyone will be available for selection – barring injuries. Following the USMNT’s annual January camp, in which Berhalter got to assess and analyze some of the top domestic-based players, Berhalter now can test his playing style with the dozens of Americans playing abroad. Berhalter recently visited some USMNT players in Europe, and right now he’s likely whittling down his 23-man roster for the upcoming matches.

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The U.S. is set to face Ecuador in Orlando on March 21 and Chile in Houston on March 26. Take a look at who we think may be called up for these matches, assuming everyone is healthy.


GOALKEEPERS (3)

Zack Steffan, Ethan Horvath, Brad Guzan

As the USMNT moves into the future, Steffan is the clear No. 1 between the pipes. With Steffan needing to accrue more appearances in order to qualify for a work permit, he’s certainly going to be starting the vast majority of games ahead. Horvath has had a strong season in Europe with Club Brugge and Berhalter will probably want to take a look at him in training. Guzan meanwhile is a steady pair of hands who could be a good locker room presence for a young team. Eventually, he’ll be phased out, but now isn’t that time.

Wildcard: Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson


DEFENDERS (8)

Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Long, John Brooks, Matt Miazga, DeAndre Yedlin, Shaq Moore, Antonee Robinson, Greg Garza

On paper, the USMNT’s top two defenders are both European-based: Matt Miazga and John Brooks. However, the pair haven’t played well together and Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long could give the former two a run for their money. Out wide, DeAndre Yedlin, Shaq Moore and Antonee Robinson should all get a chance to impress Berhalter, with Garza returning after suffering an injury during January camp.

Wildcard: Cameron Carter-Vickers, Mark McKenzie, Jorge Villafaña, Nick Lima


MIDFIELDERS (7)

Michael Bradley, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Sebastian Lletget, Wil Trapp

The most exciting part of the USMNT future has to be in central portion of the park, with the three young Americans playing in Germany. Adams has fit in seamlessly at RB Leipzig and is playing regularly off the bench and as a spot starter. While McKennie has struggled along with Schalke this season, he’ll get a look with the USMNT. Bradley and Lletget looked strong in their games in January while Trapp knows Berhalter from their time in Columbus and will likely be a regular call-up moving forward. Bradley and Trapp will likely battle for the holding midfielder role, with McKennie, Adams and Lletget jockeying for roles as box to box midfielders.

Wildcard: Marky Delgado, Christian Roldan, Djordje Mihailovic, Romain Gall, Jonathan Amon, Joe Corona


ATTACKERS (7)

Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood, Timothy Weah, Josh Sargent, Kenny Saief, Paul Arriola, Julian Green

Pulisic is in the final months of his stay with Dortmund, and it may be a nice change of pace for him to get back into the USMNT. He hasn’t featured for the USMNT since that dreadful night in Couva, but 2019 could be a big year for Pulisic in the red, white, and blue. Weah has been dynamite off the bench for Celtic since joining on loan while Sargent seems to have broken into the Werder Bremen first team. Green and Saief will get a chance to meet with Berhalter in person during this or a future camp, while Arriola was very strong in January and deserves another call-up.

Wildcard: Andrija Novakovich, Gyasi Zardes, Jonathan Lewis

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Judge rules players not guilty in match-fixing case in Spain

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MADRID — The 36 players on trial in Spain’s most high-profile match-fixing case were cleared of wrongdoing on Monday.

A Spanish judge issued the “not guilty” verdict, saying there was not enough evidence to convict the players and others on trial – including former Mexico coach Javier Aguirre.

More than 40 people were accused of match-fixing involving the Spanish league game between Levante and Zaragoza at the end of the 2010-11 season.

The judge convicted two former Zaragoza officials of fraud – then-president Agapito Iglesias and club director Javier Porquera. They were given a one-year, three-month prison sentence, although they were not likely to face jail time because sentences of less than two years for first-time offenders are often suspended in Spain.

Those accused were facing two years in prison and a six-year soccer ban.

Among the players on trial were Ander Herrera, now with Paris Saint-Germain; former Leicester midfielder Vicente Iborra; former Atletico Madrid captain Gabi Fernandez; River Plate midfielder Leonardo Ponzio; Serbian defender Ivan Obradovic; Lazio forward Felipe Caicedo; Itailan defender Maurizio Lanzaro; and Uruguay striker Cristhian Stuani.

Aguirre was Zaragoza’s coach at the time. He was among those who appeared in court to testify.

The investigation began after Spanish league president Javier Tebas denounced the alleged match-fixing, saying a former player told him a result had been fixed.

Prosecutors said there was evidence 965,000 euros (nearly $1 million) was paid to Zaragoza’s squad and later transferred to Levante’s players to lose the match in the final round of the season. Zaragoza won 2-1 to avoid relegation. Deportivo La Coruna was demoted as a result.

Former Zaragoza officials said the money was paid to motivate players, not fix the result of the game.

Prosecutors said players on both teams were aware of the match-fixing and there was evidence the money was transferred to Levante players after analyzing tax reports and banking transactions at the time.

The judge said in his ruling “there were was no evidence the money was given to Levante players to lose the match.”

A lower court had shelved the case but it was reopened last year after an appeal by prosecutors in Valencia, where Levante is based and where the match was played.

Zaragoza returned to the second division in 2014. Levante is currently in Spain’s top league.

Arsenal overruns West Ham with 3 second half goals

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Who saw that coming?

With three goals in a nine-minute span in the second half, Arsenal overcame a one-goal halftime deficit to comfortably beat West Ham, 3-1, on Monday night at the Olympic Stadium. It was a complete reversal after a second half where Arsenal didn’t attempt a single shot on target in the first half and were second-best in winning duals and second balls.

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But it was the Arsenal stars who helped the club when it was effectively on its knee, facing a tenth-straight match without a win. Goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and youngster Gabriel Martinelli secured all three points for Arsenal.

On the other side, West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini is in a whole host of trouble. West Ham sits just one point above the relegation zone after 16 league matches, and Pellegrini was expected to take the Hammers to the next level.


Three things we learned

1. Arsenal stars finally step up: With Arsenal on the verge of another demoralizing defeat, the club’s expensive strike force helped turn the tide in the second half. Martinelli, Aubameyang, and Pepe all played a huge role, and their goals, arguably against the run of play, were more than enough to inject some excitement into the club.

2. No Luiz, No Problem: Arsenal may have found its new starting centerback combination. After multiple error-prone performances with Sokratis playing alongside David Luiz, Arsenal boss Freddy Ljunberg went with Calum Chambers to partner Sokratis. The end result was a much more organized backline, and fewer mistakes, leading to fewer allowed goals.

3. Pellegrini on the hot seat: Pellegrini will have a nervous few days ahead of him. Despite a rare win over Chelsea last week, West Ham has now dropped successive defeats, first to Wolves and now Arsenal, leaving West Ham on the edge of relegation. Could Pellegrini last until January?

Man of the Match: Arsenal’s defense deserves credit, but goals win games, so Man of the Match has to go to Nicolas Pepe. The Ivory Coast international absolutely earned his massive transfer fee on Monday, scoring a beautiful curler and then setting up Aubameyang with a chip into the box.


In the run up to kickoff, and even halftime, Arsenal had plenty of obstacles to overcome.

Right back Hector Bellerin was forced out of the starting lineup during pregame warmups, and left back Kieran Tierney couldn’t finish the match, having to be substituted midway through the first half.

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Arsenal interim coach Freddie Ljungberg also made some big lineup decisions. Alexandre Lacazette and David Luiz were dropped, with Brazilian teenager Gabriel Martinelli starting up top and Calum Chambers moving inside to centerback. It took 60 minutes, but those moves paid dividends in the end.

However, before then, West Ham controlled the first half, even with less of the ball. The Hammers showed more desire and determination than Arsenal, winning many second balls, and it led to the opening goal. A corner kick in the 38th minute pinballed in and out of the box, with Arsenal twice failing to clear it. Eventually, the ball fell to Pablo Fornals, who chipped a ball into the middle of the box. West Ham centerback Angelo Ogbonna, still up in the box after the corner kick, dashed onto it and though it went off his shoulder, deflected off an Arsenal defender and in for a goal. VAR checked it, as it does with every goal, but the decision stood, and it was well deserved.

West Ham even looked more likely to score a second late in the first half and then early in the second half, as Arsenal couldn’t string many passes together in their own third or the final third.

In the 60th minute, it was like a flip was switched. Suddenly, West Ham provided no pressure on Arsenal’s backline when it had the ball, allowing Arsenal to easily break the lines. After two passes getting through a half-dozen defenders, the ball ended up on the left wing with Aubameyang. Aubameyang crosses into the center and with a first-time finish, suddenly Martinelli put Arsenal level at 1-1.

In the 66th minute, again Arsenal broke through West Ham’s midfield quite easily. Dribbling forward, Mesut Ozil passed into the middle to Aubameyang, who fed Pepe wide. Pepe, who was one-on-one with Aaron Cresswell, cut inside and curled home a beauty to make it 2-1, Arsenal.

Three minutes later, Aubameyang and Pepe teamed up again. Pepe cut inside, but instead of shooting, he slyly chipped a ball into the box. Aubameyang waited for it and as he was inside, scissor kicked the ball in to make it 3-1.

With West Ham shellshocked, Arsenal held on late for a huge win, moving the club back into the top half of the Premier League table.

This story will be updated.

At the half: West Ham lead struggling Arsenal

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They say in derbies that form goes out the window, but it didn’t seem that apparent for Arsenal on Monday evening.

West Ham United is 45 minutes away from a second major win in three Premier League games as the Hammers hold a 1-0 halftime lead over Arsenal. Angelo Ogbonna’s headed goal off a Pablo Fornals cross is the difference so far.

After two straight poor performances for Arsenal, manager Freddie Ljungberg must have hoped for a better reaction in a London derby. Instead, Arsenal has been slow in passing, slow to second balls and not as determined as West Ham to win. Every possession gained is giving West Ham confidence, which led to the goal. The goal came after a couple of pinball rebounds following a corner kick, but the Hammers’ determination to score helped them go in front.

To make matters worse for Arsenal, Kieran Tierney suffered another injury, forcing him off the field in the first half and compelling Ljunberg to bring on Sead Kolasinac, despite him being short on fitness too.

Arsenal has a massive 45 minutes ahead. Should West Ham win, it would go level with Arsenal. If the Gunners lose, it’s their 10th straight match in all competitions without a win and it drops them into the bottom half of the league table.

Watch Live: West Ham United v. Arsenal

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Arsenal will be searching for their first win since firing Unai Emery as manager when they visit West Ham United, who could use a win in the worst possibly way themselves, at the London Stadium on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Gunners have drawn one — coming back from a goal down, twice, against Norwich City — and lost at home to Brighton & Hove Albion on Thursday. It’s hardly been an ideal start to life under interim boss Freddie Ljungberg. As a result, they enter Monday’s game sitting 11th in the Premier League table.

As for the Hammers, Manuel Pellegrini is beginning to feel the pressure after winning just one of his side’s last nine games (1W-2D-6L). Following that exceedingly poor run of results, West Ham sit 16th in the PL table, just one point clear of the relegation zone.

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