Blerim Dzemaili - Montreal Impact - Happy
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23 MLS players represent nine World Cup-bound countries … and rising

  • 23 MLS players represent nine World Cup-bound countries … and rising
  • Young Homegrowns look to make lasting impact as U.S. begins new era in Portugal
  • Conference Championship bound players among MLS stars to shine in international friendlies
  • Crew SC’s Afful quiet guy is drawing considerable attention
  • Sweet Tweets
23 MLS players represent nine World Cup-bound countries … and rising
With Sweden, Switzerland and Senegal booking spots for the 2018 FIFA World Cup over the past several days, MLS now features nine countries in which league players have represented their respective nations during World Cup Qualifying this year. The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil included six nations that featured MLS players – a current MLS record.
Seattle Sounders FC’s Gustav Svensson came off the bench in both legs of Sweden’s UEFA playoff, earning a 1-0 aggregate victory over four-time World Cup champion Italy. Svensson was a first-half sub during Monday’s World Cup-clinching 0-0 draw. The Montreal Impact’s Blerim Džemaili and his Switzerland side qualified for Russia with their UEFA playoff series win against Northern Ireland, posting a pair of shutouts – a 1-0 road win last Thursday and a scoreless draw on Saturday. Džemaili could potentially play in his third FIFA World Cup next year to follow up his 2006 and 2014 tournament runs. The LA Galaxy’s Clement Diop was the backup goalkeeper for Senegal, which advanced to Russia out of Confederation of African Football qualifying with a 2-0 win against South Africa on Friday.
With Diop, Džemaili and Svensson advancing, there are now 23 MLS players who have featured for their respective World Cup-bound countries in 2017, and the number will increase this week. In 2014, an MLS-record 21 players were named to their respective World Cup rosters.
New Zealand’s five-player MLS contingent, led by Vancouver Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, faces Whitecaps FC teammate Yordy Reyna and Orlando City SC’s Yoshimar Yotun of CONMEBOL’s Peru on Wednesday in their inter-confederation playoff. Marinovic stepped up with several key saves and a clean sheet to earn a 0-0 draw on Saturday against No. 10 FIFA-ranked Peru.
Also this Wednesday, a strong MLS group from Honduras is looking for a positive result and advancement to Russia when it heads to Sydney to take on Australia. Western Conference Championship finalist and Houston Dynamo midfielder Romell Quioto along with FC Dallas center back Maynor Figueroa went the full 90 minutes during a scoreless draw against Australia on Friday’s opening leg in San Pedro Sula.
Young Homegrowns look to make lasting impact as U.S. begins new era in Portugal
The U.S. Men’s National Team begins a new era on Tuesday, November 14 when a young American squad takes on reigning European champion Portugal in a friendly match for the first action under interim coach Dave Sarachan (3:45 p.m. ET, FS1 / Univision / UniMas).
The 21-man roster consists of eight current MLS players and seven products of the MLS Homegrown system. Headlining the roster are two Homegrowns looking to receive their first minutes for the U.S. in FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez and New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams. The 18-year-old Adams impressed in his second season with the Red Bulls, scoring two goals and adding four assists over 24 matches played. Over his last five matches of the regular season, Adams compiled two goals and three assists, helping New York clinch a spot in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. In the postseason, Adams notched another helper in a 4-0 victory over the Chicago Fire in Knockout Round action. The senior team debut comes after an accomplished youth career that saw Adams star in the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, with the U.S. advancing to the round of 16.
While Gonzalez was included in the U.S. championship roster at the 2017 Gold Cup, Gonzalez has yet to receive playing time in the stars and stripes. The 22-year-old keeper registered nine shutouts across 29 starts for Dallas this season, a year in which he permanently chose to represent the United States over Mexico in international play.
Another young Homegrown Player in the fold is Gonzalez’s FC Dallas teammate Kellyn Acosta. Acosta, who previously appeared for the U.S. at the both the 2013 and 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cups. Acosta joins Adams, Gonzalez and Juan Agudelo as Homegrown Players age 24 or younger on the U.S. roster.
Former Homegrown Players called onto the U.S. squad include Bill Hamid, Matt Miazga and DeAndre Yedlin.
U.S. Roster
Goalkeepers (3): Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)
Defenders (7): John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Sheffield United), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Vitesse), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)
Midfielders (7): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town)
Forwards (4): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City SC), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher)
Conference Championship bound players among MLS stars to shine in international friendlies
With the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs set to enter the Conference Championship stage of competition, players from across the four remaining teams were among a larger group of MLS players to star in international play this week. Whether playing in a friendly in anticipation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup or making a full international debut, MLS players saw significant action across the globe during this international window.
Columbus Crew SC saw defender Harrison Afful captain Ghana in a 1-1 draw against Egypt in CAF World Cup Qualifying play, while forward Ola Kamara started in Norway’s match against Macedonia, his first action for the national team since 2014. Toronto FC midfielder Armando Cooper, meanwhile played 90 minutes for World Cup-bound Panama in a friendly against Iran.
In the Western Conference, Seattle saw 20-year-old defender Nouhou Tolo make his full international debut for Cameroon in the final match of World Cup Qualifying play. Tolo, who last year played for Seattle’s USL affiliate Sounders 2, registered six tackles and two interceptions over 90 minutes against Zambia. Set to oppose Seattle, two Houston players started for Honduras in the intercontinental World Cup playoff against Australia.
Outside of teams still in MLS Cup contention, Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolić scored a goal and was one of three MLS players to appear for Hungary against Lexuembourg, joining New England Revolution’s Krisztián Németh and D.C. United’s Zoltán Stieber.
In a matchup of two teams already securing spots in the World Cup, Montreal Impact defender Laurent Ciman saw a full 90-minute performance in Belgium’s 3-3 draw against Mexico on Friday. LA Galaxy duo Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos and LAFC forward Carlos Vela all saw action for El Tri in the friendly.
A complete list of MLS players called up for international duty to date can be found here.
Crew SC’s Afful quiet guy is drawing considerable attention
Columbus Crew SC defender Harrison Afful has been a mainstay for Ghana with his head-turning MLS contributions translating into captaincy of his national team. Dating back to Aug. 12, Columbus has either won or tied every game in which Afful has appeared, while the man who keeps to himself off-the-field has become arguably one of the most collaborative on-field personalities. With 76 caps for Ghana, this defender has seen every minute of international matches in the last three Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, and he’s so far played the same consistent role in all three of Columbus’ Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs games. From the right back position, he put away this highlight-worthy finish in the semifinals, and he’s earning minutes reminiscent of those he recorded during Crew SC’s run to MLS Cup in 2015. For Crew SC and Ghana as well, more Afful could mean more success.
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