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USMNT roster: Final squad for 2021 Concacaf Nations League stirs forward debate

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USMNT roster: Final squad for 2021 Concacaf Nations League stirs forward debate

U.S. men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter named his final 23-man roster (see below) for the Concacaf Nations League semifinals and finals in June. The selections were largely predictable, but there was one decision that led to some discussion among fans. 

The absence of up-and-coming forward sensation Daryl Dike raised some eyebrows. His nine goals during his loan stint at Barnsley helped them qualify for a Premier League promotion playoff. Although he did not score in his last five matches for the second-division club, many figured he’d still be a lock to be included on the U.S. roster. But Berhalter said he ultimately opted for two center forwards he considers in better form: Josh Sargent has been a regular starter for relegated Werder Bremen in Germany and Jordan Siebatcheu scored 12 goals for Swiss title winners Young Boys.

“It was tough. It really was,” Berhalter told media on a conference call. “It’s unfortunate that you have to name 23 guys … When it came down to those particular two games [Nations League], we based it on current form.

“But Daryl has a long future with us. And this is just a temporary setback for this tournament.”

USMNT roster: Concacaf Nations League

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake), Zack Steffen (Manchester City)

DEFENDERS (8): John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Sergino Dest (Barcelona), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht), Tim Ream (Fulham), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)

FORWARDS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Jordan Siebatcheu (Young Boys), Tim Weah (Lille)

What’s next for Dike?

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Berhalter confirmed that the 20-year-old Dike will still remain in U.S. camp and he will play in the international friendly against Costa Rica on June 9 which follows the two Nations League matches on June 3 and June 6. It’ll mark his third appearance for the U.S. senior national team after debuting in January. 

However, should a player on the 23-man U.S. roster fall to injury, Dike could be an option to replace him up to 24 hours before the first Nations League match on June 3,

Following the international action with the USA, Dike is expected to rejoin his MLS club Orlando City, where he burst onto the scene with 8 goals in 17 games as a rookie in 2020.

On the heels of his loan performance at Barnsley, it’s expected that Dike could potentially command a hefty summer transfer fee from a foreign club — the MLS Commissioner recently pegged the number at $20 million — and a potential USMNT call-up for the Concacaf Gold Cup in July could help his cause. 

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Chris Paul, NBA Twitter react to Deandre Ayton’s game-winning dunk in Suns vs. Clippers

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Chris Paul, NBA Twitter react to Deandre Ayton's game-winning dunk in Suns vs. Clippers

Deandre Ayton was the hero for the Suns in their Game 2 win over the Clippers.

With less than a second left on the clock, the Suns were down one point and had just 0.9 seconds to get a shot off. Jae Crowder inbounded the ball on the baseline under the Suns’ basket and found Ayton cutting to the hoop.

Ayton threw it down. The play took just 0.2 seconds off the clock and sealed the 104-103 win for the Suns.

Here’s a look at the amazing finish.

Ayton and Crowder deserve a bulk of the credit, but Devin Booker had an impact on the finish as well. His physical screen on Ivica Zubac — who is seven inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than Booker — gave Ayton just enough space to get open off the cut and throw down the dunk.

And Booker put his body on the line despite playing with a bloodied nose that required stitches after an inadvertent hit from Patrick Beverley earlier in the game.

The Suns’ finish thrilled Phoenix fans as well as the team’s star point guard Chris Paul, who missed his second straight game in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. He took time to celebrate the victory on Twitter and praised coach Monty Williams for his “big-time play call.”

Indeed, it was a nice play call, and Williams made sure Ayton was prepared to dunk immediately after catching the ball.

“DA — if he throws it, you gotta try to dunk it,” Williams said. “Okay?”

Ayton was ready and obliged. As a result of his make, NBA Twitter erupted and celebrated the exciting end to yet another tightly-contested playoff battle. 

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Clippers’ Paul George misses crucial free throws in stunning Game 2 loss to Suns

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Clippers' Paul George misses crucial free throws in stunning Game 2 loss to Suns

The box score from Tuesday’s Suns-Clippers game — a pivotal Game 2 win for Phoenix in the Western Conference finals — will show Paul George had a decent game.

Twenty-six points, on 10-of-23 shooting; six assists; six rebounds; and 5-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. He also scored his team’s last six points, all within the last minute, to help the Clippers to a 103-102 lead with just 8.2 seconds remaining.

The only stats that ultimately mattered in the Clippers’ 104-103 loss, however, were the final two free throws George — a career 84.7-percent free throw shooter — missed. They ultimately allowed Phoenix a chance at an unbelievable comeback victory, which may prove costly even as the series heads back to LA.

NBA MOCK DRAFT 2021: Who will Pistons, Rockets take with top picks?

Had George sunk both of those shots, the Suns would have needed a 3-pointer just to send the game to overtime. Had he sunk even one shot, they would have needed a 2-pointer. But he missed both, allowing the Suns to win on an inbound dunk with less than a second remaining:

Credit to Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder and the Suns. That play will go down as one of the top plays in NBA playoffs history. But every heartbreaking loss needs a goat, and no one fits the bill better than “Playoff P,” who could have secured a win for his team with the simplest of basketball scoring plays.

Here’s the bright side for the Clippers, if there is one: They have already overcome 2-0 deficits in each of their first two series against the Mavericks and Jazz, respectively. That’s likely a cold comfort as George and Co. head back to LA, however. The scathing Twitter comments aimed at George likely won’t do anything to help, either:

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Athletics’ Sergio Romo pulls down pants during substance check

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Athletics' Sergio Romo pulls down pants during substance check

MLB pitchers aren’t taking kindly to the league’s new foreign substance rules.

Athletics pitcher Sergio Romo seemed particularly annoyed that the umpires performed a substance check on him Tuesday night.

After working a one-run seventh inning for Oakland, the umpire beckoned for Romo to come over for the check. Romo responded to the moment by tossing his hat and glove to the ground and whipping his belt off.

MORE: Rays’ Wander Franco homers in first MLB game

Then came Romo’s final act. He pulled his pants halfway down to prove that he wasn’t harboring any illegal substances.

Romo certainly made his point, but Dan Iassogna, the umpire checking him, didn’t seem too bothered by his high jinks. In fact, the umpire flashed a smile at Romo, who the broadcast described as “heated.”

Romo wasn’t alone in being bothered by the substance check on Tuesday. Max Scherzer was checked for foreign substances three times in the first four innings of the Nationals-Phillies game and became increasingly irritable with each examination. He directed his rage at Phillies manager Joe Girardi, who was later ejected for jawing at Scherzer. The checks didn’t seem to faze the three-time Cy Young winner too much; he earned the win, pitching five innings while giving up just a run and striking out eight.

Needless to say, these antics will be fairly common as MLB attempts to implement these rule changes on the fly.

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