Beitashour misses out on second World Cup chance with Iran

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

By ANNE M. PETERSON

AP Sports Writer

The wait was short for LAFC defender Steven Beitashour, who was left off Iran's latest World Cup roster less than a week after his name was intriguingly included on the national team's preliminary list.

Beitashour had been hoping for his second trip to soccer's premier tournament. He was one of as many as five LAFC players looking to earn a trip to Russia this summer with their national teams.

He was pleased to be included on the provisional list because it meant his hard work with Major League Soccer's newest club is getting noticed.

"For sure, as well as the past two years in Toronto - getting to the finals, then winning the final and having an unbelievable season last year, and winning the treble, which no MLS team has ever done. I think it was an accumulation of both, the last two years and then this year, how we've gotten off to a really great start," Beitashour said.

Iran announced a 24-man roster and three alternates Sunday. Beitashour was not on it. The list raised some eyebrows with the omission of striker Kaveh Rezaei, defender Jalal Hosseini and right back Voria Ghafouri.

Beitashour's inclusion on a 35-player list released last week was largely unexpected because he hadn't been called to national team duty with Iran since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He did not see playing time during that tournament.

Iran, which is making back-to-back trips to the World Cup for the first time, did not drop a match in qualifying and became the first team to secure a spot in Asia. Iran has never advanced out of the group stage at the World Cup, and this time is included in a daunting group that includes Spain, Morocco and Portugal.

Beitashour was born in San Jose, California, to Iranian parents who came to the United States in the 1960s. He holds dual citizenship.

Beitashour was among the handful of LAFC players to be named on provisional rosters for the World Cup, including striker Carlos Vela for Mexico, Omar Gaber for Egypt, Laurent Ciman for Belgium and forward Marco Urena for Costa Rica.

Vela and Urena both appear to be locks for the final rosters, which become official on June. 4.

LAFC, which is surpassing expectations this season as an expansion club, had the most potential World Cup participants of any MLS club.

"It's not an easy time for the players, because that's obviously on their minds," LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. "But they've all handled it well. We've got other guys who train every day and understand what we want our football about and they're going to get some chances."

GAME OF THE WEEK: Sporting Kansas City, the West Conference's top team, hosts the Columbus Crew on Sunday. Sporting has dropped just two matches this season, while the Crew have put up four straight shutouts.

While there continues to be drama surrounding the Crew and where they'll end up, one thing is certain: striker Gyasi Zardes is having a heck of a season. In his first season in Columbus after an offseason trade with the LA Galaxy, Zardes has eight goals and is tied for the league lead with Atlanta's Josef Martinez and Bradley Wright-Phillips.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Wright-Phillips had a pair of goals in the Red Bulls' 3-1 come-from-behind victory at Atlanta last weekend to earn league Player of the Week honors. In addition to his eight goals this season, Wright-Phillips has five assists.

It was his 16th career brace and 20th career multi-goal game.

PULISIC'S APPEARANCE: Banc of California Stadium hosted its first international exhibition match on Tuesday night when LAFC played Borussia Dortmund of the German Bundesliga. The two teams played to a 1-1 draw, with late goals from Los Angeles winger Aaron Kovar and BVB Dortmund's Maximilian Philipp.

But the star attraction was 19-year-old American Christian Pulisic, who has played for the German team since 2016. Pulisic started but got subbed off in the second half.

"I've always known that the soccer culture around this area in LA has always been really good. I used to play youth national team camps here, and now that they have another team here, it's awesome," Pulisic said. "Everything that I heard, I inspected today and it's awesome."

Pulisic is on the roster for the U.S. national team for an upcoming friendly against Bolivia in Philadelphia.

Updated May 23, 2018

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