Looking back at Chris Wondolowski’s hat trick – and looking ahead

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Now that we’ve told you Chris Wondolowski has sewn up Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player trophy … (You saw where we did that, right?)

And now that San Jose has pulled safely away from the peloton in its chase for the league’s top record and the Supporters Shield that goes with it. (Sporting Kansas City dropped two points Sunday in the draw with Columbus, and that pretty much seals the deal for San Jose.) …

What else is left?

Plenty, as it turns out, thanks to Wondolowski and his pursuit of a 17-year-old mark.

Let’s talk about his chances of catching Roy Lassiter for one of the league’s enduring statistical mountain tops. (“Enduring,” obviously, is a relative term for a league that’s been around just 17 years. Still, 17 years is getting to be a fairly significant amount of time, right?)

So, his chances of matching the record of 27 goals in a season, in just two words: not awful.

Following this weeks’ international break, the Earthquakes host Los Angeles. Games between these teams have produced a bunch of goals this year, 12 of them in just two meetings. The last time they met in the Bay area, San Jose prevailed in a whacky and dramatic 4-3 result. Great stuff.

(Games last year weren’t so “Wild West shootout-like,” with two matches producing two goals. But never mind that; don’t let me be a big ol’ buzzkill here.)

San Jose finishes the season at Portland. We know about the wonderful fans there, and we know Portland can be an intimidating place to play. The fact that Portland is mostly down and out in general will not mean a thing in terms of brilliant crowd support. The Timbers Army will be loud and proud as ever, believe it.

But the small field tends to create the type of matches with lots of goal-mouth interaction – the kind of contest where a penalty area opportunist like “Wonder Wondo” can find his opportunities.

The x-factor is whether Quakes coach Frank Yallop decides to rest his streaking striker for one of the two contests. But San Jose’s place atop the West helps here, too. The Earthquakes will rest while their first playoff opponent gets a mid-week match. So, Yallop is more likely to keep his starters in a once-a-week rhythm rather than resting them.

Going back to the final regular season opponent, Portland: Wondolowski also tends to bundle up the goals in bunches against the weaker teams, like last week’s threesome against Colorado, a team sitting just two points off the bottom in the West.

Speaking of that hat trick … if you haven’t seen it, take a look here:

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French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga