France v USA - International Friendly

Wondering about Steve Cherundolo’s U.S. roster omission

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Steve Cherundolo wasn’t at his best late in Hannover’s season, which is why the entrenched incumbent at U.S. right back was on the bench to begin the month at his longtime Bundesliga home.

But he was a first-time candidate for a month, and he did get back in the starting lineup for Hannover’s season finale. So Cherundolo seemed like a shoe-in to make Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster for the upcoming friendlies and the (far more important) World Cup qualifiers ahead.

Thus, it caught more than a few of us off guard when the best U.S. outside back over the last decade (by a long, long way, really) was omitted.

U.S. Soccer officials went out of their way to say this was not performance-related; this isn’t about a lack of faith that Cherundolo could handle the job. Rather, they said, it was precautionary and by mutual consent. They didn’t want to risk further wear, tear or injury on the knee that kept the smart, skillful right back out for so much of the spring. And neither did the player himself, apparently.

They all want the best version of Cherundolo for down the road, and fair enough.

But this looks like a mighty big gamble for all parties.

Timothy Chandler’s knee injury leaves the pool of U.S. outside backs fairly shallow. If we are talking about front line men who can reasonably be expected to handle the job, especially when the going gets tough, there are about 2.5 qualified outside back among the 28 names listed today.

(MORE: Klinsmann names his roster for upcoming friendlies and qualifiers)

Geoff Cameron, most likely, just became an outside back. That’s where he played in the most recent pair of U.S. qualifiers, the snowy white win over Costa Rica and the worthy, scoreless draw in Mexico. And that’s where the former Houston Dynamo man lines up for Stoke City now.

Then there’s Fabian Johnson, with converted midfielder DaMarcus Beasley representing the “.5.” Johnson has

Klinsmann’s reasoning here is easy enough to see – but it will still make for some nervous tummies. It’s really about the collective youth along that back line, one that will not have Carlos Bocanegra. The former captain remains too far down in the pecking order for now.

Cherundolo’s “been there, done that” factor is pure gold now. So why not bring him in for the Cleveland camp and then evaluate his health along the way? That’s what they will do with Brek Shea, after all. He hasn’t played a bit lately for Stoke City, still nursing an injury.

Yes, they need a healthy Cherundolo for the fall qualifiers – and probably for Brazil 2014, too.  But what if they get themselves in a pickle before then? Yellow card suspensions, ejections and injuries do happen, after all.

And by taking Cherundolo, Cameron’s ability to be a center back once again adds good depth at two spots.

Again, it smells like a risk. But as we know, Klinsmann’s is hardly risk averse. He’s rolled them dice before.

EFL Cup Final preview: Saints aim to deny Manchester United, Mourinho

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 28:  Vincent Kompany of Manchester City and team mate Pablo Zabaleta celebrate victory with the trophy after the Capital One Cup Final match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on February 28, 2016 in London, England. Manchester City win 3-1 on penalties.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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With the Community Shield in tow, Jose Mourinho aims for his first full tournament trophy as Manchester United boss when his Red Devils meet Southampton at 11:30 a.m. EDT Sunday.

Wembley Stadium is the venue for the EFL Cup Final, a trophy United has claimed four times. The last one came in 2010, as the Red Devils clinched their third League Cup in five seasons.

[ JPW: Southampton comes full circle ]

Sunday marks Southampton’s first final since 1979, when Saints fell 3-2 to Nottingham Forest.

Saints continue to make due without Virgil Van Dijk and Charlie Austin, but newcomers Manolo Gabbiadini, Sofiane Boufal, and Martin Caceres could all feature on Friday.

Gabbiadini almost certainly will, and he’s been a difference maker for Saints since arriving from Napoli. The 25-year-old has three goals in two Premier League matches.

[ MORE: Projected lineups for EFL Cup final ] 

United will not have Henrikh Mkhitaryan back after the Armenian midfielder limped off the pitch midweek, but fellow walking wounded star Michael Carrick will be back for the Red Devils. Wayne Rooney, Ander Herrera, and Eric Bailly will be available.

The Red Devils won the FA Cup last season and the league in 2012-13. Mourinho has three League Cups from his time at Chelsea.

But Antonio Valencia says that United has to act like this is a chance for a new era. From ManUtd.com:

“We have to forget about the fact that we might have won there three, four or five times,” he added. “We have to put that to one side. This is another final, and a totally different story. We cannot afford to make one single mistake, this is a final and we cannot lose our concentration for even one minute.”

Saints will be underdogs for this one, but this trophy isn’t alien to avoiding the hands of the big boys as we’ve seen with Birmingham City, Middlesbrough, and Swansea City since the turn of the century.

Claudio Ranieri issues classy goodbye to Leicester City

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Claudio Ranieri has issued a statement on his somewhat surprising firing from Leicester City, less than 10 months after winning the Premier League title.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Swans preview ]

The Italian manager with a knack of word play pulls on the heart-strings in discussing his exit from Leicester, a club he did not plan to leave any time soon.

From the Leicester Mercury:

Yesterday my dream died.

After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions all I dreamed of was staying with Leicester city, the club I love, for always.

Sadly, this was not to be.

He went on to thank his family, Leicester City, saving the kindest words for the Foxes’ supporters.

No one can ever take away what we together have achieved, and I hope you think about it and smile every day the way I always will.

It has been a pleasure and an honour to be a champion with all of you.

No surprise to read class from Claudio. Read the full statement here.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Swansea City

SWANSEA, WALES - SEPTEMBER 11:  Chelsea manager Antonio Conte battles to get the ball back with Cesar Apilicueta (r) from Swansea forward Modou Barrow during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at Liberty Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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  • Chelsea leads all-time 14W-11D-7L
  • Sides drew 2-2 in September
  • Swans unbeaten vs Blues since Jan ’15

Premier League leaders Chelsea face a resurgent Swansea City side which has given it fits (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues have dropped points in two of their last three Premier League matches, and also have two draws and a loss to Swans in the past three match-ups.

Swansea has won three of four in Premier League play, the lone setback a 2-1 loss to Manchester City. New manager Paul Clement has led Swans from deep in the relegation zone to four points clear of the drop zone.

To succeed, Swans will have to avoid conceding often and early. According to Chelsea’s club statistician:

Conte’s players have scored the opening goal more times than any other Premier League team this season (19) and have yet to lose (16 wins, three draws).

What they’re saying

Antonio Conte on former Chelsea assistant Clement“He has had a great impact on the team. Also, with the transfer window, they reinforced the team, and we must pay great attention. If you watch their games against Liverpool, against Man City, you understand the difficulty of the game. I am sure my players understand this. They have worked very well to face them in the right way.”

Clement on staring down Chelsea“I have said to the players that yes we have put ourselves in a good position, but how hard are we willing to work to make sure we continue to improve? How much do we want to avoid suffering at the end of the season? Because unless we keep winning games and progressing up the table, we are going to find ourselves in a position where we need, say, four points from the last two games of the season.”

Prediction

Stamford Bridge will be the difference here, as Chelsea keeps it tight against Swans. 2-0.

PREVIEW: Tottenham Hotspur’s “To Dare Is To Do”

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The latest Premier League Download makes its debut on Sunday, as we dive deep into Tottenham Hotspur.

With a brand new stadium under construction and a solid look at perennial top-end pushes, Spurs are among the more intriguing stories in the Premier League.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Picks ]

Spurs host Stoke City on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN, and “Tottenham Hotspur: To Dare Is To Do” debuts at 11 a.m. EDT, right after the match.