U.S. defender Steve Cherundolo nearing a return to the field for Hannover

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Think for a second how much a healthy Steve Cherundolo would improve the wobbly outside back position for the United States national team.

Fabian Johnson started at right back last month as the United States clinched its spot in Brazil against Mexico. Johnson was OK … but he’s not a right back. He’s really a left back or, probably even better, a left midfielder. But Johnson manned the right back position that day because … well, obviously, the coaching staff adjudged that the best option.

DaMarcus Beasley is holding his own at left back. But is “holding your own” what a team really needs going into a World Cup? Probably not.

If Cherundolo can get completely healthy and layer in the requisite sharpness, he stabilizes the right while Johnson becomes an option on the left – and other guys starting at right back find their truer international level as backups.

(MORE: U.S. roster examinations … which defenders are going to Brazil?)

Well, Cherundolo is getting closer. He’s been training for two weeks now at Hannover and may get back on the field soon.

The longtime incumbent at U.S. right back, now 34 years old, talks about his injury struggles (going on for almost 12 months now, off and on) and about getting back onto Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar in a Q&A with U.S. Soccer.

Remember, Cherundolo talked to Klinsmann and the U.S. coaching staff early last summer, asking to be excused from World Cup qualifier and potential Gold Cup duty to heal up. It sounds like that was the best move for all.

Still, Cherundolo knows that getting back into the national team is no slam dunk, and that public discussion of it needs careful management. His words seem carefully selected, because Cherundolo understands how he could come across, presumptuous, appearing to dismiss how other guys were there during a big stretch of the qualifying campaign, getting the job done.

Anybody who has ever been to a World Cup knows how special it is, how awesome it is. If that’s something I have a chance to participate in, if I can help the team and the coaching staff deems me that guy who can help either on the field or off the field then I would love to go to Brazil. It’s definitely a goal of mine and if I can stay healthy it’s something I can achieve as well.”

2-year doping ban upheld for Finland, CSKA Moscow player

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld a two-year ban for CSKA Moscow midfielder Roman Eremenko for a positive test for cocaine.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

CAS says the ban imposed by UEFA was “appropriate” and dismissed the Finland international’s appeal.

[ MORE: Vertonghen says Spurs need to “level up” like rest of PL contenders ]

The ban will expire on Oct. 5, 2018, when Eremenko will be 31.

Eremenko tested positive after playing in a Champions League game for CSKA Moscow against Bayer Leverkusen last September. The 2-2 result was not affected despite Eremenko scoring CSKA’s second goal.

Born in Moscow, Eremenko grew up in Finland and has represented its national team 73 times.

Webb says De Jong would have been sent off with video review

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NEW YORK (AP) Howard Webb says he would have given Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong a red card in the 2010 World Cup final if a video assistant referee had been in place.

The retired English referee showed De Jong a yellow card in the 28th minute for his karate kick into the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso. Hired in March to oversee video technology for professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada, Webb held a media seminar Friday ahead of its Aug. 5 launch in Major League Soccer.

Webb says: “Yes, it was a clear red card. It was a clear and obvious error on my part not to send the player off, and VAR would have been able to recommend a review to me, and I would have been able to make the right call.”

Now 46, Webb was a Premier League referee from 2003-14. He worked the Champions League and World Cup finals in 2010, became director of referees at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and started in March as manager of video assistant referee operations for the Professional Referee Organization.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City 0-1 Atlanta United (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Friday night’s effort at Orlando City Stadium wasn’t the prettiest for either side but Atlanta United will gladly take three points from the fixture as the Central Florida venue proved to be a fortress once more. The Lions were far superior in their attacking threats throughout the match, testing USMNT and Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan on multiple occasions. However, it was Hector Villalba that proved to be the difference when he blasted a long-distance effort to beat Joe Bendik in the 86th minute. Atlanta extends its unbeaten streak to four matches with Friday’s decision, keeping Tata Martino’s side in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, while Orlando City moves into fifth.

Three moments that mattered

36′ — Guzan stands tall, denies Rivas — Carlos Rivas thought he scorched this one (and he did…), but Brad Guzan acted like it was nothing as he held his ground to make the stop.

39′ — Spector gets ripped off by Guzan — The U.S. goalkeeper is at it again… What a save!

86′ — Villalba unleashes stunner to propel Atlanta — Sometimes it just takes one good hit as a striker.

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Man of the match: Brad Guzan

Goalscorers: Hector Villalba (86′)

Report: Man City adding Mendy to continue backline restoration

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Fresh off of completing a record deal to help bolster the club’s back line this summer, Manchester City is back at it with the Premier League season looming.

[ MORE: Alvaro Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

The Citizens are reportedly on the brink of signing Monaco left back Benjamin Mendy to yet another world-record fee — which will total over $67 million.

Confirmation of the deal has yet to be announced by either team, but L’Equipe is reporting that the Citizens are hot on the 23-year-old’s trail in adding to their pricy back four.

Manager Pep Guardiola and Man City have not been shy readjusting their defensive unit over the past year, adding expensive first-team choices John Stones and Kyle Walker.