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Discussing Eric Lichaj’s surprising U.S. national team roster inclusion (Hint: Timothy Chandler’s days are kaput!)

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Eric Lichaj has circled the periphery of the U.S. player pool since Jurgen Klinsmann’s arrival two-plus years ago. The outside back’s most recent game time in a national team shirt came in the 2011 Gold Cup, when he got into a few matches and held his own, despite playing on the left, not his best side.

Those were Bob Bradley’s final matches as United States manager; Lichaj had not been called into a camp under Klinsmann – not until Monday, that is.

After playing irregularly last year for Aston Villa, Lichaj is a fixture this year for Nottingham Forest in England’s (second tier) Championship. That consistent playing time provided him the opportunity. Now we can infer two things from his selection for the national team’s pair of upcoming friendlies.

First, the right back spot remains wide, wide open – and still something of an issue.

This is not exactly “new news,” of course.

Steve Cherundolo could still re-claim the spot he held for so much of the last 10 years. But he is just now dressing again for Hannover, having found a place on the bench for the first time this year only last weekend. Cherundolo, 34, is only recently back from injury. Until he can / does, Klinsmann has to be aggressive about Plans B and C, etc.

“Hope,” in other words, cannot be the plan at right back.

If Cherundolo cannot regain form or fitness or remain healthy or whatever, Fabian Johnson, Brad Evans and Michael Parkhurst are all in the running. All have their strengths and weaknesses – but none of them will inspire tremendous confidence as a World Cup starter along the back line.

(MORE: Klinsmann chooses squad for Scotland, Austria friendlies)

Thus, Klinsmann is forced to gamble and scramble a bit. Which is why Lichaj will drop into camp and perhaps appear against Scotland or Austria despite the manager’s recent assertions that “there are no surprises coming around the corner.”

Past that, this much seems certain:

Timothy Chandler is plum out of chances in Klinsmann’s book.

The German-American had been so wishy-washy about his international ambition and leanings, and Klinsmann seemed content to let the talented young defender work things out – but only to a point. Chandler is playing regularly for Nurnberg (although the club is bottom of the Bundesliga table), but his latest exclusion is pretty telling.

When Klinsmann is calling in guys who haven’t been with the team in two years, but not summoning a Bundesliga starter, it seems safe to say the manager is “done” with that guy.

Tens of thousands welcomed Real Madrid home after Champions League final

Real Madrid bus (Photo credit: Real Madrid / Twitter: @realmadrid)
Photo credit: Real Madrid / Twitter: @realmadrid
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MADRID (AP) Tens of thousands of fans endured the rain to greet Real Madrid players as they returned home early Sunday from their triumph in the Champions League final.

[ MORE: Real top Atleti on penalty kicks — Ronaldo the hero again ]

Many waited all night after celebrating the team’s win over crosstown rival Atletico Madrid in a penalty shootout on Saturday in Milan.

The players arrived in Madrid at about 6 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) and traveled on an open bus to the club’s traditional celebration spot, the Plaza de Cibeles, where an estimated 30,000 supporters welcomed the team.

Players carried the Champions League trophy atop the bus, constantly showing it to the cheering fans. The word “Campeones” and “11” were displayed prominently on the bus, in reference to the club’s 11th European title.

[ MORE: Ronaldo — “Our team showed more experience” ]

Team captain Sergio Ramos, who scored Madrid’s goal in regulation time at the San Siro, took the walkway set up over the plaza’s fountain and draped the statue of the goddess Cybele with the club’s scarf and flag, then lifted the trophy high above the famous figure.

A huge video screen was set up at the plaza to allow fans to watch the final, and the party began right after Cristiano Ronaldo converted the final penalty kick in the shootout to give the club its second European title in three seasons. Light shows and music entertained the fans through the night.

Atletico Madrid supporters, who again were denied the opportunity to celebrate the title, had gathered at a different viewing spot to watch the final.

[ MORE: Bale — “We deserve it” ]

There were no reports of major incidents between fans of the rival clubs.

Real Madrid said “almost 80,000” fans watched Saturday’s final at the team’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where four huge screens were placed at midfield. The title celebration at the stadium included confetti thrown into the air as “We are the champions” played through loudspeakers.

The team will meet with the mayor of Madrid later on Sunday and again will parade through city streets.

The title celebrations will culminate at night at the Bernabeu.

Marek Hamsik absolutely smashes goal in Slovakia’s upset of Germany (video)

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - MARCH 25:  Marek Hamsik of Slovakia runs with the ball during the international friendly match between Slovakia and Latvia held at Stadion Antona Malatinskeho on March 25, 2016 in Trnava, Slovakia.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images
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Marek Hamsik hit a ball with such momentous force that we’re not sure it rotated more than three full turns on its 20-yard flight into the goal.

The Slovakia star’s goal equalized a friendly with Germany at 1, and Repre went on to hammer the reigning World Cup champs by a 3-1 score.

[ USMNT-BOLIVIA: Recap3 things | Player ratings ]

I mean, really, what a hit. Bernd Leno had little hope of touching it.

Carrick praises Mourinho, reportedly will sign Manchester United extension

MONACO - MAY 27:  Michael Carrick attends the Red Bull Racing Energy Station at Monte Carlo on May 27, 2016 in Monaco, Monaco.  (Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)
Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images
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Longtime Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick spoke glowingly of new boss Jose Mourinho amidst rumors he’ll sign a one-year extension with the Old Trafford set.

Carrick, 34, joined United from Tottenham in 2006, and has won major trophy after major trophy with the club. He wants more, and he doesn’t care how.

[ MORE: United hires Mourinho | Things he must do ]

The 34-times capped English midfielder has 421 appearances for United, and could fit neatly into a Mourinho system.

From The Mirror:

“You have to be number one and winning trophies and if you can do that with a bit of style and a bit of flair then that is the perfect match but first and foremost it is about winning and getting back on top.

“There is going to be change without a doubt because he is coming in and he is his own man.

“He has got an unbelievable track record and everyone is looking for quick results and that’s how it is.”

We have to wonder how the United fans who booed Louis Van Gaal after every turn will react to these comments, although wins cure everything, right?

Kante, James among players happy to stay put with champions

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 04: A dejected Simon Mignolet of LiverpSimon Mignolet of Liverpool (L) looks on as Karim Benzema of Real Madrid CF celebrates scoring the opening goal with team mates during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between Real Madrid CF and Liverpool FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on November 4, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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There were many rumors than N'Golo Kante had a deal that would allow him to leave Leicester City, but the midfielder doesn’t sound like the leaving type.

According to L’Equipe, Kante isn’t looking to leave the Premier League champions, and is content to play in the UEFA Champions League with the Foxes next season.

[ UCL: Real Madrid wins | CR7 reacts | Bale, too ]

He’s been tipped to move to Real Madrid and Manchester City amongst other potential stops.

“For now, I am happy at Leicester,” he said. “I do not pay too much attention to everything that is said.”

That vibe is running through the headlines today, as UEFA Champions League winners Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez say they want to stay at Real Madrid, and Isco is also happy to come back to the Bernabeu to make a run at a first La Liga title since the 2011-12 season.