South Korea v United States

Reigniting the Chris Wondolowski-World Cup roster debate


Chris Wondolowski did exactly what he needed Saturday, keeping his name in the conversation as Jurgen Klinsmann begins bearing down on the real nitty-gritty of those career making roster decisions.

Had Wondolowski not scored Saturday, in what may well have been his last U.S. starting assignment prior to roster decision time, the choice on the San Jose hitman would have been clear. But with two goals in the win over South Korea, credit the fellow for keeping this ball of debate in the air.

But as I’ve said before, it’s not enough to say “Chris Wondolowski deserves a roster spot.” If you believe so, that’s fine. But you should also say which U.S. striker doesn’t get to go in that case.

Here’s how that breaks down:

Klinsmann is likely to take six “forwards” if we count Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey as such. That’s exactly as it happened in 2010, when the forwards were Dempsey, Donovan, Jozy Alditore, Edson Buddle, Robbie Findley and Herculez Gomez.

Same deal, more or less, in 2006: Dempsey, Donovan and a foursome of strikers.

So it seems safe to assume at this point something quite similar. Heck, you could even make the case that Klinsmann, more 4-3-3 than 4-4-2 in basic alignment preferences, could take just three pure strikers, preferring an extra man more comfortable working the flanks.

But if it’s four (beyond Dempsey and Donovan), here’s how they probably stack up at the moment:

  • 1. Jozy Altidore
  • 2. Aron Johannsson
  • 3. Eddie Johnson

You could quibble with the ordering, but based on lineups and camp rosters, it seems clear that these are Klinsmann’s top front runners of the moment. Barring injuries or loss of form, that leaves one spot. The candidates are:

  • Wondolowski
  • Terrence Boyd
  • Herculez Gomez
  • Mike Magee

Magee is a longshot; like Wondolowski, he needed to get into Saturday’s match and make a big, loud statement. Unfortunately, a bout of food poisoning undid Magee’s opportunity.

But Boyd is well thought of, and doing well at Rapid Vienna. Gomez was a Klinsmann favorite, whose effort and attitude was appreciated along with the talent, before injuries took him out of the scene for a while. If he goes on a run in Liga MX, the Tijuana  man becomes a heavy favorite to bump into that fearsome of foursome of travelers into Brazil.

So there it is, Wonder Wondo supporters. Your guy has kept himself in the thick of things – but he still has some miles to travel before making serious plans to spend his summer in Brazil.

(MORE: What went right in the U.S. win over South Korea)

(MORE: What went wrong in the U.S. win over South Korea)


“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.