Updated U.S. World Cup roster outlook – Who’s in for Brazil?: FORWARDS

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After the completion of the long January camp and the first United States match of a highly anticipated World Cup year (last weekend’s 2-0 win over South Korea), let’s look at which players appear to be shipshape for a golden seat on that charter into Brazil.

Don’t forget, the first match is just a little more than four months away.

FORWARDS

Four months out from the World Cup, as we talk about any decisions still remaining on the U.S. forwards, we’re really talking about one thing:

Who is the last guy that will be chosen, because three of the four chairs already have someone’s butt firmly planted in them.

We put Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan in the list of midfielders, even though both have a certain utility and could have been listed just as easily as forwards. That’s where they were four years ago as Bob Bradley augmented the list with four guys who were more “pure strikers,” guys who are best when a little more central, a little closer to goal.

Either way, regardless of classification, there are probably four spots available for designated goal-getters.

I know there is some thought is the U.S. Soccer fandom of bumping Jozy Alitore (pictured) from the “lock” list; I just don’t personally believe Jurgen Klinsmann is thinking that way. Rather, he’s probably brainstorming for ways to quickly boost Altidore’s diminished stores of confidence upon arrival into May training camp.

Last summer the Sunderland striker put himself so far in the lead in the pecking order of U.S. frontrunners that he’s still surely Klinsmann’s first pick at the position. He’s a roster lock, no matter how ridiculous things get at the Stadium of Light.

Johannsson increases his burgeoning value because he can not only play as a central target, but also a little further back (in the position for which Dempsey and Donovan will battle). Eddie Johnson has shown what he can accomplish coming off the bench, which seems likely to his role in Brazil.

That brings us to No. 4 and Klinsmann’s fairly disparate, available options.

It will probably come down to this: What does the U.S. boss decide he wants from that fourth selection?

If he wants someone who will doggedly, dependably chase and harass and help close out a game, then look for Boyd, who seems to be progressing nicely at Rapid Vienna.

Or, if it’s a little more of a scoring touch the manager seeks, someone with a nose for goal who might become the third natural forward in a desperate situation that calls for the garbage goal of all garbage goals (and nobody cares how you get it), maybe it’s Wondolowski who gets the call.

Then again, if Juan Agudelo gets on a run at Utrecht (he had a goal today, you know), maybe he’s the designated late-game toss-in?

The other wildcard here: where is Gomez in his quest to get on a good run? At this time last year, the Tijuana attacker was a U.S. starter. Remember the Snow Clasico? Starter. Or the huge point earned a few nights later in Mexico, the second of two matches that turned it all for the United States? Starter.

But an injury here, a bad run for his club there and, well, who knows?

Going to Brazil: Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Eddie Johnson

On the bubble: Juan Agudelo, Terrence Boyd, Herculez Gomez, Chris Wondolowski

(MORE: Which goalkeepers and defenders are locks, and who is on the bubble?)

(MORE: Which midfielders are locks, and who is on the bubble?)

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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Another Alexis link; Zlatan, the coach?

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Rumors linking Alexis Sanchez to the half-dozen clubs bigger than Arsenal won’t subside until the summer transfer window closes, which is to say, Thursday’s grandest transfer rumor links the Chilean with a move away from north London.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Monday ]

With his current contract down to just 10 months, Manchester City are the latest club reportedly interested in snatching him away from the Gunners for a pittance of his true value. That’s not to say $77 million is anything to scoff at, but given the current climate of the transfer market, Sanchez would fetch something closer to $120 million with three or four years to run on his contract.

[ MORE: Diego Costa releases statement — “I must return to Atletico Madrid” ]


Zlatan Ibrahimovic is four months into rehabilitation from the career-threatening knee injury he suffered in April. With five or six months still to go, the big Swede is nearing the point of the process during which he’ll likely announce his next club.

If Manchester United have their way, the 35-year-old might just stick around Old Trafford a while longer. Here’s the catch: Jose Mourinho is reportedly considering offering Ibrahimovic a role on his coaching staff in the interim before he completes his rehab and gets the OK to return to action.

[ MORE: Chelsea plan to raid Spurs — Danny Rose for $64 million ]


14 days remain before the end of the summer transfer window, and Tottenham Hotspur are still yet to sign a single player. The $65 million received upon Kyle Walker‘s departure would burn a hole in the pocket of everyone not named Daniel Levy.

That said, Tottenham are still expected to sign someone before the window closes, and they could certainly do worse than Suarez from Barcelona — that’s Denis Suarez, of course, not Luis. The 23-year-old Spanish midfielder is reportedly close to completing a move to Napoli, but Spurs are said to be late entrants into the race and could easily hijack the deal.

Costa statement: Let me go, “I must return to Atletico Madrid”

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Diego Costa has made his intentions clear: he plans to leave Chelsea as soon as possible and return to Atletico Madrid, and only Atletico Madrid.

[ MORE: Top takeaways from Costa’s incredible rant ]

Following his explosive interview over the weekend, in which he blames manager Antonio Conte for sabotaging a new contract which was to be signed earlier this year and reveals he has returned to his childhood home in Brazil to wait out the whole ordeal, Costa released a short statement on Thursday in which he states in no uncertain terms that his mind is made up regarding his future:

“My destination is already set. I must return to Atletico Madrid next season. It turns out that there is the impasse that Chelsea does not want to release me. But I believe that this situation will be resolved now on my return to Spain.”

The main hurdle standing between Costa and a return to Atleti is the club’s transfer ban which is in place until January. Los Rojiblancos can technically sign players this summer, but will be unable to register said player(s) until the start of the next window.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.