Chris Wondolowski’s sizzling summer of international scoring has mercifully provided fans and media something to argue about during two Gold Cup clobberings, group stage mismatches that were remarkable only for the personnel-related subplots.
And by scoring six times in three matches (including one pre-tourney friendly), Wondolowski has ginned up the ol’ resume while beginning to adjust a narrative that previously read in part, “great league player although ineffective at international level.”
So … check, check and check-arooney on all that.
What he hasn’t done is punch that magical ticket to Brazil – no matter what some of the overly excited among fans and media seem to think.
Most of the breathless, Brazil-related hyperbole is simply a product of time, place and fallible human psychology, this tendency we all have to overvalue events in the moment, simultaneously devaluing achievement that has drifted just a little further from memory.
Aside from the memory gap, the obvious point of disconnect is the relative weakness of opposition lately. Guatemala, Belize and Cuba might make for reasonable practice opposition, but they hardly represent the kind of quality competition that can test and stretch ability. Not being cruel here; these are smaller countries doing the very best they can – and even rebuilding around younger types in Guatemala’s case. Still, we cannot ignore that element of the Wondolowski conversation.
What the San Jose Earthquakes high-scoring striker and current MLS Golden Boot holder has done is this: He has improved his position in the big jostle for 23 World Cup roster spots to be decided in 10 months. He has kept his name squarely in the roster conversation. And good on him.
Remember the Golden Rule about international friendlies and these tournament matches against regional small fries: No U.S. performer can truly play his way onto a World Cup roster, but he can certainly clunk his way out of the conversation. The hard reality is this: the man who cannot handle business in a highly effective way against nominal competition, especially when there is no real pressure afoot, cannot possibly be trusted when the stakes and the quality of opposition rise.
This is no knock on Wondolowski; so far it’s a clear “mission accomplished” for the likeable striker. He still has more to do, but “Wondo” has positioned himself for further chances in the tougher matches ahead, starting with Tuesday’s against Costa Rica. (Mad as hornets, those Ticos are, after the Snow Clasico in late March, where Costa Rican officials felt hard done by the decision to play through that snow storm.)
Wondolowski has demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that he can pounce on defensive blunder with a brutal effectiveness, and there is certainly value to that. (Plenty of strikers cannot reliably do the same.) That has long been his forte, combining smart runs with a clinical finishing acumen to exploit even the thinnest of defensive inattention or the smallest mistake in positioning.
Trouble is, those back line boo-boos may happen once or twice a match against better defenders, not several times a half as we’ve seen lately in these U.S. matches.
There is one more element to this conversation and ongoing debate – “Wondo: Take him to Brazil or not?” – that we will take up in a subsequent post in about an half and hour. So check back.
Manchester City hammers Liverpool to keep pressure on Arsenal
The Etihad was stunned after Mohamed Salah scored a fine goal to put a vibrant Liverpool side ahead but Julian Alvarez, starting in place of the injured Erling Haaland, equalized in the first half.
Quick-fire second half goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan did the damage and Jack Grealish scored a fourth to send the home fans (who did the Poznan) wild as Pep Guardiola was delighted with the way his team surged away from Jurgen Klopp’s dejected Liverpool.
In the end this was a routine win for City as they’re now on 64 points, five points behind Arsenal who play later on Saturday against Leeds. Liverpool remain on 42 points and have lost ground in the top four race after back-to-back away defeats in the Premier League.
With their star striker out with a groin injury, City turned to Alvarez to fill the significant void. Turns out having a World Cup winning striker as a back-up option is pretty decent. La Arana scored the first, consistently made good runs and Liverpool just couldn’t cope with the movement of Alvarez, Mahrez, Grealish, Gundogan and De Bruyne (all of whom had at least a goal or an assist) in attack. It was a different feel to City’s attack and reminded you that even if goal-machine Haaland is out, they have a Plan B and it works pretty well. That plan won them the title last season and this display gives ammunition to those who say Haaland makes City a little too predictable to play against. They were anything but that against Liverpool as Guardiola was delighted with the movement, pressure and intensity of his forward quartet. Haaland was seen celebrating Alvarez’s goal jubilantly in the stands alongside his father, former City midfielder Alf-Inge, and this display showed there’s no need to rush Erling back and they can get him fully-fit for the Champions League quarterfinal showdown against Bayern Munich on April 11.
Stars of the show; Manchester City vs Liverpool player ratings
Mohamed Salah: Took his goal superbly and was always a threat. Had very little help around him.
Riyad Mahrez: Didn’t score but was superb in setting the tone. Almost unstoppable when he’s in this form.
Kevin de Bruyne: Got a goal and yet another assist as he drove City on.
Jack Grealish: Probably his best display in a City shirt. Set up one, scored another and could have had more.
Man City head to Southampton on Saturday, April 8. Liverpool head to Chelsea on Tuesday, April 4 before hosting Arsenal on April 9.
How to watch Manchester City vs Liverpool live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 7:30am ET, Saturday TV Channel: Peacock Online: Stream via Peacock Premium
Manchester City vs Liverpool live analysis! – By Joe Prince-Wright at the Etihad Stadium
FULL TIME: Manchester City 4-1 Liverpool – Well, that was rather straightforward in the end, wasn’t it? City were sensational in the second half and Liverpool just couldn’t recover from that early goal after half time.
Alisson saves from Jack Grealish, as his volley is straight at the Liverpool goalkeeper. City are just messing around now. Liverpool in full damage limitation mode with their trip to Chelsea coming up in midweek.
The Manchester City fans at the Etihad are now doing the Poznan. Quite the party atmosphere here. #MCFC 4-1 #LFC#MCILIV
Liverpool having a bit of go here to see if they can make it interesting but City are keeping the ball extremely well.
SAVE! Jack Grealish looks to bend one into the far corner but Alisson tips it away. Great effort from Grealish, who has been really good today.
CLOSE! Gakpo’s shot deflects just wide. Liverpool aren’t giving up here.
GOALLL! Manchester City 3-1 Liverpool. That should be that. Julian Alvarez with so much time in the box. His shot is blocked and the rebound falls straight to Ilkay Gundogan who slots home.
Liverpool still have a threat as Gakpo just can’t beat the offside trap after a nice ball over the top. City ominously cranking through the gears.
GOALLL! Seconds after the second half starts Kevin de Bruyne puts Manchester City 2-1 up. Poor defensive mistakes from Liverpool and Mahrez crosses for KDB to poke home. Liverpool and Klopp can’t believe it.
HALF TIME: Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool – A hugely entertaining first half. Liverpool a real threat on the counter, while Man City have been a little clunky but are still carving out plenty of chances sans Haaland. Intriguing second half coming up.
Erling Haaland and Pep Guardiola were FIRED UP by this beautiful build-up play by Manchester City! 🤩
Moments after being shown a yellow card, Rodri takes down Cody Gakpo cynically as he goes to start a counter. That should be another yellow card. Liverpool players and Jurgen Klopp incensed. And rightly so. Getting spicy out there as TAA catches Grealish unintentionally. Grealish is then taken out by Trent moments later.
GOALLLL! Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool. Julian Alvarez taps home. Great play from Mahrez and Gundogan to set up Grealish and he finds Alvarez to finish. The TV screens here at the Etihad show Erling Haaland going crazy up in the stands as he celebrates. Minutes later Mahrez almost finds Alvarez but his pass is just too heavy. It is all City now.
A bad giveaway from John Stones and Salah and Liverpool are away again, but Jack Grealish works so hard to get back and stops Salah in City’s penalty box. Great defending from Grealish.
OVER! A flurry of chances arrive for City as they can’t convert a cross and then Mahrez smashes over from inside the box. Great opportunity wasted.
GOALLLL! The goal stands. Mohamed Salah puts Liverpool 1-0 up at Manchester City. A wonderful ball over the top to Jota, who just stayed onside, and Salah finishes superbly. What a goal! I was right in the line with that in the press box here at the Etihad and thought that was offside. Akanji just kept Jota onside.
Mohamed Salah puts Liverpool ahead but it looked like Diogo Jota was offside when the initial ball came over the top. VAR check for offside now…
Now a counter attack as Salah and Elliott both have shots blocked. Lively start, this.
CLOSE! Riyad Mahrez whips a free kick inches wide of the far post. Most of the stadium through that was in. Great effort.
CHANCE! A few decent efforts from City now. Gundogan almost finishes at the back post, then Alisson saves a shot from the edge of the box. Liverpool opened up a few times with long balls over the top.
City look a little rattled early on. Liverpool pressing them high and it is working.
KICK OFF! We are underway here in Manchester. Salah has started up top with Gakpo underneath him. Very attacking lineup from Liverpool and they are pressing very high up the pitch. Extremely similar tactics to when they played against City in their 1-0 win at Anfield earlier this season.
🚨 Hello and welcome to the Etihad!
Live analysis + stream link, videos & more on a huge game for both teams for their title & top 4 hopes ➡️ https://t.co/TsjblqTa7L
The atmosphere is bubbling up very nicely here. The warmups are done and the star attackers from both City and Liverpool were spanking in shots galore. The music is pumping over the PA system here. It is go time. This rivalry has delivered so much drama over the years, let’s see if there are even more twists and turns. I’m sure there will be…
Big, big, big (did I mention big!?) team news is that Erling Haaland is OUT for Manchester City. He has not recovered from his groin injury and Julian Alvarez starts up top. It will be intriguing to see how City cope without their main man who was absolutely on fire before the international break. The rest of the team news is as expected. Jota, Salah and Gakpo up top for Liverpool with Darwin Nunez fit enough for the bench.
Hello and welcome to Manchester for this huge game! It has been a glorious sunny morning here, but the clouds are bubbling up just as the action is about to on the pitch at the Etihad. Buckle up. Sparks always fly when these two meet.
Key storylines & in-form players to watch
The loss of Haaland is obviously a huge concern for City as he suffered a groin issue and did not play for Norway over the international break and returned to Manchester for treatment. Julian Alvarez comes in, which is a pretty good back-up option. Elsewhere, City are flying with Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gunodgan having a big role to play with Phil Foden out following his appendix issue. As always, Kevin de Bruyne is the main man and will relish this chance to cut Arsenal’s lead atop the table.
Liverpool just can’t find consistency right now. They have improved defensively but they are a real Jekyll and Hyde team. Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of that and showed his frustration after their defeat at Bournemouth, which was their last Premier League game and was way back on March 11. He’s had a few weeks to stew over that loss and it will be intriguing to see what plan he has come up with. For this game as earlier this season Liverpool beat Man City 1-0 at Anfield by playing a front four which pinned City in.
Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup
OUT: Phil Foden (appendix removed), Erling Haaland (groin)
Your City XI 📋
XI | Ederson, Stones, Akanji, Dias, Ake, Rodrigo, Gundogan (C), De Bruyne, Mahrez, Grealish, Alvarez
Kevin De Bruyne’s gaudy assist numbers give rise to any number of considerations, and we have to wonder if the Manchester City star has ever wondered if the Premier League record would be his in a world in which Jose Mourinho found better use for him at Chelsea.
De Bruyne’s 13 assists this Premier League season are three more than his nearest competitor — Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka — and give him 99 for his career. That’s fifth all-time, two more than Dennis Bergkamp and 64 (?!) behind record holder Ryan Giggs.
The Belgian star, 31, arrived at Chelsea from Werder Bremen at the age of 22 and managed only 425 in a half-season before being offloaded to Wolfsburg. Back in the Bundesliga, De Bruyne got six assists the rest of the way before setting up 21 goals the next season to set up a move to Man City.
He’s since won the nascent Premier League Playmaker of the Season Award twice, including a 20-assist 2019-20 season, and he’s on pace to make it three of six. Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah, and Eden Hazard have also won the award, which is only five years old.
De Bruyne also led the Premier League in assists in 2016-17, the year before the league but a name on the honor.
His stats hint that there’s more to come, as ‘KDB’ is creating a gaudy 3.67 chances per 90 minutes. After a season in which he scored 15 times with eight assists, De Bruyne is back taunting those who’d dare chase him in terms of setting up goals (Some guy named Erling Haaland is helping…).
There is something somewhat dull about knowing the identity of the 2022 Golden Boot winner, the lone curiosity being the final number of his final tally, we get it, but most of what Haaland is doing this season is simply marvelous and to be admired without much fear.
Haaland’s Premier League-leading 28 goals have him seven goals clear of the next closest challenger: Tottenham’s fantastic and firing Harry Kane.
The Norwegian star piled up 20 goals in a single Premier League season faster than any player in history… by seven games (Kevin Phillips of Sunderland did it in 21). Now he’s within five goals of equalling Kevin Phillips’ record for most goals in a debut Premier League season.
And the later this season goes with him projected so far over the current record, the less chucking is accompanied by marking out the pace (especially considering Haaland was not beaten up by the World Cup, as Norway was not in the tournament). And even though Haaland is currently overperforming his expected goals total, it’s clear that projecting him for the Premier League record is rather realistic.
Haaland may not be likely to hit 50 goals given the schedule congestion to come for Man City, but the Premier League record is very well under assault and that figure isn’t entirely absurd. He’s played in 23 of Man City’s 24 games, scoring 26 goals.
Mohamed Salah holds the 38-game season record with his 32 goals scored for Liverpool during the 2017-18 season, while Newcastle’s Andy Cole and Blackburn’s Alan Shearer bagged 34 during 42-game seasons in the 20th century’s final decade.
Haaland also could topple the record for goal involvements (goals plus assists) in a single season, including beating the 42-game record. Alan Shearer put up 47 over 42, while Thierry Henry holds the 38-game record with 44.
Other records that Haaland could legitimately tie or topple:
30 goals in a first Premier League season (Kevin Phillips, Sunderland, 1999-2000)
Goals in 24 different Premier League matches (Salah, Liverpool, 2017-18)
Most goals in a Premier League match (Five tied with five)
11-straight Premier League games with a goal (Jamie Vardy, Leicester, 2014-15)
Read on to see the latest Premier League goal totals for the 2022-23 season, as Haaland looks to claim a Golden Boot in his first PL season.
Patrick Vieira was fired on March 17 after going 11 games without a win (0W-5D-6L) after the calendar turned over to 23, leaving Crystal Palace (27 points – 12th place) closer to the relegation battle than they have any business being. Speaking of having no business being in the relegation battle, Leicester (25 points – 17th place) sit just one point and one place above the bottom-three ahead of Saturday’s trip to south London.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Crystal Palace vs Leicester.
Hodgson came out of retirement to take over until the end of the season, at which point Vieira’s (still to-be-chosen) permanent replacement will take charge with another summer of squad turnover to come. Though they sit nearer to mid-table than the bottom-three heading into matchweek 29, the gap between Crystal Palace and 18th-place West Ham is only three points, meaning they could tumble as far as 17th with another defeat (pending results elsewhere). Wilfried Zaha’s six Premier League goals lead the way for Crystal Palace this season, but the Ivorian international hasn’t scored since Nov. 6 (11 appearances, all starts). Since Zaha’s last league goal, Palace have scored just seven goals in 15 games (1W-5D-7L).
Leicester’s winless run isn’t quite as long as Palace’s (only five games – 0W-1D-4L) since the Foxes inexplicably scored four goals in back-to-back victories over Aston Villa and Tottenham at the start of February. Since then, two goals in five games and three clean sheets against. In fairness, they have faced Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Brentford during the slide, which is perhaps the reason that Brendan Rodgers is still in the job through the recent international break. The other defeat, by the way? It was to last-place Southampton. James Maddison and Harvey Barnes are level on nine goals each, while forwards Patson Daka, Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy have combined to score eight PL goals this season.
Crystal Palace team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Sam Johnstone (calf) | QUESTIONABLE: Vicente Guaita (hamstring), Joachim Andersen (calf), James McArthur (illness), Nathan Ferguson (undisclosed)