Getting realistic about the “Chris Wondolowski to Brazil” talk

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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.

(MORE: Cheering for Wondo in the World Cup? Great! So … who do you leave out?)

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.)

(MORE: What the U.S. striker depth chart looked like coming into the Gold Cup)

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.

Report: Marcelo Bielsa lined up by Atlanta United

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Now this is something that would not only break the hearts of Leeds United fans but it would surely delight supporters of reigning MLS champs Atlanta United.

A report from Paul Newberry of the Associated Press claims that Atlanta United want one of Marcelo Bielsa or Guillermo Barros Schelotto to take over from outgoing head coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino.

The Argentine coach took charge of ATL’s first two years as an MLS franchise but Martino announced he is leaving this month, and he is expected to be named the new head coach of the Mexican national team.

Bielsa is known to be a close friend of Martino, but does this link make sense?

Right now the eccentric Argentina coach has a sleeping giant, Leeds, in second place in England’s second tier and many believe the Elland Road club are the favorites for promotion to the Premier League this season.

However, a report from the Daily Telegraph states that Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani could be having money issues as his sports streaming company, Eleven Sports, is on the brink of shutting down.

“Radrizzani’s sports streaming service is at risk of shutting down after only four months amid growing doubts over the financial viability of the company. It is understood that the 44-year-old Italian businessman has been unsuccessfully attempting to renegotiate deals with established pay-TV operators but Eleven Sports is now considering pulling the plug on its UK company. Telegraph Sport understands there could now be added pressure on Leeds to achieve promotion this season due to fears over cash-flow issues.”

Would this situation force Bielsa to leave Leeds before the end of the season? Probably not. It seems likely that the pressure will be cranked up on him to achieve promotion though as Radrizzani, Leeds’ majority owner since May, will need to deliver the huge riches promotion to the Premier League brings to continue to bankroll the club.

Bielsa does have a reputation for jumping ship pretty quickly when he does decide he’s had enough at a particular club or if things that were promised to him do not come to fruition. That said, this would still be a huge shock.

Then again, Atlanta shocked many with hiring Martino in the first place and since then the signings of Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, Barco and now Gonzalo ‘Pity’ Martinz.

Huddersfield’s Mooy, Liverpool’s Matip out injured

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A huge blow has arrived for Huddersfield Town, as Aaron Mooy has been ruled out until February with a serious knee injury.

The Terriers have announced that Mooy “suffered a tear to the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) in his right knee” in the 1-0 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday.

Mooy, 28, will miss the 2019 Asian Cup for Australia and Huddersfield’s top goalscorer this season will miss at least their next eight Premier League games. That run includes massive clashes with fellow PL strugglers Newcastle, Southampton, Fulham, Burnley and Cardiff, as Mooy would have lively been the difference for Huddersfield in those game.s

“I’m gutted to be missing an important time for club and country,” Mooy said. “We’ve got a lot of fixtures over the Christmas period at Huddersfield Town, but I back the team to continue our good performances and get the results that we’re targeting. I’m also sad that this injury will rule me out of the Asian Cup. I’d like to wish the Socceroos all the best as they head to the UAE; I’ll be supporting them from afar. The hard work on my recovery has already started and I’m looking forward to being back out on the pitch.”

What does this mean for Huddersfield?

With a pivotal run of games coming up for David Wagner‘s side, Mooy’s absence at the heart of their midfield will be felt. Danny Williams has just returned to full fitness so he should play alongside Jonathan Hogg (struggling with a knock) and Phillip Billing in Mooy’s absence. Wagner also has issues with Terrence Kongolo and right back Tommy Smith, as the latter will be out until January with a hamstring strain.

At this time of the season injuries are starting to mount up for every single Premier League, and Liverpool know all about that.

Jurgen Klopp‘s men will now be without center back Joel Matip until the end of January as he fractured his collarbone in the crucial win against Napoli at Anfield as Liverpool secured their spot in the UEFA Champions League last 16 on Tuesday.

The towering defender, 27, played throughout the game but landed awkwardly when winning a header late on. He went to hospital after the game and it quickly became clear that the issue was a lot more serious then previously thought. Matip will now undergo surgery to repair the damage.

Matip joins Joe Gomez on the sidelines, as the latter fractured a bone in his left leg last week and will be out until February.

With Trent Alexander-Arnold also going off injured during the victory against Napoli, plus Dejan Lovren struggling with injuries all season, the only fully-fit center back Klopp currently has is Virgil Van Dijk. Fabinho could play there at a push, but Klopp is now relying on Lovren to regain his fitness quickly to step in with both Matip and Gomez out.

Raheem Sterling named Premier League Player of the Month

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Raheem Sterling has been named Premier League Player of the Month for November.

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Sterling, 24, scored three goals and added three assists as Manchester City won all three of their Premier League games in November. He had more touches in opposition boxes than any other player and was involved in more goals than any other player over the month.

The England winger has been at the center of alleged racist abuse over the past few days, as four Chelsea fans who were seen hurling abuse at Sterling during City’s 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge on Saturday remain under investigation.

On the pitch, Sterling’s development under Pep Guardiola has been clear. This is the second time he’s won the Player of the Month accolade, with the first coming back in August 2016, as Sterling beat his teammates Leroy Sane and David Silva to the award.

The way he sets up chances for his teammates and finishes them off himself has seen him scored nine times and add eight assists in all competitions this season as he is City’s second highest goalscorer. For club and country he is an automatic starter with his pace, trickery and finishing giving defenders all over the world sleepless nights.

Sterling has now been a Premier League player for eight seasons and this year looks like being his best yet.

What do Man City, Man United need to win UCL groups?

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Both Manchester clubs are in UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday and both teams can win their respective groups.

But what do they need to do?

[ MORE: Champions League standings

City host Hoffenheim as they currently sit top of Group F, while United head to already-eliminated Valencia sitting in second place in Group H behind Juventus.

Below is a look at the scenarios for both City and United, with the former looking nailed on to win their group and United need a win and help if they’re going to finish top of their group.


MANCHESTER CITY

  • A win against Hoffenheim guarantees top spot in Group F
  • A draw against Hoffenheim guarantees top spot in Group F
  • A defeat against Hoffenheim coupled with a win for Lyon against Shakhtar Donetsk will see City finish second
  • A defeat against Hoffenheim couple with a Lyon draw or defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk will see City finish top of Group F

MANCHESTER UNITED

  • Beat Valencia and if Juventus draw or lose away at Young Boys they will finish top of Group H
  • A draw or defeat at Valencia would see United finish second in Group H