Want Chris Wondolowski on the World Cup roster? Great! Now … who do you leave out?

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You know that thing that hollerin’ pundits do around NCAA Tournament selection time, where they get high and mighty and talk about how this team got hosed, and how that one got hosed, too?

You know what most of them will not do? They generally won’t acknowledge that it’s a zero-sum game, meaning that for every winner there must be a loser. They skillfully dodge identifying which team they would boot from the field in order to squeeze in the unjustly uninvited.

See, it’s easy to be the good cop who invites everyone past the velvet rope – much harder to be the meanie that keeps some of the would-be partiers out.

(MORE: Tapping the brakes on the “Chris Wondolowski has Brazil booked” talk)

So we arrive here on the Chris Wondolowski conversation.  Because if Major League Soccer’s current Golden Boot holder gobbles up one of the spots, are we compelled to begin wading into the less pleasant end of this swimming hole: which player gets left behind?

History has shown that U.S. managers prefer to bring four forwards to World Cups. For Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey were both listed as midfielders.

Here is where the math gets a little fuzzy, because manager Jurgen Klinsmann has used Dempsey almost exclusively as a second striker. The manager may see Dempsey as a forward – even if only nominally so, because all this stuff is more art than hard math, isn’t it? – and that would mean one fewer prototype frontrunner will be seated on that golden charter into Brazil.

Further, Donovan is filling a role as a second striker more often. Clearly, he’s capable of playing in wider positions, too. And there is a spot that appears to be open on the left at the moment. Still, the number of available forwards starts getting crowded quickly, doesn’t it?

source:

At this point, Jozy Altidore and Herculez Gomez are as close to “locks” as anyone can be 10 months out of official roster submission into FIFA. Clearly, injuries can happen. And players can fall out of form, although these two have done a lot to earn benefit of the doubt. Both would have to fall wildly out of form to be cast aside.

Eddie Johnson has probably done enough at this point, especially as Klinsmann has been bold about using the striker in wide positions. If Dempsey and/or Donovan go as a striker, there’s your list. And … please pardon me for doing this … Where’s Wondo?

Even if a fourth, natural forward is taken, and if that fellow is named Wondolowski, look who we’ve just eliminated: Probably Terrence Boyd, a really terrific young talent. Perhaps also Joe Corona, who was usually in the “hole” behind an advanced striker before the Gold Cup.

What about Jack McInerney, who may have something to say about all this in the next 10 months?

So, all this is not just about Wondolowski. There’s a bigger picture to consider – and to argue and debate about.

(MORE: U.S. striker depth chart heading into the  Gold Cup) 

Napoli scores on late penalty, rare Van Dijk error in 2-0 win

ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)
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The good news is that Liverpool lost to Napoli last season in the UEFA Champions League, then went on to win the whole darn thing.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Jose Callejon won a late penalty that Dries Mertens converted, and Fernando Llorente took advantage of a Virgil Van Dijk error to pad the lead as Napoli held serve at home with a 2-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday.


Three things we learned

1. Goalkeepers immense: No, he’s not Alisson Becker, but Adrian is probably the biggest reason Liverpool didn’t open its UCL defense with a loss. He made a pair of early stops on Dries Mertens before a show-stopping effort in the second half. Napoli got two fine saves from Alex Meret, including a terrific denial of Mohamed Salah in the 65th.

2. Salah, Mane can’t deliver in key moments: Take away Salah’s penalty in the UCL Final, and Liverpool’s two top threats have not accounted for a goal in four matches inside the competition. Mane was mostly good on the day, but misled Salah on an early second half pass which would have almost certainly been a goal. Salah simply had an off day

3. Callejon sells the drama: Liverpool’s Andy Robertson lost a 50/50 with Jose Callejon, who ran into the fulback and hit the deck to win a penalty. That was the difference here, as Mertens beat Adrian.

Man of the Match: Meret was especially good, the 22-year-old Italian goalkeeper big in several key moments to edge Mertens for the honor.


Napoli thought it had gone ahead through El Tri star Hirving Lozano, who nodded over the line following two Alisson Becker saves on Dries Mertens, but the Mexican was offside.

Sadio Mane had a 20th minute chance at the other end, but pumped a point blank low shot to Napoli keeper Alex Meret which led to a corner kick.

Fabinho intervened in the 53rd minute as Napoli emerged from the locker room with energy, but the best chance of the early second half was flubbed in uncharacteristic fashion: Sadio Mane was through 2v1 with Mohamed Salah but made a miserable pass to his teammate.

The first goal arrived when Callejon tapped the ball past Robertson and leapt into the defender to earn a penalty from referee Felix Brych.

It was 2-0 in stoppage time when Fernando Llorente ran onto a Virgil van Dijk error and passed beyond Adrian.

UCL AT HALF: Marsch’s Salzburg rolling; Champions holding firm; Chelsea’s Mount hurt

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We’ve got news after 45 minutes of six more UCL matches, including a big injury at Stamford Bridge and a monumental start for an American in Austria.

[ UCL: Scores, lineups, stats, box scores ]

Chelsea 0-0 Valencia

No goals to report here, but early season hero Mason Mount has left the match with an injury for the Blues. He was not replaced by Christian Pulisic, rather Pedro.

Liverpool 0-0 Napoli

It’s been a pretty even affair, though Liverpool can thank Adrian for a pair of great saves on Dries Mertens before Hirving “Chucky” Lozano’s goal was ruled offside.

Red Bull Salzburg 5-1 Genk

Jesse Marsch is now officially the first American man to manage a team in a UEFA Champions League game.

The Red Bull Salzburg boss is also the first to hold a second minute lead, as red hot striker Erling Braut Haland scored his 15th, 16th, and 17th goals in nine matches under Marsch.

Haland also five assists on the season, having entered Tuesday’s match with 658 minutes across all competitions.

Haland is the son of former Leeds, Man City, and Nottingham Forest manager Alf-Inge Haland.

Hwang-Hee Chan has Salzburg’s other goal, and two assists.

Elsewhere

Inter Milan 1-1 Slavia Prague — RECAP
Lyon 1-1 Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Barcelona
Ajax 1-0 Lille
Benfica 0-0 RB Leipzig

Yedlin nears return, hoping for October USMNT call-up

Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images
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Hindsight being 20/20, it’s easy to see that DeAndre Yedlin didn’t look right last season.

The Newcastle United and USMNT right back was not up to his standards during the 2018-19 season, and Yedlin says the injury that’s cost him the start of this season has been the culprit for a long time.

[ MORE: Neymar ban reduced ]

Yedlin, 26, went through surgery this May for a sports hernia which he says bothered him on game days for almost a year and a half.

From NUFC.co.uk:

 “It was tough, and it was a bit confusing because it would come and go. There would be months that I’d be playing with it and I’d take pain killers before the game and try to get through it, then there’d be times when it didn’t bother me at all,” he said.

“Even in warm ups, I’d be thinking ‘it’s going to be tough to make it through this game.’ Once the pain killers hit in, you can’t really feel anything anymore and then adrenalin hits in but, yeah, it’s tough. As a player you don’t want to stop and then lose your place, but you’ve also got to do what’s best for you and for the longevity of your career.

That’s not good, and both USMNT and Newcastle supporters will hope the injury was the reason behind his decline in form.

Yedlin’s stats dropped in each of his last two PL seasons. For a player whose blessed with blazing speed, a sports hernia is only going to dramatically affect performance.

He says he has been in touch with USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter.

“That’s been tough. I’ve had contact with the manager and they’re keeping updated on how I’m doing. This last international break was just a bit too soon but hopefully the next one, I’ll be ready for and hopefully I’ll have some minutes under my belt by that time, then really crack on from there.”

Conte’s Inter avoids UCL upset in stoppage time

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The Champions League nearly began with an upset, as Slavia Prague led Inter Milan 1-0 into stoppage time at the San Siro on Tuesday.

But a pair of Inter loanees produced a play to tie the score in the second minute of stoppage, as Stefano Sensi (Sassuolo) curled a free kick off the bar and Nicolo Barella (Cagliari) first timed the rebound through traffic and inside the far post.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Peter Olayinka started and finished the play for Slavia Prague’s second half opener. The scorer took the ball to the end line and cut back for Lukas Provod, whose shot was saved by Samir Handanovic.

But Olayinka followed the play and took advantage of the marker who slid to block his initial pass. On the doorstep at the back post, the Nigerian smashed the ball into the top of the goal.

The goal was deserved, and the score line represented the tightness of the contest. Inter barely out shot the Czech visitors and had just a little bit more of the ball.

Romelu Lukaku nearly thumped home a header in the sixth minute of stoppage, but Slavia keeper Ondrej Kolar made a fine save.

Here’s the equalizer: