Discussing Eric Lichaj’s surprising U.S. national team roster inclusion (Hint: Timothy Chandler’s days are kaput!)

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Eric Lichaj has circled the periphery of the U.S. player pool since Jurgen Klinsmann’s arrival two-plus years ago. The outside back’s most recent game time in a national team shirt came in the 2011 Gold Cup, when he got into a few matches and held his own, despite playing on the left, not his best side.

Those were Bob Bradley’s final matches as United States manager; Lichaj had not been called into a camp under Klinsmann – not until Monday, that is.

After playing irregularly last year for Aston Villa, Lichaj is a fixture this year for Nottingham Forest in England’s (second tier) Championship. That consistent playing time provided him the opportunity. Now we can infer two things from his selection for the national team’s pair of upcoming friendlies.

First, the right back spot remains wide, wide open – and still something of an issue.

This is not exactly “new news,” of course.

Steve Cherundolo could still re-claim the spot he held for so much of the last 10 years. But he is just now dressing again for Hannover, having found a place on the bench for the first time this year only last weekend. Cherundolo, 34, is only recently back from injury. Until he can / does, Klinsmann has to be aggressive about Plans B and C, etc.

“Hope,” in other words, cannot be the plan at right back.

If Cherundolo cannot regain form or fitness or remain healthy or whatever, Fabian Johnson, Brad Evans and Michael Parkhurst are all in the running. All have their strengths and weaknesses – but none of them will inspire tremendous confidence as a World Cup starter along the back line.

(MORE: Klinsmann chooses squad for Scotland, Austria friendlies)

Thus, Klinsmann is forced to gamble and scramble a bit. Which is why Lichaj will drop into camp and perhaps appear against Scotland or Austria despite the manager’s recent assertions that “there are no surprises coming around the corner.”

Past that, this much seems certain:

Timothy Chandler is plum out of chances in Klinsmann’s book.

The German-American had been so wishy-washy about his international ambition and leanings, and Klinsmann seemed content to let the talented young defender work things out – but only to a point. Chandler is playing regularly for Nurnberg (although the club is bottom of the Bundesliga table), but his latest exclusion is pretty telling.

When Klinsmann is calling in guys who haven’t been with the team in two years, but not summoning a Bundesliga starter, it seems safe to say the manager is “done” with that guy.

Enrique has rare brain tumor removed, faces battle

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Former Newcastle and Liverpool defender Jose Enrique is now an agent, but the headache that came with a manager meeting had nothing to do with the conversation.

[ MORE: Lozano to Barcelona? ]

Enrique had a “brutal” headache following a meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton, his former manager, and tests revealed a rare brain tumor (Spanish language link).

Enrique underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor and now faces 35 sessions of radiotherapy, only available in two European cities.

He lost more than a dozen pounds in a single week, calling it “the toughest time of my life.”

WATCH: World Cup, Day 10 — All eyes on Germany

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Many of the favorites in the 2018 World Cup have disappointed, but until Argentina fell 3-0 to Croatia on Thursday, Germany was the only one to suffer a defeat.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Die Mannschaft fell to Mexico in their opening match, with El Tri carving up the German midfield on the counter. Now, Joachim Low has had ample time to make the adjustments needed to go for victory as the Germans take on Sweden as they chase a spot in the knockout stages among Group F.

Meanwhile, Mexico looks to prove they’re not a one-hit wonder as they take on South Korea in Rostov. Juan Carlos Osorio has received plenty of praise – and rightly so – for his tactics in the upset victory, and that leaves El Tri with a chance to clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a win.

Before all that Group F craziness, Belgium takes the field in the morning against Tunisia as they look to follow up its comprehensive 3-0 victory over Panama in the opening round. A victory for the Red Devils would not only book a place in the knockout round, but also eliminate Tunisia from contention.

Below is Saturday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Saturday, June 23

Group F
South Korea vs. Mexico: Rostov-on-Don, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Germany vs. Sweden: Sochi, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group G
Belgium vs. Tunisia: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Kluivert junior leaves Ajax for Roma in $21m transfer

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ROME (AP) — Roma signed Justin Kluivert, the son of former Milan and Barcelona forward Patrick, from Ajax on Friday for a fee that could rise to 18.75 million euros ($21.8 million).

The 19-year-old Dutch international forward has agreed a five-year contract with Roma.

“I’m very happy. I’m at an incredible club,” Kluivert said. “I cannot wait to start. I believe that Roma is the ideal team for my growth, which will allow me to play at the highest levels.”

Kluivert junior made 56 appearances and scored 13 goals for Ajax. He has one cap for the Netherlands.

He joins Roma for an initial 17.25 million euros ($20.1 million) and performance-related clauses could see the price rise by 1.5 million euros.

Ricketts family, owner of the Chicago Cubs, interested in purchasing AC Milan

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The Ricketts family, who purchased a controlling stake in the Chicago Cubs back in 2009, have interest in further pursuing ownership in financially troubled Italian club AC Milan.

According to a family statement, “The Ricketts family brought a championship to the Chicago Cubs through long-term investment and being great stewards of the team … They would bring this same approach to AC Milan.”

First reported by the Chicago Tribune, the news of the Tom Ricketts’ interest in the team comes on the heels of news that current owner Li Yonghong had failed to meet a Friday deadline for a $37 million loan payment. According to reports, the missed payment means that Li will cede control of the club to Elliott Management, who loaned the Chinese businessman the money to complete his initial purchase of the club last April.

The Chicago Sun-Times also reported the family’s interest in the club, and quoted their source as saying, “The Ricketts put together the management team, resources and training facilities [for the Cubs]. [They did] everything you need top to bottom to be successful.”

Ricketts has plenty of history in soccer ownership, having previously been a part of the group that owned English club Derby County before selling back in 2015. This May, Ricketts also announced he was leading an investment group that is looking to bring a USL expansion team to Chicago.

Forbes values AC Milan at $612 million – a massive 26% 1-year decline – and ranks them the 17th most valuable soccer club in the world. That valuation could be further on the decline, as the storied club missed out on Champions League qualification for the fifth straight year, although they qualified for their second straight Europa League appearance with 6th place finish in last year’s Serie A table, eight points behind Lazio in fifth.

AC Milan also faces heavy sanctions from UEFA regarding Financial Fair Play, although those fears could be eased with the financially-troubled Li selling the club.

The Ricketts family’s wealth comes largely from investment banking, with Tom’s father J. Joseph Ricketts having founded Ameritrade back in 1975. Tom is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1 billion, while his father has an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion.