Reigniting the Chris Wondolowski-World Cup roster debate

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Chris Wondolowski did exactly what he needed Saturday, keeping his name in the conversation as Jurgen Klinsmann begins bearing down on the real nitty-gritty of those career making roster decisions.

Had Wondolowski not scored Saturday, in what may well have been his last U.S. starting assignment prior to roster decision time, the choice on the San Jose hitman would have been clear. But with two goals in the win over South Korea, credit the fellow for keeping this ball of debate in the air.

But as I’ve said before, it’s not enough to say “Chris Wondolowski deserves a roster spot.” If you believe so, that’s fine. But you should also say which U.S. striker doesn’t get to go in that case.

Here’s how that breaks down:

Klinsmann is likely to take six “forwards” if we count Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey as such. That’s exactly as it happened in 2010, when the forwards were Dempsey, Donovan, Jozy Alditore, Edson Buddle, Robbie Findley and Herculez Gomez.

Same deal, more or less, in 2006: Dempsey, Donovan and a foursome of strikers.

So it seems safe to assume at this point something quite similar. Heck, you could even make the case that Klinsmann, more 4-3-3 than 4-4-2 in basic alignment preferences, could take just three pure strikers, preferring an extra man more comfortable working the flanks.

But if it’s four (beyond Dempsey and Donovan), here’s how they probably stack up at the moment:

  • 1. Jozy Altidore
  • 2. Aron Johannsson
  • 3. Eddie Johnson

You could quibble with the ordering, but based on lineups and camp rosters, it seems clear that these are Klinsmann’s top front runners of the moment. Barring injuries or loss of form, that leaves one spot. The candidates are:

  • Wondolowski
  • Terrence Boyd
  • Herculez Gomez
  • Mike Magee

Magee is a longshot; like Wondolowski, he needed to get into Saturday’s match and make a big, loud statement. Unfortunately, a bout of food poisoning undid Magee’s opportunity.

But Boyd is well thought of, and doing well at Rapid Vienna. Gomez was a Klinsmann favorite, whose effort and attitude was appreciated along with the talent, before injuries took him out of the scene for a while. If he goes on a run in Liga MX, the Tijuana  man becomes a heavy favorite to bump into that fearsome of foursome of travelers into Brazil.

So there it is, Wonder Wondo supporters. Your guy has kept himself in the thick of things – but he still has some miles to travel before making serious plans to spend his summer in Brazil.

(MORE: What went right in the U.S. win over South Korea)

(MORE: What went wrong in the U.S. win over South Korea)

 

World Cup’s only black coach says there should be more

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MOSCOW (AP) — The only black coach at this year’s World Cup says there is a need for more in soccer.

“In European countries, in major clubs, you see lots of African players. Now we need African coaches for our continent to go ahead,” Senegal’s Aliou Cisse said through a translator on Monday, a day ahead of his nation’s World Cup opener against Poland.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The percentage of black players at this year’s tournament and with clubs in the world’s top leagues is far higher.

Cisse was captain of Senegal when it reached the 2002 quarterfinals in the nation’s only previous World Cup appearance.

“I am the only black coach in this World Cup. That is true,” Cisse said. “But really these are debates that disturb me. I think that football is a universal sport and that the color of your skin is of very little importance.”

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cisse cited Florent Ibenge, the coach of Congo’s national team, as a sign of progress.

“I think we have a new generation that is working, that is doing its utmost, and beyond being good players with a past of professional footballers,” Cisse said. “We are very good in our tactics, and we have the right to be part of the top international coaches.”

Africa’s best performance at the World Cup has been to reach the quarterfinals, accomplished by Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“I have the certainty that one day an African team, an African country, will win the World Cup,” Cisse said. “It’s a bit more complicated in our countries. We have realities that are not there in other continents, but I think that the African continent is full of qualities. We are on the way, and I’m sure that Senegal, Nigeria or other African countries will be able win, just like Brazil, Germany or other European countries.”

A lack of minority managers also has been documented at the club level. The Sports People’s Think Tank said in November there were just three minority managers among the 92 English professional clubs as of Sept. 1.

World Cup: Saudi team safe after plane caught fire mid-flight

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The Saudi Arabian national team arrived alive and well in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Monday after a terrifying incident that saw their plane catch fire in the air.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The blaze was caused by “a technical failure in one of the airplane engines,” which the airline, Rossiya, claims was caused by a bird flying into the engine. Each of the planes engines were reportedly in operation upon landing at its final destination.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation posted a message on Twitter later on Monday, saying they “would like to reassure everyone that all the Saudi national team players are safe, after a technical failure in one of the airplane engines that has just landed in Rostov-on-Don airport, and now they’re heading to their residence safely.”

The Green Falcons will face Uruguay in Rostov, hoping to rebound from their tournament-opening 5-0 loss to Russia on Thursday, in each side’s second game of Group A action on Wednesday (11 a.m. ET).

Seismologists clarify Mexico fans didn’t cause earthquake

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s National Seismological Service says there was seismic activity around the country’s capital Sunday, but it wasn’t linked to soccer fans celebrating their country’s game-winning goal vs. Germany at the World Cup.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The service says in a report that there were two small earthquakes at 10:24 a.m. and 12:01 p.m. The goal came around 11:35 a.m. local time.

A geological institute reported Sunday that seismic detectors had registered a false earthquake that may have been generated by “massive jumps” by fans.

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

Mexico’s Seismological Service explained Monday that the city’s normal bustle of traffic and other movement causes vibrations that are detected by sensitive instruments.

It says those vibrations notably quieted during the match as people gathered in front of TVs to watch, and rose after the goal.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 6 — Colombia vs. Japan; Salah’s debut?

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Day 6 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Tuesday — and would you believe it? — there’s another three games on the schedule. This whole “back-to-back-to-back games of soccer” thing isn’t so bad.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Up first, it’s the 2018 debut of Colombia, winners of tens hundreds of millions of hearts in 2014, as they take on Japan. In the day’s other Group H fixture, it’ll be Robert Lewandowski and Poland facing Sadio Mane and Senegal. Star power aplenty.

Then, we swing things back around to Group A, where the hosts Russia will look to continue their hot start against Egypt with Mohamed Salah expected to make his World Cup debut.

Below is Tuesday’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 – Tuesday, June 19

Group H
Colombia vs. Japan: Saransk, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Poland vs. Senegal: Moscow, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group A
Russia vs. Egypt: St. Petersburg, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE