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Wondo embarks on 14th MLS season chasing Donovan’s record

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Early in his 14th season in Major League Soccer, Chris Wondolowski no doubt knows the question is coming.

About Landon Donovan. About the record. And about whether he’ll break it.

“I hope so, that would be pretty cool,” Wondolowski said.

Donovan holds the career MLS scoring record with 145 goals. Wondolowski is just 10 goals from matching him. Wondo, as he is known, has already scored a goal this season for the San Jose Earthquakes, the team he’s played for since 2009.

“If we’re successful and get some wins, I’ll be able to get some chances, at least,” he said, referring to the prospects of catching Donovan this season.

Recent history is on Wondolowski’s side. He’s scored 12 or more goals in each of the last eight seasons. He led the Earthquakes last year with 13 goals and eight assists.

Wondolowski and Donovan faced off last weekend in San Jose when Donovan’s new team, Leon, visited the Earthquakes in an exhibition match. Donovan scored the lone goal in the 1-0 victory for the Liga MX team.

There was some history there. Donovan played for the Earthquakes for four seasons, leading the team to MLS Cup titles in 2001 and 2003. Quakes fans were dismayed when Donovan signed with the rival LA Galaxy and went on to win four more MLS Cup championships with Los Angeles.

Donovan smiled when he was asked about the record. He said the ego part of him doesn’t want his record broken, but his heart wants Wondolowski to break it.

“When you look at Wondo’s career and how he’s done it, it’s incredible. For five or six or seven years he didn’t really play. And then all of the sudden he came on to the scene and he scored 15, 18, 20, 25 goals a year for however many years now,” Donovan said. “He deserves it. It’s going to happen at some point and it’s a credit to how hard he’s worked.”

Donovan, who has retired from MLS twice, signed with Leon in January.

After the friendly, Wondolowski and Donovan exchanged jerseys .

“We definitely enjoy joking around,” Wondolowski said. “He told me to go break it (the record) and get as many as I can, and I told him he should come back and keep playing in MLS, as long as he comes back to the Earthquakes. He’s always been a really kind man and it was nice to see him.”

For now, Wondolowski appears focused on the Earthquakes, not the record.

San Jose went 13-14-7 last season, which appeared turbulent for the club. Coach Dominic Kinnear was dismissed in June and replaced by technical director Chris Leitch. Despite the upheaval, San Jose returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2012 but fell to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the knockout round.

The Quakes hired new coach Mikael Stahre in November and opened this season with a 3-2 victory over Minnesota United. They fell 3-2 in the second match against Sporting Kansas City but Wondolowski scored in stoppage time, giving him 135 goals and moving him into sole possession of second place on the career list, 10 back of Donovan.

Wondolowski has played in MLS since 2005, when he was taken by the Earthquakes in the supplemental draft. He moved with the team to Houston in 2006 before getting traded to the new incarnation of the Quakes in 2009.

His best season for MLS came in 2012 when he had 27 goals, a league record that he still shares with two other players.

Wondolowski has played 35 games with the U.S. national team, including two at the 2014 World Cup. He has 11 international goals, but he is perhaps most remembered for the one he missed – a potential game winner against Belgium at the World Cup that went over the crossbar late in regulation.

He was on the roster for the U.S. team that lost to Trinidad and Tobago last fall, which effectively eliminated the Americans from this summer’s World Cup. He called the defeat devastating.

But as an MLS veteran, Wondolowski is excited about the growth he’s seen in the league. Despite his team’s loss to Leon, he sees the league as steadily gaining on Liga MX. Indeed, the progress has had tangible results in the CONCACAF Champions League, where a pair of MLS teams – Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls – advanced to the semifinals with victories over Mexican league opponents.

“I think it’s been amazing, it’s been leaps and bounds. The league itself has grown – you see the talent that’s out there on the field and the product itself,” he said. “And the Earthquakes themselves, how the club has progressed since 2005. It’s cool to see.”

VIDEO: France stars projected onto Arc de Triomphe

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If France’s players had any doubt about the level of import their World Cup title had back home, it was erased when their photos were projected onto one of the most celebrated monuments in the world.

The photos of Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, and company made their way onto the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, hours after France defeated Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup Final.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Arc de Triomphe honors those who died in the French Revolution and early 19th century wars, and sits above France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

How humbling must it be for those players to grace such a heavy monument (both in weight and substance).

Dalic: In one day, Croatia went from lucky to unlucky

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Ante Cacic’s Croatia was on pace to miss out on the World Cup.

Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia rallied the troops to second place in their qualifying group, a playoff defeat of Greece, and a run to the World Cup Final.

Pretty decent stuff.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

And surely the 51-year-old will reflect on that, probably even this evening, but he’s more focused on a letdown after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to highly-favored France.

Key to the match was a penalty awarded to France when a partially-obscured Mario Mandzukic handled a ball inside the 18, leading to Antoine Griezmann’s pivotal goal.

The PK was awarded via VAR, and France went up 2-1 en route to a three-goal lead. From the AFP:

“I never comment on referees but in a World Cup final you do not give such a penalty,” said Dalic.

“It in no way diminishes France’s win. We were a bit unlucky. Maybe in the first six games we were favored by luck and today we weren’t.

“I have to congratulate my players. Maybe today we played our best game at these championships. Against such a strong side as France you must not make mistakes. We are a bit sad but we must also be proud of what we’ve done.”

Croatia had two-thirds of the ball and doubled France’s shot attempts, and Dalic isn’t the least bit controversial in wondering whether the match is much different if that penalty goes unawarded by referee Nestor Pitana.

Atlanta comes back to draw 10-man Seattle (video)

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A scrappy if not downright venomous affair between the lowly Seattle Sounders and high-flying Atlanta United ended in a 1-1 draw in Georgia on Sunday.

The Sounders went ahead through a Nicolas Lodeiro penalty kick, awarded via VAR a la this morning’s World Cup Final, but Atlanta leveled the score with a highlight which show every bit of the game story.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

Just check Josef Martinez’s barking at Stefan Frei, who made an uncharacteristic error on the play, after his 19th goal of the season (Nice cross, Julian Gressel).

Martinez needs nine more goals to break the MLS single season record, and he has 13 games to score them.

Jordan McCrary was sent off for Seattle in the 63rd minute for a second yellow, but Seattle navigated the final half hour or so to scoop up an unlikely point.

Atlanta still sits first with its earned point but opens the door for New York City FC to reach the top of the table when it plays its match-in-hand, while Seattle is now 11 points back of the West’s final playoff spot.

Anderson arrives: Can Pellegrini unlock West Ham’s potential?

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West Ham United has sealed another impressive deal, adding $48 million winger Felipe Anderson from Lazio.

It’s a club record deal from the Irons, whose ambitions have been short-circuited in recent seasons by stop-start play under Slaven Bilic and David Moyes.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

Now Manuel Pellegrini is in charge, and has made a series of purchases including Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko, Issa Diop, and Jack Wilshere amongst others.

Anderson was fantastic for Lazio last season, though he was part of a loaded attack with Ciro Immobile, Luis Alberto, and Sergej Malinkovic-Savic.

Now the challenge is gelling quickly inside a short window. As we’ve seen in the past with markedly changed mid-table sides — see: Everton’s 2017-18 season — hitting the ground running is key.

Players have been convinced of West Ham’s ambition. Here’s the latest, Anderson, from WHUFC.com:

“West Ham is a club with a lot of tradition, lots of great players have played here, like Bobby Moore, Carlos Tevez and Di Canio. They were great players and idols here, and I’m aiming big, who knows, maybe I could hit their heights and be a legend here too.”

But turning that into on-field success and in-room culture has been a challenge. The move to London Stadium didn’t help, and managerial instability has been anything but a boon to the Irons. There have been plenty of self-inflicted wounds, too.

West Ham’s lineup could be frightening, even in the face of injuries to Andy Carroll (surprise!) and Winston Reid. But managing egos new and old is a challenge, which is why the Pellegrini hire could be a masterstroke.

Consider this possible XI from Pellegrini, who largely operated his Manchester City with a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2 with two holding/defensive/deep-lying center midfielders (There have been rumors West Ham could sell Cheikhou Kouyate).

There are a lot of options for Pellegrini’s front four. Anderson and Yarmolenko both prefer right wing, while Arnautovic likes the left but has proven adept as a center forward if Pellegrini becomes the latest manager to eschew the idea of Javier Hernandez up top. Manuel Lanzini‘s injury does seem to put Wilshere in the No. 10 role.

Fabianski

Fredericks — Diop — Balbuena — Masuaku

Obiang — Kouyate

Anderson — Wilshere — Yarmolenko

Arnautovic

So the ingredients are there, with Aaron Cresswell, Pablo Zabaleta, and Jordan Hugill joining Chicharito in keeping training competitive.

But Pellegrini will have to navigate a culture that saw a seedy finish to the season, with protests and ugly incidents amongst supporters and players on the field in London.

And he does seem the man for the job. But if he can’t do it… well, stay tuned.