Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

Good morning to everyone but especially to…

THE US MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM

More than eight years in the making, it’s finally here: The United States men’s national team released its 2022 World Cup roster Wednesday night, with under two weeks until its first match in Qatar, against Wales.

Here’s Gregg Berhalter’s 26-player squad:

And here’s what you need to know about each player.

There are plenty of names we knew years ago would be there — Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams — but just as big of a talking point is who didn’t make the squad. Among the biggest snubs are goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who started six qualifying matches, and striker Ricardo Pepi, whose three qualifying goals ranked second on the team.

Here’s our soccer expert Roger Gonzalez on the biggest names not making the trip:

  • Gonzalez: “Pepi was the biggest name at striker, the guy viewed as the problem solver for all of the woes at the position. He’s tall, he’s quick, he gets into dangerous spots. If you’re building a team that can pose a threat in 2026, wouldn’t you want him being involved in the 2022 setup to gain some experience? … [Steffen has] long been the No. 1 goalkeeper and goes way back to his Columbus Crew days with Berhalter. He’s been the guy for a few years now and has a ton of ability. How the hell does he get left off the roster?”

Given the massive questions at striker and goalkeeper, Berhalter is certainly taking risks, but at the roster reveal party, he insisted on talking about who is on the team. It’s important that we do, too. After all, if this team performs up to its capabilities, we’ll soon forget about the omissions.

With that, our soccer expert Chuck Booth has takeaways on the squad, and Roger has grades for every unit, with the midfielders earning the highest marks. Berhalter was always going to have big decisions to make. We’ll know soon enough whether he made the right ones.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…


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JOSH ALLEN, MATTHEW STAFFORD AND KYLER MURRAY

With Week 10 kicking off tonight, we’re about to be more than halfway through the NFL regular-season schedule. Everyone has bumps and bruises. But not all bumps and bruises are created equal, and there are three we’re keeping an eye on, especially because all three belong to big-name quarterbacks.

  • Josh Allen has an elbow injury — specifically to his ulnar collateral ligament, the same one that sometimes causes pitchers to undergo Tommy John surgery — and is day-to-day going forward, according to Bills head coach Sean McDermott. If Allen can’t play this weekend against the 7-1 Vikings, Case Keenum would get the nod against his former team.
  • Matthew Stafford is in the concussion protocol. Rams head coach Sean McVay said the team “will take it a day at a time” with Stafford, who has played in every game in 10 of the last 11 seasons. John Wolford would get the start if Stafford can’t go.
  • The Rams’ opponent — the Cardinals — are also dealing with an injury to their quarterback, with Kyler Murray popping up on the injury report with a hamstring issue. Given how much Murray runs, that could be especially impactful.

All three are indispensable parts of their teams, and any time missed would be a major blow.

Not so honorable mentions

Thursday Night Football preview: Falcons aim for NFC South lead vs. Panthers 🏈


USATSI

Not many people would have believed you before the season if you said a 4-5 record would be good enough to tie for the NFC South lead after nine weeks, but that’s exactly the case. The Falcons — tied with the Buccaneers atop the division take on the Panthers on Thursday.

Both teams are looking for major bounce-back performances. Atlanta blew an early double-digit lead against the Chargers while Carolina got blown out by the Bengals, giving up five touchdowns to Joe Mixon in the process. Now, the Carolina run defense will get tested by a team that runs at the second-highest rate in the league. Here’s who gambling expert Tyler Sullivan likes.

  • Sullivan: The pick: Falcons -2.5. The Falcons’ strength offensively also plays into this matchup well. They own a top-five rushing offense in yards per game and rushing touchdowns, while Carolina has been one of the worst run defenses in the league, ranking in the bottom five of the NFL in both of those same categories. The Panthers defense is also coming off a game where it was on the field for nearly 40 minutes and 72 plays against Cincinnati just a few days ago.”

Nets name Jacque Vaughn head coach, pass on Ime Udoka 🏀


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The Brooklyn Nets elevated Jacque Vaughn from interim to full-time head coach Wednesday, choosing Vaughn over reported top candidate Ime Udoka.

  • Vaughn, 47, went 2-2 as interim head coach following Steve Nash‘s departure before being elevated to full-time. Vaughn’s contract will run through the 2023-24 season.
  • This is the second time Vaughn has been a full-time head coach. He went 58-158 with the Magic from 2012-13 to 2014-15. He also went 7-3 as the Nets interim head coach after Kenny Atkinson was fired in 2020.
  • Brooklyn beat the Knicks last night, 112-85, in Vaughn’s first game coaching without the interim title.

Vaughn has been with the franchise since 2016-17, and in that sense, he represents some stability in what’s been a turbulent season for Brooklyn on and off the court. The Nets are 5-7 and currently without Kyrie Irving, who was suspended by the team for promoting an antisemitic film on his social media. Irving met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday morning.

Even given his familiarity with the franchise, Vaughn’s hiring was a bit of a surprise considering Udoka was immediately regarded as the top candidate following Nash’s exit. Udoka led the Celtics to an NBA Finals appearance last season, his first as a head coach. The Celtics suspended Udoka for the entire 2022-23 season due to an improper relationship with a staff member — one that the team initially believed to be consensual before the woman accused Udoka of making unwanted comments toward her. According to reports, the Nets opted not to hire Udoka due to negative feedback during their vetting process, among other issues.

Nets GM Sean Marks addressed the media Wednesday night about all of the above.

Astros GM James Click working without contract in place ⚾


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Since 2020, James Click has helped dig the Astros out of their cheating scandal and build a team that’s won two of the last three AL pennants and a World Series just days ago.

And yet, he still doesn’t have a contract in place.

The Astros‘ GM technically has been operating without a contract since his deal expired Oct. 31. Though manager Dusty Baker officially received an extension Wednesday, talks between Click and owner Jim Crane remain ongoing. I think our MLB expert Matt Snyder sums it up best.

  • Snyder: “Crane would have an interesting time trying to justify moving on from Click right now, but with contract negotiations still ongoing, it really makes you wonder how much Crane really wants Click around.”

Until we hear one way or another, we’ll continue to wonder.

What we’re watching Thursday 📺

🏀 76ers at Hawks, 7:30 p.m. on NBA TV
🏈 Falcons at Panthers, 8:15 p.m. on Prime Video





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