12/6/22  US loses to Netherlands, Semis Fri/Sat 10&2 on Fox, England v France Sat 10 Fox, Great WC Saves, Carmel FC GK Coach in NC Game

World Cup News  The Bracket

So the US is out – but man this World Cup is still hugely exciting!!  Brazil just makes me happy – wow the Brazilian Samba dances are just fun !!   Here’s Brazilian Coach Tite dancing here is one of the most spectacular goals ever by Richarlison of Tottenham.  I agree with Alexi Lalas Dancing YES.  Here are the full highlights. Croatia v Japan went to shootout.  France on a roll highlights.  Tons of stories below – on each of the Final 8 in the Quarterfinals. Keep on scrolling to find your team.

The World Cup commercials are out – which ones do you like best?  Nike  Addidas  check them all out hereIts Called Soccer – Classic Commercial   

USA loses to Netherlands 3-1

The US just didn’t have the firepower to hang with the Netherlands –disappointing to me that the very thing that got us to the knockout stage – our defense – is what let us down.  Our Captain Tyler Adams stayed on the grass for a good 15 minutes postgame with his head in his hands.  He knew his not tracking back on the first goal is what gave the Dutch the lead.  Tyler Adams who covered more ground than any player in this World Cup from his Dmid spot had relaxed on 1 play and it cost us dearly.  The 2nd goal was Dest being lazy – we know he’s not the best defender – and the 3rd just a boneheaded misplay by Robinson who had really gotten banged up a few minutes before.  

Think about this would anyone on the US team start for the Netherlands?  NO!!  The Dutch have no fewer than 5 players worth close to 100 million Van Dyke, Mephis, DeJong  – and 5 more worth more than 50M – we have 1 in Pulisic who might be worth 40M. We are young, talented but inexperienced.

I laugh at the folks calling our Manager Gregg Berhalter the complete reason we lost.  Do I disagree with some of his man decisions? Yes. I would never have even brought Jesus Ferraira on the plane – but Portugal brought their 21 year old home league playing star Ramos and started him over the legendary Renaldo then scored a hat trick.  Sometimes it works – sometimes not.  I did love his 2nd half move of Weah to the #9 and Reyna on the right (finally) – Reyna served no fewer than 5 balls that could have resulted in a score.  The bottom line is the US outpossessed and outshot the Dutch, and had twice as many corners – we just couldn’t finish.  What’s new – we have ZERO #9s in this country.  But Berhalter has us playing on the front foot, taking possession and controlling the tempo. We used to bunker – a la Iran last 30 minutes and pray for a Landon Donovan 2 v 1 counter or head ball goal on a Corner. That was it. That’s all the US scored in World Cups EVER.  At least now we are trying to possess and control the game.  This is partially because we have better young players playing at top clubs in Europe and partially because Berhalter has forced us to change our style of play.  I am ok with that.  Honestly this World Cup was about preparing our young stars for 2026 at home.  Now we have to hope the Olympics (we should be sending our A team U-23s) and the Copa America 2024 can help prepare us.  Should Berhalter be the guy to carry us there?  Not sure – But I would re-sign him hoping he carries us thru 2024 COPA then re-evaluate.  We’ll see what Berhalter and US Soccer decide though.  In the meantime – Bravo Boys !!  We got back to the World Cup we got thru the toughest Group Stage, we outplayed England – mission accomplished  – Overall Grade B-

US vs Iran highlights   US vs England Highlights US Highlight vs Netherlands 5 min    Matt Turner Double save vs Dutch 

stories 26 players going to Qatar its awesome See tons of Great World Cup Saves and Interesting Ref Decisions below.

Heartbreak City for Carmel FC GK Coach Noelle Rolfsen  and the Marian University Lady Knights in Indianapolis who got to the National Championship game in Alabama before losing a 1-0 game to Spring Arbor Monday night.  Still a Fantastic season for our favorite College Goalkeeper- GK Coach Noelle and the National Semi-Finalist Marian U. Knights!

IU’s 22nd College Cup – Fri 8:30 pm on ESPNU

Huge Congrats to CFC Director Juergen Sommer’s Alma Mater Indiana University as they have advanced to their 22nd Final 4 of Soccer they play Friday night vs Pittsburgh in Cary, NC at 8:30 pm on ESPNU. The Bracket

CARMEL FC GOALKEEPERS : Wednesday Night Trainings Dec-Mar – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse 5:30 pm U12//6:30 pm U13-U15//8:30 pm HS U15+. 

Not sure what other clubs have – but Carmel FC has former US Men’s National Team World Cup GK & Coach and first American GK in the EPL Juergen Sommer coaching the high school age, Hall of Fame Canadian World Cup GK Carla Baker coaching the U15s and myself coaching the U12s this winter. 

WORLD CUP GAMES ON TV

Fri, Dec 9                             Quarter Finals Final 8–                  

10 am Fox                            Netherlands vs Argentina (Messi)

2 pm Fox                              Brazil vs Croatia

6 pm ESPNU                      #3 Syracuse vs Creighton Final 4 Men

8:30 pm  ESPNU               #12 Indiana U vs Pittsburgh Final 4                               

Sat Dec 10                           Quarter Finals Final 8–                  

10 am Fox                            Portugal (Renaldo) vs Morocco

2 pm Fox                              England vs France (Mbappe)

Mon,  Dec 12                      NCAA Mens Final

6 pm ESPNU                       IU/Pitt vs Syr/Creight

Tues Dec 13                        Semis – Final 4                  

2 pm  Fox

Wed Dec 14                        Semis – Final 4                  

2 pm  Fox

Sat, Dec 17                          third Place                         

10 am  Fox

Sun, Dec 18                         FINALS                 

10 am  Fox

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

CARMEL FC PLAYERS : Winter Players League (WPL) – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse
As the fall season comes to a close over the next month, we wanted to let you know that we will be launching an indoor soccer league over two six week sessions within our new Badger Fieldhouse. Games will be played on either Friday night ( 6pm to 10pm) or Sunday afternoon (1pm-5pm) depending on age groups: U8s, U9&U10, U11&U12, U13-U15 and U16+ (Coed Teams allowed). Referees for each game, 50 minute games, 5v5, 7v7 and 9v9 matches.
Session One (6 weeks): Jan 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th / Feb: 3rd, 10th
Session Two (6 weeks): Feb 17th, 24th / Mar 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th
Gather teammates and be ready to play!

US Men

USMNT’s World Cup run ends in Round of 16  By Donald Wine II

2022 World Cup: USA 1-3 Netherlands – Faulty defending and missed chances eliminate the Americans  By Parker Cleveland

USA vs. Netherlands, 2022 FIFA World Cup: Community player ratings
USMNT finally looks its age in World Cup loss to the Netherlands | Opinion

Same Results – Different Outlook for USMNT – Henry Bushnell Yahoo Soccer

Two big questions swirling around Berhalte

Analysis: The USMNT bows out of Qatar with 3-1 loss to the Netherlands

USMNT left pondering missed World Cup opportunity: “It’s going to hurt for a while”

USMNT can’t solve Netherlands’ tactical wrinkle in Word Cup elimination

USMNT may “lose some sleep” over World Cup elimination to Netherlands

USA Player Ratings: What follows the World Cup exit vs. Netherlands?

Three takeaways as USA suffer World Cup exit against Netherlands

USA heartbreak in Qatar: World Cup run ends against Netherlands

Video – Where does the US go from here?  MLS.com
What did the US lack most at the World Cup? Football intelligence

USA’s World Cup report card: best and worst players, plus predictions for 2026

USA bid farewell to Qatar. Now thoughts turn to a home challenge in 2026

American soccer success in men’s World Cup remains a dream

Where is the next FIFA World Cup? The 2026 tournament is coming to a city near you.

World

TONS OF STORIES BELOW KEEP SCROLLING TO READ STORIES ON EACH FINAL 8 TEAM


France scouting report: How England can stop Les Bleus and reach another World Cup semi-final

Foden, Kane shine as England handles Senegal to set up France meeting

Morocco to ‘come out swinging’ against Spain at World Cup

England’s Bellingham ‘has everything’ but now comes biggest test yet

Sterling leaves England World Cup camp after home break-in

Record-breaking Giroud brings goals to France’s repeat World Cup bid

World Cup is my obsession says Mbappe after firing France into quarter-finals

Mbappé is bringing soccer to a new dimension at World Cup

Believe the hype, Bellingham is lighting up the World Cup

Lewandowski exit with Poland looks like World Cup farewell

Pelé’s family: COVID caused infection, death not imminent

World Cup without booze makes for ‘different’ atmosphere

Goalkeeping

Great Saves Croatian GK Dominik Livakovic

Morroco Keeper Bono PK Saves vs Spain

Matt Turner Double save vs Dutch

Life of A Keeper – France’s Loris Bobbles

Great Saves Loris – France

Top Saves Round 3 World Cup  

Best World Cup Saves Round 2

Best World Cup Saves Round 1

US Goalkeeper Sean Johnson Story

US Goalkeeper Matt Turner 

The Matt Turner Story

Reffing


What is offside in soccer? Explaining the rule so you’re prepared to watch the 2022 World Cup.

‘A little taste of Sunday league’: France’s Jules Kounde has to remove necklace during Poland match

Who says Reffing is not fun in the Winter – indoors at Grand Park College Showcase with Mohammed, Blake and the Ole Ballcoach (L -R). 12/4/22

 

It was cold outside this past weekend at the Boys College Showcase at Grand Park with Aaron, Munib and Shane Best Reffing.


Julianne Sitch 1st woman to coach men’s soccer to NCAA title

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Same old result, different outlook for USMNT after World Cup exit: ‘We can be giants eventually’

 

Henry Bushnell Sat, December 3, 2022 at 8:34 PM

DOHA, Qatar — Frustration crippled Tyler Adams in the first few minutes of the next four years. It knocked him down to a knee here at the Khalifa International Stadium, shortly after a final whistle had foiled his World Cup dreams. It forced him into a crouch as the Netherlands huddled and celebrated a 3-1 victory over his United States. It eventually pulled him all the way to the grass.But as he sat there, head bowed, amid somber stares and heartfelt condolences, his mind steered toward the future, and his mood shifted.“It’s probably the first time in a long time where people will say, ‘Wow, this team has something special,’” Adams thought, and later said of the U.S. men’s national team and public perceptions of it. “Potential is just potential, but we could see that, if we maximize it in the right way, it can be something good.”He was speaking, though, after a familiar World Cup result brought on by familiar failings, a Round of 16 exit, the same as 2014 and 2010 and, heck, 1994. So I asked Adams: Why is this different?

“Uh, I mean, I think you could probably make that assessment for yourself,” he said. And he was right.“With the players that are on our team compared to past teams — I wasn’t on 2010 team, I wasn’t on 2014 team, so I can’t sit here and judge the potential of those teams,” he continued. “But, I mean, being the second youngest team in the World Cup and getting the same result, it speaks for itself.”Their four starting lineups, in fact, have been the four youngest of any at this World Cup. They were full of still-rising stars who’ve already risen beyond many of their USMNT predecessors. Adams, perhaps out of respect for those predecessors, wouldn’t quite say that his team had more talent than theirs. But it clearly does.Its current talent, though, is not the sole reason for unprecedented optimism. Talent, as a vast majority of soccer-playing nations can attest, tends to arrive at senior level in fits and starts, via random ebbs and flows.The hope within American soccer, however, is that this generation is not just a golden one primed to shine on home soil in 2026; it’s the beginning of a carefully crafted trend, and a sign of even better generations to come.

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Round of 16 - Netherlands v United States - Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar - December 3, 2022 United States players applaud fans after the match as United States are eliminated from the World Cup REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

 

United States players applaud fans after the match as United States are eliminated from the World Cup. (REUTERS/Annegret Hilse)

USMNT still a work in progress

The seeds of change, and of the 2022 USMNT, were planted back in the mid-2000s, when the men who run American soccer essentially realized that their youth development model was, as former U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati told Yahoo Sports, “completely flipped.”It was backward. Kids were playing more than training, effectively taking more tests than classes. In a way, longtime FC Dallas academy director Chris Hayden told Yahoo Sports, “we were sort of developing players by accident.”

So in 2007, as Major League Soccer upped its investment in youth programs, U.S. Soccer launched its controversial Development Academy. The DA, as it became known, was a nationwide league that pitted America’s best teenage boys against one another weekly. It also mandated three, then four training sessions per week. It sputtered early, and ruffled feathers, and outright enraged some youth soccer directors around the country. But it reformed a “broken” system and, especially as it expanded last decade, it began to produce.It helped produce 17 of the 26 players on this year’s World Cup roster, including Adams, Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna and Brenden Aaronson. U.S. Soccer shuttered it in 2020, but by then, MLS was ready to assume control of the boys soccer pyramid. The pro league’s 29 clubs now invest over $100 million annually in homegrown player development. They maintain reserve teams, which bridge the gap from youth to pro, and provide for their first teams — and also, by extension, for the U.S. men’s national team.They increasingly attract European scouts and send teens off to top European clubs. There are flaws, of course, many flaws, but “the quality of the [American] players increased significantly over the last five or 10 years,” Bayern Munich academy chief Jochen Sauer told Yahoo Sports in 2018. Many believe that it has continued to increase since, and that the country’s developmental systems are “just scratching the surface.”By extension, so is the USMNT. Its 2022 World Cup ended on par with expectations, but several people interviewed for a pre-tournament story on youth development cautioned against obsessing over four games. The better evidence, many believed, would emerge four years from now and beyond.“We will see the final result in five to 10 years,” another Bayern youth coach, Sebastian Dremmler, said. “[In 2026], you will have a very strong national team.”

Weston McKennie (far right) consoles midfielder Tyler Adams (4) after the United States lost to Netherlands in the World Cup Round of 16 at Khalifa International Stadium on Dec. 3, 2022 in Al Rayyan, Qatar. (Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports)

 

Weston McKennie (far right) consoles midfielder Tyler Adams (4) after the United States lost to Netherlands in the World Cup Round of 16 at Khalifa International Stadium on Dec. 3, 2022 in Al Rayyan, Qatar. (Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports)

‘The American public should be optimistic’

The 2026 World Cup felt a long way off as gloomy faces marched out of the Khalifa on Saturday night. Reyna declined interviews. Pulisic’s voice was weak and pained. Tim Ream welled with emotion as he realized that he, unlike many teammates, at age 35, likely wouldn’t get another shot on this stage.But underneath the gloomy faces was perspective.“The future’s bright,” Ream said selflessly. “I mean, this core group — and when I say core group, I mean, it’s guys who are 22, 23, 24 years old who are not even hitting their prime yet — the potential is just huge going into this next cycle. The program’s in good hands with these guys. Good characters. Good players. Good people. … I’m excited for what they’re gonna be able to do on the world stage.”DeAndre Yedlin, the one holdover from the 2014 squad, was asked whether this felt like a step forward or a step sideways, and said: “I think it’s a step forward.”Matt Turner said, unprompted: “There’s a tremendous potential, and if you don’t see that” — well, he doesn’t know what to tell you. “We played England, we played Netherlands, and we gave both teams really hard, hard times.”And perhaps most importantly, they did so proactively rather than reactively. They wanted the ball. When opponents won it, they wanted it back. They sparred physically and tactically with England. They made a top 10 team in the world, the Netherlands, essentially decide that its best hope to beat the U.S. was to concede possession and counter.“They should gain confidence about the fact that we can play with anyone in the world the way we wanna play,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said. “That’s the important thing.”It does not mean the USMNT has reached Dutch or English levels. There remains a gap in quality that revealed itself on Saturday night in decisive moments.But quality will rise with experience and age. The youth system should provide more of it.“To be fielding the youngest lineups in the World Cup four times in a row, and still be able to play the way we are — the American public should be optimistic,” Berhalter said.He and his players had, as a collective, set out four years ago to “change the way the world views American soccer,” as McKennie reiterated Saturday night. “I think we accomplished a piece of that in this World Cup,” McKennie said. Berhalter felt they “partially achieved” it.But the holy grail has always been changing the way America views American men’s soccer. They will do that almost solely by winning. And here in Qatar, although they only won once, they showed that they will, someday, surely, win plenty more.“I think this tournament has really restored a lot of belief, restored a lot of respect to U.S. Soccer, and to soccer in our country,” McKennie said. “I think we’ve shown that we can be giants eventually. We may not be there yet, but I think we’re definitely on our way.”

USMNT’s World Cup exit prompts one final report card for Gregg Berhalter

DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 03: Gregg Berhalter, Head Coach of United States, reacts after the team's defeat during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Netherlands and USA at Khalifa International Stadium on December 03, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

By Jeff RueterDec 3, 2022212


 

It wasn’t a pop quiz, but the United States’ 3-1 defeat against the Netherlands in the round of 16 served as Gregg Berhalter’s final exam for this cycle.

So often, analyzing a match requires highlighting the heroes on the pitch and putting player performances under the microscope. With Paul Tenorio and Sam Stejskal expertly handling that angle from Qatar, we’re going to take a different approach and focus on the man on the touchline.

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After earning a C-grade in his World Cup coaching debut against Wales, a B+ against England and a sub-skewed B against Iran in the group stage, let’s take a look at the decisions Gregg Berhalter made against the Dutch and the whole of his team’s 360 minutes of action.


 

Line-up/initial tactics

First impression against Holland: As has been the case for nearly all three games following the Wales draw, Berhalter only really had two lineup decisions to make. At center back, he reinstated Walker Zimmerman after a capable shift from Cameron Carter-Vickers against Iran. Zimmerman represents a slightly more mobile alternative to Carter-Vickers, which is necessary given the pace of Cody Gakpo and Memphis Depay on the break.Less-convincing was the decision to give Jesús Ferreira his World Cup debut. The FC Dallas striker looked like the first-choice option up top for nearly all of 2022 before Josh Sargent cut ahead of him for pole position and the start against Wales. Once Haji Wright checked in for the Norwich striker on that day and then started against England, it was clear that the pressure which plagued Ferreira throughout the MLS postseason was as worrying to Berhalter as it had been to scores of U.S. fans. To see him leading the line in a knockout match without a minute to his name in the group stage didn’t instill much confidence.Lasting impression: It got overlooked for the most part, but Zimmerman deserves an immense amount of credit for shaking off his gaffe against Wales and returning to his dependable self for the ensuing three matches. He and Ream did well to keep the Dutch from threatening in the air. Unfortunately, the duo was often forced to make decisions in numerical disadvantages as Holland was on the break. While we can appreciate his intention with the late bicycle kick as the U.S. was 3-1 down, it’ll ultimately serve as no more than a meme-worthy sendoff for this U.S. side.Regardless, Zimmerman’s inclusion wasn’t nearly as much of an issue as Ferreira’s one and only World Cup involvement. In the first ten minutes, he gave glimpses of why he was on the roster as he pulled Virgil Van Dijk all the way into the center of the field to create pockets of space for Christian Pulisic and Timothy Weah. Unfortunately, the Liverpool defender caught on by the time Depay opened the scoring, and the gambit never resurfaced after the U.S. restarted play.From there, Ferreira looked like a player whose confidence had been shattered. One has to hope he can bounce back in the 2023 season; however, few players on this team have seen their stock plummet as mightily over the past three months. Hindsight is 20/20, but Haji Wright may have been a wiser choice to start simply due to the fact that he had already played between Pulisic and Weah.As a whole, this match was the first time in which it appeared that Berhalter’s approach was overshadowed by his opposite number. Unlike Rob Page, Gareth Southgate and Carlos Quieroz, Louis van Gaal entered with a game plan which dictated the flow of the game. No matter how the U.S. tried to add width, Holland wrestled the game back into the central channel of the field to play into their numerical advantage. When the U.S. sent Antonee Robinson and Sergiño Dest further up to add options further out, the Dutch (and Denzel Dumfries in particular) were enabled to exploit the open areas.That, coupled with the Netherlands’ confidence in allowing the ball to funnel towards Ferreira in the box, kept the U.S. from fully getting under their skin even as they made final third entry after final third entry. While individuals like Pulisic and Yunus Musah can take some solace from their performances, this is not the type of game where you want to be focusing on individual performances over the collective.Just look at Tyler Adams, whose only glaring mistake of the tournament — taking a brisk jog behind Depay as he entered the box unmarked to open scoring — ended up flipping the entire gameplan on its head.The initial gameplan wasn’t wrong, per se; the Netherlands were just the team which studied the tape closest and found ways to exploit individual matchups.

Grade: C-


 

Tactical tweaks/half-time adjustments

First impression: We’ll count the halftime inclusion of Giovanni Reyna here, as his introduction in place of Ferreira represented more of a tactical tweak than a like-for-like substitution. Unfortunately, what Reyna does best (breaking lines either on the dribble or with a pass to create chances) wasn’t what the U.S. was struggling to achieve.

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Lasting impression: In the group stage, Berhalter often took a conservative approach to adjusting his gameplan at the break. It was for understandable reasons, as the U.S. never trailed at any point in their first three matches. If the game had stayed 1-0 after stoppage time, it may have even been understandable to just emphasize areas to improve with such a young side rather than knocking them sideways with a last-ditch overhaul.

Once Daley Blind doubled the lead with the first half’s final kick, however, something more drastic was necessary. The thing is: if a team’s kitchen sink approach can’t change the tide, what does that say about either the personnel called in or the manager’s ability to necessarily deviate from Plan A? Van Gaal dared the U.S. to bring its lines of engagement further up the pitch, recognizing the young opponent’s desire to strike on the break, and also recognizing that few nations have as good and deep of a defensive pool as the Netherlands. If the U.S. forced a turnover with their press, Holland was comfortably set up to keep threats at bay. When the U.S. failed to take the ball, they were caught out of shape and with ample room for Gakpo, Depay and Steven Bergwijn to operate.

The Dutch were conceding ample space in the wide areas of the middle third of the pitch, a space which the U.S. dominated against England. It was by design, again a credit to Van Gaal, as a way to create more room for Dumfries on the break — and it worked. The U.S. sprung the Netherlands’ trap and were left hanging upside down by their feet for most of the last 80 minutes and stoppage.

So did Berhalter miss a chance to flip the game on its head? Few managers have achieved as much as Van Gaal, and even he tempered expectations of an international coach’s inclination to deviate from their team’s base ideology.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” Van Gaal said when asked if he expected future World Cup opposition to tailor their tactics more specifically to Holland. “I would assume that the stronger the country is, the less they’ll adjust to the system. The USA didn’t adjust. We based our tactical plan to that, and that allowed us to win. We don’t expect FranceArgentina, or Spain to adjust to us.”

Reyna mostly did Reyna things, creating a couple of chances (0.16 expected assists) while sending a couple of speculative shots. It still confounds me that Berhalter wouldn’t at least try Weah centrally, instead having Reyna and Pulisic alternate faux-line-leading responsibilities. As usual, chance creation and entering the final third was not the issue for the U.S. today. It was finishing its chances and not allowing the defense to be caught unawares due to individual mistakes.

Even if Van Gaal agrees that Berhalter didn’t need a different approach to his usual initial gameplan, there were a couple of potential ways out of the early hole which the U.S. dug.

Grade: D+


 

Substitutions

First impression: Bringing Reyna on for the full second half was the right call, as it was pretty clear to all watching that Ferreira wasn’t going to work back into the game. I would’ve liked to see Wright (as a necessary formation-settler since the team had no option at the heart of the attack) and Aaronson (to exploit the tiring Dutch defense and wreak havoc in transition) before the 67th minute, but both are equipped to fill the roles being asked of them today. DeAndre Yedlin and Jordan Morris make sense for their responsibilities, but both full backs seemed ready to tap out well before the 75th and 92nd minutes, respectively.

Lasting impression as a whole: Not a lot to say about this one, but it was good to see Reyna and Aaronson involved at the same time for once. While he had little to do defensively due to the scoreline, Yedlin looked more comfortable in the role than Shaq Moore had in the group stage, and it still confounds me how the depth chart shook out with the Nashville man ahead of the only U.S. player with World Cup experience entering the tournament.

There was a bit more urgency from Berhalter to change the personnel than in past games, which seemed like a necessary evolution. Still, bringing on another true No. 9 and the chaos-inducing Aaronson halfway through the second half left a lot of time without a clear approach to light up the U.S. half of the scoreboard.

Grade: B-


 

Final marks

It’s a bit simplistic to chalk this up as “Louis Van Gaal beat Gregg Berhalter today,” but… yeah, Louis van Gaal beat Gregg Berhalter today.

There’s no shame in being outclassed by a manager who has won a UEFA Champions League, several European league titles, an FA Cup and led the Netherlands to third place in the 2014 World Cup. The U.S. should also take comfort from the fact that they were still able to create chances and stay in the final third against such a stout defensive unit.

Ultimately, however, van Gaal’s post-match assessment is pretty damning: the U.S. didn’t adapt. Berhalter trusted the players that got the team into the knockouts, and it wasn’t enough. There were maneuvers which would have helped, but some simple mistakes in both boxes and failures to react to the Netherlands’ gameplan did the young Yanks in on the day.

Grade: C-


 

End-of-term reflection

Thinking back on all four matches, this doesn’t feel like the United States’ elimination had much to do with Berhalter’s approach.

There are genuine questions to be asked about what Ferreira’s role in this team was compared to, say Ricardo Pepi, who would’ve been a good hybrid alternative to Josh Sargent’s sorely-missed pressing acumen and Wright’s line-leading chops. I might have started Carter-Vickers on Saturday given how well he and Ream worked together to neutralize attackers while better progressing the ball out of the defensive third.

Entering the cycle, many viewed this tournament as a necessary step toward being very competitive when the 2026 World Cup is (mostly) played on home soil. Leaving goalkeeper Zack Steffen off the roster allowed Matt Turner to feel confident in his standing atop the goalkeeper depth chart, and the 28-year-old’s form should keep him in the 1 shirt moving forward. It’s impossible to know if Musah would have committed to the program without Berhalter involved, and his decision to not represent England after doing so at the youth international levels is still a sore spot for Southgate. Conversely, the decision to bring Reyna but keep him to a single seven-minute shift in the group left him pretty untested before a big shift on Saturday.

There weren’t many times where Berhalter’s decision-making (whether it’s his lineups, his tactics or his substitutions) set this U.S. side back. Aside from Ferreira’s start and a coin-flip proposition between Zimmerman and Carter-Vickers against the Dutch, one could argue the coach got 42 of his 44 lineup decisions right. However, after not having to recalibrate due to strong initial tactics in the group stage, Berhalter didn’t adjust his side convincingly or quickly enough when his team was down 2-0 in a knockout game. Even after three pretty strong showings, that matters in a World Cup format.

Final grade: C

Analysis: The USMNT bows out of Qatar with 3-1 loss to the Netherlands

The USMNT is out of the World Cup after a 3-1 loss to the Dutch. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta writes about all that he saw from this game as well as some big picture thoughts as one cycle ends and a new one begins. 

BY BRIAN SCIARETTAPOSTED DECEMBER 03, 2022 11:00 AM

 

THE UNITED STATES national team bowed out of the 2022 World Cup following a 3-1 loss to a powerful Netherlands team on Saturday in Qatar. The Dutch scored two first half goals before the U.S. cut the deficit in half, but a late Dutch goal sealed the U.S. team’s fate to conclude the cycle.The U.S. team opened with a similar starting lineup to the one it opened against Wales with the lone exception is that Jesus Ferreira got the start in place of the injured Josh Sargent.The U.S. team started well, with Christian Pulisic forcing a big save from Andries Noppert in the opening minutes. But it was the Netherlands who struck first in the 10th minute when Denzel Dumfries struck down the right wing and hit a cross that was back towards the top of the box. It found a streaking Memphis Depay in the middle who beat Matt Turner.As the U.S. team was beginning to pick it up, the Dutch stomped on the U.S. momentum with a second goal just before the break. On this play. Daley Blind cut in past Sergino Dest from the left side and beat Turner.In the second half, Gregg Berhalter made a string of changes and the U.S team fought back. In the 76th minute, the U.S. team pulled a goal back when they forced a turnover and DeAndre Yedlin played Pulisic into the right side of the box. Pulisic’s hard cross hit Haji Wright’s heel and past Noppert.The U.S. team looked as if it would be aggressive the rest of the way, but the Dutch put the game out of reach in the 81st minute when Dumfries capped his big day off when he was completely wide open and got on the end of a cross from Blind to send it past turner. It was a blown defensive assignment from the U.S. team and the Netherlands moved ahead for good.Here are some thoughts on it all.

DUTCH MASTERCLASS IN MATURITY

While the average age of the entire roster put the U.S. team as the third youngest team in Qatar, in terms of functionality of minutes on the field, the U.S. was the youngest. When looking at the midfielders and the forwards (the front six), none of the players who started for the U.S. team in these positions had yet to turn 25.

The Dutch had an edge in talent but the bigger difference in this game was in the edge of maturity. The Netherlands made better decisions, they knew how to change the pace of the game, and they scouted the U.S. team well. Most importantly, however, they knew how to respond to adversity better than the U.S. team.

The U.S. team played well for stretches in each of its four World Cup games. But note the difference when faced with adversity. When Wales found a stretch where it was playing well, the U.S. team was on its heels and couldn’t get into a better fun until after Wales equalized. Then against Iran, the U.S. played very well for the first 60 minutes. Then when Iran started to play better, the U.S. team again was on its heels – this time they were able to see the game out.

The Netherlands put on a masterclass about how to respond. When the U.S. team was playing well, the Dutch doubled down on their approach and found a way to be better. Each of the three Dutch goals came at a period when the U.S. had been playing well and was creating dangerous chances.

The U.S. was the better team the first nine minutes, but the Netherlands scored in the 10th minute. The U.S. team was pressing for an equalizer late in the first half, but it was the Netherlands who scored just before halftime – beating Dest on the goal after it was Dest who was the U.S. team’s best player for long stretches that half. Then the final Dutch goal came just minutes after the U.S. team pulled one back.

The Dutch team didn’t retreat in the face of adversity. They knew how to raise their game. That is the mark of a talented team, but also a smart and confident team through experience.

There were also several other extremely positive traits the Netherlands displayed that the U.S. team didn’t have an answer. The Netherlands knew that the U.S. team liked to play the game at a frantic pace full of energy.

Dutch manager Louis van Gaal and his players knew how to slow the pace of the game down and turn it into a slog. They would turn up the tempo occasionally on counters and when they had the chance to be dangerous, but the mix of tempos threw the U.S. team off.

Tactically, the Dutch also scouted the U.S. team very well. They knew the U.S. team had dangerous wingers but had been struggling with crosses. They were also aware that the Weston Mckennie-Tyler-Adams-Yunus Musah midfield was at the heart of whatever the U.S. team wanted to do. The Dutch man-marked the midfield with precision and forced the game out wide – knowing the U.S. team isn’t crossing well and doesn’t have great targets in the box either.

The good news is that the U.S. team will certainly learn from this. The Dutch are very good but have a very mature team. The U.S. team needs to grow up a little and this was a step in that direction.

FATIGUE: MENTAL AND PHYSICAL

The U.S. team looked fatigued in this game – both mentally and physically. First touches were off and there were positional mistakes. The U.S. team was at a disadvantage in the timing of this tournament where so much of form was dictated by club play as opposed to the traditional four-week camps that national teams normally spend together prior to a World Cup.

The U.S. team had too many players coming into this tournament uneven form. McKennie and Dest hadn’t played much leading up to the tournament due to injuries. Gio Reyna and Tim Weah had been in and out of the rosters at their club due to injuries. Jesus Ferreira and Walker Zimmerman hadn’t played in a month before the start of the tournament. Things weren’t that much better for the bench options either.

Then when the team must shift into four games that are extremely intense in quick succession, it was extremely draining – both mentally and physically. The physical exhaustion was easy to see. There were tired legs late in the first half. But mentally, the team was making mistakes it did not make in the group stages.

Yes, there were heavy touches earlier in the game than in the group stages. But there was

Throughout the group stages, one of the best attributes was the team’s defense in the midfield. Adams, McKennie, and Musah were all key to the U.S. team’s group stage success because of their commitment to defense. They helped shield the U.S. team’s backline and force turnovers in the midfield.

In this game, it was a different story. There were stretches where the U.S. team was winning the ball back in the midfield but were also caught napping at other times.

The first goal from the Netherlands was on the midfield. With the defense picking up the front attacking runners, the midfield is responsible to pick up the trailing runners.

A POSITIVE WORLD CUP

After any exit from a major tournament, there is always disappointment. For American players, coaches, and fans, this was no exception. But when we talk about whether this was a successful World Cup, the answer is, without a doubt, yes.

In each of the four games, the U.S. team played long stretches of playing well. Even in the lone loss of the tournament against the Netherlands, the U.S. played well for significant periods. This wasn’t a case where the U.S. team was pinned back and tried to bunker out a result. The chances were there for the U.S. team to score more goals.

Sure the U.S. team needs to improve in areas and in some areas of the field, the options weren’t there for most of the cycle. But the foundation is there. This team has both technical ability as well as speed and athleticism in key areas. While it would be nice to have Tim Ream be 10 years younger, the entire front six will be 24-27 years old in 2026. On top of that, there will be others emerging to push these players to prevent complacency.

In every game, there were periods where the U.S. team was right there even with some very good teams. Putting it together for a complete performance still wasn’t there, and that will be the job of whoever coaches the next cycle. But for where the U.S. team was four years ago to where it is now, it is very encouraging. This is not the end of a cycle where the team needs to cut dead weight and rebuild, this is the end of a cycle that sets up the next cycle.

Overall, it was a good past two years for Gregg Berhalter. He built the “MMA” midfield which has a lot of chemistry. He also did well to establish the two fullbacks. He also leaves with accomplishments – Nations League, Gold Cup, and advancing to the knockout stages of the World Cup all while trying to build a young team.ost importlantly, people have begun to feel better about soccer in this country after a tough run. That is the best thing to happenWhether or not Berhalter returns to the program as his contract is up, he got a lot done this cycle.

MOVING FORWARD

Moving forward, the U.S. team needs to build up depth. A big thing for the federation will be the continued production of good players from the youth national teams. These teams draw heavily on improved MLS academies and that has been a huge source of the team’s improved player pool.

The U-20 World Cup next summer is important but the biggest opportunity for the U.S. program will come in 2024 for the Olympics. If the U.S. can get its top players released, it will be an important hybrid team of key U.S. players (Reyna and Musah), full national team backups (Ricardo Pepi, Joe Scally, Gianluca Busio), and some very promising up and comers (Jack McGlynn, Gaga Slonina, John Tolken, etc).

A big challenge, however, for the national team will be getting meaningful games. There won’t be any World Cup qualifying next cycle and in future cycles World Cup qualifying will be watered down with a 48-team World Cup. That leaves the U.S. team with two Nations Leagues and two Gold Cups every four-year cycle. That’s a lot of CONCACAF and pushing for something outside this federation beyond friendlies. The standard Copa America is nearly impossible for the U.S. team to get involved (like they used to) as they are a guest team and clubs are never required to release players for guest teams at tournaments. The U.S. team needs more Confederations Cup or Copa American Centenario-type tournaments (which were on the international calendar). But the Olympics, while a youth tournament, does help. For now, these are big picture things moving forward. For now, the U.S. federation needs to made decisions on its head coach and if Berhalter does not come back (and he might not want to), U.S. Soccer needs to get that hire right and then figure out an Olympic coach. While the U.S. has friendlies set for January, it can go with an interim head coach into 2023 to see what options open up moving forward.

The U.S. is in a much better position now than it was after any World Cup. It doesn’t need to go back to the drawing board and rework things. The number of players who need to get phased out of the pool is small. The team has confidence, momentum, and the lessons it needs to learn are obvious. The player development path is as strong as ever in this country, and this cycle did well to set up the next. The 2026 cycle starts off in a good place.

USA's goalkeeper #01 Matt Turner concedes a goal by Netherlands' defender #17 Daley Blind (C top) during the Qatar 2022 World Cup round of 16 football match between the Netherlands and USA at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on December 3, 2022. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP) (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)

Netherlands, Argentina, Brazil and Croatia: A World Cup bracket full of recent heartbreak

<img src="data:;base64,” alt=”” aria-hidden=”true” data-airgap-id=”83″ />JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 11:  Arjen Robben of the Netherlands (R) reacts after missing a goal scoring chance with team mate Robin Van Persie during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
By Jeff Rueter   Dec 7, 2022 Save Article

After all of the thrills we had and the unpredictable results we saw in the group stage and round of 16 in this ongoing World Cup, one side of the quarter-finals bracket manages to feature an interesting collection of teams, all with a potential motivation in common. 

The quartet includes the runners-up from the three most recent men’s World Cups, along with a fourth combatant with an ax to grind from the 2014 installment. If one half of the draw, Morocco aside, is increasingly marked by unpredictability, the other is indeed the bracket of redemption, between four programs looking to overcome recent (or semi-recent) near-misses.


The Netherlands

The heartbreak: 

In 2010 the Netherlands made a bold run to the final, boasting global stars including winger Arjen Robben, defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Wesley Sneijder at his peak, and Robin van Persie from his Arsenal heyday. 

Unfortunately, they ran into a near-unparalleled juggernaut in that final. Spain had unbelievable depth and the benefit of chemistry from a squad which had won Euro 2008 (and would win Euro 2012) and was predominantly selected from FC Barcelona and Real Madrid’s rosters. 

It was among the most ill-tempered finals in men’s World Cup history, with Howard Webb showing 14 yellow cards — with a staggering nine alone to Dutch players. Somehow, Nigel de Jong wasn’t shown red for a horrific challenge which saw him plant his cleat firmly into a standing Xabi Alonso’s sternum. Johnny Heitinga suffered the ignominy of getting sent off in extra time, after being shown a second yellow. 

“I think it was good there was no VAR,” Heitinga told The Athletic this week. “Otherwise there was some more red cards.”

 

Less than 10 minutes after Heitinga headed to the dressing room, Andres Iniesta was able to get a shot past Maarten Stekelenburg, and the Dutch went home without the title. 

The aftermath: 

While manager Bert van Marwijk stuck around for the next cycle, he was swiftly dismissed following his side’s three defeats in as many group matches at Euro 2012. He was succeeded by Louis van Gaal, who had also briefly held the post from 2000-01. The key players from 2010 returned for the 2014 World Cup campaign, supplemented by up-and-comers including Memphis Depay, Stefan de Vrij and Georginio Wijnaldum. This time, their run ended in the semi-finals against Lionel Messi in his prime, settling for a win in the third-place match over hosts Brazil.

As Van Persie and Robben aged, the Dutch lost their way. They failed to qualify for both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, returning to major tournament action for Euro 2020 but falling in its round of 16. 

The holdovers:

While the entirety of that 2010 runners-up squad is out of the picture 12 and a half years on, two of the 2014 bronze medallists are on this current roster in key roles: Depay, 28, and 32-year-old Daley Blind. Van Gaal himself has returned for a third term at the helm, despite undergoing prostate cancer treatment in April.

What they’re saying

“In 2014 we finished third with a squad I would say was of lesser quality. With this group, I would expect more.” – Louis van Gaal

 
(Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Argentina

The heartbreak: 

As alluded to in the “aftermath” section on the Netherlands, Messi was in blistering form heading into the 2014 World Cup. After winning the Ballon d’Or every year from 2009-12, he was in the midst of the Messidependencia era of Barcelona as they adjusted to life without coach Pep Guardiola. 

Similarly, Argentina funnelled absolutely everything through their icon as play kicked off in Brazil that summer. His four goals in the group stage helped harvest all nine points and set them on a run to the final. Sure enough, the knockouts served as a crash-course to pit the world’s best player against Germany, the world’s best team. After a first-half goal was whistled offside and Gonzalo Higuain missed a gifted one-on-one with Manuel Neuer, it was Mario Gotze who joined the rank of World Cup match-winning scorers rather than Messi.

The aftermath: 

That World Cup eight years ago was the first in a series of major tournament letdowns for Messi, followed by losses to Chile in successive Copa America finals, after which he briefly retired from Argentina duty before a coaching change and nationwide demonstrations convinced him to return for the 2018 World Cup cycle. 

It was hardly a storybook comeback story, as Argentina labored to get out of a middling group before falling to title-bound France in the round of 16. After finishing third in the 2019 Copa America, it seemed as if Argentina would never win a major tournament in the Messi era. That all changed at last year’s Copa America, of course, as Angel Di María stepped up with the final’s lone goal to give Argentina a famous 1-0 win over tournament host Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. 

The holdovers:

Messi is playing in Qatar 2022, as you’ve likely heard by now. But he’s one of just two holdovers from Brazil 2014, joined as usual by Di Maria. Nicolas Otamendi wasn’t involved then, while the two strikers younger than Messi on that runners-up roster (Higuain and Sergio Aguero) have both retired over the past year. 

What they’re saying

“It’s a pity given all the chances we had in that game. We had the better chances and, well… we’ll regret the chances we had but couldn’t score for the rest of our lives.” – Lionel Messi on the 2014 World Cup final.

 
(Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Croatia

The heartbreak: 

Is it fair to call a surprise run to a final and an ensuing defeat “heartbreak”? It’s up for debate with Croatia, which finished third in 1998 but had exited in the group stage in all three subsequent World Cup appearances. A round of 16 exit from Euro 2016 gave little reason for further optimism, even with Luka Modric in otherworldly form with Real Madrid and a pair of Ivans (Rakitic and Perisic) capably leading the transition into the final third. After appointing head coach Zlatko Dalic (without a contract unless they qualified for the 32-team field), the players put aside a cycle’s worth of animosity to reach newfound cohesion — and, ultimately, secure a place in Russia. 

They hardly found it easy to book a date with France in the final. Croatia needed all 120 minutes and penalties to get past both Denmark and Russia in the first two knockout rounds before finally taking care of the result in extra time against England, having fallen behind, in the semifinal. Perhaps due to their series of advancements on the finest of margins, France entered the final as a decided favorite. Les Bleus ultimately toppled the tournament dark horse by a 4-2 margin.

The aftermath: 

It wasn’t always convincing, but their silver-medal showing in Russia changed global perceptions of Croatia. Dalic was awarded an extension through 2022, and he’s given no reason to abdicate his post. It was surprising, then, to see them fall in the round of 16 for a second consecutive Euros last summer. They navigated a tricky group in Qatar, finishing second behind fellow quarterfinalist Morocco as Belgium went home early.

The holdovers:

Modric is one of the sport’s truly ageless wonders, still an essential starter for the 2021-22 Champions League-winning Real Madrid side. While he’s given second-billing status with Croatia, Ivan Perisic is one of just four players to score in the three most recent men’s World Cups, alongside Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Xherdan Shaqiri. In total, nine players from the 2018 side are back for redemption in Qatar, with Andrej Kramaric especially stepping up for the now-retired Mario Mandzukic (who is with the team as an assistant coach).

What they’re saying

“Something special was taking place. Suddenly, and out of nowhere, had come Dalic. Now everything was falling into place. People believed in us once again.” – Luka Modric.

 

Brazil

The heartbreak: 

While Croatia (and, to a lesser extent, the 2010 Dutch side) are a stretch to give the “heartbroken” descriptor, there’s no question that applies to Brazil in 2014. 

Heading into their first World Cup on home soil since finishing second in 1950, all focus was on righting that generations-old wrong. Brazil won Group A and bested Chile in a round of 16 shootout, setting up another CONMEBOL showdown with Colombia in the quarterfinal. A 2-1 win hardly felt satisfying as the final whistle blew — Colombia had taken the heart out of Brazil as Neymar suffered a tournament-ending injury.

An emotional team faced its date with Germany in the semifinal, and what was supposed to be a de facto title game quickly devolved into chaos, gifting one of the most iconic scorelines in World Cup history and, indeed, the history of organized sports: 7-1. You’ve surely seen the images, with men, women and children all equally likely to grace the broadcast with tears smearing their impeccably painted green-and-yellow faces. What was supposed to be the party of a lifetime had devolved into a nightmare, an even greater humbling than when Uruguay executed its “Maracanã Smash” to win in 1950.

The aftermath: 

That Germany humiliation kicked off a rare down spell for Brazil, which exited in the Copa America quarterfinal in 2015 before failing to even advance from a group with Ecuador, Peru and Haiti in the 2016 Copa America Centenario, spelling the end for coach Dunga. With Tite appointed as manager afterward, Brazil fell in the quarterfinal to Belgium in the 2018 World Cup. 

The slump was finally busted as Brazil won the 2019 Copa America on home soil at the Maracana in Rio, around 300 miles south of the site of their 2014 house of horrors in Belo Horizonte. While they lost the same fixture in the same stadium to Argentina last year, they finished atop CONMEBOL qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

The holdovers:

Neymar is arguably in even better form now than he was enjoying in 2014. He’s one of three returning members from that squad, joined by defenders Dani Alves and Thiago Silva (though Alves’ role at this point is as a reserve). 

What they’re saying

“Now he’s in a very good point, a good moment for him to show the real quality and the leadership, because he has big, big character and can be a leader that Brazil expects. We’re in a moment that’s going to be very interesting because Messi is in his best moment, Neymar is in his best moment and they are two kings.” – Neymar’s former Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino

2022 World Cup Quarterfinal rankings: Using expected goals to rank the remaining eight teams

<img src="data:;base64,” alt=”” aria-hidden=”true” data-airgap-id=”87″ />DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 04: Kylian Mbappe #10 of France celebrates after scoring the team's third goal in the second half against Poland during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between France and Poland at Al Thumama Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
By David Sumpter  Dec 8, 2022  

David Sumpter is an English mathematics professor and author based in Sweden who wrote the book “Soccermatics” to make sense of the numbers and patterns of the sport. He will be contributing his perspective on betting and analytical trends throughout the World Cup for The Athletic.

 

The 2022 World Cup has reached the quarterfinal stage. There was only one upset in the Round of 16, with Morocco beating Spain on penalty kicks to advance so we get a top-heavy quarterfinal round which is topped off with France playing England in the last game on Saturday.

Which nations are the best and worst expected goals performers in the quarterfinals? I rank each team based on their xG for and against performance in the tournament.

1.  Brazil

It is the favorite to win the World Cup for a reason. Brazil has scored six goals in open play but is (equal) top-ranked in expected goals, with 9.1. There is still much more to come from RicharlisonNeymarVinícius Júnior and company.

The left-hand graph shows Brazil’s chances. The bigger the circle, the better the chance (higher xG). Goals are shown as stars. The right-hand graph shows xG For and xG Against in four matches. Brazil has dominated all of its games.

2. France

France equals Brazil in terms of shot quality, with 9.1 xG For, but unlike Brazil, France has let the opposition (especially Poland) create chances against them.

3. Argentina

At +600 to win the tournament, Argentina currently offers the best value. Not just because of the chances they have created (7.3 in total, 2.1 from Lionel Messi alone) but also because they have given so little away defensively.

4. England

A focus on quality over quantity in this tournament has seen England average 0.14xG per shot from only 41 shots (5.5 xG in total). It will be tough against France, but a draw after 90 minutes (at +227) is worth a shot.

5. Portugal

The Portuguese have created better chances than their opponents in all four matches, but they have still conceded 0.9xG per match. So while the headlines are about their choice of striker, the real question is whether their defense can take them further than the semi-finals.

6. Netherlands

Like England, the Netherlands has taken a pragmatic approach to the tournament, soaking up pressure and focusing on creating high-quality chances. But the only match it has been substantially better than their opponents was against Qatar. I can’t see how it can find a way past Argentina.

7. Croatia

The most striking aspect of Croatia’s xG map is that it hasn’t scored on its best chances (larger circles) but has managed to score a few lower-quality chances (small stars). Croatia struggled against Japan, and it will struggle even more against Brazil.

8. Morocco

Only 2.9 expected goals, but scoring in open play isn’t the key to Morocco’s strategy. It is an example of a team that overperforms expected goals by defending well in the box. The question is whether they can do it again against Portugal. The answer is probably not.

 

USMNT’s World Cup run ends vs. Netherlands thanks to three defensive lapses

Sam Stejskal Dec 3, 2022 Athletic

The U.S. men’s national team built their run to the World Cup knockout rounds on defensive rigidity. During the group stage, they were disciplined, organized and always engaged, pressing wonderfully and limiting their opponents’ opportunities. The few big chances they did concede came mostly through set pieces or direct aerial play. The only goal they allowed was on a penalty kick. Not once did it feel like they switched off mentally. That was necessary for them to get out of Group B. Their generally inefficient attacking play meant that the young U.S. team had an extremely thin margin for error in the back. If they had even one defensive lapse in their round of 16 match against the Netherlands on Saturday, they would have a hard time advancing. In the end, they didn’t make just one mistake — they fell asleep on three different occasions. The Dutch scored each time, going ahead in the 10th minute, doubling their advantage in first half stoppage time, then adding a third late in the second half. Their ruthlessness in front of goal stood in stark contrast to the finishing of the U.S., who failed to put away a pair of huge chances en route to a 3-1 loss that brought their World Cup to a bitter end.“In the past three games, I’d say we defended the moments really, really well,” said U.S. defensive midfielder and captain Tyler Adams. “And today the three goals come from moments where we’re probably sleeping a little bit.”The first of the missed opportunities for the U.S. to score came in the third minute through Christian Pulisic. Adams latched onto a partially-cleared cross just outside of the box and immediately clipped a ball over the onrushing Dutch defense into the left side of the box to a wide-open Pulisic. It was an incredible look, but Pulisic ended up hitting his one-on-one effort directly at Netherlands goalkeeper Andries Noppert. The Americans were punished for failing to take advantage of the opportunity just seven minutes later. The Dutch strung together a fabulous sequence, progressing the ball out of the back and up the left before finding attacker Cody Gakpo, the star of their tournament, in the center of the U.S. half. Gakpo quickly found wingback Denzel Dumfries on the right flank, setting him up for a wonderful cutback ball to forward Memphis Depay, who buried his open shot from 15 yards with his first touch. 

It was a lovely move by the Netherlands, a vintage Dutch buildup that included 20 passes, the most ever for the country since at least 1966 on a play that led to a goal at a World Cup. It was also helped along by some uncharacteristic mistakes by the U.S. Adams didn’t do a good enough job of tracking Depay after he played a pass to Gakpo, losing him as he ran through midfield and arrived in the box. It didn’t help the U.S. that center backs Tim Ream and Walker Zimmerman both went with midfielder Davy Klaasen on his hard run to the near post, but it was hugely unusual to see Adams fail to track his man after he covered so much ground and defended so tirelessly during the group stage. 

Something similar happened on the second goal. Dumfries lofted a throw-in from deep in the U.S. third to midfielder Marten de Roon, who immediately played the ball back to Dumfries. U.S. striker Jesus Ferreira couldn’t win his attempt to take the ball off Dumfries, who drove into the area and cut another ball back to the top of the box. This time, left wingback Daley Blind ran onto it, blowing past inattentive U.S. left back Sergiño Dest and hammering a first-time shot past goalkeeper Matt Turner. Blind’s shot ended up being the last kick of the first half. Switching off as in either of the first two goals is always a huge error, but the second mistake was compounded by the fact that it came so close to the break — and after the U.S. had started to build a bit of momentum. It was a poor moment in an otherwise strong tournament for Dest, who wasn’t at his best in what was no doubt an emotional match against the country he was born and raised in.“That was brutal,” said Turner. “Giving up that second goal was brutal. It was off a throw-in, I mean, there’s no real excuse for it. Everything that could have went wrong on that play, did.”The Americans made yet another mental error on the third goal. The Dutch played the ball out of the U.S. box and then out to the left flank for Blind, who curled a cross to a wide-open Dumfries at the back post. He took the ball out of the air and hammered it past Turner for an easy finish. 

The U.S. weren’t actually outnumbered on the play, they just completely failed to account for Dumfries, who was named man of the match for his one-goal, two-assist performance. Ream and Zimmerman were matched up in the middle of the box with Gakpo and substitute forward Steven Bergwijn. Left back Antonee Robinson, normally so solid defensively with the U.S., was free to move wide and mark Dumfries, but he never noticed him and instead shaded centrally to help cover Bergwijn. When Dumfries scored, Ream could only turn to his Fulham and U.S. teammate and put his arms out wide, as if to ask Robinson what the hell just happened.“The first two goals, normally we’d have someone in that cutback space, they’re very similar goals, they just found someone there and they’ve got quality players that can finish them chances,” said Robinson. “And then (on the third, Dumfries) gets in behind me, I’m too focused on (Bergwijn) being in the box seemingly alone and he’s behind me and he’s done very well. Been very effective for their team tonight, and it’s disappointing for us.” Adams, Dest and Robinson making those kinds of errors was unexpected. Adams was probably the U.S.’s best player all tournament. In the group stage, he was immense defensively, covering so much ground and ending so many opposition attacks before they turned dangerous. Robinson was uneven offensively, but he did well without the ball in the U.S.’s first three games. Dest, meanwhile, was something of a revelation, quieting anyone who doubted his ability to stay disciplined in defense with solid performances against WalesEngland and Iran. After the loss, Adams, Robinson and several other U.S. players were asked why they struggled in those big defensive moments against the Netherlands when they’d been so solid in those moments earlier in the tournament. A couple of players were asked directly if they thought fatigue played a role. They didn’t buy into that line of thinking, but, watching how the World Cup played out for the Americans, it was hard to write off tiredness as one reason for the errors we saw Saturday. The U.S. played an incredibly physical style in Qatar, pressing their opponents high and covering huge distances each group game. Adams, Dest and Robinson were asked to run more and run harder than most of their teammates. It’d only be natural if they were a little bit worse for wear in their fourth game in 12 days.Things weren’t much smoother in attack. The Dutch didn’t allow the Americans to get into rhythm in possession, especially in the first half. Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal lined up in his customary 3-4-1-2 formation. When the U.S. had the ball, Gakpo and Depay remained wide, cutting off the passing lanes between the center backs and fullbacks, who the U.S. attacked through frequently during group play. That funneled play to the middle, where the Dutch midfielders were tightly man-marking Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah. Ferreira didn’t present any sort of outlet for direct balls out of the back, and the U.S. didn’t look to play long to Pulisic or fellow winger Tim Weah until the final minutes of the opening 45. 

All of that allowed the Dutch to keep their defensive lines very compact in the first half. Combined with some general sloppiness on the ball, that led to some pretty rough times in possession for the U.S.“They were smart to limit those guys because we get a lot of chances from our outside backs,” said Adams. “So that’s why we needed to be able to navigate a different way, maybe put Timmy a little bit (wider), put Christian a little bit wider. But it’s hard in those games when you know your attackers want to get touches on the ball, when you’re playing man against man and you’re kicking it around the back, they’re going to come down naturally. We had a little bit of difficulty finding spaces sometimes.” 

Things opened up a bit in the second, but, by that time, the U.S. were already down 2-0. With their scoring issues, that always felt like too big of a mountain to climb. The Americans certainly weren’t clinical with their chances on Saturday, with Pulisic failing to connect on his early look and substitute striker Haji Wright missing a golden opportunity that would’ve made it 2-1 in the 75th. 

Wright scored a minute later on perhaps the most bizarre strike of the entire World Cup, an awkward, unintentional goal that, in a way, underlined the lack of talent the U.S. has up top. Had Wright done what he was intending, there’s no way he would’ve scored. He only found the net because he made a mistake with his touch. Josh Sargent, who started two of the three group games, being unavailable due to an ankle injury was a big loss for the U.S., as both Ferreira and Wright struggled. Sargent, though, hasn’t exactly filled up the net for the Americans, who still have a huge question mark at striker going forward. 

“When you look at the difference of the two teams, to me, there was some offensive quality, offensive finishing quality that Holland had that we’re lacking a little bit,” said U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter. “And that’s (due to) time. I mean, it’s normal. We have a very young group of players that are beginning their careers and they’re gonna catch up to that, we’re gonna get to the same thing. But we don’t have a Memphis Depay right now.” 

There’s no way to know if the U.S. players will actually ever hit that level, of course. They have potential, but they have limitations, too. At times in the group stage, we saw that they can contend with some of the better teams in the world when they’re at their best. They are and should be proud of that. But on Saturday, we saw some of their weaknesses come to the forefront. The hope is that the Americans will grow stronger over the next three-and-a-half years and emerge as a much bigger threat in time for the 2026 World Cup that will be hosted by the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

There was some talk about their promise on Saturday, but, for the most part, the players were understandably preoccupied with the disappointment of the loss. They genuinely believed they could take out the Netherlands. Failing to do so stings, no matter how bright their future may be.

“It hurts, man. It hurts,” said Pulisic. “It’s going to hurt for a while.”

USA 1-3 Netherlands: USMNT poor in possession, Depay’s finesse and roll on 2026

AL-RAYYAN - Frenkie de Jong of Holland, Nathan Ake of Holland, Cody Gakpo of Holland, Jurrien Timber of Holland, Memphis Depay of Holland, Davy Klaassen of Holland, Marten de Roon of Holland, Daley Blind of Holland, Kenneth Taylor of Holland , Xavi Simons of Holland, Jeremie Frimpong of Holland celebrate the 2-0 during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 round of 16 match between the Netherlands and the United States at the Khalifa International stadium on December 3, 2022 in AL-Rayyan, Qatar. ANP MAURICE VAN STONE (Photo by ANP via Getty Images)

By Paul TenorioSam Stejskal and more Dec 3, 2022


 

The World Cup is over for the United States after losing 3-1 to the Netherlands.

The USMNT went behind after just 10 minutes from a sharp Memphis Depay finish and Daley Blind scored a second just before half-time.In a game that looked increasingly comfortable for the Netherlands, the U.S. got a fortuitous goal back via Haji Wright’s heel, but that was cancelled out just five minutes later thanks to a full-back to full-back combination with Blind supplying an expert cross to Denzel Dumfries to volley home a third for the Dutch.Paul Tenorio, Sam Stejskal, Michael Cox and Simon Hughes analyse the key talking points


 

Focus moves to World Cup 2026

There has been an understanding — sometimes stated aloud, other times not — that part of this four-year cycle was about building a core that could carry momentum forward into the 2026 World Cup, which the U.S. will co-host with Mexico and Canada.“As you move into 2026, if our players continue to progress at the rate that they have been, we’re going to be dealing with a really, really talented player pool with experience and having the home field advantage,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter told The Athletic for the narrative podcast, From Couva to Qatar: Remaking the USMNT.“And we know the home field in the World Cup is important. I think it’s a great opportunity for us, without getting ahead of ourselves, everything that’s been done has been laying this foundation, and this World Cup will help do that as well.”

The U.S. was the second-youngest team in the tournament here in Qatar, and may have been the youngest if not for the inclusion of 35-year-old center-back Tim Ream. There was just one player on the roster, DeAndre Yedlin, with any World Cup experience. The task over the past four years was to give this young core crucial experience, both in CONCACAF qualifying and in a World Cup, that might transfer as they age into their primes.In that way, it’s difficult to say that this cycle has been anything but a success. The U.S. has been built around players like Tyler AdamsWeston McKennieYunus MusahChristian PulisicSergino Dest and Brenden Aaronson. Gio Reyna’s injury has slowed his integration into the group some, but he’s played a role in important games, including a Nations League final and Saturday’s round-of-16 loss to the Netherlands. All of those players are 24 years old or younger.The U.S. showed in the group stage that they are capable of playing good soccer at times. They were the better team for large stretches against WalesEngland and Iran. They also were able to survive and see out a win against Iran despite being under pressure for much of the second half. If there was an obvious weakness, it was an inability to create dangerous chances and to score. That was much the same as it was in qualifying, and it will be a crucial part of the next four-year cycle.

It’s uncertain what this team will look like in the short term. There is a Gold Cup in 2023, but one of little consequence. The U.S. will compete in the Olympics in 2024. Perhaps they can look to play in the Copa America as they seek higher levels of competition. As hosts, it’s unlikely the U.S. will have to qualify for the World Cup, though FIFA has not officially announced that yet. It will be important for this team to find competitive games ahead of the World Cup, however.When casting your eyes toward 2026, there is plenty to be excited about in regards to this player pool. The expectations were high around this young team in Qatar. They just about met them by getting out of the group and into the knockout stage. A win over the Netherlands would have been the program’s first trip to the quarter-finals in two decades. This U.S. team fell short. In four years’ time, this performance will be the baseline for success.As Leeds’ American head coach Jesse Marsch wrote in a column for The Athletic, there will be real belief that the U.S. can make history in 2026 by challenging in a way they haven’t before.Paul Tenorio


 

Crying out for an elite striker

With Josh Sargent unavailable due to an ankle injury he suffered on Tuesday against Iran, Berhalter had a big decision to make at striker. Would he turn to Wright, who was decent in a start against England but struggled massively off the bench against Iran? Would he start Jesus Ferreira, who was the No 1 for much of the period between World Cup qualifying and the start of the tournament? Or would he look elsewhere and move an ostensible winger like Reyna, Tim Weah or Pulisic to the No 9? Ultimately, Berhalter, who said ahead of the Iran game that he hadn’t really considered starting anyone up top besides one of the three players listed at striker, chose Ferreira. It didn’t work out. The 21-year-old didn’t play in the group stage and hadn’t appeared in a competitive match since FC Dallas were eliminated from the MLS Cup Playoffs on October 23. His last goal came all the way back on September 10, making him goalless in his last seven games for club and country heading into SaturdayHe showed all of that rust against the Netherlands. He didn’t take up good spaces, often clogging room in midfield for Pulisic, Weah, McKennie and Musah by regularly dropping centrally. He didn’t get on the ball often, but when he did, his touches were poor — he committed dangerous, sloppy turnovers on a couple of occasions. Just 5ft 9in, he was no match physically for Dutch center-back Virgil van Dijk and wasn’t at all an outlet for direct balls from the U.S. defense.He was poor enough that Berhalter chose to replace him at half-time, bringing him off for Reyna. Wright was eventually inserted about midway through the second half, with Reyna shifting out wide for the departed Weah. Wright missed a golden opportunity not long after coming on, then scored what looked like an incredibly accidental, fortunate goal to pull the U.S. within 2-1 before the Dutch found their third. The performances of Ferreira and Wright were a real illustration of the USMNT’s huge problem at the No 9. For as much talent as they have elsewhere on the field, the Americans aren’t close to having a top-level striker.

Sam Stejskal


 

How far can the Dutch go?

The Netherlands have eased into the quarter-finals but none of their performances have necessarily been easy to watch.

This is a counter-attacking team which relies heavily on the pace of Cody Gakpo, as well as the width provided by Dumfries.

Memphis Depay celebrates his first goal of the 2022 World Cup (Photo: Marvin Ibo Guengoer – GES Sportfoto/Getty Images)

There is talent and experience in defence, which so far has been difficult to get past — though it is yet to be tested by the most significant strikers on the planet.

It seems as though the team needs to find more of a connection between midfield and attack. It may find a way past Argentina but Brazil in the semis is another matter.

Simon Hughes


 

U.S. struggle in possession

Throughout the World Cup, the U.S. had significantly frustrated their opponents in possession with their excellent pressing play.

On Saturday, it was the Netherlands that stymied the U.S. with their disciplined defensive work. Starting forwards Gakpo and Depay remained wide when the U.S. were in possession, cutting off the passing lanes from American center-backs Ream and Walker Zimmerman to full-backs Dest and Antonee Robinson and funneling play to the middle.

The Dutch midfielders were all over their U.S. counterparts in that area of the field, man-marking them at times and denying them time and space, especially in the first half.

Although the U.S. was having trouble building out from the back, they rarely looked to play over the top and stretch the Dutch’s compact lines in the first half. Starting striker Ferreira has never been an outlet for direct play — that remained painfully true on Saturday. Pulisic and Weah have the speed to run behind, but the U.S. didn’t look to play anything long to them until the final moments of the first half.

All of that led to a really poor display in possession in the first half. It was far more reminiscent of the U.S.’s miserable matches in September than it was any of their group-stage games in Qatar, when they were pretty cohesive — if not always efficient — with their attacking movements.

The U.S. got into better spots after going down 2-0 just before half-time, but their play with the ball didn’t really improve. The few half chances they were able to generate mostly came via transition.

Sam Stejskal


 

Van Gaal’s tactical masterclass

No other side at this World Cup is playing like the Netherlands. Louis van Gaal’s template from the Dutch run to the 2014 semi-final has essentially been redeployed here: strict man-marking in midfield until an opponent drops back into his own defence and near man-marking from defenders on attackers, with one centre-back often happily dropping 15 yards behind the other two.

It’s a simplistic approach, largely out of keeping with Van Gaal’s general philosophy. But in the slightly simplistic world of international football, it seems to work. The best U.S. chance came from slightly freak incidents, rather than from the Netherlands truly being opened up.

The U.S. could perhaps have tested the Dutch approach slightly more. Weah’s movement was good, but passes weren’t forthcoming. Weston McKennie made a couple of unnoticed runs from midfield in behind the Netherlands backline. Lots of teams at this World Cup seem almost afraid to knock long passes from back to front.

And then, in attack, the Netherlands basically had two approaches. They could roar forward on the break through Gakpo and Depay. Van Gaal added extra counter-attacking threat at the break, bringing on Steven Bergwijn. And, of course, there were the runs of the wing-backs. The second and third goals featured both – Daley Blind and Denzel Dumfries – combining from flank to flank,

The first goal was a bit special, and almost out of keeping with the general approach.

Not a bad bonus, eh?

Michael Cox


 

Ferreira disappoints

With Josh Sargent unable to play on Saturday due to an injured ankle, U.S. coach Berhalter opted to start Jesus Ferreira up top.

Unfortunately, the FC Dallas forward proved to be completely ineffective against the Dutch. Ferreira was dropping in to find the ball and hardly spent any time near the Netherlands goal. He completed 84.2 percent of his passes, but was little threat to score.

Jesus Ferreira’s touch map (attacking right to left) against the Netherlands

Looking for a spark in the second half, Berhalter opted to bring Reyna in for Ferreira and play the 20-year-old as a false 9. Reyna had played just seven minutes going into the knockout stages, entering as a substitute in the 0-0 draw with England. According to Transfermarkt, Reyna had not played as a No 9 since starting there in the 2019 Under-17 World Cup. Coincidentally, it was in a 4-0 loss to the Netherlands.

Reyna lasted about 22 minutes as the No 9 before Berhalter brought Wright off the bench for Weah in the 67th minute, moving Reyna out to the right wing.

Paul Tenorio


 

Depay brings the finesse

To understand Memphis Depay’s importance to the Netherlands, look at the top-tier company he shares.

Only five players still active in this World Cup have scored more international goals than him.

In order, they are Cristiano RonaldoLionel MessiRobert LewandowskiNeymar and Harry Kane.

Depay’s record, which is better than one in two, is not far off Kane, and this means that he is an essential part of the Dutch team.

Although Gakpo has generated more headlines because of his impact in the group stages, Depay showed against the U.S. that he is finding his rhythm.

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The opening goal came just when the Netherlands needed it. An awkward looking start was quickly forgotten after Depay swept a wicked shot past Matt Turner in the tenth minute.

The forward, who has barely played for Barcelona this season because of injury, tends to be judged in England by his failure at Manchester United.

Yet it has been five years since his departure from the Premier League.

He would not be the first striker to leave the United before emerging as a world-class talent elsewhere, having also proven himself on the international stage.

Remember Diego Forlan? Sixty-three Premier League appearances at United yielded just ten goals.

Five years after his last game at Old Trafford, he helped Uruguay to the World Cup semi-final in a tournament where he was voted as the best player, having finished as the joint top scorer.

Depay is a different type of player, but he is just as relevant for the international team that he represents. While Gakpo gives the Dutch power and speed, Depay has finesse.

His performances against better defences will be key as the competition progresses.

Simon Hughes


 

Netherlands’ record-breaking goal

Berhalter’s side were chasing the game from the 10th minute after a ruthless break from Gakpo, Dumfries and Depay made it 1-0.

Depay’s first-time finish from near the penalty spot ended a sequence of 20 uninterrupted passes, the most on record for a Netherlands goal at the World Cup (1966 onwards).

Gakpo started the move in the U.S. half, turning and moving it backwards. Netherlands were happy to move the ball in short passing combinations and from side to side, drawing the U.S. team into their half. Then, bang, Depay pushed forward over the halfway line and slipped it to Gakpo.

He took the pass in his stride, kept it away from the recovering McKennie, and then slid the ball into the path of Dumfries, the wing-back pushing high on the right…

The Inter Milan wing-back shapes to whip a first-time cross into the box, with Davy Klaassen attacking the penalty spot…

But instead Dumfries plays a disguised cutback into the run of Depay, who is hurtling into the penalty area having lost Tyler Adams…

And the Barcelona forward sweeps a neat finish past Matt Turner and into the bottom corner…

Charlie Scott

 

Manuel Neuer, Matt Turner, Emi Martinez: World Cup group-stage goalkeeping highs and lows

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 30: Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saves a penalty from Lionel Messi of Argentina during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C match between Poland and Argentina at Stadium 974 on November 30, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

By Matt Pyzdrowski Dec 3, 2022


 

Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny put his hands on his hips and laughed. He clearly felt the penalty awarded to Argentina by Dutch referee Danny Makkelie was a soft one, but rather than dwell on it and plead his case like some of his team-mates, Szczesny went to his goal line and prepared himself for Lionel Messi’s spot kick.me/1-0-40/html/container.html

Standing on his goal line, Szczesny remained calm despite the chaos around him, focusing on the task at hand — there was even a moment when he put his hand out to his team-mates, winked at them and mouthed the words: “I got this.”

As Messi made his approach, Szczesny took a quick step to his right and launched himself back to his left. With the ball headed toward the upper half of the goal, Szczesny extended his top hand and pushed it around the post for a corner. It was about as good a penalty save as you will ever see and it turned out to be quite an important one, as well.

Though Argentina would go on to win 2-0, the save was ultimately the difference in Poland, instead of Mexico, advancing out of the group stage.It wasn’t Szczesny’s first spot-kick stop of the tournament, either. The first one was just as important. In Poland’s second group-stage match against Saudi Arabia, Szczesny came up big, saving Salem Al-Dawasri’s penalty in first-half stoppage time, helping Poland keep the lead they had taken a few minutes earlier. Poland would go on to win the match 2-0.

At this year’s World Cup, there have been five penalties saved: the two from Szczesny (matching Brad Friedel’s record for most ever in a World Cup), one from Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois against Canada, one from Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa against Poland, and one by Uruguay’s Sergio Rochet on Friday against Ghana. What’s been exciting about these penalty saves is they have come in crucial moments with the game on the line. It’s not often that a save can have the same impact as a goal being scored.Throughout this year’s tournament there have already been many goalkeeping-related talking points, and penalty saves have been just one of them. With the group stage over, let’s analyse some of the things that have caught my eye. Each of these examples showcase just how fine the margins can be for goalkeepers.


 

Marcus Rashford’s free-kick goal v Wales

It was the 50th minute of England’s group-stage match against Wales and they had just won a free kick in a dangerous position. Goalkeeper Danny Ward went over to his post, set his wall, then returned back to the centre of his goal. The referee blew his whistle and Marcus Rashford whipped in a curling effort.

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Ward, who was anticipating the ball going over his wall, took two quick steps to his right to get a jump on the shot. However, the ball wasn’t heading over the wall — it was flying toward the far corner of the goal. By the time Ward finally saw the ball swerving around the wall, he quickly got set and attempted to throw himself back in the direction he just came from, but it was already too late. As he was fully stretched, the ball flew past his hands and into the back of the net.

This was not the first time we have seen this — the goalkeeper accurately sets their wall, second guesses themselves at the last moment, jumps behind the wall and gets caught on the wrong foot, exposing the corner they were tasked with protecting.

In a controlled environment, the keeper has two of the most important things they crave when facing a shot: time and a clear sight of the ball to make the save. However, during matches that changes as several other variables come into play: how many players are over the ball, who is going to shoot, how many are needed in the wall and how to position it. Get any of these things wrong and you’re likely to concede.

To offset many of those variables — and to provide the best chance to make the save — the goalkeeper’s use of a wall is incredibly important.

A wall set correctly helps block a portion of the goal (ideally half of it), reducing the area the keeper has to cover and allowing them to focus their attention on the shot to the far corner. If the keeper is positioned correctly, and remains patient in their approach, then shots to the side netting can be saved with relative ease. As a goalkeeper, the last thing you want to do is abandon your responsibility — the far corner.

In a perfect world, Ward would like to be set up centrally here so he has a chance to react to a shot to either corner, but that becomes impossible because of the additional wall by England.

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Knowing that the extra English players were in position to obstruct his view, and would likely break away as the shot came in, Ward elected to position two extra players behind the English wall (one player a few yards to the side of the main wall and one player marking Harry Kane a few yards deeper of the wall), hoping that if the ball came low enough, one of them could clear it away from danger. So the four-person wall he set — which was correct considering the near central position and distance of about 26-27 yards — essentially turned into a wall of nine, as you can see below.

The nine-player wall Ward needs to contend with

Ward was forced to take up a position further to the left than he would have liked to get a better view of the ball. It is ultimately his positioning that makes him a bit insecure. Ward likely fears the ball over the top of his wall, and knowing that he has a bit more ground to cover should Rashford elect to go up and over, he wants to get a quick jump on the ball. However, this was the worst thing he could have done.

Once the referee blew his whistle, and Rashford began to approach the ball, Ward took a quick step to his right. Though it wasn’t ideal, at that moment, he was still in a favourable position to attack the shot. Unfortunately for Ward, his uncertainty didn’t stop there. He then took another small step behind his wall, which blocked his sight of the ball and opened up the space at the far corner that Rashford was looking to exploit. This was Ward’s step of no return — the one that took him so far out of position that he was never going to be able to save a quality shot from Rashford.

Danny Ward attempting to quickly change direction after over committing to his right post.

At a crucial moment when Ward needed to have a clear head, he instead questioned the work he had done earlier. By the time Rashford approached the ball to shoot, Ward had already taken two steps too far to his near post, left his far post completely exposed, and put himself in a disadvantageous position to see the strike.

Rashford whipped the ball toward the far post, just out of reach of Ward’s left hand, and into the top corner.

Ward struggling to get to Marcus Rashford’s strike

While it’s understandable why Ward made the moves that he did, he’s got to resist the urge to come across prematurely, and instead stay rooted to his initial position, trust his work, and wait to react to the shot.

If Ward had trusted his wall,  and himself, and stayed in his initial set position, we most likely would be looking at a different result. Two small movements was all it took.


 

Kasper Schmeichel’s one-on-one save v Tunisia

At his very best, Kasper Schmeichel’s reflexes in the tightest areas really shine. While a keeper’s footwork gets them from point A to point B to save shots from distance, a bigger factor in a one-on-one is the ability to change direction quickly and make small adjustments at a moment’s notice.

When the opposition broke through, Schmeichel had a defined approach, quickly closing the area between him and the striker while keeping his chest and body square to the ball. It was clearly in his head to stay as big as possible up until the point where he had to commit. In the time it took the forward to drop their gaze and shoot, Schmeichel quickly closed the space between them and limited the space beyond him to the most narrow angles.

His approach is uniquely similar to that of his father, Manchester United great Peter Schmeichel. When he arrived at Manchester United in 1991, Peter possessed a mix of attributes not seen from a goalkeeper in English football. Although seeing a keeper come out from goal to close down the attacker while spreading themselves to cover as much of the goal as possible is commonplace now, he was the first to employ the spread technique with such regularity that it became one of his trademarks.

As a goalkeeper, if you’re on or near the goal line and someone has a header or shot inside your own six-yard box, the chances of reacting to where it goes are slim. You may have heard the goalkeeping term “make yourself big” before — Peter Schmeichel’s use of the spread is a perfect example of that phenomenon. Chest and head square with the ball, arms wide at your side and feet shoulder-width apart.

In order to make the save, it’s important to keep your frame as big as possible for as long as possible. When it’s impossible to predict the direction of the strike, you cover as much of the goal as you can by moving forward quickly and keeping your legs, arms and head between the ball and the middle of the goal. This should not only decrease the area of the goal for a player to shoot past you, but should also decrease the saving area for the keeper, as well.

In the 42nd minute it was Schmeichel’s excellent use of the spread technique and his ability to “make himself big” while remaining flexible in his approach, which allowed him to pull off what is, in my opinion, the best one-on-one save we have seen at this year’s World Cup.

Tunisia’s Issam Jebali was through on goal just before half-time with the score still 0-0, so Schmeichel rushed forward and splayed out his limbs. 

Kasper Schmeichel quickly closing the space and “making himself big.”

Admittedly, Schmeichel did appear to go to the ground a bit quickly, which opened up the possibility of a chip from Jebali, a move which Tunisia’s striker attempted to perform. However, Schmeichel had other plans.

Just as it looked like the ball was about to glide up and over Schmeichel and into the back of the net, his giant right palm came flying out of nowhere and swatted the ball out for a corner. All Msakni and Jebali could do was put their heads in their hands in disbelief that Schmeichel managed to turn away what they believed was a sure goal.

Schmeichel’s big right hand clawing the ball away from goal.

What’s most impressive here was Schmeichel’s incredible ability to keep his head and chest square to the ball while remaining flexible in his approach. It’s what ultimately allowed him to improvise as quickly and seamlessly as he did by throwing his right arm to the ball. Had he committed and turned his head and chest away from the ball, anticipating the impact from the strike, he never would have made the save.

Sure, his huge frame and reach also played a big role here, but more important was his athleticism. I think it’s safe to say, this is one of those saves that his dad would certainly be proud of.


 

Manuel Neuer’s inefficient block technique v Japan

Manuel Neuer is one of, if not the most, technically efficient goalkeepers to ever play the position, but on Japan’s winning goal against Germany in the 83rd minute of their opening match, it was Neuer’s poor technique in a crucial moment that let him down and resulted in a goal being scored rather than a save being made.

It all started with what should have been a harmless long ball from a free kick in Japan’s own half.

After the referee whistled for a free kick, Japan defender Ko Itakura was quick to realise that Germany were out of position and sent a long ball deep into the Germans’ final third. Aware that he was already behind the defence, Takuma Asano expertly took his first touch into space and accelerated into Germany’s penalty area.

With one kick, Japan suddenly bypass all 10 German outfield players and find themselves in their opponents’ penalty area.

With Asano free on goal, Neuer had just a split second to determine what he should do next. Generally, he had three options: 1) Engage and spread — close the angle while throwing his arms and legs towards or in front of the ball, like we saw from Kasper Schmeichel, 2) Engage and block — close the angle with one knee up and the other leg down to prevent nutmegs, and keep his arms low, facing the ball, or 3) Wait closer to his goal line and react.

While closing the space between the goalkeeper and the attacker can be beneficial from closer distances, doing so from longer distances inadvertently makes the finish easier for the attacker because it exposes the very thing the goalkeeper is attempting to protect — the goal — and it significantly reduces the goalkeeper’s reaction time without affecting the outcome of the play. It also decreases his chances of making the save. If Neuer elected to engage and spread, he would have never impacted the play and inadvertently made himself vulnerable between the legs and around the arms in a crucial moment.

Asano being wide of the goal with a tight angle to shoot and a defender on his back was Neuer’s signal that the correct option was to remain calm and get into the stalking position (knees bent, chest over his toes and hands down at his sides) while waiting to react to Asano’s next move.

Manuel Neuer with his hands low awaiting Takuma Asano’s next move.

It wasn’t until Asano was almost at the corner of Neuer’s six-yard box that it became clear to Neuer that the correct option was to engage and block.

Initially Neuer’s technique and positioning were sound as he stayed low and waited until the final moment before the strike to drop his trailing leg down to the ground to block the area past him between his legs while keeping his arms and chest forward and toward the ball.

Neuer in the low block.

It was not until the ball left Asano’s foot that it all started to go wrong for Neuer.

Sensing the distance between him and Neuer was closing, Asano quickly pulled his right foot back and rifled the ball over Neuer’s shoulder, squeezing it into the tightest of areas between the goalkeeper and the near post.

Neuer turning his chest at the last minute and exposing his near post.

Rather than keep his chest and head square with the ball, Neuer flinched, turning his body and right shoulder in the process, opening up the gap for Asano to slip the ball past him. Neuer is usually so good at keeping his body square to the ball, but this time he got it wrong.

You can see in the screenshot above just how close he was to making the save and how keeping his chest square to the ball and arms down at his sides would have benefited him and most likely changed the outcome of the play.


 

Emiliano Martinez incorrect hand choice v Saudi Arabia

It was the 53rd minute of Argentina’s opening group match against Saudi Arabia and the score was 1-1. Saudi Arabia had equalised only minutes earlier and the entire momentum of the match had suddenly changed. Argentina were on their back foot.

After chasing down a high bouncing ball in the penalty area, Saudi Arabia’s Salem Al-Dawsari gained control of it near the right side of the box. Following some nifty footwork, Al-Dawsari expertly turned two Argentine defenders and then juked another to set himself up for his strike. Seeing an opening in front of him yet sensing the defending pressure closing in around him, Al-Dawsari rifled the ball toward the right corner of the goal.

Martinez was seeking out the ball while simultaneously keeping his eyes on the play developing in front of him, with his chest forward and hands down low at his sides.

When Al-Dawsari pulled his leg back and it became clear that he was going to shoot, Martinez began to bring his hands up towards his waist and prepared himself for his dive. As the ball jumped off of Al-Dawsari’s foot, Martinez took a big step with his left leg and launched himself towards the left corner of his goal. Right as it appeared that he was about to make a breathtaking full-extension save with his top (right) hand, the ball rolled over his fingertips and into the back of the net to give Saudi Arabia a stunning 2-1 lead and victory against Argentina.

Though credit must definitely be given to Al-Dawsari for the quality of his strike, there were still a few small tweaks that Martinez could have made, which may have ultimately changed the outcome of this play.

First, the top hand versus bottom hand debate.

In a perfect world every keeper will always get two hands on the ball, creating the strongest and biggest area behind the ball to make the save, but sometimes that isn’t possible. It is typically in situations where the goalkeeper has to stretch themselves to the furthest corners of the goal to make the save where extending one arm can be the preferred option.

There’s a big debate in the goalkeeping community as to what hand is the best for shots in the upper half of the goal. Some believe the keeper should use their most dominant hand, others advocate to always use the top hand, while some encourage the use of the bottom hand.

When facing shots with a predictable path and a rising trajectory towards the top corner of the goal, I’ve found the bottom hand holds a distinct advantage because it typically only requires a slight deflection to push the ball away from goal. Whether it is a strong palm or fingertip save, the bottom hand shooting upwards matches the trajectory of the ball allowing you to tip it wide or over the goal with a slight flex/push of the wrist.

Additionally, the most obvious advantage of using the bottom hand is that it’s often easier to line up the hand-to-ball coordination the closer the hand is to the ball and whichever post the goalkeeper is diving towards.

Due to the ball’s trajectory and the fact that it was drifting away from Martinez (wider) rather than up and over him (higher), the top hand was less powerful and ultimately less effective in this instance and thus the incorrect choice for Martinez. The bottom hand would have crucially allowed him to meet the ball at a more favourable angle as it drifted away from him and helped him to redirect the ball with a smaller deflection/push of the wrist than the top hand ultimately would have in this instance.

Emiliano Martinez reaching for the ball with his top hand, but was unable to make the save.

Martinez’s lower than normal set position from this distance also played an important role.

For shots from longer distances, the goalkeeper wants to have their body more upright, with the hands around stomach height, giving themselves adequate time to react to shots from every direction. As the striker gets closer to goal, the keeper brings their chest forward and more over their toes, leading to the hands dropping lower toward their waist/knees. The closer the shot, the quicker they will need to react and adjust their body shape, allowing them to better cover the goal while being ready to react at a moment’s notice.

Martinez’s lower set position with his hands below his knees.

From this distance, Martinez was far too low. If his hands were positioned higher here he would have been able to take a more direct path to the ball, shoot his hands out towards the ball, and execute the play much faster than he ultimately did. The low hand position didn’t only mean that he had to move his hands a longer distance to make the save, it also meant it was going to take more time before his hands would get there, and he would lose precious seconds of reaction time in his save attempt. And in goalkeeping, every second counts.

Martinez’s lower set position also explains why the shot would initially appear to be going up and over him (higher), rather than up and away from him (wider), and resulted in him using the top hand. Had Martinez been a bit more upright and balanced in his approach, it’s quite possible that the decision to go with the top hand instead of the bottom would have been easier for him, and we would be looking at a save here, rather than a goal.


 

Matt Turner’s reaction save versus Wales

With the U.S. clinging onto a 1-0 lead in the 64th minute of their opener, Wales had a free kick and a dangerous chance on goal. Harry Wilson stood over the ball and U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner took up a position in the back half of his goalmouth and a few yards off his line, while his teammates set their defensive line near the top of the box.

The high defensive line was important because it afforded the U.S. more space to defend the ball, while making it as difficult as possible for Wales to time their runs and attack the ball successfully. If the defensive line was lower, the U.S. backline would have been static and flat as a unit, creating traffic/chaos in a vulnerable area of the field, while Wales would have been able to build up the momentum into their runs and time their attack from a more advantageous position at the top of the box. While the high line isn’t foolproof, it does prevent many of these potential defensive issues from arising.

The U.S.’s high line.

From Turner’s perspective, the high line was advantageous because it created more space between him and his backline (and Wales’ attacking players) to come and claim the ball if it was in an area where he felt he could impact the play, or to adjust his positioning and get himself into a proper set position to save an attempt on target.

As Wilson swung the ball in, and it began to dip towards the penalty spot, it became clear that this wasn’t going to be a ball that Turner could claim. Rather than getting himself set at his position five yards from his goal, he took three quick steps backwards towards his goal line and quickly got himself set. The steps and retreat to his line gave Turner the precious reaction time — and the correct angle — he was going to need to make the save.

Matt Turner retreating to his line.

The ball dipped, dove and made contact with Walker Zimmerman’s head about eight yards from goal, redirecting it back towards the top of the box. After a pinball sequence in the box resulted in the ball bouncing back up in the air, Wales’ Chris Mepham sprinted towards the ball, leaped into the air and won the duel over the U.S. captain Tyler Adams, sending the ball back towards the far post where an onrushing Ben Davies leaped and launched himself at it, redirecting it on target in search of Wales’ equaliser.

Ben Davies redirecting the ball on target.

Already in the perfect position to impact the play after retreating to his goalline, Turner made one small bound and jumped to the ball as it was looping over his head and to the back of the net.

Right as it looked like the header was going to sneak over the top of him, the Turner extended his right hand and pushed the ball over the crossbar for a corner kick.

The save was more difficult than it would appear at first glance. There were a lot of small movements Turner needed to get correct at exactly the right moment. These weren’t decisions every goalkeeper gets correct. If Turner would have tried to rely on his reach or hands and stayed in his original set position four or five yards from goal, he would have likely been picking the ball out of the net.

What Turner crucially understands is that it is your feet and footwork, not your hands or reach, that gets you to the ball in order to make the save.

The tools that you use to make the save are more important than any physical trait. Without proper positioning, power, agility and footwork to get you from point A to point B to make the save, it doesn’t matter how tall you are. How a person plays the game and makes decisions is far more important.

It would be wrong to assume that a taller keeper with a longer reach would have made this save any easier than Turner did. It’s just as likely that a taller keeper would have taken their height/reach for granted, failed to adjust their position in goal and found themselves helpless as the header from Davies went up and over them and into the back of the net.

Though Wales would equalise through a Gareth Bale penalty in the 82nd minute, without Turner’s save it’s quite possible that the U.S. would have been looking at a loss rather than a draw.

Heading into Qatar there was some degree of uncertainty surrounding the goalkeeper position for the U.S., but with two clean sheets in three group-stage games, Turner has officially put those doubts to rest and emphatically proven that he belongs on the game’s biggest stage.

Alan Shearer World Cup Q&A: England v France, Kane, Mbappe and much more

Alan Shearer World Cup Q&A: England v France, Kane, Mbappe and much more

Alan Shearer  Dec 6, 2022 
Save ArticleWell, that was fun. And frenetic. And, as always, a little bit left-field.

I suppose by now I should expect the unexpected where The Athletic and our brilliant subscribers are concerned, but you certainly kept me on my toes during our live discussion about the World Cup (and pretty much everything else). Thank you to everybody who contributed and apologies if I didn’t get to your question or point.

 

If you didn’t see it at the time, some of the highlights are below. Also a few lowlights! I’ve tidied up a few of my answers and corrected some errors — this was a hectic hour and my typing fingers are still a work in progress — but everything else is more or less as it was.

 

We began, understandably enough, with this weekend’s huge World Cup quarter-final between England and France …

Big call for Gareth Southgate on Saturday. Back five or back four, for you? — Matt S.

Alan Shearer: It’s a back four for me, definitely. Gareth has made some big decisions so far but they’ve all worked and so he has done enough to earn our trust, but I’d stick with what England have been doing. The danger with a five or a three, if you prefer, is that you invite teams on to you, which wouldn’t be advisable against Kylian Mbappe and company. The four allows us to play on the front foot a bit more.

Who do you think will have the better chance to win this one? — Rishabh G.

My prediction before the tournament was that England would reach the quarter-finals, but there is a strong argument to be made for both teams in a positive sense and an asterisk against both in terms of frailties. Naturally, I hope it’s England’s day, and I think that’s one key aspect — it feels like a 50/50 game to me, one which will come down to the day itself, a moment of quality or a bit of luck. Both will feel as they have enough to win it and then go on to the semi-final, the final and even win the tournament. I’m sorry if that’s a cop-out, but it’s too close to call.

Everyone is talking about Mbappe’s form and quality, and how to stop him. When you were on a hot streak, full of confidence, what, if anything, could other teams do to throw you off? Were there particular opposition players that just had the knack of making you feel less in the groove? — Rowan L.

As an individual, when you’re firing and playing well, you honestly don’t care about stuff like this. You feel invincible, as if nothing can stop you. Yes, there were certain defenders I didn’t particularly enjoy playing against — you were always guaranteed a hard time against Arsenal’s Tony Adams and Martin Keown, for instance — but the system and personnel you’re facing didn’t really matter much to me and I’m sure Mbappe feels that way, too.

But it’s not just Mbappe. I’ve watched France a couple of times live at the World Cup and Antoine Griezmann is going under the radar, as is Adrien Rabiot in midfield. There are fascinating battles all over the pitch. It’s going to be a shoot-out.

To widen the conversation slightly, France haven’t been tested defensively yet and look at who we’ve got to do some testing of them; Bukayo SakaPhil FodenJude Bellingham and Harry Kane. I think they will have a bit to worry about.

What would be your starting line-up for England against France? — Hamza O. 

I think it will be the same line-up as against Senegal, Hamza.

 
Jude Bellingham and England beat Senegal convincingly in the round of 16 (Photo: Getty Images)

If you could give Kane one piece of advice, striker to striker, for the rest of the tournament, what would it be? — Tom A.

Harry doesn’t need my advice, Tom. He’s proved himself many times over, in club football and on the international stage. I think he’ll be happy with the way he’s played. I know he would have liked more goals, but he’s got one in the knockout stages and has more than played his part in terms of captaincy and assists. Knowing him as I do, he would love to be up there challenging for the Golden Boot, but a World Cup for England would more than compensate. It’s not as if the team have been struggling in attack, is it?

On James Maddison, while it’s very hard to criticise anything with England right now, do you feel him only getting 34 minutes for his country, three years ago, is an incredible waste of a unique talent? And could he yet play a part in this World Cup? — Kevin U.

Sure, he could play a part. I think we all appreciate he’s a very good talent, but others have played well and England are in the quarter-finals. We know Gareth is loyal and that will come into his thinking and, as you say, it’s difficult to criticise him when England got to the final of the Euros last year and the World Cup semis four years ago. They have a great pool of players in forward and midfield positions, but he’s one of them, certainly.

What are your thoughts on Declan Rice? — Asa C.

I’m a big fan. He can do a bit of everything in midfield, he can surge forward with the ball and he can give you a bit of protection, too. He’s a great, driving force but also a calm head. You might not always notice him having a good game, but take him out and you do notice it. He was one of our better players the other night.

You have mentioned that England should fear nobody at this World Cup. I’m interested in your view on how common fear is among teams and players generally — Matt X.

When I say “fear”, I don’t mean it literally. Brazil gave us a thrilling first 45 minutes against South Korea, arguably the best of the tournament, but when you look and analyse, Alisson had to pull off three unbelievable saves for them. They have one or two issues defensively and what I mean is that every team left in the tournament has a flaw, a weakness, and they all have plenty of positives, too.To answer your question more generally, no, I don’t think any team ever goes onto the pitch worrying or afraid, certainly not at this level. You might have respect or admiration for your opponents, but you always believe you can and will win. Otherwise, what’s the point?

England have been playing nice football in this World Cup. But what is the factor that makes us believe that this team can make it to the end compared to the teams of 1998, 2002 and even 2006, which had some of football’s giants on the team sheet? — Stathis C. 

Two things. One, it’s not about names, not solely anyway. We’re a better team now in terms of experience than we were in 2020 and 2018, our two most recent tournaments. We’re better in terms of Bellingham coming through. He is a huge plus. The other point is that there hasn’t been any single outstanding team in the tournament. Some very good ones, yes, but each one has a flaw or two. That gives England (and the rest) an opportunity. But competitions like this are always a thin line. I still maintain that our squad in 1998 was good enough to win the World Cup and if we’d gone through against Argentina, we might well have. But in football, “if” is a very big little word!

Do you believe the winners between England and France on Saturday go on to win this World Cup? — Chris M.

I think whoever wins will end up in the final, either against Argentina or Brazil. And then it’s another tough ask.

After the last two tournaments, in some peoples’ thoughts anything less than England winning this World Cup would be a failure. What are your thoughts? — Jamie P.

It’s a tricky one, Jamie. This isn’t a ”normal” tournament in terms of where it is and when it is. England have shown they’re capable of better than the quarter-finals, which was my prediction, but they also have big tests ahead of them.

Perhaps it would depend on how they went out. If they get stuffed, yes, that would represent a failure. But it’s difficult to answer the question. By any standards, Gareth has done really well over a decent period, but that’s the jeopardy of international football. You get judged every two years on a handful of games. It’s a knife-edge!


And then we had some wider World Cup questions …

Who are you backing for the Golden Boot? — Jack B.

Mbappe has a bit of a lead, doesn’t he? It’s very difficult to look past him because if he gets one against England as France get knocked out, it would put him on six goals — three more than anyone else at the time of writing. Shall we take that as our bargain? Mbappe to get one kind of Boot, France to get another and England to progress? I would take that!

Didi Hamann on (Irish TV channel) RTE was very critical of Brazil showing a lack of respect due to their celebrations after their goals (against South Korea), finishing off by saying “they won’t be dancing in two weeks time” (after the final is decided). Is that a lack of understanding of Brazilian culture vs his native Germany? — Darren H.

Look at how Brazil have been arriving at the grounds — dancing and singing on the coach and with music blasting out. It’s what they’re about. That’s the yellow shirt, isn’t it? Fun and flamboyant and noisy and outgoing. No, not once in that first half did I think they were being disrespectful. They were just being very good. Why the hell not?

If you could make one change to the World Cup, what would it be? — Eric B.

In footballing terms, it would be to use VAR as we were originally told it would be used years ago. I hate this constant re-refereeing of games.

What is it like out in Qatar? Does it feel safe and welcoming? Are you happy with how you have covered the event with the BBC? — William S.

I would like to think the BBC have covered the issues of human rights sensitively and in depth (as we have done at The Athletic, as well), particularly on our opening show. Yes, I have felt perfectly safe and yes, we’ve all been welcomed, but this is a World Cup and none of that stuff is an issue. You don’t get a real or accurate view of a host country. I’m also very aware and conscious of all the conservations surrounding the tournament being held here. Those feelings have never gone away.

 

And now the club-related questions, the personal (and the weird) …

Regarding your first club, Southampton, where you’re still loved: how do you think we’ll do in the second half of the season? Many of us are concerned by the new manager’s (Nathan Jones) lack of experience and especially the absence of a true goalscorer (feel free to lace your boots one last time…) — Graham W.

If only I could! I wouldn’t have had the career I had without my time at The Dell. I grew and learned there and I loved it. I think it depends on who they sign in January, if anyone. But I’m slightly concerned, I have to say.

Looking back, what moments stick out from your career as the most pressure-filled? — Dakota C.

Penalty shootouts in the quarter and semi-finals of Euro 96. Penalties for England in the round of 16 against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. And my last ever kick of a football, a penalty (for Newcastle) against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. You’ll notice a theme there! Thankfully, they all went in!

 
Shearer dispatched his penalty against Argentina in 1998 (Photo: Getty Images)

What is the best football song of all time in your opinion? World In Motion for me — Loz N.

There aren’t many great ones! World In Motion, yes. Three Lions, definitely … After that, I’m struggling.

Does it annoy you that the goals you scored pre-Premier League for Southampton are never included when your stats are talked about? It’s almost as if they don’t exist — Dean T.

If you think it annoys me, just imagine how Gary Lineker feels — by that criteria, he doesn’t exist at all! No, it doesn’t irritate me. It’s just the way it is. Although maybe I’ll feel a bit differently when Harry Kane gets closer to my Premier League record! I’ll be demanding a recount.

Have you ever had any “What if I miss this?” moments? What does that feel like in the middle of a big match? — Andy B.

Most strikers play on instinct and repetition. You’ve got to be strong mentally and you also have to accept as a forward that you’ll miss. It’s natural, it happens. You’ll miss an easy chance now and again, but because you believe in your ability and you have experience, you trust yourself to keep going and keep getting into those areas. And, trust me, that feeling of scoring a goal drives you on. Nothing compares to it. The closest I came to the feeling you describe is the long walk to the spot during a penalty shootout, which feels as though it will never end. But again, you have to trust yourself to get through it.

Do you think old-school No 9s will ever return to the game? — Nick S.

They haven’t quite gone away! Erling Haaland is a pure No 9. So is Robert Lewandowski, so is Olivier Giroud, who is now France’s record goalscorer. Richarlison is playing as a nine for Brazil and doesn’t even do that for Spurs. But Haaland is carrying the torch for this generation, certainly. As someone who played the position and loves goalscorers, I would hope people would want to emulate him or find another one. These things are often cyclical.

How do you eat your steak? — Deniz O.

Medium.

Who would you say was the best player you ever played alongside and why? — Jerome T.

At club level, Les Ferdinand at Newcastle. We only had one season together but we scored 49 goals between us.

The most unforgettable match of your career? — Leo T.

When I broke Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record for Newcastle United — 2-0 at home to Portsmouth in 2006.

What was your favourite kit (that you wore?)? — Joseph B.

The 1996 Newcastle strip, which had the big Brown Ale logo on it.

Alan, if this is really you that writes for The Athletic, I need you to weave three Police song titles into your next BBC pundit spot — Will B.

Who else do you think is writing this, Will? Roxanne? You must be mad — like, Walking on the Moon mad — if you think it’s anybody else. Now I feel like the King of Pain. I’m So Lonely, but I really don’t want to Fall Out. I’m Wrapped Around Your Finger after all, just an Englishman in Qatar. But, sorry, I’m not saying any of that on the telly!

Antoine Griezmann – England would be foolish to neglect France’s lesser-sung hero

<img src="data:;base64,” alt=”” aria-hidden=”true” data-airgap-id=”83″ />Antoine Griezmann
By Amy Lawrence  Dec 7, 2022

When Antoine Griezmann pulls on his No 7 jersey on Saturday, the feeling could not be more familiar.

His club situation might have been irregular for a while, but there is nothing more constant than his presence for France. That World Cup quarter-final against England will, we assume, see Griezmann represent his country for a 72nd consecutive game.

It is a crazy statistic.Over a five-and-a-half-year period, he has started every single France fixture, be it the World Cup final, a qualifier in Kazakhstan, or a friendly against Bolivia. He has never been injured, never had a twinge or a moan, never needed a rest. He is France’s whirring dynamo. Just watch him play — light on his feet, on the move all the time, eyes scanning for where to be and how to affect the game.Griezmann has also, in this World Cup, taken on a role of particular importance. When it was clear France needed a rethink because of the injuries ruling N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba out of the tournament, few imagined the key to restructuring midfield in a workable way was one of the country’s all-time top scorers (he is third on the list). Yet coach Didier Deschamps has found a midfield solution by asking one of his most trusted players to alter his game.Griezmann has remodelled himself in a deeper role, lending technical security, game intelligence and tireless work rate to help Aurelien Tchouameni and Adrien Rabiot. “It’s quite freeing,” Griezmann says, “being there in the relationship between defence and forwards, defensively switched-on and helping my team-mates offensively.”France’s strategy during this tournament — something that has had to click very quickly given how their new defensive and midfield units have been, to an extent, thrown together — owes a lot to Griezmann being a central hub. It might not catch the eye quite as much as Kylian Mbappe (well, nothing does), but it matters. Griezmann is the lesser-sung hero of the defending champions’ run to the last eight.

Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe
 
Griezmann and Mbappe celebrate a goal that was eventually ruled out during France’s match against Tunisia (Photo: Ryan Pierse via Getty Images)

Here’s the nugget that tells us a lot not just about Griezmann, but also about the collective attitude within the camp: despite all his experience, he has been taking tips on positioning from Youssouf Fofana, the 23-year-old Monaco midfielder whose call-up for this World Cup came a little out the blue, having only won his first cap in September. Griezmann is happy to listen and learn from anyone who might raise his game. (Incidentally, the pair have also stepped up as the main DJs among the French party — another symbol of how young and old alike in this group are all doing their bit to help with bonding and a good atmosphere.)

Griezmann relishes his role as a creator of happy buzz around the camp; a joker, easy to talk to, somebody who brings important value on and off the pitch. He is one of life’s optimists.It is not a complete shock for him to be working a little further away from goal — tracking back and ferreting to retrieve possession has always been a natural part of his game, even when used as a forward.

What is evident in his performances at this World Cup is his ability to have an impact all over the pitch.He has an innate sense of where to be to enable him to pickpocket the ball in defensive areas, spray passes to maintain possession in midfield, and dart upfield to join forays into the opposition box. Griezmann brings a certain poise to the team’s makeup. “We need to be balanced,” he says. “Without a great defence, you don’t win the big competitions. We’re all focused on that, even if we have attacking players.”Against Poland in the first knockout game on Sunday, he produced a midfield masterclass.The variety of his involvement was startling. Beautifully crafted long and short passes, dangerous set-piece deliveries, neat flicks and tricks, darting dribbles, harassing and pressing, and busting a gut to get back to intercept or tackle. France’s third and final goal of the match was instigated by Griezmann lofting the ball out of his penalty area. A few seconds later, Mbappe bludgeoned it into the net.He has always had the flexibility to play in different positions (usually across the front). When he started playing for France in the 2013-14 season, he was a left-sided attacker. After a couple of years, he shifted to the right, also having spells centrally and even as a false nine.Heat maps of his positioning at the past three World Cups, below, show his changing role. They tell us that in 2014 he was busier on the left, while in 2018 he played higher up the pitch more frequently, as he has done in 2022.

Griezmann has evolved over the World Cups he has played for France.

 

In 2014 he was the poster boy for a side trying to recover from the wreckage of the soul-destroying tournament four years before in South Africa. France were on a path then, but not ready for greatness. By 2018, he was one of the protagonists of the World Cup triumph, sharing the moment with Mbappe, Pogba, Kante et al. Now, he is the team’s glue.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

England’s Walker confident he can stop Mbappe against France

The graphic below shows that against Poland he had strong passing links with Tchouameni and Rabiot in midfield, as well as Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele further forward. Griezmann and Mbappe have made the biggest impression when it comes to valuable passes so far in this World Cup.

With Mbappe casting high-voltage spells and Olivier Giroud breaking records, the impact of Griezmann Version ’22 has arguably passed below the radar. England would be very foolish, though, to take him lightly.

It is strange to think of how central he is to France’s success when in his youth he was overlooked by his national team. He even endured a ban from international football for curfew-breaking misdemeanours as an under-21 player. It is fair to say he has learned from his youthful mistakes.

In France’s 118 internationals since his March 2014 debut, Griezmann has only not figured four times (twice out injured, twice an unused substitute).

If anyone knows what it means to keep the games coming for his country, it is him.

AL RAYYAN, QATAR - NOVEMBER 30: Kylian Mbappe of France during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group D match between Tunisia and France at Education City Stadium on November 30, 2022 in Al Rayyan, Qatar. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Are England actually good? We will find out on Saturday against Mbappe Jack Pitt-Brooke Dec 4, 2022

The good ship Gazball sails serenely on. England are through to the World Cup quarter-finals against France after dispatching Senegal 3-0 at the Al Bayt Stadium. They had to negotiate some choppy waters at the start but then cut through Senegal twice on the break at the end of the first half. The ease with which they managed the second half of the game, scoring a third goal, making changes, conserving energy, no drama, no fuss, was a sign of Southgate’s steady hand on the tiller.If you are looking for something more definitive, then you will have to wait. Because this win showed nothing that we did not already know about Southgate’s practical, realistic England. This was the England we have seen a lot of over the past few years, at their efficient best. So far, so Gareth.The wait for a clearer answer will take less than a week. Is this actually real? Is this actually new? Are England actually good? Or is all of this just a convenient coincidence of a nice man, some good players and some easy draws? All of this will be answered in the biggest litmus test of all, back here on Saturday night against France. A game that already feels so big that you can barely see the edges of it from up close.Lose that and England will fly home honourable quarter-finalists. It will feel like 2002 or 2006 and the question will be asked whether the Southgate era has run its course, whether England have reverted to the mean and need a fresh start. Win that, though, and everything is possible. Win that and they would certainly hope to be in the World Cup final less than two weeks from now.

For now, these are still very much chartered waters. What was so striking here was how different this felt from England’s last win at this stage. Anyone who was at their last World Cup last 16 game against Colombia in 2018 will recall it as an evening of emotional exhaustion and late-night fear. It was — we can say with the distance of time — a truly awful game. England were nervous, Colombia were cynical. England should have won it, then blew it, then nearly lost it in extra time, then nearly lost it on penalties, but somehow got over the line at the end.It was a huge achievement at the time – the first time England had won a knockout game in a major tournament since they beat Ecuador in the last 16 of the 2006 World Cup, back when Tony Blair was prime minister and David Beckham England captain. In truth — and Southgate admitted this again this week — winning a knockout game was England’s main aim in Russia and everything else was a bonus.

England are in a different place now. This was their sixth knockout win under Southgate, so this had a routine quality that made it almost unrecognisable from that draining night in 2018. That game was a marathon. This one was over at the end of the first half. That night depleted the England players so much it inhibited performances in the next games. Southgate made five changes, preserving his key players ahead of the quarter-final. By the end, it was a stroll.In that sense, this felt like a triumph — or at least a reminder — of Southgate’s best qualities. He understands tournament football and what it takes to progress. He thinks clearly about strategies and plans. He does not get too up when England win or too down when they do not. Some people clearly think Gazball is too cold, too planned, too rigid, but as a methodology for guiding England teams through major tournaments, it is more effective than any other set of methods that have been tried before.

What sometimes gets lost with Southgate is his powers of resource allocation. (Remember when Carlos Queiroz, on the eve of the tournament, memorably pointed to how this England team, in contrast to others, “take a realistic approach to every game”.) Sometimes they win the game from set pieces, sometimes they win it from out wide, sometimes from running in behind. Today they won it through Jude Bellingham and Jordan Henderson breaking through the middle of the pitch.

You might say, well, it was only Senegal, and Senegal without Sadio Mane or Idrissa Gueye. Of course, this is true. But tournament football is not played on paper and plenty of other teams with lots of talent have sunk in difficult waters recently. Just look at Germany, the great tournament professionals, dumped out of the last two World Cups in the group stage. Southgate is a master navigator of these games, which is why England’s record in them is so much better now than it was.

But there are knockout games and there are knockout games, and of the six that England have won under Southgate, only one of them has come against what you could describe as another top team. And that was the last 16 win at the Euros against Joachim Low’s tired old Germany team, seven years after they won the World Cup and in what was Low’s final match in charge.

Harry Kane celebrates with Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish after scoring their side’s second goal against Germany (Photo: Eddie Keogh – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

France will be different. They are not a used-to-be-good team. They are a good-now team. They are the reigning world champions. And in Kylian Mbappe they have one of the two men who has played like a god since the start of this tournament. There is no bigger test in world football right now than them: not Spain, not Brazil, not even Lionel Messi’s Argentina. “It’s the biggest test that we could face,” as Southgate put it afterwards.

Will England be up to it? We all know that Germany were well on the way down when England beat them last year. So are they able to knock a team off the top of the world?

There are some reasons to be optimistic. England have kept three clean sheets so far and the only two goals they have conceded came when Iran were already well beaten in the opener. (Southgate knows clean sheets win World Cups: just look at France in 2018). England have started to find their form in front of goal, too – 12 goals in four games, scored by eight players, only one of them for Kane, and none of them from the penalty spot. If you want another big improvement from 2018, then here is one. Four years ago they struggled to score from open play. Now it comes very easily to them.

And yet despite all of this, it was impossible not to watch the first half here and not start to have some worrying thoughts about Mbappe. It only took four minutes for Boulaye Dia to run straight through in behind Harry Maguire, into those big empty spaces behind the England defence. Half a dozen times in the first half Maguire or John Stones — usually so good with the ball — gave it straight back to Senegal. If Mane had been playing, England would surely have been punished. If Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele benefit from those turnovers on Saturday, they will not hesitate to take the game away from England. If Stones and Maguire are this sloppy on Saturday, the game will be over at half-time.

Which is not to say that England will definitely lose. The game feels weighted in France’s favour because of their experience and because of Mbappe, but not by much.

What it offers is something we have been searching for with England for years: a glimpse of a clear answer at the end of a long journey, whether this is the end of their horizon or not.

Why France look like the World Cup’s best team again: ‘More freedom, more fresh air’

DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 04: Olivier Giroud of France celebrates after scoring the team's first goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between France and Poland at Al Thumama Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

By Adam Crafton Dec 4, 2022


For the French national team, this was just about the perfect evening. A 3-1 victory over Poland sealed smooth passage into the quarter-final of the World CupOlivier Giroud became his country’s all-time men’s top scorer and Kylian Mbappe confirmed once again that he has arrived at this tournament in tip-top shape.

At the final whistle, members of the French backroom staff even formed a little tunnel of love for their players to walk through as they left the pitch to a parade of backslapping and hair-ruffling.

Now, France go into a game on Saturday against England in confident fashion and dreaming of becoming the first nation to defend the World Cup for 60 years, when Brazil won the trophy both in 1958 and 1962. Didier Deschamps would be the first coach to do it since Vittorio Pozzo of Italy in both 1934 and 1938.

For Deschamps, this must all be rather liberating after a European Championship campaign last year that descended into all sorts of rancour and discontent.

France exited the competition at the round of 16 stage against Switzerland. Mbappe did not score a goal and missed the decisive penalty in the shootout against Switzerland. Giroud, meanwhile, was relegated to the substitutes’ bench to make way for Karim Benzema. In the stands, disputes broke out between the parents of French players, most notably between the mother of midfielder Adrien Rabiot and the parents of Mbappe. There were complaints about the location and quality of the French hotel base in Hungary and, on a far more serious note, Mbappe felt under-supported by the French Football Federation when he was subjected to foul racist abuse on social media for the crime of missing a penalty.

Deschamps, meanwhile, endured a torrent of speculation around his future. He has coached France since 2012 and despite World Cup success in 2018, not everybody has appreciated the team’s efficient approach to tournament football.

Zinedine Zidane, the former Real Madrid coach, has long been expected to replace Deschamps after this competition in Qatar. In the months leading up to this tournament, it did not appear to be getting much easier for Deschamps.

At one point, Paul Pogba’s brother, Mathias, surreally claimed that Paul had asked a marabout — technically a Muslim holy man, but with connotations of a north African witch doctor — to inflict an injury on Mbappe. It was denied by Paul Pogba but created a slew of headlines around two of France’s most famous players. Deschamps’ problems appeared to multiply when injuries derailed his pre-tournament plans: Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Presnel Kimpembe, Christopher Nkunku and Karim Benzema have all been forced out of the World Cup.

Yet the pool of French talent runs deep and the absence of senior players has presented opportunities for emerging ones such as Jules Kounde and Dayot Upamecano in defence and Aurelien Tchouameni in midfield. We say emerging, but these players play for Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid respectively, which underlines the embarrassment of riches at Deschamps’ disposal.

Perhaps, too, a slightly diminished selection has made the man-management of his squad that little bit easier. If there were any issues between Pogba and Mbappe, they have not been tested out in Qatar, while Giroud, even aged 36, has thrived after being restored to the No 9 position. Tchouameni, only 22, has formed a stylish partner to the conscientious Rabiot, who appears to have healed any prevailing wounds with other members of the squad. Antoine Griezmann, a different kind of player to the rapid forward of yesteryear, is working hard in an advanced central midfield position, while France still retain their explosive pace on the counter-attack with Ousmane Dembele and Mbappe.

Antoine Griezmann celebrates with Kylian Mbappe (Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Mbappe, for his part, appears liberated by the absence of other headline names and prepares to dovetail more neatly with Giroud than he has at times previously with Ballon d’Or winner Benzema. Not that it has always been straightforward between Giroud and Mbappe, with the former upsetting the latter before last year’s Euros by complaining in a press conference about the quality of the service. After this victory against Poland, Giroud actually referenced, in a positive manner, Mbappe’s passing and crossing when speaking to journalists.

When asked by The Athletic to explain the difference between this tournament and Euro 2020, Giroud said: “It was a weird game against Switzerland. We were 3-1 up and then we lost in a penalty shootout. If we went through, we wouldn’t talk about (other things). With COVID-19 requirements (at the time), it was so unpleasant. It was the same for every team but we could not see our families. It was a weird time, it was not the best to play a competition. So I can say this World Cup, it’s more freedom, more fresh air.”

Mbappe, in particular, is standing out and scored two more stunning goals to reach five for the World Cup this year. Matty Cash, the Poland and Aston Villa full-back tasked with marking Mbappe on the night, said: “He is obviously unbelievable, my toughest opponent by far. I spent the afternoon watching his clips and knew it would be a tough test. But when he gets the ball and then stops and moves, he is the quickest thing I’ve ever seen.” Cash may have endured a chastening evening but he did at least claim Mbappe’s shirt, which he will frame at his home back in England.

Mbappe, along with Hugo LlorisRaphael Varane, Griezmann and Giroud are the five French players who started both the World Cup final win over Croatia in 2018 and the victory over Poland on Sunday night.

Kounde, a relative newcomer to the starting line-up, says his team are dangerous opponents because they can create chances both through built-up possession and on the counter-attack. He also explained the fresher atmosphere. “We have spent more time with each other, we have more experience and more games together,” he said. “It’s how you build a group. The spirit is really good, the mix of generations is going well.”Lloris is now yearning after a second World Cup. He says: “When you arrive, you don’t want to fix a limit. You want to push as far as you can.”

England’s predictable World Cup results suggest beating France would be a surprise

England's forward Harry Kane reacts after the Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final football match between Croatia and England at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 11, 2018. - Croatia will play France in the World Cup final after they beat England 2-1 in extra-time on Wednesday thanks to a Mario Mandzukic goal in the second period of extra-time. (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images)

By Michael Cox Dec 8, 2022


The most enigmatic team at World Cup 2022 were clearly Japan. They were eliminated in the second round, and their basic record of two wins, one draw and one loss is, on paper, fairly unremarkable.

The peculiarity, of course, came from assessing those results against specific opponents. Japan’s scores were essentially a mirror image of what you would have expected. They defeated Spain and Germany — two of the top-six favourites heading into the competition — but managed to lose to Costa Rica, considered the 32nd-favourite. It was a curious, almost illogical sequence of results, and yet it’s the kind of situation football throws up regularly. There are, presumably, lots of Japan supporters saying things like “typical us”, and “we never do things the easy way”. Football results regularly confound expectations.

Historically, though, England are the complete opposite of Japan at World Cups. England aren’t a brilliantly unpredictable outfit who outwit the big boys, then flop against minnows. They are very simple, and do precisely what you expect. They don’t wobble against small sides. They roughly match the performance of fellow sides on the fringes of the favourites. They tend to be eliminated by the first serious contender they face.

To test this theory, we can compare England’s World Cup results to the position of their opponents in FIFA’s world rankings at the time. Those rankings aren’t perfect and because they were introduced in the early 1990s, we can only use them as a measure from the 1998 World Cup onwards. But that still takes into account 32 matches, a decent sample.

Here, in chronological order, are the results. The colour coding is simple — green for victories, orange for draws, and red for defeats. The strength of the opposition is denoted by red for a team with a single-figure ranking, orange for a side ranked between 10th and 19th, and green for a team ranked 20th or below. A penalty shootout loss is denoted by an asterisk, a penalty shootout win is donated by two asterisks.

England World Cup results, 1998-2022

YEAROPPONENTRANKRESULT
1998Tunisia252-0
1998Romania131-2
1998Colombia172-0
1998Argentina52-2*
2002Sweden191-1
2002Argentina31-0
2002Nigeria270-0
2002Denmark203-0
2002Brazil21-2
2006Paraguay331-0
2006Trinidad and Tobago472-0
2006Sweden162-2
2006Ecuador391-0
2006Portugal70-0*
2010USA141-1
2010Algeria300-0
2010Slovenia251-0
2010Germany61-4
2014Italy91-2
2014Uruguay71-2
2014Costa Rica280-0
2018Tunisia212-1
2018Panama556-1
2018Belgium30-1
2018Colombia161-1**
2018Sweden242-0
2018Croatia201-2
2018Belgium30-2
2022Iran216-2
2022USA150-0
2022Wales183-0
2022Senegal203-0

This table is sortable on desktop. If you click on “rank”, you can order those 32 games by the opposition’s world ranking. And, when you do that, a fairly obvious pattern emerges. When England face “green” opponents, they generally win. When they face “red” opponents, they generally lose.

And here’s the tally of whether the two categories match up. The three pink rows account for the results you would expect, the four silver rows show when there was something of a surprise, and the two blue rows indicate how many genuine shocks there have been.

OPPONENTRESULTMATCHES
GreenGreen11
GreenOrange3
GreenRed1
OrangeGreen2
OrangeOrange5
OrangeRed1
RedGreen1
RedOrange2
RedRed6

And from those 32 matches — World Cup 1998 onwards — in 22 (69 per cent) of them, England’s result is precisely what you would expect according to the strength of the opposition.

There have been three occasions when England have faced weak opposition and only drawn — all of them 0-0. The first was actually a perfectly good result, as a goalless draw against Nigeria in 2002 meant England qualified for the knockout stage, and the third was essentially a dead rubber against Costa Rica in 2014, as England had already been eliminated and fielded a reserve side. Therefore, of the draws, only the 0-0 with Algeria in 2010 can be considered a truly poor result.

The only time England have completely flopped against (on paper) weak opposition came in the semi-final at the last World Cup. Croatia were ranked just 20th in the world, and England were defeated in extra time. Perhaps that ranking slightly underestimates Croatia’s quality, but it does illustrate quite how simple England’s path to the final was.

In eight matches against “orange” opposition, England have, sure enough, drawn five. The positive results came against Colombia in 1998 and Wales this year. The defeat came at the hands of Romania in 1998.

And in nine matches against “red” opposition, England have won only one — the 1-0 group-stage victory over Argentina in 2002, thanks to David Beckham scoring a penalty won by Michael Owen from The Athletic columnist Mauricio Pochettino.

In fact, even the two draws against serious opposition were ultimately defeats on penalties, against Argentina in 1998 and Portugal in 2006. So if you consider those games to be losses, then England have lost eight of their nine matches against top-ten opposition since the FIFA rankings were introduced.

What’s the reason for this pattern? Maybe that’s a silly question, trying to find a reason for things generally going as you’d expect. But the experience of Japan (or Spain and Germany) shows that’s not always the case. England don’t suffer defeats as shocking as Argentina’s against Saudi Arabia, nor do they defeat stronger opponents the same way Belgium, for example, did against Brazil four years ago.

Maybe it comes down to the fact England are, in tactical terms, always rather beige. They’re not a high-risk attacking side who pile forward in numbers and leave themselves exposed at the back — that type of approach probably increases the chances of a shock result.

Equally, they’re usually not a flexible side who vary their approach in response to the approach of their opponents. Teams who work backwards from the opposition are often effective at blunting strong sides, but lack a positive identity to break down weaker opponents.

England are always just themselves; their approach is designed to suit their own players. There’s rarely enough tactical ingenuity to defeat a stronger side, but the quality of individuals is usually good enough to defeat weak opponents. It doesn’t bode well ahead of a meeting against fourth-ranked France, and perhaps demonstrates that some tactical flexibility, and a focus on blunting the opposition, might be in order.

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 30: Lionel Messi of Argentina controls the ball surrounded by eight players of Poland during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C match between Poland and Argentina at Stadium 974 on November 30, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

This is how you can stop Lionel Messi

John Muller Dec 3, 2022

This article doesn’t matter.The way to defend him isn’t some big secret. Every player in the World Cup has been watching him half their lives.Teams will study this stuff. They’ll practise it. And then they’ll get out there on the pitch and 11 minds will go blank, like that nightmare about showing up to a final exam you completely forgot about. Because that’s just what playing against Lionel Messi does to you. He has too many ways to beat you.But if you’re unfortunate enough to try to stop Messi in a World Cup knockout game — and teams have to prepare for him now, because he’s coming — here’s how to do it.

Squeeze him out to the wing

The first thing you’ll need to know is where to find him. That’s easy: he’s the little guy trudging around with his head down like he lost a contact lens in the grass somewhere around the right half-space. Some years he plays more on the right wing, others more at the top of the box, but in this World Cup, Messi’s passes received have been pretty evenly distributed around the middle and right of the attacking half.

He isn’t a right-winger for Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina, but he isn’t a false nine either. He’s more like the right-forward in a striker pair alongside Lautaro Martinez or Julian Alvarez. As always, Messi has licence to go anywhere he wants when Argentina have the ball, but Angel Di Maria to his right and Rodrigo De Paul behind him in midfield have helped him get cosy in his favourite position.

Step one for stopping Messi: crowd the middle and don’t give him space between the lines. If he’s dropping outside the defensive block to receive on the wing, you’ve already forced him away from the most dangerous part of the pitch.

Track the overlapping left-back

Argentina’s lopsided formation — a right winger pushed up alongside two forwards, but no one out wide on the left — is a little puzzling if you’ve ever watched Messi at Paris Saint-Germain, where his favourite passes are through-balls to Kylian Mbappe running in behind from the left wing. Who’s he supposed to play that ball to for the national team?

It’s not just an Mbappe thing. As a famously left-footed passer, Messi has always been at his most dangerous when he’s moving right to left and looking for long diagonals behind the defence.

The lack of a target for those passes was a real problem in Argentina’s first group game, against Saudi Arabia, when the 34-year-old Papu Gomez started in left midfield but didn’t have the pace to run onto Messi diagonals over the top.

Since then, Scaloni has found a solution in the overlapping left-back Marcos Acuna. Messi will start to curl around the defence on the dribble, drawing the opposing right-back inside to stop him, and then just like he used to do with Jordi Alba at Barcelona, he’ll loft the ball over the top for Acuna’s well-timed overlapping runs.

If anything, this year’s Argentina are actually more reliant on long Messi diagonals to the left despite not playing with a fixed left-winger. Tracking Acuna’s runs is key to denying Messi his pet pass.

Actually, just don’t let Messi go left at all

Even if you take away the diagonals, you still haven’t stopped Messi’s main target: the left forward cutting behind the centre-backs. Through the three games of the group stage, Messi’s most valuable passes by far have been to Lautaro Martinez.

Plugging the inside channel to Martinez or Julian Alvarez while also tracking the overlapping runner — and, oh, by the way, also not letting Messi dribble straight into the box and shoot because you’re too busy worrying about his passing — is a hopeless task.

Instead of trying to stop Messi’s playmaking, it might help not to let him turn onto his left foot at all. Remember those pass sonars we saw a minute ago, how Messi’s passes are shorter when he’s forced to move to his right? Do that.

Easier said than done, of course, but there are a few strategies teams have used to force Messi to his weak side.

One is to pressure him from behind when he drops to receive the ball. There’s always the risk that he’ll spin around the pressure, but usually if he can feel a man at his back keeping him from turning the way he wants to go when he receives a pass, Messi will do the responsible thing and lay the ball off.

Another thing defenders can do is literally just stand to his left. This feels kind of dumb, because it lets Messi simply dribble straight ahead toward goal, but taking away his ability to cut inside onto his left foot is just that important.

The ideal way to stop him is with a two-man flanking manoeuvre where one guy gets goalside and another comes around to keep Messi from cutting left. You’ll often see Messi lose the ball in situations like that. Unfortunately, you’ll also see him find all kinds of creative ways to take advantage of the space created behind and around the double-team.

Don’t let him lurk at the back post

If you plotted all the bajillion shots Messi has taken in his career, they would form a beautiful little rainbow of destruction arcing from the right half-space outside the box to the left corner of the six-yard box, along the path he dribbles as he looks for a shot.

At this World Cup, he’s looking more for the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow: high-percentage close to goal, to the left side of the penalty spot.

Since Argentina’s attack leans so heavily to the right — Di Maria, De Paul and the right-back Nahuel Molina are among the top creators — Messi will sometimes wander around to the other side of his centre-forward and lurk at the back post.

All things considered, defences would probably rather have Messi as a target man off the ball than a playmaker on it, but they should keep an eye on that lurking. Seven of Messi’s 11 non-penalty shots at this tournament have been inside the box, his highest ratio at any World Cup.

Stop Di Maria and De Paul

Say this all actually works. Say you actually do manage to take Messi out of the game. Who do you have to worry about then? Same as usual: Di Maria and De Paul.

Even if you remove Messi’s actions and the two actions after that — effectively looking at plays that didn’t involve him — Argentina’s ball progression is still heavily up that right side. Molina’s crosses have been the team’s most dangerous passing option without Messi, and Di Maria and De Paul stand out as two-way creators on or off the ball.

Marking those two isn’t as hard as stopping Messi, and breaking up the triangle that supports him and creates most of Argentina’s threat apart from him is key to any good Messi-stopping strategy.

If all else fails, give Messi a penalty

He’s only average at those. Good luck!

Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands are a tactical outlier at this World Cup

Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands are a tactical outlier at this World Cup

By Michael CoxDec 5, 2022 43


On the one hand, it was a game that came down to finishing. If Christian Pulisic had scored his very presentable early chance, this would have been an entirely different contest. The U.S. had other fine chances, and the Dutch were simply more clinical.

On the other hand, the Dutch were also superior tactically. Yes, the U.S. scored, and they had chances, but they tended to come from freak events. The Netherlands’ goalscoring opportunities came from more deliberate play and more obvious combination football.

Louis van Gaal’s approach at this tournament is very familiar to anyone who watched his Netherlands side at the World Cup in 2014. It bears little resemblance to the type of football Van Gaal has preached throughout his club career, which is possession-based, features structured defending and proper wingers.

At international level, Van Gaal favours counter-attacking, man-marking and wing-backs sprinting forward. It worked pretty well in 2014 — the Dutch only lost to Argentina in the semi-finals on penalties — and it might well work again here.

(Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The Netherlands play football unlike anyone else at this tournament. Their man-marking in midfield feels like something out of a different sport entirely, and the approach of their back line just feels bizarre to watch, with one defender regularly 10 yards behind his colleagues in response to the movement of the U.S. attackers.

Here’s one example of the midfield marking: Frenkie de Jong, Marten de Roon and Davy Klaassen simply picked up the nearest of the three U.S. midfielders, and stuck with them across the pitch. The U.S. knew what the Dutch game plan was, and it was common for two of their players to rotate in an attempt to drag the Netherlands out of position. But it was still extremely difficult for the U.S. to play through the middle.

It’s pretty much the same approach in defence. Here, you could look at the Netherlands and think they’re playing with two lines of three — a classic old-school 3-3-1-3, perhaps? Not quite. The third ‘midfielder’ here is actually Virgil van Dijk, pushing high up the pitch to close down Jesus Ferreira…

…while, out of shot, left-sided Nathan Ake is about 15 yards behind right-sided Jurrien Timber, because Timothy Weah was playing higher up than Pulisic. It meant the Netherlands’ defensive line was extremely lopsided, but there were few runs in behind from anyone other than Weah to exploit this.

And of course, when Weah dropped deep, Ake followed him. Here’s an extreme example — the Netherlands are without the ball, but their left-sided centre-back Ake is higher up the pitch than their No 10 Klaassen, because Weah has dropped back behind holding midfielder Tyler Adams.

In possession, the Netherlands tended to play on the break. But their first goal was magnificent, a sublime passing move from back to front that might go down as the goal of the tournament. It’s impossible to analyse every aspect of the move, but it’s worth pointing out that it started when De Jong dropped into defence before twisting and turning away from pressure…

… and ended with this measured pull-back from Denzel Dumfries, when others might have flashed a ball across the box.

That gave the Dutch licence to play on the break. They kept Memphis Depay and Cody Gakpo in clever positions, in the channels. They weren’t acting as a proper front two, nor where they tracking back with the U.S. full-backs, who were the spare players. Instead, they simply remained in a position to counter.

And, on a couple of occasions, they nearly did so to devastating effect. Here’s Depay dropping deep and playing in Gakpo…

…who couldn’t quite take the ball in his stride to speed past Tim Ream.

And Van Gaal actually increased the level of counter-attacking threat at the break, introducing a third attacker in Steven Bergwijn, in place of Klaassen, more of a midfielder. This meant Gakpo dropping back to play the No 10 role, and situations like this, where the Netherlands attacked with a speedy front three.

Here’s another example, this time joined by a fourth runner.

And, to a certain extent, the Netherlands became a broken side. Five defenders, two to shield them — and then three attackers left high up the pitch to attack.

Of course, the goals didn’t actually come on the break — they came from the wing-back. Dumfries, the game’s key player, was a constant threat down the right. Here’s a cut-back he played 20 minutes after his assist for the opener — almost the same ball.

And here, on the stroke of half-time, is his second assist of the game, for Daley Blind, the opposite wing-back. Johan Cruyff always used to say his favourite goal was one full-back crossing for the other. It’s debatable whether that applies to wing-backs, and Cruyff didn’t go out of his way to praise Van Gaal, to put it mildly. But this was, from a Dutch perspective, a lovely goal.

And, of course, Blind returned the favour to put the game to bed, playing a deep cross for Dumfries to volley home at the far post.

From a U.S. perspective this goal was far too simple. We’ve seen examples of a back four being overloaded by a fifth attacker at this tournament, most obviously in Japan’s comeback against Germany. But the U.S. had the numbers to cope, and the time to realise where the threat was.

The Netherland always seemed likely to impress more against opponents who came onto them, rather than sitting back. It remains to be seen whether their clash with Argentina produces such a good performance. Yes, Argentina are a good side, but they’re a side who are up for a fight as much as they’re up for an open game.

The meeting between the sides in 2014 produced no goals in 120 minutes, and very few chances. We could be in for the same thing again.

Michael Cox concentrates on tactical analysis. He is the author of two books – The Mixer, about the tactical evolution of the Premier League, and Zonal Marking, about footballing philosophies across Europe. Follow Michael on Twitter @Zonal_Marking

Brazil 4-1 South Korea: Richarlison wondergoal, Tite’s dancing, Neymar one short of Pele’s record

DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 05: Neymar of Brazil celebrates with Raphinha, Lucas Paqueta and Vinicius Junior after scoring the team's second goal via a penalty during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Brazil and South Korea at Stadium 974 on December 05, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

By James Horncastle and more Dec 5, 2022 88


A rampant Brazil dominated South Korea at Stadium 974 to emphatically seal their spot in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Tite’s side were full of confidence as they put four past the South Koreans in the first half, including another outrageous goal by Richarlison. There was so much to like about that third goal: Richarlison dribbling with the ball on his head, the two Brazil players involved in the build-up on the edge of the box being their centre-backs Marquinhos and Thiago Silva, and then there was their 61-year-old manager throwing shapes in the dancing celebrations.

The superb performance took the attention away from what was quite a risky selection decision by Tite — starting Neymar after the forward had missed the final two group games with an injury to his right ankle. But Neymar looked chirpy throughout, dancing, dribbling, nutmegging and showing no signs of discomfort when he stuck a penalty past Kim Seung-gyu to make it 2-0.

South Korea scored a late consolation goal through Paik Seung-ho, beating Alisson from long range.

James Horncastle, Felipe Cardenas, Charlotte Harpur and Maram Al Baharna analyse the key talking points…


Brazil have arrived

Horncastle: The legendary Brazilian commentator Galvao Bueno was sat a couple of rows down from The Athletic at Stadium 974. He spent half-time mopping his brow over and over again, as if he needed to cool down after Brazil’s performance against South Korea. It was 4-0 Brazil at the interval and could have been six.

On the eve of the game, Tite had been telling reporters to consult the statistics. Brazil were creating plenty without taking their chances. That changed tonight by the waterfront in Doha. A team that hadn’t scored a first-half goal yet at this World Cup made up for lost time — and in what style too.

Richarlison’s scissor-kick in the opening win over Serbia was an early contender for goal of the tournament. He is his own competition now. His team-mates might be his closest competition. Brazil didn’t score an ugly goal tonight — even Neymar’s sauntering, stutter-step spot kick reduced Kim Seung-gyu in the South Korea goal to a jittery mess.


Another Richarlison wondergoal

Al Baharna: Even Tite got involved in the dancing following the goal that made it 3-0. That says everything about Richarlison’s screamer.

It wasn’t just the final shot, but everything leading up to it.

Everything about it was so Brazilian.

It begins with Richarlison challenging for a loose ball and morphing into the seal-dribble sensation, Kerlon, as he flicks the ball up, balances it on his forehead and juggles it.

All Lucas Paqueta can do is hold his hand to his head and watch as Richarlison then lays it off to Marquinhos, the first centre-back involved in the goal but certainly not the only one.

From there, everything moves so quickly…

A sharp pass arrives at the feet of Thiago Silva, their other centre-back, also up on the edge of the South Korea box (what was he doing there?), and he delivers the perfectly-weighted assist to Richarlison making a run in behind.

It was fast and it was furious. And the football was just as entertaining as the dancing that came after.

Was starting Neymar worth the risk?

Harpur: On the whole, yes. Neymar appears to have come through unscathed after playing 80 minutes here. Of course, more minutes means more opportunities for him to pick up another injury and Brazil fans will have been relieved to see his number come up on the substitutes’ board.

Tite would be damned if he did and damned if he didn’t start Brazil’s star forward. He obviously felt confident Neymar was fit enough to get into duels, knowing he’d be heavily marked. Take Brazil’s first goal, for example — Raphinha’s cutback fell to Neymar, but he was met by a sliding challenge and missed the ball, Vinicius Junior taking his chance instead. 

Neymar stepped up and coolly slotted home from the spot for Brazil’s second and there were plenty of glimmers of his change of pace and forward balls to Vinicius, but at times his decision-making was poor.

That goal takes him just one short of Pele’s all-time record of 77 for Brazil, and Neymar will have his eyes on that in what could be his final World Cup (he’ll be 34 years old by the time the 2026 finals kick off).

Brazil didn’t need it to be the Neymar show tonight, but he was still part of a superb team performance. 


Raphinha repays Tite’s faith

Cardenas: How important is Raphinha for Brazil? We all see his long strides. We marvel at the cannon he has for a left foot. And when Brazil turn on the style, like they did here against South Korea, Raphinha wants to be invited to the party. 

But a lot of what he does for Brazil goes unnoticed, and that’s why he’s keeping other talented wingers on the bench. Raphinha is tireless on that right flank. 

Raphinha looks comfortable in a wing-back role, which comes as no surprise after playing for Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United. He pokes balls away in midfield, cuts off passing lanes and tracks back to defend. On top of all that, set pieces are his specialty. 

He is a constant threat in the attacking third, in spite of all the work he does off the ball. Brazil’s first goal of the game came from a darting Raphinha run down the right. His pass scattered into the box and found Vinicius, whose tidy finish opened the floodgates and started the dancing. 

Antony, Rodrygo and Gabriel Martinelli are quality wingers. Each offers something special for Brazil. But it’s clear that Raphinha does so much more for Tite. 


Tite uses every player in his squad

Tite introduced his third-choice goalkeeper Weverton for Alisson with 10 minutes to go; in doing so, he has now used every player in his 26-man squad.The 34-year-old Palmeiras player is very much third in line behind two of the best goalkeepers in the world — Liverpool’s Alisson and Ederson of Manchester City — but it was a nice gesture from the Brazil coach to a player who has now appeared nine times for his country since making his debut six years ago.Weverton had little to do during his time on the pitch, but did complete three of his five passes.

Playing for Brazil for 10 minutes (plus added time) at a World Cup? I don’t think anyone would say no…


Brazil fans send support to Pele

Harpur: In the 10th minute of each half, the sea of yellow Brazilian shirts was temporarily covered by an even bigger expanse of yellow. 

A huge tifo with the image of Brazil’s iconic No 10 rippled over 20 rows. The message read: “Pele, Get Well Soon.”

(Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images)

The 82-year-old tweeted earlier that he would watch the match from hospital, where he has been since Tuesday to treat a respiratory infection aggravated by COVID-19. He is also undergoing chemotherapy to treat cancer.

Who knows if the Brazilian fans got the banner printed in Doha or if they were so prepared they brought it over from South America with them. 

What is certain is that the Brazilian legend will be very pleased with his country’s masterclass tonight — even if Neymar is ever closer to surpassing his all-time goalscoring record. 

(Additional contributors: Maram Al Baharna, Felipe Cardenas)

Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo + Goncalo Ramos = Freedom

LUSAIL CITY, QATAR - DECEMBER 06: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal reacts during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Portugal and Switzerland at Lusail Stadium on December 06, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

By Tim Spiers Dec 8, 2022


It’s the year 2000, folks. The millennium bug hasn’t destroyed the planet, Tony Blair’s really popular, Bradford City v Charlton Athletic is a top-flight fixture and people using this newfangled internet thing (i.e. geeks and nerds) are dubious as to whether Ian McKellen will make a good Gandalf.

If you weren’t too busy listening to Macy Gray on MiniDisc you may have watched Euro 2000. It was a great tournament and in one of the semi-finals Portugal played France, losing 2-1 to a golden goal in extra time.

What’s the significance of this and why won’t you just get to the damn point, I hear you ask. Well, dear reader, before Tuesday night, that was the last time Portugal played a knockout-stage match in a World Cup or Euros without Cristiano Ronaldo in the starting XI.

Laurent Blanc played in that match. He’s 57 years old now.

It’s important to bear in mind that weight of history when dissecting Fernando Santos’ decision to drop Ronaldo, who — let’s not forget — is the top scorer in the history of international football.

Fernando Santos made the big call to drop Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench against Switzerland (Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

It wasn’t the only bold call Santos made with his line-up — he left out one of the foremost full-backs in world football in Joao Cancelo, he benched Ruben Neves and he placed his faith in a 21-year-old striker with 33 minutes of international experience to his name in Goncalo Ramos — but it was the most seismic. Ronaldo isn’t just a player, he’s an entity and a demigod. He also carries an increasingly farcical circus around with him, one which Santos has undoubtedly had enough of.

Agonising over the call probably added a few more wrinkles to Santos’ asperous, brow-beaten 68-year-old mush. Once, rightly, seen as a pragmatic, and rather dour, safety-first manager (particularly after Portugal’s Euro 2016 triumph, described in some quarters as anti-football), Santos’ team are now the joint-top scorers at the tournament with 12 goals.

https://theathletic.com/report/podcast-clip/?clip_id=6697

Ronaldo isn’t the first Portugal hero he’s dispensed with lately. Twelve months ago, the team’s spine comprised Rui Patricio in goal, Joao Moutinho in midfield and Ronaldo up front. All the wrong side of 34 but all cap centurions with vast experience and having done great things for their country. All three are now out (Moutinho isn’t even in the squad) and the one old-timer Santos has retained, Pepe, has been solid so far and scored against Switzerland.

Is Santos liberated, perhaps in the same manner as Gareth Southgate, because he/they know this is probably their last tournament? Maybe. Or maybe they’re both just playing to their team’s strengths. To add an early caveat, Switzerland were awful and Portugal (like England) are yet to face top-class opposition in the competition, against whom the temptation will be to go safety-first.

But for now, Portugal look free. And it seems fair to suggest that Ronaldo not being in the side played a sizeable part in that.


What difference does it make when Ronaldo doesn’t play?

Here’s their pass matrix in their previous ‘proper’ game against Uruguay (Santos rested half the team for the defeat to South Korea with Portugal having already qualified).

One of the things that immediately sticks out is Ronaldo’s proximity to Joao Felix, whose job it was to dart inside from the left. Ronaldo would often come deep and roam, alongside Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes.

He would pop up in the penalty area occasionally, but as you can see from his heatmap below, he spent most of the match in deeper areas linking with Bernardo, Fernandes, the rest of the midfield and the full-backs.

This was a fairly typical picture of how Portugal would build up play against a defensive-minded Uruguay, with Ronaldo dropping not just in front of Uruguay’s defence but also in front of their midfield to get involved in play.

A few seconds later the attack isn’t really progressing and Ronaldo catches the attention of William Carvalho, asking for the ball. He duly gets it, recycles possession and then does finally head for the penalty area, but the attack comes to nothing. It’s a relatively easy situation for Uruguay to defend when a lot of the play is in front of them.

While Portugal won the game pretty comfortably 2-0, they did so by scoring from a left-wing cross which went straight in and a penalty (both courtesy of Fernandes). While it was a satisfactory result, it wasn’t a particularly fluid attacking performance.

And passing to Ronaldo is a theme that many think has inhibited Portugal. He wants the ball a lot and his standing in the group dictates that they pass to him. If they don’t, he’ll have a strop. Likewise when the ball ricochets off his back from a corner and South Korea score in Portugal’s final group game, he immediately starts blaming others.

His personality is all-encompassing and there’s been a growing school of thought for some time that Portugal play better without him (a poll in Portuguese paper Record on the eve of the Switzerland game resulted in 70 per cent voting that he shouldn’t start). They have enough vibrant young talent that they can cope without him. The Switzerland performance and result only added to that theory.

Tactically, the introduction of Ramos, a penalty-box striker, facilitated a change in the team’s attacking dynamic.

Ramos is not really involved in build-up play and his zippy presence around Switzerland’s centre-backs means Felix no longer has to play off the last man (Felix wasn’t doing this constantly in Portugal’s previous games but it was part of his remit). So from being (fractionally) Portugal’s highest attacker against Uruguay, Felix was the fourth highest against Switzerland.

He played a deeper playmaker role which mean he could do stuff like this…

In other words, idle sensually past one man, play a give-and-go and then caress a first-time love bomb on to Ramos’ toes.

Felix was excellent, but, more importantly, Ramos’ position on the last man occupied Switzerland’s back line, stretched play out and created a hole behind their midfield in which Felix, Fernandes and Bernardo operated whenever Portugal advanced.

Their back line was in disarray when Ramos darted through at 2-0 to collect Fernandes’ through ball.

In fact he really should have scored from here.

The goals he did score saw him take the ball in the penalty area. Here’s the first, when he turned and fired through the narrowest of gaps at the near post.

This was his second goal when he fired in Diogo Dalot’s low cross.

And this is the hat-trick goal when he took Felix’s pass (occupying that space in front of the defence again) and dinked over Yann Sommer.

Given where Ronaldo had been stationed earlier in the tournament, it’s hard to imagine he’d have replicated Ramos’ positioning for all three of those goals, if any. The fact Switzerland would have prepared their game plan with Ronaldo in mind is another factor worth taking into account. They just didn’t know how to cope with Ramos, or how to plug the gaps that his presence helped generate.

Again here, Ramos (the central of the three attackers) is eyeing up a dart beyond the last man, as are full-backs Raphael Guerreiro (left) and Dalot (right). If Fernandes (in possession) spots this and plays to Felix, he can turn and immediately have three runners to find with a through ball.

Ramos’ heatmap against Switzerland is vastly different to Ronaldo’s against Uruguay.

And that’s the way he’s tended to play his football. He is a striker who comes alive in the penalty area with exceptional movement, a natural instinct for where the ball is going to be and a clinical finishing ability.

He’s the top scorer in Portugal this season (nine in 11), he’s scored 14 in 18 for Portugal Under-21s in the past couple of years and he was top scorer at the Under-19 Euros in 2019.

All of which makes it feel pretty unlikely that Ronaldo will be drafted back into the side for Portugal’s quarter-final against Morocco.

That game will be a totally different proposition — for a start, Sofyan Amrabat can cover the cavernous hole Switzerland left behind their midfield on his own — and, in what could be a tight game of few chances, Ronaldo may very well come off the bench to score the winner, perhaps with a header, perhaps from the penalty spot (probably not a free kick though).

https://theathletic.com/report/podcast-clip/?clip_id=6692

Morocco will likely find Portugal a much tougher side to deal with than Spain, though. The prospect of Bernardo, Fernandes (two goals and three assists in three appearances this tournament) and Felix buzzing behind Ramos, with support from two attacking full-backs, is an exciting one.

In one fell swoop, Santos has loosened his own shackles to produce an attacking performance which will be one of the most eye-catching and memorable of this World Cup while also taking off the Ronaldo-shaped shackles too. And Portugal looked much better for it.

The World Cup of tiredness: Who is running fast or slow, playing most and resting least?

Mark Carey

Dec 8, 2022

29

Today I feel… pretty tired.

It takes a lot of energy to keep across all 56 games played so far during the World Cup

And it takes far more energy to actually play international football in a humid climate — for many of those being asked to do so, in the middle of a gruelling domestic season with just a few days’ preparation time.

The party line from FIFA has always been that player welfare is of utmost importance, but an ever-growing fixture schedule across all competitions suggests otherwise. Players are pushed to their limits, with many at serious risk of injury within this tournament — and the managers are not happy.

“It is impossible to prepare for such a game after 72 hours, I don’t think anyone can do it after the physical burnout there was in the previous games,” said now former South Korea manager Paulo Bento before their last-16 clash with tournament favourites Brazil, which came three days after a draining final group match against Portugal

“There is also the emotional burnout and that’s why the players had the day off yesterday and started to train this morning. This is uncomfortable for the teams.”

This multifaceted effect of fatigue is supported by research. 

An annual player workload report conducted by FIFPRO, the sport’s global players’ union, outlined the consequences of frequent match exposures toward player welfare, which included mental health effects alongside sleep disruption, training consistency, travel fatigue, and increased injury risk.

The scheduling within this World Cup is one thing, but many players arrived in Qatar last month with an already increased risk of injury. A second FIFPRO report, published on the eve of the World Cup, highlighted just how challenging the schedule is for all players compared with previous years.

Using the Premier League as an example — as the league with the most player representation at this World Cup — the time between the final league fixture and the first World Cup game was just seven days; one week, including long-haul travel, for players to prepare for a major tournament is simply not enough time when compared with a gap of at least three weeks, as was the case in years gone by. 

Similarly, there is just an eight day turnaround between the World Cup final and the return of the Premier League on December 26, putting strain on players and coaching staff during an always-congested festive schedule. 

Yes, this is an unprecedented winter World Cup for northern hemisphere nations, but the warning signs are there that players are simply at risk of breaking down.

One obvious case study is Sadio Mane, who was forced to withdraw from the Senegal squad on the eve of the tournament with a leg injury picked up on club duty. FIFPRO’s findings revealed that Mane had played the third-most minutes of any player named in squads for the tournament since the start of last season, for club and country. 

Above Mane? The Netherlands’ Virgil van Dijk and Joao Cancelo of Portugal — both of whom will expect to rack up more minutes this tournament with their teams having progressed to the quarter-finals. 


At squad level, Portugal were the most overworked of the 32 squads arriving in Qatar since the start of the 2021-22 season, based on the combined minutes played by those named in the final 26-strong squad — closely followed by Brazil.

Both countries faced a combined workload of more than 30,000 minutes since the start of last season, which was more than double some squads in the tournament. Indeed, with both Brazil and Portugal progressing to the knockout stages early after winning their first two group games, coaches Tite and Fernando Santos rung the changes in their third match to rest some key men and manage the squad.

This was a luxury also afforded to France in their group finale. The defending world champions have had the highest volume of changes among the tournament’s quarter-finalists.  

Rotations within games are also interesting here, with Brazil and Portugal two of only three sides to have used all five permitted substitutes across all four of their games. Indeed, Tite took this to the very extreme by introducing third-choice goalkeeper Weverton with 10 minutes to go in the last-16 win over South Korea, becoming the first manager at this World Cup to use every player in his squad.

At the other end of the scale, England and Croatia are the only two sides across the tournament to have named an unchanged side so far. A wise or naive choice to put the strain on a specific starting XI? Time will tell.

When looking at the distribution of minutes played among the eight quarter-finalists, it reflects the squad management approach by each manager. Where Brazil and Portugal have been able to rotate, the likes of England, the Netherlands and Croatia in particular have relied upon a core group of players to play nearly every minute.

Of course, Morocco and Croatia’s last-16 triumphs via extra time and penalties do shift their players’ average minutes played (white line), but it’s clear Brazil, France and Portugal have looked to keep things fresh as we get to the business end of the tournament. 

This is not by accident.

Tite is acutely aware of the demands placed on each squad and has seen the weaknesses play out across the other sides in the tournament.

“I watched the third match from Group C, Poland against Argentina, and we saw how the intensity from Poland was getting weaker, but they needed a good result,” Tite said.

“Almost 40 per cent of their high-intensity actions were worse than normal. I don’t know how to say this, but the World Cup is very demanding mentally. It absorbs and drains you.”

Using data from FIFA, we can quantify this across Poland’s games.

They made 452 sprints in their first group game against Mexico and 509 sprints against Saudi Arabia in the second one. Their third game? Against Argentina they were down to 369 sprints.

Game state, game importance and tactical setup must play a role here, as physical data is intrinsically difficult to interpret in a vacuum, but the notable drop-off in high-intensity running was telling for Poland. They simply ran out of steam and were beaten comfortably by France in the first knockout round.

So, what of the eight surviving teams? How has their high-intensity running changed across each game so far? Using FIFA’s dataset, we can track the high-speed running distance per game that each team got through.

As you can see below, Argentina’s high-speed running is particularly low — fuelled by a certain 35-year-old strolling around the pitch. Their average high-speed running distance of 12.3km is the lowest of any side remaining in the competition.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands and Portugal look to have a higher average across their games so far. Aside from Croatia — whose numbers are boosted by 30 minutes of extra time against Japan — the Netherlands’ and Portugal’s average high-speed running distance of 15.5km each is the highest of the remaining sides.

With the Dutch now playing Argentina in the quarter-finals, the difference could simply come down to the intensity of the two sides at either end of the scale.


The drama has certainly built across the tournament, but I leave you with this question: could we have seen an even better spectacle?

Precisely half of the 48 group games were goalless at half-time — a potential quirk of the early stages of the tournament, sure, but could one explanation be that the players are simply shattered?

Whatever the answer, expect this issue to continue into the domestic seasons when they resume over the coming weeks. FIFPRO has highlighted that the lack of recovery time among those who reach the final stages in Qatar will increase mental stress when they return to their clubs.

Quite simply, something has to give.

Currently, it’s the players’ welfare.

12/3/22 USA vs Dutch Sat 10 am Fox, Great WC Saves, CFC GK Coach in National Championship Sat

USA vs Holland 10 am Sat on Fox – 9 am coverage starts

Gameday – update

Lets start with giving some credit to our manager

Let’s start with giving some credit to our manager Greg Berhalter he has pulled the right strings to get this youngest team in the World Cup thru to the knockout stage.  Teams like Germany, former #1 Belgium, Mexico and Uruguay are all at home while the United States is playing with house money. Now my thought is for the US to get the experience they need to contemplate a run to the Final 4 and beyond in 2026 we need to win today’s game and give Argentina a run in the Elite 8.  That would give our young team the experience they need to possibly make a run at the finals in 2026 at home in 4 years.  That is why today is so important.  News out of the Netherlands is they are battling the flu.  Maybe things are lining up for us to win today.  Now the huge questions that Berhalter must decide.  Who does he start?  Do you save an injured Pulisic for a 2nd half run that could very likely see Extra Time and a possible shootout?  What about center forward with Sargent hurt?  I see Weah at the #9 slot finally with Reyna sliding into the right and Aaronson on the left up front.  MMA in the middle and Vickers back in the line-up at centerback with Ream.  That gives you Pulisic coming off the bench to give you that 2nd half lift if needed.  Or do you start Pulisic try to score first – the US has never won in the World Cup without scoring first – and roll the dice you can win it in full time? . Does Dest score against his home country – the country who did not select him for national team duty as a youngster?    Cool by the Prez    Serginio Dest Story —  US Hype Video  

US Men Sat 10 am vs Netherlands on Fox – Winner Advances

Shane’s Starters for Sat

Aaronson, Weah, Reyna

Musah, McKinney

Adams

Robinson, Ream, Vickers, Dest

Turner

First off bench Pulisic, Ferriera,

These 5 teams are undefeated in the group stage – USA, England, Netherlands, Morocco, Croatia

OK I was wrong – -here’s the starters

12/1/22

Wow – so after 8 years of suffering the US Men are back in the Round of 16 knockout stages for third time in the last 4 World Cups. Captain America Pulisic was brilliant scoring the team’s only goal on a sprinting effort into the Goalkeeper injuring himself in the process.  He gutted out the final 10 minutes before being subbed a the half and heading to the hospital.  Word is contusion on his hip-listing his status for the next game as day-to-day.  On the day the US played brilliant football in the first 40 minutes as they possessed almost 80% of the ball during the first half – outshooting Iran 8-0 in the process.  Center forward Josh Sargent returned to the starting line-up and was helpful in control and build-up even if he himself did not get  a shot on goal before retiring on what looks like a tourney ending ankle injury in the 2nd half.  Centerback Cameron Carter-Vickers also showed started in the back for Zimmerman as Berhalter was looking for better distribution from the back.  Zimmerman did come on late and had 13 clearances in the final 20 minutes as the US bunkered down to protect the lead.  I thought the gameplan by Berhalter was fantastic and even his 1 for 1 sub Aaronson for the injured Pulisic was perfect.  But his refusal to use Gio Reyna in at the midfield perplexes me – when we brought Acosta on for McKinney – the US basically signified we were going to bunker in rather than try to score the 2nd and decisive put-away goal.  I thought Vickers was lucky not to get called on 3 potential fouls in the box – that could have cost us the game especially the one in the final minute.  Honestly the last 20 minutes was excruciating as the US held on as ball after ball was sent in against our 5 man backline bunkering.  I had faith that Turner would protect his net – and he did fantastically late as Zimmerman and Ream headed ball after ball out.  I still think the bunker mentality subs at the 82 minute mark were wrong – and why Shaq Moore over Scally at wing back continues to perplex me.  Did Scally and Reyna get busted smoking in the boys room – I have no idea what Berhalter is thinking there.  Lets be honest though in the past the last 20 minutes and the angst that joined it was entire halfs if not entire games for the US when we would bend but no break and counter.   But credit where credit is do – Berhalter has his team in the Knock-out stages with a team that out-possessed Wales and Iran in this tourney and was literally 50-50 with England.  This is not the way the US has ever played in past World Cups – yes we have the players to do it now – but they are YOUNG.  Musah is 20, Weah, Dest and Adams are 22, Mckinney and Jedi 24, these are young players who need to get this taste of World Cup play as long as they can – if we expect to make a Final 4 run when we host in 2026.  Everything is right there for the taking we have a decent match-up with a good but not great Netherland’s team on Saturday.   GO GO USA!   So my prayer – US 2-1.  Reality – US and Dutch tie 1-1 we go to PKs and ???               

US Men Sat 10 am vs Netherlands on Fox – Winner Advances

Shane’s Starters for Sat

Pulisic, Weah, Reyna

Musah, McKinney

Adams

Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Dest

Turner

First off bench Aaronson, Ferriera, Sargent

Lets start with Reyna has to get on the field – I move Weah to the #9 slot – lets be honest none of our forwards has really shown anything this WC – let stop and get our best 11 on the field especially with Sargent out. With Reyna on the right wing – I go with Joe Scally at right back – Reyna and Scally are best buds so their chemistry should translate – with Scally a much better defender to cover for Reyna not coming back as much. The rest of the team stays steady with Pulisc (if he can go) and Musah on the left – I would still consider the 4-4-2 here again with Pulisic sliding to the 10 slot. McKinney played his best game in months and of course Adams is our BEST player period. The back line held steady last game with Centerbacks Ream and and Carter Vickers playing together of course Zimmerman can in as the center of the back 3 with 20 min to play and had 13 (yes 13 clearances). I thought Carter Vickers had 3 chances where he could have drawn a PK – I think Zimmerman flips back in as a starter. Of course Turner while making us nervous with his feet was still solid in the back.  Shane likes the the US to tie the Netherlands 1-1 and go to shootout where the US will win on penalty kicks.  I hope!!  

Oh and England – NO US TEAM HAS EVER LOST TO ENGLAND IN A WORLD CUP BY THE WAY – Men or Women’s !!   US vs Iran highlights   US vs England Hilights  Your US Captain Tyler Adams Story  US Defender Carter-Vickers Story    US Goalkeeper Matt Turner  these 26 stories on our 26 players going to Qatar its awesomeLove this answer by our Captain Adams

World Cup News The Bracket

Wow the Sweet 16 is getting closer – Mexico and Belgium are out?  Wow – the DRAMA was dripping as both Mexico and Belgium pushed for late goals to advance only to have their dreams die.  Nothing like World Cup Drama !!   How About 3 Women reffing a World Cup Game for the First time ever  – love it – today’s 2 pm game Germany vs Costa Rica. 

The World Cup commercials are out – which ones do you like best?  Nike  Addidas  check them all out hereIts Called Soccer – Classic Commercial   

I am going to continue to add stories daily thru kickoff on Saturday morning so check back in for new stories. Below

CARMEL FC GOALKEEPERS : Wednesday Night Trainings Dec-Mar – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse 5:30 pm U12//6:30 pm U13-U14//8:30 pm HS U15+.

Carmel FC GK Coach Headed to National Championship Game Sat

Carmel FC GK Coach Noelle Rolfsen  GK for the Marian University Lady Knights in Indianapolis is headed to the NAIA National Championship game. Sat, Dec 3 at 5 pm after defeating Tennessee Southern 4-1 behind a hat trick for Naomi Walters. ALSO Congrats to IU Men’s Soccer off to their 28th Elite 8 on Saturday at UNC Greensborough. IU Manages Marshall, Moment in Sweet 16 Win

American Outlaws Watch Party Sat 10 am Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple. https://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

WORLD CUP GAMES ON TV

Thur, Dec 1 –                        

2 pm  Fox                             Japan vs Spain 

2 pm Fox                              Costa Rica vs Germany 

Fri, Dec 2 –                            

10 am FS1                            Ghana vs Uruguay

10 am Fox                            Portugal vs South Korea

2 pm  Fox                             Cameroon vs Brazil 

2 pm Fox                              Serbia vs Switzerland

8:30 pm ESPNU NCAA Women’s Semi Finals Bama vs UCLA

Sat, Dec 3 –                           Sweet 16 Knockout Rounds

10 am Fox                Holland vs USA  

 2 pm  Fox                            Argentina vs Australia

6 pm ??                                Indiana U Men vs UNC Greensboro Elite 8

Sun, Dec 4 –                       

10 am Fox                            1D France vs 2C Poland

 2 pm  Fox                            1B England vs 2A Senegal

Mon, Dec 5 –                     

10 am Fox                            1E Japan vs 2F Croatia

 2 pm  Fox                            1G Brazil vs 2H Korea

Tues, Dec 6–                      

10 am Fox                            1F Moracco vs 2E Spain

 2 pm  Fox                            1H Portugal?  vs 2G Switzerland

Fri Dec 9

Fri, Dec 9                             Quarter Finals Final 8–                  

10 am Fox                           

2 pm                     

Sat Dec 10                           Quarter Finals Final 8–                  

10 am Fox                           

2 pm                     

Tues Dec 13                        Semis – Final 4                  

2 pm  Fox

Wed Dec 14                        Semis – Final 4                  

2 pm  Fox

Sat, Dec 17                          third Place                         

10 am  Fox

Sun, Dec 18                         FINALS                 

10 am  Fox

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

CARMEL FC PLAYERS : Winter Players League (WPL) – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse
As the fall season comes to a close over the next month, we wanted to let you know that we will be launching an indoor soccer league over two six week sessions within our new Badger Fieldhouse. Games will be played on either Friday night ( 6pm to 10pm) or Sunday afternoon (1pm-5pm) depending on age groups: U8s, U9&U10, U11&U12, U13-U15 and U16+ (Coed Teams allowed). Referees for each game, 50 minute games, 5v5, 7v7 and 9v9 matches.
Session One (6 weeks): Jan 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th / Feb: 3rd, 10th
Session Two (6 weeks): Feb 17th, 24th / Mar 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th
Gather teammates and be ready to play!

US Men

·Pulisics Injury ouch  

What We Learned US vs Iran – Stars and Stripes

 Scouting the Dutch

Analysis: USMNT defeats Iran 1-0 in a grueling battle to advance to knockouts ASN

Dest has Date with Destiny Against his Birth Country ESPN Jeff Carlisle

5 Things to Know USA vs Netherlands  
USA’s win over Iran a relief for Berhalter amid a tense and bizarre build-up
dSam Borden

Injured Pulisic: ‘I’ll be ready’ to face Netherlands 20hESPN

Pulisic punches US into World Cup knockouts, but injury adds to attack concerns  Jeff Carlisle

Inserting Cameron Carter-Vickers into lineup helped propel USMNT
USWNT to earn more from men’s WC than 2019
22hAssociated Press

World


Mexico coach ‘Tata’ Martino out after WC exit
18hCesar Hernandez

FIFA investigate Mexico anti-gay chants again  3hCesar Hernandez

Milan Borjan howler perfectly sums up Canada’s nightmare World Cup campaign

Romelu Lukaku distraught after his series of terrible misses eliminates Belgium

When is the 2022 World Cup final? Date and kick-off time in the USA

‘El Diablo’ Luis Suárez refuses to apologize for role in Ghana’s 2010 exit ahead of rematch

Netherlands need to show they’re not all talk against USA in round of 16

The Pat McAfee Show have the funniest reaction to Christian Pulisic’s goal against Iran

FOX World Cup commentary teams, ranked

Mexico is out of the World Cup, but at least they scored a goal of the tournament contender

Mexico is out of the World Cup on goal difference!

Goalkeeping

Best World Cup Saves Round 2

Best World Cup Saves Round 1

Check this Save 

Great World Cup Saves

‘He always shows up.’ How Memo Ochoa became Mexico’s consistent World Cup hero
Morocco’s Abdelhamid Sabiri Beats Thibaut Courtois for Free Kick Goal

US Goalkeeper Matt Turner 

 Reffing

So this was the coldest I have EVER reffed a game- in the teens just above zero Wind Chill Nov 11 at Grand Park – snow on the fields. Here with Dmitry Z and Phrosini and the Ole Ballcoach Shane.

All Female Ref Crew to do Germany vs Costa Rica WC Game first time ever
Offsides rules at 2022 World Cup: Explaining how VAR technology impacts referee calls

World Cup Refs

Reffing at the World Cup

Was this ball in or Out? Japan scored a goal on this play knocking Germany out of the Cup.

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USMNT predicted XI vs. Netherlands: The World Cup round of 16 awaits

DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 02: Gregg Berhalter, Head Coach of United States, reacts during United States Training Session ahead of their Round of Sixteen match against Netherlands at  on December 02, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

By Sam Stejskal and Paul TenorioDec 2, 2022120


U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter sounded optimistic when asked Friday whether star winger Christian Pulisic would be available for Saturday’s World Cup round of 16 game against the Netherlands after suffering a pelvic contusion in the group-stage finale against Iran.That optimism was warranted: Pulisic was cleared to play on Friday after both he and striker Josh Sargent (ankle) tested their respective injuries in training.But while Pulisic is officially back in the picture, things felt a bit more complicated for Sargent.“I think with (Sargent we’re) a little less (hopeful than with Pulisic), but we’ll see,” said Berhalter. “He’s gonna test it. … At this stage, it’s go-time. If you can push through it, you do. So I’m sure he’ll have that mindset.”Sargent has been effective if not overly involved in two starts at this World Cup. He was a part of the build-up in the goal in the 1-1 draw with Wales and put in a solid shift in the 1-0 win over Iran on Tuesday. Sargent exited with an ankle injury in the 77th minute after landing awkwardly on the ball when avoiding a tackle. He was replaced by Haji Wright.Wright was not as effective in his substitute role, as the U.S. mostly defended against Iran’s push for an equalizer. Fellow forward Jesús Ferreira has yet to play in this tournament, but could be an option to start against the Dutch. Berhalter said ahead of the Iran game that he had not considered using another player, such as Tim Weah or Gio Reyna, as a center forward.

While he wasn’t officially announced as cleared to play, it is worth noting that in the 15 minutes open to reporters at training on Friday, Sargent looked relatively healthy.He took part in warm-ups, which included passing and juggling the ball between lines of teammates and sprints that started with cuts around a mannequin. If optimism for his play felt low after Berhalter’s press conference, it was decidedly higher after those 15 minutes — though you have to remember that the players and team are keenly aware of the many, many cameras out during that portion of training.The U.S. relied on nine players to start all three group games. We don’t expect much to change in that respect.Midfielders Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah are the core of this team. Left back Antonee Robinson has been solid, center back Tim Ream has had a standout tournament, while Weah and Pulisic have been effective on the wings.Right back Sergiño Dest may be playing his best soccer in a U.S. uniform and now will get a chance to face the country where he was born and raised.“What I’ve seen from Sergiño in this World Cup in particular is just him tak(ing) it to another level with his mindset and his mentality,” Berhalter said. “He has been fantastic for us this camp. I can’t say enough about his defending in the penalty box, his ball security. Everything’s been really good. Really happy for him, and I hope tomorrow he has a great game.”

Here are the two main questions we think Berhalter and his staff will debate before Saturday’s match.

Walker Zimmerman or Cameron Carter-Vickers?

Berhalter made a somewhat surprising decision in his starting lineup against Iran when he opted to bench center back Walker Zimmerman, who had been a constant in the U.S. lineup for most of World Cup qualifying and through the first two games of the tournament, in favor of Cameron Carter-Vickers.

Carter-Vickers had never started alongside Ream, nor had he played a role at all in qualifying for Qatar 2022. But, in a must-win game, Berhalter saw Carter-Vickers’ experience playing against a low block for Scottish champions Celtic as important to have on the field. That decision paid off. He was good on the ball — he went 10-for-10 in line-breaking passes — and helped the U.S. control the game in the first half. In the second half, Zimmerman entered to help the U.S. close out the result.

It will be a different task against the Netherlands than against Iran. The Dutch are not expected to sit back in a low block. They have much more size and can be effective from attacking set pieces. This match-up may suit Zimmerman better. Berhalter didn’t provide much of a hint on Friday when asked about the pairing at the position.

“We’re looking at Holland, looking at what they do, how they create chances, how they press, every phase of the play we’re analyzing, we’re looking at set pieces, the whole thing,” Berhalter said. “So we’ll put all that together and we’ll pick someone based on that.”

Sargent’s health

If Sargent is not able to start or play significant minutes, Berhalter will have an interesting decision to make.

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Wright was solid enough in his start against England, but left much to be desired with his performance against Iran. Ferreira is solid in possession and tends to put himself in good attacking positions to score goals — though he has yet to prove he can be a finisher at this world-class level.

Wright also adds significant size to the U.S. roster, though he’s not very physical nor overly effective in aerial duels. Berhalter may also want the option of bringing Ferreira off the bench to press and run and work in the late stages of a game that could require a half-hour of extra time if the score is tied after 90 minutes having seen Wright struggle in that role against Iran.

Berhalter could think about moving Weah up top and starting Brenden Aaronson or Reyna on the wing, but he seemed unlikely to consider such a move just a few days ago when asked. The update on Sargent didn’t inspire much confidence on Friday, however, and that means Berhalter is probably considering every option.

USMNT World Cup Daily, Day 18

Pulisic says he’ll do everything in his power to play Saturday against the Netherlands

GRANT WAHLDEC 2∙PAID
 
 
Christian Pulisic seems in good spirits despite his physical issues ahead of USA-Netherlands (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

DOHA, Qatar — Christian Pulisic, the U.S. World Cup goal-scoring hero who came off with a “pelvic contusion” after providing the game-winner against Iran, said today that he will “do everything in my power to be out there on the field Saturday” in a Round of 16 match against the Netherlands. 


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And Pulisic made a statement of intent that he wants the U.S. not just to surprise the Dutch but to make a deep run in this tournament. When asked if he now had his “World Cup moment” to match Landon Donovan’s 2010 goal against Algeria, the 2020-21 UEFA men’s Champions League winner said: “I’m hoping I haven’t had that moment yet, to be honest. I’m hoping it’s in front of me. So it feels great to be where we’re at right now, but there’s still more to come.”

For a guy who has been dealing with a painful ailment, Pulisic seems like he’s in a much better mood in general than he was during the September window, when the U.S. was playing poorly and Pulisic’s funk was deep enough that I wrote about it. The joy on his face was palpable as he welcomed the U.S. players back to the team hotel on Tuesday, and Pulisic’s demeanor today was full of smiles and confidence. Forget the injury. He looks like a man reborn.

Pulisic welcoming his teammates back to the hotel on Tuesday after the victory over Iran (Photo courtesy U.S. Soccer)

Speaking publicly for the first time since the injury, Pulisic took us through what happened from the moment he scored his first World Cup goal and instead of celebrating ended up keeled over in the Iranian goalmouth with his worried teammates gathering around him.“I realized the ball went in,” Pulisic said. “I was a bit confused because the guys around me, I think they were just trying to keep their distance and make sure I was okay. But it didn’t really feel like a celebration, so I was worried I was offside. You never know nowadays. So I wasn’t sure what was going on.”After a few minutes on the side of the field receiving treatment, Pulisic made his way back into the game for the final minutes of the first half. But in the halftime locker room the decision was made to remove him from the game and send him to the hospital as a precautionary measure.“It was a crazy kind of experience for me,” Pulisic said. “Obviously the emotions were running so high, so I was doing everything I could to continue playing, and it all was kind of a blur to be honest. But then once I was told I was being taken to the hospital, I was able to follow it because a guy with me had it on his phone. It was the hardest thing. They were checking my blood sugar and it was flying through the roof, but it was just me stress-watching the game. But once I got through that and the final whistle blew, I was obviously very happy.”

Pulisic was helpful in explaining a bit of his injury situation when asked what a “pelvic contusion” actually meant. “Like, I didn’t get hit in the balls,” he explained sheepishly. “I’m all right. It was very painful. That bone is there for a reason to protect you, I think, and I hit it.”There was a time not that long ago—a bit more than a year maybe—when Pulisic didn’t seem to trust his U.S. teammates very much. It would cause him to overdribble in attacking situations and often lose the ball. But he has come to rely on the other U.S. players more often since then. That has been a process of growth on a young team.“This team helps me so much to take the pressure off of me,” he said today. “More so a couple years ago, there were times where maybe I felt like I needed to do more. But with these guys, I don’t feel that way at all, to be honest. I know they have my back. I know when I went down and I see Brenden [Aaronson] running on the pitch, I’m not worried at all.”Sometimes it’s good to see things from the perspective not just of the hardcore soccer fan (which I know most of you are), but rather from that of the Americans who are just falling in love with this team. We’re a growing soccer country still, and so many new USMNT fans are being created every day now. Pulisic is aware of that as well, that a not insignificant number of Yanks will now find out when he’s playing on Boxing Day after this World Cup is over and seek him out. Those people are already in for World Cup 2026 in North America. “I hope that they can see just the unity and the team spirit that we display,” he said today. “I hope that’s what’s helping us gain fans. I hope people watching, especially back home in the States, can see, wow, these guys would really give everything for each other, for this country. And that’s what really makes us special. You can see all the individual talent. You have guys playing at top clubs across the world, but without the brotherhood, without this family aspect, we wouldn’t be in this position.”

There’s something about Pulisic’s commitment to the national team, to the national idea, that is special. Certain athletes have it, this devotion to playing for their country. For all of Diego Maradona’s otherworldly talents, his overwhelming feelings for the national team were remarkable. The same was the case for John McEnroe when he represented the U.S. in the Davis Cup. Pulisic is in that realm, and it’s rare, and it’s exciting to see it revealed in the crucible of the World Cup. On Saturday, we find out if the U.S. journey continues. I expect Pulisic to play a significant role.

IN OTHER NEWS

• Germany is out. Mexico is out. Belgium is out. And all of those things should remind everyone that the U.S.’s advancement to the knockout rounds was never guaranteed. This is a big deal. A new tournament starts now.

• I wrote a new USMNT mailbag column for CBS. You can read it here

• Things at our Doha townhouse are fine. I’m a little worried that with Germany’s elimination my housemate Rafa Honigstein might go home, but I’m hoping he gets a reprieve. Last night at 3:30 am water suddenly started coming through my bedroom ceiling. I think it’s fixed, but not sure. And it’s my birthday today. Never thought I’d spend a birthday at the World Cup, but here we are. 

Have a good evening!

Dutch-born USMNT star Sergino Dest has date with destiny vs. Netherlands at World Cup

11:43 AM ET Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

DOHA, Qatar — The United States are set to square off against Netherlands on Saturday in a World Cup round-of-16 match, and while it’s an occasion that will be special for all involved, for defender Sergino Dest, it will carry extra significance.Dest was born in the Dutch town of Almere, about 12 miles east of Amsterdam. He came through the famed Ajax academy and turned professional there. But thanks to his American father, Kenneth, Dest has played his international soccer with the US, so when the two sides line up on Saturday, he’ll see plenty of familiar faces.”I know almost every single guy over there,” Dest said through a team spokesperson following Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Iran that secured the US’s passage into the knockout rounds. “Yeah, it’s going to be fun of course. I was born there, I speak the language, I know all these guys. They want to go through, but we have the same dream. It’s going to be a fight again.”Dest featured prominently against Iran. The Group B standings heading into the final round of games meant the US had to win to advance, while Iran required only a draw. As such, Iran were content to sit back and soak up pressure and try to strike through counterattacks. And for the first 35 minutes or so of Tuesday’s match, the US were banging their collective heads against Team Melli’s defense. The approach work was fine, but then the US seemed content to play it safe. It was going to take something a bit special to break Iran down.That’s where Dest came in. The US right-back began taking initiative, creating havoc in the 17th minute with a low cross that goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand could only push away, and later with a dynamic run that ended with his shot getting blocked. But the pathway to goal had been established, and it was with the help of Dest that the breakthrough finally occurred in the 38th minute. Weston McKennie‘s lofted pass out to Dest was headed across goal by the defender, allowing Christian Pulisic to knife in and finish from close range.

EDITOR’S PICKS

The US had to do more defending in the second half, and endured tense moments, but a collective effort allowed them to see the game out and clinch a massive victory that sealed the second spot in Group B.

“I’m really proud of the guys,” Dest said. “The way we played all the three games, we really fought for each other. We have a brotherhood. Iran was pressing us a little bit in the second half, but we got the job done. We are happy. We can relax now.”

That Dest was involved in the goal isn’t a surprise. His attacking instincts have long been his greatest asset. And he’s shown a knack for popping up for big plays in important games, such as his goal against Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier.

But heading into the World Cup, there were issues. Dest has logged just 373 minutes for AC Milan in all competitions since being loaned from Barcelona in September. The move came about as Barcelona struggled to balance their books. And in terms of his playing time at Milan, it didn’t help that his competition at the position, Davide Calabria, is Milan’s captain. Even without the worry about accumulated rust, Dest’s defending hasn’t always been consistent, with his positioning also a concern. During his Barca days, then-manager Ronald Koeman stressed that Dest would too often switch off in games.

“He needs to be more aggressive, he needs to be more concentrated,” Koeman said in February of 2021, following a Champions League encounter with Paris Saint-Germain‘s Kylian Mbappe. “He had too many periods in the game where he’s not 100% focused.”

That hasn’t been an issue in Qatar. Dest has been impressive on both sides of the ball at this World Cup, including instances when he was isolated against Iran’s attackers. It’s been noticed by the man with the best seat in the house to judge defenders: US goalkeeper Matt Turner.Herculez Gomez and Sebastian Salazar debate the biggest storylines and break down the best highlights that soccer in the Americas has to offer. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only)“He was unbelievable, free flowing up and down the field,” Turner said. “I think what I’ve noticed the most about Sergino is he always seems to show up defensively in the big moments, and he’s tracking runners in the box really, really well.”The same could be said about the entire US defense, which conceded just one goal and none from open play in its three group-stage matches. For US manager Gregg Berhalter, it’s been a collective effort, although the backline has excelled. And full-backs Dest and Antonee Robinson have been giving the manager what he wants.”The full-backs have been doing a good job,” Berhalter said. “We want them to be a little bit more offensive today. And we got an assist from [Dest]. So it’s a good thing. We need our full-backs to be aggressive, and it was good that they showed that today.”The Dutch have a talented team, finishing atop Group A with seven points, although there is a sense that Louis van Gaal’s side haven’t hit top gear yet. The same can be said for a US team that scored only twice. But for now, Dest and his teammates can look forward to taking on former Ajax teammates like Frenkie de Jong and Jurrien Timber.”I can’t wait to play the next match because it’s going to be a pretty fun one, playing against the country I was born in,” he said. “I have full confidence.”

Christian Pulisic reveals extent of pelvic injury, says he ‘didn’t get hit in the balls’

Henry BushnellThu, December 1, 2022 at 10:33 AM

DOHA, Qatar — Christian Pulisic said Thursday that he is “feeling better” after suffering a “pelvic contusion” in the U.S. men’s national team’s Tuesday win over Iran, but did not commit to playing in Saturday’s knockout-round game against the Netherlands.

He also explained what, exactly, a “pelvic contusion” is. After a team spokesman suggested that “it’s what it sounds like,” Pulisic said: “No, but at the same time, it’s not.”“Like, I didn’t get, like, hit in the balls,” he said with a laugh. Tim Weah and others in the room chuckled as well.“It was very painful,” Pulisic continued. “You know, that bone is there for a reason, to protect you, I think. And I hit it well. And it was sore, but like I said, I’m getting better.”Pulisic suffered the injury while scoring the only goal of the USMNT’s must-win game against Iran. “I took a knee … to a nice pelvis area — it was not nice,” he said Thursday. He stayed down in the mouth of the goal for minutes while receiving treatment. He returned to the game and gutted out a few minutes until halftime, but winced in pain while he moved gingerly. Head coach Gregg Berhalter later said that Pulisic was feeling some “dizziness.” Berhalter removed him from the game, and trainer Harris Patel accompanied him to a nearby hospital.While en route, Pulisic followed the game on Patel’s phone, “and it was like the hardest thing,” he said. Medics checked his “blood sugar and everything, and it was flying through the roof,” but not because there was anything wrong with him; “it was me stressed watching the game,” Pulisic said.A USMNT spokesman also said that Josh Sargent, who left Tuesday’s game in the second half with an ankle injury, was “day to day.”If Sargent can’t play, Haji Wright or Jesús Ferreira would likely start in his place up top.

If Pulisic can’t, Brenden Aaronson would be the most analogous replacement on the left wing. Aaronson has started in the past when Pulisic hasn’t been fit — including against Mexico last November in World Cup qualifying — and replaced Pulisic at halftime of Tuesday’s game. Gio Reyna would also be an option, but has only played eight minutes off the bench all tournament.

Pulisic and Sargent will likely remain “day to day” until lineups are announced within 90 minutes of kickoff on Saturday. U.S. Soccer has no incentive to give the Netherlands a jumpstart on preparing as if either player will or won’t start. After initially saying that the first 15 minutes of Thursday’s training session would be open to media, it closed training entirely.

USMNT to Face a European Hurdle It Hasn’t Cleared in 20 Years

European teams in the World Cup have largely been kryptonite to the U.S., and another, the Netherlands, stands in between the Americans and the quarterfinals.

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — The American men have won a single World Cup knockout game in 92 years, and make no mistake, the opponent on that famous day mattered. 

There was next to no anxiety when the U.S. kicked off the 2002 World Cup’s round of 16 against Mexico. There wasn’t a team in that tournament that was more familiar, or less intimidating and venerated. The U.S. arrived in Jeonju, South Korea, having beaten El Tri in four of their previous five meetings. And then the Americans won again, 2–0, to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the first and only time in the modern era.There, in that rarified air, a team featuring current U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, GM Brian McBride and sporting director Earnie Stewart lost to Germany, a three-time (and now four) world champion. That defeat, albeit by a one-goal margin, became another data point in a long-term trend even more reliable than “dos a cero.” The U.S. struggles mightily to beat European sides at the World Cup.To be fair, lots of teams do—especially lately. As more and more TV and sponsorship money flows from around the world into Europe, especially Western Europe, the clubs and federations there have widened the developmental gap with the rest of the planet. From the inaugural World Cup in 1930 until the 2002 edition won by Brazil, South America had won nine titles compared to Europe’s eight. But then the tide turned emphatically. The past four tournaments were won by four different UEFA nations, along with 11 of the 12 medals (Argentina’s 2014 silver is the only outlier.)

Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie celebrate the USA’s win over Iran
Adams and McKennie celebrate the USMNT’s win over Iran.Ashley Landis/AP

Meanwhile, the U.S.’s record against Europe has been a stark reminder of its place in the global pecking order. The 3–2 defeat of Portugal that catapulted the Americans to the 2002 knockouts is the only World Cup win over European opposition in 19 tries since the U.S. men returned to the World Cup in 1990. The record is 1-11-7, and the winless streak is now 11 following the two group stage draws against Wales and England here in Qatar.

You don’t need to beat a European team to get out of the group. The U.S. leveraged wins over Algeria (2010), Ghana (2014) and then Monday’s dramatic 1-0 decision against Iran to book a second-round berth. But you do have to beat a European team—probably teams—to go on a deep World Cup run. And so the test begins Saturday against Group A winner Netherlands here in Al Rayyan. This Dutch side isn’t considered one of the country’s best, but it’s still loaded with talent and the sort of experience and pedigree that has proven so difficult for the U.S. to overcome. Its coach, Louis van Gaal, managed the Netherlands to the bronze medal at the 2014 World Cup and has won major trophies at the helm of Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United.

“Traditionally European teams are very strong and that’s just how it is,” Berhalter said following the World Cup draw. “So when you play them in a World Cup, it means they got through European qualifying, which means they’re a very good team. I can see a lot of teams struggling with that.“That’s a great opportunity,” he said of facing UEFA opposition. “There’s always opportunities to be the first team or do something that teams haven’t done and for us, we just look at each opponent, we analyze their strengths and weaknesses and we try to figure out how to beat them.”The Americans will feel good about the fact that they outplayed both England and Wales for significant stretches of those group-stage contests. The two points earned helped the U.S. (1-0-2) finish second in what was, statistically, the toughest group at this World Cup. The Netherlands won the tournament’s easiest group based on average ranking with wins over Senegal (minus Sadio Mané) and lowly Qatar and a draw with Ecuador. The Oranje’s efficient but unconvincing run has been sparked by breakout World Cup star Cody Gakpo, a 23-year-old PSV Eindhoven attacker who’s scored in all three games.“It’s huge opportunity for us,” U.S. captain Tyler Adams said after beating Iran. “It’s gonna be an amazing game, I think. We’ve obviously played against good competition here like England, [and the] Netherlands could be another favorite to win the World Cup.”Berhalter has significant exposure to the country. He left the University of North Carolina after his junior season and spent six years playing professionally in the Netherlands with PEC Zwolle, Sparta Rotterdam and Cambuur Leeuwarden. The bonds with Saturday’s opponent don’t end there. Sporting director Stewart and right back Sergiño Dest are Dutch natives. U.S. striker Haji Wright and midfielder Luca de la Torre also played in the Netherlands.

Sergiño Dest will play against his birth country in the World Cup
Dest was born in the Netherlands and chose to play for the USMNT over his birth country.Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

The U.S. will be banking on the hope that its increased familiarity with European soccer—17 of the 26 men on Berhalter’s team play there—will help UEFA teams feel less foreign.“We play in Europe, so we played against a lot of these guys, week-in, week-out,” Adams said ahead of the England game. “It’s not easier to play against European teams, but you’re more familiar with how they’re gonna play probably than Concacaf teams. So it is what it is. You have to be prepared for all the teams that you can play against.”This U.S. team, the second youngest here in Qatar (and it’s fielded the three youngest starting lineups), isn’t burdened by predecessors’ shortcomings or global trends older than they are. Almost all grew up as immersed in soccer as their Dutch counterparts, and they’ve worked their way into an echelon of the sport that was out of reach for so many compatriots who came before. Berhalter’s squad is full of men with Champions League experience. There’s a measure of confidence with this group that may be unprecedented.https://0c5c726ab65d35ea87a4c77c8529966e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html

“I came here saying to everybody in the media and everybody [else], that we’re coming here to try to win,” forward Brenden Aaronson said. “We may be the underdog. The Dutch are a world power and they’ve been that for many, many tournaments. So I think for us, it’s just going in there with no fear and playing the way we have been this entire tournament, and I think good things will come out of it.”Midfielder Weston McKennie added, “We’re here for a reason. … We know that a lot of people have [the Dutch] as the favorites. But a lot of people didn’t think that we would make it out of the group as well. This team is young [and] has a lot of energy, and this team has a lot of people that doubted us. But we continue to prove them wrong. So we’re just looking forward to going out against the Netherlands and playing a good game.”

Since sealing qualification in March, Berhalter has talked about splitting the World Cup into two tournaments. The first, the group stage, was about navigating three matches in nine days, managing form and fitness and playing for points. The second tournament starts Saturday, and it’s one where he’s said repeatedly that “anything can happen.” It’s just one game, which can be decided by one play, one bounce, one inch. There’s a sample size that suggests those small margins will still somehow fall the European team’s way. But no UEFA nation has played this specific U.S. team on this stage.“It’s great to be in this knockout format. We relish this. It’s an opportunity for our guys to keep grinding and to stick together and enjoy this experience,” Berhalter said Tuesday.“It’s a great opportunity, but it’s not something that we’re going into it thinking it’s an honor,” he continued. “We deserve to be in the position we’re in and we want to keep going. And we don’t want to be home on [Sunday]. So for us, it’s about how do we recover from [the Iran] game and prepare to play against a very, very good Dutch team—very, very well coached, a ton of quality all over the field. And we have to come up with an idea of how to beat them.”

World Cup last 16: Why every team that escaped the group stage will, won’t win it all in Qatar

6:22 PM ET Bill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer

A typical World Cup can feel like a marathon, but this one feels like a sprint. After a nonstop, 13-day group stage ends on Friday, there are no days off before the round of 16 begins with Netherlands vs. USA and Australia vs. Argentina on Saturday.

Therefore, we shouldn’t wait to preview the knockout rounds. While the dance card continues to fill in, let’s talk about each qualifying team’s biggest strengths and weaknesses: basically, the reasons they advanced, the reasons they could make a run and the fatal flaws that will probably trip them up at some point.

Let’s go!


Argentina (first place, Group C)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 12%
Round of 16 opponent: Australia (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET)

Why they will win it all: They’ve recovered from losing to Saudi Arabia. As incredible as the Saudis’ 2-1 win was last Tuesday, it was a clear and obvious “sports are dumb sometimes” outcome. Argentina attempted 15 shots worth 2.3 xG, and Saudi Arabia attempted three worth 0.2, but the latter trumped the former, and the Saudis — to their credit — defended wonderfully down the stretch.

– Marcotti: The seven tendencies of Messi vs. Poland

That match almost ruined two matches; manager Lionel Scaloni made a ton of lineup changes for what turned out to be a dire and unimpressive performance against Mexico. Somehow a lineup with Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria attempted only five shots worth 0.3 xG, but Messi’s wonderful long-range goal in the 64th minute allowed them to relax. They saw off Mexico, then dominated Poland 2-0 in a match that was closer to about 4-0 than 2-1.

There was tension and there were unforced errors, but they finished the group stage atop Group C, with the second-best xG differential in the tournament to date (behind only France). Their defense barely allowed any decent looks over three matches, and they looked the part of the contender they were supposed to be all along.

Why they won’t: Boy, the vibes got dark for a minute, didn’t they? Indeed, despite the fluky nature of the Saudi Arabia loss, Scaloni made five changes to his lineup to bring a performance boost to a side that probably didn’t actually need one. They played far worse, according to both the stat line and the eyeballs. Messi bailed them out, and they may have gotten a long-term boost with how well younger guys like Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez played against Poland. But another bout with that sort of panic likely won’t be rewarded.

Australia (second place, Group D)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: <1%
Round of 16 opponent: Argentina (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET)

Why they will win it all: They take their chances. If we were being particularly cynical (or perhaps realistic), we would call the Socceroos lucky. In three group stage matches, they attempted 21 shots worth just 1.8 xG but pulled three goals from them and stole a pair of 1-0 victories from Tunisia and Denmark. They attempted fewer than half the number of shots (21) as their opponents (50) in the group stage, but advanced

Dawson: Nobody will want to play Australia in World Cup knockouts

Rob Dawson reacts to Australia’s 1-0 win over Denmark and speaks about their chances in the World Cup knockout stages.

However, one man’s lucky is another’s clinical. All three of their goals — Craig Goodwin’s counter-strike against France, Mitchell Duke’s flick of a header against Tunisia and Mathew Leckie’s weaving counter against Denmark — were beautifully taken. Against both Tunisia and Denmark, they cluttered shooting lanes and left their opponents with low-percentage opportunities while maximizing the danger they created from minimal looks. If you don’t need many chances to score, you don’t need many chances to pull an upset.

Why they won’t: Okay, fine, they’re lucky. You don’t get outshot more than 2-to-1, with the second-worst xG differential (per-match) of the 32 teams, and advance very far. They got their doors blown off by France, they allowed Tunisia to attempt three of the match’s four most high-value shots (per xG) while scoring on a low-percentage flick, and they have completed just 73% of their pass attempts, second lowest in the competition (ahead of Iran, who still attempted way more shots and created far more shot value). The upsets were awesome to watch, as was the giddy reaction of Australia fans both in the stands and back at home. But this run of fortune isn’t going to last four more matches.

Brazil (qualified from Group G)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 25%
Round of 16 opponent: TBD

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Luis Miguel Echegaray reveals whether he favours Brazil or France as the two sides in the World Cup knockouts.

Why they will win it all: Party in the front (eventually), veterans in the back. Hiring a conservative coach (Tite) to lead a squad full of flamboyant attackers can easily backfire without the right balance and man management. You play away from your strengths, the attackers get frustrated, and things fall apart.

In his six-plus years in charge of the Selecao, Tite has mostly found said balance. Brazil have allowed just 27 goals and lost only five times in his 78 matches in charge. Four of the five losses were by one-nil margins — which hints at how things look when they go wrong, but they don’t go wrong often.

The veteran base of defenders Thiago Silva (38) and Marquinhos (28) and midfielder Casemiro (30) was an unsolvable puzzle for both Serbia and Switzerland, who combined to attempt just 11 shots worth 0.48 xG, putting none on target. And as both opponents grew tired and frustrated, the Brazilian attack eventually kicked in, and they booked their last-16 spot with two wins. What has worked for six years under Tite has worked in Qatar.

Why they won’t: The attack runs through Neymar (who’s hurt once again). Brazil overwhelmed Serbia with 19 shots and two goals in the second half. The ball was constantly at Neymar’s feet — he had the most touches of any non-defender — and the eventual goals, both from Richarlison, felt inevitable.

Neymar left the match after 80 minutes, however, after suffering damaged ankle ligaments. Without their focal point, Brazil resorted to aimless crossing against Switzerland (25 of them, with only a 16% completion rate) and attempted only 13 shots. They eventually took control with a scruffy late goal from Casemiro, but the attack wasn’t nearly as smooth without its center of gravity, whose return to the competition is unknown.

England (first place, Group B)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 9%
Round of 16 opponent: Senegal (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET)play

0:40

England fans erupt as the Three Lions score two quick goals

England fans at Boxpark by Wembley Stadium celebrate the two goals early in the second half.

Why they will win it all: Set pieces. They were England’s secret weapon in the 2018 World Cup, where the team scored six set-piece goals (four from corners) in seven matches, two of which put them ahead in both the quarterfinals and semifinals.

They’ve only got two such goals so far — one from Bukayo Saka on a corner against Iran and one from a scorching Marcus Rashford free kick that opened the scoring against Wales — but it remains a clear advantage as they’ve created 10 shots from set pieces, and opponents have yet to attempt one. (The US created seven corner-kick opportunities but got no quality looks from them.)

When you’ve got as much talent as anyone in the competition, and you’ve got a cheat code for creating solid scoring chances, you’re in great shape.

EDITOR’S PICKS

Why they won’t: The subs are doing too well? It’s an odd critique, admittedly, but the England attack is in a strange place at the moment. The Three Lions scored nine goals in the group stage with Gareth Southgate’s first-choice attacking trio of Harry Kane, Saka and Raheem Sterling performing relatively well, scoring three goals and creating a combined 2.18 expected goals (xG) and expected assists (xA) in a total of 512 minutes. That’s a rate of 0.38 combined xG+xA per 90 minutes. The trio of Rashford, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish, however, combined for a torrid five goals and 3.37 xG+xA in just 271 minutes, 1.12 per 90.

History suggests Southgate will stick to his guns when it comes to lineup selections, and having prolific bench players who are commanding a higher workload is a great problem to have. But it can still be a problem if you aren’t putting your most in-form and effective lineup on the pitch as the matches increase in importance. The last thing you want to do is leave available goals unclaimed while trying to bring the World Cup trophy home.

France (first place, Group D)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 11%
Round of 16 opponent: Poland (Sunday, 10 a.m. ET)

Why they will win it all: Kylian Mbappe. France quickly secured advancement to the knockout rounds by taking care of Australia and Denmark by a combined 6-2 — which allowed them to field an extremely rotation-heavy squad against Tunisia — but that score line doesn’t do justice to the levels of domination in those two matches. They outshot their opponents by a combined 44-14 and created 6.8 xG while allowing just 1.2; while Australia were obviously outmanned, Denmark were considered a World Cup sleeper by many and could manage just two shot attempts in the first 67 minutes.

At the heart of France’s success, of course, has been Mbappe, the FIFA Young Player Award winner at the last World Cup and the current front-runner for Golden Ball winner at this one. As ESPN’s Ryan O’Hanlon laid out after two matches, the best player in the world is playing some of his best-ever ball at the best possible time.

Furious Laurens lets rip on ‘disgraceful’ France performance

Julien Laurens doesn’t hold back as he rips into Didier Deschamps and the French players after their 1-0 loss to Tunisia in Qatar.

Why they won’t: The wrong kind of conservatism. The modern game is one of pressing and possession, and it would make sense that most of the tournament favorites do those things well. There are currently eight teams with betting odds of +1400 or better to win the World Cup, and six of them currently rank in the top eight in passes allowed per defensive action (PPDA, a common measure of defensive intensity), all averaging under 12.0 PPDA. Brazil (12.2, 11th in the competition) is close. France (18.5, 26th) is not.

For all of their absurd talent, they were downright passive against Denmark, allowing the Danes to average 6.4 passes per possession and end 50% of their possessions in the attacking third. This opened up space for transition attacks — something that the impossibly fast Mbappe and his teammates can thrive in at times — but it also raised a question: How will the French fare among the best possession teams in the field if they can’t (or won’t) take the ball away from them?

Netherlands (first place, Group A)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 5%
Round of 16 opponent: USA (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET)

Why they will win it all: They turn you over. Louis van Gaal’s Dutch team is active. They lead the competition with the fewest passes allowed per defensive action (9.3) and despite leading for the majority of each group stage match, they started 29 possessions in the attacking third to opponents’ 17. Midfielder Frenkie de Jong leads the team in ball recoveries, but the pressure is a full-team effort: Netherlands have commanded 57% of overall touches in the attacking third with a 57% possession rate.

They’ve got the raw defensive talent — Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Ake, Jurrien Timber, Matthijs de Ligt — to safeguard them while pressing heavily (goalkeeper Andries Noppert has been excellent, too), and they put the ball in more dangerous areas than opponents.

Ogden names Senegal, not Netherlands, the best in Group A

Mark Ogden explains why he think Senegal are the stronger of the two sides to advance from Group A at the World Cup.

Why they won’t: No creativity. For such an active team, the Dutch sure are stolid in attack. Despite all that possession in dangerous areas, they managed just 10 shots worth 0.7 xG against Senegal and two worth 0.1 against Ecuador; they were fortunate to win the former match and draw the latter, and if Cody Gakpo hadn’t scored with his only shot in each match, they wouldn’t have.

Gakpo, the increasingly sought-after PSV Eindhoven attacker, has scored three goals from four shots worth just 0.3 xG. The rest of his teammates have scored just two goals from 21 shots worth 2.5. They neither create high-quality or high-volume shots — they averaged just 0.3 big chances created (“a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score,” as defined by Stats Perform) in the group stage; only two teams averaged fewer, and that will eventually become a clear issue if it does not change.

This makes their matchup with the United States an interesting one: the teams have a lot of the same strengths and same weaknesses.

Poland

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: <1%
Round of 16 opponent: France

Why they will win it all: They’ve got the hottest goalkeeper in the competition. Stat Perform’s Goals Prevented measure compares the goals you’ve allowed to the post-shot xG value of the shots opponents put on your goal. Based solely on that xG figure, Poland should have allowed about six goals in the group stage; they allowed only two because Wojciech Szczesny stood on his damn head. He stopped penalties from both Messi and Saudi Arabia‘s Salem al-Dawsari, he stopped close-range efforts from al-Dawsari and Argentina‘s Rodrigo De Paul, and he saved 18 total shots on goal in three matches.

Allow even three goals instead of two — which would have still been overachieving — and Poland would be on a plane home right now.

Why they won’t: They can’t create opportunities for one of the best strikers in the world. In 19 matches with Barcelona this season, Robert Lewandowski has averaged 4.5 shots, 0.8 xG and 1.1 goals per 90 minutes. In three World Cup matches, he has averaged 2.3 shots, 0.6 xG and 0.3 goals. He scored his first ever World Cup goal against Saudi Arabia, but missed on a late chip in the same match and had a penalty saved against Mexico. Those were his only three shots on goal in three matches. He barely touched the ball against Argentina and attempted zero shots.

Lewandowski isn’t Poland’s only high-level player, of course — 14 other members of the roster play for clubs in Europe’s Big Five leagues — but when your headliner is neither getting the service he needs nor taking advantage of the opportunities he gets, your ceiling isn’t going to be very high. He could unleash a hat trick at any time, but if he couldn’t do it against Saudi Arabia, it’s fair to assume the odds aren’t high that he will do it against France.

Portugal (qualified from Group H)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 8%
Round of 16 opponent: TBD

Why they will win it all: Where passing is harder, Portugal is better. One would assume that a squad featuring Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Raphael Guerreiro and Joao Cancelo would be one of the more creative in the competition, and that has played out thus far. They have been fortunate in the finishing department — they created shots worth 3.3 xG in their first two matches but scored five goals from them, and they scored one of their goals when Cristiano Ronaldo whiffed on a Fernandes cross (which fooled the Uruguayan goalkeeper) — but they still created plenty of chances, and they made sure that they were the only team regularly completing passes into dangerous areas.

Pass completion rate into the attacking third:

  • Portugal 81%, Ghana 57% (Portugal won 3-2)
  • Portugal 79%, Uruguay 64% (Portugal won 2-0)

Fernandes and Silva have both completed 40 passes into the final third (with a ridiculous 86% completion rate), and the stalwart Portuguese defense, led by cent-backs Ruben Dias along with veterans Danilo Pereira (31) and Pepe (39), has fended off most threatening buildups. Even one of Ghana’s goals came on a cross that a defender deflected.

Why they won’t: You have to hold onto leads to win it all. When their first two matches were tied, Portugal dominated, controlling 69% of possession, attempting 19 shots worth 2.0 xG, allowing just six shots worth 0.7 and scoring three times. Dominant.

Once they were ahead, however, they sacrificed a dangerous amount of control. They allowed two goals to Ghana (one to tie the match at 1-1, one to make it 3-2), and in those two matches their possession rate fell to 45% with opponents attempting 14 shots to their seven. While Brazil’s Tite has pulled off a solid balance of conservatism and attacking flair, one could argue that Portugal’s Fernando Santos hasn’t quite found that same balance.

Ogden: Portugal means more than Cristiano Ronaldo

Mark Ogden gives his analysis on the 2-0 win over Uruguay in Group H that takes Portugal into the round of 16 at the World Cup.

Senegal (second place, Group A)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 1%
Round of 16 opponent: England

Why they will win it all: Transition. Tuesday’s Senegal vs. Ecuador match pitted two of the best transition teams in the competition. In their first two matches, Ecuador had scored two of their three goals from what I call “transition possessions” — possessions beginning outside of the attacking third and lasting 20 or fewer seconds — and had not allowed opponents a single shot in those possessions. But against Senegal, the shoe was on the other foot. Senegal created two early high-quality transition opportunities and allowed Ecuador none.

That’s been the story of the competition for Senegal. Their xG differential in transition possessions is +0.8, fourth best among teams in the knockout rounds, and while they were decent in transition attack (one goal, 0.96 xG), their primary strength was in completely snuffing out opponents’ opportunities. The defensive spine of keeper Edouard Mendy, center-backs Kalidou Koulibaly and Abdou Diallo and defensive midfielder Nampalys Mendy is as stout as just about any in the World Cup.

Why they won’t: You’ve got to finish. When the news came down that star Sadio Mane was going to miss the World Cup because of injury, it was fair to wonder how the heck Senegal was going to put the ball in the net.

It’s still fair to wonder, too. While they handled Qatar with ease, and they attempted plenty of shots against higher-level opponents Netherlands and Ecuador, the finishing indeed lacked. They attempted 28 non-penalty shots worth 2.14 xG in those two matches but scored just once from them, via a deflection to Koulibaly on a free kick. (They also scored on an Ismaila Sarr penalty against Ecuador.) They have been decent at generating set-piece opportunities, but in open play they are creating almost no threat against solid opposition.

United States (second place, Group B)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 1%
Round of 16 opponent: Netherlands

Why they will win it all: The midfield is relentless. Wales couldn’t move the ball through the midfield, so they started booting long balls to a tall forward. Jude Bellingham had 10 touches in the first 13 minutes but only 40 thereafter as England found passing lanes through the midfield hard to come by. (Mason Mount had only 45 total touches in 90 minutes.) Iran only created 60 total touches in the attacking third until Weston McKennie went off the field in the 65th minute. (They created 64 in the final 25 minutes.)

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Relentless running and pressing from the trio of McKennie (24), Yunus Musah (20) and captain Tyler Adams (23) and fullbacks Sergino Dest (22) and Antonee Robinson (25) have made advancing the ball into dangerous areas almost impossible and allowed the US to control large portions of games — granted, without generating a large number of quality scoring opportunities — against not only Wales and Iran but also England. And if they were able to control Bellingham and Mount, they can control most of the midfields in this competition.

Why they won’t: Matches are 90 minutes long. One problem with relentless running and pressing: It wears you out, especially when some of your most important players came into the World Cup with recent injuries and fitness concerns. McKennie is only averaging 69.3 minutes per match, Dest 78.0. And as these players begin to tire, the Americans’ effectiveness vanishes.

  • xG, first 60 min: USA 2.19, opponents 0.91 (actual score: US 2-0)
  • xG, last 30 min: opponents 2.23, USA 0.35 (actual score: opponent 1-0)

Fatigue has indeed limited certain key players, and manager Gregg Berhalter’s substitution decisions (both timing and personnel) have been, to put it diplomatically, shaky. When things move into game management mode, the US quickly fray. The fatigue isn’t going to suddenly get better as the tournament progresses.

TIL: The World Cup soccer ball needs to be charged before games

By Luis VidalDecember 1, 2022

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It’s a new era.

Getty Images

Technology has taken the reins in the soccer world. The VAR system is the clearest example of the takeover, but it’s not the only one. Al Rihla, the soccer ball created by adidas for the 2022 World Cup, incorporates chips and sensors that are revolutionizing the game. 

And it also brings a new reality: soccer balls that need to be plugged in before a game.

Does the World Cup ball need to be charged before games? Why?

The idea is weird. However, you can find pictures online showing the Al Rihla ball connected to a power source, charging up before the game as you would with your phone.Yeah, it’s a new dawn.But why? Because of that chip and those sensors, of course.

The combo captures different types of relevant data about the game. The chip is connected to cameras around the stadium and, according to adidas, “contributes to FIFA’s semi-automated offside technology and offers Video Assistant Referees instantaneous information to help optimize decision-making.”Recently, the sensors also determined that Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t touch the ball in one of the two goals scored by Bruno Fernandes against Uruguay, despite CR7 claiming he did. 

All this info requires energy, thus the need to be charged.

According to an adidas press release, the system “in the center of the ball hosts and stabilizes a 500Hz inertial measurement unit (IMU) motion sensor, which provides unprecedented insight into every element of the movement of the ball, while making this technology unnoticeable for players and not affecting its performance whatsoever”. 

The document also says “the sensor is powered by a rechargeable battery,” which now makes total sense. 

The ball doesn’t have a USB port or something like that. It is charged up by induction, which means it needs a tray or pedestal to complete the process.

Grant Wahl 3 Thoughts on USMNT-Iran

GRANT WAHL OV 29 ∙ PAID
 
 

Matt Turner celebrated Christian Pulisic’s first-half goal that ended up making the difference in the U.S. advancing to the World Cup Round of 16 (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

DOHA, Qatar — The USMNT beat Iran 1-0 on Matchday 3 of the World Cup on Tuesday. The win gave the U.S. (five points) a second-place finish in Group B behind England (seven points) and set up a Round of 16 clash on Saturday between the U.S. and the Netherlands. Here are my three thoughts on the game:


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• Christian Pulisic delivered in a game he’d been waiting his entire life for. This was a must-win game for the U.S. to stave off elimination and advance to the World Cup knockout rounds, and the U.S.’s best player scored the difference-making goal when his team needed it most—and with significant bodily sacrifice. With Iran playing 10 men behind the ball and needing only a tie to advance, the U.S. finally broke through in the 38th minute when Weston McKennie sent a gorgeous ball over the top to Sergiño Dest, whose delicate header across the goalmouth was met by an onrushing Pulisic in time to direct it past goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand. The goal was reminiscent of the one Pulisic scored against Mexico in Cincinnati 12 months ago, in which he also anticipated the ball’s location more quickly than defenders and barely beat them to the ball. Unfortunately for Pulisic, he couldn’t celebrate his goal because he took a blow to the midsection from Beiranvand while sacrificing his body and ended up being attended to for several minutes before returning to cheers from U.S. fans. (Pulisic came off for the second half and was replaced by Brenden Aaronson.) The U.S. has been struggling to score goals this World Cup. It needed its superstar to do superstar things, and Pulisic most definitely did in a career-defining game.

• Even when the U.S. gets a goal, they don’t make it easy afterward. In an ideal world for U.S. fans, the Yanks would have pushed to score again and make things less stressful, much like England poured it on over Wales in a 3-0 victory after breaking through the first time. But just as it did against Wales in Game 1, the U.S. wasn’t able to add to its lead and risked paying the price. Tim Weah had a gorgeous goal disallowed for offside at the end of the first half, but scoring chances came few and far between for the U.S. in the second 45 minutes. The game changed in the second half. With Iran now needing a goal, Team Melli stopped time-wasting (it was getting bad even in the first half) and keeping 10 men behind the ball, started to try and create some attacks on the counter and eventually threw everyone forward as the U.S. played the last 20 minutes with a five-man back line. (Walker Zimmerman came on and seemed to win every ball in the air, though he had to make a scary clearance in the final moments of a ball that had squirted behind goalkeeper Matt Turner.) But the U.S. had a major advantage in athleticism in this game and a slight one in skill and possession, and Iran found it difficult to break through a U.S. defense that has been solid in this tournament with the exception of the penalty conceded to Wales. Which brings us to….

• The U.S. defense is putting the team in a position to succeed here. Not conceding a single goal during the run of play in three World Cup games is phenomenal and better than anyone would have expected entering the tournament. U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter made a surprise choice opting for Cameron Carter-Vickers in the central defense against Iran, replacing Zimmerman, but the idea made sense. While I’m always a little queasy about changing up centerback tandems in the middle of a tournament, Carter-Vickers is faster than Zimmerman, and the U.S. was pushing forward in the attack more this game and thus leaving itself more exposed to counterattacks. CCV showed that speed in a couple important moments. Who would have thought a month ago that Tim Ream and Carter-Vickers would be the starting centerbacks for the U.S. in a must-win World Cup game? Not me. And now Ream and Tyler Adams have been the best U.S. players of the tournament. But beyond the centerbacks, the overall 11-man team defending by the States has been exemplary. If you can post clean sheets at the World Cup, you give yourself a chance to advance against any team in the tournament. And you know what? The U.S. will be an underdog against the Netherlands, but I think they’ve got a real shot to advance based on what I have seen here so far. This was a great day for U.S. soccer.

Analysis: USMNT defeats Iran 1-0 in a grueling battle to advance to knockouts

The U.S. national team defeated Iran on Tuesday in a 1-0 win that was a hard-fought test of wills. The U.S. prevailed after Christian Pulisic delivered his biggest international goal and the U.S. defense closed the game out as a desperate Iran searched for an equalizer. The U.S. is now in the knockouts and ASN’s Brian breaks the game down with his thoughts and analysis.

BY BRIAN SCIARETTAPOSTED
NOVEMBER 29, 2022
3:05 PM

THE UNITED STATES national team is through to the knockout stages of the 2022 World Cup after a hard fought 1-0 win over Iran on Tuesday night in Qatar. While the U.S. team did not need the last-minute heroics of 2010 or the fortunate results in other games to break their way like they did in 2002 and 2014 to qualify for the knockouts, this game ended with a grueling final 20 minutes to close it out.

Gregg Berhalter started with a similar starting lineup to England with the only two changes coming with Cameron Carter-Vickers replacing Walker Zimmerman in central defense to partner with Tim Ream and Josh Sargent replacing Haji Wright at center forward.

The U.S. team was strong to start the game and had the better of chances. Tim Weah had the first two very good opportunities of the game with the first coming in the 28th minute when a deflected shot from Sargent popped up to him. Instead of taking a volley, he headed it weakly to Iranian keeper Alireza Beiranvand. Then in the 35th minute, Weah hit an open 12 yard shot over the goal.

Then in the 39th minute, the U.S. team moved in front when a long sequence touched eight players and it ended with Sergino Dest heading the ball to Christian Pulisic for a close-range goal.

The goal came at a huge price to the U.S. team as Pulisic collided with Beiranvand and was down with an abdominal injury. He tried to play through it and made it to the half but was subbed out to start the second half for Brenden Aaronson.

In the second half, the U.S. saw Iran grow into the game albeit not to the degree Wales did in the group stage opener.

The last 20 minutes of regulation and the 10 minutes of injury time went by slowly and Iran sent a few dangerous balls into the box that came to nothing. They had two weak penalty appeals (one on a handball to Shaq Moore and a second for a foul on Carter-Vickers) but Spanish referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz quickly called for play to continue.

Here are some thoughts on the game.

Advancement caps a huge year

Advancing to the knockout stages was the minimum goal for success for the U.S. team in Qatar. They could soon turn this into a monumental success if they advance past the Dutch, but they won’t leave Qatar without pointing to moderate success.

But there is no way that the greater American soccer community can’t point to 2002 as being a very successful year on the men’s side. The resume is impressive

  • The Seattle Sounders became the first MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions League.
  • The U.S. team qualified for the 2022 World Cup
  • The U.S. U-20 team qualified for the U-20 World Cup
  • The U.S. U-20 team then ended the 16-year Olympic drought to qualify for Paris 2024
  • Americans abroad continued to have a big presence in Europe’s “Big 5” leagues
  • MLS playoffs were a success and MLS Cup was arguably the best edition ever
  • The U.S. team defeats Iran to advance to the knockout stages of the 2022 World Cup.

The World Cup success is not necessarily groundbreaking. The U.S. team has now advanced out of the group stages in four of the last five World Cup in which it has participated. That’s no small accomplishment.

But after the disappointments of the World Cup qualifying failure in 2017 and then trying to rebuild the team with an extremely young group of players, this success is, to many fans, as sweet as the wins over Portugal and Mexico in 2002 or the Landon Donovan heroics against Algeria in 2010.

Regardless of how the knockouts play out, this tournament will set the stage well for the upcoming cycle where the U.S. team will co-host the World Cup in 2026.

Adams was immense

It sounds like a broken record, but Tyler Adams put in yet another incredible performance. It’s no overstatement that he’s been perhaps the best defensive midfielder at the tournament, so far. Against Iran, he had perhaps his best outing. His numbers were eye-opening.

Tyler Adams: raw numbers in 1-0 win vs. Iran
90 mins
84 touches
62/69 passing
7/8 long balls
12 recoveries
3/3 tackling
6/9 ground duels won
1/2 aerials
1 clearance
11 passes into the final third
2x fouled
1 foul also a YC.
– WOWzers— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) November 29, 2022

But beyond his stats, it was the eyeball test. Just by watching him, he kept the game under control for the U.S. team on both sides of the ball. He broke up plays. He was key in the transition between the defense and the attack. He covered so much ground to get back into the defense and cover the entire field. He rarely touched the ball into the attacking third, but he was everywhere.

Adams’ touchmap is below (attacking left)

Adams has been one of the tournament’s breakout players and for long-time American fans it has been fun to watch as he has gone through so many of the country’s modern developmental channels: U.S. U-17 World Cup, MLS homegrown, USL Championship (winning the title with the Red Bulls II), MLS (winning the Supporters Shield), the U.S. U-20 World Cup team, the Bundesliga, Champions League semifinals, the Premier League, and the U.S. World Cup team where he’s been the captain.

When you list it all, it’s remarkable. When you realize he still hasn’t turned 24 yet, it’s incredible.

Pulisic’s big moment

There has been so much written about Christian Pulisic and when it comes down to his club career, it isn’t always pretty. While he is at a huge club in Chelsea, we’ve seen him move in and out of the lineup under various managers. The British press has been on him about missing chances. There is speculation about whether he will get sold or replaced in the lineup.

But lost in all of this is that he is finding a way to deliver regularly when the U.S. team needs him. He is regularly there to deliver big goals or hit big assists – against Mexico in Cincinnati or the Nations League final in Denver. His assist to Weah against Wales was monumental. But he delivers the most for the U.S. team when needed and this was his big moment in the 39th minute when he risked injury on a dangerous play to ensure the U.S. team found a goal against Iran.

Pulisic puts it away! ????

???? » @FOXSoccer
pic.twitter.com/HPId4hsu4a— U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (@USMNT) November 29, 2022

It was his “Landon Donovan” moment and it resembled how Donovan was always there for the U.S. team when needed, scoring in two World Cup group stages and knockouts along with the Confederations Cup and Gold Cup wins.

But this was a moment where Pulisic stepped into being an all-time U.S. player. Yes, his club career has been groundbreaking for an American. But in terms of delivering for the U.S. team, he needed goals at the highest of stages and he did that here.

Christian Pulisic sends a message of support to his USMNT teammates ??????????

(via @AreaSportsNet@Adimitri24pic.twitter.com/Vk0yculZfA— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 29, 2022

Dest and Robinson

The U.S. team’s fullbacks were a big source of the attack. The U.S. clearly felt most comfortable going out wide. While the wingers in Weah and Pulisic often would cut into the middle, it was Antonee Robinson and Sergino Dest who pushed forward and stayed out wide. For the first 60-70 minutes, they helped stretch Iran’s defense and open the game up.

For Dest, what has been important regarding him has been his defense. His offense has always been first-rate, but his defense has been in question. Against Iran, was beaten a few times but otherwise had a great defensive performance.

Dest’s touchmap is below (attacking left)

For Robinson, his engine and work-rate were among the best in the tournament. The left-back position has historically been an Achilles Heel for the U.S. team, but Robinson is using this tournament to be the best natural left back the program has had. His crossing still needs to be better, but his pure athleticism requires so much attention that it opens doors.

Robinson’s touchmap is below (attacking left)

Against Iran, Robinson’s crossing was scattered but he had nine recoveries, won 4/6 of his total duels, and had nine passes into the final third. He also had 70 touches in 90 minutes. Meanwhile, Dest had 4/5 successful dribbles, had 76 touches in 82 minutes, was 37/42 passing with seven passes into the final third. Then, of course, Dest had the assist on Pulisic’s goal via a header.

Both players had Iran at their heels but according to the stats, Robinson was 1/8 in crossing and Dest was 0/4. If these two can find a way to complete more than 1/12 combined crossing, the U.S. team would be even more dynamic offensively.

Yes, the team needs to get better in set pieces to score more. But having better fullback crossing would also pay big dividends. It doesn’t change the fact, however, that both have been big net positives for the team.

Closing out the game

Closing out the win was tough for the U.S. team and if the team scores the opener against the Netherlands, it will need to be better controlling the tempo or else a good Dutch team will find an equalizer.

Losing a player like Pulisic puts Berhalter to the test but Berhalter made substantial changes to mixed results.

The injury replacement for Josh Sargent in the 77th minute was Haji Wright, and Wright struggled immensely to connect with players, to shoot properly, or even to take the ball to the corner to seal out the win at the end of stoppage time.

The decision to replace Dest might have been necessary as Dest is not in the best fitness given the time he missed in October and early November at AC Milan with his injury. He has rarely gone 90 minutes in a game this season. Shaq Moore is seen as a defensive 1v1 replacement but he was out of synch with his team getting forward.

The change in formation starting in the 82nd minute (for a total of 18 minutes, including stoppage time) was the toughest decision. When he brought Walker Zimmerman into the game, it was not a like-for-like sub and he went to five in the back. Iran had resulted to sending hopeful balls into the box to find a shot.Zimmerman did what Berhalter wanted in that he was clearing balls out of danger by winning headers. But a five-man backline left the U.S. team out-manned in the midfield. Kellyn Acosta came into the game in the 65th minute and he won some important duals and defensively forced Iran outside, but the U.S. team ceded a lot of possession and was too weak on its counterattack in missing open runners and not executing passes that create good chances.The U.S. ended up making this much harder than it had to be.

Looking ahead to the Netherlands

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game against the Netherlands in the Round of 16, Berhalter will likely want to continue to keep most of his lineup in-tact. Their chemistry is an asset at this point.But will he be able to?The good news is that the U.S. team has no suspensions, but it has two injuries with Sargent and Pulisic.Following the game, it was announced that Pulisic went to the hospital for observation for a pelvic contusion. Pulisic has said that he will be ready for Saturday, but a little bit of perspective is necessary in that players are typically unreliable when talking about their own health for huge games. Players often say they are 100% or will be 100% for big games but this will come down to how Berhalter, his staff, and the U.S. medical team views him.

The injury to Sargent is not yet clear and he left the game holding his ankle/leg. Unlike Pulisic, he was unable to continue for even a brief period.

If Pulisic can play, he starts in this game. If he can’t, Berhalter will have to make decisions. Does he go with Aaronson again or does he try someone else like Gio Reyna or Jordan Morris? For Aaronson, if he starts out wide for Pulisic, it removes the most important backup midfielder from the bench. Aaronson has begun to thrive in the midfield (his natural position) after playing as a winger for Berhalter.It also raises the question over Reyna’s health who did not play against Iran and has only made one brief appearance (against England) in this tournament. He’s one of the most talented players on the team, but if he is not playing right now the likely assumption is that there are questions over his fitness and health. He has suffered numerous reinjuries since his original September 2021 injury and last just a half in his recent game before the break with Borussia Dortmund. If he is not coming off the bench in must win game against Iran, it seems like a stretch he will start four days later against the Netherlands.

Another area where Berhalter will have to decide is in central defense. Ream has been excellent in Qatar but Berhalter has played him with Zimmerman and then Carter-Vickers. One of the reasons why Berhalter started Carter-Vickers against Iran is that he expected Iran to sit back similar to how Scottish opponents sit back against Celtic. But against the Netherlands, the U.S. will be back on its heels more. Does that then make Zimmerman the preferred option as he was against England?

Finally, what does Berhalter do about center forward? Sargent worked very hard against Iran, connected with his wingers, and was an asset in defense. He could be a good option against the Netherlands if he is healthy.

But if Sargent isn’t healthy (which is a real concern), then it will come down to either Haji Wright or Jesus Ferreira. Wright hasn’t played well in Qatar either off the bench against Wales and Iran or when he started against England. Because of that, Ferreira could have a realistic chance to start against Holland. He presses well, connects well with his teammates, and moves well. He had a great season with FC Dallas but struggled in the final weeks. Still, Berhalter might be looking for a different look.

Against the Netherlands, Berhalter is facing some serious decisions and ways to get the most out of his squad amid serious concerns over the health and form of several key players. If the U.S. team plays up to its ability, an upset is realistic.

Gregg Berhalter report card: How USMNT coach fared in World Cup win against Iran

By Jeff RueterNov 30, 2022120


The United States men needed all of their collective resolve to see out a 1-0 win over Iran, securing a place in the round of 16. So often, analyzing a match requires highlighting the heroes on the pitch and putting player performances under the microscope. With Paul Tenorio and Sam Stejskal expertly handling that angle from Qatar, we’re going to take a different approach and focus on the man on the touchline.After earning a C-grade in his World Cup coaching debut against Wales and a B+ against England, let’s take a look at the decisions Gregg Berhalter made against Iran. You’ll get brief first-take reactions from during the action before longer insight from the hours following the match.And, for your peace of mind as you get beyond the first section: no, the Vibes grade does not impact his weighted final average, just as it didn’t against England. Reframe your inevitable jokes accordingly. 


Line-up/initial tactics

First impression: Long derided as “an MLS coach” by his critics among the fanbase, Berhalter broke from tradition by playing a line-up devoid of players from the domestic league. The final MLS regular, Walker Zimmerman, made way for Celtic defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, while Josh Sargent returned to the starting striker role after Haji Wright had played against England. 

It’s oddly assuring to see so much of the line-up unchanged for a third straight game. It’s clear that Berhalter has established (most of) his first-choice team and the cohesion showed in their interplay and pressing against England. Sargent will need to do better than he did against Wales (when he was largely ineffective beyond early build-up) and it’s a big call to trust Carter-Vickers for his World Cup debut in this spot.

Lasting impression: Throughout qualifying, the theme was that Berhalter entered a game with one idea and, too often, needed to make radical changes at the break. For a third straight match in this World Cup, it was his first impression which proved stronger than what was to come.Line-up consistency has been a major advantage for the U.S. in close games — use Iran for contrast, as only six starters from their win against Wales began the match on Tuesday. International soccer is often less tactically astute than its club alternative due to the lack of training these teams get before a tournament.Still, cementing a (high-level) midfield trio of Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie has ensured the United States don’t get caught up in overly stretched games. The game management approach may make close contests intensely stressful in the final minutes, but it has lulled all three Group B opponents into playing as a worse version of their usual selves.

The real gambit was unleashing Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson in the first half. Held in a more defensive mindset against Wales, the two were vital to keeping Iran from settling into a compact low block as they had intended. It stretched Iran’s defense and forced marking shifts which unsettled their shape in the first half, allowing for several great scoring opportunities. It was just dessert that Dest got credit for the assist for Christian Pulisic’s decisive goal, even if McKennie ought to get his flowers for an impeccable ball from deep.Out of possession, Berhalter kept the 4-4-2 shape which nullified England, but this time it was Musah moonlighting as a right midfielder rather than McKennie. The defensive awareness of the midfielders helped buy Dest and Robinson some time as they returned to their defensive positions and kept the relatively slow center-backs Carter-Vickers and Tim Ream from being overrun on the break.That first half was as sturdy as it was sexy. I can’t think of a much more encouraging way to approach a must-win game.

Grade: A+


Vibes

We got a good omen early on, as Berhalter managed his first televised behind-the-back bounce pass of the tournament in the fourth minute. It came with some poetic justice, as Ream — who played just once in qualifying but has been beyond dependable in Qatar — was the recipient of his coach’s standby gimmick.Berhalter was on his A-game for an elimination match. He stuck with a T-shirt, this time pairing a black shirt with black pants. Respected kicks artist The Surgeon gave a crucial assist by making some custom red-white-and-blue Air Jordan 1s for the occasion.

(Photo: Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

I agree with colleague Caoimhe O’Neill’s assessment that the underdressed approach can often do his shoe game a disservice. Personally, a tee-and-blazer look would up that ante. Still, The Surgeon recognized the moment and came through.

Grade: If I say F, will you hold your comments?


Tactical tweaks/half-time adjustments

First impression: Once again, Berhalter took a pretty reserved approach to in-game management. If anything, the U.S. played a more conservative approach to the second half after Pulisic gave his body up for a goal late in the first. They created fewer clear-cut chances and were trying to control the match to avoid letting Iran back in. The big pivot came as stoppage time neared, leaving the team with just one true attacker and running out the prevent defense. 

Lasting impression: I’ve got to show my hand here for posterity: I’m not a proponent of throwing in extra defenders and embracing a flurry of crosses. I’ve seen far too many examples of a team absorbing that pressure and wilting, losing points in the process. It would’ve been one thing if a draw would have taken the U.S. through but when a single goal would’ve turned triumph into tragedy, it was a gamble that seemed unnecessary to make.

Look, Iran waited a long time to turn the temperature up. Pulisic’s injury and the related delay may have eliminated any chance of a quick response but the U.S. was as responsible as Iran in dictating the tempo of events for the first 20 minutes or longer of the second half. It wasn’t until Timothy Weah (who was excellent again on the right and nearly added the second goal if it weren’t for the finest of offside margins) and Dest made way for Nashville SC duo Zimmerman and Shaq Moore in the 82nd minute that Iran really put Matt Turner under duress.

There were ways to avoid this and nearly all of them will be more relevant in the next section. It still seemed like an unnecessary risk, the scale of which could have been lessened with a slightly less fortifying approach.

Grade: D


Substitutions

First impression: The first chance was one of necessity but I like the call for Brenden Aaronson in Pulisic’s place. The Leeds United man is an expert at pressing and brings interplay potential with his midfielder’s mentality, which could free up McKennie even more in attack. Kellyn Acosta makes sense to keep the engine room whirring in McKennie’s stead and is the U.S’s best set-piece specialist. It’s unfortunate to see Sargent — whose hold-up play was invaluable on Tuesday — leave due to injury but Wright does offer better hold-up play than Jesus Ferreira. 

But the bunkering in… must we?

Lasting impression: There are three mentalities of substitutions made in this game, so let’s separate them accordingly.

The first is the most obvious: those necessitated by injuries. It was downright heroic to see Pulisic limp across the field until half-time to ensure Berhalter didn’t need to use one of his three sub windows and Sargent was similarly dinged up by the time his number graced the fourth official’s board. Aaronson made an immediate impact with his pressing, nearly creating a chance off a defender’s heavy touch within the first two minutes of play resuming. Wright did little to change the game up top but became a vital outlet once stoppage time began. 

The only example of the second type — that is, a coach being free to choose who comes off and who replaces him — was when McKennie made way for Acosta. The Juventus midfielder had started to look leggy as the second half progressed. Given how vital his work rate is to his overall effectiveness, a tired McKennie is undeniably a worse version of himself. Acosta kept up the intensity that the U.S. needed to carry them through the next 20 minutes.

The third came from a place of desperation, yearning to see out a 1-0 result when a single conceded goal would have knocked the United States out. Zimmerman made up for his gaffe against Wales with a result-saving clearance inside the six-yard box and was mostly imperious at heading away crosses.

As for Moore… I’ll leave it up to U.S. legend and The Athletic columnist Clint Dempsey, working as a FOX analyst: “I saw him raise his arm saying, ‘My bad’ more than he completed a pass.”

Grade: C+


Final marks

It was effective but it’s easy to envision that a stronger attacking team would have done better with the chances Berhalter’s side handed Iran late in the match.

The Iran manager Carlos Queiroz will understandably be wishing that Alireza Jahanbakhsh had kept himself free of suspension as the Feyenoord winger could have done wonders to help his team’s attack in the second half. Queiroz worked with who he had. Even if they were clearly chasing a goal, it didn’t seem effective until the U.S.’s response.

The decision to go for a prevent defense doesn’t instil me with much confidence, especially when the U.S. had created so many chances for the opening hour of the match. 

Ultimately, the U.S. didn’t seem overpowered by Iran until Berhalter’s changes let the opposition back in. It worked out this time and he’s had a pretty good tournament to date, but one has to wonder if we really needed to bite through so many fingernails late in the game.

Grade: B

The key U.S. talking points you may have missed at the World Cup…

By Sam Stejskal 6h ago


The U.S. men’s national team’s dramatic 1-0 win against Iran on Tuesday will likely go down as one of the most memorable victories in their history: A must-win game, an intense atmosphere, a white-knuckle period of stoppage time and, ultimately, relief.We looked at the big picture of what the win meant for the World Cup here in Qatar and for a squad that is meant to grow together before a 2026 World Cup to be played largely on home soil.There were so many pieces to the Iran victory that, when looking back, were crucial in how the game played out. Walker Zimmerman’s standout substitute performance, Cameron Carter-Vickers’ solid first start of this entire World Cup campaign, including the qualifiers, at center-back, Sergino Dest’s continued good play, and the U.S.’s inability once again to take full advantage of their attacking moments.There were also some controversial decisions from head coach Gregg Berhalter that dropped the U.S. into a more defensive posture in the second half. But the coach has had a very good tournament on the whole…


Berhalter’s bold move at center-back paid off

Berhalter made a significant change to his starting XI on Tuesday, dropping Zimmerman and inserting Carter-Vickers alongside Tim Ream at center-back.Zimmerman has been one of the U.S.’s steadiest players since October, when he was called into the squad and inserted into the line-up after Ream and fellow center-back John Brooks withdrew from that window of qualifiers.He captained the U.S. in their final qualifier in March, then again in their second to last game before the World Cup in September. As expected, he then started the first two matches here in Qatar.

 cameron-carter-vickersCameron Carter-Vickers battles for the ball against Iran (Photo: John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

For the most part, he played well, but he had a few shaky moments, including the costly penalty he gave up against Wales and a few errant passes and giveaways against England.To see Zimmerman benched for such a crucial game was still surprising. Berhalter said he felt Carter-Vickers’ extensive experience playing against low blocks in the Scottish Premiership with champions Celtic would help the U.S. in its distribution against an Iran team that figured to sit deep. He was right. Carter-Vickers put in a solid shift and looked comfortable on the ball, completing 58 of his 65 attempted passes and, crucially, not committing any dangerous turnovers.Berhalter said it was difficult to let Zimmerman know he was being benched, but they spoke about an important role he could play in the late stages. “We talked to him beforehand about the plan to come into a back five,” Berhalter said. “And we said it was gonna be really important for him to win the aerial duels — he did just that.”Indeed, he did. Zimmerman came on with eight minutes of the 90 to play and was immense in the middle of the back five, dominating aerially and crucially clearing the ball off the line after it popped toward goal following a 98th-minute challenge between goalkeeper Matt Turner and Iran striker Mehdi Taremi. Zimmerman said after the match that he was naturally saddened when Berhalter told him on Monday he wasn’t starting, but that he quickly shifted his approach to being as good a team-mate as he could while remaining focused on the job he might have to do off the bench to help the U.S. close out the match.That kind of mindset is critical in a tournament setting. It is natural for players to be disappointed when they are not on the field, especially those such as Zimmerman, who have been a big part of a team for so long, but being able to positively contribute from a reserve role can still make a difference. His performance did not go unnoticed by his colleagues.“Obviously, he played well in the first game but gives away a penalty, then bounces back against England, has a really good game, keeps a clean sheet,” said left-back Antonee Robinson.“After that, he would have been disappointed to not be starting, but he comes on and I just remember seeing him jumping up and winning about three or four headers in a row and thinking, you know, ‘That’s someone not thinking about himself, that’s someone giving everything, putting his body on the line for the team’.“That’s what’s got us through — the overriding feeling that it’s just everyone giving their all for the team.”

Along with Turner, full-backs Robinson and Dest and midfielders Tyler AdamsYunus Musah and Weston McKennie, the center-backs once again put in a top-tier defensive performance.The U.S. has defended excellently all tournament, with two clean sheets and only conceding through that Gareth Bale penalty.According to FBref.com, they have only allowed 2.3 expected goals in the group stage — the third-lowest total among the eight teams who had played all three group matches as of Wednesday morning. That number is also lower than 10 of the 24 teams who had played just twice. It has been impressive.

Are USMNT’s World Cup last 16 opponents called Holland or the Netherlands?


Dest continues to dazzle

Entering the World Cup, there were zero doubts about Dest’s talent, but there was a question about whether he would play with enough discipline to get the most out of his substantial gifts.

For club and country, Dest has a tendency to freelance. The right-back, on loan at AC Milan from Barcelona, is a skilled attacker but can sometimes become a bit too enamoured with that side of the game, dribbling into trouble or neglecting his defensive responsibilities in a manner that can cost his team.None of that has shown up in Qatar. Dest has been rock solid defensively, doing a good job of remaining organized and in touch with his fellow defenders and winning key challenges.

“He was unbelievable,” goalkeeper Turner said after the win over Iran. “Free flowing, up and down the field. And what I’ve noticed the most about him is he always seems to show up defensively in big moments. He’s tracking runners in the box really, really well.”

Dest has also contributed plenty to the attack, teaming up with McKennie and Timothy Weah to control the right side against England before being involved in a few chances on Tuesday.His most notable involvement came with the goal. Dest made an excellent run in behind the left side of the Iran defense. McKennie played a lovely ball over the top that Dest got on the end of in the area. Instead of heading the ball toward goal, he smartly angled it towards the onrushing Christian Pulisic at the opposite post, allowing the winger to bury the chance from a few yards out for what turned out to be the winner which brought qualification for the knockout phase.It came through different players but, remarkably, the goal was a carbon copy of one the U.S. scored way back in the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup.It was a move the U.S. worked on explicitly ahead of the Iran match. They have drilled it repeatedly, drawing Iran to one side of the field, then dropping the ball back to a midfielder who has enough time to pick his head up and hit a diagonal ball to an advancing full-back on the opposite side.“We talked about it before the game. That exact, exact play was how we were going to score,” Ream said. “Credit to Serg, seeing that he could hit the ball back across. And Christian was told before the game. ‘Crash that back post’. That’s exactly what he did and it happened. Perfect, perfect, perfect setup.”


Chances need to be taken in attack

The U.S. got themselves into some excellent positions against Iran. As The Athletic’s Ahmed Walid outlined in his tactical breakdown on Wednesday, the Americans worked extremely well down the left flank, with the wide rotations between Pulisic, McKennie and Robinson unbalancing Iran.

Those rotations helped create space for McKennie to find Dest in the build-up to the goal.

 TIM-WEAH-USAWeah was one of the forward players guilty of missing a good chance (Photo: Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Despite all of that, the U.S. still struggled once they arrived in the final third. That has been a common theme throughout their World Cup campaign. They have done well to control the run of play but have largely struggled to turn their pressure into chances and goals.Some of that is understandable — it’s difficult for just about every team to score goals at a World Cup. Some of it, though, has been down to poor decision-making and execution in the most important areas on the field. We saw that again versus Iran.

The misfires started in the second minute, when Pulisic squandered an opportunity to play Josh Sargent through into the box, instead dribbling and losing the ball after a lengthy run forward.

There was another poor decision in the 19th minute, when McKennie did not see and failed to play a relatively easy through ball that would have put Pulisic in for a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Weah had a chance that should have been far more dangerous in the 28th minute, heading a weak attempt on goal when he had the time and space to take the ball down and hammer a shot.

The U.S. made all the right choices five minutes later, but an open Weah missed the target entirely from about 12 yards. He and Sargent also failed to even attempt a shot on a two-on-two break they had on the stroke of half-time.

That came just before some excellent combination play between Weah, Musah and McKennie ended with Musah dribbling into trouble instead of playing a simple square pass that would have put an onrushing Weah into the area.

Excluding the Weah goal disallowed for offside, that’s six different moments in the first half alone where the U.S. was in a great spot to attack, but failed to capitalize because of poor choices, poor execution or a combination of the two.

No team is ever going to finish every solid attacking movement, but the U.S. would have had a much, much less anxious evening had they been just a little bit more efficient against Iran.

If they want to make a run in the knockouts, they will need to be more clinical.

USA vs. Iran, 2022 World Cup: Man of the Match

One performance soared above all the others. By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Dec 1, 2022, 10:11am PST  Stars and Stripes

Iran v USA: Group B - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

The United States Men’s National Team qualified for the knockout stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Iran in their final group stage match on Tuesday. Christian Pulisic’s first half goal was the difference in a match that had USMNT fans everywhere pacing with anxiety for much of the match.

The only chance for the USMNT to advance to the knockout stage was with a win, so it was important that Pulisic was able to score, and give up his body in the process. He left the match at halftime with what was diagnosed as a pelvic contusion, after he collided with Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand while scoring the game-winning goal. His performance in the first half was enough for the SSFC community, who voted him the Man of the Match with an average 8.40 rating.

We know that most of you already have a rooting interest in the World Cup. But that’s probably just habit. SB Nation has devised a quiz based on your style of sports fandom that will scientifically* decide which team you really should be rooting for. Take it here!

*no actual science was used, your mileage may vary

The full set of community ratings:

Christian Pulisic – 8.40

Tyler Adams – 8.19

Sergiño Dest – 7.97

Tim Ream – 7.62

Yunus Musah – 7.49

Matt Turner – 7.35

Weston McKennie – 7.15

Josh Sargent – 7.15

Cameron Carter-Vickers – 6.94

Walker Zimmerman – 6.72

Tim Weah – 6.71

Antonee Robinson – 6.68

Brenden Aaronson – 6.45

How USA’s left-side rotations wreaked havoc against Iran

By Ahmed Walid Nov 30, 2022 54


Perhaps the biggest compliment a national team can get nowadays, from a technical perspective, is for them to look like a domestic team.This winter World Cup has meant there is little preparation time; most countries only had a week before the tournament started. Therefore, it doesn’t look out of place that we are witnessing poor attacking solutions with mid-blocks and off-ball organisation taking over.However, there are a few sides who do look like a domestic team. One of those is the United States, who are not only showcasing their organisation off the ball, but on it, too.

A feature of Gregg Berhalter’s side in possession is their rotations out wide, and this aspect of their attacking game was essential in their win against Iran to secure a place in the round of 16.

The U.S. started in their regular 4-3-3, while Iran’s shape without the ball was initially a 4-4-1-1.

Throughout the first half, it was common to see Weston McKennie in a left-back position with Christian Pulisic moving inside and Antonee Robinson, the actual full-back, ahead of both down the touchline.

Robinson is so high, below, that he isn’t even in the frame.

McKennie regularly notified Robinson about these rotations, constantly signalling to the Fulham left-back to push forward so they could switch positions…

… and this disrupted Iran’s right side. With Robinson pushing forward and Pulisic on that side, Ali Gholizadeh, Iran’s right-winger, was unaware whether he should drop or keep his positioning…

… and Pulisic’s movement inside into the half-space just added more confusion regarding who should pick up who.

Ahmad Nourollahi’s movement towards McKennie could have created a gap in the centre of the midfield because Iran played with only two central midfielders.

That is why McKennie was always signalling for Robinson to push forward, so he could drop into that free left-back position (Berhalter, below, can be seen pointing for Robinson to push up).

Because of the threat of Pulisic in the half-space, Ramin Rezaeian, Iran’s right-back, and Gholizadeh were dragged out of position…

… Nourollahi had to drop to defend the centre of the pitch, which allowed McKennie free reign.

Here, the Juventus midfielder signalled for the ball to be played into him because Nourollahi was dropping and Gholizadeh was dragged away by Robinson’s movement up the pitch…

… but the ball isn’t played into him and Tim Ream decides to go for the longer pass towards Robinson.

In the first half, McKennie was orchestrating the U.S. build-up, providing instructions to Robinson and telling his back line where he wanted the ball.

Once Robinson’s movement forward dragged Gholizadeh away, McKennie became free to receive the ball…

… as Nourollahi couldn’t leave the centre of the pitch; his starting position was often too far from the ball.

So, a pass from Tyler Adams into McKennie here was collected easily by the latter with room to take his time and pick the pass. These rotations didn’t only allow McKennie more time and space, they created space out wide, with Pulisic’s movement dragging Rezaeian inside the pitch as Robinson pushed forward.

Nourollahi’s starting position in the centre of a midfield four positioned him too far from McKennie when the American dropped into that left-back position.

This meant McKennie had all the time he needed to ping those long passes.

And when the Iran midfielder pushed up, the smart movement from Pulisic and Robinson forced his right-back, Rezaeian, and right-winger, Gholizadeh, into uncomfortable positions…

… so he had to drop and protect the centre of the pitch, which meant McKennie was free to receive the ball.

In this attack, Adams played the pass first into Ream…

… who then found McKennie with Gholizadeh unable to move up because of the threat of Robinson and Nourollahi being too far from the American midfielder.Another effect of these rotations was that with Pulisic dragging Rezaeian with him…

… it created a gap in the Iranian defensive block, which McKennie played passes through.

Carlos Queiroz and his staff probably identified the problem as the switch to a 4-5-1 made sense. In this shape, Nourollahi moved up freely to press McKennie as there was now central cover behind him.

The problem for Iran was that Mehdi Taremi was late to arrive in the press on one occasion. So the five-man midfield became a four-man midfield and the U.S. rotations kicked in.

In the attack that led to the winner, Pulisic’s inside positioning dragged Rezaeian with him. Out wide, Gholizadeh dropped even before Robinson did to fill the gap created because of Rezaeian’s movement. This forced Nourollahi to retreat, especially with Taremi’s late recovery making it a four-man midfield…

… which increased the distance between the Iranian midfielder and McKennie.

Adams’ pass into Robinson dragged Nourollahi further away to support his right-winger…

… so the quick pass backwards from Robinson meant Adams and McKennie had more time on the ball without any pressure.

After McKennie received the pass from Adams, he plays it over the Iranian defence to the advancing Sergino Dest. While that was occurring, Pulisic’s position in the left half-space allowed him to put himself in a good scoring position when Dest heads the ball into his path…

… and he eventually scored the priceless winner.

The U.S.’ wide rotations have been a key theme for Berhalter’s side during the World Cup and it helped in breaking down the Iranian defence.

Now the question is, can it help the Americans reach their first World Cup quarter-final in 20 years?

How Sergiño Dest, a ‘different’ sort of Dutchman, was drawn to the USMNT

How Sergiño Dest, a ‘different’ sort of Dutchman, was drawn to the USMNT

Sam Stejskal Nov 14, 2022

To better understand the U.S. men’s national team before it begins the World Cup in Qatar, The Athletic traveled to the hometowns of several of its most important figures. We found a squad shaped not only by American society, but also influenced by traditions from every corner of the globe.


“Art for the sake of art,” bestselling Dutch author Auke Kok once said, means nothing in the Netherlands.

“It’s not appreciated,” Kok told David Winner in “Brilliant Orange,” Winner’s seminal work on the intersection of Dutch football, history and culture. “Art must have a goal. We say: What is the function? That’s a very deep Dutch principle. What’s the use? What’s the purpose? What’s it for?”That sort of mindset is borne of the Netherlands’ geography. A full 26 percent of the country’s land mass is below sea level. Most of that terrain was man-made, reclaimed from the water and now kept dry by a massive network of canals, pumping stations and dikes. It’s a small and crowded nation, with nearly 18 million people squeezing into an area not much larger than the state of Maryland. The never-ending fight with the sea and the sheer number of humans in such a tiny country mean space is at a premium. Every slice of land must be accounted for, every building and public area meticulously designed and planned. “The Dutch are pragmatic, right? That’s in our history,” said New England Revolution assistant coach Dave van den Bergh, a native Amsterdammer who came up through the famed Ajax academy and earned one cap for the Netherlands before ending his playing career and beginning his coaching journey in the U.S. “We had to be pragmatic with space, with architecture. We had to be pragmatic in our battle with the water, to find new land, all that stuff.”When Van den Bergh was growing up, that pragmatism governed the country’s football. He graduated from Ajax’s academy to its first team in 1995. That squad, which had won the UEFA Champions League weeks before Van den Bergh was promoted, is still considered one of the best in the history of the sport. But while the group was immensely talented, it didn’t play with too much flair. Manager Louis van Gaal built the team more around clever solutions than fantastical visions. “Everything was very, very functional,” Van den Bergh said. “There was not a whole lot of, let me say, YouTube-worthy moves. As a team, the soccer was really good, the spacing was good, everything was good about that team. They were world champions for a reason. But you do not go and watch that team to go for an individual highlight reel.” Things have of course changed over the years, but Ajax, understandably, still broadly sticks with the same approach. With few exceptions, players are expected to understand their position and those of their teammates, to really think about their movements and actions, to play quickly and simply. It’s largely the same for the Dutch national team, which is now led by Van Gaal. In Holland, in both soccer and life, function generally dominates form and egalitarianism usually takes precedence over individuality.Sergiño Dest never fit with that mindset. Perhaps that’s part of why the Ajax product won’t be suiting up for his native Netherlands at the World Cup. Instead, he will represent the homeland of his father, the United States.In 2016, Van den Bergh, then the head coach of the U.S. U-15 team, led the initial effort to bring Dest into the U.S. program in 2016 after a contact at Ajax told him about an academy player who happened to be an American citizen.“He’s different,” said Van den Bergh. “That’s a strength of his. Hopefully it doesn’t become a weakness.”


Dest’s hometown of Almere. (Photo: Sam Stejskal)

Dest’s story began in Almere, a city of slightly more than 200,000, about 25 miles east of central Amsterdam. Almere is the Netherlands’ newest city. The land on which it sits wasn’t reclaimed (through damming off portions of a body of water and then pumping all of it out) until the late-1960s. The first residents didn’t move in until 1976. Where old Amsterdam is tight, cramped and vertical, with the tall, narrow buildings on some of the inner city’s cobbled streets seeming to lean in toward each other, Almere is spread out, modern and colorful. The buildings here have an almost whimsical quality to them. Some of the homes wouldn’t look out of place in a Dr. Seuss book. Almere has served as a fascinating laboratory for city planning, a destination for architecture enthusiasts and an illustration of how municipalities can successfully integrate nature into an urban environment. It’s experimental — residents are regularly encouraged to give input and make choices about land use and infrastructure design. Politicians, architects and planners from every corner of the globe travel here to look at and learn from the city.The core of town, though, is a bit antiseptic. The exit from the central train station deposits riders into what amounts to an outdoor mall populated with international chains like Zara, H&M and Burger King. There are still canals and bikes everywhere. It’s still Dutch. It’s just a bit different than the norm.“It was built up more or less like an American city, with suburbs,” said Van den Bergh. “It’s like suburbia, almost.”Things get a little bit more interesting once you move out of downtown. De Fantasie, a cluster of about a dozen homes located across a small lake from central Almere, became reality through a contest commissioned by the city to build the simplest houses imaginable. There were a few parameters, including a rule banning the use of any foundations in construction.One of the most well-known homes there was designed in 1982 by architect Jan Benthem, who was responsible for modernizing Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. It consists of four tiny, windowless box rooms and one large, open living space encased in glass walls overlooking a canal. It’s held up by a latticework of radiant green steel triangles. It’s a striking, modern home, a monument to simplicity. Benthem, whom Winner interviewed in “Brilliant Orange,” still lives in it.

Architect Jan Benthem’s home in De Fantasie. (Photo: Sam Stejskal)

“I think it is very Dutch to look for a simple solution,” Benthem told Winner. “And the biggest thrill in our work is to find an even simpler solution. That is what we like. In the end the most satisfying solution is the one where you have cleared everything away and there is no solution at all any more but, at the same time, the problem has been solved.”

Dest grew up not far from De Fantasie. His father Kenneth, now 74, was born in Suriname, which at the time was a Dutch colony, but he moved with his family to Brooklyn as a youngster. After playing soccer at SUNY Canton in upstate New York, the elder Dest was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the Vietnam War. He remained in the military after Vietnam, and was eventually stationed in Germany. While there, he’d occasionally travel to Amsterdam for leisure time. He met Sergiño’s mother, a Dutchwoman of Surinamese origin, on one such trip. They began dating, broke up due to the strains of long distance, but later ended up back together, with the couple ultimately settling in Almere, where they had Sergiño. At school, Dest stood out to his teachers from a young age — not because of any special talent, but for the way he held himself apart from the group.“They always noticed that whenever the students had to do things together, he always was outside the circle a bit, observing the people, not really in the middle of it,” said Kenneth Dest. “That was his nature. Seeing what type of individuals they were, not always jumping in, a bit quiet.” Although he kept some distance at school, Dest was always comfortable with a ball at his feet. But even his football preferences were a bit unusual for a Dutch kid coming of age in the 2000s. Growing up, he didn’t idolize Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie or the other stars who led the Netherlands to a runner-up finish at the 2010 World Cup. Rather, he latched on to a trio of big-name, flashy Brazilians.“I watched little movies from Ronaldinho, from good soccer players — Robinho, Ronaldo Lima — and I was always practicing them outside of my home,” Dest said from outside Zonnewiel in a video produced by U.S. Soccer in 2020. “I trained myself really hard, I tried to do every trick and I couldn’t go inside ’til the trick worked out.”

To anyone who has seen Dest play for Ajax, Barcelona, AC Milan or the U.S., the fact that he spent a good chunk of his youth trying to emulate Ronaldinho will come as no surprise. The 22-year-old, who spent part of his youth career as a winger, is masterful with the ball, capable of sublime tricks uncommon for any player, nevermind a right back. 

Read more: England 0-0 USA: All-action McKennie, retreating Kane and how USMNT dominated right side

It’s a special talent, but it’s also antithetical to the classic Dutch approach. Dest can play simple, one- and two-touch soccer. Watching some of his better performances, it’s clear that he understands tactics and knows how to play the role that his coach asks of him. But the strong undercurrent of individualism in his game rises to the surface fairly often. Dest sometimes looks uninterested in playing the role that his team requires of him. Occasionally, he’ll neglect his defensive duties or dribble into trouble. His game is rarely simple. Sometimes that works in his favor, other times it burns him. Either way, Dest is decidedly not pragmatic.

“He works his ass off every single day, whether it’s on the field, whether it’s off the field, he does a lot of stuff for himself,” said Van den Bergh. “Now, whether it is always the right thing? He loves to do tricks and all that kind of stuff, sometimes I think coaches would like to see him put a little bit more effort into the tactical part of his game, or functional technique instead of the tricks. When you’re a right back, maybe you don’t want to do too many of those in your own 18-yard box.” 

That kind of approach made things difficult for Dest at Ajax. He joined the club’s academy from the youth system of second-division side Almere City FC in 2012 at the age of 12. He didn’t start regularly for the club until he reached the U-17s, though. Part of the reason that Ajax staffer tipped Van den Bergh off to Dest in 2016 was because, as a reserve in the Ajax academy, Dest wasn’t seen as a legitimate prospect for the Dutch youth national team setup. To them, his unpredictable style made him expendable. 

Dest ended up joining and sticking with the U.S., in part because of the pride that both he and his father, who served in the U.S. military for roughly 25 years before retiring from the Army in 1994, feel in their Americanness, and in part because the program prioritized him in a way that the Dutch national team never did.

“He felt a sense of loyalty,” said Kenneth Dest. “He played in the youth World Cup with the U.S. He got his chances with the U.S., not with the Netherlands. Only after he started growing as a player, then all of a sudden they had an eye for him. But you could always see the steady line with the U.S. The loyalty, that matters to him.”

Dest with Ajax’s U-19 team. (Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images)

His freewheeling tendencies weren’t the only thing that put him at a disadvantage at Ajax. Dest, to this day, has a habit of questioning everything. His queries extended well beyond trying to understand tactics and his role in the team. Every drill, every task and every gym session at De Toekomst would be accompanied by him asking why he had to perform it, no matter how much the inquiries broke protocol or annoyed staffers.

In small doses, that curiosity is a great trait for a kid. It shows a natural desire to understand more about one’s surroundings. But to do so every hour of every day? In an environment that puts as much emphasis on adherence to systems as Ajax? It wore on people.

“They’re looking at you like you’re here to learn, and you’re not to question why,” said Kenneth Dest. “You’re just to do what we ask. Sergiño is not that. Maybe it’s like me, his mother, we’re both kind of headstrong, too. And in the States, the question in the States, when I went to school, you always ask ‘why?’ And the teacher gave you an answer. But not in the Netherlands. They don’t like it if younger people are asking questions. And he did it in a naive way, which brought him into trouble with some of them at Ajax.”

Dest, of course, didn’t let anyone’s negative perception of him close any doors. The bullheadedness that so aggravated some of his coaches at Ajax is the same quality that kept him working so hard when it seemed as if he didn’t have much of a chance of making it to the big time. “He literally does not care about what anyone thinks of him,” Van den Bergh said. “That is a really good trait to have, because he was told no a million times when he was younger at Ajax. ‘No, you’re not good enough. No, you’re not a starter. No, no, no.’ And he just didn’t care. He kept on going. That’s a great quality to have.

“The downside of that, what I hope doesn’t become his downfall — he can be, how shall I put this politely, he can be difficult to deal with when he feels treated unjustly. That’s a little bit of a Dutch trait in him, I think. The part where his mentality can work to his benefit, the part where he never gives up, is an American trait.”

Up until now, Dest has gotten the balance mostly right. He stuck with it at Ajax, broke through with the club’s reserve side early in the 2018-19 season, then, after well-regarded academy product and current Bayern Munich defender Noussair Mazraoui suffered an injury later that fall, Dest emerged with the first team. He was a regular starter as Ajax finished first in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 Eredivisie season, performing well enough to secure a €21 million transfer to Barcelona in October 2020. 

It was a dream move for Dest, a longtime Barcelona fan who, according to fellow U.S. defender Chris Richards, showed up to one of his first training camps with the U.S. U-20s wearing a full Barça tracksuit despite the fact that he hadn’t even yet made his senior debut with Ajax. 

Things didn’t go all that smoothly for him in Spain, however. He played 30 up-and-down matches in his first campaign, had a famously weird moment in August 2021 in which he showed up to Leo Messi’s farewell press conference straight from the beach and wearing a knockoff Chicago Bulls basketball uniform, then fell out of favor last season after Dutchman Ronald Koeman was fired as manager and replaced by Xavi. 

This summer, with the club in financial turmoil, Barça made clear to Dest that he wasn’t in their plans and that they would look to move him elsewhere. For a while, according to a source briefed on the situation, Dest was determined to stay in spite of that stance. He understood that he probably wouldn’t play, but he’s building a house in Spain and enjoyed life in the country. He eventually opted for a season-long loan to Milan that was sealed on the final day of the transfer window, but the fact that he even considered remaining at Barça after the club told him that he wasn’t in line for any minutes was bizarre. For most players, that would have been completely out of the question, particularly in a World Cup year.

Dest, of course, isn’t most players. Though he grew up in a country that prizes functionality and simplicity, he was born and raised in a town that’s different from the national standard. To borrow the line from Kok, on the field, Dest creates art just for the sake of it. To him, there’s plenty of meaning in that. 

That approach probably fits better with the U.S. national team than it would with the Netherlands, but it doesn’t mean Dest’s style is a perfect match with that of U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter, who spent much of his playing career in the Netherlands. He has a system, too, and he’d no doubt like Dest to not stray too far outside of it. 

When his freewheeling style works, Dest can be transcendent, generating moments of brilliance like the thunderbolt he scored in the U.S.’s win against Costa Rica during World Cup qualifying last October. When it backfires, like it did in a disengaged performance he had in the U.S.’s qualifier at El Salvador last September, it can cause problems. At the World Cup, where the U.S. could very well end up playing the Netherlands if they advance to the round of 16, the Americans will be hoping Dest finds a way to do what the best players do: Effectively blend his creativity with just a little bit of pragmatism so that he’s both secure and electric. 

Dest, Van den Bergh said, is “atypical, regardless of nationality. He’s not typical American, he’s not typical Dutch. You can’t characterize him fully either way. He’s his own person, and he’s in his own world.” 

Playing for Louis van Gaal: What USMNT can expect from a unique Netherlands coach

Playing for Louis van Gaal: What USMNT can expect from a unique Netherlands coach

Nick Miller and Daniel TaylorDec 1, 2022 45

You don’t get away with much under Louis van Gaal.Not even if you’re literally the best player in the world.In 1999, during Van Gaal’s first spell as Barcelona coach, Rivaldo had just won the Ballon d’Or, partly down to his performances in Catalonia, and partly down to his performances just behind Ronaldo in the Brazil side that reached the World Cup final. Thus, Rivaldo thought he could throw his weight around a bit: he made an oblique reference to being “abused” after collecting the Ballon d’Or and demanded that he play as a No 10 for his club, rather than on the left of a front three as Van Gaal’s system dictated.No dice. Rivaldo was told that no such positional switch would take place and he was promptly dropped. The Camp Nou crowd took the side of their manager, whistling the planet’s top player when he next appeared.“He hates it if you are an individualist and only think about yourself,” says Ronald de Boer, who was in that Barca team and first worked with Van Gaal in the late 1980s when they were both at Ajax.“The newspapers were saying, ‘He’s the best player in the world, he should be playing No 10′. Louis thought, ‘He’s a No 10, but not in my team’. He’s very strong against that: even if you’re a star, he doesn’t want you just to do your own thing.”

Louis van Gaal, RivaldoVan Gaal with Rivaldo in happier times in 1997 (Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)

Cut to 2002 and after an unsuccessful first spell as coach of the Netherlands, Van Gaal was back at Camp Nou, which was the Brazilian’s cue to leave. “Van Gaal is the main cause of my departure,” Rivaldo said. “I don’t like Van Gaal, and I am sure that he doesn’t like me either.”

Van Gaal confirmed the latter statement. “He lacked commitment to the club, he was only interested in making more money and playing less… he had illusions about Barca and was requesting to take holidays when important Champions League games were approaching. He then hides back home in Brazil.”

This is the man whose Netherlands team will face the USMNT in a World Cup round-of-16 game on Saturday. Van Gaal is older, now 71, and perhaps more aware of his own mortality after disclosing he has been treated for an aggressive form of prostate cancer. He is still, however, as uncompromising as ever.

Tim Krul will know the feeling Rivaldo once had. One of the stars the last time the Netherlands were at the World Cup under Van Gaal, he might have expected to be in Qatar even though he’s playing in the second tier for Norwich. Not so.

Van Gaal invited Krul to what was essentially a penalty training camp but the Norwich keeper, not selected in the main squad, declined. Van Gaal recognised that was Krul’s prerogative while explaining his own: “There is no future for him with the Oranje. That is the consequence of his decision.”

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This ruthlessness has not come with age. Nor is it a tactic to take egos down a peg or two. Just ask Bryan Roy. He was a fan and media darling when Van Gaal took charge of the Ajax first team in 1991 — fast, technical and perfectly suited to the front three that Cruyffian fundamentalists demand in Amsterdam.

Van Gaal was not convinced. By the summer of 1992, Roy was out. “I feel pain when I see that Roy is not working on things he should be working on,” said Van Gaal as the winger was waved off to Foggia. “I have tried to improve his effectiveness. But I do not see any improvement. I no longer believe in Roy.”

Louis van GaalVan Gaal shows his, er, eccentric side at Ajax in 1995  (Photo: Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images)

It’s easy to conclude that the popular image of Van Gaal is correct: an intimidating, semi-authoritarian figure who will not take anything approaching s*** from anyone, whether Ballon d’Or winner or academy graduate. He is the hard-nosed autocrat Luca Toni once accused of treating “players like interchangeable objects”.

And yet, for every story you can find to back that up, there are two others about him being a big cuddly softy.

“He’s a demanding coach, but if you know him he’s a lovely man,” says De Boer. “On TV, sometimes he looks like a stubborn man who hates talking to the press, but overall he’s a very warm person, a family person.

“He came for dinner at my house a couple of months ago. My partner has nothing to do with football. If you asked her where Louis was a coach she probably wouldn’t know, but she loves him. It’s an aspect people don’t see. On the outside, he puts on a hardness, to maybe protect himself from the angry press.”

Boudewijn Zenden, who played under Van Gaal for Barcelona and the Netherlands, agrees: “He’s the type of manager who is really interested in the person behind the player. He will know when it’s your missus’ birthday, or your kids’ birthdays, or if there’s a problem on a personal level — he will always be there and support you, give you a day or two off if you need it. He’s definitely not the same as the image you have from the outside.”

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“I’ve seen how it genuinely affects him when he has to disappoint players,” said Arjen Robben in a recent documentary about Van Gaal. “He believes in his principles. What you see is what you get. And he’s not going to go behind your back and slag you off to one of his assistants or hide behind a mask. In football, people often put on a show. But he’ll tell you things face to face because he’s straightforward and he’s genuine.”

Maarten Martens, one of the key men in what was arguably Van Gaal’s greatest domestic success, winning the Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar in 2009, backs that up. “Sometimes he was really hard. He was not always friendly. But what I really liked is that he was as much interested in his two- or three-star players as his No 18 or No 19 from the squad. The No 19 is also a human he wants to improve, or feel good, or make better if it’s not good enough.”

Thomas Muller, who was given his senior debut by Van Gaal at Bayern, was even more succinct: “Van Gaal and I have a relationship that goes beyond that which is normal between a player and a coach.”

Thomas Muller, Louis van GaalVan Gaal comforts Thomas Muller after Bayern lost to Inter Milan in the Champions League final in 2010 (Photo: Sascha Schuermann/DDP/AFP via Getty Images)

One element of his public image that does seem right is the size of his ego. “Louis is damned arrogant and we like arrogant people here,” was how Ajax chairman Ton Harmsen introduced his new appointment to the media back in 1992. Former Bayern president Uli Hoeness, who sacked Van Gaal in 2011, said: “His problem is that Louis doesn’t think he’s God, but God the Father. Before the world came into existence, Louis was already there.”

De Boer offers another story: “We were in the kit room when I was about 17. He looked at me and said: ‘Ronald, are you going to be a good footballer?’ He said it in that way, right in your face, like you could not dare to say no. ‘Because I know I’m going to be a great coach’.”

But there’s a subtle difference between arrogance and iron-clad self-assurance. The former is difficult to warm to, the latter is easier to respect. “I sat in my car and suddenly I realised, ‘I am trainer of Ajax’. I began sweating profusely,” he once said, of the moment he stepped up to his first big job. “That lasted for only one minute. Afterwards, I never again had that feeling.” In the mid-1990s, Van Gaal said he wanted to become the national team manager, commenting: “Even if it were just to prove my way is right, I would like to give it a try.”

There are also eccentricities: complaining that Robert Huth pulling Marouane Fellaini’s hair was an act only acceptable in “sex masochism”; throwing himself to the ground at Manchester United to illustrate an apparent dive; the infamous story of him taking a literal approach to showing his Bayern Munich players he had the balls to drop all of them, undoing his trousers during a team meeting to display the goods.

Louis van GaalVan Gaal takes a dive while managing Manchester United against Arsenal in 2016 (Photo: Simon Stacpoole/Mark Leech Sports Photography via Getty Images)

To call him demanding is an understatement. “He would see every small detail,” says Martens. “He would not accept a lack of concentration or a lack of intensity. He would expect this from everyone — staff, players, everybody.”

Detail is a word that keeps coming up. “He makes you really aware of everything — all aspects of the game,” offers Zenden. “He always has a proper game plan, and whenever you face an opponent, I can assure you there will be no surprises.”

“Behind each exercise, there is an idea,” said Daniel van Buyten, who played under him at Bayern. “We have worked well and we have had fun doing it.”

De Boer adds: “I once said, ‘Coach, I did my best’. He said, ‘What? Doing your best is what you should do always. You have to do more than only doing your best. Doing your best is nothing. It’s what you should bring along always. I expect more. I want more. I demand more’. That was typical Louis.”

That sort of thing can lead to friction, and you won’t struggle to find players who dislike him. Brazilian defender Lucio, who was sold to Inter Milan as one of Van Gaal’s first acts as Bayern coach, said that he “hurt me more than anyone else in football”. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was at Ajax when Van Gaal returned for a brief and relatively ill-advised spell as technical director, called him a “pompous ass” who “wanted to be a dictator”.

There are two places you’re most likely to find criticism of Van Gaal, one of which is among the non-Dutch players from his spells at Barcelona. You’ve already heard what Rivaldo thought of him, Hristo Stoichkov called him “mediocre” and centre-back Oleguer said that “when the performances declined, there was only attention for his image”. But the spiciest take came from Brazilian forward Giovanni.

“My life with him was horrible,” he said, shortly after leaving Barcelona for Olympiacos. “The Brazilians did not want him; he put me down and also fought with Rivaldo and Sonny Anderson. He always gave us the excuse that we were not training well. I know that he must have some trauma. He has no idea of football, does not know anything. In the time I was with him he always did the same training. He’s crazy.” On another occasion, Giovanni said Van Gaal was “the Hitler” of the Brazilian players.

Giovanni, Louis van GaalVan Gaal with Giovanni during training at Barcelona in 1998 (Photo: Matthew Ashton/EMPICS via Getty Images)

The other is from his spell at Manchester United, where his restrictive tactics and abrasive nature were not well received. His edict that first-time shots were not allowed baffled players, a symbol of how he — in the view of the players there at the time — completely stripped all semblance of individuality from them. The ‘straitjacket’ he placed on players was seen as one of the reasons Angel Di Maria failed in Manchester.“He hated tricks,” said Rafael da Silva in The Sunshine Kids, a book written with his brother Fabio. “He hated instinct. Everything had to be done by instruction. It felt like everything positive was being undone in these moments. Under Sir Alex, the emphasis had been on moving quickly. If you could go in one touch, go in one touch. Van Gaal hated that. He hated it. ‘No, no, control the ball.’ The difference seems so small but it had an incredible impact on the way we played. It slowed it down so much that it was unrecognisable.”Even more unpopular was Van Gaal’s habit of harshly criticising players in team meetings in front of their team-mates: it reached the point where some senior players met the manager to protest, which worked to a point, but led to a slightly comic to and fro. He took to emailing his criticism, complete with clips and extensive notes, but the players were so sick of his hectoring by this point that many of them would ignore the emails. However, Van Gaal got wise to this, so put a tracker on the emails that told him who did and didn’t open them. So the players would just open the emails and just leave their phone for 20 minutes or so. Few tears were shed when he left Old Trafford after two seasons.There’s little doubt that Van Gaal believes he’s right about most things, but those who have worked with him suggest he’s a little more open to feedback than you might expect.“I always found a manager that was open for discussion,” says Zenden. “If you thought that something was wrong, you could knock on his door, which was already open. You could have a conversation about the whole idea you have. He’s the type of manager who is more likely to convince you that he’s got it right, but it’s not like he will be against you because you have a different opinion.”Although, come prepared, warns Martens: “You had to have good arguments if you wanted to come to him with something or persuade him of something. You could not bring bullshit.”That openness perhaps feeds into his willingness to select young players, often ahead of established stars. The list of youngsters to whom he gave senior debuts is impressive: Xavi, Muller, Edgar Davids, Carles Puyol, David Alaba, Clarence Seedorf, Marcus Rashford. Granted, some were so talented he can hardly claim to have spotted something everyone else missed, but Muller wasn’t especially heralded before Van Gaal threw him into the Bayern team, and Alaba was a midfielder in their youth system before being told in no uncertain terms he was a defender. Van Gaal, it turned out, had a point.He’s continued this approach even now. Twenty-year-old Kenneth Taylor has barely established themselves in the Ajax first team but was handed a place in the Dutch squad for Qatar.He’s not averse to the new. “He’s definitely a coach that listens,” says De Boer, “and sees where he can make improvements, whether that’s with a penalty coach, or with new technology, or a throw-in coach. The details can make a huge difference, and he’s always open to that. He trusts his gut feeling, but he listens also.”So what’s it like to play for Louis van Gaal? Demanding, surprising, potentially stressful, occasionally unpleasant, happier and more light-hearted than you might think, frequently rewarding, rarely boring. It feels like it should be a players’ rite of passage, something everyone should experience just for a bit.

This World Cup is his last hurrah. He had retired before being tempted back for one last job, and Ronald Koeman will replace him as the Netherlands’ ‘bondscoach’ after Qatar. We’ll miss him when he’s gone.

It’s over: Three thoughts as Mexico fails to qualify for the World Cup knockout round

Jon Arnold 

November 30, 2022 7:18 pm ET

It’s over. Mexico’s World Cup. El Tri’s streak of making it out of the group stage. Tata Martino’s time leading the group.

A 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia wasn’t enough for Mexico to secure passage to the round of 16, which saw El Tri’s coach announce immediately after the game that his time in charge had come to an end.

“I’m the one responsible for this terrible disappointment we have,” Martino said. “I totally take on the responsibility for this huge failure.

“My contract expired when the referee ended the match, and there’s nothing more to do.”

It will now be a long winter for Mexican soccer fans, even as Liga MX teams play a friendly tournament in December and rumors begin to emerge about who will replace Martino as the head of the men’s national team.

But before thinking about the future, let’s take a look at three things from Wednesday’s match that sends Mexico home from Qatar:

Mexico’s elimination was of its own making

It’s easy to say results didn’t go right for Mexico after El Tri nearly pushed into the second spot in the group with a convincing victory Wednesday. The North Americans were smashing Saudi Arabia essentially from the opening kickoff, creating chances and keeping the Saudi attack from seeing any of the ball.

But Mexico also put itself in this situation. It didn’t convert any opportunities against Poland and settled for a draw in the opening game that always was going to be key.

In addition, Mexico conceded late to Argentina, failing to close down Enzo Fernandez as the Argentine scored a wondergoal in the 87th minute. That, combined with a 82nd-minute Robert Lewandowski goal against Saudi Arabia, meant Mexico was going to need a huge win and some help on the last day to get out of the group.

It almost happened, but the fact that it didn’t doesn’t come down to anyone other than Mexico for its approach and results from the first two matches.

“There’s a lot of frustration. The first two games we didn’t do enough, and that’s what leaves us out. We didn’t do what we’d been doing normally,” Mexico midfielder Luis Chávez said after Wednesday’s match.

Mexico’s elimination was confirmed Wednesday, but it’s not because of how it played against Saudi Arabia. It’s out because the Poland game wasn’t good enough for Mexico to get the result and the tactics were wrong against Argentina.

“We accept the failure we had in this World Cup. With Poland we couldn’t show the superiority we had and with Argentina we could’ve faced the second half in our typical way,” Martino said. “During tonight’s match you saw Mexico was better all game.”

Though Mexico got its only win of the tournament against the Saudis, Martino still pointed to this game to explain why advancement slipped from Mexico’s reach.

“It was lost today. Tonight it was lost. Tonight was the day we played best, that we most were able to beat the opponent, we created the most chances and I dare to say we could’ve scored the quantity of goals we needed to not depend on the other result,” he said. “But we failed. I don’t find the elimination in the other games. I find it tonight.”

Maybe so, but the job could’ve been so much easier by doing the needed work in the first games.

(Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Mexico still missed those attacking stars

We knew Jesús “Tecatito” Corona wouldn’t make it to the World Cup because of his summer ankle injury. We thought Diego Lainez and Santi Giménez might be there, but Martino didn’t select them. And we’ve known for a while Carlos Vela and all-time leading scorer Javier “Chicharito” Hernández simply aren’t in the picture for their own reasons.

And we knew Raúl Jiménez’s injury that kept him out of action for more than a month before the tournament meant he only would be able to make cameos.

Henry Martín did what he could, getting two starts at this World Cup, while Hirving Lozano may end up feeling that he had too much asked of him. Alexis Vega started hot but failed to be the perfect replacement for Tecatito that Mexico needed him to be.

Mexico exits the tournament having scored only two goals. It doesn’t take a tactical genius to say something might be wrong in the attack.

It’s hard not to think that had a few of the players who were missing — whether because of injuries, manager’s decision or external circumstances — been there, it would’ve been a huge boost for Mexico and maybe even made the difference between elimination and going through.

Luis Chávez is that dude, but who will help him in 2026?

For a player who wasn’t in the Mexico picture until this year, it’s remarkable just how crucial midfielder Luis Chávez ended up being for the national team. Chávez played the full 90 minutes of all three matches and in addition to showing strength both defending and getting forward, added one of the goals of the tournament with his free kick in the 52nd minute.

Martino called him the best player on the field in Wednesday’s match, and he’s right. In addition to the goal, he also created a scoring opportunity, put four of five shots on target and made seven recoveries. Bayer Leverkusen was openly flirting with him during the contest.

AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Chávez is a late bloomer who surged this season as a 26-year-old helping Pachuca to a title. His 27th birthday is next month. Another Chávez may come from off the radar for Mexico in the next cycle.

But there is so little youth in this current Mexico team. Just four players on the roster are under 25.

Compared to North American rivals United States and Canada, who along with Mexico will host the World Cup in 2026, it’s a huge lack of players who now have the seasoning of a World Cup as they enter the primes of their careers.

“We’ll see what’s going to happen, who has to go from this national team because this can’t happen” Chávez said. “Mexico has to get out of the group. We put the quinto partido as the goal and we couldn’t do it. The goal and the result leaves me with a bittersweet feeling.”

One of the few sweet moments in this tournament is Chávez’s emergence. Mexico now needs to find a way to get the most out of Liga MX stars like him and get more talented young players to the top levels of the club game in Europe, or else it will once again be set up for disappointment.

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11/28/22 USA vs Iran Tues 2 pm Fox, WC final Group Games thru Fri, Great WC Saves, CFC GK Coach on Way to NAIA Finals

It all comes down to Tuesday vs Iran – if the US wins – they advance to the knockout stages this weekend – if Iran (1-0-1) wins or ties they advance. This is a game the US needs to win if we want to continue to show the growth of the Golden Generation for the US before we host the World Cup in 2026. I thought US Manager Gregg Berhalter got everything right in his initial line-up vs England – going with a 10 of 11 starters from game 1 and an adjusted 4-4-2 look with a high press driving England crazy early. The US should have scored – our control of the ball vs a top 5 team in England was impressive (45-55) and we outshot them, bullied their midfield and honestly should have won this game. With the tie – the game sets up a winner take all game with Iran. We are going to half to score this game – which leads me to change line-ups below.

US Men Tuesday 2 pm vs Iran on Fox – Winner Advances

Shane’s Starters for Tues

Pulisic, Weah, Reyna or Aaronson

Musah, McKinney

Adams

Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Scally

Turner

First off bench Aaronson, Ferriera, Dest

Lets start with Reyna has to get on the field – I move Weah to the #9 slot – lets be honest none of our forwards has really shown anything this WC – let stop and get our best 11 on the field. With Reyna on the right wing – I go with Joe Scally at right back – Reyna and Scally are best buds so their chemistry should translate – with Scally a much better defender to cover for Reyna not coming back as much. The rest of the team stays steady with Pulisc and Musah on the left – I would still consider the 4-4-2 here again with Pulisic sliding to the 10 slot. McKinney played his best game in months and of course Adams is our BEST player period. The back line held steady last game vs England with Centerbacks Ream and Zimmerman both playing especially well. Of course Turner while making us nervous with his feet was flawless with his saves. Shane likes the US in this one over Iran 2-1 in a tension packed match. The US has to score first – so we better press early.

Oh and England – NO US TEAM HAS EVER LOST TO ENGLAND IN A WORLD CUP BY THE WAY – Men or Women’s !!

US vs England Hilights Your US Captain Tyler Adams Story  US CB Walker Zimmerman Ga Boy Story  US Goalkeeper Matt Turner    these 26 stories on our 26 players going to Qatar its awesome

Full U.S. Men’s roster for 2022 World Cup:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8 appearances for U.S./0 goals), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach/GER; 3/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0)

FORWARDS (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1)

World Cup News

So over 20 million people watched the US vs England making it the largest ever TV crowd for a :Men’s Game in the US – of course the 1999 World Cup Finals US Women’s World Cup still holds the record with 25 Million US viewers.

The World Cup commercials are out – which ones do you like best?  Nike  Addidas  check them all out hereIts Called Soccer – Classic Commercial   Oh and how about this stunner if true Lionel Messi set for richest deal in MLS history, summer move to Beckham’s Miami.  Congrats to IU Men’s Soccer off to their 28th Elite 8. IU Manages Marshall, Moment in Sweet 16 Win

Carmel FC GK Coach Headed to National Championships

Carmel FC GK Coach Noelle Rolfsen  GK for the Marian University Lady Knights in Indianapois is headed to Alabama next week for the NAIA National Championships.  They play Thurs Dec 1 at 5 pm and again on Sat, Dec 3 at 5 pm if they win. 

CARMEL FC GOALKEEPERS : Wednesday Night Trainings in Dec – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse 5:30 pm U12//6:30 pm U13-U14//8:30 pm HS U15+.

American Outlaws Watch Party Tuesday 2 pm Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple. https://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

WORLD CUP GAMES ON TV

Mon, Nov 28

11 am Fox                            Brazil (1-0) vs Switzerland (1-0)

2 pm Fox                     Portugal (1-0-0) vs Uraguay (0-1-0)  

Tues, Nov 29

10 am Fox                            Netherlands vs Qatar

11 am Fox Sport 1            Ecuador vs Senegal  

2 pm Fox                              USA vs Iran

2 pm FS1                              Wales vs England  

Wed, Nov 30

10 am Fox Sport 1            Tunisia vs Frane  

10 am Fox                            Australia vs Denmark  

2 pm FS1                              Poland vs Argentina

2 pm Fox                              Saudi Arabia vs Mexico  

Thur, Dec 1 –                        

10 am FS1                            Croatia vs Belgium

10 am Fox                            Canada vs Morroco

2 pm  Fox                             Japan vs Spain  

2 pm Fox                              Costa Riaca vs Germany  

Fri, Dec 2 –                            

10 am FS1                            Ghana vs Uruguay

10 am Fox                            Portugal vs South Korea

2 pm  Fox                             Cameroon vs Brazil  

2 pm Fox                              Serbia vs Switzerland

Sat, Dec 3 –                           Sweet 16 Knockout Rounds

10 am Fox                            1A vs 2 B  USA?

 2 pm  Fox                            1C vs 2 D

Sun, Dec 4 –                       

10 am Fox                            1D France vs 2C

 2 pm  Fox                            1B England? vs 2A

Mon, Dec 5 –                     

10 am Fox                            1E Spain? vs 2F

 2 pm  Fox                            1G Brazil? vs 2H

Tues, Dec 6–                      

10 am Fox                            1E Spain? vs 2F

 2 pm  Fox                            1G Brazil? vs 2H

Fri Dec 9

Fri, Dec 9                             Quarter Finals Final 8–                  

10 am Fox                           

2 pm                     

Sat Dec 10                           Quarter Finals Final 8–                  

10 am Fox                           

2 pm                     

Tues Dec 13                        Semis – Final 4                  

2 pm  Fox

Wed Dec 14                        Semis – Final 4                  

2 pm  Fox

Sat, Dec 17                          third Place                         

10 am  Fox

Sun, Dec 18                         FINALS                 

10 am  Fox

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

CARMEL FC PLAYERS : Winter Players League (WPL) – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse
As the fall season comes to a close over the next month, we wanted to let you know that we will be launching an indoor soccer league over two six week sessions within our new Badger Fieldhouse. Games will be played on either Friday night ( 6pm to 10pm) or Sunday afternoon (1pm-5pm) depending on age groups: U8s, U9&U10, U11&U12, U13-U15 and U16+ (Coed Teams allowed). Referees for each game, 50 minute games, 5v5, 7v7 and 9v9 matches.
Session One (6 weeks): Jan 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th / Feb: 3rd, 10th
Session Two (6 weeks): Feb 17th, 24th / Mar 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th
Gather teammates and be ready to play!

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US Men

 US has clear World Cup task against Iran: win or go home
US Soccer’s biggest misstep with Iran support was mistaking the World Cup for a bubble | Opinion

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Clint Dempsey: Be brave USA. Take risks and go out and play with no fear

Clint Dempsey: Be brave USA. Take risks and go out and play with no fear

Clint Dempsey Nov 28, 2022

I remember the night before my first World Cup start against Italy in 2006.I woke up from a nightmare that I played badly. That fear fueled me.Growing up, I didn’t have a league to dream about playing in. I had a highlight tape of the 1986 World Cup and I remember watching Diego Maradona and other greats. That’s what I dreamed about as a kid, the international game. That one day I’d be able to play in packed stadiums and represent my country and impact matches. At night before I’d go to bed, I prayed, man. I prayed that hopefully, I’d get that chance.So when I woke up from that nightmare, I thought about that kid in Nacogdoches, Texas. I didn’t want to have that feeling of going out there and not making a mark. I had felt that way once before: the Under-20 World Cup in 2003. I played maybe 20 minutes all tournament, coming off the bench in a game we had already won. That’s something that always sat with me. I didn’t want to let another World Cup go by that I wasn’t able to get on the field and make an impact. I didn’t want to have that feeling of going out there and not leaving it all on the field. You know what I mean?In Germany, that was something that was on my mind. You better believe I was fighting in training. I was gonna make sure I was gonna get on that field. I was gonna make them play me. I was gonna make them remember me.On Tuesday against Iran, the U.S. has to have that mentality. One game to go forward. It’s one thing to represent your country and be here, right? That’s dope. In a sense, you’ve made it. But there should be another side. You don’t wanna let this World Cup go by and you didn’t put your mark on it. You’re fighting for your country. For the people who didn’t make it back home. You’ve got to remember what it’s like to be that kid sitting at the TV, wondering if you’d ever get that chance. Hoping you’d get that chance.

Dempsey celebrates his goal in 2006 (Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

You don’t get a lot of opportunities in your life to truly do something special. And guess what? Here it is.This team, the way they played against England — with confidence, with style, taking the game to them, the way they moved, passed the ball, how they dominated midfield — it was great. Now it’s just about getting goals.There isn’t a secret to finishing. Look at the goal, pick your spot, look at the ball, make sure you hit it how you want to hit it. Sometimes things happen so quickly you don’t have a chance to think too much. But just trust it. That’s why you give everything you have in training, to replicate what it’s like in the game. It’s just a matter of time before it translates, one to the other.You can see it’s coming. The chances are there. It’s about converting. Like that Weston McKennie chance. I’m sure if he had that back, it’s in the net. You can’t put any outside pressure on it. Trust in the work you’re doing, keep shooting. Be brave. Take risks. If you don’t shoot, you don’t score. We’re getting the chances. We just got to make sure we’re putting them on frame. And if they keep doing what they’ve been doing, especially like they did in the last game, they’re gonna get the opportunities.Watching the England game made me feel real confident, because England in the last two major tournaments has done a great job. If you would have told England fans that Gareth Southgate was going to do what he was going to do — semi-finals of the World Cup, finals of the Euro — they would have bitten your hand off. And a lot of the guys on this England team had that experience. They played in a World Cup semi-final. They know what it’s like to get to a Euro final. We got guys who only know what it’s like to be in the finals of a CONCACAF Nations League and a Gold Cup. For almost everyone on this team, it’s their first World Cup. They’re learning on the go.

That shows that the future is bright for this team.

McKennie can’t believe he missed his chance (Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

I don’t think there are many midfields that can compete with ours. I’d take Yunus Musah, McKennie and Tyler Adams up against almost any midfield in this tournament. Christian Pulisic had an assist in his first game. Weston played great against England. Tyler has been great in both. Tim Ream has done a great job, he gives calmness to our team. Matt Turner has shown that he’s that No 1. Tim Weah getting our first goal is something he’ll remember for the rest of his life. And then you’ve got Brenden Aaronson and Gio Reyna, they want to make a mark on this tournament and they’re waiting in the wings.Now it’s about all these guys stepping up and showing why they should be here. You’ve got to go get out of the group. You get out of the group, people remember that. You win games, people remember that.This last game against Iran is not going to be easy. You look at our political history as countries, everybody is going to be up for that. Iran knows they likely only need only a tie to advance. The task will be made more difficult. And you could see against Wales the togetherness this Iran team has. They have a lot going on, on and off the field, back home. And that can either make you weaker or stronger. I think it’s making Iran stronger.I’ve been in these kinds of games before. Against Ghana in 2006, I scored to tie the game — a goal that changed my life — and Ghana got a penalty that I didn’t think was much of a penalty and we got knocked out. Against Algeria in 2010, I had a goal called back for offside and I wasn’t offside, and then Landon Donovan gets the goal and we go through. I remember every game and every goal of my World Cups. These are games of thin margins and big moments, and sometimes you’re on the right side of those moments and sometimes you’re not.On Tuesday, this U.S. team has got a chance to make history. We went from not making the World Cup in 2018 to being here but now, can you take it a step further? Can they take it to the next level?

What I would say is make sure you don’t leave this World Cup thinking, ‘Man, I wish I would’ve done this. I wish I would’ve done that’. Go out there and take it with both hands. Go out there and play with no fear.Make them remember you.

Iran players will not use flag controversy as motivation for USMNT game — Carlos Queiroz

Carlos Queiroz, Iran, USMNT

By Amitai Winehouse35m ago


Carlos Queiroz believes his players are not taking any motivation from the controversy around Iran’s flag ahead of their game against the United States.The US States Soccer Federation posted a graphic that included Iran’s flag without the emblem of the Islamic Republic. A U.S. Soccer spokesperson previously told The Athletic on Sunday that the federation made the change to “show support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights”.However, they have since deleted the posts. A USSF spokesperson said: “Clearly the decision we made was to show support for the women in Iran. That stands.“This is our decision, not anyone else’s or pressure from anyone else.”Iran head coach Queiroz, though, insisted he would not be motivating his players with the controversy.He said: “If after 42 years after this game I believed I could still win games with these mental games, I think I learned nothing about the game. This is not the case.”Widespread anti-government protests have raged across Iran since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in mid-September. Amini was arrested in Tehran by morality police for allegedly not covering her hair properly; she died in police custody three days later.Iran’s theocratic government has responded to the women-led protests with a deadly crackdown. According to Human Rights Activists in Iran, an advocacy group that has been monitoring the demonstrations, more than 450 people have been killed and more than 18,000 arrested as a result of the protests. Iran has not released arrest or casualty figures in months. Last week, the country blasted the UN’s announcement that it would set up a fact-finding mission to investigate the government’s response to the protests as an arrogant political ploy.U.S. Soccer removed the emblem from posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram updating the Group B standings following the U.S. men’s national team’s 0-0 draw against England at the World Cup on Friday. The third-place U.S. must beat second-place Iran in their group stage finale on Tuesday in order to advance to the knockout rounds. Iran will advance with a win or with a draw if Wales loses or draws against England on Tuesday.A USSF spokesperson said that federation had not been contacted by FIFA about removing the emblem from the flag.

The federation only made the change for its most recent social media posts that would’ve otherwise included the Iranian flag. U.S. Soccer has not removed the Islamic Republic emblem from the Iranian flag on its official website, including it on several different pages. The federation included the emblem on the Iran flag in social media posts it made on November 21.Iran introduced the Islamic Republic emblem onto its flag in 1980, one year after the Islamic Republic was established via revolution. The emblem includes four curves with a sword between them and is meant to represent the Islamic saying: “There is no god but God.”The flag has become a significant issue at the World Cup. The Associated Press reported that confrontations broke out between Iranian fans at Friday’s match between Iran and Wales in Doha, Qatar. Pro-Islamist Iranian fans, some waving the Islamic Republic flag, reportedly confronted other supporters of the national side who wore pre-revolutionary flags or shirts emblazoned with “Woman. Life. Freedom”, which has become a rallying cry for the protest movement.Queiroz did, though, heap praise on the US as a team.

Queiroz said: “Tomorrow will be a very very special game for us, for me particularly to be with the national team of Iran for the third time and to be able to move to the chance to qualify is something that makes us proud.“Once again we want to try to do our best against without any doubt, in my opinion, the most consistent and regular team that makes the best two performances in the group.“They played very well against Wales, very well against and England. All the other teams, including ourselves, were not so consistent.”The USMNT need to beat Iran to reach the last-16, while Iran could progress with a draw but would guarantee their advancement with a win.

USMNT rewatch: More struggles in front of goal, another Tyler Adams masterclass

AL KHOR, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: Weston McKennie of United States reacts after missing a chance during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between England and USA at Al Bayt Stadium on November 25, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

By Sam Stejskal Nov 27, 2022 TJHe Athletic


The U.S. men’s national team had one of its best performances in recent memory in their 0-0 draw on Friday against England, but, for all of the different ways it played well, the team once again struggled in front of goal.The U.S. was shut out, recorded just one shot on target and finished the England match with only 0.66 expected goals. Those totals came four days after the U.S. recorded one shot on goal and tallied just 0.79 expected goals in their 1-1 draw against Wales. The Americans’ two total shots on goal are the lowest of any of the 16 teams that played two matches at the World Cup prior to Sunday.The U.S.’s scoring issues aren’t isolated to the team’s run in Qatar. Dating back to a 2-0 loss at Canada in January, the U.S. has been shut out in seven of their last nine matches against World Cup opponents. The only goals in that stretch came on Monday against Wales and in a 3-0 home win against Morocco in a friendly in June.With all that said, the U.S. has actually done a much better job of getting into good positions at the World Cup than they did in their final two matches ahead of the tournament in September against Japan and Saudi Arabia, but they’ve continued to struggle with their final ball.“It’s difficult to score goals, that’s the starting point,” U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter said after Friday’s match. “And when you’re going against some top defenders in the world, it’s going to be even more difficult. For us, we were happy with the positions we got into, had some close opportunities. At times, we want to be even deeper, get the ball in front of goal, give them some problems, but at this level, goals aren’t easy.”Against Wales, Christian PulisicJosh Sargent and Tim Weah combined for an excellent team goal in the first half, a textbook play in which the U.S. disorganized the Welsh center backs with some smart movement that created space for Weah to run into for a solid finish. In the second half, the U.S. had chances to punish Wales in transition but struggled with their execution and decision-making.Opportunities were rare against England, but that was to be expected. Though they gave up a couple of consolation goals in their 6-2 win against Iran in the Group B opener, England has been excellent defensively at major tournaments under manager Gareth Southgate, conceding just eight times in 13 non-third-place games in the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020. The U.S. knew they’d have to be clinical in order to find the net on Friday. They weren’t.Weston McKennie had the U.S.’s best chance of the match in the 26th minute. McKennie was heavily involved in a well-worked, 15-pass buildup that ended with Weah whipping a cross to him in the middle of the penalty area, but he skied his right-footed attempt over the bar from eight yards.Pulisic nearly scored on a relatively innocuous opportunity in the 33rd, when he fired a speculative-looking shot from the left side of the area through a pair of England defenders, past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and off the crossbar.McKennie didn’t get over the ball and paid the price for his poor technique; he should’ve buried his chance. Pulisic made a good play out of nothing and got a little bit unlucky. Both near-misses illustrated the old truism about tight margins at the World Cup. A slip-up in one moment or an inch or two in another can make the difference between advancing to the knockout rounds or going home early.“Obviously, every player that gets an opportunity wants to put it in the bck of the net, but sometimes it’s not in the cards,” McKennie said on Friday. “That’s how it is. You can’t really change it after it happens, you can just try and keep getting goalscoring opportunities. But we still believe. If you get 100 chances, you create 100 chances, at least one of them’s going to go in eventually. I think the most important thing is that we created the chances and that we can be a threat.”There were a couple of plays later in the England match when the U.S. was once again let down by their decision-making. The first came in the 49th minute. Pulisic latched onto the ball on the left side and launched a counterattack, dribbling into the final third before finding striker Haji Wright on the flank. Wright cut in on his right foot and arrived into the box, eventually firing a shot that was blocked by England center back John Stones.ADVERTISEMENT

That was probably the wrong decision. Wright never had much of a chance of getting his shot past Stones and fellow center back Harry Maguire, who was providing cover closely behind. As you can see in the below screenshot, the U.S. likely would have had a better look if Wright had laid the ball off to an onrushing Weah at the top of the area.

That image doesn’t even show McKennie steaming into the open space to the right of Weah. Had Wright passed to him, Weah would have had the option to dummy the ball, leaving it for an unmarked McKennie, who might have been able to stroll into the box unimpeded.The U.S. made another poor choice in a big spot in the 89th minute, though it will be remembered more for the heart palpitations that it prompted than the promising attack it launched. Goalkeeper Matt Turner’s wild dribble out of his own area in that moment led to the U.S. progressing the ball up the left wing before swiftly moving it centrally, with Brenden Aaronson eventually playing fullback Shaq Moore into the right side of the area. The ball was begging to be hit first-time to Pulisic, who was making a hard run toward goal.

Inexplicably, Moore decided to set himself with a touch. That cut off his angle to play a pass across the face of goal, removing Pulisic — who, you’ll see below, had beaten Maguire — as an option. Moore ended up attempting to cut the ball back to Gio Reyna near the penalty spot, but his pass was easily dealt with by England.

Iran doesn’t have as much talent in the back as England, but they’ll probably be tough to break down in Tuesday’s must-win match for the U.S. Iran allowed just eight goals in 18 matches in Asian qualifying, the third-best mark in the entire confederation behind Japan and South Korea. Manager Carlos Queiroz started a number of normal reserves in their 6-2 defeat to England on Monday, but re-inserted his starters against Wales on Friday. They did a good job of locking down the Welsh as Iran emerged with a dramatic 2-0 win.Berhalter might consider changing his personnel for Tuesday’s match. It’s unlikely that Reyna will start ahead of McKennie, Weah or Pulisic, who have all been solid in Qatar, but Berhalter should go to him earlier than he has thus far if the Americans need a goal in the second half against Iran. It’s at least worth considering using him at striker, as well, with the Americans getting little production out of Wright and Sargent in their opening two games of the tournament. Reyna didn’t feature against Wales and only played seven minutes off the bench against England.While he may switch up his lineup, Berhalter doesn’t need to shift his tactics much. The Americans have gotten themselves in good attacking positions this tournament, but thanks to some poor execution in the final third, they haven’t turned their pressure into clear chances. When they did get good looks, they weren’t precise enough with their finishing.Opportunities are always at a premium for all but the very best teams at a World Cup. The U.S. simply need to start doing a better job with theirs.“Just need a little better luck,” Weah said after the game on Friday. “We definitely do have the opportunities, we just have to keep getting our shots off, keep doing what we do and the goals will definitely come.”

Tyler Adams shines again

He probably didn’t get as much attention after Friday’s game as Pulisic or McKennie, but captain Tyler Adams was excellent for the U.S. against England. The holding midfielder led all players with eight recoveries, making several big tackles to end promising attacks and teaming with Musah to completely stymie any attempt by England to play through the middle.This graphic from The Athletic’s John Muller was meant to be a joke, but we all know the best humor includes an element of truth. Adams was snuffing out attacks before they even began on Friday.That last feat is even more impressive when you consider that the U.S. was playing with one fewer central midfielder than usual due to Berhalter’s decision to shift from his customary 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2. McKennie was shifted out wide on Friday, meaning Musah and Adams had to patrol the middle of the field mostly on their own.The Adams-Musah duo had a particularly good play in the 20th minute. England lofted a long ball to striker Harry Kane between the midfield and defensive lines a few yards inside the U.S. half. Adams immediately made a strong run back to body the star striker, who was forced by the pressure to play a square ball to Bukayo Saka. The Arsenal winger quickly found Jude Bellingham in the middle of the field, but Musah quickly closed him down, forcing him to turn backwards before taking the ball off of him.The play was a good illustration of the defensive impact that Adams and Musah had on Friday. The situation could have been dangerous for the U.S., but their effort, intensity and defensive ability allowed the U.S. backline to drop and remain in control before Musah eventually won the ball.Adams had a couple of highlight-reel defensive plays of his own, with the best coming in the 52nd. Pulisic made a sloppy turnover in the middle third, losing the ball just as left back Antonee Robinson was making a long run up the flank. England quickly found Saka in the space Robinson had vacated. He looked likely to break into the penalty area, but Adams, who stayed with Kane just long enough to prevent a pass inside, broke at the perfect moment, riding Saka into the box then winning the ball with a perfect slide tackle.

Adams got up from the challenge yelling. It wasn’t clear if he was screaming at his teammates to clean things up or simply celebrating a tackle, but it was a big moment for the U.S. and for Adams, his biggest declaration yet that the captain’s armband should be his not just for the World Cup, but beyond.

USMNT Has Showed Promise at This World Cup—Now it Needs the Payoff

The USMNT walks away from a World Cup draw with England feeling good about its impressive performance. But without a win over Iran, its meaning diminishes.

AL KHOR, Qatar — It was prime time in Europe and the U.K. and the middle of Black Friday back in the U.S. And so there was a sense inside this stunning stadium designed to resemble a nomad’s desert tent that everyone on at least two continents, and probably more, was ensconced comfortably at home watching this narrative-rich World Cup match unfold.This was England-U.S., big brother against little brother, a high-profile tournament favorite that for many remains the arbiter of all things authentic in the global game, and an ambitious up-and-comer hoping to make a statement. You want to “change the way the world views American soccer,” as U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter and his players have claimed for the past three years? This was your chance. The world was watching.It saw a young, ambitious American team find its footing after a nervy opening quarter hour, bedevil England with a tactical wrinkle that took the favorites more than a full half to only sort of solve, dictate much of the match and create a couple glittering scoring chances. It saw a 0–0 draw—the first in U.S. World Cup history—that was as engrossing as a goalless game can be. And if it was listening closely, the world heard the mighty Three Lions booed off the field by a section of their own fans here at the Al Bayt Stadium in northern Qatar.“We went toe-to-toe with them and put in a really good performance,” U.S. “We went into this game to the outside world obvious underdogs. But for us, we didn’t feel like an underdog at all because we know our capability,” midfielder Weston McKennie said.But respect, acclaim, deference—those remain pending. What the Americans did with their thorough and memorable presentation was secure the chance to play for those things next Tuesday against Iran. 

Christian Pulisic and the USMNT drew England at the World Cup
Pulisic and the USMNT had their chances but couldn’t break through vs. England.Piotr Kucza/Newspix/Imago Images

World Cup success for the U.S. means advancing to the knockout rounds (and playing well there). Proving that you were England’s equal for 90 minutes on a humid evening in Qatar won’t mean much if you’re packing your bags five days later. Those moments on Friday evening when the U.S. had England pinned back, flailing and confused, will be reduced to ephemeral moral victories unless something substantive comes from them. The U.S. didn’t win and didn’t score, but it did earn the opportunity to be the author of its own World Cup story. If it wants to collect cachet abroad and stoke passion at home, it’ll have to take this 0–0 draw and use it as a springboard to the second round.“We’re chipping away at it and you need games like tonight to be able to do that,” Berhalter said. “We’re not done. Our focus is to keep going and I think hopefully, by the end of the tournament, we’ll give people something to talk about.“We want to capture the public’s attention,” he added. “We want to perform at a high level. We want to give them something to be proud of, and a night like tonight helps. But there has to be more to come, and that’s the focus as of right now.”The U.S. (0-0-2) will meet Iran (1-1-0) in their Group B finale on Tuesday at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha. England (1-0-1) will face Wales (0-1-1) simultaneously. The formula for the Americans isn’t complicated. Win or go home. Iran will be playing with a new lease on its World Cup life after responding to its 6-2 thrashing by England with Friday’s deserved 2-0 defeat of Wales.“If you told me beforehand we were gonna draw [England], I would’ve probably taken it. … All we can ask is for us to have destiny in our own hands and we have that. The job is definitely not finished, because Iran looked really, really good today,” said goalkeeper Matt Turner, who made three saves.”We obviously had to earn that right, so we know what we’re gonna have to do going into the last game and I think that’s important that you have that in your mentality,” captain Tyler Adams added. “But we know that we’re playing a good team at the end of the day, so it’s not going to be an easy win by any means. We’re gonna have to compete and be ready for them.”

The Americans haven’t had much trouble finding their will to compete at this World Cup. The net—that’s another matter. But once the U.S. got warmed up at Al Bayt, it put its emphatic stamp on the game. The early key was a shift from Berhalter’s customary 4-3-3 in defense to a 4-4-2, with winger Tim Weah joining striker Haji Wright up top, Pulisic drifting to left midfield and McKennie to the right. The adjustment messed with England’s build-up, created numerical advantages for the U.S. on both flanks and offered multiple targets when the ball turned over. Multiple players said the plan was unveiled and installed after the Wales game, but there had been some familiarity with the set-up from previous training sessions and camps.“It’s’ called the ‘amoeba,’” Brenden Aaronson said. “I think it worked tonight. I don’t think England had very many answers for it.”

USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter directs his side vs. England
Berhalter directs the USMNT against England at the 2022 World Cup.Paul Chesterton/Focus Images/Imago Images

But when those answers came, the U.S .was able to seamlessly return to its typical alignment. England had a couple looks at goal once the Americans started to tire in the waning minutes, and star striker Harry Kane launched a stoppage-time header that looked dangerous for a split second. In the end, however, the threat was minimal. The shutout was the first for the U.S. against a World Cup opponent from Europe since the famous 1–0 upset of England in 1950, Berhalter said.“It was super important against the ball that we had two forwards that were able to go to their center backs, and they did an unbelievable job tonight,” Adams said. “Controlling those center backs, allowing them to have time and space but not really any options, is important.”Pulisic and McKennie then created havoc on the flanks. Several U.S. threats emerged from the right, where defender Sergiño Dest, McKennie and Weah overwhelmed England with their movement and precision. Pulisic then had space on the left to find the ball. They had the Americans’ two best scoring chances. McKennie curled a one-time shot off a 26th-minute cross from Weah over the crossbar, and then Pulisic hit the bar with a near-post bid seven minutes later. Those were the moments where the game could’ve been won. Open looks were rarer in the second half as England adjusted, and center back Harry Maguire, often under fire for his uneven performances at Manchester United, was excellent.“It’s difficult to score goals. That’s the starting point. And then you add some of the top defenders in the world and it’s going to be even more difficult,” Berhalter said. For us, we’re happy with the positions we got into. We had some close opportunities. … but at this level, goals aren’t easy.”Yunus Musah, who played for England’s youth national teams before switching allegiance two years ago, Adams and McKennie were imperious. They covered ground, contested every ball, won tackles, put the clamps on young English star Jude Bellingham and dragged the opposition with them via dribbling or runs off the ball. The game was played to the rhythm of the U.S. trio.

The USMNT put the clamps down on England’s attack
The USMNT largely put the clamps down on England’s attack in a scoreless draw at the World Cup.Lan Hongguang/Xinhua/Imago Images

“Those guys have ridiculous engines, ridiculous quality with the ball and tenacity without it,” U.S. center back Tim Ream said. “Once they got their foothold in the game and we started to settle down on the ball, they dictated the tempo and the play.”

It was an impressive showing—perhaps even a statement. Shutting out England’s vaunted attack, establishing the pace and rules of engagement, playing without fear or hesitation—the U.S. did what many doubted. Several players walked through the postgame mixed zone underneath Al Bayt and said they were disappointed with the draw. They thought they deserved more, or that they at least had more in their grasp. Those extra two points and the potential headlines are gone, however. Still, all the points they need are available against Iran.England, somehow, remains winless against the U.S. at the World Cup. The Three Lions are now 0-for-3. But their status is intact. England is the birthplace of the game and the home of its most popular league. It’s one of only eight nations to have won the World Cup, a 2018 semifinalist and a regular in the knockout rounds. The U.S. isn’t there yet. Friday’s display is a promise—a sign of potential. A win against Iran represents the necessary payoff.“I think this team has come a very long way and I think we should be proud of the performance,” Pulisic said. “But most of all, it should spark confidence and it should give us a great feeling going into this last match that’s a must-win for us.”Adams said, “We have to look at our performances in the first two games and take the positives away and know that we’re making progress and moving in the right direction. It’s been a three-year journey of a lot of ups and downs. “So now that we’ve gotten here and tested ourselves against good quality opponents, it feels good. But we can’t be too happy with ourselves. We have to find some negatives and continue to iron them out before the last game.”

More World Cup Coverage:

Gregg Berhalter report card: How USMNT coach fared in World Cup vs England

Gregg Berhalter USMNT England World Cup

By Jeff RueterNov 26, 2022


The United States men held firm with World Cup contender England on Friday, playing out a scoreless draw.

So often, analyzing a match requires highlighting the heroes on the pitch and putting player performances under the microscope. With Paul Tenorio and Sam Stejskal expertly handling that angle from Qatar, we’re going to take a different approach and focus on the man on the touchline. After earning a C-grade in his World Cup coaching debut against Wales, let’s take a look at the decisions Gregg Berhalter made against England. 


Line-up/initial tactics A+


First impression: It’s a bit surprising to see just one change from the first game, but the line-up is still largely the first-choice XI. Haji Wright has been the pool’s hottest striker since joining Antalyaspor last season and should match up well with England’s center-backs. The real risk with running back most of the same starters is two-fold: risking injury and excessive wear-and-tear without rotation (which can be alleviated with his substitutes) and the fact three of the starters (Sergino Dest, Weston McKennie and Tim Ream) would be suspended if they were shown a yellow card after getting cautioned against Wales.

Lasting impression: A largely unchanged line-up masked an effective tactical modification from the Wales match. Rather than playing in Berhalter’s preferred 4-3-3, the U.S. mostly operated in a 4-4-2 shape with McKennie drifting wide on the right and Pulisic dropping further back on the left while also pressing further up. McKennie and Dest were tasked with providing most of the width down the right, as the Juventus man was largely trailed by England’s midfielders due to his more customary role.Pulisic’s work rate and threat from the left was essential to pulling this off, and he was also able to keep stride with Kieran Trippier and limit his crossing. So were the shifts of all three first-choice midfielders, with McKennie popping up on both ends to clear the ball in front of Matt Turner while also having two of the U.S.’s most dangerous shooting chances.Perhaps the real game-breaker was a more subtle change in approach. So often, Dest’s finest moments come when he’s given free roam, either as a facilitator in attack or when he cuts inward to line up his own shot. While he did manage to make one run of the latter type against England, he was particularly devoted to staying back and allowing McKennie to handle most of the attacking responsibilities from wide. The result was a U.S. side that overloaded that channel and targeted Luke Shaw and left center-back Harry Maguire. In total, the approach wasn’t flashy, but it was very effective to ensure England didn’t get off to a quick start as they had against Iran.


Vibes

Berhalter inverted his look from the opener, swapping khakis for black pants and trading his black “STATES” Nike T-shirt for another of the company’s offerings in grey. After seeming to anger some on Twitter for wearing nothing clarifying that the States he represented are United, today’s top did so a bit out of order, with “States” stacked atop “United” underneath the company’s swoosh. That should clear that up.

Berhalter’s kicks were a pair of Supreme x Nike Air Max 98 TLs. The lower rise of these helped give a better look than his high-tops and khakis against Wales, making his strides along the touchline look less clunky on the broadcast. In contrast to Southgate’s customary suit (which was admittedly more casual than usual with a zip-up shirt underneath his jacket instead of a waistcoat), Berhalter cast a relaxed image for his players in a big game. 

Grade: B


Tactical tweaks/half-time adjustments:

First impression: Once again, Berhalter didn’t need to radically change things as he did so often during qualifying. The U.S. kept up its 4-4-2 base formation and made the subtle changes necessary to mirror its effectiveness as England looked to its left in hope of a breakthrough. Instead, the emphasis seemed to be not to let the game get out of hand. After controlling just one of nine five-minute intervals of the opening 45, the U.S. won the possession battle for five such windows in the second half. Wales were able to equalise in the last game, but that came down to overloads, slow substitutions and a couple of individual errors on the penalty and its lead-up. Here’s hoping the tried-and-true route fares better today.

Lasting impression: Bend, but don’t break. Keep it under control. Whichever mantra he prefers, the consistency worked. England saw the shot count dip from five in the first half to just three in the second; correspondingly, the Three Lions’ expected goals (xG) halved from 0.36 to 0.18 per half. Granted, so did the United States’ (0.43 in the first, 0.19 in the second), and the U.S. failed to threaten much on their seven corner kicks.Still, the decision to test Southgate’s often-questioned ability to adjust mid-match paid off. England’s best moments came after Jack Grealish was introduced in the 68th minute, at which point the U.S. had largely slowed England’s attempts to rekindle the attacking flame. With 90 minutes to show for this approach to a 4-4-2, the result was a front line which forced England to work the ball up from wide, while Yunus Musah and Tyler Adams did tireless work to prevent their opponents from shifting centrally once they broke that initial line of engagement.When play resumed, England shifted more of its attacking emphasis to the left. It did little to reignite the attack until Southgate brought Grealish in, at which point the Manchester City man was a pest as he worked into the flow of the game. I would be surprised to see this more conservative shape against Iran as the U.S. will feel a win is there for the taking, even after their 2-0 win over Wales earlier on Friday. Still, the players showed they could fit a more reserved style and that bodes well if this team advances beyond the group stage to face similarly stout opposition.

Grade: B+


Substitutions

First impression: *censored*

Lasting impression: When a team plays with as active of a press and as athletic of a defensive approach, players are bound to get gassed. When 1o of your 11 starters are making their second starts in five days, players are bound to get gassed. For all of their blunders, FIFA recognized this potential problem in conjunction with the (for most leagues) midseason World Cup and afforded coaches five substitutions across three in-match windows (so, excluding half-time).By the 65th minute, a few players looked ready for the hook. Wright and Weah had done well to force England’s center-backs to play it wide but were trading that peskiness for some of their usual effectiveness on the other end. McKennie and Dest were under greater duress as England switched its emphasis to the left, and with both Serie A players on a yellow card, neither could challenge Luke Shaw, Raheem Sterling or Grealish with full confidence. There were plenty of capable alternatives, too. The nature of the game could’ve suited Jesus Ferreira’s deep-lying approach to striker if the U.S. wanted to win on the counter, while Brenden Aaronson and Giovanni Reyna could both capably play in McKennie’s hybrid right/center midfield role. Berhalter brought four right-backs, so it isn’t as if there wasn’t an alternative to Dest with Shaq Moore, DeAndre Yedlin and Joe Scally on the bench.And yet, Berhalter didn’t make his first change until the 77th minute, when McKennie and Dest were replaced by Aaronson and Moore. Six minutes later, Wright and Weah made way for pressing expert Josh Sargent and Gio Reyna’s brief World Cup debut. At that point, there was little time for any of the quartet to work into the flow of the match. Reyna got just five touches to acclimatize after not playing against Wales, with England the stronger aggressors by the time he took the field. It isn’t that any of the four changes were bad calls or even remotely questionable. With how late they were made, however, it didn’t seem like any were made to change the game and go for a win. With the lack of urgency, it felt like the U.S. was looking to see out a draw in the final 15 minutes. Given such a golden opportunity to snatch control of Group B, it’s a rare letdown in an otherwise strong managerial display.

Grade: D+


Final marksGrade: B+

In all reality, this was one of Berhalter’s better days since taking over the United States. Only the trio of wins against Mexico in 2021 (Gold Cup final, Nations League final, home World Cup qualifier) come to mind as alternative picks. Still, the tardiness in changing out players didn’t convey confidence that the team could snatch a late win. In fact, the delay may have allowed England back into control for the final 20 minutes. Any U.S. fan would’ve taken a draw heading into the day. With a sharp tactical adjustment and his players’ buy-in, only an aversion to his bench blemishes this report card.

Gregg Berhalter addresses Wynalda comments on Gio Reyna: ‘That’s not what I represent’

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA - MARCH 30: United States manager Gregg Berhalter talks with Gio Reyna #11 of the United States before a FIFA World Cup qualifier game between Costa Rica and USMNT at Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica on March 30, 2022 in San Jose, Costa Rica.

By Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio Nov 28, 2022


On Friday, former U.S. men’s national team striker Eric Wynalda set off a portion of the American fanbase with some inflammatory claims about how head coach Gregg Berhalter is treating attacker Gio Reyna at the World Cup.

Speaking with LA Times columnist Dylan Hernandez on a Twitter Spaces ahead of the U.S.’s scoreless draw against England, Wynalda claimed that there was “internal strife” within the team about Berhalter’s decision to not play Reyna in the 1-1 draw with Wales last Monday. He also alleged that Berhalter lied to the media when he told reporters after the Wales match that he held Reyna out of that match because of an injury. Wynalda claimed that he had spoken with Gio’s father Claudio, the former U.S. captain and Berhalter’s childhood friend and ex-teammate.

“With Gio Reyna out of the lineup right now, which has been a massive controversy within the team — even his own teammates are wanting him on the field and it seems to be (causing) internal strife with the (team) and manager Gregg Berhalter,” Wynalda said. “I don’t know how much I should comment on that, but I’ve been trying to console Gio’s father, Claudio, for the last couple of hours, well, the last couple of days with everything that’s been going on. He was fit to play, Berhalter did lie to the media and say that it was an injury, ask the player to kind of go along with that story, which caused a rift between the two of them and now he’s on the bench which is really unfortunate. The situation should have been handled very differently.”Wynalda, for his part, appeared to slightly back off his initial comments in a tweet posted to his account on Saturday.Berhalter wasn’t asked about the claims in his press conference after the England game, but was asked on Monday if there was any rift between him and Gio Reyna and if he had, as Wynalda alleged, lied to media and instructed Reyna to tell reporters that he was hurt after the Wales match.

“Speaking of the four-year journey, right, there’s been also four years of interacting with you guys (the press contingent). And what I’d say is, you know, I’ll leave it to you to decide if I asked Gio to lie about it,” Berhalter said. “That’s just not who I am. That’s not what I represent. So, you know, if you have to take Eric’s word or my word or whatever, feel free, but I know what happened, that’s not what I represent. Like every other person, Gio is a member of this team that we care deeply for and we know can help the team. It’s a matter of when he can help us and how he can help us.”

Multiple sources familiar with the team’s dynamic who were granted anonymity in order to speak about internal issues told The Athletic that Wynalda’s claims don’t appear to be having any effect on the players. Another characterized it as nothing more than a parent, Claudio, being frustrated by a lack of playing time for his son, Gio.

In the press conference after the Wales game, to which Wynalda referred, Berhalter was asked why Reyna did not play. He said that “in the phase of the game that we were at, we went with Jordan (Morris), who we felt could give us something with speed and power.” He noted that the team had done a “last-minute check” on Reyna, deemed him “OK” and said that he envisioned him playing a role against England.Asked to clarify what the last-minute check was for, Berhalter said “you could see there was a little bit of tightness” during a scrimmage with Qatari club Al-Gharafa a few days prior, that the team had been “building him up” and that “we think he can play a big role in this tournament, question is when and hopefully on Friday he’ll be one further step ahead.”

A few minutes later, Reyna told reporters in the mixed zone that he was fully healthy.“I felt good, I felt ready to go,” Reyna said. “But it was just his decision.”Berhalter was asked about Reyna again on Nov. 24 in his pre-match press conference ahead of the draw against England.“I think I was pretty clear after the game saying he was available for the match and it was a coach’s decision that he didn’t play,” Berhalter said. “And he will be available for tomorrow’s match and we’ll see what happens.”Berhalter ended up bringing Reyna off the bench in the 83rd minute against England.It’s unlikely that this situation would have blown up as much as it did if not for the specific individuals involved. Wynalda, a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame who played in three World Cups, ran for U.S. Soccer president in 2018 with what the New York Times called, “an aggressive outsider approach,” pushing back against the “establishment.” He has coached in the lower divisions and worked as a broadcaster, and is known for his willingness to stir things up with blunt statements and criticisms. He embraces that role.Wynalda played with Claudio Reyna in the 1994 and 1998 World Cups. He was a teammate of Berhalter’s on the national team, as well. Berhalter and Reyna have a long history of their own, playing together on youth teams in New Jersey under Claudio’s father, Miguel, teaming up in high school at St. Benedict’s Prep, then reuniting on the national team at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.

Gio Reyna is one of the U.S.’s most technically gifted attackers, but injury issues prevented him from playing in most of the Americans’ qualifying campaign. He missed the team’s four matches in June because of injury, then had to be removed in the first half of their friendly against Saudi Arabia in September after feeling some tightness in his hamstring.

His lack of availability has made it difficult for Reyna and Berhalter to find where the 20-year-old fits best on the field for the U.S. ahead of the World Cup. As he’s shown with Borussia Dortmund, he’s capable of playing as a winger and in central attacking roles. The solid play of wingers Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah and midfielders Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah, along with the defensive duties Berhalter gives to his No. 8s, have made it difficult to justify taking any of them out of the starting lineup at the World Cup.Weah scored the opening goal for the U.S. in the 1-1 draw with Wales, Pulisic assisted that goal and hit the crossbar against England, and McKennie was one of the most important and best players on the field for the U.S. in the game against England.

There’s been some speculation that the U.S. would move Reyna to striker for their must-win match against Iran on Tuesday, but Berhalter said Monday that he and his staff “haven’t necessarily thought” about putting anyone up top other than listed No. 9s Jesus FerreiraJosh Sargent and Haji Wright. According to Transfermarkt, Reyna has never lined up as a center forward in his professional career, playing as an attacking midfielder, right winger or left winger in every game for which he has appeared for Borussia Dortmund.“We’re comfortable with the three that we have,” he said.

United States v. England, 2022 FIFA World Cup: What We Learned

The USMNT played England to a scoreless draw. But don’t let the scoreline fool you, this was a really impressive performance from the US against a very talented team.

By Adnan Ilyas@Adnan7631  Nov 27, 2022, 10:48am PST  Stars and Sstripels

England v USA: Group B - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

The USMNT took on England and walked out with a 0-0 draw. The scoreline is probably fair, but this was a really impressive performance for the USMNT. Depending on how you model the expected goals stat (xG), you either have a small edge for the US in attacking chances, or a fairly significant one. Either way, the US were visibly better than England.This of course gets hedged a little as England played conservatively. A draw was likely enough to put them through to the next round and avoiding nasty injuries or suspensions became the priority. Still, England has quality across the field, and yet, the US was there with them every step along the way, if not a half step ahead. Let’s break it down.

Coach’s Plaudits

The way that I write these columns is descriptive, not proscriptive. I write about which decisions are made, why, and how that reflects on what happens on the field, both the strengths and flaws. I generally avoid writing about what I think should be done. This approach allows room for the coach and the players to make unexpected decisions.This game vs. England was one of those games where the coach’s decisions surprised me. Going into the World Cup, it seemed like the choice of formation was already long decided. The USMNT played in a 4-3-3, and that was it. The formation was so stable, the biggest considered change was pushing a midfielder a little bit deeper. Berhalter has tried out a back-3 on a few occasions, but those experiments never yielded particularly memorable results.Given this record, a 4-4-2 was nothing less than a shock. Instead of a midfield 3, Weston McKennie shifted over to the right, similar to how he is used at Juventus. In turn, Tim Weah pushed up to striker, with Yunus Musah and Adams making up the two-man midfield. Christian Pulisic took up the left wing spot and Haji Wright played as the other striker (in place of Josh Sargent).In general, the 4-4-2 had fallen out of favor over the last ten years. But huge credit to Gregg Berhalter; against an England side stacked with attacking talent, it was the USMNT’s attacking 4 who had more touches, higher up the field.

The USMNT’s shape was quite flexible and asymmetric. McKennie on the right played deeper and tracked back more aggressively than Pulisic, who was more likely to keep high. This meant that the US could shift into a lopsided 4-3-3 shape, with Pulisic high on the left. As a result, Pulisic was more often already high up the field when he received the ball. The team still lacks that finishing moment (The thing about the US is that they always try to walk it in), but they are getting into those dangerous parts of the field.

On top of that, they are doing all this without conceding many real chances. England’s star striker, Harry Kane, had more touches in his own box than in the US’s. Obviously, a big part of that is the backline, which, to a man, was defensively solid. But the core of that defensive performance was in midfield. Yunus Musah and Tyler Adams were diligent and disciplined in pressing the English midfield. Thanks to Musah and especially Adams, the USMNT were consistently able to get 3 or 4 players to press and squeeze the English attacking and midfield players. As a result, the likes of Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling, and Jude Bellingham were left entirely quiet.

I’ve said this after the Wales game, but I will say this again. Berhalter deserves a lot of credit for the team he’s put out there. This team is impressive, even if the goals haven’t quite been there yet.

Player Performances

While the entire starting XI played superbly vs. England, I just wanted to spotlight a few specific players.

This game really let Weston McKennie shine. You know that heat map above, with so many touches on the right side inside England’s half? Yeah, that’s McKennie.

It’s a shame he didn’t really get a goal, but McKennie really stood out as the key to driving up the field.Also, this is hilarious.Matt Turner did not have too many saves to make in this one, but he looked assured when coming out to catch crosses. On top of that, his passing has taken a step up.There was also the moment at the end of the game where Turner came dribbling out of his box. All around, he looks confident and proactive, and I absolutely love it.For me, Tyler Adams was Man of the Match. There’s not much else to say here, but Adams was a huge part of why England had so little going on for a solid hour of the game. don’t have a particular stat or storyline for it, but Tim Ream was, once again, immense. My take away is that Ream

Thin Roster

It has become apparent that Berhalter only really trusts about half his roster at this World Cup. Through two games, we have had minimal rotation. The only starters to change from Wales to England was Josh Sargent for Haji Wright, with Wright making his first ever start v. England. And even in that case, you merely had a role reversal, with the players substituting for each other in the respective games where they started. The other consistent move has been to bring Brendan Aaronson on for Weston McKennie in the second half. No other player has gotten so much as 15 minutes of play, excluding added time.This is unusual compared to Berhalter’s past substitution patterns. In friendlies, Berhalter would frequently make several halftime substitutions. But even in qualifiers, Berhalter was far more aggressive with his subs. For instance, against Mexico, he made a pair of attacking substitutions at the 60th minute, bringing on Reyna and Jordan Pefok to refresh the attack. Given that there are high-intensity games every 4 days and that McKennie and Sergiño Dest only recently recovered from injuries, you would expect a more aggressive substitution and rotation policy. Instead, Berhalter appears very committed to his starting XI + Wright (or Sargent) and Aaronson.

Let’s talk about Gio Reyna’s minutes for a moment. Reyna has not played very much in this World Cup so far, with his only participation thus far manifesting as a substitution in the 83rd minute against England. This has many people anxious, or even openly pushing conspiracy theories, about the situation. Now, let’s take a step back.

Reyna has mostly been injured since appearing for the USMNT in their first qualifying match away v. El Salvador in September last year. This season, according to WhoScored, he has played a scant 661 minutes between the Champions League and Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund out of a possible 2070, less than 13 of the time possible. Last season, Reyna played a mere 442 minutes, approximately 5 games worth. All told, Reyna has had just over 12 games worth of playing time with his club in about 112 seasons. In the friendly v. Japan, Reyna played just 45 minutes, while against Saudi Arabia, he had just 30 before coming off due to an injury. 30 minutes v. Costa Rica, 45 v. Panama, 30 v. Mexico. This is not a player who has a record of health, or even a record of consistent match fitness.Now, I should stop for a moment to acknowledge that a major source for this angst is Berhalter himself. He said that Reyna had a little bit of tightness the day before the Wales game and that he left Reyna off as precaution (and that Jordan Morris better fit the game at that point v. Wales). Afterwards, Gio Reyna was asked and he said that he was healthy and that it was the coach’s decision. Finally, before the England game, Berhalter had this to say:

“I think I was pretty clear after the game saying he was available for the match, and it was a coach’s decision that he didn’t play,” said Berhalter. “And he’ll be available for tomorrow’s match, and we’ll see what happens.”

I personally think this is very straightforward. Gio Reyna is healthy, but Berhalter is skeptical that he can maintain that health.

The consternation for this is understandable given that Reyna is such an outstandingly talented individual. However, at this point, he is not a core part of this USMNT squad. All that missed time, nearly the entirety of the qualifying campaign, forced the team to move in a different direction, specifically with Tim Weah on the right. As the team is currently set up, the style complements Weah’s skillsets, not Reyna’s (and explains Berhalter’s preference for Morris v. Wales). Reyna is a very ball-dominant player; he wants the ball at his feet while facing goal so that he can dictate play. Weah, on the other hand, is more about driving at goal, making threatening runs off the ball, in behind the opponent’s backline. While Reyna’s not a defensive slouch, he does not come close to the kind of intensity that Weah brings on the press. You put the question of team fit and fitness together, and what do you get? Well, a coach’s decision.


In Closing

The USMNT needs a win to progress vs. Iran. A loss or a draw will see them go home, regardless of what happens in the England v. Wales game. Iran themselves can progress with a win, and probably also with a draw, though a large enough Welsh win would hypothetically bounce Iran in that scenario. This makes for a tough game for the US. That said, the MNT has already shown their quality; they merely need to execute and they will be through.

Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, I am proud of how this team had played.

After suffering from a severe case of the Mondays in a 1-1 draw with Wales, the USMNT would take on England. The Americans would head into the match with the knowledge that a win would put them at the top of the group, a draw would let them control their destiny as far as advancing and a loss would make things complicated.

Going into the game there were questions: would England be picked over and left on the ground in a heap of broken dreams like so many shoppers trampled by their compatriots at 2 am on Black Friday? Or would Tim Ream’s experience in watching English players score goals over the course of his career would be a decisive factor? Perhaps the match would be like a fried turkey – either 90 minutes would pass and it would end with something completely perfect that succeeded in making turkey edible or a series of small errors would add up to a gigantic fireball that consumed an entire residential neighborhood. In any event, the Thanksgiving references would mercifully end after the match.

The USA would try to exert its freedom over the tyranny of the newly crowned king with just one change from the game against Wales as Haji Wright lined up at striker.RANT WAHL USMNT World Cup Daily, Day 14

Explaining all the tensions surrounding the USA-Iran World Cup showdown.

U.S. Soccer removed the Islamic Republic symbol from the Iranian flag that it posted on the official USMNT Twitter account in support of women’s rights in Iran.

DOHA, Qatar — It’s fair to say there’s a lot happening around Tuesday’s USA-Iran showdown at the World Cup. You’ve got two teams fighting for one spot in the knockout rounds. You’ve got decades of political history (Iran’s taking of 52 U.S. hostages for 444 days in 1979-81) and soccer history (Iran eliminating the U.S. from World Cup ‘98 with a 2-1 victory).

And as of Sunday you’ve got a present-day conflict between the two countries over women’s rights in Iran that has the Iranian federation protesting to FIFA about U.S. Soccer, as well as a public spat involving former U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann and current Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, who once wrote a blueprint for U.S. Soccer on how to win the World Cup by 2010.

Got it? I know, it’s complicated.

Let’s break it down.


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ON THE FIELD

The stakes couldn’t be much higher in pure soccer terms on Tuesday. The U.S. has to beat Iran to advance to the knockout rounds. Nothing less will suffice. Being eliminated in the group stage would be a major disappointment for the USMNT. As for Iran, it needs only a tie to eliminate the U.S. and move on to the knockout rounds for the first time in its nation’s history at a World Cup.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN IRAN

On Sunday, U.S. Soccer confirmed that it had posted an Iranian flag without the Islamic Republic symbol on the official USMNT Twitter account as a show of “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.” U.S. Soccer added it was a one-time display and it will restore the Islamic Republic symbol moving forward.

The gesture is connected to nationwide protests in Iran over a woman named Mahsa Amini, who died in custody in September after being detained by Iran’s morality police for not wearing a hijab in accordance with regime standards. Protests have been constant inside Iran ever since, along with a crackdown by Iran’s hard-line rulers.

Iran’s players responded on Matchday 1 by not singing their national anthem, causing the Iranian regime to insist that they sing it for Game 2. Iranian fans in the stadium could be seen crying as the players half-heartedly mouthed the words.

Meanwhile, Qatar World Cup security was trying to prohibit fans from entering the stadium for Iran-Wales on Friday who were wearing Woman-Life-Freedom patches in support of Iranian women. My friend Camellia Senemar, an Iranian American who played soccer at Cal, posted this from the game:

Camellia Senemar @CamelliaSen

At #Iran #Wales game & so-called @FIFAWorldCup security harassing us & trying to stop us from entering the stadium for wearing #WomanLifeFreedom patches. We’re hearing undercover police were sent here by Islamic regime. They didn’t back down until I started recording on my phone.

Image

10:19 AM ∙ Nov 25, 202236Likes14Retweets

Ciarán Fahey @cofathaigh

It was tense. Fans supporting the Iranian regime harassed people protesting against it as Qatari security seized flags, shirts and anything expressing support for #WomanLifeFreedom. With @IsabelDeBre for @AP #IranProtests #MahsaAmini #WorldCup #Qatar2022 apnews.comIran government supporters confront protesters at World CupAL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Tensions ran high at Iran’s second match at the World Cup on Friday as fans supporting the Iranian government h…5:25 PM ∙ Nov 25, 202213Likes5Retweets

Iranian state-affiliated media reported on Sunday that the Iranian federation would file a complaint with FIFA over the U.S.’s action posting an Iranian flag without the regime symbol in it:

Subscribe to GrantWahl.com @GrantWahl

Iran’s state-affiliated media is now saying the Iranian soccer federation will file a complaint with FIFA over US Soccer posting an Iranian flag without the Islamic Republic symbol as a show of support for women’s rights in Iran.

Tasnim News Agency @Tasnimnews_EN

The legal advisor of the Iranian Football Federation says the sports association will file a complaint against the US Soccer Team to FIFA’s Ethics Committee after the US Men’s National Soccer Team disrespected the national flag of Islamic Republic of Iran. https://t.co/z7uOrykk9k1:01 PM ∙ Nov 27, 202253Likes20Retweets

KLINSMANN AND QUEIROZ

On Friday, the ex-U.S. coach Klinsmann repeatedly said on the BBC that “this is their culture” when discussing what he considered gamesmanship by Iran and in Latin American countries. He also took several shots at Queiroz, the Iran coach, in this clip that went viral:

Negar Mortazavi نگار مرتضوی @NegarMortazavi

This is unbelievable… Watch @J_Klinsmann dismiss brown athletes, from Iran to Guatemala, repeatedly saying “this is their culture”, while the host and other guests are sitting there listening to him go on and on, live on @BBCSport.

Image

5:38 AM ∙ Nov 26, 20226,427Likes1,732Retweets

The obvious response is that Klinsmann himself once had such a reputation as a diver that he made fun of himself in England as a Spurs player in a goal celebration. And nobody said “this is their culture” about Germany at the time.

In response, the Iranian soccer federation—which has been really busy issuing press releases!—released a statement calling for FIFA to remove Klinsmann from the FIFA Technical Study Group for this World Cup, and Queiroz wrote an open letter to Klinsmann on his Instagram that’s plenty spicy as well.

carlosqueiroz_

A post shared by Carlos Queiroz (@carlosqueiroz_)

All the back and forth makes you wonder how anyone is watching or preparing to play soccer at this point. But we’ve got two more days left ahead of USA-Iran to see what else might happen.

What’s your sense of all this? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner’s idyllic hometown that fueled an improbable World Cup dream

USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner’s idyllic hometown that fueled an improbable World Cup dream

Sam Stejskalv Nov 10, 2022

To better understand the U.S. men’s national team before it begins the World Cup in Qatar, The Athletic traveled to the hometowns of several of its most important figures. We found a squad shaped not only by American society, but also influenced by traditions from every corner of the globe.Taken together, their stories provide a glimpse into a growing, increasingly vibrant American soccer culture that will be on full display between now and the World Cup final on Dec. 18.


There’s a place like Marc’s Deli and Pizza in just about every town in this part of the world. The scene is standard issue: A few Formica tables in the front, a deli case in the middle, pizza boxes stacked to the ceiling atop an oven churning out slices and pies in the back.Tucked between the colonnaded facade of the town’s high school and its post office, Marc’s is a standalone red brick building a short drive down the hill from Matt Turner’s childhood home in Park Ridge, New Jersey. Turner has been a regular at the shop most of his life. The owner, Marc Moschello, greets Turner’s mom, Cindy, by name when she walks in on a hot August afternoon. Marc’s son Anthony is running the counter. He jokes with Cindy about the floor hockey team that he and Matt played on as six-year-olds, laughs that he needs to send some Marc’s T-shirts to London for Matt to give to his Arsenal teammates, then makes sandwiches for me and Vinny Macaluso, Turner’s best friend from high school.We both get the Italian: ham, salami, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onions, peppers, oil and vinegar. As we wait for our heroes, Macaluso shows me a note on his iPhone. Turner had called the day before and told Macaluso to make sure I ordered the Italian, his usual.“That was the place that you go in, they know your name, they know what you get every time,” Turner told me over the phone from London a few days before I headed to Park Ridge. “Really just one of my favorite spots. Every time I go back to Jersey, it’s destination No. 1, for sure.”

Marc’s Deli and Pizza in Park Ridge. (Sam Stejskal)

Though only 30 miles from Times Square, Park Ridge seems like a world apart from New York City. Located in the northern reaches of Bergen County, nestled into the woods lining the border of New Jersey and New York, the town has been home to roughly 8,000 people for the last 50 years. The population isn’t the only thing that hasn’t changed much. The street that Marc’s sits on, Park Ave., may as well be straight out of the 1950s, with a local insurance agency and popular diner bookending opposite ends of a strip that includes Park Ridge High School, borough hall, a stationary shop/convenience store, a nail salon, a few nicely-maintained old colonials and an aquamarine train station that’s on the National Register of Historic Places.Park Ridge is the kind of town that was readily dreamed up by mid-20th-century Hollywood executives as their siloed version of idyllic America: suburban, small, mostly White, well-to-do, right-of-center. Richard Nixon spent his final years here, living in a gated community called Bears Nest located just around the corner from where Turner grew up. It’s not the type of place where sports are viewed as a way out. For many, towns like Park Ridge are where you go when you make it out.“It’s quiet. Peaceful,” Cindy said. “Everything is compact. When he was a little kid, Matt would wear his baseball hat backward, ride around town on his bike, go fishing in the brook, play on the field. It’s a nice place to grow up; it’s a really good place to raise your kids.”If a few things had broken just a little bit differently, Turner could easily be back here now, working an ordinary job, living an ordinary life close to his family and friends, many of whom remain in the area. Instead, he’s a goalkeeper headed to the World Cup with the U.S. men’s national team. The backup at Arsenal, he’ll likely start for the Americans in Qatar with Zack Steffen left off the squad entirely.

Any player’s odds of making a World Cup roster are incredibly long. For Turner, they were almost singularly astronomical. He didn’t even start playing soccer until he was 14, an age at which some of his U.S. teammates were already on the brink of turning professional. He never played high-level club soccer as a kid. He didn’t start for his high school varsity squad until midway through his junior season. Same for his time at Fairfield University, where a viral, embarrassing mistake made him briefly consider quitting the sport. He wasn’t drafted into MLS, only making the New England Revolution as an unproven trialist. It took him three-and-a-half years to become their regular starter, then another two to break in with the national team.

In many ways, the privileges of Park Ridge helped Turner overcome his late start to reach the highest levels of the sport. His parents could afford to send him to St. Joseph Regional High School — a well-regarded, sports-mad Catholic school a few minutes up the road from Marc’s and Park Ridge High. While there, his dad, Stu, shot and edited highlight videos that Turner would send out to college coaches in hopes of being offered a roster spot. Stu and Cindy provided enough so that Matt could spend his summers training instead of working. Park Ridge itself has a first-class public park that allowed him the space to hone his skills. Without all that, Turner may not have eked out his lone offer to play Division I. Without a place in D-I, MLS would have been a pipe dream, nevermind the World Cup.

Read more: What does USA draw against England mean for their knockout stage hopes?

There was the work, too. Countless hours of it. Much of it took place at Memorial Field. Located just off Park Ave., wedged between the small brook where he’d fish as a youngster and the town fire station, Turner has been coming to Memorial for as long as he can remember. At first, he was a spectator, tagging along with his parents to watch his older sisters play softball and soccer at the multi-purpose field. As he grew older, he’d bike past the public library and meet friends there for touch football games. As a teenager, when he began to fall in love with soccer, he’d head to Memorial many mornings to train.

Turner would often be on his own for those sessions, working through agility drills and goal kicks, launching ball after ball from the artificial surface into the netting that extends upwards behind one of the goals, shielding the playground behind. On weekends, he’d do his best to drag a buddy or two down to the field with him. Macaluso, who grew up and still lives close by in Emerson, N.J., was a regular partner.

“We’d start early,” he said from a picnic table next to the Memorial Field playground, not far from a banner promoting a softball and cornhole tournament that took place the previous weekend. “He’d always want to wake up and practice before the Arsenal game or whoever was playing, so he could watch them at 9, 10 o’clock. We’re coming out at 7, 8 a.m., get a quick workout in, and this was after, for me, a night out, doing whatever, staying up late, and he’d drag my butt up, get me out here. He was great with that.”

After the sessions, the pair would hit Marc’s for sandwiches, then head back to Turner’s house to watch Premier League matches. The ritual continued throughout college, with Turner heading to Memorial every day he could when Fairfield was out of school, logging more and more training time in hopes of one day becoming a professional player.

For a long time, that quest looked quixotic. His late start in the game meant that hoping for a spot in MLS was, charitably speaking, unrealistic. But places like Park Ridge breed optimism. Growing up here, surrounded by nice homes, attending nice schools, supported by a loving family, succeeding in school and in sports, a young Turner would have little reason not to be hopeful. Little reason not to think that as long as he had faith in himself, he could be anything he wanted. The circumstances in which he grew up contributed to his uncommon sense of self-belief, every drop of which was needed as he chased a dream many would have deemed delusional.

“The town shaped me in that way,” Turner said. “I always think to myself, without growing up in that town, I don’t think I would be where I am today.”

Of course, Park Ridge is also part of the reason he got such a late start in the sport. As is the case in all but a few parts of the U.S., including a couple of other pockets of northern New Jersey, soccer isn’t the main game in town. Even in Turner’s own family, it was at best secondary.

I’m reminded of that shortly after Cindy, Macaluso and I leave Marc’s, sandwiches in tow, and drive to Turner’s childhood home where the family still lives, a pale yellow house with a long front porch located at the end of a short cul-de-sac. As I walk past the basketball hoop in the driveway and enter through the garage, one of the first things I see is a framed illustration of home plate, a visual marker that this was a softball and baseball household.

Cindy was an accomplished softball player when she was growing up in nearby Westwood, N.J., coached Matt’s sisters in the sport at Park Ridge High and still plays for an over-50 team that competes nationally. True to his familial roots, Matt’s first love was baseball. A middle infielder, he devoted himself to the game as a kid, taking individual hitting lessons and playing for a local travel team. When it came time to decide if he’d go to public Park Ridge or private St. Joe’s for high school, baseball was a determining factor. A few friends from his travel team were headed to St. Joe’s, which had just hired their youth coach to lead the school’s JV squad. The program had a much higher profile than the one at smaller Park Ridge.

“If I played soccer, basketball and baseball at Park Ridge, I would have been a stud, but I wouldn’t have been taken seriously by universities because I would’ve been at a school with 60 kids per grade,” he said. “You really would have to stand out above and beyond in order to even sniff an opportunity. And this is my thought process for baseball, by the way. I wasn’t thinking about soccer. Whereas at St. Joe’s, if I just made it to the varsity there, I would have had a better chance of playing college baseball than I would have if I was a star at Park Ridge.”

Still, at least in one way, St. Joe’s was a bit of an odd choice for Turner. It’s a Catholic school, and while Cindy was raised Catholic, Stu, his father, was brought up Jewish. Turner was neither baptized nor did he ever become a bar mitzvah, but he identifies more with Jewish traditions than Christian ones. Turner had some trepidation about how he would fit in, but he ended up feeling more comfortable there than he ever did when he attended secular Park Ridge Middle School, where he said he was occasionally teased by classmates for having a Jewish parent.

The multipurpose field at Memorial where Turner trained on his own. (Sam Stejskal)

“Park Ridge is pretty much just a White town,” Turner said. “White people all over the shop. If you’re a little bit different, you can be looked at as an outsider. Going to St. Joe’s, I was in school with a lot more Black people, Asian people, guys that have now come out of the closet as gay, and everybody always gave each other an equal amount of respect.”

But even given that respect, soccer wasn’t exactly held in high regard at St. Joe’s.

“Football was king, then baseball, then basketball, then wrestling,” said Macaluso. “Soccer was a distant fifth.”

Macaluso, a holding midfielder, made the varsity team straightaway, but he remembers Turner and the other kids on the freshman team being trained by a coach who would walk around the practice field barefoot. Their sessions consisted of two types of drills: conditioning and shooting. That was it. Not exactly the best way to develop field players, though not necessarily the worst thing for a budding goalkeeper. Things got a bit more sophisticated by the time Turner moved up to varsity, but it wasn’t as if the team was dominant. St. Joe’s compiled a decent record, but only because of what Macaluso described as some otherworldly goalkeeping from Turner. There certainly was never any significant emphasis put on the sport, with St. Joe’s cutting the freshman soccer program during Turner’s junior year.

“We were probably like a .500 team or something. We were OK,” said Macaluso, who Turner, driven in part by superstition, part by routine, still makes a point to call in the hours before every single one of his matches. “But Matt was the only reason for that. He would save, it felt like, 30 to 40 shots a game.”

Thirty or 40 a game? Truly?

“Oh yeah. Oh yeah,” he said. “We would tie people 0-0, 1-1. We were not good, but we had an OK record because Matt kept us in every game. We would let up so many shots, penalties, it was so, so bad.”

Turner continued playing baseball and basketball into his upperclassmen years, but he didn’t stand out in those sports at St. Joe’s like he thought he would have at Park Ridge. Paradoxically, that worked in his favor. Had he stayed at Park Ridge and starred in baseball and basketball, he thinks he wouldn’t have taken soccer all that seriously. That he wasn’t a big player in those sports at St. Joe’s probably helped nudge him more towards goalkeeping, putting him on the path that, a decade after he left home, has him at the World Cup.

“If he stayed at Park Ridge, I don’t really know if he plays soccer all that much,” Macaluso said as we tucked into our sandwiches in the Turners’  kitchen. “100 percent,” added Cindy. “100 percent agree. He probably would’ve played, but this? This wouldn’t have happened for him.”

Turner’s story is riddled with those kinds of anecdotes. There were countless inflection points that could have changed the course of his career, innumerable moments when he could have easily quit soccer. That’s true of many players who reach this level, of course. Talent alone is never enough. Luck and timing and doggedness are always required. Turner had all that — and he had his hometown.

World Cup mystery solved: Why soccer players dive, as told by the master of the ‘dark arts’

Henry Bushnell Sat, November 26, 2022 at 2:23 PM

DOHA, Qatar — Alejandro Moreno has been labeled a “cheater” and a stain on soccer. He, like hundreds of other players who tend to fling themselves to the ground, has been branded a “diver” and a “flopper,” and had expletives hurled his way. He could preach for hours about why the criticism reeks of double standards, and at times racial bias, but we’ll get to that — for now, class is in session.

“I thought of it as a skill set,” Moreno, a former Venezuelan international and 11-year pro, says of soccer’s most fiercely derided tactic. Whether you call it diving or “drawing fouls,” as he euphemistically does, it’s “an art form.”

It is widely viewed as immoral, and Moreno, a master of the “dark arts,” would like to clarify: He does not condone the outright inventing of contact and conning of referees. But soccer, he argues, is “a morally flawed game, where players will do whatever is necessary to win.” They will shirt-pull and elbow and forearm-shiver. Defenders will do all sorts of illicit things that impede attacking players but don’t get penalized — unless, that is, the attacking player embellishes the impact of the shirt-pull, or feels a tap on the shin and theatrically tumbles to the turf.

“When a defender has taken the advantage away, maybe by a nudge, a push, a grab, slight hold — now you’re off balance; now, whatever advantage you had, it’s gone,” Moreno explains. “And so what are you supposed to do?

“You’re encouraged to fight through a challenge. But,” he continues, passion bubbling in his voice, “the way I see it is, if you’re gonna touch me, if you’re gonna nudge me, if you’re gonna push me, and you’re gonna take my advantage away? I have a recourse. And my recourse is, I’m gonna sell that contact, and I’m gonna make sure that I get a call out of it.”

This, above all, is the reason that soccer players flop and flail. Their diving not only works; at times, it’s necessary. Enduring contact downplays the severity of it — but the contact still mitigates the potential of an attack. Diving, on the other hand, is often a player’s only alarm bell, a means to alert refs to the true severity.

In situations that provoke uncertainty, refs tend to use a player’s reaction, their fall or lack thereof, as a hint. And this tendency, Moreno argues, implicitly tells players: “If you wanna get this call, you’re gonna have to go down.”

A couple months ago, Jose Mourinho made the same point. After one of his Roma players stayed up and didn’t get a call, the Portuguese manager ranted: “I have to change my advice to my players. I have to tell them, ‘Don’t try to stay on your feet, don’t play the ball, be a clown the way many who dive like they’re in a swimming pool do in this league.’ Because that is evidently how you get penalties.”

Moreno, though, would supplement that advice: “You sell the call without overselling the call,” he says. “And that’s where it becomes an art form.”

You don’t dive like you’re at a swimming pool. “You see the guys that throw their arms up in the air, and are rolling around,” Moreno says. “That’s not gonna get it done.” He advocates for a “natural fall” that, over time, for masters of the dark arts, becomes instinctive — but “it’s a natural fall because you’ve been impeded, not a natural fall because you’re being shot,” he notes.

“You don’t need to throw your arms up in the air. You don’t need to make the noise,” he says, adopting a professorial tone. “All of that takes the reality factor out of the challenge.” The goal, he says, is to “draw enough attention to it to where now you put doubt in the referee’s mind. Now, in that split-second, he’s gotta be able to figure out, did I see what I think I saw? And if you’ve done that, if you’ve created that doubt, then I think you’ve done your job.”

And if you don’t? “If you exaggerate and the referee deems that you have done so? That’s on you as a player for not being able to execute an art form the way you should,” Moreno scolds.

“If people were to attend my diving camp,” he jokes, “they’d be better at it.”

Mexico's Alexis Vega and Argentina's Gonzalo Montiel collide during the World Cup group C soccer match between Argentina and Mexico, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Mexico’s Alexis Vega and Argentina’s Gonzalo Montiel collide during the World Cup group C soccer match between Argentina and Mexico, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Moreno: Diving ‘is all over the game’

The reason Moreno feels so comfortable talking about and even extolling such a taboo tactic is that, well, he doesn’t think it should be so taboo. Why, he wonders, is flopping so reviled but cynical fouls that chop down counterattacks aren’t? Why is flopping unethical, but appealing for a corner after the ball blatantly touched your own foot isn’t?

“We seem to be able to separate diving as a form of cheating,” he says. “But the elbow the defender throws, apparently that’s not cheating. Or the grabbing of the jersey, that’s not cheating.”

The collective recoiling of soccer purists has led leagues, including MLS and the English Premier League, to fine and suspend players for diving. Moreno believes it represents a double-standard, wherein other forms of dishonesty or illegality are accepted as “part of the game,” yet diving isn’t.

“If you start paying attention to everything that happens on the field, you can hang on to very many different things, and say, ‘well that seems wrong; well that’s not right,’” he says in a weasely voice, chiding uptight traditionalists. “’Well that’s regrettable behavior there. That’s putting the game in disrepute.’ And then somehow we manage to forget all those things and focus all our attention on a very specific subject, and that is diving.”

What are some of “those things,” you ask? Well, there’s the occasional oil check, Moreno says. There are all sorts of nasty, vulgar insults. There are maulings every time a corner kick is taken, and pleas of innocence to referees when the subject is very much guilty.

And yet, Moreno points out, in European and especially Anglo soccer, “the ‘cheater’ tag seems to be exclusively reserved for attacking players. When a defender is shielding the ball towards the endline, feels minimal contact from the opposition, goes down, and draws the foul, somehow, that is acceptable and even praised as ‘clever,’ ‘good defending,’ ‘showed his experience.’”

Diving, Moreno says, is far less “frowned upon” in South America. Growing up in Venezuela, it “was very much part of the game, and there was no negative connotation to it,” he says. Problems only arise when cultures clash — and that’s where the biases kick in.

It’s perhaps true, Moreno says, that, due to those cultural differences, a disproportionate number of South American players at the top of the sport are prolific divers. “But what I find just so ridiculous is that, we seem to believe that it’s a Latin American issue, it’s a South American issue,” he says.” The belief turns one dive into a full-fledged sour reputation for a Latino player, when in reality, Moreno argues, diving “is all over the game. Arjen Robben is not from Tegucigalpa. He’s not.”

And he’s not judging Robben, a former Dutch star, he clarifies. His point is that nobody should be judged, or branded morally bankrupt, for trying to win a game — and certainly not based on their country of origin.

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 24: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal is brought down by Mohammed Salisu of Ghana during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group H match between Portugal and Ghana at Stadium 974 on November 24, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal is brought down by Mohammed Salisu of Ghana during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group H match between Portugal and Ghana at Stadium 974 on November 24, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Is VAR changing the game?

What Moreno never had to account for, and what today’s players must, is video review. Since VAR’s implementation late last decade, it has served as both a deterrent and a refereeing safety net that, at least in the penalty box, divers often can’t sneak through.

Although there’s little empirical evidence that it has begun to do away with diving, multiple players interviewed for this story — though not all of them — believe it has. “Sadly, yes,” Moreno said with a hearty laugh.

“I think it took some time,” U.S. defender Aaron Long told Yahoo Sports. “I think there’s a lot of habits that attackers get into. I think more than anything, guys know how to work the system. And once VAR came into the picture, I think it mighta took a half a season or a season, but you can’t really trick it. So I think it’s curbed a lot of that stuff. I haven’t seen as much.”

Defenders generally like VAR; attackers less so.

“VAR does a lot of things, and one of the things that it does is that it’ll highlight your ability, or in many cases inability, to draw the contact necessary for you to go down,” Moreno says. “And when you slow things down, you can highlight that a tackle looks worse than it is, but you can also highlight that a tackle is not nearly as bad as you thought it was.”

So, although diving will continue to be an attacker’s “recourse” between the penalty boxes, it is destined to subside where it’s most consequential, inside the area. It won’t punish the grabs and the nudges, but will detect the con artists. And “the high-morality crowd will say, ‘well yes, exactly, this is what we’re looking for,’” Moreno laments.

“What I would say is, it’s not gonna go away,” he says of diving. “And the guys that are really good at doing this, the guys that can really sell a foul, the guys that can draw contact, those guys will not go away. I hope it’s an art that is not lost.”

Andre Onana leaves Cameroon World Cup after disagreement with manager

AL WAKRAH, QATAR - NOVEMBER 24: Andre Onana of Cameroon reacts during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group G match between Switzerland and Cameroon at Al Janoub Stadium on November 24, 2022 in Al Wakrah, Qatar. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

By Dermot Corrigan

4h ago

9


Cameroon came back to draw with Serbia 3-3 in the World Cup Group G match.

Andre Onana has left the Cameroon World Cup squad ahead of their group-stage fixture against Serbia after a disagreement with his manager over the weekend.

Onana, 26, was omitted from his nation’s matchday squad on Monday. He and Rigobert Song discussed Onana’s style of play at Saturday’s training session, with the former defender wanting the Inter Milan goalkeeper to play more direct and not take any risks near his own goal.

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After the conversation, Song decided it was better if Onana was not even on the bench for the rest of the World Cup, and the one time Barcelona youth team player has left the camp to return home.The Athletic has contacted the Cameroon FA for comment.

The goalkeeper played the entire 90 minutes for Cameroon during their narrow 1-0 defeat to Switzerland on their opening matchday, but his place in the starting XI has instead been handed to Devis Epassy.

Onana, who has 35 caps for Cameroon, signed for Inter Milan on a free transfer this summer following his time at Ajax. He started the season behind the veteran captain Samir Handanovic but has established himself as Inter’s No 1 since October, featuring in the last seven league matches before the World Cup break. In total, Onana has played 13 times for Inter this season, keeping five clean sheets.

Cameroon will be eliminated from the World Cup with a game to spare if they lose and Brazil avoid defeat against Switzerland later on Monday.

The Athletic has contacted the Cameroon FA for comment.

Cameroon’s next fixture is against Brazil on Friday.

11/25 USA vs England Today 1 pm on Fox, US Outlaws Watch Party at Union Jack’s Broadripple, Carmel FC indoor training starts next Week

So Black Friday has arrived – the largest ever TV Audience expected for a US Soccer game and the US could really use a tie here vs England.  With Iran’s win today – a tie vs England and win over Iran should put us thru to the next round. Honestly even a close lost it ok sh don’t tell our team.  I am going to pick England 2-1 still – I just don’t think we have the fire power to win this one.  We’ll see if the Berhalter way has the US with 45-55 possession and continued high press vs England’s back line.  I think we go right at McGuire and his lack of speed.  I look for Weah to really try to take advantage of that.  If it was me – I would put Weah up top in the #9 and have Reyna on the right wing with our MMA or MAA midfield.  But this is what I see below.  Bottom line we would love the tie – NO US TEAM HAS EVER LOST TO ENGLAND IN A WORLD CUP BY THE WAY – Men or Women’s.  We’ll see if that holds true today. 

US Men Friday 2 pm vs England on Fox

Shane’s Starters for Friday

Pulisic, Sargent, Weah

Musah, Reyna

Adams

Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Scalley

Turner

First off bench McKinney, Aaronson, Ferriera

So I start with the same front line as before – Pulisic and Weah combined to score and Sargent is bigger and stronger and more used to EPL play.  We have to get Reyna on the field however so I look for Musah or McKinney to get the rest – it could be McKinney as he is on a yellow card and is still somewhat injured – or it could be Musah as he was a bit overwhelmed vs Wales I thought.  I don’t think Berhalter will do this but I would go with Scalley on the right side back today – as Dest is on a Yellow Card and we need THE BEST DEFENSE we can have vs England.  I think Zimmerman stays a starter but I would not be upset to see Cameron-Carter Vickers he’s a starter at Rangers and has Champions League experience. 

I am sorry but I wish our American’s loved their national anthem the way Mexico does.   US Highlights – 5 minutes   England vs Iran hightlights    Your US Captain Tyler Adams Story   Our CenterBack Captain Tim Ream   Matt Turner Save   US Goal by Tim Weah  these 26 stories on our 26 players going to Qatar its awesomeMore hype videos

Full U.S. Men’s roster for 2022 World Cup:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8 appearances for U.S./0 goals), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach/GER; 3/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0)

FORWARDS (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1)

American Outlaws Watch Party Friday 2 pm Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple. https://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

Carmel FC GK Coach Headed to National Championships Carmel FC GK Coach Noelle Rolfsen  GK for the Marian University Lady Knights in Indianapois is headed to Alabama next week for the NAIA National Championships.  They play Thurs Dec 1 at 5 pm and again on Sat, Dec 3 at 5 pm if they win. 

Indiana U Men – Advance to Round of 16  with Win over St Louis

IU men’s soccer advanced to the round of 16 with a 1-0 win over St. Louis at Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington on Sunday afternoon. Here’s the Winning Goal

WORLD CUP GAMES ON TV

Fri, Nov 25

5 am FS1                              Wales vs Iran

8 am FS1                              Qatar vs Senagal

11 am Fox                            Ecuador vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox                     USA (0-1-) vs England (1-0)  

Sat, Nov 26

5 am FS1                              Tunisia vs Australia

8 am FS1                              Poland (0-1-0) vs Saudi Arabia (1-0)          

11 am FS1                            France (1-0)  vs Denmark (o-1-0)

2 pm FS1                              Argentina (0-1) vs Mexico (0-1-1)  

Sun, Nov 27

5 am FS1                              Japan (1-0) vs Costa Rica (0-1)

8 am FS1                              Belgium (1-0) vs Morocco (0-1-0)  

11 am FS1                            Croatia (0-1-0) vs Canada (0-0-1)  

2 pm FS1                              Spain (1-0) vs Germany (0-0-1)

Mon, Nov 28

5 am fS1                               Cameron (0-0-1) vs Serbia (0-0-1)

8 am FS1                              South Korea ((0-1-0) vs Ghana (0-0-1)  

11 am Fox                            Brazil (1-0) vs Switzerland (1-0)

2 pm Fox                     Portugal (1-0-0) vs Uraguay (0-1-0)  

Tues, Nov 29

10 am Fox                            Netherlands vs Qatar

11 am Fox Sport 1            Ecuador vs Senegal  

2 pm Fox                              USA vs Iran

2 pm FS1                              Wales vs England  

Wed, Nov 30

10 am Fox Sport 1            Tunisia vs Frane  

10 am Fox                            Australia vs Denmark  

2 pm FS1                              Poland vs Argentina

2 pm Fox                              Saudi Arabia vs Mexico  

Thur, Dec 1 –                        

10 am FS1                            Croatia vs Belgium

10 am Fox                            Canada vs Morroco

2 pm  Fox                             Japan vs Spain  

2 pm Fox                              Costa Riaca vs Germany  

Fri, Dec 2 –                            

10 am FS1                            Ghana vs Uruguay

10 am Fox                            Portugal vs South Korea

2 pm  Fox                             Cameroon vs Brazil  

2 pm Fox                              Serbia vs Switzerland

Sat, Dec 3 –                           Sweet 16 Knockout Rounds

10 am Fox                            1A vs 2 B  USA?

 2 pm  Fox                            1C vs 2 D

Sun, Dec 4 –                       

10 am Fox                            1D France vs 2C

 2 pm  Fox                            1B England? vs 2A

Mon, Dec 5 –                     

10 am Fox                            1E Spain? vs 2F

 2 pm  Fox                            1G Brazil? vs 2H

Tues, Dec 6–                      

10 am Fox                            1E Spain? vs 2F

 2 pm  Fox                            1G Brazil? vs 2H

Fri Dec 9

Fri, Dec 9                             Quarter Finals Final 8–                  

10 am Fox                           

2 pm                     

Sat Dec 10                           Quarter Finals Final 8–                  

10 am Fox                           

2 pm                     

Tues Dec 13                        Semis – Final 4                  

2 pm  Fox

Wed Dec 14                        Semis – Final 4                  

2 pm  Fox

Sat, Dec 17                          third Place                         

10 am  Fox

Sat, Dec 18                          FINALS                 

10 am  Fox

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US Men 

Why USMNT Needs to Go for Win vs England Now – Yahoo Sports

Late red card changes everything for Iran, Wales — and USMNT

hy the USA can find vindication in World Cup’s two big upsets

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Jedi Robinson has personal motivation to summon the force vs. England

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USMNT remains confident ahead of match vs. England

3 positives from USMNT’s draw with Wales

Get to know the USMNT’s 26-man World Cup roster

 


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GK

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special guests. Wear your kits. Bring your signs. Raise a Tifo inside the theater if you want. And be ready for a can’t miss night.

USMNT World Cup group scenarios: What does USA need to qualify for the round of 16?

By Jacob Whiteheadh ago


In Friday’s first game, Iran beat Wales 2-0 after sensational late goals from Rouzbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian at the Al-Rayyan Stadium.Iran had the better of the chances, hitting the woodwork on several occasions, but luck seemed to be smiling upon the Welsh, despite Wayne Hennessey’s late red card. However, Cheshmi’s 99th minute strike from outside the area gave Iran a famous win, with Rezaeian then finishing a counter-attack.Although England vs United States needs little more significance — more of that later — the result has clarified what the USMNT need to do if they are to escape the group stages.The USMNT has successfully reached the knockout stage at six of the 10 World Cup tournaments that have qualified for.

Will they be through if they beat England?

Not quite — but almost. That will put the USMNT on four points, England on three points, Iran on three points, and Wales on one point.

Group B if USMNT win

TEAMWDLPOINTS
United States1104
England1013
Iran1013
Wales0111

The USMNT play Iran in their final group game, and a point in that match would guarantee progression, while a win would see them win the group. England play Wales in the group’s final fixture.

However, if Iran beat the USMNT, Gregg Berhalter’s side would be knocked out if England beat Wales.

What about a draw?

It makes the situation fairly stark. England would have four points, Iran would be on three, the USMNT will have two points, and Wales only one.

Group B if USMNT draw

TEAMWDLPOINTS
England1104
Iran1013
USMNT0202
Wales0111

Simply put, a win against Iran will put the USMNT through, though whether that would be as group winners depends on England’s result against Wales.

However, any other result will see the American team knocked out.

Are the USMNT out with a loss?

This is where it becomes more difficult. Their fate would be taken out of their hands.

Group B if USMNT lose

TEAMWDLPOINTS
England2006
Iran1013
USMNT0111
Wales0111

England will be through as group winners on six points, with Iran on three points, and Wales and the USMNT each on one point.The USMNT need to beat Iran, and then hope that Wales fail to beat England. If Wales do beat England, the USMNT require their goal difference (goals scored minus goals conceded) to be better than Wales, as both teams would be tied on four points.

Who could the USMNT play in the knockouts?

They will play one of the teams from Group A — which includes hosts Qatar, the NetherlandsEcuador, and Senegal.

If the USMNT finish second their most likely opponent will be the Netherlands. They have lost four of their five games to the Dutch, but won the most recent 4-3 in 2015If the USMNT win the group, the most likely opponents are Ecuador or Senegal, who play in the final round of group games on Tuesday to decide progression. They have won five, drawn five, and lost five to Ecuador, but have never played Senegal.

What’s the history of England vs USMNT at the World Cup?

England did not play in their first World Cup until 1950, and their first ever game at the tournament was against the United States, who entered the match in Belo Horizonte as massive underdogs.However, a 38th minute goal from USMNT forward Joe Gaetjens gave his side a famous victory, and led to England being knocked out in the group stages.England have only lost on one other occasion to the United States — a friendly in 1993 — but faced them again in the World Cup in 2010. Though Steven Gerrard gave England an early lead, a mistake from Rob Green allowed Clint Dempsey to equalise. The USMNT would go on to win the group.The Athletic’s Oli Kay has explored the rivalry in more detail here.

Predicted US line-up

We brought you some early US team news earlier but, according to men in the know, Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio, it’s doubtful there’ll be much rotation after three days to rest, recuperate and prepare.The fitness of Sergino Dest and Weston McKennie remains a topic to watch, though all 26 players were participating in the portion of training open to the media on Thursday nightGio Reyna is considered one of the most talented players on the US roster but our USMNT experts think it’s unlikely Gregg Berhalter will bench Tim Weah or Christian Pulisic; we’re more likely to see Reyna in the second half.One area Berhalter may weigh a change is up top.Josh Sargent was disconnected from his attacking colleagues on MOnday but he did contribute to the goal-scoring sequence, chesting down a pass into the path of Pulisic, who took off on a lengthy run up the field before finding Weah with a brilliant through-ball.Berhalter could opt for Jesus Ferreira up top, but our team thinks Sargent’s physicality and ability on set pieces make him a better match-up for this game.

USA vs. England, 2022 FIFA World Cup: What to watch for

The big one’s here.

By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Nov 24, 2022, 9:00am PST  

74 Comments / 74 New

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US Men’s National Team vs Wales, 2022 FIFA World Cup

The United States Men’s National Team are back at it in their second group stage match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup tomorrow when they take on England at Al Bayt Stadium. The second this matchup was confirmed at the World Cup draw, the date on the calendar was circled: Black Friday. As most of America is off work today and tomorrow, the stage was set for one of the most anticipated USMNT matches of all time. And with it comes a ton of importance.

With the draw on Monday against Wales, the USMNT are sitting tied for second in Group B with 1 point, staring up at England. A result against the seeded team in the group would be massive to not only increase the USMNT’s chances of advancing, but to also open up the group a bit entering the final group stage matchday. A loss doesn’t eliminate the USMNT, but it will take destiny out of their hands and they’ll have to count on other results happening to get out of the group.

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We know that most of you already have a rooting interest in the World Cup. But that’s probably just habit. SB Nation has devised a quiz based on your style of sports fandom that will scientifically* decide which team you really should be rooting for. Take it here!

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USA

D (1-1) – Wales – 2022 World Cup Group B

D (0-0) – Saudi Arabia – Friendly

L (0-2) – Japan – Friendly

D (1-1) – El Salvador – Concacaf Nations League

W (5-0) – Grenada – Concacaf Nations League

England

W (6-2) – Iran – 2022 World Cup Group B

D (3-3) – Germany – UEFA Nations League

L (0-1) – Italy – UEFA Nations League

L (0-4) – Hungary – UEFA Nations League

D (0-0) – Germany – UEFA Nations League

What To Watch For

Keep eyes on Saka. Bukayo Saka had a terrific match for England against Iran, and he has emerged as a star over the last couple of years for the Three Lions. His creativity on the field combined with his knack for putting shots on frame means that the defense has to make sure they keep tabs on him and not let him get free.

Play like the first half against Wales. The team we saw in the first half on Monday was one of the best USMNT fans have seen in ages. They played extremely well and was aggressive in taking the game right to their opponent. Let’s see more of that tomorrow against England, but this time, it has to be a full 90 minutes.

Go right at Harry Maguire. If Harry Maguire starts, there’s your weak link at the back. Our midfielders should be able to keep Maguire on his back foot, where he tends to mess up at times. The USMNT needs to exploit any holes created by England’s bad positioning and go right at them.

Lineup Prediction

With news that Gio Reyna is available to play on Friday, we really are at a squad that’s fully ready to play. With all that in mind, here’s the predicted lineup that Gregg Berhalter will start against England:

Predicted Lineup vs. England

The prediction is pretty simple: no changes for the USMNT. We can expect to finally see Gio Reyna make his World Cup debut, while Brenden Aaronson will also see the field earlier in relief. There shouldn’t be any surprise if Sergiño Dest or Weston McKennie come off early given that they both hold yellow cards, but Berhalter will still likely start them given their importance to what the team wants to do on the field.

Prediction

Call this a homer pick if you want, but it’s another draw for the USMNT. 1-1.

England set to name unchanged starting XI to face USA, Kane fit to start

England set to name unchanged starting XI to face USA, Kane fit to start

By David OrnsteinNov 24, 2022


The Athletic has live coverage of the USMNT vs England in World Cup Group B play.

England manager Gareth Southgate is set to name an unchanged line-up for the World Cup game against the United States on Friday, with Harry Kane fit to start.Southgate decided to hand Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham their first World Cup starts in England’s first match of the tournament, and was rewarded with a thrilling 6-2 victory over Iran

The pair both found the target — Bellingham opened the scoring before Saka struck twice — alongside Raheem Sterling and second-half substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish.Kane, England’s captain, is poised to lead the line despite having a scan on his right ankle following a challenge during the Iran game.The 29-year-old was able to train with his team-mates on Wednesday and Southgate subsequently declared the Tottenham Hotspur forward was available for Friday’s encounter.Manchester United defender Harry Maguire is also set to retain his place in England’s starting XI, for what will be his 50th international appearance.There had been some question marks over the 29-year-old’s participation after he was replaced in the second half of the Iran win after complaining of illness.Maguire, however, made clear he was fit to play against the USMNT in a press conference on Thursday.“Obviously it was disappointing to have to come off the pitch,” he said.“I felt unwell in the second half but we have a great medical department. I have done all the tests and felt well since. I have been on the training pitch over the last couple of days and I feel good and ready to go.”It is anticipated Southgate will keep the back four which worked so well on Monday, with Kieran Trippier and Luke Shaw playing either side of Maguire and John Stones.Bellingham is expected to partner Declan Rice in midfield, with Mason Mount, Saka and Sterling played behind Kane.
England have a number of in-form options to turn to from the bench, with Rashford and Grealish already making an impact as substitutes.Eric DierPhil Foden and Callum Wilson were also introduced. Wilson was absent from an on-field training session on Tuesday, with England believed to be carefully managing the 30-year-old’s workload after a return from a hamstring injury earlier this season.England sit top of Group B and will secure progression to the knockout stage if they beat the US, who were held by Wales in their opening fixture.

Where England v USA will be won and lost: set pieces, Pulisic and pressing

Where England v USA will be won and lost: set pieces, Pulisic and pressing

Liam TharmeNov 23, 202227

England v USMNT is a game with many underlying narratives and there is likely to be a fascinating tactical battle on display.This will be the third meeting between the two sides at a World Cup — with all of them taking place in the group stages. USA produced a shock 1-0 win in Brazil in 1950 and the teams drew 1-1 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.Both teams went out in the group stages in 1950, while the USA finished above England, with both sides going through, in 2010.Here are the four tactical areas where The Athletic expects to see the game won or lost.https://theathletic.com/report/podcast-clip/?clip_id=6624


(1) Shape and wide area battles

US manager Gregg Berhalter sticks quite religiously to his 4-3-3, which against Wales saw Tyler Adams as the deepest of the midfield triangle.

To the left of him was teenager Yunus Musah, who kept pulling wide left to allow left-back Antonee Robinson to play in a more advanced space given that he is the best crosser in the team.

The pass network below shows how involved Robinson was in an attacking sense during the first 49 minutes. He played very high up the pitch and the blueness of his dot and the lines extending from it reflect a player who was highly involved in possession.

Robinson had the most passes in the final third of any American against Wales (23) and the second most crosses (six).

Viewing this rotation on the grab below, the full-back asymmetry is clear, with Adams deepest of the midfield three (blue dots).

But these rotations are also due to how passive and organised Wales are — under Berhalter the US have consistently struggled to break down defensively solid opponents.Gareth Southgate generally wants England to press but a slightly more measured approach, which allows Berhalter’s side to play more expansively, would open spaces to hit them in transition.Read more: England set to name unchanged starting XI to face USA, with Kane fit to startThe biggest reason for the US’s struggles against set defences is that it restricts the space Christian Pulisic has to operate in.

As a result, he has to drop deeper to become an option and has his back to goal when he does receive passes (see grab above). Anyone who has watched Pulisic knows his game is about exploiting big spaces and driving at opposition defences with space to play into.Southgate’s decision to start with a 4-3-3 for England’s opener versus Iran was more of a talking point — England have switched between a back three and back four in their last two major tournaments, but this move was seen as attacking by his standards.Declan Rice was the single pivot and he allowed Mason Mount and particularly Jude Bellingham to roam as ‘free No 8s’ between the lines.

England bossed the game, with 77.3 per cent possession and 34 sequences of nine or more passes in open play.The US will want significantly more of the ball than Iran, so Southgate could tweak personnel to move to a double pivot, perhaps bringing in Kalvin Phillips or Jordan Henderson to add midfield security.And while central midfield naturally feels like the area that needs to be controlled to win the game, both sides have key threats in wide areas, with Luke Shaw (left-back) and Kieran Trippier (right-back) pivotal in breaking Iran down from the wings.Wales’ back five prevented them from being overloaded when the US pushed their full-backs forward, and given that the wide spaces are key, it would not be a surprise to see England adopt a back five without the ball before transitioning to a back four when they have it.


(2) USA’s transition game and England’s counter-press

“If we look at what Christian (Pulisic) can bring to the USA at this World Cup, from a purely tactical perspective, he’s best in space,” wrote Leeds head coach Jesse Marsch in his exclusive column for The Athletic.

“So in transition moments and when he can be on the run and use his combination of agility and speed and technical ability, that’s when he’s able to be at his best.“We could see more of that in the England game.”Marsch was vindicated inside the first half against Wales — this probably feels like a familiar pattern for US fans, controlling the game with possession and wide area rotations (see above), only to score from a vertical attack against a disorganised defence.The goal originates from a launched Wales goal kick, with the US winning the first two aerial duels, leading to Pulisic eceiving Weston McKennie’s knockdown.The Chelsea winger drives forward into space, with right-winger Timothy Weah positioned in Neco Williams’ blind spot.

He doesn’t dribble far but crucially Pulisic engages centre-back Ben Davies and therefore gives Weah the time to make his perfectly arced run inside Williams, and the 22-year-old finishes with aplomb.

Pulisic came out as the top American ball carrier. He dribbled the ball 432 metres, almost 100 more than his next-best countryman, also making the most carries of 10+ metres.

“With the players, we’ve talked all week about setting the right tone and the right intent in our performance. That came through the way that we counter-pressed the ball,” said Southgate after the Iran win.

Rarely is any defensive performance a focus when scoring six in a World Cup game, but England were well positioned and responded well to possession losses to prevent Iran from transitioning quickly and made rapid regains.

An example can be seen within six minutes. Trippier attempts to find Saka but his pass is blocked.

Iran defender Majid Hosseini recovers the ball but instantly Trippier and Saka start to press, which is important because they come from both sides.

Trippier cuts off an easy forward pass down the line and the England midfielders move in (see Mount on grab below) to stop anything central. Saka tackles Hosseini and then shows good control and restraint to force him back…

… and eventually, England have Iran penned in, forcing Hosseini to kick the ball out of play.

The counter-press will not need to look this extreme and will be more essential in preventing counter-attacks than being a tool to regain possession, but if England can eliminate or reduce the US’s transition threat, it should help them control the game.


(3) England’s build-up play

Southgate’s reflections on England’s approach play against Iran were particularly interesting for a side that usually desire so much control. “We mixed our game up, we didn’t just play in front of the opponent, we constantly had runs in behind. We have to be that way and mix the game.”

Jordan Pickford’s pass map reflects this, with plenty of launched passes into the opposition half but a number of shorter ones, too, either out to the right or into the pivot.

The US press in a narrow 4-3-3, with their two wingers (yellow dots on grab below) close to the No 9, who tends to sit on the opposition defensive midfielder before pressing the back line.

Wales built up in their 3-5-2 against the US with a single pivot, so were matched three versus three against the press.

Naturally, this leaves space out wide for teams to play around the press, though Wales failed to exploit this effectively.

Outside centre-back Joe Rodon passes around Pulisic to wing-back Connor Roberts (white arrow), who bounces inside to Gareth Bale with one touch (blue arrow)…

… even though Bale miscontrols it, left-back Robinson was forced to jump onto Roberts and the knock-on effect is that centre-back Tim Ream steps out to engage Bale.

This vacates space in-behind that can be exploited with a clever passing pattern or better execution. Given England’s attacking success against Iran was underpinned by adventurous full-backs, exploiting these wide spaces could be key in unlocking the defence.

The US centre-backs particularly struggled to defend against Kieffer Moore (6ft 5in) in the second half.

He was able to pin Ream to control a long ball and then play through Brennan Johnson, who made a run beyond from deep.

This looks particularly similar to Harry Kane’s role in the build-up to the third goal against Iran, though the England captain is an injury doubt for the clash with USA.

He pins centre-back Rouzbeh Cheshmi and the ball ends up with Bellingham, who finds Kane’s diagonal run…

… and he can cross for Sterling to score.

Even if Callum Wilson starts ahead of Kane, England should still look to target the centre-backs and have runners beyond them, as well as exploit the lack of wide-area coverage in the US press.


(4) Set pieces

England scored the most set-piece goals (13) in European qualifying and they showed against Iran how threatening they are from dead-ball situations, notably from out-swinging corners.

Harry Maguire headed against the bar from a Trippier corner from the right before Saka doubled England’s lead with a volley following a Maguire knockdown from Shaw’s out-swinging delivery from the left. The below video works in the UK:

And this video works in the USA:

https:

Comparatively, the US looked at their most vulnerable against Wales when defending set pieces. Excluding the penalty, the two best Welsh chances of the game came from consecutive set pieces with both being headers. This video works in the UK:

This Yellow Card Foul by Kellyn Acosta vs Bales may have saved a devistating goal in the last seconds as US GK Turner was way out.

USMNT World Cup foe England looms large in the American soccer psyche

England's midfielder Steven Gerrard (R) exchanges his jersey with US defender Carlos Bocanegra during their Group C first round 2010 World Cup football match on June 12, 2010 at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg. NO PUSH TO MOBILE / MOBILE USE SOLELY WITHIN EDITORIAL   AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)

By Sam Stejskal Nov 24, 2022 32


The Athletic has live coverage of the USMNT vs England in World Cup Group B play.

It’s probably not possible for countries as large, varied and divided as the United States, to have a defined national character. It’s too nebulous a concept, too narrow a thing to pindown for such a big, diverse group of people.

It’s undeniable, though, that some Americans are accustomed to moving through the world in a certain way. Some see it as fearless, others view it as arrogant, but, on the broadest level, they’re used to setting the cultural, political and economic agenda in most places on the planet.

That has never been the case in men’s soccer, though. Outside of select immigrant communities (particularly Latino), the men’s game exists in the shadows in the U.S. It’s more popular today than ever before, but it’s still niche, engaged in a never-ending battle for hearts and minds both at home and abroad. In a world in which Americans are almost always the favorites, the U.S. men have forever been a global underdog.

U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter, captain Tyler Adams and star attacker Christian Pulisic have spoken repeatedly over the last few months about their mission to change the way the world perceives American soccer. They won’t have a better chance to do that than on Friday, when the U.S. will take on heavily-favored England in a massive clash at the World Cup in Qatar.

“I think it’s obviously a huge opportunity to fast track the impact that we can have,” Adams said on Thursday. “When you get a result in a game like this, people start to respect Americans a little bit more.”

Our nations’ shared language, special political relationship and England’s status as one of the most important soccer countries in the world means the European nation holds an important place in the U.S. soccer psyche. We consume their league, are taught by their coaches at nearly every level from the grassroots on up and have long seemed to give added significance to anyone in the game who happens to speak with a British accent.The importance we give England isn’t so much because of a direct inferiority complex as it is general insecurity about our standing in the game. Whether domestically or internationally, just about everyone involved in the sport has experienced the occasional disrespect that comes with playing, watching or being a fan of men’s soccer in America. For kids, that may have come in the form of schoolyard taunts. For fans, it might revolve around the poor public perception of MLS or the men’s national team. For professional players and coaches, it’s historically meant being viewed as lesser than their counterparts from other countries, regardless of their actual ability.For the most part, this isn’t such a fun experience. We want to belong; we’d like to be seen as real players. Getting a stamp of approval from England is by no means necessary, but it would no doubt feel good for many in the American men’s soccer community.

Clint Dempsey understands this dynamic better than most. One of the greatest men’s players in U.S. history, Dempsey was largely overlooked when he was growing up in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he learned the game primarily through playing in the town’s mostly-Latino men’s league. Despite his relatively anonymous beginnings, he scratched his way to the pros, first in MLS, then in Europe, where he had an excellent run with Fulham in the English Premier League and earned a big move to Tottenham before he returned to the U.S. to finish his career with the Seattle Sounders. Along the way, he played in three World Cups and tied the all-time record for most goals for the men’s national team.

For all of his talent and success, Dempsey feels he never really got his due in Europe. He certainly wasn’t a huge star among the general public back at home. The respect he did get, he had to earn — repeatedly.“Being an American player, no matter where you are, you have a chip on your shoulder,” he said during a recent interview in New York City.That was the norm for American players as recently as five or six years ago. It didn’t matter if guys like Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Stuart Holden or, in eras before theirs, Claudio Reyna and Tab Ramos were as technically proficient and tactically sound as all but the absolute best of their peers. As Americans, they were often written off by folks from other countries as little more than hardworking and industrious.That kind of attitude trickled into how people thought about the national team. There’s perhaps been no better example of that dismissiveness than the buildup to the last time the U.S. and England met at a men’s World Cup in their opening group stage game in South Africa in 2010.

The morning after the countries were drawn together in December 2009, English tabloid The Sun splashed “EASY” across their backpage. The headline was an acronym for the four teams placed into Group C: England, Algeria, Slovenia, Yanks. The subhed was even more arrogant: “USA, Algeria, Slovenia: Best English group since The Beatles.”Dempsey, Holden and fellow U.S. international Maurice Edu were all playing in the U.K. at the time, with Dempsey in the midst of his run at Fulham, Holden at Bolton and Edu at Scottish club Rangers. Each of them remembered that headline vividly.“I definitely remember seeing those headlines, being over there and the banter with your teammates and the back and forth, the arrogance,” said Edu. “It was arrogance. Blatantly, that’s what it was. But that’s the world that we live in, in terms of how we were viewed from a global standpoint.”“We all saw that,” said the Scottish-born Holden, who will serve as the color commentator for FOX’s broadcast of the match on Friday. “And I think we all saw that as an opportunity.”The idea that England would have no problems handling the U.S. added to the American players’ general sense of indignation about how they were thought of in Europe. The night before the game, after coach Bob Bradley showed the U.S. a few final video clips, the talk among players turned to how they felt they were being underestimated by an England team they knew would be under massive pressure. England entered the 2010 World Cup with huge expectations, with the media and public putting pressure on Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Co. to win the nation’s first World Cup since 1966.

Not that the external noise bothered them in the opening minutes, as Gerrard gave England the lead in the fourth minute of that match. The U.S. were no slouches, though — they had beaten an incredible Spain team and took a 2-0 lead against Brazil in the Confederations Cup the summer before. They were gifted an equalizer at the end of the first half when goalkeeper Rob Green fumbled Dempsey’s shot from distance, then actually rattled the post through striker Jozy Altidore on a chance in the second half.

“Even when England scored, when Gerrard scored, I think there was still a feeling that we were right in in this game,” Holden said. “We were worthy of a point that day, if not three. And all of those storylines going in, I think favored us in many ways. We were quite happy for the conversation to be aout England and not about us, to kind of fly in under the radar, a little bit low pressure.”

The U.S. didn’t win that game, but they did end up topping the group, finishing tied with England on five points but claiming the top spot ahead of them via tiebreaker. It remains the only time a U.S. men’s team has won its group at the World Cup. For Holden, it’s “forever bragging rights” whenever an English fan comes at him.Things have changed for individual American players in the 12 years since South Africa. Thanks in large part to the work of players like Dempsey, Edu and Holden and the generations that preceded them, USMNT stars like Pulisic, Adams and midfielder Weston McKennie have been afforded more and better European opportunities than any previous generation of American players.The stigma that past U.S. players faced overseas has evaporated a bit, too. Brenden Aaronson, who plays with Adams at Premier League club Leeds United, said in Qatar last week that he doesn’t feel like he’s ever been treated differently as a player in Europe than he was when he played in the U.S. Dempsey, Edu and Holden have all felt that shift, too.Collectively, though, the Americans still have a long way to go. The U.S. did fail to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, after all. They’ve still never done anything of serious repute on the world stage. They want that to change, and they want to change how they’re perceived in the process.It’ll be difficult to achieve that on Friday. England is better than the U.S. at basically every position. One could mount a serious argument that there isn’t a single player on the Americans’ 26-man squad who would make the England World Cup roster. The style of match should suit the U.S. better than how play unfolded in Monday’s draw against Wales, but style can only go so far when there’s a significant talent discrepancy. Another draw would be an excellent result for the Americans.If they can snag a point, they’d make a dent in their unending battle for respect and relevance, both at home and abroad. And if they can somehow pull off an upset win against England, well, as Pulisic said last week, that would change a lot of things.“It hasn’t been the top sport or whatever back in the States, but we want to change the way the world sees American soccer, to be honest, that’s one of our goals,” he said.“I don’t think people necessarily get anything wrong. I think we have to prove ourselves, we haven’t been maybe at the level of some of these world powerhouses in recent decades. We’ve had good teams with a lot of heart in us, but I think we can take it to that next step. With a successful World Cup, I think that can change a lot of things.

The many layers of U.S. vs. England at the World Cup: Friends and teammates turned rivals

The many layers of U.S. vs. England at the World Cup: Friends and teammates turned rivals

Paul Tenorio and Michael Walker Nov 24, 2022

The Athletic has live coverage of England vs USMNT at the World Cup.

As a young kid growing up in the north of England, U.S. men’s national team assistant coach Anthony Hudson used to carry around the jersey his father, Alan, wore in his debut for the Three Lions against West Germany in 1975.

Hudson would pop in a VHS tape of his old man and brag to his friends.

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“I was just very, very proud of him,” he recalled.

Hudson was born in Seattle when his father played there for the NASL’s Sounders, but he fell in love with the game back in England at the Victoria Ground in Stoke. He had dreams of following in the family footsteps, but even he probably never dreamed of where his career would take him: a World Cup game between his two countries.

“When the draw came out, it was an amazing moment,” Hudson said. “I remember calling my family and they’re all screaming and it was just a proud moment, an exciting moment. Any player or coach, the dream is to play or coach in the World Cup. So to be doing it and playing against one of the top teams, and one I have a connection with, is really special.”

On Friday evening at Al Bayt Stadium (2 p.m. ET), Hudson will be one of a healthy contingent of U.S. men’s national team players and staff with connections to their opponent, group-favorite England. Hudson, as well as midfielder Yunus Musah, left back Antonee Robinson, center back Cameron Carter-Vickers and goalkeeping coach Aron Hyde were either born in or have roots in England.

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It will undoubtedly be a special moment when they hear both anthems.

“I don’t know how I’m going to feel that day,” said Musah, who was born in New York, moved to Italy and then England as a child, and has not only played for but captained England youth sides. “But it’s a special game, for sure, because I’ve been on both sides.”

For many of the players with roots in England, it’s created a bit of a fun rivalry with family and friends. Robinson, whose father was born in England but raised in White Plains, N.Y., said it’s been an easy choice for his family: they’ll cheer for the U.S. on Friday. Musah said most friends have told him they want him to play well, but are rooting for England to win.

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Carter-Vickers smiled when asked during a news conference on Wednesday who his family would cheer for.

“Half of them want us to win and half of them want England to win,” said the defender, who was born in Southend-on-Sea, in the county of Essex, to an American father and English mother. Carter-Vickers’ father, Howard Carter, was a star basketball player for LSU in the 1980s. Carter-Vickers often went back to Baton Rouge, La., to be with family.

For Robinson, facing England will bring a bit of delayed gratification. He had a chance to play for the U.S. against England at Wembley in 2018, but was injured in training during the days leading up to the game. Robinson said he was devastated to miss the opportunity, but he’ll now have the chance to one-up the experience by facing England on the sport’s biggest stage.

“To actually finally get to play against England, and it’s at a World Cup, kind of puts two joyous moments into one,” Robinson told The Athletic. “It’s just one of those days that you’ve just got to enjoy every minute of it.”

Antonee Robinson (left) and Yunus Musah at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar. (Photo: John Dorton/ISI Photos)

The connections between this U.S. team and England run deeper than just the English-American contingent, however.

Several Americans currently play in or have previously played their club football in England.

Christian Pulisic is at ChelseaTyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson play at Leeds UnitedMatt Turner is the back-up at Arsenal, and Ethan Horvath starts in the second-tier Championship at Luton Town. Tim Ream has long been a stalwart at FulhamJosh Sargent is at Norwich City, another Championship team, DeAndre Yedlin spent parts of five seasons playing for Newcastle United, Gio Reyna was born in England and head coach Gregg Berhalter spent 18 months at Crystal Palace.

The familiarity and friendships between the two teams will add an extra layer to the all-important game. The match will pit club teammates — like Turner against Aaron Ramsdale and Bukayo Saka; Pulisic against Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling; Reyna and Jude Bellingham, among others — as well as former teammates, like Musah and Saka, and Carter-Vickers and Kieran Trippier against each other.

GO DEEPER

Where England v USA will be won and lost: set pieces, Pulisic and pressing

On the day of the World Cup group draw in April, Pulisic said that the first call he got was from Mount. Reyna joked this week that he and Bellingham may not be able to swap shirts if they get into a fight during the game.

“Of course it gets to a point where you talk about it and of course leading up to the game how excited you are to play against him, and you kind of talk smack, for sure,” Reyna said the other day. “But then, once you get on the field, it’s nothing really like that anymore. You’re kind of focusing, you don’t really even think about it. … We’ll text before, we’re already texting now, and then we’ll be ready to get after it.”

That familiarity could also prove to be a benefit for the U.S.Even though England are coming off a run to the final of the European Championship last year and beat Iran 6-2 on Monday in their opening game, there won’t be much of an intimidation factor for the Americans when facing an opponent with which they are so familiar. Many of them will be adapted to the English game.There are recurring themes and words to explain what U.S. players encounter in English football and what they take from it. “Speed” and “physicality” are mentioned repeatedly, which is not surprising. “Intensity,” too, is an expected response, but it is interesting that it is felt not just on the pitch but also off it. “Under a microscope”, is the phrase used by Horvath. It is an indication of the cultural environment of English football that strikes American players on arrival.

Horvath had been at a Champions League club, Club Brugge in Belgium, before joining Nottingham Forest last year. Prior to Brugge, he had been at Molde in Norway when they were managed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the ex-Manchester United striker who went on to coach that club. Horvath had gone to Molde at age 16, straight from his native Colorado.

“Even though you’re at a Champions League club, coming to England takes a bit of adapting, everything is that split-second quicker,” Horvath says. “That’s the main difference.

“Plus, in England everything is just under a microscope. That’s one of the biggest differences on and off the pitch. The football culture is more intense. In Belgium you can feel the intensity in Champions League games, but then in the next game, if you’re playing a mid-division team or lower, it’s kind of mentally challenging to get up for those games.”

At the international level, Horvath is coached by an Englishman. Aron Hyde, from Stourbridge, in the west Midlands, has been the U.S. goalkeeping coach for the past two years, having also done the job temporarily under Jurgen Klinsmann.

“The biggest things for me, when I think about football in England, is the speed and directness, power and aggression that’s involved,” said Hyde. “That competition drives quality, drives the environment. There’s the savviness of competing to win, because that’s what matters in England. And it’s constant. Football is everything in England, that’s the one thing that sticks out for these guys.

Can he tell when a U.S. player has been to England?

“Yes,” Hyde said, laughing. “One thing I do notice is they all come in and start calling me ‘mate’. … They try to make this conscious effort to fit in, to use the lingo, the banter. But you also notice they are improved by the natural competitive environment they’re in. I wouldn’t say it’s night and day, but I see it in all of them. No question.”Underneath it all, the connections and the familiarity, is the undercurrent of influence that English football has had in the U.S. From the influence of youth coaches who emigrated from England to the popularity of the Premier League, there is no European country that has had a bigger impact on the sport in the U.S.For that reason, the England game also creates somewhat of a proving ground for Americans.They know that back home, playing against England will be seen as a measuring stick for fans who have more familiarity with the Premier League than anything else.It’s an idea that’s been on the minds of those around the U.S. team going back to the day the groups were drawn.

“I know that there is a lot of respect for American soccer, but I think this is an opportunity, for sure,” Berhalter said that day. “This is an opportunity for us to show what we’re made of. They have a good team, but so do we. We have a young team, we have an athletic team, we have a team that doesn’t have a lot of fear, and it’s going to be a great game.“And I think even for the fans to be so familiar with (the England) players, they’re household names, and then to see us match up against them, I think it will provide some context and it’ll be, I think, really interesting for the fans as well.”

World Cup Daily, Grant Wahl Day 11

How Gregg Berhalter handles Gio Reyna against England will be one of the defining moments of his tenure.

The U.S.’s Gio Reyna never got into the game against Wales. But he could be a differentiator against England on Friday (Photo by David Ramos – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

In this column:

  • It’s Reyna Time against England. Does Gregg Berhalter know that?
  • Good Rivals on the USA-Mexico rivalry is OUT NOW on Prime Video
  • Thanksgiving in Doha!
  • The best stuff from Gregg Berhalter and Tyler Adams at today’s press conference

DOHA, Qatar — It hit me like a lightning strike right as England’s Jude Bellingham was bossing Iran early in the Three Lions’ 6-2 win on Monday: The first full day of the World Cup was going to be defined by two emerging-star best friends from Borussia Dortmund, Bellingham and the U.S.’s Gio Reyna!

See, I thought the 20-year-old Reyna, the U.S. player at this World Cup with the highest ceiling, was going to start on Monday against Wales. Reyna has been dogged by injuries over the past year, but he got healthy heading into the World Cup, and his creative and ruthless skillset adds something to the U.S. attack that just isn’t there otherwise.

So I was surprised when U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter omitted Reyna from the starting lineup. Still, the player he opted for instead, Tim Weah, obviously came good when he scored a terrific goal to put the U.S. ahead in the first half. The choice of Weah made the coach look good.

Then in the 66th minute, Berhalter pulled central midfielder Weston McKennie, who was gassed. Another chance for Reyna, who’s probably even better centrally than out wide. And another Berhalter decision to the contrary with Brenden Aaronson coming on instead. (Aaronson, who has been in good form, was fine in his stint.)

But in the 88th minute, when Berhalter pulled Weah and the U.S. was desperately seeking a goal and a moment of invention in any way possible, it was plain to see: Reyna Time. And Berhalter opted instead for Jordan Morris.

Understand, Morris has his qualities and deserves to be at this World Cup. Few things in the USMNT fanbase are more annoying than the dogmatic section that reflexively says MLS player = bad. Berhalter said after the game he chose Morris due to his physicality for the moment. But it didn’t make sense to me then, and it still doesn’t now, that Reyna wasn’t the choice.


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To be clear, there is zero animosity between Berhalter and Reyna. Far from it. Berhalter went to high school with Reyna’s dad, Claudio, and Berhalter’s wife (Rosalind) and Reyna’s mother (Danielle) both played for the legendary soccer program at the University of North Carolina (which Gregg also attended). The families are close. Gregg Berhalter has known Gio Reyna literally since Gio was a baby.

When Berhalter was asked (by Yahoo’s Henry Bushnell) today about omitting Reyna entirely on Monday, the coach said: “I think I was pretty clear after the game saying he was available for the match, and it was a coach’s decision that he didn’t play, and he’ll be available for tomorrow’s match. We’ll see what happens.”

If there were just three substitutes allowed per team per game in this tournament, I might better understand a decision to hesitate on using Reyna. He’s had a habit of being pulled out of games early with injuries for both club and country over the past year. But there are five subs allowed per game at this World Cup, which should render that concern moot.

And the benefits of using Reyna against England, a candidate to win the tournament, could be enormous. Reyna brings an attacking element the U.S. needs. He has the technical ability and the swaggering confidence to try things on the field. He has the ruthless competitiveness to want not just to beat his defender but to destroy him. He plays like someone who thinks he’s the best player on the field against any team he might come up against.

Reyna is young, but he is special. Games like Friday’s against England are an opportunity to help define the USMNT for this tournament and for years to come. Berhalter’s tenure will also be defined by this World Cup and the decisions he makes. I hope he moves Weah to center-forward against England and goes with Reyna out wide from the start.


Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’re enjoying the holiday with your family and watching a ton of World Cup soccer on TV. I miss being with my family today, but we did have a nice Thanksgiving lunch with turkey and a lot of other stuff at an event hosted by MLS and U.S. Soccer.

Photos by Grant Wahl

Today’s also a big day for another reason: Good Rivals, our three-episode documentary series on the USA-Mexico soccer rivalry, premieres today on Prime Video. I’m in the film and served as a producer conducting a lot of the interviews of the U.S. figures in it. I can’t tell you how proud I am of the year-long project, the defining story of one of the greatest international sports rivalries, which is a co-production of Meadowlark Media, Skydance Sports and Ocellated Media.

The first two episodes are already up! Let me know what you think about them.


What stood out to me from the press conference of Berhalter and Tyler Adams today:

• I asked Adams if the U.S. would welcome a game against England in which they won’t have the majority of the possession and the task of breaking down a low block like it had to do against Wales for much of the time.

“I play for Leeds. Have you seen the way we play?” Adams joked. “But I think that it sets up to our strengths in a way. We feel that one of the qualities and characteristics of our team that we’ve progressed and built over the past three years is our pressing, the amount of guys that we have on the team that can get in and around the ball with our athleticism to cover spaces and cover ground. We play in a very aggressive way against the ball, and that ultimately sets us up to create a lot of transition moments, which you did see against Wales. So we’re going to see how we have to change little variations to how we do things and capitalize on those transition moments.”

• How does Adams see the England game playing out?

“I see the game being a very fast-paced game,” he explained, “if it’s anything obviously like the Premier League and the quality of players that I’ve faced in the Premier League so far. We know that they’re going to be able to counter quickly in transition. They’re going to be good with the ball, against the ball. The defenders obviously speak for themselves. But again, that being said, yeah, we’re going to have to adapt that at certain points in the game, but we think that our strengths play to our advantage in this as well, and it’s going to be a good matchup.”

• Berhalter, from a question by Jeff Carlisle of ESPN, didn’t think the U.S. took advantage of its transition chances against Wales.

“There were opportunities,” he said. “We just didn’t take advantage of them. It’s something we identified yesterday in the postgame meeting. And we need to do a better job of that. Especially those moments where the opponent pushes you back a little, which can happen in the match. We want to be in a high posture, we want to be pressing, but there’s going to be moments where we’re lower on the field, and we have to be able to take advantage of the space behind the defense. And we didn’t do that effectively against Wales.”

• Adams was asked (by Nancy Armour of USA Today) if having more familiarity with English players through club interactions has made England seem less intimidating than it used to be.

“England’s still a big team at the end of the day,” Adams said. “Intimidation factor? I wouldn’t say there’s many things out out there that intimidate me other than spiders. So it’s fine for me to obviously have the opportunity to play against all these big players. I’ve done it before. But we also want to show what we’re capable of and that U.S. Soccer is growing and developing in the right way.”


In other news:

• How many of our subscribers are in Qatar for the World Cup? Would any of you like to do a subscriber meet-up here? Let me know in the comments below.

• I want to apologize for putting the score of the U.S.-Wales game in the headline of the email that post that went out at the final whistle. Some of you are recording these games while you’re at work and got a spoiler as a result. I won’t be putting the scoreline in future headlines.

• As for the cadence of my daily posts from the World Cup, here’s what I’m aiming for: One good written post a day. That includes the 2,000-word magazine-style story I’ll post by 9 am ET the morning after every U.S. game. I’m pretty shattered after finishing those, so you won’t get a World Cup Daily post on days those U.S. stories publish. Hope you understand. I’m red-lining basically every day here as it is!

Get ready for USA-England at the World Cup!

Playing with Tyler Adams, USMNT’s World Cup captain: ‘He’s a natural-born leader’

Phil Hay and Sam StejskalNov 24, 2022

The first scouting report on Tyler Adams in Leeds United’s system is from January 2020.

Adams had been with Germany’s RB Leipzig for a year and Leeds dispatched Gaby Ruiz, their head of European recruitment, to watch him in the flesh. Leeds were in no position to actually sign him because they were just a second-division club at the time and Leipzig were heavily invested in Adams but so often in football, that first glance at a player plants a seed.Adams was interesting, a player with technical promise and personality. He was young, a few weeks shy of turning 21, but to the naked eye, he did not look it. Self-assurance, arrogance, maturity; whatever it was, the midfielder had it and Ruiz submitted his thoughts with interest.The club revisited their files on Adams this past summer, when speculative interest turned into a concerted bid to sign him from Leipzig. Another report, written by a different scout, Alberto Cordero, was effectively a green light to make the deal:“Dynamic in all his movements… a very fast player in small spaces… perfectly prepared to carry out continuous pressing in different areas… constantly generates continuity in his passes… able to carry the ball into attacking zones with great precision and speed… simple and correct… generates effort…”Cordero’s assessment continued in that vein before concluding that Adams was tailor-made for countryman Jesse Marsch’s Elland Road midfield, the opposite of a shrinking violet.

Tyler Adams(Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images) 

At that stage of the transfer market, it was a toss-up for Leeds, who had already paid another German club, Bayern Munich, £10million ($12.1m) for another midfielder, Marc Roca. They could have Adams or they could have Mohamed Camara, the tenacious Malian who played for Red Bull Salzburg.The difference in their prices was not huge but Leeds, Marsch and director of football Victor Orta fell on the side of Adams. He and Roca would be a more consistent pairing, they believed. And with Adams, they were also acquiring strong leadership qualities — a surrogate captain. (Camara went to Monaco of France’s Ligue 1 instead.)Those qualities were given a vote of confidence last week when Adams was named as the USMNT’s captain for the World Cup.He had worn the armband internationally before but this was something else, a 23-year-old asked to lead the U.S. through a tournament in which expectancy of them was higher than ever. Previously, the Americans had rotated the captaincy among the members of a “leadership council” and tellingly, the decision to award it to Adams permanently did not come from head coach Gregg Berhalter. It came instead from the squad — they took a vote and Adams was the winner.That call, one former U.S. international tells The Athletic, was an “absolute no-brainer” and almost every conversation about Adams — with current team-mates, old team-mates, coaches past and present — yields the same validation.He was the kid who broke the convention that footballers know their place until they are settled, established and old enough to answer back or throw their weight around. Whenever stories about his spell at New York Red Bulls in MLS are told, they invariably come back to an incident in which an attempt to remind him of his lack of seniority ended in a physical altercation which Adams won.The U.S. need that bite and they will need it in spades during their second group game against England in the coastal city of Al Khor having drawn 1-1 with Wales in the opener.

Robertson Aaronson AdamsUSMNT team-mates Adams and Brenden Aaronson show they are up for a battle against Liverpool (Photo: James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)

The “no-brainer” remark came from Sacha Kljestan, who played alongside Adams in New York.Without over-egging his foresight, Kljestan saw this coming a while ago.“Considering (the captaincy) was left to the players to decide, I’m not surprised it went his way,” he says. “I’ve known him since he was about 16 and I had him down as a natural-born leader very early on. It shines through in the way he is and the way he plays, this ultra-confident guy who kind of shocks you a bit but then quickly earns your respect.“I was 20 years old when I became a pro and I was one of those players who always deferred to the older guys. Always. It’s what most players do. Tyler was nothing like that. He came through at 15, 16 and from day one, he was sure of himself, never the sort to keep his mouth shut if he had something to say. He speaks well, he plays well and that makes him an ideal captain.”Adams’ trick, and his route to respect from the rest of the dressing room, was to back up his talk in the only way a young player can.He wanted to be seen to be making the most effort and although the U.S. let a 1-0 lead slip late on against Wales on Monday, Berhalter got an archetypal Adams performance from his captain, a blend of tackles, interventions and recoveries. He won the most tackles (five) and duels (eight) of anyone on either team and ranked third for possession regains.Leeds, more and more, have been witnessing that industry in the Premier League, aided by stamina which allows Adams to marshal the area between both boxes and manipulate the ball there. His total distance covered against Wales, over 13km, was the furthest of the World Cup to that point.

He is, though, capable in possession and more than a midfield disruptor.On and off the pitch, people close to him see two sides of him. Adams is fiercely competitive when the chips are down but people at Leeds described him as “sweet and easy-going” in normal life.He and Brenden Aaronson, the other U.S. World Cup squad member on Leeds’ books, live close to each other in the smart Yorkshire town of Harrogate and play golf together whenever matches and training sessions allow. Adams, according to Aaronson, is the more proficient golfer of the two and their competitive streak is such that both have hired instructors to improve their swings.“I’ve played with Tyler enough now to see that he’s a completely different person on the field,” Aaronson says. “Sometimes we yell things back and forth at each other, get into it a little, but we’re really good friends off it“On the field, he is just like… he puts his game face on and gives his all. Something that’s really underrated about Tyler is that, not only does he win a ton of tackles and he’s all over the place, but on the ball this year he’s been unbelievable (at Leeds), switching the point of attack, connecting the little 10- or 15-yard passes in the middle. He’s been fantastic, one of our best players.”

Leeds, like the U.S. squad, have a leadership group of senior players who interact closely with the coaching staff and offer a sounding board.It was set up by Marsch, the club’s American head coach, when he was appointed in February of this year.Interestingly, Adams is not part of that group yet but is a member of the council established by Berhalter, along with others including Christian Pulisic and Walker Zimmerman. The U.S. camp are fairly guarded in talking about the council in detail but it is essentially the voice of the squad, designed to keep people on the same page and maintain good channels of communication with Berhalter.Adams, who will turn 24 in February, is the youngest national captain in this tournament and Leeds’ first at a World Cup since Lucas Radebe with South Africa in 2002. He has never been far from the USMNT picture since Berhalter took charge in 2018. “I can go on and on about the strengths of Tyler,” Berhalter says, “but I think the other thing about him is his humility.

GO DEEPER My game in my words. By Tyler Adams

“He’s a guy whose team-mates know exactly what they’re going to get from him. They know he’s going to go out on the field and compete, they know he’s going to be thinking about the game, they know he’s going to be into the details of the game. He’s not just a competitor, he’s also a strategist. That helps the group because he calms people down and he’s the guy people get behind.”Kljestan, a veteran of more than 50 USMNT appearances who is in Qatar as a host and analyst on Fox Sports’ FIFA World Cup Now show, admits he needed to adjust to Adams’ forthright personality.“When he broke through as a kid, I definitely took time to warm up to him,” Kljestan says. “What he was just wasn’t what you expected of someone his age. There was nothing malicious in what he did or said. He just didn’t seem to be afraid of anyone.“He’d speak when he felt like speaking and he’d be totally honest so, to begin with, part of you is thinking, ‘I don’t know what to make of this guy’. But then he plays how he plays, he’s 100 per cent for the team and you forget about everything, other than the fact that he’s exactly what you want alongside you.”A few months ago, Mike Grella, another former New York Red Bulls player, told a story of Adams getting into a fight with, and beating up, an older team-mate who pushed him too far. Kljestan remembers that incident too although, like Grella, he prefers not to name the recipient of the beating.

“This was someone who played in the same position as him, someone who’d been around the game for much longer,” Kljestan says. “He’d get Tyler in headlocks from time to time, give him little digs — a bit of fun mostly, but maybe a way of showing who was in charge.“One day we came out of a team meeting and this guy, he was jabbing at Tyler, like he did. I don’t know, perhaps Tyler had just had enough. They started grappling and wrestling, serious all of a sudden, and, well, Tyler made this guy tap out. He didn’t mess with Tyler again after that.“It’s a good way to sum Tyler up. He doesn’t take s*** from anyone.”England will find that out in what should be the biggest examination of Adams’leadership to date.Gareth Southgate’s team are highly fancied to win the match, and are among the favourites to win the World Cup itself.For the U.S., a point or three might hinge on the player who will set out to attack England’s midfield like a wasp, entirely in his element.Giving him the national-team captaincy required a dressing room vote, but.

GRANT WAHL ON YANUS MUSAH — Ghana, Italy and England missed out on Musah, who picked the United States in the end (Artwork by Dan Leydon for GrantWahl.com)

VALENCIA, Spain — You can’t help but notice it when you visit the Valencia CF megastore at the Plaça de l’Ajuntament in this sun-drenched city on the Mediterranean. Front and center at the entrance this season is a giant image not of star forward Édinson Cavani or captain José Gayà or coach Gennaro Gattuso, a World Cup winner with Italy. Instead the marquee attraction greeting fans is a 19-year-old midfielder who could be the breakout star for the United States at the World Cup. 

Yunus Musah is a citizen of the world—born in New York City, blood from Ghana, raised in Italy and England, coming of age in Spain—and the global launchpad for one of the USMNT’s first Muslim players may be in Qatar, at the first World Cup hosted by an Islamic country.

“The World Cup has changed so many players’ careers,” Musah tells me during a long interview at Valencia’s training facility, his British accent shaped by seven years of living in London. “And I feel like so many footballers don’t actually ever get to experience the World Cup during their careers. So it’s an opportunity to grasp and to enjoy most of all. But also at the same time really focus and put your A-game out there. Because the whole world’s watching, and anything can happen.”

Musah fell in love with soccer at age 5, playing in a park with his older brother, Abdul, and a friend in Castelfranco Veneto, a small town in northern Italy. They would run around that park for hours during summer days, until they wore down the grass and only dirt remained in front of the goals. Yunus felt an exhilaration running with the ball and knifing through defenders who couldn’t keep up with him. “That was the initial thing that made me love it: doing a mad run and having a shot go in,” he says. “I still love doing that right now.”

Yunus first developed his soccer skills in Italy, often alongside his oldest brother, Abdul, whom he spent countless hours with at their mother Amina’s shop (Photos courtesy of Yunus Musah)

A mathematics professor explains why USMNT might be undervalued against England

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 21: Timothy Weah of United States celebrates after scoring their teams first goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between USA and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

By David Sumpter

Nov 23, 2022


The data is starting to come in. After the first round of World Cup games, we now have several ways to measure team performance. But what numbers give us the most insight about the upcoming games?

The first number to look at is the expected goals (xG). This is a measure of the quality of chances or, more technically, ‘the probability a shot is scored in a typical football match’. I illustrate the xG below in two different ways, first as the position of the shots on the pitch, and then as a lollipop diagram of when the shots came during the USMNT vs. Wales match. The higher the stick of the lollipop, the better the chance.

While the 1-1 result was quite fair in terms of the chances created in xG (0.86-1.17), Wales’ chances were boosted considerably by the 0.75xG from the penalty kick (75% chance of scoring provided by the penalty). So, it was the USA which had the best chances during open play.

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Digging deeper, the plot below shows a measure known as expected threat or xT. Here is the xT for both of the Group B matches.

Less well known than xG, expected threat measures the quality of attacking play: passes in to dangerous areas and dribbles won. Here we see that the USA dominated the game in the first half, although less so in the second half, when Wales came forward looking for an equalizer.

Most of this bodes well for the USMNT, going in to its match against England, whose expected goals for the first match against Iran are shown below.

Again, the late penalty boosts Iran’s xG numbers, but the most interesting insight here is that England’s six goals were not nearly equaled in terms of xG (1.99). England was a bit lucky to score so many goals.

To understand the matchup between the USMNT and England, I have plotted the transition maps for the USMNT and against England. The size of the circle shows the quality of chances created during transitions – when the ball is regained by a team in open play and they launch a counterattack.

The USMNT scored against Wales from a transition (marked with a star) and generated a couple more chances in this way (large circles). For its part, England conceded three big chances from transitions. It is here the Three Lions’ weakness lies: when Iran did get the ball back against them, they were vulnerable to counterattack. With this in mind, I can see Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah doing the same thing to England that they did to Wales and get a goal in the first half.

I recommend you dig deeper in to the numbers for other matches, and live during the game, in the Twelve Football App, before you make up your mind where your money should go. For me, England are slightly overvalued in the current odds. And although I don’t think the States will win it, I can see good value in backing a draw on moneyline.

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Wales against Iran is harder to call. Both teams were on the defensive in their first games, and neither got going until the second half. But, with the Welsh as favourites, the smart money is on a surprise from the Iranians.

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🐟 DECEMBER 13 – SEATTLE @ SHOWBOX SODO 🐟

We will re-live the day’s on-field narrative. Celebrate your city’s distinct football culture. And chop it up with a slew of very

11/22/22  US ties Wales 1-1, Mexico-Poland Tues 11 am on Fox, US vs England Fri 2 pm Fox

US Men tie Wales 1-1, Friday 2 pm vs England on Fox

The first 45 minutes was perhaps the best half of soccer for the US since the US win over Mexico in the Nations League.  We were dominant with 75% possession and Pulisic slotted a perfect ball to Tim Weah for the well deserved first goal after 5 shots in the first half.  You have to give Berhalter credit for a perfect line-up in the first half – but boy did Wale come back in the 2nd half.  I thought the US was fine and we all knew Wales was going to press forward – but this game all came down to Walker Zimmerman our center back making a stupid and rash foul on Garreth Bale which gave up a PK and effectively cost us the game.  Give Wales credit for putting in subs that made a difference while Berhalter waited too long to make his subs – Yedlin for Dest (on a yellow) was waaay too late, and even Aarsonson for McKinney was ok – but a few minutes later my issue was Acosta for Musah (who was gassed).  The Acosta sub showed that Berhalter was going to try to hang on rather than go for the win. Reyna or de La Torre here would have signaled the US was going for the win and trying to get that counter attack goal – instead we absorbed pressure and for the most part held on – until the calamitous play by Zimmerman.  I thought the D held pretty well – Ream was god like in the center and Jedi Robinson was solid on the left.  Matt Turner made a huge save and also got a finger on the PK blast by Bale.  Overall the US was electricfying in the first half and had chances to score that second goal.  I have issues with the subs and it would have been nice to see the US adjust the 2nd half pressure with a formation change (to 4-4-2 from 4-3-3)  – allowing Pulisic to get further up the field on the counter attack rather than having to come back so much and get fouled repeatedly.  

Now about the Ref – this Qatar Center Ref – was definitely fluffing his feathers and decided he wanted to be THE STAR of this game.  He inserted himself WAAAAY to often and decided he wanted all his countrymen to see him take charge of this USA vs European game.  He was not consistent and simply LOVED TO SEE HIMSELF on the Screen.  I didn’t realize Qatar had pro soccer league much less one that would prepare them for a game in the World Cup.  Still the US lost this tie – and the Ref didn’t help. 

Shane’s Starters for Friday

Pulisic, Sargent, Weah

Musah, Reyna

Adams

Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Scally

Turner

First off bench McKinney, Aaronson, Ferriera

Matt Turner Save

 US Goal by Tim Weah

these 26 stories on our 26 players going to Qatar its awesomeMore hype videos

Full U.S. Men’s roster for 2022 World Cup:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8 appearances for U.S./0 goals), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach/GER; 3/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0)

FORWARDS (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1)

World Cup News

The World Cup commercials are out – which ones do you like best?  Nike  Addidas  check them all out here

Shane’s Starters for Friday

Pulisic, Sargent, Weah

Musah, Reyna

Adams

Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Scalley

Turner

First off bench McKinney, Aaronson, Ferriera

Matt Turner Save

 US Goal by Tim Weah

these 26 stories on our 26 players going to Qatar its awesomeMore hype videos

Full U.S. Men’s roster for 2022 World Cup:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8 appearances for U.S./0 goals), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach/GER; 3/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0)

FORWARDS (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1)

World Cup News

The World Cup commercials are out – which ones do you like best?  Nike  Addidas  check them all out here

American Outlaws Watch Party Friday 2 pm Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple. https://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

5 am Fox Sport 1               Argentina (Messi) vs Saudi Arabia

8 am FS1 Tunisia vs Denmark

11 am Fox                            Mexico vs Poland 

2 pm Fox                              France vs Austrailia

Wed, Nov 23

5 am Fox Sport 1               Morroco vs Croatia

7 am Fox Sport 1              Germany vs Japan

11 am Fox                            Spain vs Costa Rica 

2 pm Fox                              Belgium vs Canada

Thur, Nov 24  –                   Thanksgiving

5 am FS1                              Switzterland vs Cameroon

8 am FS1                              Uruguay vs Korea

11 am Fox                            Portugal (Renaldo) vs Ghana

2 pm Fox                              Brazil (Neymar) vs Serbia

Fri, Nov 25

5 am FS1                              Wales vs Iran

8 am FS1                              Qatar vs Senagal

11 am Fox                            Ecuador vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox                     USA vs England

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World Cup Schedule

US Men


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My 4 Thoughts on USMNT 1, Wales 1

Late Gareth Bale penalty gives Wales a big point against a U.S. team that will be disappointed it couldn’t hold the lead.

GRANT WAHLNOV 21∙PAID
 
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Tim Weah kept his composure and scored for the U.S. off a brilliant ball from Christian Pulisic (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

DOHA, Qatar — The USMNT tied Wales 1-1 in their opening game of the World Cup on Monday after a 36th-minute goal by Tim Weah was matched by Gareth Bale’s 82nd-minute penalty. Here are my four thoughts on the game:


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• This is going to feel like two points dropped after a mostly positive U.S. performance. It sure looked like the U.S. was going to get a big three points in its World Cup opener as Weah’s goal stood up for nearly 50 minutes, but a misguided challenge by Walker Zimmerman in the box on Bale was whistled for the penalty, and the Welsh superstar (who hadn’t played 90 minutes in forever) converted the spot kick. The U.S. had chances to go up 2-0 at various times in the second half and will regret not executing better in the attacking third on those opportunities. But the truth is Wales performed much better in the second half and started to create some chances of its own. Wales ended up having a slight advantage on expected goals (1.56 to 0.79 if you include the penalty kick). It’s a shame that the U.S. couldn’t get all three points. It would have set up the Americans well to advance from the group. Now this group will be on a knife’s edge as I suspect the U.S. and Wales will continue to duke it out for second place behind an England team that looked great today in a 6-2 win over Iran. That said, there’s no reason the U.S. can’t give England a game on Friday. It’s just now that much more important.

• The Christian Pulisic/Weah combo continues to produce goals in big games. Remember when Weah’s gorgeous cross was hit by Pulisic for the game-winning goal against Mexico at home a year ago? Well, Pulisic returned the favor on Monday in the World Cup, embarking on a gorgeous run through the midfield and laying off a pinpoint pass for Weah to finish with ice-cold composure. We had wondered this week if Weah might get a surprise nod at center-forward considering the U.S.’s struggles at the spot and Weah’s history of playing there at club level. Weah didn’t start as the No. 9 on Monday, but he certainly provided a center-forward’s finish at speed going down the gut. Give credit to Gregg Berhalter for starting Weah ahead of Gio Reyna (who didn’t play at all) or Brenden Aaronson. Both those players can be impact guys, but Weah has a record of producing goals and assists for the national team that those guys don’t have. Weah’s father, the great George Weah, never got to play in a World Cup, so you have to think it was a special moment for the Weah family to see Tim put it in the net.

• The left side of Fulham’s back line looked good in red, white and blue. Berhalter smartly chose to start Tim Ream as his left center-back even though Ream hadn’t even been with the U.S. team in more than a year before this camp. And the 35-year-old Ream made the coach’s trust pay off, showing his usual skill playing the ball out of the back and playing solid defense. There’s a calmness and wisdom about Ream that not many U.S. center-backs possess, and his club familiarity with Fulham teammate Antonee Robinson helped too on Monday. Robinson got forward down the left side on several occasions, and while he didn’t have any truly dangerous crosses you still like seeing him get in the position to deliver them. Overall, the U.S. defense did well except for the penalty, and Matt Turner had a terrific reaction save in the 64th minute on a Ben Davies header on one of the few occasions the U.S. back line let one slip.

• The U.S. men haven’t won many World Cup games over the years, and you realize again how hard it is to get them. World Cup wins haven’t happened often in the modern era for the U.S. men: One in 2014 (Ghana), one in 2010 (Algeria), two in 2002 (Mexico and Portugal) and one in 1994 (Colombia). That’s it. Tonight will feel like a large missed opportunity because three points and a great chance to advance from the group were there to be taken. More than four out of five teams that win their first World Cup game advance to the elimination rounds. Now the challenge will be for the U.S. to shake off the frustration from what could have been in this game and get ready to play England. No England team has ever beaten the U.S. in a World Cup (men’s or women’s), and while it’s a small sample size, the U.S. should go into that game feeling like it can play with any team in the

tournament.

Grant Wahl Unexpected Detention by World Cup Security

What happened when I wore a rainbow t-shirt to the Qatar World Cup in support of LGBTQ rights in a country where same-sex relationships are illegal.

GRANT WAHL  NOV 21  

DOHA, Qatar — When I arrived at the stadium media entrance to cover the United States-Wales World Cup game today wearing a rainbow soccer ball t-shirt supporting the LGBTQ community, the security guards refused to let me in, detained me for 25 minutes and angrily demanded that I remove my t-shirt.

“You have to change your shirt,” one guard told me. “It’s not allowed.”Same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar. But FIFA has been clear in saying that the rainbow flag would be welcomed at the World Cup. The Qatari regime, however, has said very little on the topic, raising concerns that things would be different on the ground.I sent out a hasty tweet:

Just now: Security guard refusing to let me into the stadium for USA-Wales. “You have to change your shirt. It’s not allowed.”

3:57 PM ∙ Nov 21, 2022 A moment after tweeting that, one guard forcibly ripped my phone from my hands.Nearly half an hour passed. One security guard told me that my shirt was “political” and not allowed. Another continually refused to give me back my phone. Another guard yelled at me as he stood above me—I was sitting on a chair by now—that I had to remove my shirt.I told him no.“You can make this easy. Take off your shirt,” one said.I told him no, adding that my shirt wasn’t political at all.My friend Andrew Das, a reporter for the New York Times, walked past, and I informed him what was going on. They detained him too.Eventually, the guards made me stand up, turn around and face the CCTV camera above us.“Are you from the UK?” one guard asked.“New York,” I said. This was getting annoying. I arrived when I did so I’d have enough time to watch the Netherlands-Senegal game, and now I was missing it.Finally, they let Andy go. And then a security commander approached me. He said they were letting me through and apologized. We shook hands.One of the security guards told me they were just trying to protect me from fans inside who could harm me for wearing the shirt.(A FIFA rep later apologized to me as well.)But the entire episode left me wondering: What’s it like for ordinary Qataris who might wear a rainbow shirt when the world isn’t watching here? What’s that like?

USA player ratings vs. Wales: A tale of two halves

By Connor FlemingNovember 21, 2022

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The U.S. had it but Gareth Bale is inevitable.

To beat Wales to open its World Cup campaign, scoring twice was always going to be necessary for the United States. Why? Because even if he did absolutely nothing for 89 minutes, you knew Gareth Bale was going to score in the 90th. 

The U.S. got its first in a sensational opening 45 minutes, but that second goal never came as Wales gained the ascendency for large portions of the second half. The inevitable moment finally arrived in the 82nd minute after Walker Zimmerman fouled Bale in the area, and the 33-year-old came up clutch from the spot.

USA player ratings vs Wales 

Manager Gregg Berhalter: 7/10

Berhalter made two huge personnel decisions Monday: Weah on the right flank and Ream at center back. Weah scored the goal, Ream anchored the defense. The U.S. manager also recognized how Wales was going to attack on the flanks and hit those defensive weak spots going the other way. n the second half, he reacted quickly to the turning of the tide with some timely changes, but the 75th-minute triple sub didn’t work like Berhalter envisioned. As Landon Donovan said after the game, where was Giovanni Reyna? Berhalter was walking on water in the first half, but the second provided the Big Soccer Brains of Twitter with ammunition.    

Matt Turner: 6/10

Turner didn’t face a shot in the first half. In the second, he acrobatically tipped a diving header over the crossbar. He did everything right on Bale’s penalty — guessing the right direction and diving early — but it was an unstoppable effort. Turner didn’t have any memorable saves late, and he looked shaky with balls into the area before relying on a Kellyn Acosta tactical foul to prevent a goal while in no man’s land.       

Antonee Robinson: 6/10

Got forward effectively in the opening 45 and marshaled Gareth Bale into total silence. He went the full 90 and did well given the threat of Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts, but it was all rearguard action in the second 45. 

Tim Ream: 8/10 

His first 45 was close to perfection. He dealt with a couple dangerous situations with supreme calm and distributed beautifully. Nothing was getting by Ream, and that proved the case over 90 minutes with Wales only converting from the spot. Like everyone else, the second half was more of a struggle with the physicality of Kieffer Moore posing problems.  

Walker Zimmerman: 3/10

Like his partner in the heart of defense, his passing was quick, zippy and purposeful in the first half. Zimmerman looked confident — so confident that he tried to win the ball off Gareth Bale in the area despite being shielded. It was a stonewall penalty. It’s sad and unfortunate but he let his country down. 

Sergiño Dest: 6/10

98% pass accuracy in the opening 45! His passing was crisp, although he was given a soft yellow card, and he made life so miserable for Daniel James that the Fulham attacker was hooked at halftime. However, Dest’s lack of action at AC Milan was evident in the second half as he struggled with Wales’ direct approach and tired quickly.  

Tyler Adams: 8/10

The American with the most tackles, the most interceptions and the most midfield touches. Adams was the version of himself that’s been winning plenty of plaudits at Leeds United, and as every other American began to fade and surrender in the second half, Adams continued to battle. 

Weston McKennie: 5/10 

Another recipient of a soft yellow, but McKennie’s off-the-ball movement was constant, shifting the Welsh midfield and backline around. However, he wasn’t largely involved, his passing wasn’t quite at his teammates’ level and when Wales took the ascendency in the second-half, McKennie was rightly the first U.S. substitution. 

Yunus Musah: 6/10

Musah showcased his attacking talent in the first half with some nice dribbles and great passing, but the game completely passed him by in the second 45 as he looked like a big defensive liability. The decision to take him off and put Kellyn Acosta on made perfect sense.  

Christian Pulisic: 7/10

What an assist from LeBron on Tim Weah’s goal! Pulisic was heavily involved with 70 touches, but he didn’t look as dangerous off the dribble as usual (zero successful take-ons) and there was enough evidence here to take him off set-piece delivery forever. 

Timothy Weah: 8/10

The sharpest U.S. attacker in that glorious first half. A smart run, beautiful touch and dangerous cross almost opened the scoring, but then Weah did it himself in the 36th with a composed finish beyond Wayne Hennessey. He was replaced by Joran Morris in the 88th.  

Josh Sargent: 6/10 

Sargent did exactly what was required of him on the opening goal with good holdup play. He also glanced a header off the post from a difficult angle, but his second half was a lonely time before getting replaced by Haji Wright in the 74th.  

Subs

Brenden Aaronson, Jordan Morris, Haji Wright, DeAndre Yedlin and Kellyn Acosta tried to turn the tide as Wales grew into the second half, but none of them stood out as Wales drew level and pushed for a winner. Aaronson probably helped his chances of starting against England the most, and Acosta is the greatest tactical fouler in U.S. history.

Open in app or onlineAn Unexpected Detention by World Cup SecurityWhat happened when I wore a rainbow t-shirt to the Qatar World Cup in support of LGBTQ rights in a country where same-sex relationships are illegal.GRANT WAHLNOV 21 SAVE

USMNT Player Ratings: Weah’s goal, Zimmerman’s mistake define World Cup draw

By Bruce Arena

Monday, Nov 21, 2022, 05:33 PM

The first game at a World Cup is so important, something I’ve experienced twice with the US men’s national team.

In 2002 we beat Portugal 3-2, setting up a quarterfinal run. Then in 2006 we lost 3-0 to the Czech Republic, setting up a group-stage exit.

Where will things go after the USMNT’s 2022 World Cup began with a 1-1 draw against Wales on Monday? A point to start their Qatar 2022 trip isn’t the worst thing, but this young squad should have won 2-0 and not allowed Gareth Bale’s group to stick around.

Group B impact

I still think ​the USMNT are going to reach the knockout stages, probably needing a win over Iran on the final matchday (Nov. 29) and hoping for a point against England on Black Friday. But it’s also clear this team, in this cycle, didn’t have enough experiences against quality international teams to be fully ready for a World Cup. That’s mainly because of the pandemic, so it’s hard to toss blame, but it’s also a fact we played a bunch of Concacaf games that were way too easy. You need those top-tier teams that really challenge you.

And the England game is shaping up as a real test, after they beat Iran 6-2 and sent goal differential/goals scored in their favor. The question is are we grown-ups and do we understand this is one where we’re an underdog and we have to play smart, we have to play defensively, play a little bit differently than we talk about how we should play.

Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet, though. Here’s how I thought, person by person, the USMNT fared Monday against the Welsh. I’m using the following grading scale:

  • 1-4: Below average or worse
  • 5-6: Average
  • 7-8: Good to very good
  • 9-10: Excellent or outstanding

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Matt Turner

Goalkeeper · USA

My former goalkeeper with the New England Revolution made a really strong save early in the second half, stepping up after mostly being a bystander. Turner had one hell of an effort on Gareth Bale’s PK, but that 82nd-minute shot was too strong to save – as good as he is from the spot.

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Jedi Robinson

Defender · USA

Jedi could’ve been a little bit tighter on closing down crosses, but he defended fairly well. It’s clear how important the Fulham left back is to how the USMNT want to play; he’s eager to get forward and join the attack.

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Tim Ream

Defender · USA

A few weeks ago, it seemed like Ream wasn’t even going to be on the USMNT’s World Cup roster. But the 35-year-old answered the call against Wales, passing well out of the back and going a good job organizing the defense. He’s your veteran leader out there, building off a key role at Fulham in the EPL.

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Walker Zimmerman

Defender · Nashville SC

I hate dinging his grade, but Walker’s foul on Bale cost the USMNT all three points. He had to do very little defending, then in an important moment of the game he goes to the ground and concedes a penalty. That hurts his team.

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Sergiño Dest

Defender · USA

Getting an early yellow card definitely didn’t help Dest. He was okay on both ends, but could’ve been more of a presence in the attack. You expect him to be more threatening going forward.

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Tyler Adams

Midfielder · USA

I wanted to see more passing from Adams in pushing the US forward. He’s got the armband for a reason and is really strong defensively, but there’s room for him to impact the game more.

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Weston McKennie

Midfielder · USA

Weston’s early yellow card took away from the aggressiveness we’re used to seeing from him. He’s at his best when he’s running all over the field, but I rarely saw him in the attacking third. Still, a solid game for Weston as he comes back from injury.

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Yunus Musah

Midfielder · USA

I was surprised to learn Musah became the youngest player to start a World Cup match for the USMNT (19 years, 358 days), even younger than when we had Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley back in 2002. On the day, he picked it up in the second half and was overall pretty solid.

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Christian Pulisic

Forward · USA

Pulisic’s influence really grew after the first period, and his through ball on Weah’s strike was great. I would’ve liked to see the USMNT’s main man get a shot on goal or find more ways to impact things.

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Joshua Sargent

Forward · USA

The Norwich City striker was too quiet and could’ve gotten more touches. Sargent’s grade is on the low end of being “average,” but it’s not fully on him that we didn’t play forward quickly enough.

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Timothy Weah

Forward · USA

Weah scored a goal in the World Cup. How can’t you give him a good rating? I wanted to see him get after Wales’ left back Neco Williams even more, but he stepped up. Give him full credit.

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Gregg Berhalter

Head coach

What I’d be critical of is we could’ve made changes a little earlier in the game. I would’ve brought in two attacking players between the 60th minute to 65th minute. 

But at the end of the game, I don’t know how you blame a manager for an error in judgment that Walker makes. That’s tough to do. 

Substitutes

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Brenden Aaronson

Midfielder · USA

Aaronson showed his usual aggressiveness, trying to get out on the break a few times. I wanted to see him subbed on earlier; those quick balls up to the forwards are threatening.

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Haji Wright

Forward · USA

Wright probably could’ve come into the game earlier too after Sargent was pretty ineffective. He had some bright moments, but didn’t have enough time.

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DeAndre Yedlin

Defender · USA

Yedlin came in and did his job, the sole USMNT player with past World Cup experience.

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Kellyn Acosta

Midfielder · USA

I’m almost tempted to put Acosta higher after that stoppage-time yellow card he took on Bale, his LAFC teammate. That was a very smart play since Matt was caught off his line at 1-1.

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Jordan Morris

Forward · USA

Morris didn’t play enough to get a rating. I would’ve brought on Gio Reyna instead, but it sounds like he might not have been 100% fit – or at least Gregg’s being careful with his injury history.

USA's defender #03 Walker Zimmerman and Wales' forward #11 Gareth Bale fall during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B football match between USA and Wales at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha on November 21, 2022. (Photo by Antonin THUILLIER / AFP) (Photo by ANTONIN THUILLIER/AFP via Getty Images)

The USMNT’s two tackles that defined their draw with Wales

Paul Tenorio Nov 21, 2022

The game, and potentially the entire trajectory of the U.S. team’s 2022 World Cup experience, changed in the matter of two seconds and a few feet of movement by Wales star Gareth Bale, who may be slowing physically with age, but not in his speed of thought.It was the 80th minute and the U.S. was holding on to a 1-0 lead. A crucial three points in their group opener was within their grasp. As the ball was cut back across their penalty box, U.S. center back Walker Zimmerman lunged forward to clear it from danger. The 29-year-old Nashville SC defender saw a clear path to the ball. But Bale lurked behind him.Bale had only 30 touches on the night, the lowest of any starter for Wales, but world-class players find ways to change games in those margins. On this occasion, it was Bale’s clever movement that was key. In the two seconds as the ball was played, Bale covered the few yards of space between him and Zimmerman and stuck his left leg and left shoulder in front of the defender. Zimmerman had committed and went through the back of the five-time Champions League winner. It was a mistake to leave in his feet, and it was an easy penalty call.

Bale is brought down by Zimmerman for the penalty (Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Bale finished the night with just two touches in the box: drawing the penalty and converting it with a blistering shot through Matt Turner’s finger tips. And just like that, the USMNT’s path through Group B became substantially more difficult.It was a mistake from one of the U.S.’s most dependable players at the worst possible time. Zimmerman was the lone U.S. outfield player not to take part in the first three qualifiers last September.

Berhalter didn’t call him initially for the October window of World Cup qualifying, but he was summoned late after Tim Ream and John Brooks withdrew from camp. Zimmerman stepped into the starting lineup in October against Jamaica and soon proved himself capable of performing with the national team.He became a reliable option at a time when the center back position grew shaky following injuries to Miles Robinson and Chris Richards. Going into roster selection for the tournament as Berhalter considered five or six options, Zimmerman was the one center back who had secured his spot on the plane to Qatar through his consistent play.But on the biggest of stages, a player who had become a stalwart lost himself slightly in the moment. It was instinctive to leave his feet for the clearance, he said. By the time he saw Bale, it was too late.The U.S. will now go into Friday’s match-up against group-favorites England aiming for a result to feel comfortable. A win or draw would put them on a clear path to advance out of the group stage. A loss would leave the U.S. in need of a win against Iran in the finale and some help from the rest of their group. This is how life goes at the World Cup. The difference between success and failure can be determined in a handful of moments across three games. 

The reaction

“We talked about it before the game, every play matters,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. “World Cup. You’ve got to be focused. Every single play can have a potential outcome on the game. It’s a high level that we’re playing. A good high intensity. And this particular play was a little bit unlucky for Walker, he had a lot of good challenges. This one, a little unlucky.”“We leave our feet in the penalty area and anytime you do that, you’ve got to be 100 per cent,” Turner said. “And this time a great defender, he made a mistake, and I do my best to try to pick those up and make the play not-so-bad, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that.”Zimmerman’s thoughts on the matter were succinct: “Wish I would have seen him out of the corner of my eye. “Sometimes you’ve just got to shrug it off. It happened. Move forward. Not much time to dwell on it…it’s not the first penalty  I’ve given up, it’s not the last one I’ll ever give up. You can learn from it.”Wales manager Rob Page didn’t put his side’s equalizer down to luck or Zimmerman’s vision, however. He credited Bale’s ability to put himself in the right spots.“(Bale’s) very good at finding those spaces, he’s intelligent, he’s got a wise head, so he puts himself in those positions in the box to be able to get penalties,” Page said. “He used all his wisdom there.”

Before the tackle

It would be unfair to treat Zimmerman’s tackle as the lone moment of vulnerability for the U.S. Wales had the better of play in the second half after bringing forward Kieffer Moore on for Dan James. The 6ft 5in Moore became a target up top and they went more direct, causing all sorts of problems for a U.S. team that controlled the first half.While the U.S. spent most of the first 45 minutes on the ball and in their opponents’ half — they had 66.1 percent possession at half-time — it was Wales that looked the bigger threat in the second half. Still, the U.S. seemed at least to be managing that pressure and dealing with it well enough. Turner was called upon to make a huge save on a header from Ben Davies in the 64th minute and Moore should have put a header on target shortly after that, but otherwise the threats were relatively tame.Even the penalty didn’t come without some controversy. The U.S. team was adamant that the ball went out of play near the corner flag in the 80th minute before Brennan Johnson played it back. The ball would be played out for a throw a few seconds later, and Wales took that quickly to start the sequence that led to the penalty. “Unless the replay shows differently, it was blatantly out of play,” said Antonee Robinson, who was the defender pressuring Johnson. “So it’s really disappointing. I kept saying to the linesman, ‘you’ve cost us the game,’ basically. It should be a win. And there’s nothing they can do, it’s a new phase of play, VAR can’t do anything at that point. It’s disappointing. The officiating was terrible, to be honest, on the whole game, so hopefully that improves for the tournament.”Berhalter addressed the play too.“Leading up to (the penalty) there’s a throw-in,” he said. “I’m looking down the sideline and was sure the ball went out of play. By a good margin. I’m really surprised that it wasn’t called.”

The other tackle

In the final moments of the game, Kellyn Acosta may have saved Turner and the U.S. from what would have been a devastating loss. The goalkeeper came way out of his box to clear away a long ball. As he raced back to his empty net, Bale looked to be lining up a shot from just past midfield that would have given Wales the win. Before he could hit the ball, however, Acosta, Bale’s LAFC team-mate, fouled him and picked up a yellow.“It’s a great foul,” Zimmerman said. “It’s professional.”One tackle that cost the U.S. a win and one that prevented a loss — the fine margins of the World Cup.It was a disappointing result for the U.S. in their first game back on the world stage since losing to Belgium in the round of 16 back in 2014.Eight and a half years ago, Tim Weah was a 14-year-old playing in the New York Red Bulls academy. Pulisic was 15 and still one month away from moving to Germany with his family to begin his professional career.Both had dreams of playing in a World Cup. Weah, the son of former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah, aspired for a chance to reach a stage his famous father had never played on.Pulisic’s wait lasted four years more than he expected — a destiny delayed on a soggy field in Couva, Trinidad five years ago. On Monday night in Doha, more than 6,500 miles from where they grew up, the two combined on a goal that looked like it might give the U.S. a crucial three points.Unfortunately, another player making his World Cup debut would flip the narrative. In 2014, Bale was no kid; he had been sold for a record €100 million transfer fee. But he, too, waited a long time for this moment — for a chance to write his name in the books at a World Cup.

Why Tim Weah over Gio Reyna was the right call for USMNT’s draw with Wales – Sam Stejskal Athletic

USA's forward #21 Timothy Weah celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B football match between USA and Wales at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha on November 21, 2022. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP) (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)

By Sam Stejskal


Head coach Gregg Berhalter had big decisions to make heading into the U.S. men’s team’s World Cup opener against Wales.Were Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest fit enough to start? Would he stick with Jesus Ferreira at striker or give Josh Sargent a run? Which two of Tim ReamAaron Long and Walker Zimmerman would get the nod at center back? Would Tim Weah or Gio Reyna start at right wing?

As it turned out, two of those choices were critical in what ended as a disappointing 1-1 draw for the U.S.

On the right wing, Berhalter guarded against some muscle tightness and rested Reyna, instead giving Weah the start. That paid off massively late in the first half, when Weah darted in behind the Wales defense and slotted a shot past goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

At center back, the U.S. opted for Ream and Zimmerman. For the most part, the duo did well, but a costly mistake by Zimmerman gave Wales a penalty that star forward Gareth Bale converted in the 82nd minute.

The two plays defined Monday’s result, which, while fair, left the Americans in a precarious position in Group B. The U.S, who will play group favorites and leaders England on Friday, may end up needing a win and some help in the final round of group matches next Tuesday in order to advance to the round of 16.“It’s pretty clear: It’s a disappointing result,” said goalkeeper Matt Turner, who got a hand to Bale’s blistering penalty. “The first half was great, but we didn’t score as much as we probably should have and that cost us. That’s an experienced team — in the second half it was disappointing that we let them in the game so much.”Weah was a huge reason the Americans were in a winning position to begin with. It wasn’t just that he scored the goal — the chance he buried probably never materializes if it was not for his specific skills.Though he only recorded one goal and one assist in nine appearances, Weah was probably the most consistently dangerous U.S. attacker during World Cup qualifying. No matter the opponent or stage, Berhalter can trust the 22-year-old to remain high and wide and use his speed to stretch opposing backlines.Fellow wingers Christian Pulisic and Reyna might be big talents, but they often pop up in central positions rather than run in behind opposing defenses.That ability made the U.S.’s goal. The Americans controlled the first half hour against a passive Wales, but, apart from a Sargent header off the post from close-range after an initial attack was recycled back into the box, the Americans didn’t create many good chances.hat changed in the 36th minute. After a bit of a scramble in midfield, Pulisic headed a ball forward to Sargent, who had dragged one of Wales’ three center backs forward by checking back.Sargent played the ball to an onrushing Pulisic, who drove into the attacking third. His run occupied the remaining two Welsh center backs, with right-sided center back Chris Mepham rushing up to confront him and left-sided center back Ben Davies sliding over to provide cover.

That prevented Pulisic from carrying the ball into the box, but it left space for Weah to run in to from the right. He took full advantage, racing beyond Wales wing-back Neco Williams and running onto Pulisic’s excellent through ball in the middle of the area before slotting the ball home.“One of my strong points is definitely running in behind the defense,” said Weah, whose father George, one of the greatest players in the history of the game and the current president of Liberia, was in attendance on Monday.

“I know when Christian gets the ball that he’s very creative, and he knows how to find those positions. It was up to me to just make the run, and the most important thing was to finish. It was an amazing moment.”It was an excellent team goal — and exactly the type of movement the U.S. was hoping for. Wales sat deep for much of the match, particularly in the first half. They were difficult to pick apart, stacking the middle of the final third with defenders and forcing the U.S. wide.The U.S. expected those tactics. In order to break Wales down, they knew they would have to draw one or more of Wales’ three center backs forward, then immediately exploit the space the defender vacated.Unfortunately, they weren’t able to produce that kind of movement all that often. Wales’ defensive discipline shunted the U.S. to the flanks time after time, and they struggled to hit accurate crosses

“Playing a back five, they can kind of just sit deep and it made it difficult for us to penetrate through them,” said left back Antonee Robinson, who spent a significant amount of time attacking.“It was difficult to try and find solutions and mix our game up and drag players out. It ended up getting to the point where it was players like Christian or Yunus (Musah) turning players one-v-one to take a player out, and then trying to beat the pressure. And obviously they’ve got quite good height in the back, as well, so crosses in the box, they’re decent at defending them.”

Things did come off perfectly for the U.S. on Weah’s goal, however. Even if Reyna was fully healthy, the ability to make that kind of run in behind probably means Weah would be in the starting XI.

But there was still controversy over Reyna not getting into the match. Berhalter used four of his five substitutions while the U.S. was leading 1-0; they were either made to take off tiring players, make the U.S. more defensively robust or achieve a combination of those two things.

The fifth change came after Wales equalized. It seemed like a natural time to bring on Reyna for Weah, who was cramping and looked fatigued. Instead, Berhalter introduced the far less heralded and technically skilled Jordan Morris, who wasn’t able to affect the game in the closing minutes.

Berhalter said that Reyna experienced tightness in the U.S.’s friendly against Qatari club Al-Gharafa SC on Thursday. The American training staff performed what Berhalter called “a last-minute check” on Reyna on Sunday to confirm that he was healthy enough to play against Wales.

Those results came back positive, but, given that the end of the game was an open, physical affair, Berhalter opted for the physicality of Morris over the historically injury prone Reyna, who missed a few weeks this fall after he tweaked his hamstring while with the U.S. in September.

“(Reyna) is gonna be OK and I envision him playing some role against England, but today we thought, given the nature of the game, (that Morris was the better choice).”

Reyna said after the game that he “felt good” and “ready to go, but it was just (Berhalter’s) decision” to not play him.

His ability to create chances out of almost nothing could serve the U.S. well on Friday against an England team buoyed by beating Iran 6-2.

The Americans don’t need a point against England in order to maintain their hopes of advancing to the knockout rounds, but any kind of result would be a massive boost.

A few more movements like the one displayed on Weah’s goal, coupled with magic from Reyna or another teammate, would go a long, long way toward achieving that.

USA 1 Wales 1: Bale to the rescue, Weah’s vertical movement and Pulisic delivered

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 21: Gareth Bale of Wales celebrates after scoring their team's first goal via a penalty past Matt Turner of United States during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between USA and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

By Stuart JamesPaul Tenorio and more Nov 21, 2022


It was Gareth Bale to the rescue for Wales in their opening game of the World Cup against the U.S. men’s national team as the forward who now plays in MLS for Los Angeles FC scored a late penalty to cancel out Tim Weah’s first-half goal.

Christian Pulisic set Weah up brilliantly to put Gregg Berhalter’s side ahead at the Al Rayyan Stadium but Bale won a penalty with less than 10 minutes to go after a clumsy foul by USMNT centre-back Walker Zimmerman.

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Earlier in the day in Group B, England had thrashed Iran 6-2 and they are the clear favourites to win the group.

Our writers Stuart James, Paul Tenorio and Mark Carey analyse the key talking points from the game…


Bale steps up when it matters

James: Aged 33, Bale tends to produce moments these days rather than performances — and nothing changed here. On the fringe of the game for so long — he had fewer touches than anyone else starting in a Wales shirt — Bale delivered when it mattered yet again.

For much of the game it had been hard to escape the feeling that the pace and tempo of the match was too much for Bale — which would have been no surprise given how little football he has played in the build-up. Booked in the first half — harshly it should be said — Bale was unusually careless in possession.

Bale being Bale, though, there was another chapter waiting to be written in his glorious Wales career. On the night he earned his 109th cap, to equal Chris Gunter’s record, Bale won and converted the penalty that earned Wales a deserved draw after a hugely improved second-half performance, aided by the introduction of Kieffer Moore.


Pulisic delivered in his first World Cup game

Tenorio: Since breaking out with Borussia Dortmund as a teenager six years ago, Pulisic has carried a certain level of expectation on his shoulders. Pick a nickname. He is the Golden Boy. Captain America. Jokingly, in recent years, it’s been, “The LeBron James of Soccer”. The nicknames reflect both the pressure Pulisic has faced and how those hopes have changed as Pulisic’s career has aged.Pulisic has not impressed at Chelsea. Even with the U.S. over the qualification cycle, he was inconsistent. And yet, in the biggest moments, Pulisic has found ways to impact games — for club and country. He remains the biggest star in the sport back home.

Entering the World Cup, Pulisic had learned that he did not have to do everything for this U.S. team. The U.S. have welcomed a core of stars to their roster: Weston McKennieTyler Adams, Tim Weah, Sergino Dest, Gio Reyna, Yunus Musah and Brenden Aaronson among them.And yet Pulisic can never truly be just a cog in the machine. The U.S. ceiling is set by Pulisic. He is still the player most likely to turn a game on a dime. The player most capable of providing that ‘wow’ moment. And in his first World Cup game, Pulisic delivered.The moments he finds space on the ball are rare, and so as he got on the ball in midfield and was able to run at Wales in the 36th minute, you could sense something dangerous could happen. Indeed, Pulisic showed that game-changing savvy, taking an extra touch to pull two Welsh defenders one step closer to him, then slotting in a pass that put Weah in for his goal.In the second half, Pulisic continued to look dangerous, creating almost every decent opportunity for the U.S. It had been a five-year wait for Pulisic to get on this stage, and in that span the weight of his stardom has provided ups and downs. Even Pulisic has admitted some of how it has weighed on him. But in his first test at the World Cup, Pulisic looked up to the pressure — and more than capable of leading this U.S. team.


Page got his tactics wrong

James: There is no point sugarcoating it — Rob Page got his tactics badly wrong. It was a big call from the Wales coach to leave out Moore and pick Harry Wilson instead and it didn’t work. 

“I just think pace up top has got us success,” Page said beforehand, explaining his thinking. “I’ve got footballers in the middle of the park if I want to create space to hurt the opposition, and to do that I need quick players up top and DJ (Dan James) falls into that category.”That was the theory, but the reality was different. Wales were a team under siege in the opening 45 minutes, unable to retain possession, overrun in midfield and crying out for some sort of presence up front to give them an outlet in the face of the USMNT’s press. 

Instead, Moore was watching from the bench as Bale and James struggled to make any impression. James couldn’t make the ball stick, which is not his game anyway. As for Wilson and Aaron Ramsey, they were so high when Wales were trying to play out that it was easy for the U.S. to smother Ethan Ampadu and force their opponents into a long, hopeful ball that inevitably came to nothing.

Moore was introduced at the start of the second half — a change that was as predictable as the sight of the U.S. taking the lead nine minutes before the interval, when Weah ran onto Pulisic’s clever pass and finished coolly. 

Wales looked a totally different proposition with the Bournemouth striker leading the line.


Weah’s vertical movement paid off

Tenorio: The U.S. coach Berhalter had several tough decisions to make when it came to his starting line-up, among them whether to start Weah or Reyna on the wing opposite Pulisic.His decision to opt for Weah had a clear tactical justification behind it. The U.S. needed Weah to provide a threat in behind Wales’ back line, a verticality that Reyna typically doesn’t bring. With Pulisic preferring to check back into midfield or find the ball in the half spaces, and Josh Sargent preferring to receive the ball more often with his back to goal, Weah provided a level of danger that forced Wales to respect how much space they allowed behind them. 

(Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images)

The choice was not an obvious one, though. Reyna is undoubtedly one of the most talented attacking talents in the team and his creativity in the final third might have added an element against Wales’ low block to help a U.S. team that has typically struggled to break down opponents.Opting for Weah got exactly the result the U.S. had hoped when, in the 36th minute, Pulisic got on the ball in central midfield and drove at Wales’ back line. As the Welsh defenders moved to close Pulisic down, Weah sprinted into the space behind the centre-backs and Pulisic found him with a clever pass between the defenders. Weah then used the outside of his right foot to give the U.S. the lead.It was exactly the type of movement the U.S. and Berhalter would have imagined from Weah.


Midfield battle

Carey: Formations can often be misleading to represent what is actually occurring on the pitch, and it was difficult to determine what Wales’s midfield set up was across the game. Ampadu was anchoring the play, with Wilson to his left and Ramsey to his right. However, neither Wilson nor Ramsay are central midfielders in the typical sense, with both players’ attacking instincts meaning they were closer to the forward line than the midfield on plenty of occasions.That meant gaps opened when the U.S. had possession, and Wales were unable to cover the width of the pitch in central spaces.It is not Wales’s style to dominate the midfield. As covered in The Athletic’s World Cup group guides, Wales ranked bottom for possession (48.1 per cent) and open-play sequences of 10+ consecutive passes (78) during UEFA qualifying. However, this lack of presence in midfield meant that USA were able to dominate the central areas for long periods in the first half.By bringing Moore on at half-time, Wales were able to take the midfield out of the equation, play higher up the field and get their attack-minded players on the ball with more territorial dominance. The contrast between the first and second period was stark. Wales were good value for their equalising goal.

World Cup clinching scenarios: How USMNT can reach the Round of 16

By MLSsoccer staff @mls

Monday, Nov 21, 2022, 07:23 PM

22WC-US-clinch-scenarios

1-1 draw with Wales wasn’t the best way for the US men’s national team to kick off their 2022 World Cup campaign, but it did serve its purpose.By earning their first point of the tournament, the USMNT have the Round of 16 within reach with two more games remaining in Group B – first against England (Nov. 25) and then Iran (Nov. 29).Monday’s result, which came after LAFC superstar Gareth Bale’s 82nd-minute penalty canceled out Timothy Weah’s 36th-minute opener, ensures Gregg Berhalter and company still control their destiny.The Three Lions are currently top in the group after their 6-2 thrashing of Iran earlier in the day, giving them all three points. The US and Wales follow with a point apiece, while Iran have zero points to their name. Only the top two teams of each group advance to the knockout stage.

Scenarios

The US can neither advance nor be fully eliminated after they take on England on Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – at Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar (2 pm ET | FOX, Telemundo).

However, the result will play a massive role in their overall chances. Below is a breakdown of the United States’ likelihood to advance based on potential point totals after all three of their matches:

  • 7 points (win next two matches): ADVANCE
  • 5 points (win one match, draw the other): Almost definitely ADVANCE
  • 4 points (win one match, lose the other): Could ADVANCE but need results to go their way
  • 3 points (draw next two matches): Almost definitely ELIMINATED
  • 2 points (draw one match, lose the other): ELIMINATED
  • 1 point (lose both matches): ELIMINATED

And here is a breakdown of their specific clinching scenarios depending on the result against England.

  • US beat England: They would advance to Round of 16 with a draw or win against Iran.
  • US tie England: They would advance to Round of 16 in most but not all scenarios with a win against Iran. They would be eliminated in most but not all scenarios with a draw against Iran. They would be eliminated with a loss against Iran.
  • US lose to England: They could advance to the Round of 16 with a win against Iran depending on results in other group stage games. They would be eliminated with a draw or loss against Iran.

Tiebreakers

In order of priority:

  1. Goal differential
  2. Goals scored
  3. Head-to-head result
  4. Goal differential in matches between tied teams (only in three-way tie)
  5. Goals scored in matches between tied teams (only in three-way tie)
  6. Fair play tiebreaker (based on negative points for yellow and red cards)
  7. Drawing lots

Regardless of Friday’s result, the USMNT will still have a chance to qualify for the Round of 16 when they take on Iran on Tuesday, Nov. 29 (2 pm ET | FOX, Telemundo).

Chance of advancing

Based on Group B’s Matchday 1 results, FiveThirtyEight gives the USMNT the second-best chance to advance.

What results do England, the USMNT and Wales need to advance at 2022 World Cup?

What results do England, the USMNT and Wales need to advance at 2022 World Cup?

By The Athletic UK Staff


Of the eight different 2022 World Cup groups, the one featuring England, the United States, Wales and Iran — group B — is mathematically the hardest, and therefore the most challenging to predict.It has the lowest average FIFA world ranking of any of the Qatar 2022 groups, with England (ranked fifth), USA (16th), Wales (19th) and Iran (20th) combining to give a ranking of just 15.In fact, it’s likely to be more difficult than any World Cup group we’ll see again because of the expansion to a 48-team World Cup from 2026, combined with increased geographical spread.It’s therefore not that surprising to find the group intriguingly poised after the first two fixtures. England hammered an underwhelming Iran 6-2, while the USMNT and Wales played out an entertaining 1-1 draw.But where do those opening results leave group B? And which team, the United States or Wales, should be happier with that draw in Doha? We take a look.


What happened on the opening day?

In the first fixture on the second day of the 2022 World Cup, England got their campaign off to a flying start with a thorough and conclusive 6-2 victory over Iran.

Jude Bellingham broke the deadlock in the first half, with Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling also scoring to give England a 3-0 lead at the break.

Even more goals came after the interval, with Saka getting his second, quickly followed by a consolation from Mehdi Taremi to make it 4-1.

Substitute Marcus Rashford made it 5-1 within minutes of being on the pitch, before Jack Grealish finished a flowing move in the 90th minute to cement England’s all-conquering performance.

The drama still wasn’t over though, as a last-kick Iran penalty completed the action.

Later on, it was Gareth Bale to the rescue for Wales in their opening game of the World Cup against the USMNT as the forward, who now plays in MLS for Los Angeles FC, scored a late penalty to cancel out Tim Weah’s first-half goal.

Christian Pulisic set Weah up brilliantly to put Gregg Berhalter’s side ahead at the Al Rayyan Stadium but Bale won a penalty with less than 10 minutes to go after a clumsy foul by USMNT centre-back Walker Zimmerman.

So who is left needing what?

Monday’s results were not surprising from a FIFA world rankings perspective. The strongest team in the group, England, beat the weakest, Iran. And the two sides in the middle played out a draw.Previous World Cups would suggest that both the United States and Wales need to beat at least one of England and Iran to qualify for the knockout stage. team could technically qualify for the knockouts with fewer than four points, of course. But studying the results of every World Cup since 1994 — when three points for a win was first introduced — shows that teams usually require at least four to progress.At the last World Cup, in Russia, both Argentina and Japan made it through to the knockout stage with four points: from a win, a draw and a defeat. The other six teams to qualify for the round of 16 as group stage runners-up collected either five or six points.In fact, since 1994 only one nation has qualified for the knockout stage with less than four points. That was Chile at the 1998 World Cup, who drew group stage matches against ItalyAustria and Cameroon, respectively.

Who are the favourites to progress?

Ahead of the World Cup, Nielsen’s Gracenote predicted every match of the tournament using a proprietary football ranking system. This allowed them to estimate the chances of different results for every possible match through extensive simulations, to assess the chances for each team to reach different stages of the tournament.This system correctly predicted that England would beat Iran, for example.Gracenote’s model predicts that, on Friday, England will beat the USA, while Iran are tipped to recover from their opening day setback to beat Wales.On the final day, it predicts England to beat Wales and the USA to overcome Iran.Should these predictions come to pass, England would top group B with a flawless nine points, with the USMNT securing passage to the knockout stage as group stage runners-up.Iran would finish third with Wales a disappointing fourth.

Why didn’t USMNT play Gio Reyna in World Cup vs. Wales?

By Charles Boehm @cboehm

  • Monday, Nov 21, 2022, 07:51 PM
22WC_us_wal_reyna_sider

AL-RAYYAN, Qatar — Time will tell – the next eight days, specifically – as to whether Gregg Berhalter made the right call on his fifth and final substitution in Monday’s riveting 1-1 draw with Wales.The US men’s national team manager, in the first test of their 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign, replaced goalscorer Tim Weah with Jordan Morris rather than Gio Reyna as the Yanks hunted a late goal to snatch back the two points they admit they dropped via Gareth Bale’s late penalty-kick equalizer.With Berhalter attributing the choice to “some tightness we were guarding against,” presumably somewhere in Reyna’s perennially problematic hamstring and groin muscles, the Borussia Dortmund wunderkind might well have picked up a strain that could end his tournament in the first match. Perhaps saving the 20-year-old for upcoming matches vs. England (Nov. 25) and Iran (Nov. 29) will pay off in the end, if Reyna helps produce the results the USMNT need to advance out of Group B and reach the knockout stages. Or maybe Berhalter would have gone with Morris, the Seattle Sounders FC homegrown, even without the New York City FC academy product’s said tightness in the calculations. And it was an 88th-minute change, albeit in a game with 10-plus minutes of injury time. Was it really the key factor or a sidenote?

Berhalter, Reyna explain

But in the short term, it’s hard to avoid the distinct sense that Berhalter’s entire four-plus-year tenure could hinge on that one decision – especially since his version of the situation did not exactly synchronize with Reyna. “It was trying to get him up to speed. There was some tightness we were guarding against,” said Berhalter of Reyna’s status in his postgame press conference at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, adding he’ll be ready to face Group B leaders England on Friday. “In the phase of the game we were at, we went with Jordan, who we felt could give us speed and power.”Reyna acknowledged there was some tightness after the Yanks’ scrimmage vs. Qatari Stars League side Al-Gharafa SC, the club whose stadium is serving as the USMNT’s World Cup training facility, on Thursday. But as Reyna spoke to reporters in the mixed zone, he left little doubt that he considered himself ready to play against Wales, which captain Tyler Adams confirmed, simply terming his teammate “available” but unused.“No, I feel great. I feel really good. I feel ready to go,” said Reyna, who played in just four of 14 Concacaf qualifiers amid injuries. “I felt good, I felt ready to go but it was just his [Berhalter’s] decision.“He doesn’t have to tell me why he didn’t put me in or why he does. But I’m 100 percent. I’m good to go.”Morris explained the coach’s message to him as he replaced Weah, whose 36th-minute strike was the USMNT’s first World Cup goal in eight-plus years. “My role there was to try and come in, be dangerous and try to help score a goal, whether that’s an assist or a goal, and just try to do my best to help the team win the game,” said the MLS standout.“We needed to make sure that we got a result in that sense. We come out with a draw, but we were definitely pushing for a win.”

England awaits

Now a daunting encounter with England, the group’s favorites even before their impressive 6-2 thrashing of Iran, looms. A politically charged affair with the Islamic Republic will arrive quickly after on Tuesday. Every point will be precious for the second-youngest team at this World Cup.“To have that [Weah] goal, and then feel like you have the game and you’re going to win the game,” said Brenden Aaronson, “it’s a punch in the face, you know? That’s what it is. And it’s just tough, but we’ve got to move on and look at the positives and look at film on what we can do even better defensively.”

Guillermo Ochoa, Andrés Guardado Join Exclusive World Cup Five-Timers Club

Anne M. Peterson

Mon, November 21, 2022 at 2:57 PM

Guillermo Ochoa, Andrés Guardado Join Exclusive World Cup Five-Timers Club originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa says people still come up to him on the street to gush about his performance in the 2014 World Cup against Brazil.

Ochoa made six saves in the scoreless draw with Brazil, which was among the favorites as the tournament’s host. He even denied Brazilian star Neymar on a header and afterward called it the “game of a lifetime.”

“I feel really grateful to be recognized globally, that means you have done good work,” Ochoa said Tuesday.

A towering fixture on Mexico’s roster since 2005, the 6-foot goalkeeper recalled the match eight years ago as he prepared to play in his fifth World Cup. Mexico opens the tournament on Tuesday against Poland in Group C. Argentina and Saudi Arabia are also in the group.

“I have seen how he plays in the World Cups and he has always been a genius. I especially remember what happened in 2014 and, to be honest, he is an excellent goalkeeper, with a lot of experience, Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny said.

Ochoa is among four players in Qatar who will join an exclusive group with five World Cup appearances, including Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Mexico teammate Andrés Guardado.

Before Qatar, there were only four players in the five-time club: Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon, Germany’s Lothar Matthaus and Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal and Rafa Márquez.

Guardado and Ochoa hold the distinction of being the first teammates to play together in five straight World Cups.

Both made their debuts with the Mexican national team on Dec. 14, 2005, a 2-0 friendly victory over Hungary.

“I think that by being in my fifth World Cup I am lucky,” Ochoa said through an interpreter. “On top of that, being in a World Cup is never easy for a footballer. There are great players throughout history who don’t have the opportunity. For me, playing in five has been wonderful.”

Mexico has appeared in the last eight World Cups and has advanced to the knockout round in the last seven.

Mexico also has oldest player at the World Cup, fellow goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera, who is 40. Ochoa is 37, while Guardado is 36.

11/21/22   World Cup has started, US Men play Wales Mon 2 pm, Join American Outlaws @ Union Jacks today

US Men – First Game Mon vs Wales 2 pm FOX, Black Fri 2 pm vs England on Fox

I have full World Cup breakdowns and predictions from lots of sites below. Not sure I am ready to share my full picks just yet – however I do like Argentina vs Brazil in the final. US Hype Video  I also think the US will beat Wales 2-1, lose to or tie England and then beat Iran 1-0 on some great saves by Turner. We will advance to the 2nd round – what happens then – I will answer after I see us play Monday. Oh England wins today 3-0. Also over 15 pages of World Cup below. Keep reading!

Shane’s Starters for Monday

Pulisic, Ferriera, Reyna

Musah, Mckinney

Adams

Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Dest

Turner

First off bench Aaronson, Weah, Wright

Thrilled to see Tim Ream here and the partnership he has with Jedi Robinson on the left – makes him a lock for the entire tourney in my mind on the back line.  He’s captaining Fulham to a top 10 ranking in the best league in the world and playing the best soccer of his life –he starts and is defacto captain = especially of the D.  Turner starts and is your GK the entire tourney unless hurt.  I  like the MMA midfield – with Aaronson the only chance to break in and play serious time here.  Pulisic is up top on the left with I think a rejuvenated Reyna on the right and Ferria in the middle though I would prefer Sargent get a run up top to start.  Love these 26 stories on our 26 players going to Qatar its awesomeMore US hype videos

Full U.S. Men’s roster for 2022 World Cup:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8 appearances for U.S./0 goals), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach/GER; 3/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0)

FORWARDS (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1)

World Cup News

The World Cup commercials are out – which ones do you like best?  Nike  Addidas  check them all out here .  The world Cup Opening Ceremonies are Sunday at 10 am on FS1 – before the 1st game kicks off at France’s Ballon D Or Winner Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the World Cup who along with the missing Paul Pogba and #6 Kante – might mean trouble for the defending World Cup Champs.  Also missing the Cup with injury are Mane for Senegal and _____ ??   Funny that no beer will now be allowed at stadiums in Qatar – ridiculous that the World Cup is in this backward, incredibly oppressive country  – (Worse than Russia).

American Outlaws Watch Party Monday 2 pm Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple. https://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

Carmel FC GK Coach Noelle Rolfsen has 4 saves in shutout win for her Marian U Knights

MARIAN PUNCHES TICKET TO NAIA National Championships WITH 1-0 WIN

Women’s Soccer | Sat, Nov. 19, 2022 at 9:30 PM

BOX SCORERECAPPHOTOS

INDIANAPOLIS – The Marian women’s soccer team punched their ticket into the NAIA National Championships on Saturday night, winning the Opening Round Final over Campbellsville 1-0. The Knights improve to 19-0-2 with the victory, advancing to Alabama for the fourth consecutive season.Marian wasted no time getting the offense going as Naomi Walters took the first attempt 26 seconds into the game that would go wide left before Campbellsville fired one back in the 2nd minute. The Knights continued to put pressure on the Tigers’ defense as Erin Oleksak fired one wide in the 13th minute.Olekak’s efforts would pay off around seven minutes later when she broke through the Campbellsville defense, booting one in back netting to give Marian the 1-0 lead. The Knights didn’t stop their offensive threat as Maya Decker would take her shot, making the Campbellsville goalie make the save. The Tigers responded with four shots in the half with Noelle Rolfsen making the save on two of the shot attempts.The Knights would see another great look after Gretchen Mallin found Walters in the box on a corner kick that would see a header by Walters go just high to send Marian into halftime with the 1-0 lead over Campbellsville.The second half of play remained an even matchup with both teams taking five shots in the half. Marian took the first two shots of the half with Jacelyn Smith and Decker each taking attempts before the momentum seemed to switch to Campbellsville for around the next eight minutes of action. The Tigers made the Marian defense work in the second half as they continued to pose a threat with their offensive attack, but it was the Knights also making the Tigers’ defense work as Walters found herself right in front of the goal, leading to the Campbellsville goalie making a miraculous save.The Tigers fired off three shot attempts in the final seven minutes to try and tie thing up, but Marian was able to hold off the #2 seeded Campbellsville to earn the 1-0 victory.Campbellsville outshot Marian 11-10, but it was the Knights executing on their attempts with Oleksak having the lone goal of the match on two shots. Walters took four shot attempts, while Smith and Decker each took two. Rolfsen recorded the shutout, making four saves in the win.Marian now advances to the NAIA Women’s Soccer Championship final site in Orange Beach, Alabama.MUKnights.com:

WORLD CUP GAMES ON TV

Sun, Nov 20

10 am FS1                            World Cup Opening Ceremonies  

11 am FS1                            World Cup Starts Qatar vs Ecudor

12 noon Big10N                Indiana U vs St. Louis U.   NCAA’s

Mon, Nov 21

8 am FS1                              England vs Iran

11 am Fox                            Senegal vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox                     USA vs Wales 

Tues, Nov 22

5 am Fox Sport 1               Argentina (Messi) vs Saudi Arabia

11 am Fox                            Mexico vs Poland 

2 pm Fox                              France vs Austrailia

Wed, Nov 23

5 am Fox Sport 1               Morroco vs Croatia

7 am Fox Sport 1              Germany vs Japan

11 am Fox                            Spain vs Costa Rica 

2 pm Fox                              Belgium vs Canada

Thur, Nov 24  –                   Thanksgiving

5 am FS1                              Switzterland vs Cameroon

8 am FS1                              Uruguay vs Korea

11 am Fox                            Portugal (Renaldo) vs Ghana

2 pm Fox                              Brazil (Neymar) vs Serbia

Fri, Nov 25

5 am FS1                              Wales vs Iran

8 am FS1                              Qatar vs Senagal

11 am Fox                            Ecuador vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox                     USA vs England

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

US Men

 26 Stories See How our 26 Players Made it to Qatar

How Christian Pulisic became American soccer’s reticent and resilient trailblazer Yahoo – Henry Bushnell

How a controversial youth soccer overhaul put the USMNT on a path toward World Cup contention  Yahoo – Henry Bushnell

Ted Lasso wishes USMNT luck at World Cup by writing letters to players … on billboards  Adam Snavely

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US Men

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After squaring off against continental rivals to qualify for a spot at the quadrennial competition, 31 teams join Qatar, our problematic hosts, for the month-long tournament in hopes of being crowned world champs.

During the preliminary, round-robin stage of the World Cup, the 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four (A through H). Each will play three round-robin matches against their group foes.

  • At the end of the group stage, the top two teams based on points (three points for a win, one for a draw, zilch for a loss) advance to the round of 16. If teams are tied on points, there’s a handy list of tiebreakers that will decide who breaks through.

Each knockout-round match is a winner-take-all affair. The round-of-16 teams will duke it out for a ticket to the quarter-finals before hopefully earning spots in the semis and the December 18th final.

  • If teams can’t get the job done in 90 minutes, they