1/27/17 US Men face Serbia Sunday 4 pm ESPN2, FA Cup Weekend in EPL, Liverpool vs Chelsea on Tues 3 pm NBCSN

So the US Men’s National team under returning coach Bruce Arena kicks off with 2 games this week Sunday on ESPN 2 at 4pm vs Serbia and Friday at 7:30 pm vs Jamaica on Fox Sports 1.  It should be interesting to see how the US looks with just MLS players on the field- of course more interesting will be in a few months with the next round of qualifiers.  It’s a FA Cup weekend on Fox Sports so no EPL games to till the Tuesday Liverpool vs Chelsea match at 3 pm.  Chelsea then faces Arsenal with no Arsene Wenger the following Sat, Feb 4 at 7:30 am on NBCSN.  Will see if someone can bite into their lead.  Don’t forget Champions League is back the 2nd week in Feb.

GAMES ON TV this Week 

Fri, Jan 27

2:30 pm Fox Sport 2                         Schalke vs Frankfurt

2:55 pm Fox Sport 1                         Derby County vs Leciester City (FA Cup)

Sat. Jan 28

7:30 am Fox Sport1   Liverpool vs Wolverhampton (FA Cup)

9:30 am FS2                   Werder Bremen vs Bayern Munich

10 am Fox Sport 1      Chelsea vs Brentford (FA Cup)

11 am beIN Sport       Africa Cup of Nations QuarterFinal 1

12:30 pm  Fox Sp 2   Bayer Leverkusen vs Dortmund 

12:30 Fox Sport1        Southhampton vs Arsenal  

2 pm beIN Sport         Africa Cup of Nations QuarterFinal 2

Sun,  Jan 29

6 am beIN Sport          Real Betis vs Barcelona

9:30 am Fox Soccer   Frieberg vs Hertha BSC

11 am Fox Sport 1   Man U vs Wigan Athletic – (FA Cup)

11 am beIN Sport       Africa Cup of Nations QuarterFinal 3

2 pm beIN Sport         Africa Cup of Nations QuarterFinal 4

2:45 pm beIN Sport                          Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad

4 pm ESPN            USA men vs Serbia

Tues, Jan 31

3 pm NBCSN                   Liverpool vs Chelsea

Weds,  Feb 1

2 pm beIN Sport         Africa Cup of Nations Semi-Final 1

2:45 pm NBCSN           West Ham vs Man City

3 pm NBC Extra            Man United vs Hull City

3 pm NBC Extra            Stoke City vs Everton

Thurs,  Feb 2

2 pm beIN Sport         Africa Cup of Nations Semi-Final 2

Fri, Feb 3

2:30 pm Fox Sport2  Hamburger vs Bayer Leverkusen

7:30 pm Fox Sport 1  USA vs Jamaica

Sat. Feb 4

7:30 am NBCSN            Chelsea vs Arsenal

9:30 am FS1                   Bayern Munich vs Shalke

10 am NBCSN                Hull City vs Liverpool

12:30 pm  Fox Sp 2   Dortmund vs Red Bull Leipzig

12:30 NBCSN?               Tottenham vs Middlesborough  

Sun, Feb 5

8:30 am NBCSN            Man City vs Swansea

10 am beIN Sport       Atletico Madrid vs Leganes

9:30 am Fox Soccer   Frieberg vs Hertha BSC

11 am NBCSN                Leicester City vs Man United

2 pm beIN Sport         Africa Cup of Nations FINALS

2:45 pm beIN Sport?                       Juventus vs Inter

USA

US has the Players do They have the Identity However- ESPNFC – Gomez

Has Bruce got what it takes to Turn things Around for the US?

The Question of Commitment when Wearing the Red, White and Blue?  SI

Five Things to know about Sunday’s foe Serbia

US Pulisic signs thru 2020 with Dortmund

Smart Move by Pulisic to Re-sign with Dortmund – ESPNFC Video

Jordan Morris – I made the Right Choice to Stay in Seattle

US Ladies Alex Morgan and GK Ashlyn Harris are Concacaff players of year

US Ladies GK Ashlyn Harris

Champions League

Bayern expects tough match with Arsenal in Champions League

Who will be Upset in the Round of 16 UCL? Video

Can Higuain inspire Juve thru UCL?

Tues,  Feb 14 – Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2                         Benfica vs Borussian Dortmund

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1                         PSG vs Barcelona

Weds,  Feb 15

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1                         Bayern Munich vs Arsenal

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2                         Real Madrid vs Napoli

Tues,  Feb 21 – Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2                         Bayer Levekusen vs Atletico Madrid

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1                         Manchester City vs Monaco

Weds,  Feb 22

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1                         Sevilla vs Leicester City

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2                         Porto vs Juventus

WORLD

Wenger Gets 4 match Ban

Rooney Becomes Man United’s All Time Leading Scorer with Streak Saving Screamer

Real’s 40 game Streak Comes to End – well below European Records

Real Madrid breaks Barcelona’s Record for No losses at 40

US Coach Bob Bradley Gets Raw Deal at Swansea

Steven Gerrard to Start Coaching at Liverpool

The World Order – FIFA’s Rankings over Time

MLS + Indy 11

China interest in Giovincho is worrisome – EPSN f C

Clint Dempsey Back to Training with Seattle after Heart Issue

US Defender Jonathan Spector Joins Orlando City

Kaka Plans to Stay with Orlando City

Tampa Bay Rowdies hope to be Next MLS Squad

San Diego has Investors with Hopes too

San Antonio Throws Name in Hat

MLS Schedule has Gold Cup Break in July

Indy 11 Season Starts April 1

Franco Returns

 GAMES ON TV  

Fri, Jan 27

2:30 pm Fox Sport 2                         Schalke vs Frankfurt

2:55 pm Fox Sport 1                         Derby County vs Leciester City (FA Cup)

Sat. Jan 28

7:30 am Fox Sport1   Liverpool vs Wolverhampton (FA Cup)

9:30 am FS2                   Werder Bremen vs Bayern Munich

10 am Fox Sport 1      Chelsea vs Brentford (FA Cup)

11 am beIN Sport       Africa Cup of Nations QuarterFinal 1

12:30 pm  Fox Sp 2   Bayer Leverkusen vs Dortmund 

12:30 Fox Sport1        Southhampton vs Arsenal  

2 pm beIN Sport         Africa Cup of Nations QuarterFinal 2

Sun,  Jan 29

6 am beIN Sport          Real Betis vs Barcelona

9:30 am Fox Soccer   Frieberg vs Hertha BSC

11 am Fox Sport 1   Man U vs Wigan Athletic – (FA Cup)

11 am beIN Sport       Africa Cup of Nations QuarterFinal 3

2 pm beIN Sport         Africa Cup of Nations QuarterFinal 4

2:45 pm beIN Sport                          Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad

Tues, Jan 31

3 pm NBCSN                   Liverpool vs Chelsea

Weds,  Feb 1

2 pm beIN Sport         Africa Cup of Nations Semi-Final 1

2:45 pm NBCSN           West Ham vs Man City

3 pm NBC Extra            Man United vs Hull City

3 pm NBC Extra            Stoke City vs Everton

Thurs,  Feb 2

2 pm beIN Sport         Africa Cup of Nations Semi-Final 2

Fri, Feb 3

2:30 pm Fox Sport2  Hamburger vs Bayer Leverkusen

7:30 pm Fox Sport 1 USA vs Jamaica

Sat. Feb 4

7:30 am NBCSN            Chelsea vs Arsenal

9:30 am FS1                   Bayern Munich vs Shalke

10 am NBCSN                Hull City vs Liverpool

12:30 pm  Fox Sp 2   Dortmund vs Red Bull Leipzig

12:30 NBCSN?               Tottenham vs Middlesborough  

Sun, Feb 5

8:30 am NBCSN            Man City vs Swansea

10 am beIN Sport       Atletico Madrid vs Leganes

9:30 am Fox Soccer   Frieberg vs Hertha BSC

11 am NBCSN                Leicester City vs Man United

2 pm beIN Sport         Africa Cup of Nations FINALS

2:45 pm beIN Sport?                       Juventus vs Inter

Sat, Feb 11

7:30 am NBCSN            Arsenal vs Hull City

12:30 pm NBCSN        Liverpool vs Tottenham

Sun, Feb 12

8:30 am NBCSN            Burnley vs Chelsea

Mon, Feb 13

3 pm NBCSN                   Bournemouth vs Man City 

Tues,  Feb 14 – Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2                         Benfica vs Borussian Dortmund

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1                         PSG vs Barcelona

Weds,  Feb 15

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1                         Bayern Munich vs Arsenal

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2                         Real Madrid vs Napoli

Tues,  Feb 21 – Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2                         Bayer Levekusen vs Atletico Madrid

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1                         Manchester City vs Monaco

Weds,  Feb 22

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1                         Sevilla vs Leicester City

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2                         Porto vs Juventus

Weds, Mar 1  – She Believes Cup

4 pm ??                             France vs England Women

7 pm Fox Sports 1      US Women vs Germany

Sat, Mar 4  – She Believes Cup

4 pm ??                             France vs Germany Women

5 pm Fox                      US Women vs England

How might the USMNT lineup against Serbia Sun?

1 CommentBy Nicholas MendolaJan 23, 2017, 9:08 PM EST

It’s six days to Sunday, the first time we’ll see Bruce Arena manage the United States men’s national team since his rehiring late last year.The Yanks host Serbia in San Diego before moving to Chattanooga for a match against Jamaica. Both matches should be open-and-shut wins, as the Americans’ MLS-only lineup get “B-teams” from Serbia and Jamaica.[ MORE: Serbia, Jamaica rosters ]

Possible starting center back Matt Hedges a Carmel High Grad and his FC Dallas teammate, Kellyn Acosta, will miss through injury, while Arena sent Kekuta Manneh to Wales for Vancouver Whitecaps camp.That leaves 28 names — full roster at bottom — and the level of competition means Arena can take risks, like his choice to try Graham Zusi at right back.Arena used several different formations with the Galaxy last season, opting for anything from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-1-1.Here are some options against Serbia.

4-2-2-2

Arena could steady the middle of the pitch while using a pair of attack-minded veteran midfielders with points to prove.

Robles

Rosenberry — Birnbaum — Zimmerman — Beasley

Bradley — McCarty

Feilhaber —————————Kljestan

Morris — Altidore

4-4-2 (diamond) — Veteran heavy

Arena likes his veterans, and may want to give them the benefit of the doubt in front of fans and the eyes of U.S. Soccer.

Rimando

Zusi — Marshall — Evans — Beasley

Bedoya — Bradley — Jones — Kljestan

Altidore — Zardes

4-3-3

Bingham

Rosenberry — Birnbaum — Zimmerman — Garza

Bradley

Nagbe — Bedoya

Zardes — Altidore — Morris

Full roster

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls), Brian Rowe (LA Galaxy)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Unattached), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Greg Garza (Atlanta United FC), Taylor Kemp (D.C. United), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders FC), Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Jorge Villafan (Santos Laguna)

Midfielders: Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)

Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

Has Bruce Arena got what it takes to lead the U.S. to World Cup 2018?

By the time his topsy-turvy, five-year reign as United States head coach finally ended in November, Jurgen Klinsmann’s dismissal was greeted with relief and even joy among an overwhelming segment of fans.Bruce Arena’s hiring as Klinsmann’s replacement, however, was more divisiveMany saw the experienced Arena, who was previously in charge of the national team from 1998-2006, as the logical — and perhaps only — choice to steer the U.S. away from the bottom of the Hexagonal standings and back on course to reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But others viewed the hire as a step back.”I might be biased, but I don’t think so: The person who can get the most out of this group of players right now is Bruce,” said Landon Donovan, the leading scorer in U.S. history. He debuted under Arena and played for him at two World Cups and during parts of eight seasons with the LA Galaxy. “I can also understand that the people who haven’t been around want to see progress. But this isn’t the time to experiment with a young coach who has two or three years of experience as a professional. This is the real deal, and we need to get to the World Cup.”But Kasey Keller, a National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee and Arena’s starting goalkeeper at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, is less enthusiastic than his former teammate.”It’s hard to look at it with total rose-colored glasses and say we’ve done exactly what we needed to do here to qualify for a World Cup,” said Keller, who was a frequent guest coach on Klinsmann’s staff. “Bruce was successful before as U.S. manager. He qualified the team twice. Bruce was also 26 minutes from getting knocked out before the Hex stage his first time around. So it will be interesting to see how it goes in his second stint. A lot of coaches in all sports have gone around the block a second time and haven’t fared too well.”Other skeptics have cited the fact that Arena has been out of international coaching for over a decade, and he admits the game has changed.”The sport is faster,” he said shortly after taking the job, citing improvements in conditioning and equipment. “Doesn’t mean that the players are better, but it’s a faster game.”The question is: Has Arena also evolved? Donovan believes so.”You can’t be successful for this long if you don’t have a firm belief in who you are and how you do things, but also if you’re not able to adapt,” he said. “[Arena has] continued to adapt to change with the times.”Arena insists he’s a better coach now than he was in 2006, when his contract was not renewed after the U.S. failed to survive the World Cup group stage. After a season and a half with the New York Red Bulls, he took over at the LA Galaxy in August 2008.In the eight full seasons that followed, Arena led LA to three championships and four MLS Cup appearances. He initially brokered a truce between Donovan and David Beckham and, over the years, won the respect of other high-profile players, such as Robbie Keane and Nigel de Jong. On the practice field, Arena’s training sessions became shorter but more intense.The Galaxy’s veteran-laden rosters were part of the reason for that switch, though, which is why it’s fair to wonder if the coach, who made Donovan and fellow 20-year-old DaMarcus Beasley focal points during the U.S. World Cup quarterfinal run in 2002, has become more conservative about giving opportunities to new players.Then again, Arena, who is now 65, helped turn raw college talents such as Omar Gonzalez and Gyasi Zardes into international regulars during his time in L.A. In 2009, Arena persuaded Gregg Berhalter to join him with the Galaxy. Berhalter, a former U.S. defender and current Columbus Crew coach, mentored Gonzalez.Berhalter doesn’t believe Arena will overlook deserving, young talent.”His intensity hasn’t wavered at all,” Berhalter said. “He still knows how to motivate young players. His strength is getting players to perform. That’s clear. He still has that, definitely. He gives young players trust. He gives them backing. And he’s not afraid to put them on the field. Sometimes coaches hesitate to play young players, but Bruce has never done that.”But Arena’s immediate remit is less to do with a process and more focused on results. He wasn’t brought in to groom the next generation; he was hired to get the U.S. to the World Cup in Russia. That means quickly restoring confidence after those ugly November qualifying losses to Mexico and Costa Rica. Two weeks into the national team’s January camp, the process appears to be well underway.”Everybody feels like they’re coming in with a clean slate,” midfielder Sacha Kljestan told ESPN FC last week. “There’s a freshness in the group again.”Part of the reason for that is Arena’s laid-back style. Klinsmann and Bob Bradley, his predecessor, liked to micromanage. But Arena is far less rigid.”He doesn’t over-train players; he’s sort of the anti-Jurgen in that way,” Donovan said. “He lets you be an adult, and that’s one thing that seems to me had gotten away from the team a little bit. It didn’t seem, at least when I was there, enjoyable to be in camp anymore. Bruce makes it fun. You can go have dinner with guys. You knew what you were there for, but he treated you like a professional. And if guys took advantage of it, then they weren’t there next time.”The first impression Arena has made on the camp’s newcomers has also been a good one.”He cracks some jokes here and there,” said Kellyn Acosta, who, at 21, was the youngest player called into the January camp. “He’ll catch you off-guard, like, ‘Did he really say that?'”When it’s time to get serious, though, Arena will ensure that everyone knows what is expected.”He doesn’t beat around the bush,” Donovan said. “If you’re going to play, he’ll tell you. If not, he’ll tell you.”D.C. United coach Ben Olsen, who played for Arena at club and international level, says Arena’s “ability to make players understand their role is very good.””It’s not that he’s not extremely sharp tactically — he is — he just understands that sometimes players need things boiled down and simplified. I don’t know what his secret is,” Olsen added. “He’s unique. Some guys, it’s easy to say he’s a disciplinarian. Or he’s a tactician. But it’s really tough to pigeonhole Bruce’s coaching style”Perhaps Arena’s biggest strength is as a man-manager, skills that will be put to the test when his full team convenes just days before what he has called a “must-win” qualifier against Honduras on March 24. It will mark Arena’s first chance to work with his European- and Mexican-based players and to address any rift either caused by, or at the root of, Tim Howard’s recent comments that suggest division exists within the national team’s locker room.It’s certainly not an ideal scenario but, given the timing and the job itself, Keller admitted that if a change was going to be made, there were not too many other options.”Who on the world stage is going to take this U.S. national team job?” he asked. “Carlo Ancelotti? Jose Mourinho? Where are we in that pecking order? Would Jurgen have taken it if he wasn’t married to an American and living in Southern California? It’s too difficult to say if this or that person is the right guy, because the reality is we’re kind of stuck in the middle as a nation. It’s not a big enough job to go grab these big-name managers, but it’s too big of a job to just give it to anyone.”For now, the job belongs to Arena and, for a side that looked lost at the end of Klinsmann’s tenure, the measure of success could not be more straightforward.”We have a team that can qualify for the World Cup,” Berhalter said. “We have the quality; it comes down to the psychological part of it. That’s a big part of the game. He’ll have the players motivated to perform, that I can guarantee.”And after 2018, it will be someone else’s turn.”If Bruce was the coach for the next 12-16 years, I’d say that’s a problem,” Donovan said. “And Bruce would admit that. He thinks we need to be developing younger coaches, and we are. But right now, his job is to coach, not to teach. He needs to get the most out of these players. And he will.”Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

The U.S. national team and the uncomfortable question of commitment

AVI CREDITORThursday January 19th, 2017

“Think about who you try to disenfranchise.” – Mix Diskerud to Abby Wambach, December 2015

For over a year, an uncomfortable topic has been debated quite publicly by prominent U.S. men’s and women’s national team players: Foreign-born Americans and their commitment to representing the U.S. national team and the crest over the heart of the jersey they don. In the social-media-charged age of 2017, any public comment along those lines, one way or another, will be interpreted and spun a bevy of ways. And any clarification of comments can easily be viewed as an admission of guilt—a way to backtrack, placate and become more acceptable in the public eye. It’s important to note that not all comments on this topic are created equally. Some absolutely reek of tone-deafness and insensitivity, while others, although not phrased in the most appropriate of ways, may shed light onto deeper chemistry issues inside the locker room.born U.S. players, as he did in interviews in Los Angeles over MLS media day, is he making a sweeping generalization about all U.S. dual-nationals? Or is he, someone who has played for the U.S. for 15 years and seen different iterations of the team, giving a glimpse into the true, harsh reality about the state of the team? Either is possible, but it’s incredibly hard for anyone on the outside to know which it is. No matter, it opens an awkward discussion, one that emits reactions across a wide spectrum, including from those closest to the topic.  “It’s dangerous stuff where you have to be careful what you’re saying,” German-born midfielder Jermaine Jones told ESPN FC, in response to Howard, his teammate for both club (last season in Colorado) and country. “With all the respect for Timmy, I feel it’s not if you’re half American or full-American. It’s more what you have in here [your heart].”If you go on the field and you give everything for this country, then of course sometimes there’s a situation where you’re not playing good. But it’s normal. That can happen to everybody, and that’s what you have to understand.”Jones is absolutely right. Pride in the national team isn’t exclusive to someone born in the U.S., and when things go south, it’s not because of a player’s birthplace.The fact is—as has been reported over the last few years for those following closely enough—the U.S. men’s team has not always been tuned to perfect harmony, and roster overhauls haven’t always been seamless. As with teams in any sport and at any level, cliques and factions may develop, motivations can differ and unity isn’t easily achieved. When results don’t go the right way, these issues rise to the surface. That doesn’t mean it’s only because specific players weren’t born in the U.S., though it is possible that it can be a contributing factor depending on individual situations.  Howard clarified his initial remarks to try and say as much.”Some of them are [dual nationals], but I think others are players who have their roots here in America too. It’s not exclusive to them because some of our dual-nationals have been brilliant,” Howard told ESPN FC. “Jermaine Jones has been a rock for our national team. He’s been one of the heartbeats. Fabian Johnson has been brilliant for us. So, no, that wasn’t aimed at any one person in particular.”When it comes to representing a national team, certainly pride in that country and a stake in its fortunes is a factor. It has to be. For some, that may mean that if you’re involved in representing the U.S. for a longer time, then you’re more personally invested, and you’re more likely to be involved for a longer time if you’re born or grew up on U.S. soil. For example, Landon Donovan told Sirius XM Radio last December that, upon being cut from the U.S. World Cup team in 2014, he told Jurgen Klinsmann: “There’s at least a few players that are on your World Cup roster that are going that don’t care in the same way that I do. I grew up as a part of this whole system. I feel like it is a part of me and I think there’s players in that locker room who if you go three and out in the World Cup they’ll go back to their club teams and won’t even blink twice, whereas if we go three and out I’ll be devastated and I think that’s a piece that’s important.”It’s possible there’s plenty of truth to that. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an attack on all foreign-born Americans, no matter how it’s perceived. It’s an individual’s statement based on a close-up observation, and it will surely irk anyone who won’t entertain the possibility that there’s an unbiased foundation and basis for the remark.  Now, if this proves to be an issue of widespread xenophobia and jingoism on the national team, then that will be an absolute shame and disgrace. This is America, a welcoming melting pot full of differing stories and connections to the nation; and for some foreign-born players, their families have sacrificed an immeasurable amount to represent and protect this nation far from a soccer field. If you go back decades, U.S. players born both here and abroad have been important contributors to the national team and equally passionate about playing for the U.S. One of the indelible images of the 1994 World Cup is German-born Thomas Dooley celebrating the USA’s win over Colombia running around the field while carrying the U.S. flag. “The thought that the sons of American citizens who are overseas because they are serving their country in the armed forces have less of a right to play for the United States than someone else is just absurd,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati told SI’s Grant Wahl in 2014. “That sort of thinking is everything America shouldn’t stand for. [These players] were American citizens the day they were born.”If there are players, foreign-born or not, who see playing for the U.S. as a paycheck or a way to boost their own value and nothing more, then that’s a problem. But it’s not an excuse to generalize and accuse. There’s no place for that, and it’s on the manager—now Bruce Arena, who has had his own previous bout with word choice and opinion on dual-nationals—to navigate the issue with class and complete thought, choosing players he think can make the national team the most successful. It’s O.K. and healthy for him and others to question players’ commitment to the national team. It’s not O.K. to do that solely because of anyone’s origin. No matter if you’re the U.S. coach, a player or a fan, it would be wise to heed Diskerud’s pointed warning from 13 months ago.

Christian Pulisic made the right decision to sign a new contract with Borussia Dortmund

If Pulisic wants to become the best player he can be, he's best served by staying with Dortmund for the foreseeable future.by Kevin McCauley@kevinmccauley  Jan 24, 2017, 12:39pm EST

The United States’ biggest soccer talent will be staying put for a few more years. Borussia Dortmund has announced that Christian Pulisic signed a new contract that runs through 2020, ending speculation about an imminent transfer.Pulisic, just 18, was heavily linked to a Premier League move over the summer. He’s performed well for Dortmund this season so that interest was likely to resume this summer, but his inking of a new contract will probably keep him in Germany through at least one more summer. With Pulisic tied down through 2020, Dortmund now has zero incentive to sell to anyone, at any reasonable price.While Pulisic got a raise, Liverpool — the club Pulisic was most heavily linked to — can pay a lot more than Dortmund can, so it’s fair to say that Pulisic made a decision to prioritize other things over money in the short term. While there’s never anything wrong with players trying to get paid as much as possible, USMNT fans should be happy that Pulisic is currently putting his development as a player ahead of that.And given the playing time he’s getting at the moment, he appears to have made a good decision for the development of his career. If Pulisic moved to another country right now, he’d need some time to adjust and might fail to crack the starting lineup due to factors outside of his control. He’s made 31 appearances at a high level before his 19th birthday, and that’s something he’s probably interested in not messing up.Dortmund also has a lot of young players that Pulisic can grow alongside. It’s unlikely that the team has reached their ceiling. Just look at the ages of his teammates.

JORDAN MORRIS ONE YEAR LATER: “I MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE”

MNT Jan 20, 2017

Perspective is a powerful thing.A year ago, forward Jordan Morris was coming off an NCAA College Cup title with Stanford and found himself in January Camp weighing his professional future.Having already earned seven caps and scoring a goal for the U.S. Men’s National Team, the highest touted collegiate prospect in some time had the option of signing with his hometown club Seattle Sounders FC or making the jump to Europe with German side Werder Bremen.Taking both under serious consideration, Morris actually left MNT training camp to check out the Bundesliga club. Eventually he made the decision to start his career at home in Seattle.A Rookie of the Year award and M.L.S. Cup trophy followed, and as he finds himself back in MNT camp one year later, Morris thinks he took the right path.“I’m 100 percent happy with the choice I made,” he told ussoccer.com. “I have no regrets — it was an awesome season playing in Seattle. Obviously it went well for us, but it’s just so good being around family and being able to play in my hometown. It’s been awesome.”Morris was a clutch performer for Sounders FC, helping the club rebound from being Western Conference cellar dwellers last July to earning a spot in the M.L.S. Cup Playoffs. Once there, Morris put the club on his back, scoring in both legs of the Western Conference Final against Colorado Rapids before Seattle defeated Toronto FC on penalty kicks in the M.L.S. Cup Final.

In total, Morris tallied 18 goals and five assists through 40 matches for the Sounders last year and credited his early National Team experience with preparing him for his rookie campaign.“It helps getting your first games, and then towards the end of the season when the stakes are high it definitely helps to have that experience. I was very fortunate and lucky to have played in some of those games before entering my professional career.”With 12 total caps to his name, the 22-year-old striker has more international experience than 17 players on the January Camp roster, including club teammate Chad Marshall. Currently taking part in his first MNT camp since 2010, Marshall has collected 11 caps. Morris thinks it’s an opportunity well deserved. “That can be a little funny,” Morris said of his 32-year-old teammate. “I think Chad is such a great player and I think he deserved to be in the pool. Obviously he was before, but he’s been out for a little bit. He’s such a great player and 100 percent deserves to be here.Though injuries and time spent with the U-23 MNT limited him to just five senior caps last year, Morris has his sights set one firming up his role with the full team in 2017.“The goal is to keep working and continue to have that confidence. Being in camps before definitely helps me come in and feel more comfortable. It’s just having that confidence to go out and prove that I can play and hopefully get more minutes on the field.”

Bob Bradley reflects on a tumultuous 85 days in charge of Swansea City

In the days following his firing as manager of Swansea City, Bob Bradley ran through the gamut of emotions. There was disappointment that his bosses didn’t stick with the plan agreed when he was hired, plus frustration that he had just 85 days in charge.But in a wide-ranging interview with ESPN FC, conducted in the days after he was dismissed, Bradley also gave some insight into his thinking, his experiences with the players, his hopes for the transfer window and even his approach to stabilizing Swansea’s defense. There was also introspection as to what he would have done differently if he had to do it over again.Wherever Bradley has gone, he has taken great pride in putting his stamp on whatever team he happened to be in charge of. But he admitted that, when he took over at Swansea on Oct. 3, it was obvious there were more pressing concerns. Stability was a priority and so were points. Everything else would have to wait.”The emphasis on everything we did from the time I got there was re-establish good habits, try to restore confidence,” Bradley said via telephone. “We worked in that way, and we were still fighting for consistency. When you have a team that has gone through a tough stretch, when you have a team that now is being scrutinized by the supporters, then as a manager you’re going to stand strong for your players. I made sure of that. I was positive, I took responsibility, I never blamed any players and threw it at them.”With the Swans currently bottom of the Premier League and having fired two managers already this season — Bradley and his predecessor Francesco Guidolin — it’s a squad that, as currently constituted, is facing relegation. The summer departures of defender Ashley Williams to Everton and forward Andre Ayew to West Ham left a void that has yet to be filled. Bradley admitted he was direct in his conversations with the coaching staff, board and ownership that the team needed to be strengthened in January, but wonders if that approach damaged him.”It can hurt you because it can create a feeling that you don’t believe in the squad,” he said. “But I separate two important things. First is the message that you give to the players. I went out of my way with this group of players to be very positive. Maybe even too positive, but I chose that because I knew they were down on confidence and I thought they needed someone to put their arm around them and say, ‘C’mon guys, here’s how you’ve done it in the past, we’re going to do it the same way. As long as we’re in it together, we’re going to make this work.'”Now in other moments, you have meetings as a staff and you talk with the owners and you talk with the chairman, and in those moments, for me, it was important to be very clear, that I felt we needed to improve ourselves. Now if that gets taken wrong, and people say I don’t believe in the squad because I’ve been direct and straightforward, I don’t know how you can get anywhere in football if you don’t have those kind of real discussions. But they have to be done in the right times and they have to be done confidentially. At the same time, I think some of that was taken wrong.”As for where reinforcements were needed, Bradley said Swansea needed help from back to front, but mostly in defense.”Certainly, the loss of Ashley Williams was a big one,” he said. “I felt we needed a central defender who could still, no matter who he played with, make the others better. We talked about possible additions in the midfield. We spoke about some attacking players with some speed who could play on the outside, who were threats to get behind but also worked hard. We talked about different things, and we had some good names. It was going to be interesting to see what we could make happen.”In the meantime, Bradley was left to make do and nowhere were his struggles more profound than at the back. The numbers are brutal no matter how you look at them: Swansea allowed 29 goals during his 11 games in charge.Bradley chopped and changed, using six different back-line combinations among eight different defenders, with centre-back a particular pain point. He initially opted for Guidolin’s approach of using Jordi Amat and Federico Fernandez in the center but, after his first match in charge, a 3-2 away defeat to Arsenal, the new manager didn’t like what he saw.”At the end of that match, I felt like in the center of defense we weren’t strong enough,” he said.The next match was against Watford and, in a bid to combat what Bradley described as the Hornets’ “direct” style, he started Mike van der Hoorn and Alfie Mawson, giving the latter player his Premier League debut. Swansea recorded one of only two clean sheets in Bradley’s tenure with a 0-0 draw and, during the next few weeks, he persisted with that partnership. After losses to Stoke and Manchester United, though, he used the international break to reassess.”I think our feeling was that as much as these young defenders are going in a good direction, it’s too much to expect that they can play all the games,” he said. “Now over that international break, I’ve challenged Fede. ‘We need to get your level higher. I don’t think you’re as fit as you should be.’ Now we have a good chance to work, and when we go and start with Everton, we go back and say, ‘Okay, let’s see if we can back up a little bit in terms of the way we play and see if this makes sense.'”The defense seemed to improve and only a late Seamus Coleman goal allowed Everton to record a 1-1 draw on Nov. 19.A week later came a remarkable encounter against Crystal Palace, a match that proved to be a prime example of a hollow victory. Swansea were up 3-1 and cruising before a period of calamitous defending allowed Palace to take a 4-3 lead. Bradley’s men staged a late fightback to win a thriller 5-4 but, in the manager’s eyes, the manner of the game seemed to blunt the impact of his first Premier League win.”From a confidence standpoint, man if we win that 3-1 or tack on another goal and finish 4-1 it would go a lot more,” he said. “And now, at that point, [Fernandez] breaks his toe, so now we have to make a change again.”A 5-0 hammering at Tottenham was followed by a 3-0 win against Sunderland but then came three straight defeats — against West Brom, Middlesbrough and West Ham — in which Swansea gave up a total of 10 goals.”Without a doubt, the changes that we made were constantly to find consistency and find a group that we thought was going to gel the right way,” Bradley said.The “Swansea Way” has historically been that of a slick-passing, possession-based approach. The team have gotten away from that during the past few seasons and, while Bradley felt that progress was made in that regard, it was overshadowed by bigger problems.”If you don’t combine [possession] with being good in the penalty area on both sides, then you’re not going to win enough matches,” he said. “When I talk about improving ourselves, that’s where we needed to improve.”Bradley also took issue with any assertions that Swansea played too aggressively. The one exception, he felt, was the loss to Tottenham when, with the team down 2-0 at half-time, he challenged his players to take more risks in a bid to get back into the game. Otherwise, the problem was down to basic defensive errors.”We conceded too many goals in terms of defending corners in the second phase, where we actually got our head on the ball first, we didn’t do well enough, and now the ball is still in and around the box, and when we needed to react and finish that part of the play, we were second best,” he said. “That was the very first game at Arsenal — the second goal — that was early on at Stoke to put us behind 1-0. That was a couple of the goals that turned the Crystal Palace game upside down.”And then we conceded too many goals where our initial reaction when a ball turned over, to get back, was very good. But once we got numbers back, our ability to then step up and make the play defensively wasn’t good enough. So those are the two biggest categories in terms of goals we gave up. That gets magnified in situations when you’ve gone down and now you have to take more chances.”Bradley insisted that he had good relationships with most players and that he left on good terms: “I had a number of guys when I shook hands with [Wednesday] when I said goodbye who said, ‘From the day you got here, you challenged us, you were honest with us, training was great, we were prepared, and in the end it still comes down to the fact that we’ve got to be able to do it on the field. We let you down.’ Now, not every player feels that way, not every player says that. But I had a bunch of guys that said that. I had guys on the staff who said that to me.”There’s always going to be some that maybe at the moment aren’t playing as much, or maybe now you’ve had some tough conversations and there’s something in it that they don’t like. This is what happens in football. This is what happens where in moments where some of the agents of those players have certain contacts in the media and put things out there that are totally false. But that’s not just happening to me in my first go-round in the Premier League.”As for what he would do differently, Bradley said there was plenty. Most of it centered on his individual interactions with various people at the club.”You try to tailor your message every day, with the group you have,” he said. “And so you look back on all that, and you think about, ‘This is your work,’ and so you think maybe this didn’t come across right. I think about all that.”When asked for specifics, Bradley dug a little deeper.”I’m not going to give you names, but maybe I showed trust in some players who didn’t deserve it,” he said. “I would say in both France and here, there were also days where I delegated more and I think in the long run that’s important. But does that also mean on a given day that the quality of the training session wasn’t what I thought it could have been or should have been? So yeah, I can think about stuff like that.”Sometimes we had discussions about players like Jefferson Montero and Modou Barrow. (Swansea first-team coach) Alan Curtis, who is a great guy and has been around the club for a long time, I think Alan felt that maybe these are guys that still are best for 30 minutes. I think sometimes I’ve had success in the past where I’d say, ‘Look, I understand that’s what the book says, but I think we need to challenge that to see if we can add to that and make it bigger, make it better.’ We played Mo from the start most of the games I was here and over time we would make a decision as to whether that helped or whether Alan had it figured out at the beginning. So there’s things like that you look back on.”In the upcoming days and weeks, Bradley will now have even more time to analyze his Premier League experience.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

The World Football Order

International football has changed a lot in the past two decades. But some things still seem to stay the same.

JAMES TYLER, WITH JESSICA LOPEZ AND GUS ELVIN

FIFA rankings may not be the perfect measurement of success but without a more coherent way to compare and contrast the world’s footballing superpowers, it’s a decent overview of where everyone stands.Since the late 1990s, the sport’s top countries have experienced significant fluctuations in FIFA’s estimations due to the rigors of tournament play. It’s worth looking at the major patterns to see what’s changed over the past two decades and, in some cases, what’s more or less the same.How far ahead are the top-tier nations? And are teams like the U.S. and Mexico that far behind?

The Rankings

HOW THE CHART WORKS: Check the boxes to the right of each nation to highlight their individual progress. Click the country name to either add or remove them from the visual. Hover over the chart to see year-by-year rankings for each country.

U.S. Vs. Mexico: El Tri Have The Edge

Even though the USMNT enjoy things like “dos a cero” (until 2016, at least) and other notable victories over their neighbors to the south — for example, the 2-0 round of 16 victory at the 2002 World Cup — they have steadily been a cut beneath El Tri in the eyes of FIFA.

Whether it’s the consistency of Mexico’s top players across Europe or the number of notable results in big games (2011 Gold Cup, 2015 CONCACAF Cup), there’s been precious little for the U.S. to celebrate. Beyond Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and the latest crop of Americans abroad, the efforts of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen), Rafa Marquez (Monaco, Barcelona), Carlos Vela (Arsenal, Real Sociedad) and the Dos Santos brothers, Giovani and Jonathan have outpaced the Yanks over time.

The best year for both sides was 2005: Mexico hit No. 5 thanks to a brilliant run through World Cup qualification, scoring 67 goals and winning 15 of 18 games en route to a seeded spot in 2006, while the USMNT won the Hex on a tie-breaker. However, a failure to win a single game in Germany that summer saw the Yanks plummet to 31st the following year while Mexico dropped to 20th after a last-16 exit.

The most damning thing for the U.S.? Arena takes over a team ranked worse than the one he took over two decades ago, and with a number of key players (Jermaine Jones, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard) to eventually replace. Christian Pulisic leads the next generation, but he’ll need help.

England: The Ultimate “Nearly There”

The biggest note for the Three Lions is that they are steadily around the Top 10: in the year-end rankings since 1998, they’ve only been worse than 10th on six occasions. It’s a testament to their consistency in international play but more than that, it’s a comment on the relative ease of UEFA when it comes to qualifying for major competitions.

Whether winning eight of 10 qualifiers en route to a quarterfinal defeat at the 2006 World Cup vs. Portugal (England finished the year ranked fifth overall, their highest mark in 20 years) or going undefeated in 2011 (ranked fifth) before a Euro 2012 quarterfinal defeat to Italy, the pattern keeps repeating: qualify with ease, build expectations and let the nation down come tournament time.

England suffered just five defeats from March 2010 to November 2012, a span of 34 games, but never came close to glory. To wit, their last semifinal appearance at a major competition was in Euro 1996.

Germany: Rebuild Works To Perfection

With the exception of a huge drop from fourth in 2002 to 19th in 2004 after a humiliating group stage exit at the Euros that year, Germany are arguably one of the benchmarks in international football over the past two decades. The story is well-told: a renewed effort by the DFB (Deutscher Fussball-Bund, Germany’s FA) following similar embarrassment at Euro 2000 saw a flood of investment in national talent centers and requirements for Bundesliga clubs to build grassroots academies.

The aim was to “feed” players up through the ranks to the national team, and it worked: the emergence of anchors like Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Manuel Neuer, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller helped fuel a generation of success: they’ve not dropped lower than sixth in the year-end rankings since 2005, all while continuing to bring new talent through to form the backbone of future generations: Julian Weigl for Schweinsteiger, Joshua Kimmich for Lahm, Marc-Andre ter Stegen for Neuer and, perhaps, Julian Draxler for Muller.

And throughout this renewed focus on Die Mannschaft, only twice (Euro 2002 and Euro 2004) did they fail to reach at least the semifinals of a major tournament, even winning the World Cup in 2014 and finishing second in 2002 and at Euro 2008.

Brazil Fluctuate, Argentina Stay Steady

The Selecao lean on Neymar and as goes Lionel Messi, so goes Argentina. Yet the two stars have lived through wildly different generations with their respective countries.

Brazil were the best in the world at the end of 1998 thanks to their run to the World Cup final, remaining at No. 1 for seven of the nine years that followed including victory at the 2002 World Cup. The transition from Ronaldo to Neymar was a difficult one as they dropped as low as 12th in 2012 but despite having 10 different managers over the past 20 years, their natural talent helped mask any off-field problems. Winning three Confederations Cups and four Copa Americas since 1996 also covered up any apparent volatility or inflated expectations from fans.

Meanwhile, Argentina’s wait for a major trophy — their last World Cup was in 1986, their last Copa America in 1993 — has kept them in that agonizing “nearly there” bracket throughout the international careers of two of their biggest ever stars, Carlos Tevez (debuted in 2004) and Lionel Messi (debuted in 2005). The clock ticks for Messi on a major trophy: they’ve been runner up in four of the last five Copa Americas and never lower than 10th in the FIFA rankings since Bruce Arena’s first appearance as U.S. coach.

It feels a bit like England — great in qualifying, desperately unlucky in competition — only with, you know, Messi.

Spain: Stunning Success, Unsure Future?

La Roja feel like something of an anomaly in international football having won Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 with the same generation of players. This never happens on the national stage: too much can go wrong (injuries, loss of form, the ebb and flow of international football) but if anything, Spain have been the ultimate tournament team in modern football, never beaten even when not dominant.But with that sustained success — reflected in the FIFA rankings, they were No. 1 for six straight years, matching Brazil’s run of the 2000s — comes a tricky segue to a stunted generation who’ve waited longer than expected for their turn. As Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Silva (ahem) Fernando Torres fade out, the next wave is still finding its feet, as evidenced by their tepid round of 16 exit at last summer’s Euros.

Don’t Underestimate Star Power

Wales (ranked 112th in 2010, ranked 12th at the end of 2016), Chile (as low as 84th in 2002, as high as fourth in 2016 after back-to-back Copa Americas) and Belgium (steadily rising from 66th in 2009 to first in 2015) all show that you can make waves if you have a handful of world-class talent around which to build a half-decent team.The Welsh boast Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, Chile have dominated South America thanks to Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez while the Belgians are enjoying the peak of a “Golden Generation” (Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen, Thibaut Courtois).These clusters of all-world talent may come along seemingly by accident — unlike Germany’s ascent, Belgium’s crop of megastars were largely developed by clubs in other countries — but riding them high up the rankings isn’t a difficult thing to do.

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