Well we still have great goalkeepers. That’s about all I can say after watching a youthful Italian side absolutely obliterate our US National team in time of possession and shots as they finally conceded a goal in the 94th minute. Ethan Horvath playing his first game for the Red, White and Blue in over a year – was godlike between the pipes as he saved no fewer than 9 shots – 5 point blank spectacular saves. Yes this was a young squad and yes we wereplaying a different type of line-up – employing what looked like a never before practiced 3-5-2 alignment. It was painful to watch folks as our manager elected to change out 9 of 11 starters from the England debacle. I honestly don’t know if there is anything positive to say about US soccer right now. This was Italy’s youngsters vs our youngsters and well if 75% possession and 12-3 shots on goal says anything – Italy’s group was a little stronger. Of course our goalkeeper – Ethan Horvath –who by all accounts has fallen behind Columbus keeper Zach Steffen – played well enough to perhaps think he might should be second on our new list of Goalies(in front of Brad Guzan). That’s about all I got out of the 2 games. The 4 man back line looked horrible vs England and the brand new 3 man back line vs Italyfared no better in my mind. Pulisic hadhis moments, but didn’t have much help and honestly was just a little about average at best – even though he was the best player for the US again (besides the keeper). Not sure I have ever felt less excitement about our US Soccer team or US Soccer program. With no manager over a full year after being eliminated from last summer’s World Cup, despite the youth – US soccer on the men’s side is at a standstill. Now about the guy who should have put himself on the radar to being the US Starting Goalkeeper moving forward, EthanHorvath is from Highlands Ranch, Colorado – the 23 year old recently became just the 2nd US goalie ever to play in the Champions League (Tim Howard the other) when he was in the net for a Club Brugge tie with Monaco afew weeks back. The future in goal looks good for the US with 2 really strong young under 24 year old Goalkeepers battling for the top spot. As for the rest of the US team and men’s program – 1 big huge UNKNOWN at this point –thanks to US Soccer. Thank Goodness – the USLadies soccer team looks like the team to beat in this summer’s 2019 Women’sWorld Cup in France.
Big games this week as PSG must win at home vs Liverpool on Wednesday at 3 pm or at least draw and have Red Star lose at Napoli. This group is really wide open still. In Group G – Real Madrid is thru with a win at Roma or a draw and some help. Roma: Only need a point from their remaining two matches (home to Real Madrid, away to Plzen) to secure qualification. Group H has Man U thru with a home win vs Young Boys and Juventus advances with a win or draw at home vs Valencia. Dortmund and maybe US youngster Pulisic are thru with a win or tie at home vs Club Brugge Wed at 3 pm online and Atletico Madrid will be thru with a home win vs Monaco also at 3 pm also online only. Tottenham must win at home vs Inter on Wed on TNT at 3 pm and must still take a point at Barcelona – who will win the group B with a win at PSV Wed online. Man City needs just a tie vs Lyon to win group F on Tuesday afternoon 3 pm online, while US midfielder McKinney and Schalke advance in this next to the last game of Group D play with a win at Porto.
The MLS Playoffs has reached the Conference Finals– 2nd legs starting with the top 2 teams in MLS – NY Red Bulls hosting Atlanta down 3-0, Then Sporting KC will host Portland Thurs eve 9:30 on Fox Sports 1. The Finals are Sat Dec 8 on ESPN.
INDY 11 $99 Season Tickets
Ok for folks looking for great Christmas ideas – the Indy 11 have come out with a family Season ticket plan that simply rocks. $99 Season tickets in the South End Zone, or $150 in the BYB. Seriously -these are level 1 seats for the full season for less than 1 Colts or Pacers game. If you put just $50 down on Reserved Seat Tickets that start at just $289 before Nov 26th you get the bonus of Free Parking ($15 per game value). All Season ticket holders get Exclusive Meet the Team Events, More Games on Saturdays less on Weds, Ticket Exchange Program (mix and match your games if you miss a game get double seats for another game of choice, 20% off team merchandise. Click here for more info or Call 317-685-1100 for more details and tell them the Ole Ballcoach Sent you !
GAMES ON TV
Tues Nov 27 Champs League
1 pm TNT Athens vs Ajax
3 pm TNT ASRoma vs Real Madrid
3 pm Uni Desp Juventus vs Valencia
3pm Uni Desp Bayern Munich vs Benefica
Weds Nov 28 Champs League
1 pm TNT AtleticoMadrid vs Monaco
3pm TNT Tottenhamvs Inter Milan
3 pm Univision OL PSG vs Liverpool
3 pm Uni Desp Schalke vs Porto
Thurs Nov 29 MLS Playoffs
7 pm FS1 NY Red Bulls vs Atlanta United vs MLS Con Champ Leg 2
9:30 pm ESPN Sporting KC vs Portland Timbers vs MLS Con Champ Leg 2
Sat, Dec 1
9:30 am Fox Sp 2 Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Freiburg
10 am NBCSN Man City vs Bournmouth
12:30 pm NBCSN? Southampton vs Man United
12 pm EPSN+ Fiorentina vs Juventus
2:30 bein Sport Real Madrid vs Valencia
Sun, Dec 2
7 am NBCSN Chelsea vs Fulham (Ream)
9 am FS1 RB Leipzig vs Brussia Mgladbach
9:05 am NBCSN Arsenal vs Tottenham
11:15 am NBCSN Liverpool vs Everton
12:30 pm beIN Sport Barcelona vs Villarreal
2:30 pm ESPN+ Roma vs Inter
Saturday, Dec. 8 (8 p.m.): (FOX, UniMas)
UD= Univision Desportes
How Teams Can Advance to Knockout Rounds – eSPNFC
PSG Need to Learn from Liverpools Collective Spirit
Arturo Vidal’s Son becomes Social Media Star with help from Messi
Timbers, Sporting KC draw first-leg blank
Sporting Kansas City and the host Portland Timbers played to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their Western Conference final on Sunday.
Echoes of 2013 as SKC hold out against Portland
There was something eerily familiar about Sporting Kansas City’s 0-0 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday night.
Atlanta pounces on Red Bulls abandoning the press
The New York Red Bulls pressed their way to MLS’ summit, but they were a different team in the East finals. So was Atlanta, who was prepared to win.
Sources: U.S. keeper Steffen in talks with City
Multiple sources have confirmed that the fee expected for the Crew goalkeeper’s transfer to the Etihad could be between $7 million to $10 million.
US ends 2018 and Sarachan Era with Predictable Defeat to Italy – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC
Gomez – the US at the Lowest Point Ever – Video –
Italy beats US Men, GK Horvath at the End 1-0 – SI Avi Creditor
Player Ratings – US team look timid in year end defeat to Italy – Greg Seltzer MLS
US Youth Given Reality Check by England Player Ratings Jason Davis ESPN F
US Learns in Loss to England
Stats behind the US Loss
US Rising Stars
Cherundolo Happy to Help US after Losing Coaching Job
US Men to Play Costa Rica Feb 2
US U20s to face Mexico in Concacaf Champ – Wed night at 7 pm on Univision Desportes
US LADIES Finish Year Unbeaten
What’s Next for the US Ladies
Champions League: How teams can qualify for the knockout rounds
Nov 22, 2018Dale JohnsonGeneral Editor, ESPN FC
The top two teams qualify for the round of 16, with the third-place team dropping into the Europa League and the bottom club eliminated from Europe.If two teams are level on points, head-to-head record is the first tie-breaker.
Qualified for round of 16: Barcelona
Eliminated: AEK Athens, Lokomotiv Moscow, Monaco, PSV Eindhoven, Viktoria Plzen, Young Boys
Borussia Dortmund: Need a point at home to Club Brugge to qualify and will top the group with a win if Atletico lose to Monaco.
Atletico Madrid: Will be through if they secure victory at home to Monaco, or if Brugge do not win at Dortmund.
Club Brugge: Must win both their remaining games, away to BVB and home to Atleti, to even have a chance.
Monaco: Have been eliminated and must get at least four points from their remaining two games to make the Europa League.
Barcelona: Have qualified as only one of Spurs and Inter Milan are able to overtake them. Will secure top spot with a win away to PSV on Matchday 5, or a draw if Inter fail to beat Spurs.
Inter Milan: Need a point away to Spurs on Nov. 28 to secure their place.
Tottenham: Must win at home to Inter to remain in contention, and will then likely need at least a point away to Barcelona.
PSV Eindhoven: Have been eliminated and need a minimum of four points to make the Europa League.
Liverpool: Will book their place with a win at PSG on Nov. 28 if Red Star fail to win at Napoli. Would also be guaranteed to go through regardless should they win at home to Napoli on Matchday 6 by at least two goals.
Napoli: A victory over Red Star would see them through if PSG do not beat Liverpool.
Paris Saint-Germain: Will be eliminated if they lose at home to Liverpool and Napoli beat Red Star, but a draw or win very much keeps PSG in the hunt with Liverpool to play Napoli on Matchday 6.
Red Star Belgrade: A draw away to Napoli would keep them in contention, and they could then hope a home win over PSG might send them through at the Italian club’s expense. Eliminated if they lose to Napoli.
Porto: Will be through with a draw at home to Schalke, or if Galatasaray do not to win at Lokomotiv Moscow. A Porto victory would secure top spot.
Schalke: Through with a victory away at Porto, or if Galatasaray fail to win at Lokomotiv.
Galatasaray: Have to win at Lokomotiv and realistically hope Porto beat Schalke to stay in contention.
Lokomotiv Moscow: Have been eliminated but could still earn a place in the Europa League, though they would need to win at home to Gala first.
Bayern Munich: Will go through if they avoid defeat at home to Benfica on Nov. 27.
Ajax: Will definitely be through if they win at AEK Athens on Matchday 5, or if Benfica fail to win at Bayern Munich.
Benfica: Must win both their remaining games and hope Ajax pick up no more than one point.
AEK Athens: Have been eliminated and must pick up at least four points, including a win away to Benfica, to be in with a chance of the Europa League.
Manchester City: Need a point against Lyon on Matchday 5 to secure qualification and will top the group with a win.
Lyon: Will be through if they win at home to Manchester City on Nov. 27, or if both group games are draws that night.
Hoffenheim: Not guaranteed to qualify even if they win both of their remaining games. They lose the head to head with Lyon on away goals so must pick up four more points than the Ligue 1 team in the remaining two games to qualify ahead of them. Could still finish ahead of Man City for second if they win both games and City lose in Lyon.
If the top three all finish on nine points, Lyon would win the group with Hoffenheim second and Man City eliminated on the three-team head-to-head mini-league
Shakhtar Donetsk: If Lyon pick up no more than a point at home to Man City, Shakhtar will be through with two wins. Shakhtar host Lyon on Matchday 6.
Real Madrid: Will qualify, and secure top spot, if they win at Roma on Nov. 27. Would also be sure of going through with a draw/defeat if CSKA fail to beat Viktoria Plzen.
Roma: Only need a point from their remaining two matches (home to Real Madrid, away to Plzen) to secure qualification. Also through if CKSA do not beat Plzen. Roma would need to beat Real Madrid by four goals to secure top spot on Matchday 5.
CSKA Moscow: Must win both their remaining matches and hope either Roma lose both games or Real Madrid pick up no more than a point at Roma.
Viktoria Plzen: Are out of the Champions League but would be in pole position for a Europa League spot by winning at CSKA next time out.
Juventus: Will be through if they avoid defeat to Valencia on Matchday 6. Top spot in the group will be secured if they win and Man United do not beat Young Boys.
Manchester United: Qualification will be sealed if they win at home to Young Boys on Nov. 27 and Valencia do not beat Juve.
Valencia: Must hope they stay within three points of Manchester United going into Matchday 6, when they are at home to the Premier League team.
Young Boys: Have been eliminated and would need to win both remaining games to even have a chance of the Europa League.
U.S. ends 2018 and Dave Sarachan era with predictable defeat to Italy
5:09 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent
GENK, Belgium — The U.S. men’s national team finished off 2018 with a 1-0 defeat against four-time World Cup champion Italy. In a match that Italy dominated from start to finish, U.S. goalkeeper Ethan Horvath stood tall, but Matteo Politano’s goal in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time proved to be the difference.Here are three thoughts from the match.
1. Sarachan era ends with a disheartening, predictable defeat
Tuesday’s match was almost certainly going to be the last in charge for caretaker manager Dave Sarachan. And as has been his habit, he fielded a youthful starting XI — the youngest, in fact, in the modern era — with an average age of 22 years, 71 days. All told, he made 10 changes from the team that fell 3-0 to England on Thursday. Christian Pulisic was the only holdover, and at 20 years, 63 days, also became the youngest U.S. captain in that timeframe, besting Landon Donovan’s mark of 22 years, 220 days back in 2004.Italy manager Roberto Mancini also fielded an experimental lineup, with six players having fewer than five caps, including Stefano Sensi, who was making his international debut.Mindful of the timid defending against England, Sarachan set the U.S. out in a 5-3-2, with Pulisic partnered up top with Josh Sargent. What unfolded was a match that was in many ways similar to last June’s 1-1 draw with France, which just so happened to be another time the U.S. employed this formation. The U.S. was content to defend deep and rely on stout defending and some sharp goalkeeping — in this case, from Horvath — to keep them in it.The lack of familiarity with the formation was evident just three minutes in, when a simple long ball to Federico Chiesa gave him a clear look at goal, only for Horvath to save from close range.The U.S. rarely kept the ball long enough to build any kind of sustained attack. Tyler Adams would occasionally break pressure by either dribbling or passing his way out of trouble, but the Americans’ first-half pass-completion percentage of 66.7 largely told the tale. And on the rare occasions when Pulisic got into the open field, Italy was more then willing to engage in some tactical fouling to stifle any budding counter-attacks.The only bit missing was a goal, and while the U.S. central defending trio of Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman and Cameron Carter-Vickers had some vital interventions, it was the play of Horvath who kept the U.S. in the match, coming up with several sharp saves in the first half.The second half started out with more of the same, as Horvath saved brilliantly with his left foot to deny Kevin Lasagna’s breakaway attempt. The match then began to get more end-to-end, although Italy always looked more likely to score.That said, the U.S. conjured up its best chance of the night in the 64th minute, when Salvatore Sirigu did well to deny Zimmerman’s header.The match soon returned to the Horvath show as he dove to his right to deny substitute Vincenzo Grifo’s curling shot. But ultimately his efforts weren’t enough. Some sharp passing through the U.S. defense put Politano in on goal, and he fired past Horvath with about a minute remaining.Certainly, the U.S. worked hard on the night, but the result was totally deserved for Italy. The defeat marks a disappointing end to 2018 for the Americans, and there remains a ton of work to do for 2019.
2. Horvath an example for teammates to follow
Any young player wanting to get some insight into the ups and downs of playing in Europe could do worse than consult with Horvath. The Club Brugge keeper not only has had spells in and out of the lineup, but there have been moments where he was buried so deep on the Brugge bench, that observers were left to wonder if he had any kind of future in Europe.But to Horvath’s credit he’s stuck it out, and he’s been rewarded of late with some impressive performances, including in the UEFA Champions League. That sharpness carried over into this match. In addition to his aforementioned close-range saves, he did well to tip over a Domenico Berardi shot in the 39th minute, as well as parry away a seeing-eye free kick that oftentimes can sneak in. Horvath then delivered his best save of the night on Lasagna’s attempt in the 59th minute, holding his ground well to save with his left foot.About the only downside to Horvath’s performance is that it occurred in a position of relative strength for the U.S., as Zack Steffen and Brad Guzan are plenty capable in their own right.
3. Where does the U.S go from here?
The Sarachan era now ends with a record of 3-5-4, and in the process, he fulfilled the task handed to him by relying heavily on young players in a bid to kick-start the next cycle.Yet there are still plenty of questions as the team heads into 2019, beyond the naming of the next manager. The biggest one of the lot is just who beyond Pulisic is going to step up and help lead this attack. Granted, the U.S. has been forced to plow through a withering lineup of opponents. It will not be going up against the likes of England and Brazil when the Gold Cup commences next summer — and it will feature an older, more veteran lineup.But the reality is that there isn’t much in the way of refined talent in the U.S. squad at the moment. Beyond Pulisic, Adams and perhaps John Brooks, there are plenty of positions where the competition is wide open.With the World Cup cycle beginning for real in January, that may not necessarily be a bad thing. But the U.S. pool isn’t rife with players where you’re saying, “There are a lot of guys who should be on the field.” Instead there are a lot what-ifs, and that progress will largely take place at club level, where plenty of Americans currently find themselves struggling for playing time.The immense task of solving that puzzle will now be the responsibility of the next manager.
WATCH: Italy Beats USMNT, Horvath at the Death on Politano’s Winner
By AVI CREDITOR November 20, 2018
The U.S. men’s
national team closed its 2018 slate in heartbreaking fashion, losing to Italy
1-0 on Matteo Politano’s 94th-minute goal in a friendly played at a neutral
site in Genk, Belgium.The two 2018 World Cup spectators brought rather young
and inexperienced squads to the match, with both turning the pages at
their own paces after a massive qualifying failure, but it was
Italy that dominated the run of play, maintaining 73.5% of the possession and
outshooting the U.S. 17-3. If not for Ethan Horvath’s saves in goal, the result
would have been considerably more lopsided.Horvath was one of 10 changes to the
U.S. lineup after last Thursday’s loss to England. Christian Pulisic, who
donned the captain’s armband for the first time and became the youngest captain
in modern U.S. Soccer history, was the lone holdover to start in Dave
Sarachan’s experimental 3-5-2 formation.Horvath, who plays his club
soccer a couple hours away in Bruges, was called into action early when
Federico Chiesa was played in behind left wingback Shaq Moore. Horvath came up
with the save in the third minute, denying Fiorentina’s rising star.Italy
continued to command possession, and Chiesa threatened again a few minutes
later, pulling a shot by the far post.Domenico Berardi came close to scoring
next, snapping a header from the center off a box after a Chiesa cross wide of
the right post.The USA’s first moment of danger didn’t come until the 15th
minute, when Pulisic got in behind racing down the left-hand side and fired in
a cross aimed for Josh Sargent, only to have it cleared to safety.Italy retook
control after that and nearly scored in the 18th minute off a set piece.
Stefano Sensi, making his Azzurri debut, served in a great ball for veteran
Leonardo Bonucci, who had beaten Walker Zimmerman to the spot. Horvath made the
point-blank save off the flying kick, though, keeping the game scoreless.It was
then Chiesa’s turn once again to cause some trouble, sending in another teasing
ball from the right side that Emerson Palmieri headed well over the bar in the
22nd minute.Some 16 minutes later, Berardi forced Horvath into his third save
of the night off a curving, dipping blast from long range, which the goalkeeper
managed to get a fingertip on to make sure it sailed over the bar. Horvath was
at it again in the 44th minute, managing to parry away a dangerous free kick from
the left by Marco Verratti, one that whizzed through the area and bounced
toward the goal mouth before Horvath was able to react quickly and make the
diving save.More of the same continued in the second half, and Italy nearly
capitalized on a U.S. defensive mistake in the 52nd minute. Aaron Long and
Moore both presumed a wayward ball was going out of play, but it stayed in, and
halftime substitute Vincenzo Grifo raced to claim it before sending in a
dangerous cross. Verratti flashed through the box for a leaping header, but he
put the chance over the bar.Horvath made his fifth save of the night in the
59th minute, denying Kevin Lasagna on the doorstep after the forward had been
played in behind by Bonucci. On the other end, the U.S. finally tested
goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu for the first time in the 63rd minute. It came off
a set piece, with Kellyn Acosta’s teasing ball bouncing through the area to the
far post. Zimmerman put his header from a tight angle on target, but Sirigu
made an impressive, one-handed reaction save to swat it out for a corner.Horvath
then made another highlight-reel save in the 69th minute, with Grifo having the
time and space to try and curl one in from the edge of the area only for
Horvath to make a diving stop to his left. Moments later, Lasagna was played in
behind, and while eventually being flagged for offside, it came after Horvath
raced off his line to deny the forward on the 1-v-1 opportunity.Italy wasted a
golden chance in the 85th minute when Lasagna had a loose ball fall to him 12
yards from goal, but he overcooked his left-footed chance, firing well over the
bar and failing to test Horvath.The U.S. tried to sneak a winner in the 90th
minute through substitute Romain Gall, who came on in the 83rd minute to make
his U.S. debut. His speculative blast from 25 yards forced Sirigu into a diving
save, though nothing came from the ensuing corner kick.Italy got its winner at
the death, with Politano getting on the end of a fantastic combination to
finish from the center of the box, beating a helpless Horvath in the 94th
minute and giving the Azzurri a deserved victory.
Ratings: US national team look timid in year-ending defeat to Italy
November 20, 20187:05PM ESTGreg SeltzerContributor
Thanks to a monster effort from goalkeeper Ethan
Horvath, a timid US men’s
national team kept friendly foe Italy off the scoreboard until
the final minute of stoppage time before succumbing, 1-0,
in Genk, Belgium on Tuesday night.
For decent stretches, the young USMNT looked more organized than
in last week’s loss to
England, but the sheer volume of defending they had to do caught up to them in
the end. With the team unable to keep the ball for any appreciable amount of
time, Dave Sarachan’s caretaker era ended in disappointment.
Ethan Horvath (9.5) — The Club Brugge
‘keeper officially announced his candidacy for the USMNT’s No. 1 job
moving forward with a sterling display. What kind of stop would you like to
see? Smothering rush off the line? Kick save? Fingertip push over the bar?
Diving denial of a curler? Horvath offered them all on this night. Were it not
for some shabby distribution, he’d have garnered a perfect mark.
Reggie Cannon (3.5) — The FC Dallas right back
is still trying to get up to speed at this level, both on the ball and
defending it. Cannon rarely even attempted to push up his flank, which
contributed to the visitor’s inability to possess.
Cameron Carter-Vickers (3) — The young
defender made a couple of nice early interventions, but his night was largely
characterized by nervy play. Carter-Vickers was especially shaky with the ball,
causing stress for the US in a few notable incidents. To top of a subpar night,
he neglected to squeeze the space in front of goal on Italy’s last-gasp winner.
Walker Zimmerman (3.5) — While he piled
up a decent number of helpful clearances, the LAFCcenter back struggled
mightily with the Azzurri’s movement. He was beaten on the ground, over the top
and even lost a restart mark. Zimmerman did sneak onto a great chance to open
the scoring just past the hour, only to be robbed.
Aaron Long (6.5) — For the second
game in a row, Long was the coolest cucumber on the US backline. The Red Bulls center
back made some difficult defensive stops look easy, chalking up a dozen in
total. It wasn’t a perfect outing, but he continues to show promise at this
Shaq Moore (5) — A natural right back, Moore was handed a tough Italy
assignment on his off wing. He was taken to school a few times, but passed his
tests more often than not. He also was the only US wingback to creep forward
consistently (most of their possession sequences included his help), and served
a dangerous cross after being shifted to his preferred flank.
Tyler Adams (6.5) — The Red Bulls
youngster was easily the most successful USMNT pressure valve in the game, and
was arguably the team’s bright spot in the first half. However, the bad
giveaways did start piling up as the game wore on.
Kellyn Acosta (3) — Simply put, the
team needs more from him. Aside from the highly troublesome restart service
that set up Zimmerman’s attempt on goal, Acosta was extremely disappointing
with the ball at his feet and you could count his successful run of play
touches in the attacking half on one hand.
Marky Delgado (4) — The Toronto FC midfielder
shipped a couple of positive passes, made a couple of decent defensive stops
and won a couple of final-third free kicks, but he still needs more seasoning
at the international level.
Christian Pulisic (5.5) — It’s certainly not all his fault,
but the young US captain was unable to conjure any magic on this night. Yes,
Pulisic fed on scraps, but he failed to complete a single positive pass in, or
into, the final third. Only his pressure-breaking bursts pulled this mark up
Josh Sargent (5) — Not to sound like a broken record, but it’s hard to
blame the striker for not contributing when he is only sparingly utilized.
Sargent battled when he could, and pitched in with a couple of set piece
clearances, but most of his service was either speculative or received with a
defender already in his shirt.
Coach Dave Sarachan (2) — If the interim boss wanted to go
out with a bang, as he claimed, it would have been best to field a starting
unit with more than two lonely attackers. Sarachan always seemed to offer a
poor lineup choice or two, and this contest was no exception. While the high
press had its moments, there weren’t enough of them when the team registers 26
percent possession and doesn’t even attempt a shot during the run of play
until the waning moments. If not for Horvath’s huge effort, this could have
easily gone down as a four or five-goal humbling.
Wil Trapp (7) — This was the
strongest half hour of face-up defensive play the Columbus Crew SCcaptain
has offered in a US shirt to date.
Bobby Wood (4.5) — In his 30 minutes of work, Wood got his wheels turning a
couple times, but never linked up well with teammates. He also pulled his lone
Jorge Villafaña (7) — The Portland left back
added some real defensive bite for the final quarter hour, including a terrific
Lletget (2.5) — The late sub did very well to break free with a loose
ball in the final third, but the LA Galaxy midfielder
hesitated away his window to create a chance from it. More disappointingly,
Lletget gave up following the mark that broke into the US box to score the
winner. That shouldn’t happen with a player that’s been on the field for 10
Romain Gall (-) — It was just a cameo, but the debutant did manage to show
he was unafraid with the ball at his feet.
ENGLAND 3-0 USMNT 0: YOUNG SIDE LEARN TOUGH LESSONS IN ROONEY
By James Nalton, Football Whispers\
A young United States Men’s National Team
suffered a 3-0 defeat against England at Wembley.A quick brace, with Jesse
Lingard and Trent Alexander-Arnold getting on the scoresheet, gave the hosts
the lead they deserved in the first half, and a late strike from Callum Wilson
was a reward for the Englishman’s impressive debut.The average age of the USMNT
side was 24, but the opposition also fielded a young team as both looked to the
future.The game was centred around DC United’s Wayne Rooney, who was getting a
ceremonial send-off for England. The Three Lions all-time top scorer replaced
Lingard in the second half, taking the captain’s armband, and showed he
still has what it takes to play at this level.For the USMNT it was another
steep learning curve, and though there were some encouraging signs, they lacked
cohesion and good decision making.Weston McKennie confirmed that he should be a
key part of the side going forward, Christian Pulisic showed signs that he is
on a par with some of the best at this level, and Tyler Adams had some bright
moments after being introduced in the second half.However, they struggled to
finish off their own moves and also to cope with many of England’s, even though
some good pressure on Wilson prevented him scoring more on the night.It was
Pulisic who had the first big chance of the game, taking McKennie’s pass and
knocking it behind the England defence himself. Having latched on to his own
through ball he faced Jordan Pickford in the England goal, but was thwarted by the
England netminder.Lingard opened the scoring with an excellent finish over Brad
Guzan after an England break down the left. The lead was doubled almost
immediately when Pulisic’s clubmate Jadon Sancho fed the attacking full-back
Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right wing.Julian Green tested Pickford from
distance, Pulisic remained bright in attack, and Bobby Wood had a couple of
opportunities which he couldn’t take, but England had the final say when Wilson
turned in Fabian Delph’s cross.“It’s tough. Dave [Sarachan]’s doing what he
can,” said Pulisic.“He wants to win these games just
like we do. It’s going to help a lot when we get a permanent head coach moving
forward, a guy who has a real plan and a style of how we want to play.”The
USMNT now head to Belgium where they will face Italy, in what could be
Sarachan’s last game as coach.
USMNT: THE STATS BEHIND USA’S DEFEAT IN ENGLAND
By James Nalton, Football Whispers
The match at Wembley between England and the
United States Men’s National team produced an interesting list of numbers and
statistics, but was dominated by the all-time records of an England great
currently plying his trade stateside in Major League Soccer.Wayne Rooney was
handed one last appearance in an England shirt, and, as his performances in DC
United have also shown, he still has what it takes to play at this level.The
33-year-old moved onto 120 caps for England following this farewell game which
saw his side defeat the United States Men’s National Team 3-0.The forward is
England’s all-time top scorer, but he was unable to improve on his England goal
tally of 53 thanks to a couple of routine stops from USMNT goalkeeper Brad
Stats From The Game
England outshot the US but they weren’t as
far ahead as you might expect in this area, with the total shot count being
15-10.However, seven of England’s shots were on target, while the US only
managed to test the opposition goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, twice. Half of the
USMNT’s shots were also from outside the box, meaning they were generally
less threatening than the 12 shots England had from inside the box.
This was in part due to poor decision making
in the final third, as it was often the case that the player releasing the shot
still had other options ahead of him but chose not to pass.England dominated
the game in terms of keeping the ball, enjoying 61 percent of the possession,
completing 692 passes to the USA’s 448.Overall pass completion was fairly even
at 88 percent to 85 percent in favour of the home side.
This was a young USMNT team, and their
starting XI average age was 24 years, 278 days.It was the first time the
back four of DeAndre Yedlin, Matt Miazga, John Brooks and Jorge Villafaña had
played together, which was reflected in their performance. Brooks led his team
for interceptions in this game with five, while he was also the team’s most
accurate passer, completing 95.1 percent of his passes.The side attempted 14
crosses, with only two finding their target, a stat which highlights their
wastefulness and lack of composure in attacking areas.Will Trapp, Timothy Weah,
and Bobby Wood have made the most appearances for the USMNT in 2018, with eight
apiece.The USMNT’s all-time record against England now reads two wins, eight
losses, and one draw, but they have lost all three games played in England.
Christian Pulisic was the best player on the
park for the US, even though he also struggled to finish moves off in the final
third.The match was just his second appearance in a USMNT jersey this
season and his first against European opposition, with his other start
coming against Bolivia back in May.The Borussia Dortmund man was up against his
Dortmund team-mate Jadon Sancho for the first time at international
level.Pulisic managed four of his side’s ten shots, and only he and Julian
Green managed a shot on target. His was the best chance, coming in the first
half when he put himself through on goal but saw his shot saved by Jordan
Pickford.He was involved in 69 actions during the game — the most of any USMNT
player bar the two centre backs Matt Miazga and John Brooks, who had 75 and 82
actions respectively by the end of the game.Pulisic completed more succesful
dribbles than any other player on the pitch, with seven, four more than the
next best player in this regard — England’s Ben Chilwell.He was the most fouled
player, level with England’s Dele Alli having been pulled up unfairly by the
opposition on three occasions.Perhaps more surprisingly, but maybe not for
those who’ve watched him at Dortmund, he made more tackles than anyone else in
USA colours with four.In order to change the stat which matters — the
scoreline — the USMNT need to become less reliant on Pulisic, and look to work
as a team unit. There were occasional encouraging signs here, but there is
still plenty of work to do.
Pulisic returns, Bobby Wood struggles as U.S. beaten handily by England
Nov 15, 2018Jason DavisU.S. soccer writer
In the penultimate game of 2018 — and the penultimate game for
interim head coach Dave Sarachan — the United States fell to England 3-0 at
Wembley Stadium in London. The game was marked by a decided gap in quality
between the two teams and another disjointed performance by a USMNT still in
the middle of a transition.
Beyond the simple fact that the United States were able to get a
significant number of their young players on the field against England, a
second-half improvement in a comprehensive defeat stands out as the biggest
positive for the Americans. Among the individual performances, few performances
can be called encouraging.
For all the improvement in the second stanza, the Americans were
flatly abysmal in the first 45 minutes. England exploited large gaps between
the American lines and rarely looked pressured when on the ball. When the U.S.
were able to grab a bit of possession in the second half, the final pass was lacking
or crosses missed their mark.
Manager rating out of 10
4 — Sarachan decided against starting Tyler Adams because
of the young midfielder’s recent workload, alleviating the blame he should get
for that choice. But the American approach in the first half, sitting deep and
inviting pressure from England’s speedy attack, put the US down two goals
before half-time and ensured there would be no way back for his team.
Pushing Weston McKennie higher up the field and allowing the
Americans to apply more pressure on the ball helped in the second half, though
some of that was down to England pulling back with a two-goal lead.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players
introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Brad Guzan, 4 — Hung out to dry on all
three of England’s goals. Struggled with distribution, giving away one pass
that ended up as a chance in the first half.
DF Jorge Villafana, 3 — Pinned back for most of the
day, but still struggled to keep up with England runners in the space behind
him. Made little mark on the attacking end of the field.
DF John Brooks, 4 — Part of a central
defense that lost track of England runners throughout the match. Passed
competently when on the ball. The better of the two center-backs.
DF Matt Miazga, 3 — Guilty of several poor
turnovers that led to England attacks. Suckered into playing several poor
passes from the back that gifted England possession. A step slow for most of
DF DeAndre Yedlin, 4 — Exploited space in behind
England’s defense in the second half to good effect. Unable to find his
teammates with crosses, missing on all three attempts.
MF Wil Trapp, 3 — Unable to slow down
England’s passing in the midfield. He managed a smaller number of passes than
needed from a player in his position. Showed good bite with a tackle that led
to a U.S. attack.
MF Weston McKennie, 6 — Left in England’s
dust as the home side played easily through the midfield, especially in the
first half. Improved in the second half as the Americans pressed higher up the
MF Tim Weah, 4 — Isolated, especially
in the first half. Caught in possession on the touchline more than once and
failed to arrive in attacking areas at the right times to aid in forays
MF Julian Green, 4 — Provided the best of
the American attackers in the poor first half. Limited in ability to influence
the game with the U.S. on the back foot for most of his time on the field.
MF Christian Pulisic, 5 — His game brightened
in the second half with the Americans pushing higher. Lacked a final touch and
failed to find teammates making runs into the box. Struggled defending.
FW Bobby Wood, 3 — Duffed the few
opportunities to shoot that he had in a game in which those opportunities were
extremely limited. Slow with his decision-making when trying to bring teammates
into the play.
MF Tyler Adams, N/R — Added legs and life to the
midfield in just less than half an hour.
MF Kellyn Acosta, N/R — Didn’t miss a pass during a
run out that coincided with England scoring a third goal.
MF Kenny Saief, N/R — Had a handful of touches in
15 minutes or so, connected one key pass during his appearance.
MF Sebastian Lletget, N/R — Popped up in the box with
an opportunity to create a chance for the U.S. that ultimately went wanting.
DF Shaquell Moore, N/R — Made a single defensive
intervention during a short substitute appearance.
After a difficult year, young USMNT goalkeeper Ethan Horvath is
ready for his next chance
Doug McIntyreYahoo SportsNov
14, 2018, 6:33 PM
LONDON — In some ways, Ethan Horvath is still crazy young for a goalkeeper. At
a position where it’s not uncommon to be serviceable north of 40 years old, the
Colorado native, 23, remains a long way from reaching his prime.By other
measures, Horvath can no longer be considered a prospect. He’s already a good
bit older than U.S. teammates Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, who at 20
are automatic starters on the rebuilding American squad that will face England
in Thursday’s high-profile friendly at Wembley Stadium. Horvath is among just
seven players on the current USMNT roster who was also on the squad that
finished fourth at the 2016 Copa America Centenario. And he’s desperate to take
on a bigger role for a national team lacking an undisputed No. 1 at what
historically has been its strongest spot.“In the beginning it was just about
getting to know the group, the system,” Horvath told Yahoo Sports in an
interview here this week. “Now I have a ton of experience: Europa League,
Champions League, being called in to the national team consistently. If I play
on Thursday, I will be ready.”Ah yes, games. For all of Horvath’s obvious
potential — last week, his six saves helped Club Brugge post a clean sheet at
Monaco in the UEFA Champions League group stage — consistent playing time has
been elusive the last couple of years. The most recent of his two career caps
came exactly 12 months ago. And he’s reclaimed his starting job with Brugge in
recent weeks after sitting out 13 of 14 games before that and also losing his
place for a six-month stretch last season, although he did return to the lineup
in time to help Brugge win the league title.“I thought it was a bit unfair how
everything unfolded,” said Horvath, who sought advice from friends, family and
former coaches, including ex-USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann, during his time on
the sidelines. “You just have to take it. There wasn’t much explaining to me at
all, and there was nothing I could do about it. It was probably the longest six
to eight months of my career.”t didn’t help matters that in last November’s 1-1
tie with Portugal, which marked the Americans’ first game since their epic
failure to reach the 2018 World Cup, Horvath made an error that resulted in a
goal.“It happens, but of course in the next days I thought about it,” said
Horvath, who received a pep talk from Pulisic, his close friend and roommate
with the U.S., after the match. “I think if you look at that game overall,
I can be happy with how I performed.”Still, it has been fellow 23-year-old Zack
Steffen, not Horvath, who has emerged as the next great U.S. goalkeeping hope,
following the likes of World Cup standouts Tim Howard, Brad Friedel and Tony
Meola. Then Steffen withdrew from this roster because of a hamstring injury. That
cracked the door open for Horvath, who will likely split the final two U.S.
games of the year with veteran Brad Guzan. The Americans meet Italy in Belgium
next week.“The margins between Brad and Zack and a few others are fairly thin,”
interim coach Dave Sarachan said Wednesday. “Ethan’s been playing quite well
for Club Brugge … it’s good to have some good competition there.”Like Horvath,
Guzan wants to play. The 34-year-old served as Howard’s understudy at the 2010
and 2014 World Cups and he’s not going to go quietly, not with the chance to
lead the U.S. to Qatar 2022 very much up for grabs.“You’re there to do a job
and compete at the highest level,” said Guzan, who spent a decade in the
Premier League before joining Atlanta United last year. “Every day you have to
bring it. That’s what it’s about. You try and help guys where you can. You’re
there if they want to talk, but at the same time I’m not here to babysit them
being the senior guy. It’s about pushing guys in the right way.”Still, Guzan
has been impressed by Horvath’s resilience. “It’s good to see him continuing to
grow because when you’re in Europe, it’s sink or swim,” he said. For
Horvath, who moved to Belgium after a successful four years with Norway’s
Molde, the secret to navigating that cutthroat world has been a newfound
ability to let go. “In those difficult
periods, I learned that you have to take a step back and breathe,” he said.
“You can’t look too far in the future, even a couple of days. You have to go
back to basics.“These last two weeks, I told myself that I don’t have to do
anything spectacular, I don’t need to be Superman,” he added. “I’ve learned to
be patient and be ready, because you never know when your next chance is going
to come.”Doug McIntyre covers soccer for Yahoo
Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
you I just got fired’: Steve Cherundolo talks coaching, U.S. player pool and
1:04 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent
Steve Cherundolo’s stint as a guest assistant with the U.S.
men’s national team was a case of near-perfect timing.On Oct. 9, Cherundolo
received an email from U.S. caretaker manager Dave Sarachan asking him to help
out with the U.S. during the November international window. Little did Sarachan
know that two days earlier, VfB Stuttgart manager Tayfun Korkut was axed and
Cherundolo was cut loose, as well.
“I guess you guys didn’t do a good job of reporting
that,” Cherundolo joked during a roundtable with reporters the day before
the Americans’ 3-0 loss to England. “Thank you, it’s a good thing
[Sarachan] wasn’t aware of that. I said, ‘Lucky for you I just got fired, so I
have plenty of time.'”As for what went down in Stuttgart, Cherundolo said,
“I can tell you that there were more problems than just results. On the
inside, there were issues with the GM and the coaching staff, and that plays a
role, as well. At the end of the day, you’re all professionals and you try to
get the job done, but everything feeds off of each other, and eventually there
has to be a decision made. Unfortunately for coaches, you’re always the weaker
link.”Cherundolo is perhaps the most underrated player in U.S. history. He
made 87 appearances with the U.S. and was named to three World Cup rosters. So
of course he jumped at the chance to not only help out Sarachan, but also get
an up-close look at the next generation of American players.”It’s like
coming home,” he said. “You’re just seeing new faces in your living
room now. Not all, some familiar… but it’s always an easy entry into a group,
and with the U.S. national team it’s always a pleasure. It would be very
difficult for me to say no to the U.S national team because some of my favorite
memories of my career as a player have been with this team.”Cherundolo’s
playing career with the U.S coincided with a period of tremendous growth for
the sport and an increase in respect for the U.S. program. That ascent has
leveled off.”I think the U.S. national team has taken a hit as far as
respect level goes because of failing to qualify for the World Cup,” he
said. “This kind of break in passing of the torch, there’s been a big
generation gap and now we’re trying to rebuild the pool, which is the right step.
But it’s a process.”Cherundolo’s perspective is always worth listening to,
given his playing and coaching experience. Not only did he spend the entirety
of his professional career with German side Hannover (setting a team record for
Bundesliga appearances), but he has worked as a youth coach and assistant
coach, as well. His job prior to the Stuttgart gig was managing Hannover’s
So what’s his main takeaway regarding the current U.S. team?
“I would say the amount of young quality players that we
have,” he said. “I think a lot of players aren’t finished yet, of
course. But how can they be? And they’re still getting used to this level of
play and to each other.”Over the past year, the current coaching staff has
done a good job of introducing a lot of new players to the program and really
teeing this up for the next cycle. That’s work that in my eyes needs to be
complimented. It’s hard work. But I think you have this large pool of young
guys, it’s trying to figure out who works the best together and who can further
U.S. Soccer the best among the new players. It’s always a mix between the
veterans and young guys and stuff.”One player who oozes talent is U.S.
midfielder Christian Pulisic, although Cherundolo eschews use of the word
“talent” in favor of “perspective” because he has seen too
many players rely on raw ability and not put in the work. He lauded Pulisic for
his work ethic, as well as his ability, and is among those expecting big things
— although he notes there are no absolutes.”Right now, [Pulisic] is in a
club where they play a style of soccer that suits him, and he’s done really
well at Dortmund,” Cherundolo said. “Now, for him, it’s just a matter
of keep growing, staying hungry and taking on more of a leadership role with
this team. And it doesn’t have to be a leadership role by opening your mouth in
the locker room, the meal rooms and all that, but on the field with
performances and bringing what he can bring to the game, his one-v-one, setting
up goals, scoring goals, being dangerous, a go-to guy on the offensive end for
U.S. Soccer. For him, now it’s just plugging away, working, playing, getting
better and not being complacent.”Pulisic is by no means the only American
playing in the Bundesliga. Weston McKennie is at Schalke, and Tyler Adams is
widely reported to be heading to RB Leipzig. As for why American players are
being recruited by German clubs, Cherundolo said Americans are noted for having
a good mentality, a good attitude, being intelligent and
adaptable.”Obviously, there is the language barrier, but it’s not a
barrier at all because everyone speaks English there, and if you want to, you
can learn German, which is not that difficult,” he said. “The biggest
difference you see [in American players] is on the tactical side of the game.
How they respond to certain changes that happen during the game; formations,
plays, how they react to that.”What I feel is that within Germany, players
from ages 16 to 18 have week in and week out, top-quality games that they’re
playing, these junior Bundesliga matches, where kids are playing against other
kids the same age, maybe a year older, but also the same level or maybe better.
It’s a matter of getting at that age, from 16 to 18, more top-quality games
where I’m pushed to my level, where I have to learn or I’m going to fall off. I
feel like the U.S. players don’t get enough of those games at that
age.”Cherundolo added that the cutthroat nature of the game in Europe is
also something that many American players don’t anticipate when they head over.”[My
youth coaches] told me, ‘You’re going to get six games to get the benefit of
the doubt. If you don’t perform in those six games, then you’re out.’ That
stuck with me,” he said. “And I always approached the game that way,
and I still do as a coach. Unfortunately, I don’t see enough of that in young
players. Part of it is a lot of the money they [make]. You’re protected by your
contracts, and they are larger.”Columbus Crew manager Gregg Berhalter is
widely viewed as the front-runner for the vacant U.S. managerial post.
Cherundolo was an international teammate of Berhalter’s and also shared ideas
with him when the two moved into the coaching ranks. He indicated he hasn’t yet
spoken to another old international teammate, current U.S. men’s national team GM
Earnie Stewart about the program, but “that time will come.” As for
Berhalter, Cherundolo has been impressed by what he has seen.”I think
Gregg knows what he wants,” he said. “You can see that from the teams
he coaches. He gets that out of his players, and that’s a good sign for a
coach. But is that the right fit for him and U.S. Soccer? Time will
tell.”As for what is next for Cherundolo, he noted that he’s “open to
everything. My phone is on.” He said he had no regrets for taking the Stuttgart
assistant coach position after spending almost 20 years with Hannover. He has
in fact been speaking to both clubs about a new role — he is after all still
getting paid by Die Roten — and he wouldn’t rule out someday
returning to the U.S. to share what he has learned. Last year, former
international teammate and current Atlanta United technical director Carlos
Bocanegra sent some of the club’s youth coaches to Stuttgart to pick
Cherundolo’s brain, so there is some recognition of his work.But Cherundolo
said his next order of business will be to obtain his UEFA Pro coaching
license, a 10-month task that will start in the first quarter of next year.
After that, his options should be wide open.His immediate priority is to impart
some wisdom to the current U.S. team, which showed its inexperience in losing
to England. Cherundolo insists such games can still have value, especially in
terms of getting used to the higher speed of the international
game.”[It’s] not just on the physical side of things but on the soccer
side of things,” he said about the speed of play. “Make decisions
quickly, thinking quickly, closing down spaces, making those decisions. When do
I go? When do I stay? All that happens faster. The other component, as well, at
international level is mistakes are punished quicker. I think those are lessons
that younger players who haven’t been at this level playing will learn. And I
hope that’s what they take from these next two games, because that is the most
With World Cup berth in
hand, what’s next for U.S. women?
Hays | Oct 22, 2018
FRISCO, Texas — The U.S. women’s national team looked comfortable playing with the lead in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. And they had plenty of practice not letting it go to their heads. Megan Rapinoe scored inside of three minutes in the opening game against Mexico. Rose Lavelle scored two minutes into the final against Canada. Indeed, in a tournament that encompassed 450 minutes, the Americans led for 435 of them.Now they have to hold the lead against the rest of the world for about eight more months.The U.S. women need not shy away from their place as the World Cup favorite. Some of that status comes from the state of the world around them. Germany, champion twice this century, righted a shaky qualifying effort but is in flux because it will soon take on a new coach. Japan, the champion in 2011 and finalist four years ago, has five losses by a combined 16-5 margin this year as it transitions to a new era. Australia, Canada, England and host France are close — all but Canada has beaten the United States on its own turf within the past two years — but have yet to win a major title.The U.S. success in qualifying came against overmatched opposition, at least up until the final. But a 26-0 margin of victory in five games merely tells a slightly embellished version of the same story the Americans wrote throughout 2018. Generally good enough against the likes of England, France and Germany early in the year, they grew into rampaging excellence against Australia, Brazil and Japan during the summer and CONCACAF more recently.But we’re still a long way from the World Cup title game July 7 in Lyon, France. The U.S. team that won the World Cup in 2015 arguably didn’t hit its stride until the quarterfinals of that event. Much as U.S. coach Jill Ellis said she used halftime of this past week’s game against Canada to stress staying on the attack, rather than protecting the lead the team held at the time, the U.S. women will try to avoid protecting the pole position they hold.”The beauty when you work with elite people or athletes is they’re always looking for what’s next and they’re always pushing the envelope,” Ellis said last week. “I think as coaches, that’s the environment we want to create. I do believe we can get better in what we do in every facet of our game. …”To get this done next summer, we certainly have to continue make strides. It’s not going to be a smooth journey; it never is.”So while recent days answered the question of qualification, questions remain for next summer. How set is the midfield? The United States used the same starting lineup in four of five games in the CONCACAF event. It didn’t repeat a lineup four times in either the 2016 Olympics or Olympic qualifying. Nor did it repeat a lineup four times in either the 2015 World Cup or qualifying for that event. The depth chart is clear.That’s most striking in the midfield, where none of Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan or Rose Lavelle were starters in their current roles as recently as last summer.”They’re just a good blend of midfielders,” Ellis said. “I don’t think you can have the same profile in every position in the midfield. So they’re a little bit diverse in that way.”And much as Ertz used 2017 to cement her place as the defensive midfielder, no one has used 2018 to greater effect than Horan, MVP in the NWSL and indispensable to the national team as a box-to-box presence.”I think she’s taken another step in terms of her influence to our team and her importance to our team,” Ellis said. “She can get us out of tight spots, she can play-make, she can finish. She’s just multi-dimensional in that regard. And I think the confidence is there. … When you’re dealing with a younger player, that’s a big part of it. You can tell she feels valued and she’s valuable.”But if that’s true for one young player, it begs the same question in reverse for Sam Mewis. A workhorse for the United States in 2017, Mewis came back from offseason surgery and finished the NWSL season playing like a familiarly formidable, confident presence for the record-setting North Carolina Courage. Yet with just 274 minutes on the field for the U.S. team this year, is she a starter without a home on the field at the moment or is she penciled in as insurance?When healthy, McCall Zerboni seems a likely fit for a 23-player World Cup roster because she would fill a specific role and need as a defensive presence capable of closing out leads or even doubling up with Ertz against particularly problematic opposing attacks. For Mewis and Morgan Brian, the question is whether they still have cards to play in a game in which the stakes are World Cup minutes. Where does Mallory Pugh fit? The long-awaited opportunity to see what the U.S. forward line would look like with Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh and Rapinoe all finally available at the same time didn’t produce much drama.The veterans started all but one game and poured in goals. Pugh came off the bench three times and started with the second line against Panama.In a conversation during group play of the CONCACAF tournament, North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance singled out Pugh as the embodiment of the attacking, pressing style the United States is playing under Ellis. Yet after a series of injuries the past two years, most recently the knee injury that kept her out much of the summer, the player who still wouldn’t even be a senior in college can’t seem to catch a break in realizing that potential.One of the most important X factors for the U.S. women between now and next summer will be how much more development Pugh can squeeze in and how her body responds. It’s still not out of the question that Pugh could have the same effect next summer that another young star, France’s Kylian Mbappe, had on the 2018 World Cup.”My expectation is she’s already showed us glimpses of a high level,” Ellis said. “Now as a player it’s getting back into driving to that point. What is she capable of? I think what she’s prepared to put in is part of it. But she’s a very dynamic player that can change a game. I think she’s proven herself as both a goal scorer and a facilitator. Our hope, and I certainly know that Mal’s hope, is, again, push her and see what her full potential is.” What should the schedule look like? The United States will find out its World Cup group on Dec. 8, but it still has the better part of seven months to control its own planning. That time won’t be wasted.Once the 2018 schedule wraps up next month, strength and conditioning coach Dawn Scott will be asked to make good on Ellis’ desire for this to be not just the fittest team in the world — which it might already be — but the fittest possible version of itself. That must be done without exerting too great a toll on a roster that is neither particularly young nor injury-free over the past 18 months. More from espnW.com U.S. women withstand Canada’s challenge to win CONCACAF crown With no shortage of goals, U.S. women qualify for World Cup Rapinoe: FIFA doesn’t ‘truly care’ about women From boos to captain’s armband, Rapinoe is better than ever Horan is the answer the U.S. women need in the midfield We won’t see the national team in December, but combine the draw with the offseason work, and that month will have a great deal to do with success next summer. After playing all but three games on home soil since the Olympics, expect the U.S. women to pile up some international miles before the World Cup — as they did under Ellis in 2015 with games in England and France in addition to the Algarve Cup in Portugal (although the United States will again host the SheBelieves Cup early next year, an event which didn’t exist in 2015).Games in the spring will be designed as nothing more than tuneups that excite the fan base, and perhaps mimic group opponents to whatever degree possible, but too much of that on the schedule and the U.S. women would incur risks equivalent to the rest of us eating junk food.”The routs are feel-good games, I guess; everyone feels good about themselves,” Rapinoe said last week. “But I don’t think it really does much to prepare you for [a game like the 2015 World Cup semifinal against Germany in front of more than 50,000 people], when you really have to be locked on, you have to take the two chances that come and you have to be at your very best.”The more we can play these teams, see these players, see how they like to play and kind of figure them out — obviously that gives them a chance to figure us out, as well, but I think that competition sharpens your edge as much as possible.”Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.