11/26/18 MLS Conference Finals Leg 2 Thurs, US Men Lose 2 Games in Europe, Champions League Returns Tues/Wed

 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. 

Champions League

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. 

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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 

Champions League

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. Player 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 level. 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 near average. 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. SubsWil 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 half-chance wide. Jorge Villafaña (7) — The Portland left back added some real defensive bite for the final quarter hour, including a terrific doorstep block. Sebastian 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 minutes 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 FAREWELL 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 Guzan. 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. USMNT Stats 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. Pulisic Stats 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. Christian 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. Positives 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. Negatives 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 the evening. 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 field. 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 forward. 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. Substitutes: 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.     ‘Lucky for you I just got fired’: Steve Cherundolo talks coaching, U.S. player pool and more 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 under-19 team. 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 important thing.” With World Cup berth in hand, what’s next for U.S. women? y Graham 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.

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