2/1/19 US Men Win Berhalter’s First Game, US vs Costa Rica Sat 3:30 Fox,

So new US coach Gregg Berhalter got off to a fine start as the US Men throttled an overmatched Panama squad 3-0 last weekend.  I thought the possession game of the US was solid with close to 70% possession and I thought the boys did a nice job of breaking down the settled in Panama defense with good movement and the 2 #10’s behind Zardes up front.  20 year old Chicago Fire player Djordje Mihailovic and Seattle’s Cristian Roldan played solid in the middle with Djordje Mihailovic scoring in his first ever US game and Roldan offering an assist and solid link-up play in the middle all game.  Old steady Michael Bradley playing as a true #6 was solid protecting the back 4 – who had few issues on the day.  Now this was a 3rd string Panama group but honestly this is 2nd or 3rd string US as well.  I thought both center backs Aaron Long and LAFCs Walker Zimmerman (goal scorer) played well.  Aaron Long, the surprise captain on this day, was especially strong in the back and played some solid balls forward.  While right back Nick Lima was just fantastic and deserved the man of the match award with an assist and stellar play.  This Sat 3 pm on FOX should give us a little better look as the Ticos of Costa Rica are bringing a little better team to the match.  The good news is the US under Berhalter seem’s to to have a plan and players who are trying to play out that plan.  Not something the US has done a lot of lately.  Got my finger’s crossed that continues.  Either way – we may have found some new young players in MLS to keep an eye on.

Sure was great to see Tyler Adams play so well for RB Leipzig last week and now we have another good young American to watch in Germany on Fox – especially since Pulisic is on the outs with Dortmund now.  Of course Pulisic will hopefully get some time against fellow American John Brooks of Frankfurt on Saturday at 9:30 am on Fox Sports 2, followed by Weston McKinney of Schalke facing Mgladback and Johnson at 12:30 on FS2.  The EPL gives us Tottenham hosting New Castle United and Yedlin at 7:30 am on Sat.  While Sunday gives us Man United at Leicester City on NBCSN at 9 am  and Man City vs Arsenal at 11:30 am on the same.  Liverpool travels to West Ham on Mon at 3 pm on NBCSN.  Of course the Madrid Derby featuring Atletico and Real Madrid is next Sat, Feb 3 at 10:15 am on beIN Sport and Champions League is back Feb 12/13.


Highlights: New-look USA give Berhalter 1st win

US Might Now Make Drastic Changes for Sat Game vs Costa Rica – Geoff Lepper MLS.com

Envisioning USMNT European Players in Berhalters System – Avi Creditor SI

Why Bradley Remains a Top Option for Gregg Berhalter – Bobby Warsaw MLS

US Young Trio Ensures Behalter Era Starts off Right – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Berhalter Not Only US Man to Debut Well – Avi Creditor SI

US Player Ratings – Jason Davis- ESPNFC

US Player Ratings – Greg Seltzer MLS.com

Armchair Analyst – Initial Look at Berhalter’s Unusual Tactical System – Matt Doyle MLS

US Had a Plan under Berhalter – Charles Boehm -MLS

MLS Defender of Year – Aaron Long Named Captain in Game Sunday

Bradley Not Fazed by Captaincy Snub – Jeff Carlisle

Why Can’t US Pick its Best Players – Stars & Stripes


Neymar out 10 Weeks to Miss Champions League

Neymar’s Pattern of Poorly Timed Injuries and the Star’s Level of Culpability – Jonathan Wilson SI


Toronto’s former League MVP Sebastian Giovinco forced out

Newcastle Signs Atlanta’s Almiron for 20 million

US Defender Matt Polster Joins Gerrard’s Rangers from Chicago Fire

FC Cincinatti Ties First Pre-Season Match


Fri, Feb 1 

2:30 pm Fox Sport2             Hertha vs RB Leipzig (Tyler Adams)

Sat, Feb 2

9:30 am FS1                    Frankfurt (Brooks) vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

12:30 pm FS2?                Schalke (Mckinney) vs Borrusia MGladbach (Johnson)

12:30 beIn Sport             Barcelona vs Valencia

2:30 pm ESPN+                Juventus vs Parma

3:30 pm Fox    USA Men vs Costa Rica

Sun, Feb 3  

9 am NBCSN               Leicester City vs Man United  

11:30 am NBCSN        Man City vs Arsenal  

2 pm ESPN+                 Roma vs Milan

3 pm beIN Sport         Lyonnais vs PSG  

Mon, Feb 4 

3 pm NBCSN                 West Ham vs Liverpool

Sat, Feb 9

7:30 am NBCSN                     Fulham (Ream) vs Man United

9;30 am FS2                            Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Hoffenheim

10 am NBCSN                        Liverpool vs Bournemouth

10:15 am beIN Sport          Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid (Madrid Derby) 

Sun, Feb 10  

9 am NBCSN              Tottenhan vs Leicester City

11 am NBCSN            Man City vs Chelsea

2:45 pm beIn Sport      Athletic Club vs Barcelona

Mon, Feb 11  

3 pm NBCSN              Wolverhampton vs New Castle United (Yedlin)

Tues, Feb 12  

3 pm TNT                   Man United vs PSG  CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Wed, Feb 13  

3 pm TNT                   Ajax vs Real Madrid  CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm ???                     Tottenham vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

Gregg Berhalter may not make drastic squad changes for USMNT on Saturday

January 29, 20197:07PM ESTGeoff LepperContributor

SAN JOSE, Calif. – If you tune into Gregg Berhalter’s second game as the US men’s national teamcoach expecting a drastically changed squad from the side that posted a 3-0 victory over Panama on Sunday, you may be in for a shock.As Berhalter finishes a near month-long stint with a group of young players lacking international experience, the former Columbus Crew SC boss does not feel a pressing need to get everyone some playing time against Costa Rica on Saturday afternoon at Avaya Stadium (3:30 pm ET | FS1).“We’ll mix guys in where appropriate,” Berhalter said Tuesday after his squad finished its first training session at the San Jose Earthquakes’ home. “I think our job is to continue to fine tune and continue to work on and develop our style of play. We may make some changes; we’ll see where everyone is physically.”To some extent, given that only four players came into camp with more than a half-dozen caps, anybody Berhalter puts on the field will be gaining invaluable experience. He gave action to seven debutants against Panama, starting five to match a modern era US record in previously set in 1992. That leaves D.C. United midfielder Russell CanouseColorado Rapids right back Keegan Rosenberry and Philadelphia Union defenders Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty still in search of their first caps.The aim is greater, however, than simply working in new blood in the wake of a disastrously failed 2018 World Cup qualification campaign. Berhalter is trying to lay the tactical groundwork the USMNT for years to come – which involves plenty of change for players coming into the system cold.“He’s definitely asking a lot, and there’s a lot of new things, new components [to] the way he wants us playing,” said US midfielder Corey Baird, one of the newcomers versus Panama. “I think everyone’s starting to understand the system more and more as we go.”That style included a new role given to right back Nick Lima, who pushed into central midfield when the US was on the attack, along with high-and-wide posts for wingers, to name two examples cited by Baird.“Those little tweaks that [Berhalter] has to try to open up space and open up gaps for different players in different areas of the field,” Baird said. “I think when everyone’s on the same page there, it can come off and work really well. It’s just about understanding your role and movements off the other guys behind you.”For Berhalter, growing that knowledge base is possibly the best thing he’s getting out of his first camp.“What we needed to see was progress,” Berhalter said. “We talked before the game. We said, ‘You’re not going to see a finished product from this game. But you should be able to see ideas. You should be able to see the beginning.’ That’s all we’ve asked from the players, the whole time. . . . And guys have been so open, the guys have progressed virtually every day. We’ve gotten better, and that’s been good to see.”

Warshaw: Why Michael Bradley remains a top option for Gregg Berhalter

January 29, 20191:47PM ESTBobby Warshaw

In case you missed it, Michael Bradley started an played 84 minutes for the US men’s national team in the first game of the Gregg Berhalter era on Sunday night. I thought he played well.As per usual with Bradley, though, his performance led to polarized opinions.

“Djordje Mihailovic looked amazing!” – “I know, he could be the 10 we need!”

“And how about Nick Lima? He could push Yedlin for the right back spot.” – “Absolutely!”

“And Michael Bradley was class!” – “SETTLE DOWN, it was Panama’s C team!”

’m not here to discuss whether Michael Bradley is good at soccer. I’m not here to discuss whether Michael Bradley should be held accountable for any sins. Those conversations make me want to send tweets that would get me fired. I’m here to say that Michael Bradley’s skill set fits with how Berhalter wants to play, and it/he will – and should – be an important part of Berhalter’s plan going forward.Bradley offers something that nobody else in the player pool can provide. Bradley has the most chill on the ball. The game moves slower for him. When he has a defender on his back or the midfield is crowded, he doesn’t panic.A refreshing and frustrating thing about soccer is that there’s almost always an option out of trouble. When players review film to (hopefully) improve upon their mistakes, they can generally find the pass they should have made. They didn’t notice the option in the moment, usually because they got frazzled. A defender nipping at your heels will do that to you.It’s not about having the first touch ability to make the move or pass, it’s about having the awareness; staying calm enough to evaluate the situation.

Michael Bradley in #USAvPAN:

84 minutes
83 touches
73/76 (96%) passes
1 key pass
5 recoveries
2 tackles
2 clearances
1 interception

Unsurprisingly excellent performance. Clean and precise passing, dictated possession, timely defensive interventions when needed.#USMNT #MB90

st touch. But it all molds into one general concept: Staying chill under pressure. At which Bradley is still king in our player pool.And if you want to play a possession style and build from the back, you have to have that player.Possession allows a team to pull the defense to a certain area of the field, then hit them in the spaces they vacated. To do that, you have to make the opposition think they can win the ball. You have to put your own players in tough situations. Otherwise, the defenders won’t pressure the ball and leave their zones. You have to be willing to play passes that you might lose.Michael Bradley is still the best at not losing those balls.He’s better at it than Wil Trapp, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Russell Canouse or any other top defensive midfielder in the pool. Bradley is the most calm with the ball under pressure.You could argue about other parts of Bradley’s game. He doesn’t transition to his defensive duties particularly well anymore (though Sunday’s game against Panama was a renaissance for him at it) and he doesn’t win duels as effectively as he used to. He might have lost a step, as well.But he still offers the superior characteristic at one of the most vital components of Berhalter’s playing style. If you want Berhalter to play a possession style, involving courage and moxie and keeping the ball on the ground through pressure, you should want Michael Bradley in the team.

Young trio’s performances ensure Gregg Berhalter era starts off right

Jan 28, 2019   Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. — For the past two-and-a-half weeks, manager Gregg Berhalter has been building a foundation with the U.S. men’s national team. It’s a process that is 100 percent necessary, though it doesn’t always make for compelling viewing. It’s a process that at times consists of missed passes and blown assignments.Yet on Sunday, the U.S. managed to not only begin the Berhalter era on a winning note, defeating Panama, 3-0, but it also had some bright moments. There were strong performances over much of the field, but of note were a trio of players making their international debuts. Djordje Mihailovic looked bright in a free attacking role, and scoring the first of the evening. Corey Bairddelivered the assist on Mihailovic’s goal, and was a consistent threat on the right wing. Defender Nick Lima was sharp throughout on both sides of the ball.The role of Lima was the most interesting. His defensive duties were that of a standard right back. But when the U.S. transitioned into attack he played as an auxiliary midfielder, moving up and tucking inside to provide support to Michael Bradley. Lima’s position allowed him to pounce on loose balls, and keep plenty of plays alive. It also allowed him to play-make a bit. It was Lima’s pass that found Zardes in the 40th minute, and while the forward appeared to be bowled over by a Panama defender, the ball fell to Baird whose perfectly timed pass allowed Mihailovic to fire home with the help of a deflection. Lima then topped off his night with a stellar sequence, winning the ball to stifle a possible Panamanian counter, and then delivering a stellar cross for Walker Zimmerman to head home for the home side’s second goal.

When asked to describe his role, Lima laughed and said, “Different,” given how his responsibilities were much broader than those of a typical right back.”There were times when I felt really comfortable with it,” he said. “But there were also times where I’m sliding across, getting into the middle, getting deep. We’re looking to switch point of attack and get out the other way, find our [No.] 10s, find our wingers. It’s different, it takes a lot of learning, getting used to. Clearly I’m not used to it. It’s still new, but it’s a learning process. I think for going out in our first test in a real game, we found some things we definitely need to work on, and things that can work and we can build on going forward.”Lima was one of five players making their international debuts, and he admitted that there was the usual amount of nerves beforehand. But a phone call with San Jose Earthquakes teammate Chris Wondolowski helped him focus.”[Wondolowski] said, ‘When you hear that national anthem for the first time, think of all the hard work, the trainings, everything that got you here, then soak it in, and just do you,'” Lima said. “Hearing that from a guy whose done it at the highest level, multiple times, it gave me a sense of calm. And I think that’s what I’ve been trying to here, just be myself. I’m not going to make it being someone I’m not. If I want to be here, I’ll play the best as being Nick Lima.”Lima was by no means alone in acquitting himself well on his debut. Mihailovic, who is just 15 months removed from a torn ACL in his right knee, has dazzled the coaching staff in training camp, and excelled in a formation in which both he and Cristian Roldan — who also sharp on the night — acted as dual attacking midfielders.”I think it was a [testament] to all my hard work,” said Mihailovic about this goal. “And I think Gregg and [GM Earnie Stewart’s] belief in me helped get to where I am now.”

It’s worth noting that the U.S. was up against a Panama side that was even more inexperienced than the home side. The combined number of caps on the Canaleros‘ roster amounted to just 81. Only two players from the roster that competed in last summer’s World Cup played on Sunday, that being defender Fidel Escobar and forward Abdiel Arroyo.But the U.S. had to start somewhere, and it delivered the kind of performance one might have expected from a Berhalter-coached group. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the U.S. dominated possession to the tune of 64.8 percent to 35.2 percent. The midfield, with Bradley looking composed in a holding role, was in control for the vast majority of the match. The home side created most of the chances, though it needed a superb save from Zack Steffen in the 56th minute to preserve the U.S. lead. Along the way, the U.S. threw out some tactical wrinkles — Lima’s role in particular that reveal Berhalter is putting his stamp on things in a way that is different from his time in Columbus.In the big picture, what does the result mean? The reality is not much. Lima isn’t going to supplant, say, a DeAndre Yedlin when the full squad gets together. Nor is Mihailovic going to take Christian Pulisic’s place anytime soon. But building a foundation isn’t just about tactics, or the culture around the team. It’s about establishing some depth, and creating a level of understanding in Berhalter’s methods. When those players might emerge — or be needed — to take on bigger roles is difficult to predict. Some will never get there. All the more reason to provide opportunities now. And for some of those on the field, Sunday’s match was the first of what will could be many more steps forward.

Berhalter’s Just One of USMNT’s Successful Debuts in Manager’s Opening Act

By AVI CREDITOR January 27, 2019  SI

Gregg Berhalter enjoyed a successful debut as manager, with the U.S. men’s national team handling Panama 3-0 with relative ease in their friendly Sunday night, officially kicking off a new era that has been over a year in the making.Djordje Mihailovic scored in the 40th minute, while Walker Zimmerman (80th) and Christian Ramirez (89th) put it away late in a match that just over 9,000 saw live at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Some of that atrocious attendance figure in a cavernous NFL stadium likely has to do with it being a January friendly, which isn’t typically played with any true stakes. There’s still surely a large segment of the U.S. soccer-watching population turned off by the events of the last couple of years, and that group is not going to be eager to shell out money to watch a friendly that doesn’t feature all of the program’s top options. The match also happened to fall on the same night in the Phoenix area as the WWE’s Royal Rumble, for whatever that’s worth.But winning is the greatest elixir for a fan base desperate for direction, success and a team it’s proud to watch, and so far it’s one win in one match for Berhalter as new leader of the USMNT.  Here are three thoughts on the game:


Berhalter’s debut as manager was the most notable introduction of the night, of course, but he gave five U.S. players their international debuts from the start and two more off the bench. Of the newbies, Nick Lima was fantastic as a versatile right back and assisted on the USA’s second goal, while Mihailovic opened the scoring five minutes before halftime–on an assist from another debuting player, Real Salt Lake’s Corey Baird. Jonathan Lewis and Ramirez combined for the USA’s third, with the NYCFC winger torching his defender before crossing for the LAFC striker, who tapped home from six yards out five minutes after making his long-awaited international debut.”It’s just nice,” Berhalter said after the game of all the successful player debuts. “It’s nice to put in the work over an extended period of time and get a reward like that.”The two that were most eye-opening were Mihailovic and Lima. Mihailovic, a 20-year-old Chicago Fire midfielder who tore his ACL in October 2017, was seen as a bit of a surprise call-up, but Berhalter was effusive in his praise of Mihailovic’s performance in camp, and he rewarded him with a start as one of two attacking, central midfielders (Cristian Roldan, who was also excellent on the night, being the other). “He’s been one of the players that his line has just been going upwards,” Berhalter said. “If you look at some of the small things he does, you can tell how intelligent of a soccer player he is.”Lima was dynamite in a role that required a lot of energy, focus and attention to detail, and you get the sense that he’ll get another chance to play it under Berhalter’s watch. His tackle, recovery and assist to Zimmerman was somewhat reminiscent of Wayne Rooney’s highlight reel tackle-to-assist play in MLS last season (albeit without the lengthy tracking back element), and he also had a vital role in setting up the opener. He completed 32 of 39 passes (82%), was positionally sound in defense and transitioned well into the attack when called upon. The 24-year-old San Jose Earthquakes star was a clear winner on the night and takes that momentum into his home stadium for next weekend’s friendly vs. Costa Rica.


Berhalter has spoken since he took over about establishing a culture and a style of play that permeates throughout the program. The seeds of that were very clearly planted over the last few weeks in California and started to sprout vs. Panama.The U.S. enjoyed two-thirds of the possession, passed at an 87% clip and nearly doubled Panama in total passes (601-314). There was a very clear intent to press high and to press after losing possession, and it translated into a largely dominant match. There were two, maybe three pockets of time in which Panama seemed comfortable, one being in the opening minutes before any semblance of control was able to be taken, and the U.S. otherwise enjoyed a rare night on the front foot. This all comes with the massive caveat of it being a January friendly against a highly experimental Panama squad. Nobody is going to extrapolate the result from this match and conclude with the USA lifting a trophy in Qatar. But the early signs are promising.In terms of tactics, Berhalter’s squad transitioned back and forth between a 4-3-3 and a 3-2-2-3, with Lima pushing into central midfield next to Bradley when the U.S. was on the attack. Not all of the decisions were perfect, and not all of the execution was pinpoint, but that’s unrealistic considering it’s a squad of players in the midst of their club preseasons and trying to adapt to a new manager and style. The overall takeaway, though, was a match that presented some very legitimate building blocks. “What we’re trying to do is put players in positions that play to their strengths,” Berhalter said in his post-match remarks.It’s amazing how how often that statement went unheeded during the previous regime, and it’s not all that surprising that it can be an uplifting element for the players.


The meaning and matchday influence of the captain’s armband is debatable. Sometimes, it’s a nominal honor. Other times it’s symbolic or used as a tribute. Other times it’s a true reflection of the leader of the unit. Being officially dubbed captain by the manager for the long haul is ultimately the biggest statement that can be made, but in terms of it being a game-to-game call while the new national team comes together, there’s not a ton that should be read into it.So in a vacuum, Aaron Long wearing the captain’s armband for a January camp friendly vs. a Panama B team isn’t that huge of a deal when it comes to the national team power structure (from a personal standpoint for Long, however, it’s another notch on his belt on his rise from afterthought to quality defender). But him doing so on a night when Michael Bradley, the former captain, was also in the starting lineup was cause to raise more than one eyebrow.If anything, it’s a sign from Berhalter that past status means little. He left his former captain in Columbus, Wil Trapp, on the bench until the 84th minute, for instance. As it relates to the big picture, Long donning the armband instead of Bradley is not going to be a takeaway that resonates throughout the national team for months to come, nor was it anything more than a footnote on the night, but it is another reminder that Berhalter is out to truly start from scratch by doing things his way. Berhalter, in his comments after the match, said that he discussed the decision with Bradley and didn’t “look at it as a knock against anyone else” who did not wear the armband. Instead, he saw it as a reward for the competitiveness he witnessed from Long throughout camp.Oh, and as for Bradley, he was pretty strong in his 83 minutes on the night, even without an extra piece of cloth around his bicep. He was 72 for 75 passing (96%), played in a pair of incisive balls to Roldan that put the U.S. in scoring positions and looked quite comfortable doing what Berhalter asked of him.

Envisioning USMNT’s European-Based Players in Gregg Berhalter’s System

By AVI CREDITOR January 28, 2019  SI

Gregg Berhalter lifted the lid on his plans for the U.S. men’s national team Sunday night during his debut as manager. He displayed a true tactical plan and a foundation for what to expect from the USMNT going forward. Naturally, the plan will shift based on opponent and circumstance, but the basic tenets figure to remain the same.Berhalter hasn’t been coy about his approach. He’s spoken repeatedly about trying to disorganize the opponent and press to win the ball back when it’s lost while also playing through and behind the opposition’s lines, none of which makes for particularly revolutionary steps that a team should take. But just how he planned for his team to do that came to light in a 3-0 win vs. Panama, an overmatched, experimental opponent that won’t go down as one of the tougher foes the U.S. faces during this World Cup cycle.The U.S. carried out Berhalter’s plan, operating in a 4-3-3 when trying to win possession and shifting shape into more of a 3-2-2-3 when on the attack to push numbers forward and overload the attacking zones. The result was a match in which the U.S. dominated possession and carved out a good number of quality chances. Not everything was carried out with precision, but the bright spots were clear.”It was a good baseline,” Berhalter said following the match. “It gave us enough content to work with. Some of the movements we’re working with on the wings are very complicated movements. It involves three players interchanging and still with the intention to disorganize the defense and get behind their lines. At some times we were a bit tentative with that and then there were other times where it came off and it was really nice. … The wing combinations I liked. We’re playing with two 10s to purposely find them between lines. I think that’s very important, and we did that very effectively at times.”  Watching the likes of Djordje Mihailovic, Nick Lima, Corey Baird, Jeremy Ebobisse and other lesser-experienced and heralded players carry out Berhalter’s vision was one thing, but while viewing the match you couldn’t help but wonder what it would look like with the players expected to feature more regularly in competitive matches going forward.”We had that in mind also when we’re envisioning the structure of the team,” Berhalter said. “We’re projecting some guys in what positions they can play and how we’re going to teach them, how we’re going to train them, what the sessions need to be. Right now the focus is working on this group of players.”Berhalter will have just one brief camp and two matches before the pre-Gold Cup friendlies hit to integrate the European-based players into his system and feel good enough about things to trot them out into a tournament environment. So just how might the likes of Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Tim Weah, DeAndre Yedlin, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams fit into how the U.S. played Sunday? Let’s take a look:

Sargent in the Zardes role

Josh Sargent continues to get minutes for Werder Bremen, and it’s not hard to envision him in the striker’s place atop the formation. Zardes did well in holding up the ball and linking up with others in the attack, and he likely should have had assists in consecutive sequences after his lay-off passes for Baird and Lima resulted in quality chances that went wide. Even though Zardes was wasteful with his own chances on goal, Berhalter praised the forward’s process and seemed happy with the end result.”For forwards, you’re not always going to hit the back of the net, but his work rate was excellent,” Berhalter said. “He got in enough spots to score a goal. That’s what we’re looking at, because I know with Gyasi it’s eventually going to go in.”Given Sargent’s savvy, finishing proficiency, ability to hold up the ball and pick out the right pass, you’d expect him to have a direct line to that starting role, and it’s one he can seize with a strong March camp–presuming he’s healthy and called in, of course.

Weah in the Ebobisse role

While Ebobisse works hard and did deliver a nice ball for the USA’s first chance of the night, he’s not naturally a winger. Enter Weah, who, despite playing in more of a No. 9 role on his loan with Celtic thus far, has the speed and dribbling ability to take defenders on and act as more of a threat from that spot on either side of the field. Berhalter will demand a strong pressing and defensive work ethic and an understanding of the intricate combinations he wants to see, and that will all have to be learned. But from a pure fit on the wing, Weah has the goods to deliver there.

Pulisic and McKennie in the Mihailovic-Roldan roles

Mihailovic was largely fantastic on his debut and earned extreme praise from Berhalter for his work in camp. It looks like he’ll be given more opportunities beyond this camp, but if the U.S. is going to put its best potential No. 10 on the field, then Pulisic will be the one stepping into that role. Mihailovic had a wonderful game and excelled alongside Cristian Roldan. Both enjoyed freedom going forward and testing the defense, and plugging the likes of Pulisic and McKennie–who have a strong friendship and a baseline for midfield chemistry–into those spots should give U.S. fans cause for excitement. McKennie can play a more forward-pushing role and has for Schalke, and hearing Berhalter describe what he saw from Roldan, it’s not crazy to think the same of McKennie. “Cristian Roldan we think is technical but also really good in transition, so he’s in a spot now where when we lose the ball he can press right away. … What we’re trying to do is put players in position that plays to their strengths.”

Adams in the Bradley or Lima role

Adams started and went the distance for RB Leipzig in a right-sided midfield role over the weekend, and he’s one of the more versatile midfielders in the U.S. pool. Picturing him directing traffic in the midfield, looking for the occasional incisive pass and remaining a shield for the back line isn’t unreasonable at all, and if Bradley were to make way from the starting lineup, it would figure to be Adams or fellow Germany-based midfielder McKennie stepping into that spot. That’s no given, as Berhalter held high praise for Bradley’s performance.”He’s a very smart soccer player. You don’t get 143 caps unless you have real quality, and I think that’s what’s undervalued in him,” Berhalter said, “Getting to work with him up close and see training and see his game intelligence and technical ability, it’s impressive.”So if Bradley remains in a defensive, facilitating midfield role, then where would that leave Adams, who surely has a big role to play going forward? On ESPN2’s broadcast, Taylor Twellman speculated about Adams in the right back role, especially considering it’s one that gives freedom for the player to push forward and help out in the center of the field. Adams certainly has the engine, intelligence and field-awareness to carry out such an important role, and the more looks he’s exposed to in Germany, the further along his education will be in case he’s called upon to feature for the national team in a way he really hasn’t before.”It’s not easy to ask your right back to get the ball with his back to goal at times, it’s not easy to ask him to pivot in midfield and create space for other people,” Berhalter said, upon delivering his praise for Lima’s play and describing the duties of a right back in his system.As for Yedlin, is he capable of fulfilling the duties required of a Berhalter right back? You’d expect him to be given the opportunity to at least prove he can be, even after his subpar play in his most recent caps under Dave Sarachan. Given how well Yedlin gets forward and with the attacking qualities he possesses, though, it wouldn’t be too out of the realm of possibility to see him in more of an attack-minded role along the lines of the one Baird played vs. Panama.

Veteran Michael Bradley, youngster Nick Lima earn top marks as U.S. start 2019 with a victory

Jan 27, 2019  Jason DavisU.S. soccer writer

With an young, experimental team at his disposal, new United States head coach Gregg Berhalter started off his tenure with an encouraging 3-0 victory over Panama at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.


It was nearly all positive for Berhalter and his charges. Five Americans made their national team debuts, the most in a USMNT game since 1992. Despite inexperience throughout the squad, the team executed Berhalter’s plan and leveraged their possession advantage to a 3-0 win. Improvement over the course of the game is encouraging for a future that will feature some of the players on the field in Arizona.


Only the lack of quality from Panama could be tapped as a negative in the U.S. win. The Canaleros showed little attacking teeth and were complicit in turning the ball over to the Americans all evening. The visitor’s lack of aggression just makes properly analyzing the win more difficult.

Manager rating out of 10

8 — The night was a near perfect debut for Berhalter, considering the circumstances. His team won going away after being dominant for 90 minutes. His players executed his system and grew into the game. With the low stakes and young squad, he was able to get seven players their first caps and the full complement of 17 players possible on the field.

Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Zack Steffen, 7 — Not asked to do much, but was required to make one excellent save in the second half with the United States holding onto a 1-0 lead.

DF Daniel Lovitz, 5 — Looked nervous at the outset but settled into the game. Misplaced a handful of passes out of the back but provided a strong tackle with the Americans seeing out the game in the final 10 minutes.

DF Walker Zimmerman, 7 — Rarely tested on the defensive end, Zimmerman distributed the ball well, stepping up to help exploit passing lanes. Scored a towering header to put the match away.

DF Aaron Long, 7 — Exceedingly quiet night for the side’s captain. Misplaced a few long passes but was otherwise competent playing out of the back. Chalked up five recoveries.

DF Nick Lima, 8 — Thrived in the unique right-back/midfield dual role and provided the cross for Zimmerman’s goal. Popped up near the box on occasion, flexing from his defensive role. Played an excellent pass to aid in the buildup for the opener.

MF Djordje Mihailovic, 7 — Smooth on the ball and understood the role in Berhalter’s system. Provided the finish that put the Americans out in front. Excellent debut for the 20-year-old.

MF Michael Bradley, 8 — Played a vintage game, misplacing just three passes all night from a deep-lying role in midfield. Showed a tactical understanding and work rate that centered the U.S. across 84 minutes.

MF Cristian Roldan, 7 — Played smart soccer in a 90-minute shift. Used the space available to good effect and played creator in Berhalter’s setup. Missed a few passes that might have led to chances.

FW Corey Baird, 6 — Direct and dangerous on the right side in a system that demands a lot from wing players. Provided the pass that set up Mihailovic for the American’s opening goal.

FW Jeremy Ebobisse, 5 — Most effective on the defensive side of the ball, tracking back to help recover possession. His impact waned after a clash of heads midway through the first half.

FW Gyasi Zardes, 6 — Good with his hold-up play, but missed three good chances to score. Active and willing to track back defensively.


MF Sebastian Lletget, N/R — Lacked sharpness after coming on for Mihailovic. Connected more than once with Jonathan Lewis on the left side.

MF Jonathan Lewis, N/R — Nearly created a goal on his debut, then set up Ramirez for the final tally of the night for the Americans. Dynamic, athletic, dangerous.

GK Sean Johnson, N/R — Made a save immediately upon entry. Struggled in terms of playing the ball out of the back under pressure after coming in cold.

MF Paul Arriola, N/R — Found space effectively after coming on a substitute. Needed to be more aggressive in one-on-one situations.

FW Christian Ramirez, N/R — Scored on his USMNT debut, unmarked 5 yards from goal.

MF Wil Trapp, N/R — Connected on a handful of passes, missing just one in a late cameo.

USMNT Player Ratings: Lima, Zimmerman, Bradley lead the way in 2019 opener

January 27, 201911:56PM ESTGreg Seltzer  MLS.com Contributor

The US national team‘s Gregg Berhalter era got off to a promising start as his green first selection calmly ruled play on its way to a 3-0 friendly victory over Panama on Sunday night.As a periodic reminder, all marks are handed out on a scale with “6” as the average grade. The ratings are also relative to time spent on the field, meaning that a “7” earned over the full shift is more impressive than one earned for a 15-minute appearance.

Zack Steffen (7) – The US netminder could have kicked back with his feet up for most of the game, but came up with a dandy save when pressed into urgent duty 10 minutes after halftime. Steffen also played out of the back well on the few occasions when Panama pressed high.

Nick Lima (8) – It was a standout showing for the San Jose right back, who essentially worked two positions in this one. Lima helped the Nats crowd central park and quickly pushed the ball into attack any time Panama turned it over in midfield. He also found his way back into defense when necessary, but his best takeaway of the night occurred in the away end. Not satisfied with a terrific tackle to stop a potentially dangerous counter in its tracks, he quickly followed that swipe by delivering a pinpoint cross for the first insurance tally.

Walker Zimmerman (7.5) – Though his passing out of the back occasionally left something to be desired, the LAFC man was the busier and more forbidding of the two US center backs. Of course, Zimmerman capped the performance by burying a late header to double the US lead.

Aaron Long (5.5) – Despite having little to do, the reigning MLS Defender of the Year was a tad sloppy on the night, both in passing the ball and defending against it.

Daniel Lovitz (7) – The debutant left back also had a couple of shaky moments at the back, but still did much more to help his team than he did to trouble it. Lovitz contributed a few timely stops in his own end and some positive ball movement (including a nice early cross that deserved a better finish) across midfield.

Michael Bradley (7.5) – A considerable portion of the USMNT fandom probably could be heard shrieking over the bald eagle’s inclusion from the moon, but they were in for a pleasantly rude awakening as the veteran barely put a foot wrong. When Bradley wasn’t controlling tempo or passing through lines, he was rushing into the face of Panama dribblers to stem counter advances.

Cristian Roldan (7.5) – He didn’t end up on the score sheet, but make no mistake, Roldan’s late runs into attack constantly unnerved the Panama defense. All night long, he was reliably available to force turnovers and help the US set up in the final third.

Djordje Mihailovic (7.5) – Forget for a moment that the kid’s deflected drive found the net to open the scoring, and while you’re at it, forget that he serves mighty tempting corner kicks. The real beauty of Mihailovic’s debut outing was that he repeatedly found the right soft spot to show for the ball before sending the team forward. Not everything he tried in attack came off, but the Chicago Fire playmaker put on a composed display bereft of shyness.

Corey Baird (7) – Direct to a fault, the Real Salt Lake attacker put Panama under duress even when his final-third forays didn’t pan out. After narrowly missing the net with his own shot from the top of the box, Baird just kept coming until he was able to tee one up for Mihailovic’s opener.

Jeremy Ebobisse (6.5) – One fine cross notwithstanding, Ebobisse was the least clinical US starter in Panama’s half. Still, the Portland youngster did help soften up the Panama defense by routinely getting loose down the left.

Gyasi Zardes (7) – The Columbus striker pitched in with plenty of blue-collar No. 9 work. Zardes had probably his best hold-up game in a US shirt and fed the flank well. About the only thing he failed to do was put away a couple of excellent header chances.

Coach Gregg Berhalter (7.5) – The best thing one can say about the boss’ first match was that a group still making introductions all over the field truly looked like a team out there. Berhalter’s boys were always on the same page, even with a rather unique wrinkle that left the right back spot empty for much of the contest.


Sebastian Lletget (6.5) – The LA Galaxy midfielder was able to keep the home side pushing forward during his 28 minutes of work.

Jonathan Lewis (7) – The NYCFC winger capped his 24-minute debut with an explosive move past a defender to cross for the US third.

Sean Johnson (6) – The substitute ‘keeper made a comfy lone save in his 16 minutes of action. Johnson also had one nervy distribution episode and one splendid long boot, so we’ll call it even.

Paul Arriola (6.5) – Entering with the USMNT only up one, Arriola did his sturdy best to keep the ball down in Panama’s corner.

Christian Ramirez (7) – It would have been a mere cameo had Ramirez not bagged the US capper to go with a few positive link touches.

Wil Trapp (6.5) – The Crew SC skipper only worked six minutes, yet managed to cram in a few nice lead passes.

Boehm: A man, a plan, a process – Berhalter gives us all a USMNT “baseline”

January 28, 201912:57AM ES  Charles BoehmContributor

It’s been a strange few years for the US men’s national team, to put it mildly, and that’s left Gregg Berhalter with almost nowhere to go but up as he opens his tenure as head coach.With all that in mind, Sunday’s win over Panama was undoubtedly a good first step, however modest, and in a forward direction. And if that sounds like damning the USMNT with faint praise, hark the new boss himself: “When I addressed the group after the game, I said it was a good baseline,” said Berhalter postgame. “It gave us enough content to work with.”This was a January-camp friendly, and all the usual disclaimers apply. But the 3-0 win in suburban Phoenix served up enough promise and intrigue to give even the most skeptical and hard-boiled among the fanbase some things to think about. And that little tidbit from the coach – consciously or not, he tossed the press pack a few tasty breadcrumbs to chew on in his press conference – should not be overlooked too quickly: “It gave us enough content to work with.”Berhalter is a system guy, and a process guy, and a friend to quants and performance analysts and similar types of data-crunchers, and he’s already carved out some striking signposts for this latest project.I’ll leave it to the illustrious Matthew Doyle to Armchair Analyze Berhalter’s tactical outlook in full – check for that on this site tomorrow. But safe to say that the USMNT tried out some unconventional looks in this one, considering that this group is well short of what would generally be considered a “full-strength” squad and has only had a couple of weeks together.This was, on paper, a straight 4-3-3 XI. On grass it was that and several other things entirely, usually defending in the traditional two banks of four but morphing into a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 look in possession. Berhalter said he envisioned “two 10s,” with Chicago Fire young’un Djordje Mihailovicsharing the creative duties alongside Seattle linchpin Cristian Roldan (who’s usually a No. 8 for the Sounders and duly brought a workmanlike edge to Sunday’s assignment).Nick Lima – a fullback and nothing else during his professional career to date – often pinching into the middle to do some pretty unexpected stuff in addition to flashing his usual skillset, all of which led up to his shining moment in the leadup to Walker Zimmerman’s goal to make it 2-0:“Some of the movements we’re working with is on the wings, and very complicated movements, it involves three players interchanging and still with the intention to disorganize the defense and get behind their lines,” explained Berhalter, who was refreshingly open and expressive in his remarks to the media. “You could see that sometimes we were a bit tentative with that, and then there were other times where it came off and it was really nice. So I think there were elements.”Look, this is just not the sort of USMNT conversation we’re usually having at this time of year. We’ve witnessed some truly dreary matches during January camps past, many with little flair, inspiration or execution in attack even with top front-line talent available to the coaches. These dour outings are invariably written off as par for the course, with players in the midst of their offseason thrown together with limited time to gel.Sunday was different. When players like Lima and Mihailovic and Jonathan Lewis (and even Michael Bradley, the scapegoat of 2017 who suddenly looks like a first-class deep-lying midfielder again just 90 minutes into this new era) catch the eye in new ways like this, something is up. Berhalter’s clearly got plans, and his players performed as if they’ve been pretty well inculcated in them already. If they show signs of another week’s worth of understanding and repetition in Saturday’s duel with Costa Rica out in Northern California, then US supporters will finally have reason to smile a bit as 2019 begins to unfold in earnest.

Armchair Analyst: An initial look at Berhalter’s unusual tactical system

January 28, 201911:06AM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer see the everything with the videos included click thru here: https://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2019/01/28/armchair-analyst-initial-look-berhalters-unusual-tactical-system  To

The US men’s national team played their first game under new head coach Gregg Berhalter on Sunday night, and they won convincingly. They didn’t exactly blow a young Panama team off the field, but they got on the ball early, stayed on it often, and used it throughout to both set the tempo of the game and dictate where it would be played.In Berhalter’s words, the game provided “a good baseline,” and “enough content to work with” going forward. My colleague Charlie Boehm wrote a bunch about that after the game. It was Step 1 in taking a collection of mostly young, mostly unproven talent and weaving their collective skillsets together into a coherent whole. Nothing about what we saw was or is a finished product.But still, let’s tease apart what we did see:

1. A Visit to the Church of Pep

EPL junkies caught onto this wrinkle almost immediately. There are many, many many professional coaches who don’t like to talk about formations because they feel like it’s too simplistic and too ripe for misinterpretation. There are many, many many fans who mistake “formations” for “tactics.” The two work in tandem, but are not the same thing.What coaches – especially those with a tactical bent, like Berhalter – really like to talk about are shape and function. And the shape of the US on Sunday was a 4-4-2 defensively that morphed into kind of a 3-3-4, or maybe a 3-2-4-1 when they had the ball.This is unusual in the world of soccer, but is not unique. Here is the US on Sunday night:

Credit to @finalthird for these screenshots and the observation. Go give him a follow.As he pointed out and as I’ll emphasize here: There is a difference between doing this against Panama’s B team and doing it against Liverpool, and taking one part of Man City’s structure does not mean that the US played like Man City in terms of either quality or every aspect of their tactical approach. But a big foundational piece is very, very similar, and that’s useful if we’re going to really understand what Berhalter’s trying to build.Anyway, it’s fair to assume that Berhalter’s pulling his influences from more than just what he saw in MLS, and more than what he learned while playing in the Netherlands and Germany back in the day. By all accounts he has a voracious appetite for film and was never shy about experimenting with top-end stuff when coaching the Columbus Crew. Yes, those teams primarily played a specific way out of a specific formation (4-2-3-1), but there were some 3-6-1s and some 3-4-3s and some 5-4-1s thrown in at times.  And they were thrown in with purpose. As was Sunday’s tactical wrinkle.

2. Balance, but not Symmetry

Functionally speaking, the idea is to get on the ball a lot, and to do so in dangerous positions without compromising defensive shape. That largely worked – the US had 66 percent possession and generated 17 shots. After a tentative start (they had only two shots in the first 20 minutes), the US found their feet and started to dominate.How they did that is what was interesting, and it goes back to the above observations re: Man City. We all know what a “modern, attacking fullback” is supposed to be, functionally speaking. It’s basically “get down the line, provide width and penetration, maybe a little bit of service and combo play, and try to draw defenders away from the actual attackers.”That was not right back Nick Lima‘s function. Instead of overlapping, Lima would tuck inside next to defensive midfielder Michael Bradley, providing numbers and a little bit of forward thrust in central midfield. To wit:That’s Lima busting up the gut, looking off the defenders and making the play that led to the game’s opening goal.Notice that neither Bradley nor the three other defenders (Daniel LovitzAaron LongWalker Zimmerman) are going anywhere. Notice that Cristian Roldan – who won the ball at the start of the play – has a free midfield central midfield role that functioned more defensively, while Djordje Mihailovic nominally had the same midfield role, but functioned more as a pure attacker. Notice that Corey Baird, the right winger, is getting chalk on his boots, while Jeremy Ebobisse, the left winger, spent much of his time on the field tucked in much tighter.This is a shape the US have never used before, and it creates interesting potential for combination play. It specifically asked a lot of Lima, who certainly never had anything close to that function while playing for the San Jose Earthquakes.”It was because of the complication of what we asked him to do and how he dealt with it,” Berhalter said of calling Lima the Coach’s Man of the Match. “It’s not easy to ask your right back to get the ball with his back to goal or to ask him to create space in the midfield, but he did a good job of it.”The only other team I can think of that does something similar is Man City, who often uses Delph as a LB in the 442 when defending and then a center mid when they are in possession.He really did. Panama didn’t really generate much going down the US right-hand side, and that’s at least one useful data point to suggest something worked. The US also always had numbers around the ball in central midfield, which is a pleasant change – remember how badly Trinidad & Tobago overran the US midfield when Bradley was left to play 1-v-4 in that spot? Yeah. Not gonna see the numbers game get lost there too often anymore.

3. Break Lines via the Pass

If there was one area in which the US struggled – particularly for the first 25 minutes – it was with the timing and daring of their passing. Basically only Bradley and Zimmerman were hitting third-line passes that split defenders and advanced the ball into meaningful spots.This isn’t necessarily because the US don’t have good passers of the ball, but because it takes more than just one person to complete a pass. Not only do you need the guy receiving the ball to check into space between the lines at the right time, you need a teammate to run into space behind the backline at the right time. This game at the highest level is, to a good degree, choreographed.“Some of the movements we’re working with is on the wings, and very complicated movements, it involves three players interchanging and still with the intention to disorganize the defense and get behind their lines,” Berhalter explained. “You could see that sometimes we were a bit tentative with that, and then there were other times where it came off and it was really nice. So I think there were elements.”More than anything else, I’m really excited to see how this aspect of Berhalter’s USMNT grows from game-to-game, camp-to-camp.

4. Get Players into their Comfort Zones

Seventeen players got on the field for the US, and only one – Ebobisse, who’s a center forward that was miscast as a left winger – was played out of position. Something as simple as that can make a world of difference in terms of both individual performance (remember when Wil Trapp got his USMNT debut as a left wingback in a 3-5-2?) and overall team performance. It also makes data points more meaningful when trying to spin forward and figure out what the team can or should look like when the games count.Two subs took particular advantage of this: Sebastian Lletget, who came on at attacking midfield for Mihailovic, and Jonathan Lewis, who came on at left wing for Ebobisse. Both guys added an element of on-the-ball verve that had been missing from the starters, and none of the original attacking quartet are effective dribblers.Lletget and Lewis are. Moments after coming on, Lletget dribbled two Panamanian defenders and set up a good chance for Gyasi Zardes. Lewis, meanwhile, did this:

That’s not exactly Lionel Messi-type stuff, but it’s also not exactly what US fans have seen from US wingers – aside from Christian Pulisic – much at all.Part of being in a comfort zone is understanding “hey, when I have a defender out in isolation, I can go at him.” Lewis was put in a position to leave his mark on the game, and he did so.Almost everyone else can say the same, to one degree or another.

A few more things to ponder…

  • There were fewer big switches from the defensive midfielder to the flanks than we were used to seeing of Berhalter’s Crew teams. This is probably because of the shape change – with Lovitz not pushing high early in the play, and with Lima tucking in, the US were more about using width in the attacking third rather than in the midfield.
  • Mihailovic is reallysmart off the ball, but still struggles to complete the game-breaking passes I’d expect of a No. 10.
  • Zimmerman got over-aggressive once with his distribution and put the US in a bad spot. But man, his growth in that aspect of the game has been massive over the past three years. He was a legitimate weapon.
  • Just for the record: This is the biggest US win in a January camp game since a 5-0 win over Norway back in 2006. It’s only the third time they’ve won by multiple goals this decade, out of 14 games.
  • Here’s a question: If the US keep this system, where do Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Tim Weah and Josh Sargent all play? I have some theories on that myself – as does Taylor Twellman, who talked about Adams specifically on the broadcast – but am interested in seeing what you all come up with.Have a shout in the comments below. I’ll peek in from time to time.

U.S. beats Panama as Gregg Berhalter wins debut match as manager

Jan 27, 2019

The U.S. men’s national team’s Gregg Berhalte era began with a 3-0 defeat of Panama in a friendly on Sunday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.Berhalter, the former coach of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew, was named to the U.S. position on Dec. 4. He replaced interim coach Dave Sarachan, who took over in November 2017 after Jurgen Klinsmann ad Bruce Arena failed to qualify the U.S. for the 2018 World Cup.Midfielder Djordje Mihailovic (40th minute) and forward Christian Ramirez(89th) became the 52nd and 53rd U.S. players to score in their debuts.Also, defender Walker Zimmerman scored his second goal in five matches in the 80th minute, with a header from 8 yards off a cross by defender Nick Lima, another debutant.Berhalter, a former U.S. defender, is tasked with revitalizing the program. Others to play their first U.S. matches were defender Daniel Lovitz and midfielders Corey Baird and Jeremy Ebobisse.Before the breakthrough goal by Mihailovic, the Americans had a flurry of near-goals.Gyasi Zardes, who had his career resurrected in Columbus last season by Berhalter, had layoffs that Corey Baird in the 25th minute and Lima in the 27th sent wide of the right post.A minute later, Baird had a flick from Aaron Long, in his first match as captain, go over the goal.Zardes was involved in the first goal, putting a pass to Baird on the right flank. Baird’s service to Mihailovic was slotted from 15 yards.Zack Steffen, the 2018 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year for the Crew, made a left-handed stop of Edson Samms in the 56th minute.

Steffen made three saves before being relieved by Sean Johnson (one save) in the 74th minute.

The U.S. next plays Costa Rica on Saturday at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California.

Aaron Long’s rapid ascension continues with USMNT captaincy Sunday

January 28, 201912:14PM ESTTom BogertContributor

By now, most are aware of Aaron Long‘s incredible journey. But that doesn’t make it any less remarkable. Selected in the second round of the 2014 SuperDraft by the Portland Timbers, Long didn’t make his MLS debut until 2017 with the New York Red Bulls, his third MLS club after making appearances for four USL teams. In that year, he immediately became an integral member of the Red Bulls back line before taking another jump last season by being named 2018 MLS Defender of the Year.The calendar has flipped once more, but Long’s ascension has yet to lose steam. The 26-year-old was given the captain’s armband for the US men’s national team in a 3-0 win over Panama Sunday, in what was just his third cap. “I tried not to think about it too much, but it’s really an honor,” Long admitted after the match.Interestingly, in his debut as UsMNT coach Gregg Berhalter opted to entrust Long with the honor rather than stalwart Michael Bradley, who joined Long in the starting XI and had accrued more caps than the rest of the January camp members combined.“I was in a similar situation one time, and no one spoke to me,” Berhalter said of his decision. “I said to Michael, I was very clear to him. I said ‘listen, you look at the roster and you’d be the logical choice for captain, but we’re not going with you, we’re going with Aaron and here’s why we’re going with Aaron.’”Long partnered with Walker Zimmerman at the heart of the defense with Nick Lima to their right and Daniel Lovitz to the left. The fullbacks were making their international debuts, while Long and Zimmerman previously had a combined six caps, though the quartet earned a shutout against a young Panamanian squad. “If you look at it (in terms of appearances) … it’s almost scary in a way,” Long said. “It’s a new back line and I don’t have many caps, but we’ve been together for three weeks. The team is getting closer and really confident with each other. … I felt really confident with the group.”Long and the USMNT close out the January camp on Saturday against Costa Rica (3:30 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN) from Avaya Stadium.

Michael Bradley: ‘No disappointment whatsoever’ with Berhalter’s U.S. captaincy snub

28, 2019Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Michael Bradley insisted there was “no disappointment whatsoever” at not being named captain for United States’ 3-0 win over Panama on Sunday.Bradley earned his 143rd cap in the match, giving him more international appearances than the rest of the gameday roster combined. But Gregg Berhalter, making his debut as U.S. manager, opted to give the captain’s armband to defender Aaron Long instead, a player who earned just his third cap.”Whether am the captain, I’m not the captain, I wear the armband, I don’t wear the armband, these things aren’t important,” he said after the match. “It’s about the team, it’s about having a group of guys who understand what it’s like to all be in something together. It’s about having as many guys as possible who are able to look around and pay attention to their teammates, to think outside themselves, to make sure that they’re able to play well and take care of their own performance and find the right ways to challenge others. I’ll always do that.”Berhalter said that he made sure to talk to Bradley about the decision.”I was in a similar situation one time [as a player] and no one spoke to me,” Berhalter said. “I said to Michael — I was very clear with him — ‘You would look at this roster and you’d be the logical choice for captain. But we’re not going with you, we’re going with Aaron, and here’s why we’re going with Aaron. I just wanted to communicate that to you.’ I told him that he’ll still be a leader when he’s on the field by his performance. The armband is maybe just authority, but you can lead through your actions, and Michael has certainly done that.”The result represented something of a payoff for the players, who have been in camp since Jan. 7. They were the aggressors for much of the match against an inexperienced Panama side containing just two World Cup players.The U.S. jumped on top in the 40th minute when Djordje Mihailovic — one of five U.S. debutants — fired home from Corey Baird’s cross. Nick Lima’s tackle and pinpoint delivery enabled Walker Zimmerman to head home in the 80th minute. Substitute Christian Ramirez scored on a tap-in eight minutes later after good work on the left wing from another to come off the bench, Jonathan Lewis.Berhalter was quick to point out that Sunday’s match was just a beginning, and that there was plenty of room for improvement.”When I addressed the group after the game, I said it was a good baseline,” he said. “It gave us enough content to work with. Some of the movements we were working with on the wings are very complicated movements, it involves three players interchanging, and still with the intention of disorganizing their defense and getting behind the lines. You could see it. Sometimes we were a bit tentative with that, and there were other times when it came off and it was really nice.”

Why has the USMNT struggled? Start with how it selects players

Breaking down the demographics of the USMNT can help explain how it failed, and how it might piece itself back together for a new era.

By Alicia Rodriguez  Jan 29, 2019, 1:00pm EST Stars and Stripes

With a bright new coach and a promising generation of young players — like Christian PulisicTyler Adams, and Josh Sargent — the USMNT may be on the brink of a renaissance. SB Nation takes a look at the players and ideas refueling American soccer.

One of the biggest debates after the U.S. men’s national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup concerned how the players were selected.The team clearly had a problem with talent identification based on the results, and many felt that certain populations were being neglected or overemphasized by U.S. Soccer scouts and coaches beginning at the youth level. Now that Gregg Berhalter has taken over as the new, foreseeable head coach of the men’s national team, it’s worth looking at the profile of players called up over the years in the program.Why? Because the challenges posed by a large country, with a large population, where soccer remains an emerging sport for the mainstream, makes the United States a unique case in international soccer. The U.S. is estimated to have the third largest population in the world, but soccer isn’t the top sport here. While the infrastructure continues to develop, many of the country’s elite athletes default to sports like football and basketball.As a result, the U.S. can’t simply imitate what countries like EnglandGermanyMexico, and Brazil do to produce pros. Other countries can offer lessons, but their effects might be limited.American exceptionalism should also be examined. Does the senior USMNT avoid immigrants? Does the player pool seem skewed one way or another? These questions came to a head in 2018 when American-born teenager Jonathan Gonzalez opted to represent Mexico after reportedly not being contacted at length by the USMNT. While U.S. Soccer may not have definite answers, they can be informed by data.I focused specifically on the period of 2008-18 for the senior men’s national team, a period that featured four head coaches, three World Cup cycles (two “successful” in which the U.S. qualified, one not), and 175 players who appeared in at least one USMNT game. Where do players who reach the pinnacle of the USMNT come from? What are their backgrounds? Where are they produced? My intention is to fill in some of the gaps between what is often said about the player pool, and what is the truth.

A paradigm shift … slowly

In 2008, Major League Soccer (MLS) introduced the homegrown player rule, which incentivized teams to take their academy programs seriously and produce professionals themselves. In 2008, no MLS homegrown players played on the USMNT. By 2018, there had been eight players who had come through MLS academies to sign pro contracts before playing for the USMNT — 4.6 percent of the players on the USMNT in that period, not including an additional handful of homegrown signings who also attended college.In 2008, 68.8 percent of USMNT players had played college soccer. By 2018, the number was down to 39.6 percent.That trend may seem minor, but it illustrates a larger developmental trend. In virtually every other country in the world, the best players turn pro either before or during their college-age years. Many American pros, however, don’t turn pro until they are 22 years old, having spent the previous four or five years pouring a large portion of their time and attention into things other than their future profession. And college soccer, with its short competitive seasons and unlimited substitutions, can’t provide the sheer amount of in-game experience to top players that pro clubs can.

During the 2008-18 period, a full 59 percent of players on the national team played college soccer. But a shift is taking place, stoked in part by MLS academies building out their programs and signing more homegrown players. In 2008, 68.8 percent of USMNT players had played college soccer. By 2018, the number was down to 39.6 percent. In other words, by 2018 the USMNT selected about 20 percent more players who came from youth programs, in the U.S. or abroad, than colleges compared to a decade prior.Perhaps related: More Americans are playing abroad before signing pro contracts. In 2008, only four of the 48 players who played at least one game for the USMNT had come through a youth academy abroad — two in England and two in Mexico. In 2018, 20 of the 53 players who played at least one game for the USMNT had done apprenticeships outside the United States. They had played in 10 different countries, with England (six players) and Germany (five players) leading the way.

The sport of immigrants?

Immigration has played a significant role in American soccer, from immigrants who established ethnic leagues around the country, to ex-pats who coach at all levels, to fans who bring soccer traditions from their homelands.Just as in the current national political moment, immigration has been a flashpoint at various times throughout USMNT history. The national team has fielded naturalized citizens, dual citizens, and refugees. Those who have never left the United States and those who have seldom stepped into the country alike have represented the Stars and Stripes.When Jurgen Klinsmann coached the USMNT, from 2011-2016, he made an effort to recruit German-Americans. That trend did not begin with him, but increased in his tenure. Many of those players were born and raised in Germany and were eligible for the squad through a parent who was an American citizen. German-American recruitment was a reasonable way to expand the American player pool — other countries do it all the time — and players who had been primarily raised through the German soccer system, considered vastly superior to the American process, were expected to strengthen the team.

Klinsmann called up eight players in 2015 (16 percent of call-ups that year) who were either born in Germany, or had at least one German parent. His successor, Bruce Arena, fielded just four (7.2 percent of the cohort) in 2017, his one full year in charge. In 2014, he criticized the selection of dual nationals while talking to USA Today.The sample size isn’t huge, but while Arena didn’t shut out German-American players, he certainly didn’t use them to the same extent as Klinsmann.Players holding immigrant ties of any nationality, Germany and beyond, have been significant to the player pool for the past decade. Defining “immigrant ties” in this context means players who were either born or raised abroad, had at least one immigrant parent, or had access to a foreign passport through family ties (more on that in a moment). Forty-eight percent of players who made appearances for the USMNT between 2008-18 fall under this umbrella.To put that number in perspective, the total number of foreign-born people in the U.S. was roughly 40 million, or 12.9 percent of the total population, according the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010. There were just more than 75 million people under the age of 18 in the United States then, and the census bureau estimated that approximately 25 percent of children in the United States — and 6.1 percent of the total population — had at least one foreign-born parent.The overwhelming proportion of players with immigrant ties are either immigrants themselves, or have at least one parent who is foreign-born. Only five players (5.9 percent of those with immigrant ties) on the USMNT between 2008-18 held a foreign passport through a grandparent. Four of those players — Paul ArriolaJay DeMerit, Christian Pulisic, and Emerson Hyndman — used those passports to play abroad. Wil Trapp holds a foreign passport through a grandparent, but has yet to play professionally anywhere other than MLS.  There does not appear to be a correlation between USMNT players with immigrant ties having played abroad more often before signing their first pro deals. In fact, about 56 percent of USMNT players with immigrant ties played in the U.S. before turning pro. Those numbers help dispel one myth about American players: those with immigrant ties are more likely to play in professional leagues abroad due to more flexible immigration statuses, whether in a particular country or in a multi-state system like the European Union.

Why aren’t there more Asian and Latinx players on the USMNT?

There is one trend in the USMNT player pool that does not line up with population trends.Since immigration regulations were overhauled by the United States government in 1965, immigrants largely come from two regions: Asia and Latin America. Yet of the 84 players with immigrant ties who played for the U.S. between 2008-18, just two (2.3 percent of players with immigrant ties) were from Asian countries, while one (1.2 percent) had Pacific Islander roots. Asians made up roughly 32 percent of the foreign-born population of the United States in 2010, and all people of Asian descent, regardless of place of birth, were 4.8 percent of the total U.S. population.

Latinx players made up just 12.6 percent of the player pool from 2008-18, regardless if they had immigrant ties. For comparison, Latinx people made up 16.3 percent of the U.S. population in 2010.Latin Americans, the largest group of U.S. immigrants since 1965, perhaps should have been expected to make up a significant proportion of USMNT players. Soccer is extremely popular in Latin America. There are players from the region in every league in the world, and rooting interest in club and national teams “back home” remains strong among Latinx people in the United States today. Over the last decade, 27.3 percent of USMNT players with immigrant ties were connected to Latin America.However, as a whole, Latinx players made up just 12.6 percent of the player pool from 2008-18, regardless if they had immigrant ties. For comparison, Latinx people made up 16.3 percent of the U.S. population in 2010 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (Note: the U.S. Census Bureau uses the term “Hispanic or Latino” the same way I’m using “Latinx,” meaning “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.”) For a demographic that is growing in the United States and has a healthy culture of soccer throughout its countries of origin, the proportion of Latinx players in the USMNT player pool arguably should have been larger than the national population, not smaller.These figures point to longstanding critiques of the U.S. development system regarding American Latinx players. After Gonzalez switched from a U.S. youth international to join the Mexican senior team, SB Nation’s Kim McCauley spoke to U.S. soccer development expertsabout the nation’s systemic breakdowns when it comes to recruiting Latinx talent:

“I always say that I’m a lucky guy,” said former USMNT player and former U.S. Under-14 and Under-15 head coach Hugo Perez. “I wasn’t born here, but I came here when I was young, played in the national team. I’ve had the opportunity to learn different cultures. And for me personally, you have to understand that each culture is different. You have to deal with their cultures, their parents, their families differently. You can’t just say we’re going to do it one way, it doesn’t work like that.”If USMNT players with immigrant ties over the last decade are no proportionally coming from Asia or Latin America, where are they coming from? Though European immigrants make up a relatively small portion of the overall U.S. population — just 11 percent of immigrants living in the United States in 2010 — 42.8 percent of USMNT players with immigrant ties were connected to Europe.Multiple factors account for this discrepancy, but one could be the European Union and the fact that most of the best club teams in the world are based in Europe. If a player can use a passport that is accepted in the European Union, he can bypass stringent regulations, including work permit rules in England, which often inhibit professionals who come from outside Europe. Those with Latinx ties, on the other hand, are relatively closed off to Europe, and have fewer good developmental opportunities in Latin America. The same can be said of American players without immigrant ties and access to a second passport.

While the sample size isn’t huge, we can also conclude that the proportion of Latinx, Asian, and white players on the USMNT from 2008-18 is smaller than the general population totals during a similar period, while the proportion of African-American and multiracial players (any combination of racial backgrounds) is larger than the general population over that 10-year period.

USMNT roster by race/ethnicity percentage (2008-2018)

Race/Ethnicity USMNT, 2008-18 U.S. Census data, 2010
White 50.3 72.4
Black/African American 21.7 12.6
Latinx 12.6 16.3
Asian 0.6 4.8
Multiracial 15 2.9

We have to be careful to not read too far into what is still relatively small-sample data, but criticism that some populations — particularly Latinx players, based on the sheer number of Latinx pros in the sport, including in the United States — seem to be underrepresented in the overall player pool are backed up by the numbers.Among the reasons? Elite soccer remains a sport for the wealthy in the United States. While players can earn scholarships to pay-to-play clubs and MLS academy teams are mostly free these days, youth club soccer is still tied to a system that often costs thousands of dollars per year just to be part of the team, in addition to thousands more each year to travel around the country to play in tournaments.As a result, players from high-income backgrounds have a much better opportunity to get into the youth club system in the United States, which can in turn lead to a college scholarship or pro contract down the road. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the national poverty rate was 12.3 percent in 2017, compared to 18.3 percent for just Hispanics (note again: the bureau’s definition of “Hispanic” may include people from non-Spanish speaking countries). Programs like Alianza

de Futbol

, which specifically targets Latinx players and offers showcases for pro scouts to find overlooked players, have stepped up where U.S. Soccer and the elite youth clubs have fallen short, but overall, the USMNT seems to be struggling to get everything it can out of its population.

Where in the U.S. are players from?

Whether players have immigrant ties doesn’t tell the complete story.

Breaking down U.S. geographic data, the runaway leader is California, with 22.3 percent of all USMNT players from 2008-18 — the vast majority of them (18.3 percent of all players) hailing from Southern California. California is the most populous state in the country (it has a larger population than Canada and Australia, for example), and much of it has mild weather, allowing for year-round play. In addition, soccer is a popular sport there, perhaps because of a multicultural population, including those with Latin American backgrounds, fueling interest in the sport.After California are several well known soccer hotbeds: Texas (9.1 percent of players), New York/New Jersey (8 percent), the area around Washington, D.C. (6.3 percent), Florida (4.6 percent), and Missouri/Kansas (4.6 percent). All told, 29 states were represented on the USMNT, as well as six countries. Germany (6.3 percent) is far and away the most common non-U.S. country where players grew up, with only England (1.7 percent) being the home region of more than one player abroad.

Percentage of USMNT players by state/country of origin (2008-2018)

State/country Percentage of players
California 22.3
Texas 9.1
Germany 6.3
New York 4.6
Florida 4.6
Missouri 4
New Jersey 3.4
Maryland 3.4
Pennsylvania 3.4
Virginia 2.8
Georgia 2.8
Arizona 2.8
Colorado 2.3
Illinois 2.3
Washington 2.3
20 states/countries Under 2 percent each

This brings up a chicken or egg question: Do players hail from the same areas generally because that’s where the best players tend to be, or because those are the places scouts and coaches look?Take the case of Christian Pulisic, the “kid from Hershey, Pennsylvania,” as announcers like to call him. Pennsylvania currently has multiple men’s professional teams, including the first-tier Philadelphia Union, and there have been several players from Pennsylvania in the USMNT player pool over the past decade. But Hershey, which had a population of just more than 14,000 people in 2010 and isn’t particularly close to a major city, wouldn’t be a projected hometown for a superstar.All told, 29 states were represented on the USMNT, as well as six countries. Germany is far and away the most common non-U.S. country where players grew up.Of course, that doesn’t tell the whole story with Pulisic. His hometown is Hershey, yes, but he also lived in England, Michigan, and eventually Germany before he turned 18. His parents played college soccer, and his father was a pro in indoor soccer before becoming a coach.Without parents as familiar with the game as his were, would Pulisic have fallen through the cracks? That’s impossible to say for certain, but his route to the pros may have been more circuitous. Instead of getting a Croatian passport through his grandfather, which allowed him to join Borussia Dortmund’s academy before he turned 18 without running afoul of FIFA regulations intended to protect minors, he might have played NCAA soccer before turning pro. He might not have been called up to the USMNT until he was in his 20s. In turn, he might not have ever transferred to Chelsea for $73 million at any point in his career, even if he turned out to be a talented and successful professional.While U.S. Soccer has a healthy budget, its resources are finite, and it may not make sense for scouts to scour every city, town, and hamlet for an undiscovered Pulisic. Players who live in little towns and who do not have robust support systems around them like Pulisic are more likely to be overlooked.Still, other oddities exist. To take one recent example, the roster for the U-17 World Cup in 2017 featured just one player whose hometown was west of Texas. No players from the Southwest or West Coast were called up to the final roster, despite those regions being regarded as fonts of American soccer talent.Was this because those players from traditional soccer hotbeds out west weren’t good enough that year? Possibly, and time will tell who of that particular age cohort pans out and eventually reaches the senior national team. But the example shows how difficult it is to keep tabs on an enormous country, and make sure the most suitable players get their chances on the big stages.It’s one thing to turn over every stone to identify potential USMNT pros early from a large national pool, and find that your resources aren’t quite sufficient. It’s another thing to establish a pattern of under-representing a particular group.Despite that challenge, U.S. Soccer still has its vocal critics. Brad Rothenberg, son of a former U.S. Soccer president who co-founded Alianza de Futbol, did not mince words in a 2017 interview with Soccer America, in which he said that U.S. Soccer actively avoided Alianza events, seemingly for political or commercial reasons.“The Federation has told us not to promote their brand to the 250,000 Latinos who attend our events and [U.S. Soccer director of talent identification] Tony Lepore actually notified us in 2016 that they weren’t interested in participating in Alianza since they haven’t found any elite players. On more than one occasion, U.S. Soccer scouts and coaches have secretly watched games hiding behind bleachers or our event inflatables but, when I asked, were unwilling to address our Alianza players directly for fear of endorsing an ‘unsanctioned’ event.”It’s one thing to turn over every stone to identify potential USMNT pros early from a arge national pool, and find that your resources aren’t quite sufficient. It’s another thing to establish a pattern of under-representing a particular group, like Latinx players, and then effectively turn your back on a program that has found inroads to exactly that same group.We’ve seen in the last decade that the establishment of MLS acdemies and homegrown signings have helped players turn pro earlier, ad opened new paths for USMNT players in the United States. The increase in players coming through academies abroad has likewise given the USMNT a diversified profile that is no longer primarily dependent on college players.The next step has to be consciously looking at the profiles of players in the system and finding ways to be more equitable at talent identification. No one would advocate for a quota system based on race or hometown, but more can be done, beginning with changes at U.S. Soccer, grassroots work on the local level, and enabling entities outside the official power structure modeled after programs like Alianza de Futbol.Missing the 2018 World Cup was a wake-up call for the USMNT, but it can fix the mistakes of the past, starting by fixing its blind spots in the player pool.



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1/25/19 US Men Play this Sun 8 pm ESPN2, US Ladies go 1-1, EPL FA Cup Game weekend

So interesting to see the US Ladies lose to France over the weekend – of course we were missing  4 of our best players.  I thought GK Alyssa Naeher honestly kept the US in it – making multiple saves in the 1st half and many in the 2nd as well.  France simply outplayed a shorthanded US team and really exposed the defense (especially on the right side in the 1st half) with their lightening fast counter attack.  Hopefully this will wake up the US who was undefeated in 2018.  Of course with our full roster back (Rapino, Heath, Johnson-Ertz) the US handled Spain at Spain 1-0.  Now we get to see how the US Men look under new US Manager Greg Berhalter.  Of course this is just the MLS version of the US player as this is not an international window so the oversea’s guys (Pulisic, Adams, Yedlin, Brooks, Sargent, etc) won’t be on hand.  Still it will be fun to see how this new look team of MLS’ers plays vs Panama on Sunday evening at 8 pm on ESPN2.  Interesting seeing Tim Howard announced his Go Home Tour as he announced he is retiring at the end of the MLS season.  Howard has certainly been one of the top US keepers with his time at Everton in his prime and 8 full years of starting in US World Cup Games for the most part.  I am sure we’ll have that conversation at some point as to where he stands in the US GK pecking order all time.  In the Top 3 for sure.

Along with the US Men on Sun Eve at 8 pm on ESPN, we also get FA Cup games this weekend mostly on ESPN+ (has anyone bought this yet?) big games include Arsenal hosting a super hot Man United today at 3 pm on ESPN+, and Crystal Palace hosting Tottenham (without Harry Kane) on Sunday at 11 am on ESPN+.


What to Watch for TV for US Players Oversea’s – Stars and Stripes

US What to Watch for This Weekend – Warshaw

Berhalter – Tactics

Tim Howard to Retire at End of 2019 MLS Season

USMNT Camp is Competitive Everywhere – Jeff Carlisle – ESPNFC

Josh Wolff Joins US Soccer Staff

US to Play Chile in Houston on March 26

Full Strength US Ladies Beat Spain 1-0

3 Thoughts US shorthanded 3-1 loss at France – Graham Hays ESPNW

US Ladies Lose to France 3-1 AP

US Chelsea Defender Matt Miazga loaned to 2nd tier Reading from Nantes

Tab Ramos at Odds with MLS Teams on U-20 World Cup Roster Release

Landon Donovan to Join Indoor Team

US 18 Year Old Center Back Chris Richards of FC Dallas signs with Bayern Munich


Will Higuain save Chelsea’s Season and Revive His Career ?   Gab Marcotti ESPNFC

5 Things We Learned in the EPL this weekend

Man United Ready for Top 4 Chase – goal.com

Sarri has Himself to Blame over Chelsea Issues – Marcotti’s Mussings ESPNFC

Liverpool Proves its Worth it to Pay for Top Class Defender these Days –

Mourino shows why he’s out of Touch and Out of a Job at United – Mark Odgen ESPNFC

UEFA Report European Football Profitable but Game Remains between Superclubs and Rest – Gab Marcotti ESPNFC


Fri, Jan 25  

2:3o pm FS2                   Hertha vs Schalke (McKinney)

2:55 pm ESPN+             Arsenal vs Man United  – FA CUP

Sat, Jan 26

9:30 am FS1                    Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Hannover

9:30 am FS2                    Borussia Mgladbach (Johnson)  vs Ausburg

10:15 am beIN Sport     Atletico Madrid vs Getafe

10 am                                 FA Cup Weekend on ESPN +

Sun, Jan 27

9:30 am FS1                    Bayern Munich vs Stuttgart

10:15 am beIN Sport     Atletico Madrid vs Getafe

11 am ESPN +                Crystal Palace vs Tottenham FA Cup Weekend

8 pm ESPN 2    USA Men vs Panama

Wed, Jan 30 

2;45 pm NBCSN                  Bournmouth vs Chelsea

2:45 pm NBCS Gold           Liverpool vs Leicester City

2:45 pm ESPN+                   Atalanta vs Juventus (Coppa Italia)

3:30 pm beIN sport             Barcelona vs Sevilla (Copa del Rey)

Fri, Feb 1 

2:30 pm Fox Sport2             Hertha vs RB Leipzig (Tyler Adams)

Sat, Feb 2

9:30 am FS1                    Frankfurt (Brooks) vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

12:30 pm FS2?                Schalke (Mckinney) vs Borrusia MGladbach (Johnson)

12:30 beIn Sport             Barcelona vs Valencia

2:30 pm ESPN+                Juventus vs Parma

3:30 pm Fox    USA Men vs Costa Rica

Sun, Feb 3  

9 am NBCSN               Leicester City vs Man United  

11:30 am NBCSN        Man City vs Arsenal  

2 pm ESPN+                 Roma vs Milan

3 pm beIN Sport         Lyonnais vs PSG  

Mon, Feb 4 

3 pm NBCSN                 West Ham vs Liverpool

Sat, Feb 9

10:15 am beIN Sport   Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid (Madrid Derby) 

USMNT Jan 25-27 viewing guide and open thread

The sneakily important editionBy jcksnftsn  Jan 25, 2019, 10:00am PST

There will be several games this weekend including two potential head-to-head match-ups, with one that could give us some insight to Christian Pulisic’s usage for the rest of the 2018-19 season.


Hertha Berlin v Schalke 04 – 2:30p on FS2

The weekend starts off right with some Schalke action Friday afternoon as Weston McKennie and company take the field against Hertha Berlin. McKennie, who has been a regular presence, albeit all over the field, for Schalke this season started, played 90 minutes, and assisted on the game winning goal against Wolfsburg last weekend. The win was Schalke’s second straight and the club now sits in 12th place in the Bundesliga, seven points behind Wolfsburg for 6th place, the final spot in the Bundesliga that would qualify the club for European competition next season. Haji Wright also made an appearance last weekend coming in as a late substitute, unfortunately he missed what should have been an easy opportunity to put the game away, hopefully that won’t have a lingering impact on his mentality moving forward.Hertha Berlin are currently in 7th place in the Bundesliga and are coming off a win over Nurnberg. With the exception of Jonathan Klinsmann who has made the bench just once for Hertha this season, there are no American representatives on this side of the ball.

*** Update: Weston McKennie picked up a yellow card last weekend and is suspended for this afternoon’s game due to yellow card accumulation. Which means the weekend will not be starting off right… or Wright either, since Haji is on the bench…***

Other Notes:

  • Atlas and Lobos BUAP play at 10p on Univision Deportes with Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco likely to represent their clubs.


Borussia Dortmund v Hannover 96 – 9:30a on FS1

Christian Pulisic played roughly 15 minutes last weekend in a substitute appearance for Borussia Dortmund in his first game since finalizing his transfer to Chelsea and immediate loan back to Borussia Dortmund. This Saturday’s game may give us some insight into whether Manager Lucien Favre plans to continue using Pulisic in a rotational role or if he’ll see his playing time reduced over the next several months. For all the hand-wringing about Pulisic’s play time in the Fall he essentially started every other match for the club, with most of those appearances coming in Champions League play. One possibility is that Pulisic will continue in regular rotation, getting the start this week. A second possibility is that Favre will only rotate on weeks where the club is playing more than once a week, such as when the club has Cup or Champions League play. Of course a third distinct possibility, which USMNT fans may not like to hear, is that Pulisic will be reduced to a substitute role for the remainder of the season regardless of injury. This weekend could give us some clues, particularly if Pulisic gets the start, though we may have to wait until next weekend when Dortmund start a stretch of four games in less than two weeks to fully understand what role he might play.

As for the action on the field, last weekend Dortmund defeated RB Leipzig 1-0 to maintain a 6 point lead atop the Bundesliga standings. This weekend they’ll be facing Bobby Wood and 17th place Hannover. Wood has been starting pretty regularly for Hannover though he has failed to produce many results with just 3 goals on the season. He was pulled in the 63rd minute last weekend in a 1-0 loss to Werder Bremen. Hannover have 11 points on the season which pouts them 5 points back of safety.

Werder Bremen v Entracht Frankfurt – 12:30p on FS2

Josh Sargent has appeared as a substitute in four of five games since joining the first team squad and has nearly matched Wood’s goal scoring total already with two goals in just 55 minutes. One would suspect that he will continue to make appearances from the bench on a regular basis with that production until he is able to break into the starting eleven. Werder Bremens win last weekend brings them to 9th place in the Bundesliga, just three points back of Wolfsburg for that 6th position.Timothy Chandler continues in recovery for fifth place Eintracht Frankfurt and will not be available for the club this weekend. Frankfurt are coming off a 3-1 win over Frieburg in their return from the winter break.

Other Notes:

  • Fabian Johnson was left out of the matchday squad for 3rd place Borussia Monchengladbach last weekend. The team plays Augsburg at 9:30a on FS2.
  • Joe Corona has been seeing substitute appearances for Tijuana so far this winter, they face Cruz Azul at 6p on ESPN Deportes.
  • Captain Ventura Alvarado leads Necaxa against Morelia Saturday at 10p on Univision Deportes. Necaxa have won their first two of the Winter season.


A second chance for Tyler Adams to take the field in a head to head matchup against a fellow American this weekend as his RB Leipzig team will take on Alfredo Morales and Fortuna Dusseldorf. Last weekend Adams made the matchday squad but failed to see playing time in Leipzig’s loss to Borussia Dortmund, though given how long he’s been with the team it should be no surprise and in fact it should probably be considered an encouraging sign that he was able to make the eighteen so quickly. RB Leipzig are in fourth place in the Bundesliga, just a point ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt for that final Champions League spot.Alfredo Morales and Fortuna Dusseldorf have won four straight league games, though Morales only appeared in the most recent victory. The run has the team in 14th place with 21 points, over half their points coming in that four game stretch. Morales played well last weekend and had a lovely assist that included a nice tackle and a long pas that perfectly hit his man in stride for the game winning goal in the 89th minute.

Tim Howard to retire at end of ’19 MLS season

2:02 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Tim Howard has announced that he will retire from professional soccer at the end of the 2019 MLS season.Howard, 39, will go down in U.S. soccer history as one of the country’s all-time greats, a considerable feat given the regularity with which the country has produced top-class goalkeepers.”It’s been one heck of a ride,” Howard told reporters on Tuesday. “This is something that’s been on my radar for a number of years now, probably since I signed with Colorado. I knew that the length of the contract would take me to being 40, and it seemed like the right time. I’ve always had my sights set on this, and there are other things I want to do.”For a lot of those reasons I wanted to make sure that this would be the end. The timing just makes a lot of sense to do it now before the season to get that out of the way so that it’s not a distraction. That’s what’s most important to me. I feel great. It’s not something I thought about last night. It’s a decision I’ve been very comfortable with for quite a long time in my own head and heart. I feel good.”The North Brunswick, New Jersey, native began his professional career in 1997 with the North Jersey Imperials of what is now the United Soccer League. He moved to the New York/New Jersey MetroStars of MLS the next year, spending parts of six seasons with the club before securing a transfer to Manchester United in 2003.Howard endured an up-and-down tenure during his three seasons with the Red Devils. He was initially the starter, and was the hero in United’s Charity Shield triumph over Arsenal. But a series of uneven performances, including an error that resulted in United being eliminated from the UEFA Champions League against Porto, saw him lose his starting spot to Roy Carroll. Howard rebounded, and won a winner’s medal later that season in the 2004 FA Cup final against Millwall. He was also named in the Professional Footballers’ Association Best XI that year.Howard eventually lost his spot to Carroll and later Edwin van der Sar. As a result, Howard went on loan to Everton for the 2006-07 season, with the loan made permanent in February 2007. He went on to become a mainstay for the Toffees, making more than 400 league and cup appearances over 10 seasons. In 2016, he returned to MLS, where he has spent the past three campaigns with the Rapids, making 57 league and playoff appearances.Howard excelled at the international level as well. He made 121 appearances for the U.S. national team and was part of three World Cup sides. At the 2014 World Cup, Howard delivered a stellar performance in the 2-1 round of 16 defeat to Belgium, making 15 saves. He was also part of two Gold Cup-winning sides in 2007 and 2017. Howard was part of the team that failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but he remains one of the top players the U.S. has produced.”I think overall, from a football purist standpoint, if you broke that [Belgium] game down, it’s probably the greatest game I’ve played in,” Howard said. “Not only my own performance but Julian Green taking his goal, [Chris Wondolowski] got a great chance at the end. When you talk about the game of all games, it was colossal.”Howard, who has ownership stakes in USL Championship side Memphis 901 FC and English fifth-tier outfit Dagenham & Redbridge, was adament that his post-playing plays will not involve a coaching career.”I can tell you this wholeheartedly. If someone got me to coach a bunch of professional athletes, they’d have to pay me probably more money than is in the U.S. Treasury because it’s not a job that I would enjoy in any way, shape or form,” Howard said. “It’s difficult, it’s time consuming, you get very little of the glory, and all of the pain. It’s not something I even think about. I would never go near coaching.”

Warshaw: Watch the process begin as Berhalter era kicks off for USMNT

January 25, 20193:52PM EST  Bobby Warshaw

A lot happens in a soccer game, but how much of it matters?  Hundreds of actions take place — passes, dribbles, shots, duels, plus every movement that happens off the ball. Some go well, some go poorly. You can’t expect all of it go right. You can’t even really ask for all of it to be right. You have to decide what matters on that day and hone in on it. Picking priorities is even more important in a friendly, and even more paramount for a coach taking over a new team. And it’s the thing I’m most intrigued to see in Gregg Berhalter’s first game in charge of the US men’s national team, on Sunday against Panama (8 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMás, UDN).Not who starts, or what formation the team plays, or how they play (although I’m also very interested in those). It’s what Berhalter prioritizes.In his first game in charge, he’s setting the building blocks on which everything else will come. He’s putting the most core principles to the front.We know how Berhalter had his Columbus Crew team play — passing from the back, fairly quick to goal in the final third, and a middle block in the defensive phase. But we haven’t gotten decisive answers on how he will have the USMNT play. Do we have the talent to possess as much as he wants? Will he adjust to his most talented players and use a more high pressure style?  What type of team will we have for the next X number of years?We won’t get all of the answers in the two upcoming friendlies, but we should get a clear glimpse. And it won’t be obvious, but there will be moments that will show what Berhalter’s looking for. Namely, when the mistakes happen.In the first step of establishing a style, the ideas matters more than the execution. You want to build the right mental habits and decisions. You’re used to playing the ball in the striker? Let’s get you to play it to the center mid. With that, mistakes happen. In a normal setting, you might expect a player to do something different after a mistake. I suspect in these upcoming games, we will see the same mistakes over and over. And that’s a good thing.  The biggest thing the team needs is an identity. Christian Pulisic has said it, you’ve said it, even your great aunt who only watches soccer once a year has said it. They need a clear philosophy that binds the players together. Identities aren’t fleeting, they are ingrained.  Berhalter demonstrated at Columbus that he knows how to build an identity. It’s piece by piece, one element on top of the next. We get to see the first piece he’s putting down on Sunday. It might not stare us in the face, but it’ll be there … in the repeated errors. In those errors, we should get to see what Berhalter’s cooking for the rest of the cycle.

A 10 letter word to describe the competitive spirit of the USMNT camp? Crosswords

5:20 PM ET  Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — For his first camp as manager of the U.S. men’s national team, Gregg Berhalter instituted a rule: no cell phones in the dining area. The idea was he wanted the 28 players in attendance to talk with one another and bond over meals rather than have their heads buried in their phones. Little did Berhalter know that the players would find a low-tech way to put their own twist on meal time: crossword puzzles.”They’ve kind of blown up over the past two weeks here,” said midfielder Wil Trapp. “But we’re all competitors, right? It’s something where you wouldn’t think that crossword puzzles would get a bunch of professional athletes jazzed up. We’re sitting, we’re talking and now it’s something where it’s a little bit of competition and fun tension you have at the meals. And the guys enjoy the fact that at first, it’s a daunting task. It’s easy to give up on it.It’s enough to leave Berhalter to joke, “we banned phones from the meal room, but now everyone is doing crossword puzzles, so now we might have to ban crossword puzzles to get guys talking to each other again.”Team administrator Jon Fleishman will provide the USA Today crossword at lunchtime, and then another one at dinner. Some players work in pairs. For others, it’s a solo endeavor. And while Trapp is widely viewed as the top dog when it comes to both speed and precision, the likes of Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long are putting up a fight.”I’ve picked up more crosswords here than I have in my entire life,” said defender, and first-time U.S. call-up, Mark McKenzie. “It helps us, especially off the field, getting to know the guys, getting to know each other with some banter in between as well as working together.”McKenzie says he’s made progress over the last two weeks, gradually filling up more of the page and picking up some tricks along the way.”Crosswords will make you feel smart sometimes but a lot of times, you’ll try to go with the complex answer, and it will just be the simple words that work,” he said.This echoes the approach the U.S. is taking on the field at camp. The January camp remains a rarity in international soccer. Because of the vagaries of the calendar at both international and club level, there just aren’t many opportunities for national teams to get together, uninterrupted, for four weeks.Looking back over the history of the January camp, the stakes are much the same as they’ve always been: it’s an opportunity for players to get noticed. Coaches get to accumulate an immense amount of data. How does a player train? How does he take care of himself? How does he bounce back after a bad day?While it’s easy to dismiss the camp given that many of the players will never be national team mainstays, it seems that every year, a player or two breaks through to become a more consistent contributor, whether it was Pablo Mastroeni back in the day, or in more recent times a Geoff Cameron or a Graham Zusi. Last year it was Trapp who emerged to take on a bigger role, though the circumstances this time around are a bit unique compared to the camps in the last few years.Two years ago, it was about getting ready for a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March. Last year it was about moving on, in any way possible from the World Cup qualifying failure. Now it’s about Berhalter and the new staff representing a fresh beginning both on and off the field. Games over the next two weekends aganst Panama and Costa Rica will comprise the initial tests. Everyone in camp, from coaches to players, stress the games will not be perfect. Progress will have to suffice.”We’re finally building something,” said Trapp. “The new staff is here, the new model is being implemented. For all of us, it’s adapting to that and then seeing how we shake out when the games come around.”

A new year, a new manager, a new USMNT base

It started with Berhalter’s choice of location. The Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center is a facility that Berhalter was familiar with as a player. And while it’s not quite boot camp, it’s not the posh digs that have characterized previous camps either. Four players are placed in each suite, which is comprised of two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living room. The facility has the advantage of having everything on site from the fields to the dining area, the apartments and a gymnasium.”You think about the number of Olympic athletes that have trained here,” said Berhalter. “The Paralympic teams are here training… it’s inspiration all around.”Berhalter used the word “isolated” to describe the set-up; the facility is about a 30-minute drive from downtown San Diego.”It’s great because you don’t have to drive to training. You just walk to where you have to go,” said forward Gyasi Zardes. “Simplifying things for the players really allowed them to focus more on their sport.”For the U.S. men’s national team, that focus starts at around 7:30 a.m. every day with breakfast, followed by a weigh-in and a questionnaire detailing how the players are feeling after the previous day’s workout. There is a practice session at 10:30, followed by lunch. A break in the early afternoon precedes an afternoon practice or gym session, though there is the occasional afternoon off. Dinner is at 7 p.m. and the rest of the evening is left to the players, though the focus is on gearing up for the next day. Many players use the opportunity to review film from the day’s practices on their iPad or laptop. It gives them a better feel for what was done well or what can be improved.”I’m a visual learner, so when you see it and get a different angle from a drone, or you see what specific areas are being worked on, it’s a huge plus,” said forward Christian Ramirez.More than anything, Berhalter and his staff are attempting to get to know the players, and vice versa. He is also trying to lay the foundation for what he expects will be an identifiable system of play. That is a tricky task, especially down the road when the camps will be shorter in duration and the European-based players have to be incorporated.The idea is to eventually get everyone on the same page,” said Berhalter. “But you have to start somewhere and for us, what we’ve noticed as a coaching staff, we’re fine-tuning the exercises, the instruction, the content, the programming… we’re fine-tuning all of that in terms of how we can we most effectively teach in a short amount of time.”The competitive aspect extends to a system whereby points are awarded for “mini-games” during practice. It helps keep the players sharp for the duration of the session.”It’s a mini-competition within the team and more than not, you’ll see one guy winning for the day and you’ll see him climbing up the leaderboard. It makes other guys think ‘Man I’ve got to catch up,'” said midfielder Cristian Roldan.”Just like this crossword puzzle, in practice it’s the same thing. We’re trying to compete against each other and beat each other.”

Josh Wolff among U.S. Soccer key appointments to Gregg Berhalter’s set-up

Jan 16, 2019ESPN

U.S. Soccer announced key appointments to the national team on Wednesday, with former U.S. international Josh Wolff among those joining Gregg Berhalter’s set-up.Wolff has been appointed an assistant coach, B.J. Callaghan as strategy analyst and assistant coach, Steve Tashjian as head performance expert and Darcy Norman as movement and conditioning coach.”In putting together the staff, we looked for coaches with considerable backgrounds in four different areas: World Cups, CONCACAF, MLS and Europe,” Berhalter said.”This group checks those boxes, and we are confident their wealth of experiences will be beneficial to the players and for the development of our program.”Wolff and Tashjian previously worked under Berhalter in the same roles with Columbus Crew SC. Norman, meanwhile, joins after working as performance data analyst and fitness coach with Germany.”From the outset, we searched for coaches that have complimentary skillsets and varied career paths,” USMNT general manager Earnie Stewart said.”Starting with Gregg and with these additions to the staff, we have assembled a strong group that can now begin to implement the culture, style of play and identity we envision for the national team moving forward.”Wolff returns to the U.S. national team having worked for the past five years under Berhalter at Columbus Crew SC. He helped the club to the 2015 MLS Cup Final and playoff berths in four out of five seasons.Norman brings a wealth of experience to Berhalter’s team. He worked for the Germany national team between 2012-18, and was part of the victorious World Cup 2014 winning side, as well as a third-place finish at Euro 2016. He also worked as director of performance at Serie A side Roma, helping them to the Champions League semifinals last season.Berhalter was named USMNT coach in December last year

, ending a search for a permanent coach that started in October 2017.His first matches in charge will be a pair of friendlies against Panama on Jan. 27 and a Feb. 2 match against CONCACAF rival Costa Rica.Nico Estevez, who worked closely with Berhalter at Columbus will join the USMNT staff as an assistant coach, pending approval of his U.S. work permit.

Hays: 3 observations after USWNT’s loss to France

By Graham Hays | Jan 19, 2019

The U.S. has never gone undefeated in a World Cup year. That streak, at least, continues.Opening its 2019 schedule in Le Havre, where it will also play a World Cup group game against Sweden in June, the U.S. lost 3-1 against host France on Saturday.Settling into her role as a running mate for superstar Eugenie Le Sommer, 23-year-old Kadidiatou Diani scored the first two goals for France, and substitute Marie-Antoinette Katoto had a third. Mallory Pugh scored the only U.S. goal with the game already settled.The result in Le Havre ended a 28-game unbeaten streak for the U.S., dating to a 2017 loss against Australia in Seattle. It also marked the second win in the past three meetings in the series for France, which begins its most important year ranked third in the world.The French have outscored the U.S. 7-2 in three meetings in the past three years. The minus-five goal differential for the U.S. matches the same differential in a three-game stretch against Norway in the early 1990s as the worst ever against any European rival.As rare as losses have been for the U.S. of late, the result continued a streak of nearly two decades that has seen the U.S. start slowly. The loss was the third in a row in the opening game of a World Cup year. The U.S. hasn’t won its calendar opener in a World Cup year since 1999.The French looked like a team that successfully navigated a transfer of generations and is fully capable of winning its first major title. The U.S. looked like a team just out of preseason.Here are three observations from the game.

The U.S. was far from full strength

The U.S. looked like half a team. Without likely World Cup starters Julie Ertz, Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle, Kelley O’Hara and Megan Rapinoe because of what were described as injuries and illnesses (only Lavelle was among the available substitutes on the bench), it kind of was.

Saturday’s game was never going to look like a CONCACAF qualifier, with the U.S. running rampant in possession against overmatched opponents. That was part of the reason for going on the road to play one of the best teams in the world in front of a full stadium of its fans. But after looking so good in high-profile games against Australia, Brazil and Japan last summer in the Tournament of Nations, the short-handed U.S. looked distinctly second best Saturday.That underscored how much those missing players fuel the aggressive style the U.S. wants to play (and after watching Alex Morgan look too isolated Saturday, how much of a role they play in what happens with possession). It also isn’t a surprise. It shouldn’t be cause for panic.Not only were U.S. players coming off their offseason, compared to French players in the middle of club seasons, but the Americans didn’t tailor their preseason to the first two games. Instead of tapering activity to be freshest for France, they pushed through the duration of the preseason camp in Portugal — coach Jill Ellis even used the phrase “boot camp” to describe the mentality. It isn’t a surprise that some veterans would feel the effects to the extent that it made sense to rest them in a friendly on a cold night in France.Injuries are cause for concern this year — it isn’t a bold prediction to say the U.S. won’t win the World Cup without half it starting lineup. That part of Saturday does have long-term significance. The result? That will have much less significance moving forward.

Outside back remains a problem

The U.S. has unknowns all over the field. That isn’t an indictment most of the time. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher is an unknown as a starter in a major tournament. But she earned the role over the past two years — and played like it Saturday. The durability of Heath and Rapinoe on the experienced side of 30 is an unknown. But while the front line struggled without them against the French, Pugh would start for almost any other team in the world, and Christen Press has a better résumé than most any other insurance plan.The same is true in the midfield, even if Sam Mewis didn’t get much time off the bench to show it Saturday. It’s true at center back with the return of Tierna Davidson alongside Abby Dahlkemper and Becky Sauerbrunn.There are quality alternatives if one or two (not five) injuries demand them.Outside back, on the other hand, remains an unknown that should terrify the U.S. And Saturday exposed a lack of depth behind expected World Cup starters O’Hara and Crystal Dunn.None of that is Emily Fox’s fault, though she obviously suffered through a difficult first half against France’s Delphine Cascarino, including the sequence that led to the first goal. Still just halfway through her college career at North Carolina, Fox is a promising name for the future. She is also the latest in a long line of experiments that don’t appear to have uncovered a viable option for competing against the likes of Cascarino and France in the present.

The trip isn’t over

It doesn’t get much easier for the U.S. when it travels to play Spain in Alicante on Tuesday.The France game was always the centerpiece of the trip, the reason to start the year abroad. But the second game is far more than an afterthought. It’s the first meeting between the two teams, and it comes with Spain making a rapid ascent in the women’s game. Dominant at the youth level, winning last year’s U-17 World Cup and finishing second in the U-20 World Cup, the senior team breezed through World Cup qualifying without a blemish.Bouncing back from Saturday with a blowout against a nobody wouldn’t show much. How the U.S. responds against a team looking to prove itself a World Cup contender will be telling.Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

Press goal leads USA to 1-0 win over Spain

In a clash of styles, the US managed to edge Spain through an imPressive effort on the ball.

By Stephanie Y@thrace  Jan 22, 2019, 2:04pm PST

tarting XI: Naeher, Dunn, Sauerbrunn, Dahlkemper, Sonnett, Horan, Ertz, Lavelle, Rapinoe, Morgan, Heath

The struggle continued for the United States women’s national team as they played their second away friendly following January camp, this time against Spain. The previous game against Francewas marked by a sense of playing catch-up, and much of that was in effect here once again on a chilly night in Alicante.Spain swept out of the gate looking comfortable on the ball, playing a smooth possession game that nevertheless fizzled around the 18-yard box. The US dropped, absorbed, although perhaps for too long without any critical pressure, and then looked to break out quickly. They created some chances on the run, Crystal Dunn pushing up along the left flank and overlapping Megan Rapinoe to make for a far more active and effective wide space than against France, but several balls targeting Alex Morgan or a drifting-central Rose Lavelle went begging.The US began building again about halfway through the first half, mostly looking to catch Morgan in front of goal, but with some spirited attempts at range as well. Still, Spain surged once again, compacting the US back into defensive shape, limiting Heath’s ability to get forward on the right as she dropped to help cut off that pocket in front of Emily Sonnett.The half was an interesting but frustrating back-and-forth no matter which side you were rooting for, as Spain would frequently end 15-pass chains with no attempt at goal and the US took too long to close down Spain’s possession and move the danger down the field.Jill Ellis made three changes to start the second half, bringing on Tierna Davidson, Mal Pugh, and Christen Press for Sonnett, Horan, and Rapinoe. Davidson went to left back and the ever-versatile Dunn shifted to the right.Press was an immediate spark of energy. The US weren’t exactly playing lackadaisical until then, but neither were they going at full speed, which is understandable given where they are in terms of their preparations for the World Cup. Press went at the ball like it was a much more high-stakes game, and given her recent on- and off-the bench playing time, she may be doing her best to remind Ellis why she should be a first choice pick.Press made a quick impression with her intensity of play, galloping into the box off a ball from Lavelle out of the midfield and scoring to make it 1-0 in the 54’. The US as a whole turned up the intensity, taking advantage of mostly-fresh legs. Jess McDonald subbed on in the 60’ for Tobin Heath, adding another option to get behind and maybe open up a space for Morgan.Spain had their moments though, finally trying to put the ball on frame. Alyssa Naeher had to make a direct stop in the 63’ as a through ball split Dahlkemper and Sauerbrunn, who honestly looked a little bit caught off guard in the moment.But Press took it back to Spain’s net again, owning the ball and not getting shut down by three surrounding players, which allowed her to pick out a gap for Morgan. Morgan’s shot ended up getting saved, but the US kept surging. Julie Ertz made some drives through the center, although this forced Lavelle to drop each time. Ertz ended up getting subbed in the 69’ for McCall Zerboni and Lavelle went off in the 76’ for Sam Mewis; that Zerboni-Mewis combo turned up the physicality a little in the center, although there were certainly scraps between Horan, Ertz, and Lavelle and the Spanish midfield as well. Zerboni also kept looking to put the forwards into space with forward ball movement, but the runs weren’t as frequent as they might have been earlier in the match.Spain’s pace dropped off through the last 10 minutes of the game, although they forced a big midair grab out of Naeher in a corner in the 85’. The US still drove directly at goal to the last whistle, with Mewis curving a ball directly into McDonald’s path in the 88’. With a couple more yards of space McDonald might have snapped a shot off, but Spain’s goalkeeper Paños came out to collect.The game ended at 1-0 with Press’ goal the difference maker. It was a slightly better game than the one against France; Rapinoe and Dunn showed some early verve prying open opportunities from the left side and Press was clearly not messing around. But it was also a subdued game in some ways from the USWNT, giving Spain a little too much space to possess, not always getting as numbers-up in the final third as they could have. Perhaps the time to really start worrying is during SheBelieves; if the team still looks like they’re at 75% in March, then we can give in to our sports anxieties. For now, toes have been dipped back into match fit waters after the last long rest these players were likely to get before the World Cup whirlwind takes them. As long as no one got injured (crossing fingers for Zerboni, who took a hard hit and looked to be clutching her shoulder near the end of the game), this was not the worst possible outcome for January.

U.S. defender Matt Miazga recalled from Nantes, loaned to second-tier Reading

10:55 AM ETAssociated Press

United States defender Matt Miazga has been recalled by Chelsea from his unsuccessful loan spell at French club Nantes and loaned to relegation-threatened English Championship side Reading for the rest of the season.Chelsea acquired Miazga from Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bullsin January 2016, but he made just two appearances during the remainder of that season and was loaned to Vitesse in the Netherlandsfor the remainder of 2016-17 and last season.Miazga was sent to Nantes in the summer for what had been intended to be a season-long loan.The 23-year-old started six Ligue 1 matches under coach Miguel Cordoso, but played only one more match after Cordoso was replaced by Vahid Halilhodic. He has made 11 international appearances.Reading are 22nd of 24 teams in the Championship, three points from safety.

Five things we learned from the Premier League weekend

Kieran CANNINGAFPJan 20, 2019, 7:55 PM

London (AFP) – Liverpool are one step closer to a long-awaited Premier League title, but only just after a seven-goal thriller against Crystal Palace at Anfield, while Chelsea imploded in losing 2-0 at Arsenal.Manchester United and Tottenham were also victorious as the race for a top-four finish tightened and Manchester Citywere routine 3-0 winners at Huddersfield to remain just four points adrift of Liverpool.Here, AFP Sport looks at five things we learned from the Premier League weekend:

Liverpool get luck champions need

For the second consecutive week Liverpool got the job done by a solitary goal, but in stark contrast to a dogged 1-0 victory at Brighton last weekend, Jurgen Klopp’s men needed their forwards to come to the party and a touch of fortune to see off Crystal Palace 4-3.

Trailing 1-0 at half-time, the Reds turned the game around in the space of eight minutes at the start of the second period thanks to deflections that favoured Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.Palace hit back to level again at 2-2, but the leaders biggest break came when 39-year-old goalkeeper Julian Speroni, playing for the first time in 13 months due to injuries to Wayne Hennessey and Vicente Guaita, fumbled a simple James Milner cross towards his own goal and Salah slammed into an empty net.Another hurdle cleared, Liverpool are now 15 games from a first title in 29 years.

Will Sarri be short-lived?

With a post-match thrashing of his players a former Chelsea manager in Jose Mourinho would have been proud of, Maurizio Sarri left no one in any doubt where he placed the blame for an insipid performance at the Emirates.The Italian lambasted his players’ desire and commitment, labelling them “difficult to motivate”.Sarri must also, though, accept his measure of responsibility with Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante again struggling in unfamiliar positions.Not many Chelsea managers have taken on the dressing room and succeeded in Roman Abramovich’s reign.Sarri is just six months into a three-year contract, but they have tended to matter for little under Abramovich and he may be the latest in a string of illustrious coaches that does not last long at Stamford Bridge.

Solskjaer reaps Rashford reward

Arsenal’s victory closed the Gunners to within three points of Chelsea in the fight for a top-four finish, but it is a rejuvenated United who look even more likely to beat Sarri’s men to Champions League qualification.Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has now masterminded a magnificent seven straight wins since taking charge as caretaker boss.An 11-point gap to the top four when Mourinho was sacked little over a month ago is down to three and United will have the chance to erase it when Chelsea visit Old Trafford towards the end of the season.A 2-1 win over Brighton was not the Red Devils’ best display under the Norwegian, but his influence was still decisive as Marcus Rashford’s stunning solo goal proved the difference between the sides.Finally afforded a run of games in a central role up front, Rashford has now scored in four straight Premier League games for the first time in his career.

Winks rallies Spurs’ walking wounded

Shorn of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min, Spurs needed Harry Winks’ first goal since 2016 to see off struggling Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage.Winks’ header with virtually the last action of 93 pulsating minutes ensures Spurs maintain a seven-point cushion over Arsenal and United.

And they might need it as Alli joined a worrying list of injury casualties.

The England international had scored Tottenham’s equaliser before pulling up with a hamstring injury.With Kane out until March with ankle ligament damage and Son on duty for South Korea at the Asian Cup for the rest of the month, Spurs are desperately short of firepower as they try to maintain a challenge in four competitions.

Little Silva lining for Everton

Unlike Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs who didn’t spend a penny on transfers in the summer, Marco Silva was handed £90 million worth of new arrivals to begin the challenge of taking on the top six at Everton.  Instead, the Toffees are just three points better off and two places lower in the table than they were at this stage last season under Sam Allardyce.Of Everton’s big summer signings, Colombia’s World Cup hero Yerry Mina was left on the bench, while Andre Gomes, Richarlison and Bernard were all substituted by Silva in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Southampton.At the very least, Everton’s majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri would expect to be the best of the rest in seventh come the end of the season.But a run of just two wins in 10 league games since November leaves Everton trailing Watford, Wolves, Leicester and West Ham down in 11th.

UEFA report: European football profitable but gap between super-clubs and rest remains

18 Jan, 2019Gabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC

Each year, for the past decade, UEFA have released their “Benchmarking Report,” a sort of “State of the Game” across the top flights of every European league. As ever, it’s filled with interesting nuggets and takes time to sift through.Here’s a Q&A to help make sense of it.

Q: So what’s the top-line, major takeaway?

A: Well, for the first time in the report’s history — and probably the first time ever — European top-flight clubs were profitable last year, to the tune of some $700 million. When you consider that last year they had a loss of $400m, it’s quite a turnaround. And if you go a little further back? Well, in 2011 it was a whopping $1.9 billion.What’s more, it’s not as if it’s just the very richest clubs in the richest leagues who are profitable (although they obviously make the most). Of the 98 clubs in Europe’s Big Five leagues, 77 turned a profit. As a whole, midtier leagues like Portugal, Holland, Belgium and Austria were also profitable.

Q: That’s good, right?

A: Sure. The old maxim whereby owning a club was like owning a racehorse — a vanity pursuit where you had to bankroll losses every year — is out the window. Of course, that part was also something of a myth: it’s not that owners of yesteryear were all altruistic or romantic uber-fans. Plenty made money out of football in other ways, whether it was free advertising for themselves or their other businesses, gaining local political clout and standing or funnelling money out of the club to themselves.But now the game has become a real business, where you can get real returns and where real investors can put their money. Because, with some exceptions, to lose money at a top-flight club, you have to be either incompetent, extremely unlucky or hugely irresponsible.

Q: What caused this turnaround then?

A: UEFA would say it’s financial fair play, and no doubt that has been a big contributor in keeping costs down. Those $1.9bn in losses? They occurred in the final year before FFP was introduced. Limiting spending obviously drives down costs, and by making owners cover losses by putting in equity, it staves off the sort of “chain reaction” losses we used to see in the past.But that’s only part of the story. Revenue from media rights has skyrocketed too; so too has commercial income, driven in part by globalization. That has nothing to do with FFP but simply due to more media companies and sponsors willing to pay more money in more parts of the world.It’s not surprising, then, that virtually every club out there is a big fan of FFP. That said, it has also had negative side effects. It unquestionably contributed to the polarization in the game, which is also chronicled in the report. Manchester United, for example, make more than Zenit, Atletico Madrid and Schalke combined. Real Madrid’s wage bill ($462m) was almost as high as that of Tottenham Hotspur, Roma and AC Milan combined.  That’s why Aleksander Ceferin, the UEFA President, has vowed to address this. He hasn’t ruled out luxury caps and limits on squad sizes, as well as relaxing financial fair play rules. Previously, it would have been difficult. But now that football has become a profitable business, there’s scope to go further and allow more in the way of losses to help build a team.

Q: So things are going great, and it’s a golden age of football, right?

A: Yes and no. For a start, the broadcast rights income won’t keep growing forever. The other aspect is that those bottom-line profit numbers are boosted by player trading like never before. In fact, the value of transfer activities has doubled in the past three years, which is helping to boost bottom-line profits at many clubs.

Q: How does that work? One club sells, the other club buys — shouldn’t things net out?

A: Nope, and that has to do with accounting practices.

When you buy a player, you spread out the fee over the length of the contract, but when you sell, you book the entire fee immediately. So if you buy a player for £10m, give him a five-year deal and sell him after two years for £10m, you’ve actually made an accounting profit of £4m (£10m, minus the £6m residual value on your books). Alhough in cash terms, you simply got your money back. It can catch up to you eventually, but as long as transfer spending continues to increase, you’re fine. But some clubs are increasingly relying on this to show a profit, and that has to be a concern in the long term.

Q: So overall, are we doing OK?

A: More than OK, I’d say. Attendance is as high as it’s been in the past 10 years, and while as a proportion of revenue, gate receipts make up an increasingly small percentage, that’s mostly because other revenue streams have grown faster. Across Europe, the highest yield per match attendee (a very rough way of saying average ticket price) was just under $30. The highest was Paris Saint-Germain ($99), followed closely by Chelsea ($98) and Arsenal ($97). But the average of the Big Five leagues was $39: not cheap, but judging by attendances, it’s in line with what folks are willing to pay.As I mentioned, football is now a real, investible business that ought to bring more stability, which is ultimately what most fans care about: that they continue to have a club to support. And it might also mean that FFP is loosened — we’ve already seen the first steps with the introduction of “voluntary agreements,” whereby clubs can get permission to exceed FFP requirements if they present a credible business plan and comply down the line — since there are plenty of wealthy investors queuing up to put in money.That could help broaden the base of “super-clubs,” but further down the food chain, polarization continues to be an issue. And, of course, the vast sums circulating will also attract speculators and, well, crooks. That’s why transparency and oversight not just from UEFA and other regulators, but supporters’ groups too, has to be part of the plan going forward.


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1/18/19 US Ladies Face France 2:30 pm Sat on FS1, US Christian Pulisic Traded to Chelsea for $73 Million, EPL Race Tightens as Man U surges

So I am finally back from the extended holiday break – I thought I would follow the German Bundesliga schedule as they return to play this weekend as well.  Of course a tight race at the top as Dortmund and US starlet Christian Pulisic (who has been traded to Chelsea but won’t leave until this summer) tries to hold off perennial top rated Bayern Munich who are 3 points back in the table. Dortmund hosts 4th place RB Leipzig and American newcomer Tyler Adams on Saturday at 11:30 am on FS2.  Of course the tightest race in the World is still the EPL where Liverpool has a 4 pt lead on Man City who have lost their last 2 matches.  Tottenham is of course trying to figure out how they get thru the next 6 weeks without their talisman Harry Kane (who’s out with a knee), Chelsea remains in 4th but travels to Arsenal this Saturday for the 12:30 pm NBC featured match.  Man United the winner of 6 in a row since they fired the Special one Mourino and brought back an old favorite player/manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer should add to their win total as they host Brigton Hove Albion on CNBC at 10 Sat.  (I am just happy I can again root for the Red Devils – since the evil one left and a Sir Alex Protégé is back in at manager).  The race for the top 4 in the EPL is seriously going to be the toughest is the world again this year as Man U and Arsenal are just 6 pts back just past the midway point in the season.  It’s a 6 team race for sure!


So while I was gone – the American Starlet young 20 year old Christian Pulisic commanded by far the highest ever price paid for an American player when he was traded from Dortmund to Chelsea for $73 Million dollars.  That’s like 3 times more than any other us player.  Now he won’t come to Chelsea until this summer – so hopefully he can battle his way back into the starting line-up for Dortmund this spring.  Meanwhile – while I was begging for him to end up at Liverpool for obvious reasons – the truth is Chelsea is probably the 1 English club that plays a style that Pulisic would thrive in.  Especially if Hazard is traded as has been rumored.  It should be interesting to see how it works out – I would say Chelsea overpaid but if Pulisic can grab a starting role – a bunch of American’s will buy jerseys and Chelsea could just become the new Fulham America.  (see stories below).


The Top Ranked US Ladies travel to France to play the #2 or 3 ranked team in the World this Saturday afternoon at 2:30 on Fox Sports 1 in the stadium they will be playing the world cup in before traveling to Spain for a 2:30 pm match Tuesday on ESPN2.  As the #1 Ranked Team and Former World Cup Champion – all the pressure will be in the US.


Marcotti Around the World – Man U Surges, Spurs Trouble?, Messi Magic – Gab Marcotti ESPNFC

Impact Transfers around the World


What to Watch For this Weekend EPL

De Gea 11 Great Saves vs Spurs

5 Things we learned as Man United wins at the Spurs

Liverpool Sacrifice Style for Results


Pulisic’s Talents lend themselves well to Chelsea says Tim Howard – Gus Elvin ESPNFC

US Pulisic Traded to Chelsea is Huge – Grant Wahl SI

US Have Massive Job Ahead but Greg Behalter is the Right Hire – Says Tim Howard –  Gus Elvin ESPNFC

US Mid Weston McKennie – Not on Liverpool’s Radar afterall

Neymar says US Tim Weah will be A Star Someday

USMNT Camp – Which MLS Players Have the Most to Gain this Month?  MLS.com

How US Prodigy Ben Lederman was Ruined at Barcelona – ESPNFC Feature

US Ladies to Play France in Potential Preview of World Cup to Come – Stars and Stripes


Sat, Jan 19

7:30 am NBCSN            Wolverhampton vs Leicester City

9:30 am FS1                    Bayer Leverkusen vs Borussia Mgladbach (Johnson)

10 am NBCSN              Liverpool vs Crystal Palace

10 am CNBC                   Man United vs Brighton Hove Albion

10:15 am beIN Sport Real Madrid vs Sevilla

12:30 pm NBC            Arsenal vs Chelesa

12:30  Fox Sp 1         RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

2:30 pm FS1         US Ladies vs France –  Friendly

Sun, Jan 20  

8;30 am NBCSN           Hudersfield vs Man City

11 am NBCSN            Fulham (Ream) vs Tottenham

12 noon  FS                     Schalke (Mckinney) vs Wolfsburg

2:45 pm beIN Sport      Barcelona vs Leganes

Tues, Jan 22  

2:30 pm ESPN2    US Ladies @ Spain –  Friendly

Thurs, Jan 24  

2:45 pm ESPN+            Chelsea vs Tottenham – League Cup

Fri, Jan 25  

2:3o pm FS2                   Hertha vs Schalke (McKinney)

2:55 pm ESPN+             Arsenal vs Man United  – FA CUP

Sat, Jan 26

9:30 am FS1                    Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Hannover

9:30 am FS2                    Borussia Mgladbach (Johnson)  vs Ausburg

10:15 am beIN Sport Atletico Madrid vs Getafe

10 am                                 FA Cup Weekend on ESPN +

Sun, Jan 27

9:30 am FS1                    Bayern Munich vs Stuttgart

10:15 am beIN Sport Atletico Madrid vs Getafe

11 am ESPN +                Crystal Palace vs Tottenham FA Cup Weekend

Sat, Feb 2

9:30 am FS1                    Frankfurt (Brooks) vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

12:30 pm FS2?             Schalke (Mckinney) vs Borrusia MGladbach (Johnson)

3:30 pm Fox                   USA Men vs Costa Rica

Sun, Feb 3  

9 am NBCSN                Leicester City vs Man United  

11:30 am NBCSN        Man City vs Arsenal  

2 pm ESPN+                    Roma vs Milan

3 pm beIN Sport          Lyonnais vs PSG  

Match preview and how to watch: what to look for in France-USA

Two favorites face off in a potential preview of the World Cup quarterfinal. Here’s what you should watch for.

By Charles Olney@olneyce  Jan 18, 2019, 11:30am PST

The United States Women’s National Team take on their French counterparts tomorrow in Le Havre, just 45 minutes from the beaches of Normandy. They arrive in France as the #1 team in the world, and clear favorites to take home the World Cup this summer. But to do so, they’ll have to get past a French team fighting on home soil.If everything goes according to plan, the US and France are likely to face off in the quarterfinal this summer. Everyone is understandably circumspect about the chance, since no one wants to predict winning their group and thereby tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing. But they certainly know what’s at stake.So as these two teams face off tomorrow, here are three big things to watch for:

More of the Same from the US

The US motto at the moment seems to be: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. For Ellis, the past year has been spent on developing and locking down a system, which is all about “how your players understand their roles and their positions within their roles—having a clear idea of how do we want to score goals, how are we going to defend.” But now, she says, the period for big picture adjustments is over, and the focus is mostly on “fine-tuning the pieces in terms of training.hat means the team will almost certainly play their now-standard 4-3-3 cum 3-4-3, with Crystal Dunn as an aggressive attacking fullback, with a more defensively-minded companion at right back. They’ll continue to emphasize width in the attack, and will work hard to build from the back. They’ll rely on their attackers to harass the dangerous French attack through aggressive pressing, and hope to avoid the sort of defensive blunders that have been the only real downside over the last 18 months of dominance.That doesn’t mean everything is settled. According to her, the January camp is still essentially a preseason, where the team can lay foundation for the rest of the year. So it’s still not so late that we shouldn’t expect a few more twists and turns. But for the most part, the team is settled, the style is set, and the major roster questions have been answered. What questions remain are primarily on the margins.

A Big Crowd

The stadium at Le Havre is usually 2/3 empty when their men’s club side plays here. But tomorrow it should be a packed crowd.French coach Corinne Diacre says she’s thrilled to be playing for a full crowd, and thinks it’s a great sign that excitement is building around the team. But, she adds, “it’s also a pity we had to wait until 2019 for full stadiums.”That’s a reminder that France hasn’t always drawn big for their home matches, but the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming World Cup—and the opportunity to see them play the US—seems to have done the trick. It’s a great sign for this summer, and a demonstration that big ticket sales aren’t entirely a feature of Americans buying up packages.This should be a rollicking crowd, and it will be a great test of how both teams play in front of a passionate French audience.

A Friendly That Really Matters

Friendlies usually aren’t that important. This one is a big exception.For France, this could be a crucial chance to demonstrate that they really belong in the conversation as a tournament favorite. According to Diacre, this game is an important test—a high profile game against the toughest competition, which can provide a real benchmark for what this France team should expect to accomplish. She spoke to the media at a pre-game press conference and said, “Playing against the USA is a great opportunity. It’s always very exciting to play against a nation that’s so dominant in women’s football. It’s also a great opportunity for us to check where we are standing. We’ll see tomorrow how it goes and what we can learn.”It’s also a critical moment in which they can try to capitalize on the growing buzz around the team. A famous victory in Le Havre tomorrow could provide some real momentum to help them build toward a crescendo this summer. That sort of psychological edge is particularly important given where the tournament will be played. It also has escaped precisely no one that the French men won their first World Cup as hosts in 1998, before winning against last summer. For many, it would provide the perfect symmetry if the women take their own first title on home soil and in the process unite the crowns for the first time.In Diacre’s comments, you can read a delicate balancing act. She both wants to recognize the symbolic importance of the match and communicate just how seriously they will take the event, while still tamping down expectations a bit. As she noted, the team “isn’t at their top level of physicality yet,” so even while they’ll want to show a lot tomorrow, they also don’t want this to treated as a literal prequel to the eventual World Cup showdown.On the other side, the US is currently riding high and will want to retain that sense of earned arrogance. Asked at the presser whether she might play things cagey, holding back some key cards lest she reveal too much to a future opponent, Ellis was gently dismissive. “We’re going to go out and play and from there, we’re going to take good lessons and good experiences to help us continue to get better. And there’s no better experience than this. This is one of the favorites, home team. It’s everything as a coach you want.” In her view, playing top teams is the most important way to prepare for a successful World Cup, and there’s no better place to get it started than here, facing off against their top competition and seeing who emerges on top.And the players seem to agree. You can see it in the insouciance with which they approach the challenge. Asked who is the better team, for example, Megan Rapinoe gave a sly grin and said, “Well, the rankings would say it’s us,” before retreating to a more diplomatic statement that France is a top team and they’ll never take anything for granted.What becomes clear in all this is the reality of two huge teams facing off less than six months before the upcoming World Cup final. Both can picture themselves holding that trophy aloft, and both know that they’ll very likely have to go through the other to do so.

Schedule, TV, and livestream info

USA vs France
Saturday, January 19
2:30 PM ET / 11:30 AM PT
Le Havre, France

Solskjaer shows he can be more than Man United’s caretaker. PLUS: trouble ahead for Spurs, praise for Messi

10:42 AM ETGabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC

So it’s now six wins out of six games for Manchester United under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. And while the first five were eminently winnable, Tottenham away was meant to be the Norwegian’s first real test. He passed, again, with flying colors.  He didn’t pass because United won — though, that too is important in the hunt for a top four spot — but because, frankly, it could have been very different if not for David De Gea‘s string of saves. (Indeed, the xG shows that Tottenham were firmly in front). Rather, the test was passed for the way they played in the first half: the positivity shown, the maturity and cohesion… aspects that were largely missing under the previous manager.That they they gave up loads of chances after the break is something to work on and you have to accept that Tottenham are simply a better side right now. But the way United played is evidence that they have bought into Solskjaer, that the viruses, stiffs and malcontents supposedly populating the dressing room during the Jose Mourinho Era may well have been figments of his imagination.The fact that Solskjaer’s start is better than that of any manager in Manchester United history (he eclipsed Sir Matt Busby on Sunday) is more of a statistical quirk. The popular notion whereby he simply “released the handbrake” is equally simplistic.Against Spurs his set-up was sophisticated, starting with the way Jesse Lingarddropped from a “false nine” position to press Harry Winks off the ball, the way Ander Herrera regularly got help in dealing with Christian Eriksen. In other words, Solskjaer is not just a “plug-and-play” alumnus who smiles a lot, waves his players forward, makes sure to praise individuals by name and generally succeeds by simply not being Mourinho.Whether this can last, and whether this is something on which United can build, remains to be seen. But their next two home games, against Brighton and Burnley, are eminently winnable, so expect the bandwagon to roll on. Heck, some are already suggesting that maybe United have found their next manager. Why embark on some tortuous and acrimonious pursuit of a Mauricio Pochettino or a Max Allegri if you can simply hire a director of football and appoint Solskjaer on the cheap?We’re not yet at the point where that’s a serious proposition but Solskjaer certainly isn’t hurting his case.

Trouble ahead up front for Tottenham

Pochettino said the second half on Sunday was the best 45 minutes of football Spurs have played this season. I wouldn’t quite go that far, while the cynic in me suggests that quotes like that are designed to deflect from the other issues of the day: the United job, Eriksen’s contract, Kane’s injury and so on. But there’s no question they played some dazzling stuff after the break and repeatedly carved up United, creating plenty of chances.Were the many missed opportunities down to De Gea’s brilliance or should they count as spurned chances? I’m hesitant to weigh in on this — in my experience, only keepers can really judge each other as most of us (including coaches and ex-pros) have little sense of what they actually do — but there’s no question he was in the right place at the right time over and over again. Equally, you’d imagine Spurs would love to have some of those finishes back.We’ll know more about Kane’s injury soon but it’s obvious that any prolonged absence would be a major blow, particularly with Heung-Min Son leaving for the Asian Cup. Not so much because Fernando Llorente isn’t a good player (for all the stick he gets, he’s a solid target man) but simply because when he’s in the side, Spurs have to come up with a whole new game plan since he’s an entirely different sort of player.

Coutinho proves his worth vs. Eibar

Barcelona downed Eibar 3-0 on Sunday as Lionel Messi scored his 400th Liga goal amid much pomp and fanfare. We’ll get to that in a minute but first, it’s worth noting Philippe Coutinho‘s performance.The Brazilian playmaker has spent a lot of time on the bench this season, partly because of Ousmane

Dembele’s re-emergence, partly because Ernesto Valverde skews towards more conservative football and finds it hard to fit him in a midfield three and partly because despite his billing, he really isn’t the “new Andres Iniesta.” It’s pretty evident though that given the fee paid for him, and his wage packet, he needs to be part of Barca’s present and future. I know it’s only Eibar, but a productive Coutinho can make all the difference down the stretch.

Putting Messi’s mark into context

Four-hundred top-flight league goals is a huge amount and because Messi (and Cristiano Ronaldo) so regularly provide freakish numbers, you inevitably end up comparing them to others. Now, because you are cutting across different eras and different standards, it really does become a case of comparing apples and aardvarks when it comes to Europe’s best league goalscorers. But because we can’t help ourselves, here’s some context with a little help from UEFA.As you can see, there are still folks in front of him though you’d imagine he’ll likely blow past Stjepan Bobek (403), Jimmy McGrory (410), Gyula Zsengeller (411) and maybe even Imre Schlosser (417) by the end of the season. In terms of historical goalscorers, at that point he’ll be chasing Josef Bican (518) and Ferenc Puskas (517). Messi may also be chasing Cristiano Ronaldo, the only other active goalscorer on the list, who currently is on 411.What’s pretty evident looking at these numbers, though, is that the game has changed. Every guy with at least 400 goals retired at least 50 years ago. Everybody, that is, bar Messi and Ronaldo. These guys aren’t just G.O.A.T. candidates; they might as well be time travellers or extra-terrestrials.

Emery has a genuine Ozil problem

The first time Unai Emery seemed to downplay Mesut Ozil, when he said he wouldn’t face Bournemouth because of their style of play, you may, like me, have chalked it up to miscommunication. But after leaving him out for the trip to West Ham and explaining his absence by saying “for me he is like any other player” and adding “sometimes he is not helping us because maybe the match is not for him,” it’s pretty obvious he’s making a point.Ozil is not “like any other player.” He is a player who signed a long-term deal less than a year ago, a player who earns some $23 million a year and a player who is one of the two highest-paid in the entire league.I realize Emery wasn’t in charge when Ozil signed his deal but I’d imagine that when he interviewed for his job somebody at Arsenal said: “OK, Unai, we’ve tied up a huge chunk of our wage bill in this guy… how are you going to use him and how will you get the best out of him?” And I assume (perhaps wrongly) that whatever Emery replied, it wasn’t: “To me he is like any other player, he’s basically Carl Jenkinson, only shorter and with one more World Cup.”Ozil’s absence wasn’t the reason Arsenal lost to West Ham but right now, Emery needs an “Ozil issue” like he needs a hole in the head.

Will PSG’s midfield issues doom their season?

We were looking for Paris Saint-Germain to bounce back after the League Cup elimination in midweek and they did, winning 3-0 away to Amiens. But take a closer look and you’ll note that it was the third straight game in which they failed to score in the first half.What’s more, again, they had to make do with a makeshift midfield, with square pegs (Julian Draxler, Dani Alves) in round holes next to Marco Verratti. With Adrien Rabiot distracted by his future and Lassana Diarra fading out of the picture, they are severely short-handed in the middle of the park.Thomas Tuchel has asked for reinforcements and Julian Weigl has been heavily linked. If he’s fit, he’d make a lot of sense. They simply need an extra body in there. PSG have to deal with Financial Fair Play, of course, which is part of the reason their squad is so small, but it’s mad to think that this could cause their season to become unstuck in the Champions League.

Solari, Real stick with the kids

As a general rule, it’s not really a good sign when an under-fire manager chucks in the youngsters. Fans tend to be supportive of kids, it gives him an alibi and it sometimes can show he ran out of ideas.Santiago Solari left Marcelo and Isco on the bench away to Betis (Toni Kroosand Marco Asensio were already unavailable, as was Gareth Bale) and over the course of the game, he relied instead on Sergio Reguilon, Federico Valverdeand, later, Cristo, all in the course of a newfangled 3-5-2.For a half or so it worked as Luka Modric gave them the lead, though perhaps it was more down to Betis’ inefficiency with the ball. But after Karim Benzemacame off at half-time with a broken finger, Real Madrid really struggled to come to terms with Betis as Quique Setien kicked it up several notches. Sergio Canales equalised before a wonder-strike from Dani Ceballos gave Real Madrid the three points.Three points are critical right now, of course, but if Solari was looking for answers with this set-up, all he got was more questions.

Liverpool show their title credentials at Brighton

If Liverpool do go on to win the Premier League this season, victories like the 1-0 one in Brighton on Saturday will be the building blocks. Away from home, Fabinho as an emergency central defender, some chances not converted, the risk of conceding on the counter… but no, they gut it out and take all three points thank to Mohamed Salah’s penalty.Liverpool have played 15 games against teams outside the top six and have won every single one of them. Conversely, in the seven games against top six opponents, they have won three (Arsenal and Manchester United at home, Tottenham away), drawn two (Chelsea and Arsenal away, Manchester City at home) and lost one (City away). This is Klopp winning the games he’s supposed to win and getting as much as he can in those he’s not. That’s why the title is Liverpool’s to lose right now.

Cutrone should be the answer at Milan, not Higuain

Patrick Cutrone came on as a substitute, scored two gorgeous goals and helped Milan dispatch Sampdoria in the Coppa Italia. The kid is 21 and has nine goals in all competitions this season, which is actually more than Gonzalo Higuain’s eight despite more limited playing time.Higuain, of course, is surrounded by transfer talk, most of it fomented by his brother. Manager Gennaro Gattuso insists the striker is going nowhere and that he’s critical to Milan’s seasonal objective of a top four finish. That matters, of course, because they have all sorts of FFP issues and Champions League revenue would help alleviate that.I get all that but equally, Milan are set to pay Higuain a whopping €8.5m (nearly $10m) in wages through the end of the season. Plus, they’re on the hook to Juventus for another €9m ($10.5m) in loan fees through June 30. That’s a ton of money.Personally, I’m not sure anybody will take Higuain given his wages: those who can afford him likely don’t need him. But this idea that he’s the be-all and end-all, at that price, isn’t helpful. Maybe putting your faith in Cutrone and getting a short-term, serviceable striker to back him up wouldn’t be such a bad thing instead.

Liverpool again show they will sacrifice style in favour of results on the road to the Premier League title

Jan 12, 2019Nick AmesESPN.com writer

BRIGHTON, England — In any title-winning season there are games that end up being almost forgotten: staging posts along the road that offer essential nourishment but nothing in the way of vivid scenery.Should Liverpool see the job through in May, this laborious win over an excellently drilled Brighton side will only merit a few seconds of the highlight reel. It will not matter one bit, because these may prove to be their most important three points of the entire campaign.Make no mistake, there were question marks over Jurgen Klopp’s side before this one; the smallest of signs that their narrow defeat at Manchester City had opened up wider wounds would have been seized upon. If that sounds harsh, it is just the way things work these days when you are in the throes of a title race with a margin for error that appears smaller than ever.”From a maturity point of view, I would say it was the most mature of the season,” Klopp said of a slow-burning affair that was decided three minutes after half-time by a Mohamed Salah penalty. At full-time Klopp allowed himself an understated fist pump, and it was a reaction in character with the previous 90 minutes. There was not a lot to warm the blood — not even when Brighton, who had fulfilled one of Chris Hughton’s primary objectives by still being in the game with 10 minutes to go, sent the cavalry up at the end. But there was a coolness, a shared purpose, a diligence to Liverpool that has been the hallmark of their current campaign as much as the full-throttle approach that characterised the previous two.”We are not the Harlem Globetrotters,” Klopp said. “We have to deliver a result, and that’s difficult.” It was a revealing statement, because it reiterated that Liverpool are absolutely content to be mean and grim-faced when it suits them. Last season they won this fixture 5-1, blowing Brighton away either side of half-time. That never looked on the cards this time but nor, really, did any kind of mishap once they were ahead. With six minutes to play Roberto Firmino could be seen tracking back 30 yards to dispossess Anthony Knockaert, thwarting a promising counter for the hosts. in the time that remained there were big defensive interventions from Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk, and those were the moments that satisfied Klopp as much as any.”It was obviously a big challenge for everyone to stay calm and concentrated because each little situation can be a massive threat on the counter or whatever,” he continued. “And not to make any fouls because Brighton are unbelievably strong on set pieces. That level of concentration is difficult to keep, but they did it.”It was a particular relief that Fabinho, whose increasing prominence in midfield had been a big factor in Liverpool’s recent form, stayed firm at the back. He faced a gnarled, wily customer in Glenn Murray, and when he let the striker go in the 15th minute, watching in relief as the resulting header looped over, their shortage of centre-back bodies seemed at risk of being laid bare. Fabinho took an arm in the face from Murray shortly afterwards but would respond later with one of his own; after that rocky start he looked well attuned to the physical battle and excelled just before the hour, too, with a vital block from Pascal Gross’s goal-bound shot.Fabinho has a “defending brain”, Klopp said, and it is testament to Liverpool that this can now be said of the entire side. They did not function as effectively going forward: Salah’s first sight of goal had come only a minute before his winner, which came after Gross had clumsily halted his run into the box from the right. He missed a gilt-edged chance to wrap things up near the end, and Sadio Mane saw an effort deflected wide, too; Klopp said Liverpool’s finishing was a bigger issue than their creativity but, in practice, their clear openings could comfortably be counted on one hand.That might remain the case if future opponents follow the lead of Brighton, who were happy to sit in and avoid a repeat of their thrashing from 2017-18. “If you play an open and expansive game against them and go two or three down then generally there’s no way back,” Hughton said.Perhaps a carefree, “heavy metal” Liverpool performance might have blown their resistance away far earlier, andd it may yet be, if the league leaders continue to find assignments like this slow going, that a more forceful approach is required to ensure the wins keep coming. A better balance might yet be struck to dispose of palpably weaker foes more comfortably. But this felt, for all its turgidness, like a return to business.”If you fall from the horse, you can go back on it,” Klopp said. Liverpool did that here, even if how they managed it becomes a footnote in history four months from now.

Premier League W2W4: Arsenal meet Chelsea with both teams suffering identity crises

2:40 AM ETNick MillerESPN.com writerW2W4 previews the weekend’s Premier League action by highlighting its most compelling storylines …

Arsenal-Chelsea fascinating for unusual reasons

There was a time when you could pretty much guarantee at least one of Chelsea or Arsenal would be challenging for the Premier League title. But the two teams meet each other Saturday evening a long way from the top of the table and with both in some vague form of existential woe.Arsenal’s brave new world of holistic decision-making appears to be stalling, at best. Sven Mislintat is on his way out of the club, the new regime having signed a few potential gems but made significant messes of the Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey situations. Then of course there’s the minor detail of results: Last week’s defeat to West Ham left them probably needing to beat Chelsea, or at least avoid defeat, to make Champions League qualification something other than a monumental struggle.

Meanwhile, Maurizio Sarri’s prediction after his arrival that it would take his Chelsea players three months to get used to his methods now looks optimistic. This might be in part down to the decline in performance of his conductor, Jorginho, who Sarri declared has looked exhausted in recent weeks. But with Cesc Fabregas gone, he purports to have no alternative. Whether you believe that or not is another matter; there are a few internal options who could fill in for a few games, but either way Chelsea’s performances have not quite been what their manager wants.These teams meet each other in the middle of transitional seasons, both trying to figure out their respective new worlds. This game might not mean much in the title race, but it will still be fascinating given the state of affairs at each club.

Will Spurs use their ‘Plan C’?

Convincing a striker to move to Tottenham must be a tough job. “How do you fancy sitting on the bench for most league games because we’ve got probably the best centre-forward in the world? You might get some League Cup run-outs, or 20 minutes as a sub here and there. Oh, and everyone loves the first choice’s backup, too, so don’t even count being ‘Plan B.'”The man in that position at the moment is Fernando Llorente, scorer of one league goal for Tottenham in two seasons. In fairness, he’s started only one game in that time, and has a few more in assorted cup competitions, but he’s quite a step down from Harry Kane. A step down from the usual second choice, Son Heung-min, too.So much so that, even with Kane injured and Son at the Asian Cup, you wonder if Llorente will start against Fulham on Sunday. Might Mauricio Pochettino improvise, asking Lucas Moura or Erik Lamela to be a pseudo-Son? Could he turn Dele Alli into a centre-forward which, when you think about his attributes, isn’t the craziest plan? Might the man who somehow turned Moussa Sissoko into one of this season’s most effective midfielders conjure another magic trick from somewhere?

How will Wan-Bissaka cope with Liverpool?

One of the Premier League’s most impressive young players this season has been Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The Crystal Palace youngster was a winger until relatively recently, thrown into the first team as a defender after marking Wilfried Zaha out of a practice game when there was nobody else to fill in. Since then he’s firmly established himself in the Palace team and performed superbly against some of the best the Premier League has to offer.Perhaps his biggest test will come this weekend, though, as Palace face Liverpool. Wan-Bissaka was excellent in the first game between these two sides, in the early weeks of the season, even though he spoiled things slightly by getting sent off in the latter stages. Most people have now noticed this smart and lithe right-back, but another strong showing against the league leaders will convince even more that he’s the real thing.

Will Harvey Barnes get a chance for Leicester?

Harvey Barnes was recalled by Leicester from a loan last January, too. Claude Puel decided that he would be better off at his parent club than Barnsley, but in the end he barely played for the first team. This year, after his return from West Brom, you’d imagine things will be a little different.”He has been brought back for many reasons, but the primary reason is because he can help us,” Puel said.Not only is Barnes a highly promising young player, but he fills a need for Leicester: This season, their wide options have been wildly inconsistent, the task of replacing Riyad Mahrez proving predictably tricky. It would be too much pressure to expect Barnes to manage that, but he can certainly have an impact and could easily slot straight into their team against Wolves on Saturday.

And the least appealing game of the weekend is …

When Fulham faced Huddersfield a few weeks ago, there was a loose sense that the game might be so bad as to actually be quite good fun. Thanks to Aboubakar Kamara stealing a penalty from Aleksandar Mitrovic then missing it, that’s broadly how it turned out, but there’s no such feeling for Newcastle’s visit from Cardiff this weekend. This is going to be grim, the sort of game that, to paraphrase Bill Shankly, you’d pull the curtains closed if it was played in your back garden.

Rafa Benitez and Neil Warnock could hardly be more different characters, but watching their respective sides has proved, shall we say, equally challenging this season. And given this is a game that both sides will be desperate not to lose, rather than necessarily keen to win, it’s probably one to avoid for even the most committed Premier League completist.

RB Leipzig’s Adams eyes ‘dream’ Bundesliga debut vs. Pulisic and Dortmund

4:43 AM ETStephan UersfeldGermany correspondent

RB Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams is hoping for a dream debut against his fellow United States international Christian Pulisic as the club host Borussia Dortmund when the Bundesliga resumes after its winter break this weekend.Adams, 19, is the latest United States youngster to try and make his mark in Germany, having joined RB Leipzig from New York Red Bulls this winter, and is hoping to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Pulisic, Schalke’s Weston McKennie and Bremen attacker Josh Sargent.”It would be a dream scenario to be on the pitch for my new club from the very first minute,” Adams told German outlet Sport Bild this week. “But I know that maybe I also have to be patient.”Should Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick give Adams his debut this weekend, the youngster could line up against Pulisic, who returned to Dortmund on loan for the rest of the season following his €64m transfer to Chelsea earlier this month.”It’s crazy that my first match in Germany might be against him [Pulisic],” Adams said. “If you see the development Christian has taken, I want to be the next one to go down that path.”For Christian, Germany has become a home away from home. He was able to give me several tips. The most important thing he told me was ‘love the league, relish and use every minute you play. Show a lot of respect for your colleagues and trust the coach. They are good in Germany and want you to develop.'”Dortmund and Leipzig are big teams and play a good season. But I want to have those three points and Christian knows that.”

Inside the Timing, Reasoning and Potential of Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea Transfer

By GRANT WAHL January 02, 2019  SI — 

It’s official: U.S. men’s national team star Christian Pulisic has been sold to Chelsea by Borussia Dortmund for €64 million ($73.1 million), shattering the record transfer fee for a U.S. soccer player. The 20-year-old Pulisic, a native of Hershey, Pa., will stay on loan for the rest of the season with Dortmund, which is leading the German Bundesliga, and will join Chelsea in the summer.You’ve got questions. I’ll try to provide some answers and context. Let’s go:


Massive. Pulisic has served as the U.S. captain, has been a regular for Dortmund for the past three seasons and has been the best player on the USMNT for almost two years. He’s not there yet, but he has a real chance to become the first global U.S. men’s soccer superstar. Pulisic’s transfer fee obliterates the previous records for a USMNT player—John Brooks for €20 million ($22.4 million) to Wolfsburg in 2017—and a U.S.-born player—Jozy Altidore for $10 million to Sunderland in 2013.Pulisic now has the third-highest transfer fee ever for a player 20 years old or younger, behind Frenchmen Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé. Most of that fee is due to what Pulisic can bring on the field. But the price no doubt got a bump as well from Pulisic’s young age and his status as an American; like so many European clubs, Chelsea wants to get bigger in the U.S., and buying the best U.S. player can only help.A number of top clubs showed interest in Pulisic, including Bayern Munich, Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. But Chelsea made the offer that was closest to Dortmund’s asking price of €70 million ($79.8 million). From Chelsea’s perspective, the club was looking for a young wide midfielder. Eden Hazard may leave for Real Madrid (or somewhere else) in the summer, and Willian (30 years old) and Pedro (31) are on the wrong side of their primes.From Pulisic’s perspective, he wanted to move to the Premier League, which he grew up watching. (His family even spent a year in England when he was a child.) Though Chelsea does have a history of making regular coaching changes, Pulisic will be managed by the Italian Maurizio Sarri, who’s well known for his tactical nous. The American will get every opportunity to earn a starting spot—and become a focal point of the attack—next summer. Otherwise Chelsea wouldn’t have paid so much money for him.  There will be surprise in some quarters that Pulisic did not go to Liverpool and manager Jürgen Klopp, who has a relationship with Pulisic that goes back to the days Klopp coached Dortmund and Pulisic was on the youth team. But Liverpool didn’t approach Chelsea’s bid, and Pulisic will likely have a better opportunity for playing time at Chelsea.

MORE: How Sarri Can Help Pulisic Flourish at Chelsea


Pulisic was never going to play out the entirety of his contract with Dortmund through the summer of 2020, and by going to England this summer he would move at a time that was good for him (when he could integrate with Chelsea in preseason and not have to make the difficult midseason transition) and good for Dortmund (which could still earn a big transfer fee for him). BVB had said publicly that it did not want to move Pulisic in the middle of the season, because he can still be a significant part of the club’s chase for trophies.Even though Pulisic is effectively a lame duck at Dortmund, the club knows him well enough to believe that he’ll give 100 percent the rest of the season. What’s more, Pulisic and Dortmund avoided the messy public exit that accompanied the Dortmund departures of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Dembélé.From Chelsea’s side of things, locking up Pulisic now provides some security. That’s especially important because Chelsea currently has a case before FIFA involving allegations of the transfer of underaged players. It’s possible that Chelsea could face a transfer ban beginning this summer, and acquiring Pulisic now is a hedge against that possibility.

WAHL: Pulisic Explains the Craft of the Attacking Midfielder


For better and for worse, the young American will now become associated with a pricetag—$73.1 million—that means you are expected to become a real star who helps lead his team to the trophies that matter the most in world soccer. That’s what Pulisic has always dreamed of, and now he’ll have that chance. The ingredients in his game are there: The ability to break down players one-on-one, to set up goals, to score goals.But even Pulisic would tell you that he is not yet the finished product. From a personal perspective, this season has often been a frustrating one for him at Dortmund. Pulisic has dealt with three different muscle injuries, and he has lost playing time at BVB to the emerging 18-year-old English phenomenon Jadon Sancho. The highest levels of European soccer are a cutthroat business, and Pulisic has learned well by now that you have to earn everything on the field.At Chelsea he’ll have the opportunity to become the first global American men’s soccer superstar. But he has to make the most of it.

Christian Pulisic’s ‘talents will lend themselves very well to the way Chelsea play football’ – Tim Howard

Jan 4, 2019  Gus ElvinESPN.com

United States goalkeeper Tim Howard has tabbed Christian Pulisic for success following the 20-year-old’s much-publicized €64 million ($73 million) transfer to Premier League giants Chelsea earlier this week.”It is a massive club, but he’s played for a massive club already,” said Howard when asked about Pulisic’s move during an exclusive interview with ESPN FC.”Dortmund is no slouch, and he went there under Jurgen Klopp and he’s grown up there and learned a lot of his trade in the Bundesliga. He’s played a big part for the U.S. national team, so as much as the price tag is massive, which it is, he’s ready to perform.”Pulisic, who first broke into the senior team at Dortmund in January 2016, will finish out the remainder of this season on loan with the Black and Yellows, who currently hold a six-point lead atop the Bundesliga.While there has been much media discussion about Chelsea’s history with young players and whether or not the move is best for Pulisic, Howard is confident the American can handle the demands of the Premier League.”The Premier League presents its own trials and tribulations, it’s a rough-and-tumble league, it’s up and down, but he’s shown to be pretty strong even though he’s not the biggest guy in the world,” the United States’ most-capped goalkeeper said.”I think his talents will lend themselves very well to the way Chelsea play football.”Howard also spoke highly about new U.S. No. 1 goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who will join Premier League champions Manchester City in July.”I think he has the physical tools, he’s shown that, he’s still very young, and he’s growing and only going to get better.”When you go over to Europe, and we all dream of doing that and playing in the Premier League and all that, but you have to be careful what you wish for because there are some dark days. Myself and Kasey [Keller] and Brad [Friedel] and Brad [Guzan] all lived those and we came out the other side better for it.”The question for him will be can he handle the mental side of that. From all accounts, and from people around him that I know, he’s in a really good place and he’s ready to tackle the challenge.”Steffen will be part of new U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter’s first training camp, which opens Sunday, while Pulisic will remain in Germany with title hopefuls Dortmund, who return to action Jan. 19 at RB Leipzig.

U.S., Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie not on Liverpool’s radar – source

1:48 PM ETGlenn PriceLiverpool correspondent

Liverpool do not hold an interest in United States international Weston McKennie, a source has told ESPN FC.Can a 44-year-old man cut it in the Premier League? Our writer suffers — and suffers some more — through a medical at Everton.Reports in Europe had linked Jurgen Klopp with a move for Schalke’s versatile midfielder, who was born in Little Elm, Texas.However, the source said he is not a player on the radar of the Premier League leaders at this present moment.Richard Motzkin, an agent for McKennie, declined to comment on the links with Liverpool and said the 20-year-old was focussing on the restart of the Bundesliga season after the winter break.McKennie turned professional at FC Dallas before making the switch to Schalke, where has made 45 senior appearances, in July 2016.He has been capped seven times by the U.S. and scored on his international debut against Portugal in November 2017.

PSG’s Neymar: U.S. starlet Timothy Weah can be one of Europe’s top attackers

Jan 14, 2019Jonathan JohnsonPSG correspondent

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar has backed new Celtic signing Tim Weah to develop into “one of the top attacking players in Europe” after he joined the Scottish giants on loan earlier this month.Weah, 18, joined Celtic on an initial six-month loan deal last week and extended his PSG contract until 2021 just before leaving Parc des Princes but the senior American international has struggled for minutes this season since Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting‘s arrival as backup to Edinson Cavani.

Weah did shine during preseason, managing two goals from three competitive appearances for PSG at the start of this campaign, and Neymar has already seen enough to be convinced of the New York City native’s potential.”It is a very exciting move for Timothy,” the Brazil international told Record Sport. “From what I have seen of his talent, he has everything to go and become one of the top attacking players in Europe.”It is a good move for Timothy. Celtic too, as they are getting such a big talent, as well as PSG because Timothy has a chance to get experience and games before returning to us as a more complete player.”Timothy did have options but he chose the right one. Celtic are a big club, they attack a lot and score a lot of goals in their league and also they are still in Europe, so they offer him plenty.”Neymar emphasised Weah’s ability and character, but the former Barcelona man has been most impressed by his teammate’s ability to handle the pressure that comes with being 1995 Ballon d’Or winner George Weah’s son, and the Brazilian also sees a bit of himself in the American.”Timothy has the talent, we already knew that, but also he also has a great attitude,” said Neymar. “From the first day that I met him, he has wanted to learn from the players who have already won the major trophies — the players here who have already achieved big things in the game.””Timothy is a fun guy to be around but he is also very humble and that is what you want to see from a younger player. It is what a coach wants to see as it means they want to learn.”Timothy’s father was one of the greatest strikers ever but he does not feel the pressure of having the name — I respect that. He just has confidence in his own ability and in his own game, which is how I was at his age.”Neymar is currently in Qatar with PSG for a lucrative midseason training camp loaded with commercial obligations and in an interview with beIN Sports while there. The €222 million reflected on his improving relationship with strike partner Edinson Cavani after a bumpy start to life together.”We are getting along better with each match,” the Brazilian said. “We are very happy. We know and understand each other better and better. Our aim is to make everybody happy with assists and goals. As well as winning games, being happy is the most important thing.”Once back from Qatar, Neymar and his PSG teammates will be back in domestic action against Guingamp in Ligue 1 on Saturday and will be aiming to avoid a repeat of their 2-1 Coupe de la Ligue quarterfinal defeat in exactly the same fixture last week when a rare Neymar header was not enough for Thomas Tuchel’s men.

U.S. have ‘massive job’ ahead but Gregg Berhalter ‘without question the right hire’ – Tim Howard

Jan 7, 2019Gus ElvinESPN.com

In an exclusive interview with ESPN FC Friday, longtime United States goalkeeper Tim Howard said he “loves the youth that we have in our country [the United States]” but admitted new manager Gregg Berhalter still “has a massive job” on his hands to get the USMNT back on track.Howard added that he is “interested” in the future of U.S. Soccer, but said “figuring out who are the best players” and “cutting down to your best 23 players is a monumental task.””As much as we’ve done over the last year in evaluating all this talent from around the world and we talk about this youth movement, from what I’ve seen, I’m not sure they are not all cut out to play for the national team, and that is part of the evaluation process,” Howard said. “But I do love the youth that we have in our country and the amount of players playing around the world, playing big roles, playing Champions League roles and playing at big clubs, and that will bode well for us.”The 39-year-old also spoke strongly in support of the hiring of Berhalter, his former teammate on the national team, who was officially announced as the new U.S. manager Dec. 2.”He’s without question the right hire,” Howard said. “He’s a guy, who as much as he has this calm demeanor, he’s no-nonsense and that’s how he was as a defender. If you watch his Columbus Crew teams, they play very well out of the back, they possess the ball, they press well and that’s football now in 2019. I think he’s a breath of fresh air.”After a 2018 full of transition and experimentation, the United States open their first training camp under Berhalter on Jan. 7. The team will play friendlies with Panama and Costa Rica in the coming weeks to begin 2019.Howard identified “time” as Berhlater’s biggest challenge in taking over a new-look national team, one that has undergone a real makeover in the last 12-14 months.”We have lost an entire year, and that Gold Cup 2019 is looming large, and I believe very quickly after that, World Cup qualifying starts, so there is not a lot of time to prepare the team,” Howard said. “As much as we talk about how much time that is in months, the ability for him to actually get his hands on this team, you are talking maybe a camp in March and maybe a camp at the end of May somewhere. So not a lot of time.”Shrinking the player pool and zeroing in on the core group for the next qualifying cycle will be another big challenge for Berhalter, according to Howard.”With any national team, particularly one in transition, you have to figure out who the old guard is, which of the players who used to be features in the team are now willing to accept less of a role,” Howard said. “If they can do that, they should be on the team, and if not, you probably should part ways.”Howard himself did not rule out a national team return, saying he would be “ready, willing and able” if called upon.All 28 players participating in Berhalter’s January camp are currently based in the MLS, with the U.S. scheduled to open 2019 against Panama on Jan. 27 in Glendale, Arizona.

USMNT January camp: Which 5 players stand to gain this month?

January 8, 201911:32AM ESTTom BogertContributor

Lest we forget through the MLS SuperDraft furor and frenzy surrounding the 2019 schedule release, Gregg Berhalter’s first US national team camp is underway right now in Chula Vista, California. Here are five players from the all-MLS group that have room to gain this month:

Russell Canouse

The internet doesn’t agree on much, but one issue almost universally drew the ire of the World Wide Web was Russell Canouse being left out of the USMNT’s roster for November friendlies. Nearly as integral to D.C. United‘s second-half surge to Wayne RooneyLucho Acosta and Audi Field, Canouse forced his way onto the national team landscape one interception and successful tackle at a time. Questions have been raised about whether or not Wil Trapp has the athleticism to succeed against the top opposition; there are no such queries about Canouse. If he can prove to Berhalter that he can do all the good work Trapp does in possession, and excel in the system that Trapp did for so many years under Berhalter in Columbus, he may well force his way into the discussion for the Gold Cup.

Michael Bradley

Does Michael Bradley count? For a player that has made 142 caps who has been in the team essentially since after the 2006 World Cup, it’d be more conventional to say he has something to lose. Except he doesn’t, because he’s already been generally taken out of the national rotation as the program fought to get younger in 2018 without any competitive games to prepare for. Now, with the Gold Cup on the horizon, Bradley has to prove he still has the legs for the international game.

Greg Garza

The last time Greg Garza made an appearance for the US national team, it was January 2017. He started and went 69 minutes in a goalless draw against Serbia. It was Bruce Arena’s first game (back) in charge of the national team and the possibility of the USMNT missing out on the World Cup was still as farfetched the idea of hovering cars. h, how naive. Garza is back for the 2019 January camp. Looking around, left back could be his with a strong month in front of new boss Berhalter. His competition is Portland’s Jorge Villafana, 29, who featured during much of 2018 but wasn’t called in by Berhalter, Antonee Robinson, 21-year-old Wigan loanee, George Bello, 16-year-old Atlanta United starlet, Ben Sweat, NYCFC’s 27-year-old stalwart who wasn’t called in for the camp, and others. The position is wide open.

Djordje Mihailovic

On the same thread of Garza, Djordje Mihailovic features at a position in flux for the national pool. The organization is short on No. 10s, with Christian Pulisic regular filtering through the middle to try and find the answer. A natural winger, Pulisic may be best used through the middle while on international duty. But, an emergence from Mihailovic could ease that headache. The Chicago Fire Homegrown was a surprise inclusion to the roster, if only because he returned from a torn ACL in August. While looking fully up to speed to the untrained eye, he told MLSsoccer.com that he was still shaking the rust off.

Auston Trusty

A highly-regarded prospect that played every single minute for the Philadelphia Union in 2018, Auston Trusty has earned his shot with the senior national team. The only issue is how deep the squad is at the position. So deep, in fact, Tim Parker didn’t get added to the January camp while the likes of Jonathan Brooks, Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers are unavailable for selection while continuing their seasons in Europe. Regardless of what happens in January, Trusty will have more opportunities. But he has the chance to keep himself in the team when healthy for the next decade with a strong performance.

Before World Cup, U.S. women spend rare time alone in Portugal

By Graham Hays | Jan 17, 2019espnW.com

It wasn’t a coincidence that a team that will absorb as much attention as almost any in American sports this year opened its calendar far from the public eye.It made sense for the United States women’s national team to hold its annual January training camp in Portugal this year. It was familiar territory from years of past participation in the Algarve Cup. The area offered a smaller footprint than greater Los Angeles, where the team typically holds its January camp. Saving 30 minutes or more going to and leaving practice in Southern California traffic, without sacrificing climate, is no small boon for tired bodies. And with its opening games of 2019 in Europe — first against host France on Saturday in Le Havre’s World Cup venue and then back on the Iberian Peninsula to play Spain for the first time (ESPN2, 2:30 p.m. ET Tuesday) — it was practical to be able to adjust to time and surroundings ahead of those matches.But in a year in which the Women’s World Cup will bring a surplus of attention, Portugal offered the U.S. women something otherwise in short supply regardless of how the next six months unfold: time to themselves.”I actually said to them it’s about the work we do on the field, but it’s also investing in each other,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said of her message to players as training camp began the second week of January. “Ultimately, if you can have a very cohesive and tight unit, it obviously will pay dividends down the line. It’s tranquil here. It’s only us. It’s allowed us to not only interact with each other, but the players can get some relaxing time on their own if they want to.”

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Women’s World Cup: U.S. draw favorable

With no shortage of goals, U.S. women qualify for World Cup

Against France, the U.S. women will face a fellow World Cup contender on Saturday. Like pushing off at the top of a ski jump, there is no longer any slowing the momentum that propels them forward to June. After returning home following these games, players will gather in February for the SheBelieves Cup, begin preseason with their respective NWSL teams and navigate the early weeks of that season and the five remaining U.S. friendlies in April and May.The tranquility will presumably be left behind on the beaches in Portugal. And yet, perhaps they can carry some of that feeling forward. As the defending World Cup champions and the current No. 1 team in the world, the U.S. women have legitimate reason to believe that they, more than any other team, control what comes next. This year is about them.Training camp was the starting point.”This is probably the longest period of time we’ll have together, in terms of in training,” Ellis said toward the end of the camp. “So we’re just really trying to get a lot covered, get a lot reviewed and build their physical base on top of the work that they’ve done coming into here.”Ellis stopped short of saying the final World Cup roster will come exclusively from among the 27 players who were in Portugal. That included defenders Kelley O’Hara, who had knee surgery in October at the conclusion of World Cup qualifying, and Tierna Davidson and midfielder McCall Zerboni, who missed qualifying with ankle and elbow injuries, respectively. For young players like Hailie Mace and Savannah McCaskill, or veterans like Allie Long and Amy Rodriguez, none of whom were in Portugal after playing 2018 minutes, the bubble hasn’t sealed. But it might be close.”The players that are in here have proven themselves to be very deserving to be here,” Ellis allowed. “They have the qualities we feel we need to be successful.”That means that what we see on the field against France and Spain should look familiar. Crystal Dunn is the left back, albeit with a heat map that at times looks more like a wide forward. Alyssa Naeher is the No. 1 goalkeeper. Carli Lloyd continues as a No. 9. And on and on.We know what the U.S. women are, what they will look like. The time remaining is about repetition.

It’s a great test for us. It’s a great challenge to see where we are, where do we need to get better.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis on the upcoming games with France and Spain

The past two years, for instance, gave us Julie Ertz as a defensive midfielder, Lindsey Horan as a mature box-to-box presence and Rose Lavelle as a needed attacking and creative spark. The U.S. women have their preferred midfield, by all appearances. Now they rehearse.”We’ve got a nice blend in there, in terms of the profile of our midfielders,” Ellis said. “We’ve got three players in there that have had good time together, in terms of minutes on the pitch, and seeing how they start to blend and mesh is going to be part of this next period.”Ideally, much of the remaining preparation time in midfield would be spent together as a trio. But if any lingering injuries or ailments from training camp make that infeasible, that, too, is useful in its own way. It is unlikely the United States or any country will be fully healthy when the World Cup arrives. It is even more unlikely a team will stay healthy through seven games.For that matter, it’s good to play these games on the other side of the ocean. Even if, as was the case in wins last fall against Scotland and Portugal, it isn’t always a pleasure to watch.”Part of what’s important for me is for our players to play on the road,” Ellis said. “That’s why I went to Scotland and Portugal. Having four games in Europe is going to be critical before we go over for the World Cup. Because it’s about us, I think it’s fantastic that we’re playing these teams. We’re gaining and learning more about ourselves every time we come off the pitch.”The World Cup draw left the U.S. women with as comfortable a group assignment as they could have hoped for, long shots Chile and Thailand alongside familiar nemesis Sweden. But the likelihood of success in the group could be its own trap, given some of the potential scenarios that come with finishing first. The United States could face Spain in a potential round of 16 game and a potential quarterfinal against France in Paris.

The upcoming January games against those two countries were in the works before the draw last month, but Ellis saw no downside to these rehearsals — even though the rosters for France and Spain are dominated by club giants Lyon and Barcelona, respectively, and stocked with players in the middle of their domestic league seasons.”There’s going to be growth, and there’s going to be changes,” Ellis said. “Would I want to play an opponent a month out? No, because then you’re in your final prep and teams are really fine-tuned. Right now, it’s a great test for us. It’s a great challenge to see where we are, where do we need to get better. We’re playing against players who are in season. We need this.”Not because they need to beat France and Spain right now in order to beat them in June. Because these games are the best mirror available, the best opportunity to see themselves.Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.


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