WWC – USA
So the Summer of Soccer has ended for the US – as the US Ladies add a 4th star to the shirt – with their impressive Back-to-Back World Cup Championships. The ladies had the most difficult road as they had to beat 3 of the top 5 ranked teams France, England, Sweden and the European Champion Netherland’s along with way. The US scored the most goals (26) in World Cup history – helped by the 13-0 beat down of Thailand? They had 2 of the top 3 scorers as Megan Rapino (6 goals/3 assist – fewer minutes played) edged Alex Morgan 6 goals/3 assist for the Golden Boot and Golden Ball. In all 11 different players scored for the US – a record in a ladies World Cup. The crowds included lots of sold out stadiums in France and tons of viewers worldwide as the game outdrew last season’s Men’s World Cup with over 15 million viewers for the 11 am Final last Sunday. The players return to the US as hero’s with a tickertape parade in NYC and calls for equal pay for the ladies coming from all fronts. Cool speech by Rapino after the parade in NYC. I would certainly agree they need to be treated the same – same hotels, chartered flights, and treatment. I do know the US ladies players are actually paid to play by US soccer not their clubs – while men make considerably more at their club and are paid bonuses to make the team and win World Cup games. This will certainly be a hot topic as the US ladies look to arbitrate their case against US soccer while preparing a victory tour set to start in August in the US and of course return to their club teams in NWSL which just signed a deal with ESPN to show 10 games down the stretch of the season. This US ladies team winning their 4th star – with the largest TV audience to see a soccer game since the 2015 Women’s Final World Cup Game – has had a huge impact in the US – just how big may not be known for decades – but at least people are talking about women’s soccer and that’s pretty cool. Oh and the Goalkeeping was pretty dang good this world cup – be sure to see saves below.
US Men –Gold Cup
Let’s start by saying the US Men under their new Manager Gregg Berhalter did some good things in the Gold Cup. One of my favorite wrap up on the Gold Cup was on Yahoo. We made the final – and actually outplayed the favored Mexican’s in the first half at a 85% pro Mexican crowd in the final in Chicago. I thought we basically dominated the lesser teams with both possession and shots early in the tourney while not giving up any goals – despite some issues along the back line at times. I thought the new system worked and for the first time since Bob Bradley the team seemed to have both direction and confidence in what the coach was asking them to do. They had a plan that should certainly hold up against CONCACAF competition and should get us thru qualifiers and Nations League in route to the 2022 World Cup. Now as for which players stood out – of course Pulisic and McKennie we knew would do great and they did. This team needs Pulisic working on all cylinders to truly be top class – and when he was we were. Paul Arriola continues to impress on the wing and I thought newcomer 24 year old Tyler Boyd was a revelation in the early part of the tourney and was actually the best player on the field in one game (I have no idea why he didn’t play in the last 2 games- coach was an idiot for not subbing him vs Mexico in the 2nd half down 1-0. No idea what he was thinking putting Roldan in rather than Boyd). Also making a name for himself was young 21 year old Right back Reggie Cannon – the starter in the final 2 games – solidified in my mind his importance. Centerback 26 year-old Aaron Long emerged as a star in my mind and should be a starter moving forward with hopefully a healthy John Brooks or Walker Zimmerman or Matt Miazga. I thought Miazga was weak in the Mexico game and honestly it was him not closing down that gave up the goal (he was right there and backed off turning his body to avoid taking the hit for the team) on the goal that cost us the game. Watch the goal again. I also thought Tim Ream was just ok at left back – used more as a 3 man center back tandem in many games. I actually thought Michael Bradley was ok at the #6 slot -especially when McKennie slotted next to him in the last few games – he’s much better than (). Bradley delivered some great balls overtop and did a good job protecting the back 3 or 4 depending on our alignment. Now I did think he was overrun in the 2nd half vs Mexico and definitely ran out of gas – but McKennie who played poorly vs Mexico was just as much to blame. Now of course I think 20 year old phenom and Red Bulls dmid Tyler Adams should slide into the #6 role as the US Moves forward – which would cut back on Bradley’s time – but he definitely still has a role on this team through qualifying at least. Finally let’s talk forwards – I was disappointed that Altidore was not played more in the tourney – Altidore when healthy is still truly our only #9 – and his hold up play and passing ability was huge in the wins over Caursao and Jamaica I am just not sure why he didn’t start every game. I thought Zardes was ok and he hustles and he scored a couple of goals – but he’s not a #9 SORRY. I sure would have liked to have seen Josh Sargeant in that role some instead of Zardes. Anyway – overall it was not a bad showing by the US in this Gold Cup – and not a bad result for Gregg Berhalter. He showed flexibility in his system and line-ups based on the players he had for each game and dealt with not having two of the best US players in Tyler Adams and John Brooks for this tourney. We had every chance to take the lead on Mexico in the 1st half and certainly should have scored 1 if not 2 goals in a half where the US had equal possession and many more changes on goal. And even after conceding in the 2nd half – and despite the horrible subbing – the US should have scored an equalizer in the final 5 minutes if not for an incredible save by Mexican keeper Ochoa. So overall I give the US men a B. Are we back to where the team was when Bob Bradley was coach? No – but we also don’t have as many players playing in Europe or the EPL now as we did then. We have a good young nucleus of players though – most under 25 – many under 21 who should help put US men’s Soccer back to where it was for the 2022 World Cup and more importantly for when we host in 2026. Oh and will we ever be the home team in a full sized stadium in the US? I was certainly sad to see Mexico fill 80,000 seat stadiums around the US – while the US could barely do 25K. Sad to think that the same ratio of fans – I experienced in my first Gold Cup Final a 2-0 win in 2007 in Chicago 85% Mexican 15% US – was the same in 2019.
The international Champions Cup kicks off this week (see TV Schedule) – with some of your favorite European teams are playing across the country in NFL stadiums with many of the games on ESPN. European Champs Liverpool will play Germany’s Dortmund on Friday night, July 19 on TNT at Notre Dame stadium and seats are still available.
So now that the World Cup and Gold Cup and Copa America are over – (we still have the African Cup wrapping up this week on beIN Sport), MLS is finally starting to heat with the return of the Gold Cup Players across the league as is the NWSL – National Women’s Soccer League – where all the US World Cup Winners play and now have games on yahoosports and some ESPN games as well. Rivalry week kicks off this week with DC United and Wayne Rooney hosting revitalized New England under Bruce Arena at 8 pm tonight on ESPN. Seattle hosts Atlanta United Sun at 4 pm on ESPN while FS1 finishes soccer night in America with the NYC Derby – NY Red Bulls vs NYFCF. Thursday night we get a double MLS ESPN dip with Cincy at DC United at 8 pm, followed by Portland hosting Orlando City at 10. Then Friday night at 10 pm on ESPN we get El Traffico in LA – as the LA Galaxy host League Leaders LAFC. Next Sunday wraps up rivalry week with Seattle hosting Portland in the Cascadian Cup 9:30 pm on FS1.
CHS Boys Soccer Skills Camp – Murray Stadium July 15-18 8:30-10:30 am ages 8-14 $85
USA LADIES WORLD CUP CHAMPS
Is this the Greatest Women’s Soccer team of all time? Dan Wetzel Yahoo Sports
What’s next for Megan Rapinoe and the older USWNT players? Graham Hayes ESPNW
- USWNT clinch fourth World Cup triumph in Lyon
- Rapinoe second American to win Golden Boot
- The USWNT is on top of the world again, but the gap is closing
- Social media celebrates United States’ fourth Women’s World Cup title
US Men – Fall 1-0 to Mexico in Gold Cup Final
Doyle: Clinical Mexico put USMNT to the sword Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle MLS.com
COPA America + African Cup
GAMES ON TV
Fri, July 13
8 pm ESPN DC United vs New England
Sat, July 14
- 5 pm ESPN+ Indy 11 vs Hartford
8pm ESPN+ Chicago Fire vs Cincy
Sun, July 15
12 noon beIN Sport Senegal vs Tunisia Semis AFRICAN CUP
3 pm beIN sport Algeria vs Nigeria
4 pm ESPN Seattle vs Atlanta United
6:30 pm FS1 NY Red Bulls vs NY City FC
Wed, July 17
3 pm beIN Sport 3rd Place AFRICAN CUP
8 pm ESPN+ Chicago vs Columbus
11 pm ESPN 2 Arsenal vs Bayern Munich ICC
Thurs, July 18
8 pm ESPN Cincy vs DC United
10 pm ESPN Portland vs Orlando City
Fri, July 19
3 pm beIN Sport AFRICAN CUP FINALS
8 pm TNT Liverpool vs Dortmund (at Notre Dame)
10 pm ESPN LA Galaxy vs LA FC
10 pm yahoo sports Utah Royals vs Portland Thorns NWSL
Sat, July 20
6:30 pm ESPN2 Man United vs Inter ICC
4 pm ESPN Benefica vs Guadalajara
- 7 pm ESPN+, Myindy Indy 11 vs Loundon United
7 pm Yahoo Sports Washington Spirit vs Houston Dash NWSL
8 pm ESPN2 Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid ICC
Sun, July 21
7:30 am ESPN2 Juve vs Tottenham ICC
4 pm ESPN Atlanta vs DC United (Rooney)
6 pm ESPN2 Chicago Red Stars vs North Carolina Courage NWSL
7:30 pm FS 1 Orlando City vs NY Red Bulls
9:30 pm FS 1 Seattle vs Portland Timbers
Tues, July 23
7 pm ESPN Real Madrid vs Arsenal ICC
9 pm ESPN Gaudalajara vs Atletico Madrid ICC
9 pm ESPN+ Bayern Munich vs Milan ICC
11 pm ESPN LA Galaxy vs Tiajuana (League Cup)
Weds, July 24
7:30 am ESPN+ Juventus vs Inter ICC
8 pm TNT Liverpool vs Sporting CP
8:30 pm ESPN+ Houston Dynamo vs America (League Cup)
Thurs, July 25
7:30 am ESPN+ Tottenham vs Man United ICC
Fri, July 26
6:30 am ESPN Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid ICC
10 pm ESPN LA FC vs Atlanta United
Sat, July 27
8 pm ESPN+ Chicago Fire vs DC United
10 pm ESPNNews Utah Royals vs NC Courage NWSL
10:30 pm ESPN Portland vs LA Galaxy
Sun, July 28
3 pm ESPN 2 Milan vs Benefica ICC
Wed, July 31
8 pm Fox Sport 1 MLS All-Star Game vs Atletico Madrid
USWNT’s World Cup title confirms status as greatest women’s soccer team of all time
LYON, France — The United States arrived at the World Cup brimming with confidence and embracing a championship-or-bust mentality.They left, after a thoroughly dominating tournament, with not just their fourth World Cup overall, and second consecutive, but the mantle as the greatest women’s soccer team of all time.The Americans outlasted the Netherlands 2-0 in Sunday’s World Cup final. They broke the game open on a Megan Rapinoe penalty kick in the 61st minute before Rose Lavelle added a brilliant goal in the 69th. It was a final that was tough, hard-fought, even bloody at times. But while the score was close for much of the game, the U.S. controlled most of the action and most of the quality scoring opportunities.It was indicative of a World Cup where the Americans were almost never threatened.They never trailed. They outscored their seven opponents 26-3. They never needed a second of extra time. They led an astounding 442 out of 630 minutes (70.2 percent of the time, a number that may defy belief from future soccer historians).Essentially, they did everything they promised they would and believed they could when they arrived here and declared that due to their depth of talent they had the first and second best teams in the world.The Dutch were a game opponent, physical and determined, the reigning European champions. Yet the talent difference on the field was marked. They became just another team for the U.S. to steamroll in a tournament that saw the Americans defeat the teams ranked third, fourth, eighth, ninth and 13th in the world.The Americans have fielded some all-time great squads, but none can match this level, let alone the sheer depth of ability. In a sport that grows by leaps and bounds every World Cup cycle, they completely overwhelmed this tournament, only mildly pressed by France late in a quarterfinal and England in the semis. Even then, they were at risk of an even scoreboard, not in need of a comeback.This was a complete show of strength by the United States, asign of how the country has so many superior athletes playing youth soccer that coach Jill Ellis has an embarrassment of riches to pick from.Carli Lloyd, 36, was the hero from 2015. She was a late game sub on this team, scoring three times anyway. Mallory Pugh, 21, may prove to be Alex Morgan’s successor as the team’s goal-scoring threat up front. She couldn’t get on the field during the knockout stages.They lost arguably their best player, forward Megan Rapinoe, for the semifinals due to a strained hamstring, and her replacement, Christen Press, who would start on any other team in the world, needed just 10 minutes to score.Their veterans such as Rapinoe and Morgan each delivered six goals and Julie Ertz was everywhere. Their newcomers such as Sam Mewis, 26, and Lavelle, 24, showed why the team’s future is bright.Headed into the tournament there was but one question – goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who is excellent but inexperienced at that level. She brushed that away with a brilliant penalty kick save against England and kept a clean sheet in the final.About the only concern that ever emerged during play was outside noise wondering if the Americans were too confident. They always prepared for, spoke highly of and respected their opponents, but it was clear that the U.S. believed if they played their game they would win.They were right. “It’s important that our team has confidence,” Ellis said early in the tournament. “I don’t think in any way this is an arrogant team. I think this team knows they have to earn everything, that we’ve got tough opponents like we played the other night still ahead of us and we have to earn every right to advance in this tournament.”It wasn’t long before the criticism turned to silly things such as celebrating too many goals with too much flair. When that’s what you are getting hit with as a tournament carries on, you’ve got a juggernaut on your hands.As long as their focus never wavered, neither would the results.Declaring this the greatest team in history isn’t an affront to the World Cup champions of 1991 and 1999. It is, instead, their legacy. They spawned not just a generation of girls who flocked to the sport, but the infrastructure of youth leagues and U.S. Soccer development that could handle them, nurture them and turn them into a ferocios group.The 2015 World Cup champions were very good, but they weren’t this good, they didn’t control the tournament this easily.As much as there is endless discussion of the soccer world, which is just now caring about the women’s game, catching up to the Americans, it never really panned out. These other countries, especially the seven European teams that joined the U.S. in the quarterfinals, are all better than ever.Yet the Americans are too – the gap actually widening for the time being.It wasn’t arrogance that powered their belief in themselves. It wasn’t overconfidence.It was domination, complete and utter American domination.
Unflappable. Unapologetic. Unequaled.
This edition of the USWNT has a claim to go down as the greatest U.S. women’s soccer team ever, winning the most competitive Women’s World Cup yet with the spotlight at its brightest, the target on its back glaring and outside pressures and attention raising the stakes to new heights. By Grant Wahl SI Mag July 08, 2019
This story appears in the July 15, 2019, issue of Sports Illustrated. For more great storytelling and in-depth analysis, subscribe to the magazine—and get up to 94% off the cover price. Click here for more.
Which Megan Rapinoe pose did you prefer? Was it the one with her arms outstretched like a marble statue in the Louvre, aka The Purple-Haired Lesbian Goddess, that we saw after her goals against France in the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals and against the Netherlands in Sunday’s final? Or was it the pose we saw on her Instagram, the one with her arms overflowing as she held a preposterous trio of Women’s World Cup trophies for the tournament title, the Golden Boot (top scorer) and the Golden Ball (MVP)?Or maybe pose isn’t the right word? That would imply something artificial, which is the last way you’d describe Rapinoe’s month-long tour de force during the U.S.’s second straight Women’s World Cup title run, the fourth in the team’s glorious history. Rarely in the annals of sports have we seen an athlete at the highest level talk the talk—and did she ever, demanding equal pay for women’s players, increased investment in the women’s game and greater respect for the LGBTQ, African-American and other minority communities—and then walk the walk, even with President Donald Trump calling her out on Twitter.“Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!” Trump tweeted on June 26 after a months-old video of Rapinoe saying, “I’m not going to the f—king White House” if the U.S. team was invited was published and went viral. Two days later, after standing her ground in a press conference, Rapinoe responded on the field by scoring both goals in the Americans’ 2-1 victory over the host French, the defining win that made another trophy possible. Three times in the knockout rounds, Rapinoe faced the ultimate pressure of taking a penalty kick for her country in the World Cup. Three times she converted, including on the game-winning goal at the final in Lyon. By Sunday, even Trump backed off, tweeting: “America is proud of you all!”We’ll go there. Muhammad Ali is a singular figure in American life. But there are elements of a modern-day Ali in Rapinoe’s stance toward sports and social activism, to say nothing of her ability to turn the glare of publicity—much of it controversial—to her advantage. Who else would say with glee that she was looking forward to a “total s—tshow circus” in a World Cup quarterfinal and then make the most of it when it happened?“I’m made for this,” the 34-year-old Rapinoe said after the final. “I mean, I love it. Obviously, getting to play at the highest level in a World Cup with a team like we have is just ridiculous. But to be able to couple that with everything off the field and to back up all those words with performances and back up all those performances with words, it’s just incredible. I feel like this team is just in the midst of changing the world around us as we live, and it’s just an incredible feeling.”
The U.S. players are in the midst of suing the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination—though both sides have agreed to try mediation first—and in the heady moments after Sunday’s final whistle, the American Outlaws supporters group engaged in a lusty chant of “EQUAL PAY! EQUAL PAY!” The chorus rang through the stadium as Rapinoe accepted her awards and shared conversations with FIFA president Gianni Infantino, French president Emmanuel Macron and U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro.Rapinoe knows her power, knows that she has to win to maximize it, and she isn’t afraid to push the envelope deploying her influence.“Everyone’s asking what’s next and what we want to come from all this,” she said. “And it’s to stop having the conversation about equal pay and ‘Are we worth it?’ and ‘Should we?’ and the investment piece. What are we going to do about it? Gianni, what are we going to do about it? Carlos, what are we going to do about it? Everyone. It’s time to sit down with everyone and really get to work. This game has done so much for all of us. We’ve put so much into it. It’s a testament to the quality on the field, and I don’t think everything else is matching that. So how do we get everything to match up and continue to push this forward? Because I think at this point the argument that we have been having is totally null and void.”So thoroughly did Rapinoe back up her talk on the field that you half-wondered if she was impervious to the cascading criticism she was receiving from one side of a divided country, whether it was over her 2016 decision to take a knee during the national anthem in support of Colin Kaepernick’s protest over police treatment of black Americans (U.S. Soccer later passed a rule requiring standing) or over her continuing protest of refusing to sing the national anthem or put her hand over her heart. But no, she’s human.“Megan actually is very sensitive,” her twin sister, Rachael, said last week when asked how Megan responded in private to Trump’s tweet. “But in regards to her profession she’s very good at compartmentalizing, so she doesn’t really get too rattled. I definitely gave her a lot of space. She wasn’t talking about it a lot, so I could tell she was trying to process it and not be too affected by it. When everything went down in 2016, at the time we had a different president. But now she’s not even protected by her own president. That’s something that’s almost surreal to me, that we have a president of the United States that’s essentially going after my sister, but also kind of the team, too.”But what a team these 19ers were. One of the greatest sports teams of all time? Probably. The most meaningful team in history? Perhaps, considering all the things the 19ers have represented to different people. The greatest U.S. women’s soccer team ever? Oh yes, certainly.“I do think this is a team that across the board is the best we’ve seen,” said no less of an authority than two-time U.S. World Cup champion Julie Foudy of ESPN. This was the first USWNT to win back-to-back World Cup titles and reach three finals in a row. Until the last game, it had scored in the first 12 minutes of every World Cup match in France before it. The U.S. won every game in its romp to the trophy, outscored its opponents 26-3, led for 442 of 630 minutes and never trailed. There was a raft of stories written during this tournament about the rest of the world catching up to the U.S., but that isn’t entirely true. While Europe is certainly improving, the U.S. is getting better too, maybe even at a faster rate.It would be easy to view the U.S.’s dominant run through this World Cup as an ass-kicking inevitability, a constant march onward and upward to back-to-back titles. Here we go again. But the journey over the past four years was anything but easy. In 2016, the U.S. suffered a quarterfinal elimination in the Olympics to Sweden—the U.S.’s earliest exit ever from a major tournament—in which Rapinoe, on the wrong side of 30 and not at full strength after a knee injury, looked like she might be finished on the international stage. Then in 2017, vowing to unlock more creativity in the attack, Ellis launched a period of experimentation (with formations and new players) that proved an old adage: Real change can be an ugly and uncomfortable process long before it becomes glorious.The grimmest night of all was March 8, 2017, at the SheBelieves Cup in Washington, D.C.’s RFK Stadium, when a thoroughly disjointed U.S. team went down 2-0 after nine minutes to France and ultimately lost 3-0. With Rapinoe not being called into the team in the wake of her taking a knee, Ellis tried a 3-4-3 formation, left several regulars on the bench—including Alex Morgan, Julie Ertz, Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan and Kelley O’Hara—and produced a result that left U.S. fans and media howling after two home defeats in the three-game tournament.“I remember thinking after that loss that we had a long way to go,” O’Hara said last week. “But that’s kind of a good thing, you know? You don’t ever want to feel like it’s easy all the time and there’s no obstacles or need for growth. After 2016, [Ellis] put out a statement saying I’m about to put this team through an evolution that I feel is necessary to win us a World Cup in 2019. And as hard as that was—it was hectic and stressful and full of uncertainty for a lot of people—it was necessary. I respect her a lot for doing that and sticking to her guns, and I respect the individuals on this team and how we handled ourselves through that time.”
As Morgan added, “You have to give credit to Jill for looking at new things throughout the course of the last three years in order to see what the right direction was for us … When you have a chance to coach a team for two World Cups in a row, you’re able to learn a lot along the way, what worked and what didn’t. For Jill, it was a little bit of experimenting, and she did it in a way that a lot of people criticized. But at the same time, when you get to where we are now, you can’t help but applaud that.”Yet even the U.S. players bristled at times during Ellis’s tinkering, and after a 1-0 home loss to Australia in July 2017 at the Tournament of Nations, several veterans went to then-federation president Sunil Gulati and told him they had deep concerns about the direction of the team under Ellis—and that if those concerns weren’t addressed they wanted a new coach. The players had specific issues with what they felt was Ellis’s lack of communication off the field and the team’s declining performances on the field. At a meeting several months later, Gulati responded to the team (with Ellis in the room) that she wasn’t going anywhere before World Cup 2019, and Gulati’s replacement, Carlos Cordeiro, kept Ellis in charge.Winning has a way of easing tensions, however, and in 2018 the U.S. went undefeated as Ellis and assistant Tony Gustavsson, her offensive guru, landed on a 4-3-3 formation with an attacking style that was much more freewheeling than that of the 2015 World Cup-winning team. The linchpins were an explosive starting front line (Rapinoe, Morgan and Tobin Heath), an indispensable role in the defensive midfield for Ertz, and a remarkable depth (Carli Lloyd, Christen Press and Mallory Pugh as subs!) possessed by no other team on the planet. Concerns over the defense would continue into the World Cup, especially when it came to Hope Solo’s untested goalkeeping replacement, Alyssa Naeher, but Naeher proved herself when it mattered most by making two giant saves (one of them on a late penalty) in a 2-1 semifinal win against England.As painful as Ellis’s experimenting was in 2017, it also unearthed some gems. One of the starters in the France debacle was a 21-year-old midfielder from Cincinnati named Rose Lavelle, who was making her second appearance with the national team.“I got subbed out at halftime because I was pretty awful,” Lavelle said last week. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that’s like the top of the top. I need to get better, and that’s where I need to be in the next couple years if I want to compete for a spot on this team.’”Now 24, Lavelle was the World Cup’s breakout star, the creative maestro on the U.S. team in both the semifinal and the final. Watching Lavelle in full flight on the ball is exhilarating, the kind of jolt that people will always pay real money to witness in person. In the 69th minute of Sunday’s final, she found herself on the ball with a half-acre of space in front of her and went to work, bamboozling Dutch defender Stefanie Van der Gragt to create room for her left-footed knockout punch.“It’s so surreal that I just won a World Cup with people I grew up idolizing,” said Lavelle. “I can’t put it into words. It’s amazing.”Last week was a vindication for Ellis, the first coach to win back-to-back Women’s World Cup titles. She used nearly all the capital she had won in 2015 to remake her U.S. team after the Olympic failure, and that sometimes excruciating process paid off in France.“Coming out of the Olympics, it was a moment to kind of reflect and look at making sure we played competitive games and increased our roster in terms of finding players like Rose Lavelle,” Ellis said last week. “Sometimes it’s part of the growing pains when you want to shift something. But full credit to the players. You build the system around them. They’re the gasoline that makes it work. That process was to get to this point with players in their right spots.”Over the last three years, Ellis was especially supportive of her most Promethean players, even through long periods of injuries, whether they were Lavelle (hamstring), Heath (back) or Rapinoe (knee). Without them, the U.S. wouldn’t have won in France. As Foudy said, “Her most creative players, she has had a commitment to them to say, ‘I’m going to have patience. You’re going to get back.’ As a player it’s everything, especially at that level where it’s so cutthroat, it’s hard to feel confidence when you’re injured and away from the group. And Jill was willing to tinker. Sometimes you would hammer her for it, but you have to live through those moments to learn and grow. I think she’s been courageous in that way.”But the 19ers, like the 91ers, the 99ers and the 15ers before them, will be known for far more than what they accomplished in 90-minute segments on a soccer field.“The fabric of this national team,” Foudy said, “has always been it’s more than soccer.”This World Cup produced record numbers of viewers for women’s soccer in countries around the world, including Brazil (where 35 million people watched the France-Brazil round-of-16 game), China, France, England, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. The USWNT now has an impact there, too.“In ’99, we envisioned this as a catalyst that would spark a global movement, but the reality is I think it was a domestic one,” said Foudy. “I see the 19ers as responsible for a global movement. We’re seeing the numbers, but even beyond that, they set an example for women on standards of expectations. There are so many countries who are finally standing up and saying this isn’t right, and they have the courage as a player to stand up in one of these countries and say, ‘This needs to be better, not just for us but for the next generation.’ I think a lot of that comes from them seeing this U.S. group do this at a level that’s unprecedented.”Meanwhile, the public pressure on FIFA to invest more of its $2.7 billion in reserves in the women’s game, particularly from Rapinoe, appeared to be having an effect. Infantino announced last week a proposal to expand the Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams, double the prize money to $60 million, double FIFA’s grassroots global investment in the women’s game to $1 billion and start a FIFA World League for women’s national teams and a FIFA Women’s Club World Cup. Rapinoe said it was promising, but she noted that his prize money proposal would mean the gap in prize money between the women and the men is actually increasing, not closing. After Rapinoe called out the FIFA president on Saturday, they had a brief conversation at the awards podium following the final.“There was a wry smile,” Rapinoe said with a grin. “He did say he’d like to have a conversation, and I said I’d love to.”That’s power. And after a World Cup that will put her in the canon of American athletic achievements, that’s Pinoe.
Women’s WC final viewers top men’s final in U.S. behind 2015 though
Jul 8, 2019Associated Press
The United States’ 2-0 victory over Netherlands in Sunday’s FIFA Women’s World Cup final averaged nearly 15.6 million U.S. viewers on English- and Spanish-language television.It was the most-viewed match this season, but a decrease from the 2015 final. The match averaged 14.27 million viewers on Fox, according to the network and Nielsen, and peaked at 19.6 million. It was a 22 percent increase over last year’s FIFA World Cup men’s final between France and Croatia, which averaged 11.44 million. The audience was down 43.8 percent from the 2015 final between the U.S. and Japan, which averaged 25.4 million viewers. That match, though, was played in Canada and started at 7 p.m. ET, compared to Sunday’s final in France, which kicked off at 11 a.m. ET. The Telemundo broadcast averaged 1.3 million and peaked at 2 million as the match concluded.The match averaged 589,000 viewers online — 289,000 on Fox apps and 300,000 on NBC and Telemundo apps — which makes it the most-streamed Women’s World Cup match ever. The CONCACAF Gold Cup final between the U.S. and Mexico averaged 2.9 million on Fox Sports 1, making it the most-viewed non-World Cup match in the network’s five-year history.The Copa America final between Brazil and Peru averaged 3.1 viewers on Telemundo. The ESPN-plus streaming service had the English-language rights, but the network did not divulge figures.
What’s next for Megan Rapinoe and the older USWNT players?
7:46 AM ETGraham HaysespnW.com
LYON, France — Among the waves that Megan Rapinoe’s words generated during this World Cup, one of her first answers created barely a ripple at the time.As the U.S. team held its training camp in the days before its opener against Thailand, Rapinoe — before she became the lead character in the entire tournament — listened to an English reporter ask her whether this World Cup had special meaning because, he noted, it would surely be her last.She started to answer, spooling out some boilerplate about taking things as they come. But she doesn’t do boilerplate well. She paused, smirked and couldn’t go through with it.”I don’t feel like I’m that old,” Rapinoe instead countered.She didn’t look old Sunday, even as she became the first woman to start three consecutive World Cup finals. She didn’t look past her prime converting the penalty kick that put the U.S. ahead to stay in a 2-0 win against the Netherlands and earned her the Golden Boot. She didn’t look over-the-hill basking in the adulation of tens of thousands of fans after the final whistle or having a quick chat with French President Emmanuel Macron in the receiving line for medals.”I’m made for this,” Rapinoe said afterward, beaming.In those moments, 2023 didn’t look so far away.What the Golden Ball winner showed in those moments was much of what allowed this team to win the World Cup. The oldest team in the tournament, the U.S. didn’t exactly rebuild following the Olympic disappointment of 2016. It retooled, revitalized and reconfigured. Mixing old and young in a way so that the team didn’t look either one, it figured out how to occupy a moment in time.”We still want to sit outside and hang out at night and have a chat and banter and spend time together,” Kelley O’Hara said on the eve of the final. “It’s very refreshing to be a part of a group that, what we show on the field — having each other’s backs, taking care of each other, doing whatever we need to win for each other — is really felt off the field, as well.”The challenge moving forward for the U.S. is, how long can anyone or any team pause time like that? How long will some of these players, and perhaps their coach, even want to try?With the 2020 Olympics right around the corner, it would be at least a mild surprise if the weekend marks the final major tournament for many of the front-line American players. No team has yet won the World Cup and Olympics in back-to-back years. That’s a prize of its own, and all the more because so many of these Americans felt the sting of falling short in 2016.Carli Lloyd has long talked about this cycle, 2019 and 2020, as the final chapter in her story. But in the days before the final, she said she feels like she is in her prime — both in her skills and her fitness. She said she would keep going as long as she woke up every morning and wanted to put in the work.After coming off the bench in the final, her regular role in a tournament in which she started just once, she sounded less certain.”It’s been a really tough couple of years,” Lloyd said after the final. “It’s not based on my ability. And for whatever reasons, coaches make the decision. I tried to put up a good case. So I’m going to go home, I’m going to kind of let the emotions die down a little bit, speak to my husband and we’ll go from there.”It was just four years after she stood atop the soccer world at the end of a World Cup. She was days away from turning 33 years old then. Rapinoe turned 34 last Friday, the same age as Becky Sauerbrunn, who celebrated her birthday as the tournament got underway in June.Rapinoe and Sauerbrunn, the defender who spoke Sunday about how difficult this cycle was, remain among the best in the world at what they do. It would be a surprise if either walked away before the Olympics. But four years is a long time when you already have two World Cup medals and your body starts to remind you more and more often of the price paid to get them.All now 30 or older, Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, Alyssa Naeher, O’Hara and Christen Press enter their own limbo after strong World Cups. Lloyd and Rapinoe certainly showed in 2015 and 2019, respectively, what is possible. Lauren Holiday, who retired in 2015 before her 30th birthday, showed not everyone chooses that route.There was a lot of talk in 2015 about winning a championship for the veterans, most particularly Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone. Perhaps because the players who became veterans on this team all won titles four years ago, that wasn’t a topic this time around.This team was instead centered in the present. First, surviving the buildup to this World Cup, when it was an open and sometimes ruthless competition for roster spots after 2016. And second, trying to merge old and new talent together for this run in France, while traveling a far more difficult path than four years earlier.Perhaps that leaves the U.S. in better shape to move forward. Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis and Mallory Pugh are part of the new generation playing with Lloyd, Rapinoe and Sauerbrunn. Together, they are ready for more power.”It’s always been about what is this team at its core?” O’Hara said. “And that’s been a team that has that grittiness, that bite and that never-say-die attitude. I think that’s something that we had to continue to make sure that we were embodying and almost passing on — instilling in the players that were new and the younger players that were coming in. Because it’s something that the older players instilled in me when I got on this team. For me, it was something that was very important and is still very important to make sure that’s something this team always embodies.”Odds are the U.S. will choose to run it back, to borrow a basketball phrase, at the 2020 Olympics. Maybe an Emily Fox, Hailie Mace or Andi Sullivan will slip into the mix as a further bridge to the future. But with Olympic rosters capped at 18 players, and assuming Jill Ellis returns with a new contract, there is every chance the team will look more similar than 2016 did in comparison to 2015.They may be able to stretch the moment in time that long. They’ve earned the right to try, if they want. Beyond that? Well, four years changes a lot.Which is why it’s all the more impressive that the final outcome for the U.S., despite all the changes from the previous World Cup, remained the same.”Obviously, I’m aware I’m not 25 anymore,” Rapinoe continued that June day after being asked about her inevitable exit. “Winning that last one seems so far away. And it was such a different team. It seemed like such a different squad of players. This group, we’ve had a difficult cycle. We’ve been up and down with performances and sometimes the results and not doing well coming off the 2016 Olympics.”I feel like this group feels that motivation and that desire to go and win it. I feel like I’m now a part of this group.”
The USWNT is on top of the world again, but the gap is closing
3:00 PM E Graham Hays espnW.com
LYON, France — It was less than a decade ago that some members of the French women’s national team posed nude for a German publication, in what was essentially a protest on the eve of a Women’s World Cup. What would it take, the captions asked, to get fans back home to watch them play a sport that is otherwise a national obsession?When France and the United States played an epic World Cup quarterfinal in front of more than 45,000 in Paris, 51 percent of the televisions in use in the host country were tuned to the game.In England, where the sport’s domestic governing body outlawed the women’s game until 1971, that team’s semifinal against the U.S. was the country’s most-watched sporting event since the men played in a World Cup semifinal a year ago.After the Netherlands beat Sweden in the other semifinal, De Telegraaf, the nation’s largest newspaper, turned its entire front page over to the team reaching its first World Cup final — just as the paper did two years ago when the Dutch women won their first European championship.Welcome to the new normal.The United States is again on top of the world. The team everyone wanted to beat — and the team many invented reasons to hate — extended its own record with a fourth World Cup title and won back-to-back World Cups for the first time. On European soil, five of the best European teams the continent had to offer couldn’t stop it. Sunday made clear that the U.S. owned 2019.Yet the reality for 2023 and beyond was already clear: Europe no longer follows our lead. And even as the U.S. won this title Sunday with a 2-0 victory against the Netherlands, it watched a monthlong preview of a more complicated future.Or as U.S. coach Jill Ellis said before a game against Spain in the round of 16, it was only “a matter of time” until this sleeping giant of a continent awoke to the women’s game.With that in mind, picture where we are after Sunday’s win as a location on Google Maps. Zoom in and zoom out to study it from three different perspectives.The street view is 90 minutes of soccer. From that vantage point, the U.S. beat the Netherlands because it was too deep and relentless as the game wore on in the second half.Pull back the focus slightly more to a neighborhood view and Sunday is the final part of a World Cup cycle that encompasses at least the three years since the last Olympics and arguably all four years since winning the World Cup in 2015. Ellis will always have her detractors, but they will have to work to turn this into something other than vindication. She won with a team she didn’t have much say in shaping in 2015. She won with a team of her own making in 2019.But zooming out to the final and widest perspective, the global view, reveals what ought to keep Ellis and everyone else associated with American soccer awake at night.The U.S. has the deepest and most talented roster in the world. Its confidence and belief, collectively and individually, is unmatched. Its fitness is unmatched. It is the best in the world at the moment. But only at the moment because so many European teams — France, England and the Netherlands, certainly, but also Italy and Spain — have come such a long way in such a short time.”You now have, let’s say the right of women to play — you know, it wasn’t there 20 years ago,” Ellis said of the evolving European dynamic before the U.S. played its first knockout game. “Now you have that. To me, it’s a natural progression in terms of the development in these countries. Because they eat, sleep and breathe soccer.”Imagine what will happen if Europe maintains its rate of progression. The risk for the 2023 World Cup, or even next year’s Olympics, is that staying on top is partially out of American hands.”It’s no secret we have to get better on the ball,” Rapinoe said of the coming European wave after a win against France in which the U.S. had barely 40 percent of possession. “Playing better with it, better offensively, better in our possession and our passing. They were clearly much better than us in that tonight. So the level is just growing, it seems like every game.”We have, absolutely, our work cut out for us.”This wasn’t a monthlong phenomenon. The U.S. finished on the podium in just one of four Under-20 World Cups so far this decade. It didn’t finish among the top three in any of four Under-17 World Cups. Along with Japan, European teams from France, Germany and Spain dominated those events, with England and Italy in the top three as often as the Americans.For U.S. defender Ali Krieger, the lightbulb moment came while playing professionally in Germany more than a decade ago. Not far removed from playing college soccer at Penn State, she looked up during a Champions League knockout-round game and saw a 16-year-old teammate enter as a substitute. That’s a far cry from a high school game.”That’s the different mentality,” Krieger said recently. “They’re thrown into their professional system so early, and that’s why they develop these really good players at a young age. It’s just a different model. Obviously, I encourage everyone to go to [college] and have that experience. But if you want to be a top player in our country, you have to understand the basic principles of the game. And you have to understand them at a young age and really grow with the game because the game constantly changes.”At the time she was in Europe, it was more difficult to find that kind of professional setting outside of Germany and Sweden. That’s no longer the case. The winner of the Champions League in each of the past four seasons, Lyon leads the way. But viable leagues exist in England, France and Spain, countries not so long ago resistant to the women’s game. Manchester United added a women’s team last season. Real Madrid will field one beginning in 2020.Even FIFA refereeing czar Pierluigi Collina noted recently that after so many years of cultural neglect, his native Italy set television records as its national team advanced to the quarterfinals. The same Italy where Juventus just won its second domestic title in its second year as a team.France had been the flag-bearer for this new wave of European success, which only added to the pain of its quarterfinal loss. After reaching a World Cup semifinal for a second consecutive time, England is in the midst of turning domestic investment into international glory. The Dutch never made a World Cup before 2015. They came within a game of a world title.But almost as telling of the U.S. predicament was the first knockout game, when a Spanish team that qualified for its first World Cup in 2015 went toe to toe with the Americans.Now a member of Reign FC in the NWSL who played collegiately at the University of Alabama for two seasons, Celia Jimenez Delgado was part of that Spanish team and grew up in the same world Krieger described. She wasn’t a paid professional, but she played for Sevilla in Spain’s top division at 16. She lived hours from her family, her roommate a goalkeeper in her 30s, all while coming through a youth national system for which those youth titles are a byproduct of preparing players for the senior level, rather than a goal unto themselves.”Spain has a really specific soccer philosophy, or style of play, and I think that game has been developing for the past 10 years,” Jimenez Delgado said. “The investment from the federation and the institutions that support the sport, they’re providing more money and more resources.”At the end of the day, if you as an athlete take care of every variable you can control, but you’re not provided with a platform or the materials or the coaching staff to keep growing as an athlete, it’s harder to improve.”None of which is to say that the European game is without its own issues of sustainability and support, despite the influx of brand names behind teams. But no matter what happened Sunday in Lyon and no matter who coached the team or how that person constructed it over the past three years, that is the world the U.S. now inhabits. Social progress on this order rarely regresses. Girls who grow up in Madrid, Manchester and Milan will continue to play the game.That happened in the blink of an eye.Netherlands defender Merel van Dongen, 26, was the only player on the field Sunday who went to an SEC school. She was 19 years old when she left home to play on scholarship for the University of Alabama. As a teenage player at home, she recalled working multiple shifts at a restaurant during the day, then training for two hours after work.”Then I went to Alabama, where they had a budget for women’s football that was insane,” van Dongen said before the final. “The only thing I had to do was train and play, and they did everything for me. OK, I had to make good grades in school. But that was the difference, it was so professional. They [taught] me how to take care of my body. I thought I knew what training hard was until I went to the University of Alabama.”One of the reasons I’m here is what I learned in the United States.”Empires rarely vanish overnight. Rome produced emperors and influenced the world long after it was sacked by the Goths. And the U.S. still has massive advantages in women’s soccer.Even amid decreasing youth participation in the U.S., no European rival will ever be able to match the overall talent pool in a nation of more than 300 million people. And as Jimenez Delgado was quick to point out from her time at Alabama, Title IX creates a legally mandated equality of opportunity that isn’t the case in much of Europe. She came to the U.S. precisely because it is possible to mix playing soccer and studying aerospace engineering in college.But there are options now. The year after van Dongen left Alabama, the Netherlands qualified for its first World Cup. Two years after that, it won the Euros at home. Everything changed.”If you’re 18, 19, you don’t have to work seven hours a day to make your money,” van Dongen said. “Absolutely not. You get a contract and you work and you train and you become a professional. It even starts from younger ages — Ajax, for example, they have a youth academy. A lot of the teams have youth academies now, something that I always wanted but couldn’t do.”That’s also something I take from the United States, is that they have such a history and they have been building young players. And we’re doing that now as the Netherlands.”So yes, the demise of U.S. women’s soccer would be greatly exaggerated. Like Brazil in men’s soccer, the U.S. will continue to produce so much talent that choosing a national team roster remains a riveting storyline second in popularity only to second-guessing coaches. The U.S. will remain among the favorites in every tournament. Also like Brazil, it won’t win most of them — which the U.S. did in winning eight of the 14 major titles available to it between 1991 and 2019.But when it comes to identifying, developing and training the very best players among us, it also wouldn’t hurt to follow someone else’s lead for a change. Despite a four-month college season and a pay-to-play/win-at-all costs youth culture, the U.S. has succeeded in spite of these things in the past.It succeeded in spite of those things in 2019. It won’t forever. It won’t, at least to the extent it has, for much longer.”It was a matter of time,” Jimenez Delgado said in regard to Spanish success at the youth level translating to senior success. “For the results to start showing.”This U.S. team is the best in the world. The past month showed that time was up on the American game leading the way.
Player ratings: USWNT v. Netherlands
The USWNT beat the Netherlands 2-0 in the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday in Lyon, as Jill Ellis become the first coach in history to win back-to-back World Cups.There were plenty of dominant performances from the U.S. women’s national team, but a few stood out above the rest as a star was born and veterans stood tall.Below is a look at the player ratings for the USWNT from the final.
Alyssa Naeher: 7 – Solid enough. Came off her line well in the first half. Didn’t have much to do.
Kelley O’Hara: 6 – Reliable at right back but a nasty head collision saw her taken off at half time.
Abby Dahlkemper: 6 – Still a little shaky and was caught out and booked in the first half. Got better throughout the tournament.
Becky Sauerbrunn: 7 – Took a nasty knock to the head but held the US defense together.
Crystal Dunn: 8 – Another brilliant display at left back and could have scored late on.
Julie Ertz: 8 – The glue that holds this USWNT team together. Superb defensive leader. Great tournament. Almost scored in first half.
Rose Lavelle: 9 – Her fine solo goal capped off a fine display and tournament. The newest USWNT star.
Sam Mewis: 7 – Went close with a header in the first half and proved she deserved to start over Horan.
Tobin Heath: 7 – Never stopped running and caused so many problems for the defense.
Alex Morgan: 6 – Went down easily in the box in the first half. Battled hard and won the PK. Not her best tournament.
Megan Rapinoe: 6 – She scored the penalty kick, whipped in a good cross in the first half and was named the official woman of the match, but again, a pretty quiet game.
Ali Kireger : 6 – Very solid at right back after replacing the injured O’Hara at half time.
Christen Press: 6 – Late cameo saw her open up the Dutch defense on a few occasions.
Carli Lloyd: 6 – Some trademark surging runs after coming off the bench in what could be her last USWNT game.
The US Rises to Third on the Overall Global Soccer Power Index!
Know and accept this fact: your country is a world soccer power.I know we Americans have been conditioned to think of other countries, far to the east or south, as the true heavyweights of the sport. Yet, of all those other soccer-playing countries around the world, there are actually only two that surpass the Red, White, and Blue on the global soccer power index. That’s right, only two countries in the world outpace our beloved United States as soccer powers.Let’s cut to the chase. There may be lots of ways to measure a country’s position in the global soccer pecking order, but here’s one that is simple to compute and objective: rank order all the countries in the world based on the number of FIFA World Cup championships each has won. To lift a World Cup trophy is an extraordinary achievement for a country and its soccer enterprise, and rarely (if ever) does it happen as a fluke. Winning a World Cup is the result of a country’s domestic soccer talent, its ability to develop that talent, and its organizational coherence to form a team capable of enduring the marathon that is a World Cup cycle. So, comparing the total number of World Cups each country has won is a measure of global soccer power because, “you are what your record says you are.”
In the history of global soccer, 29 official FIFA World Cups have been held for senior men’s and women’s teams. 21 on the men’s side and 8 on the women’s side, and only 11 countries (out of FIFA’s 211 member countries) have ever lifted one of those FIFA world championship trophies. Yes, it is factually true the Men’s World Cup is older and produces more revenue, but the Women’s World Cup is equally valuable as a measure of a country’s soccer prowess. There is zero rational reason to weight a Men’s World Cup championship any more than a Women’s World Cup championship as a measure of a country’s global ranking in soccer.
So, adding up the total number of FIFA World Cups each country has won produces our global soccer power index. And here it is:
|Nation||Total FIFA World Cups||Men’s Championships||Women’s Championships|
Perhaps not surprisingly, Germany is the world’s greatest soccer country. As the only country to win both Women’s and Men’s World Cups (in fact, it has multiple of each), the Germans have the most FIFA trophies in their display case, and they truly represent the pinnacle of global soccer. They remain a serious threat at any World Cup (women’s or men’s) to appear in the final and win the trophy. The old adage from Gary Lineker is almost always true (except when the American women are on the field): “Football is a simple game. Twenty-two [players] chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”
The next team on the global soccer power index is Brazil, the spiritual home of the beautiful game. Brazil has produced geniuses on the ball, both male and female. They’ve come close to winning a Women’s World Cup to go along with their five Men’s World Cup titles (the most of any country), but it seems their women’s team has hit its high water mark (at least with this generation of players), and their men will be 20 years removed from their last World Cup title when the next tournament begins in 2022. If Brazil doesn’t win another trophy soon, the United States will tie them on the global soccer power index with one more title.
Germany and Brazil. Those two countries are stronger soccer nations than the United States. But, that’s it.
Here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, our soccer prominence is derived from the success of our women’s national team, the most successful women’s team on the planet—by far. Consistency in the World Cup is remarkably difficult, yet the American women have been dominantly constant, reaching the semifinals in all 8 women’s tournaments. Our men have a lot of work to do right now to prove they can once again be a dominant power in CONCACAF, let alone a team which regularly advances out of the World Cup group stage to challenge for a World Cup title. But soccer in all its forms is on the rise in the US, and the US men need to be better and should be better to reflect this overall improvement in the American soccer landscape and to match their counterparts on the US women’s team. But, none of this about the US Men’s National Team really matters right now, for it is due to the remarkable exploits of our women that the United States earns its #3 spot on the global soccer power index.
At this point, we will acknowledge that Italy is tied with the United States for third on the global soccer power index. Italy’s soccer success emanates from its men’s team, having won four Men’s World Cup titles, and reaching the semifinals on four other occasions when it did not win. Known for its defensive organization, the Azzurri are traditionally a threat to compete for a Men’s World Cup title, but they did not make the tournament in 2018—so they will have to prove they can get back to their winning ways. The Italian women’s team did make the quarterfinals at this most recent Women’s World Cup, but they will have to prove they can be a championship-level team in a rapidly improving UEFA women’s landscape.
That leaves a lot of other great soccer countries behind us in the global soccer power index:
– Argentina, thank you for producing two of the three greatest men’s players of all time. Messi is an ongoing wondrous soccer savant the likes of whom we may never see again (but it seems less and less likely he will ever lift an international trophy with Argentina), and Maradona remains…well, he remains Maradona. But, your women’s team hasn’t yet made a significant splash on the world scene as it was bounced in the group stage of this year’s Women’s World Cup.- France, you won a Men’s World Cup on home soil in 1998, were a head-butt away from another in 2006, and you lifted a second trophy last year in Russia, but your excellent women’s team failed to break through and win a World Cup trophy despite hosting this most recent tournament. If France’s women’s team can ever live up to their talent and expectations, and their men remain a regular contender, France seems primed to move up the global soccer power index in the years ahead.
– Uruguay, you were the first world soccer champion, and we still like watching your men play the game. But, what about your women’s team which has never qualified for a Women’s World Cup?
– England, as the country which invented this game, you still have an outsized influence on it around the globe. We enjoy the grainy film of your controversial 1966 Men’s World Cup victory over West Germany as much as any student of history, and the World Cup fortunes of both your women’s team and your men’s team (and your youth teams) are on the rise as you’ve been to the semifinals in the past two women’s tournaments and the last men’s tournament. It appears you’ve cracked the code on converting the terrific financial resources of the FA into success on the field, but will that actually lead to either of your teams lifting a World Cup trophy in the coming years?
– Japan, you are the technical wizards of the women’s game, and a pleasure to watch. Your men’s team is also a consistent World Cup team. But is either really a threat to win a world cup trophy in the upcoming cycles?- Norway, your single Women’s World Cup puts you on this list, but will you ever be able to reclaim your early glory in the women’s tournament? It certainly doesn’t help when Ada Hegerberg, considered by many to be the best women’s player in the world, doesn’t want to suit up for your team. And what about your men’s team? They haven’t made a World Cup since 1998.- Spain, your men’s team may have been the best team ever to play the game between 2008-2012, but can you get back to those heights? Your women definitely seem to be on the rise as well, and it will be fun to watch whether they can become a world championship side in the years ahead.This list doesn’t even include great soccer-playing nations which have come oh-so-close to winning a World Cup, yet have fallen short despite reaching a final: Netherlands and Sweden (both having reached finals at both the men’s and women’s tournament), Czechoslovakia, Hungary, China, and Croatia. And, other countries that consider themselves soccer powers of some sort, such as Mexico, Portugal, and Belgium, are nowhere to be found because this list is based on world championships.America, thanks to our terrific women, we now rightly take our place as the third best soccer nation in the world, standing shoulder-to-shoulder beside our Italian equals.It’s OK, America, if we still enjoy the soccer played in other countries, and our players still aspire to test their skills in foreign leagues. It’s also OK to say we need to improve in various ways across our men’s and women’s programs. But, let us never doubt our place in the global soccer pantheon again. Let us never apologize for our game, for our success, for our soccer heritage and traditions. They are just as valid, just as meaningful, and just as globally relevant as any other in the world, save for two.We are a global soccer power, no ands, ifs, or buts. All thanks to the US Women’s National Team.Four years ago, after Carli Lloyd led the United States Women’s National Team past Japan in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final, I shared an earlier version of this post with the good people over at Black and Red United, SB Nation’s D.C. United blog. Today, I post an updated version of this blog in light of the America’s outstanding women winning our fourth FIFA World Cup trophy, and singlehandedly moving the United States into third position on the table of soccer-playing nations.
19 USMNT things we learned (or didn’t learn) at the 2019 Gold Cup
Henry Bushnell,Yahoo Sports Wed, Jul 10 4:44 AM EDT
CHICAGO — The United States men’s national team entered the 2019 Gold Cup with two objectives. One was to win. And on a fiery night at Soldier Field on Sunday, it failed to do that.The first major tournament of the Gregg Berhalter era, however, was anything but an abject failure. Because the second objective was to learn. And that the USMNT certainly did. Players learned Berhalter’s system. He learned about them.And over eight games – two friendlies, six competitive ones – we learned as well.Those learnings are the subject of this Gold Cup epilogue, a look at both answers and questions that the past month unearthed.
1. The U.S. should qualify for 2022 comfortably
Let’s begin from 10,000 feet. The Gold Cup told us very little about the USMNT’s ability to reach, say, the 2022 World Cup quarterfinals. But the systematic breaking down of inferior opponents was encouraging with respect to qualifiers and the CONCACAF Nations League.The U.S. controlled games and attacked purposefully. It was relatively impervious to counters. There’s a slight outstanding worry that Central American and Caribbean pitches could disrupt Greggy Ball – as the Total Soccer Show has dubbed it. But gone are the days of USMNTs running around those fields cluelessly. This one has a plan. The possession-based approach will help it dispatch lesser foes – as it did over the past three weeks.
2. The big picture remains murky
It is still wholly unproven, however, against World Cup-caliber teams. And that has been the concern all along with a system predicated on “disorganizing the opponent,” as Berhalter puts it, with spacing and ball circulation in possession.To this end, the Mexico game provided both positive and negative indicators. We’ll dig into both below. My main long-term takeaway, though, was that the Americans’ willingness to shift their approach and play more direct was reassuring. Berhalter is far from a proverbial one-trick pony.
3. The adaptability of Berhalter’s system
The biggest lesson from the past month is Berhalter’s flexibility. There had been a concern among some that the new boss was married to specific formations, and to roles and ideas within them; that his commitment to that ideal would govern team selection; and that it would restrict his use of an already thin player pool. Club managers – which Berhalter had been his entire coach career – can mold their roster to their preferred systems. National team managers work with what they’re offered, and therefore often must mold roles to suit players. Was Berhalter willing to do that? Could he adjust withinthe system?The answer is yes.Berhalter has a favored attacking shape. It’s what we’ll call a 3-2-4-1. (It’s also been termed a 3-2-2-3 or 3-2-5.) Earlier this year, the USMNT would morph into it via a “hybrid” right back who’d “invert” into midfield, turning a base 4-1-4-1 into the 3-2-4-1.Berhalter went into June with Tyler Adams earmarked for that role. Then he lost the do-it-all 20-year-old to injury. He realized Nick Lima and Reggie Cannon were better as traditional, vertical right backs. So he adjusted. Gradually, throughout the tournament. Right backs pushed high, into the space previously occupied by wingers – who, rather than hugging the sideline, began tucking inside. Weston McKennie, the right sided attacking midfielder, began dropping into the space Adams would have “inverted” into. And … voilà – the 3-2-4-1 was alive and well.
Numbers by position: GK (1); RB (2), CB (5), CB (4), LB (3); DM (6), CM (8), AM (10); RW (11), ST (9), LW (7). (Animation: Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports via tactical-board.com)
In fact, in the Panama game, the U.S. had a third method for getting into it. From the 20th minute onward, defensive midfielder Wil Trapp would drop between the center backs. Both fullbacks would get forward. Both wingers would look for space infield. (See animation above.)With Tim Ream, a natural center back, at left back in every other game, the U.S. played asymmetrically. Ream would stay at home with the central defenders to create the back three. But with Daniel Lovitz in for him, and capable attackers at both fullback positions, Berhalter tailored the rotations to his players’ strengths.
4. Has The Pulisic Question been answered?
Berhalter also tailored the No. 10 position to the No. 10’s strengths. I wrote about that at length heading into the semifinal. The semi and the final drove home the answer to The Christian Pulisic Question even further. His best position with the U.S.? It’s whatever he makes it.Nominally, it’s a central position. But as Berhalter would say, Pulisic “interprets” that central position differently than others. He interchanges with Paul Arriola. He darts diagonally, in-to-out, when Arriola checks toward the ball, a run we’re hereby naming the “Pulisic run.”Movement like that bring out his winger qualities. His starting position brings out his central playmaking qualities. His defensive position alongside the striker brings out his counterattacking qualities – a crucial, under-discussed aspect of this debate. When the U.S. bypasses midfield, he can play off the central striker and gallop at goal.I used to be a “play him wide, especially against bad teams” guy. After the Gold Cup, I’m a “play him central” convert.
5. Defensive problems are in the details, not the shape
I’ve gotten questions and heard chatter about the shortcomings of, or even holes in, the U.S. defensive shape. And, to be honest, I’m confused. The Americans conceded two goals in 540 minutes of soccer. That’s … good? I think?The shape in question is a base 4-4-2, or 4-2-2-2, with Pulisic and the striker leading the press, and McKennie and Michael Bradley below them. It wasn’t the problem against Mexico. Actually, the problem was that the shape wasn’t enough of a 4-4-2 late on. When Mexico’s defensive midfielder, Edson Alvarez, would drop between the center backs in possession, the U.S. would go man-for-man. The striker would slide to the middle of a line of three. The right winger would step up and press Hector Moreno, Mexico’s left center back.This created a chain reaction. Right back Reggie Cannon would charge at Mexico’s left back. Matt Miazga, the USMNT’s right center back, would rotate over to Mexico’s left winger.That left Bradley and McKennie 2-v-2 – or sometimes 2-v-3 – in midfield. But only because Christian Roldan, for example, was playing like a third forward instead of a midfielder:/Yahoo Sports)That’s the buildup to the goal, which was mostly on McKennie. But a staid 4-4-2, with Roldan tucking in from the weak side, also could have prevented it.The point here is that no shape inherently does or doesn’t work. Effectiveness is determined by execution of it and details within it. The right winger’s defensive role wasn’t coherent on Sunday. Especially not in the second half, when legs got heavy and long pressing runs wore down already-worn players. The whole point of inserting Roldan was supposedly to shore up midfield … yet he defended exactly how Jordan Morris defends.This is a fixable problem, though. A detail within the 4-4-2, a small tweak to make against some opponents and ignore against others. And there will be other tweaks over the coming months and years as well. There’s no need for an overhaul.
6. Individual shortcomings weren’t glaring, but will be
In general, the vast majority of U.S. shortcomings – at the Gold Cup, and beyond – were and are personnel-related. They’re occasionally exacerbated by unfamiliarity with the system. I stand by most of what I wrote after the Venezuela game, even if some of it was overreactive: By 21st century USMNT standards, this crop of players simply isn’t that good. Not good enough to win Gold Cups, probably not good enough to get out of an average World Cup group.Of course, that sounds ridiculous, because the USMNT was good enough to win this Gold Cup. Three players who absolutely aren’t the problem – Pulisic, McKennie and Altidore – came up short in Sunday’s three biggest moments. But play that game a few more times – especially with both teams at full strength – and a small gulf in class would become clear.
7. Weston McKennie’s bumpy growth
McKennie wasn’t great against Mexico. He was awesome against Jamaica. He was sloppy against Curacao. He also scored the winner against Curacao. In five games, he was all over the place – in good ways and bad.But that’s expected of a 20-year-old. The mental lapses, the occasional discomfort in a complex system. It’s all par for the course. The most important development was McKennie’s grasp on his role. I wrote about that at length last week:McKennie opened the Gold Cup as something close to a No. 10. He was pushing high, lurking in between lines, looking to receive a forward pass on the half-turn and play another one. It’s a role he enjoys … but one that constrained him.Since, he has dropped deeper, from a Christian Pulisic-adjacent position to more of a Michael Bradley-adjacent one. And it has unleashed him. Opened up his soccer toolbox.It diversified his attacking game, and put an enforcer beside Bradley to keep Bradley protected. You can read the piece for a full breakdown, but the takeaway is this: Despite the inconsistency, Berhalter seems to have found McKennie’s best role. Now, if only Schalke would play him in it too.
8. Sunday’s contradictions
The most interesting aspect of the Mexico undoing were postgame explanations for it. As detailed here, everyone agreed the U.S. lost control of the game. Where players and coach seemed to differ was on what they should have done differently.Toward the end of the first half, Mexico started winning direct balls and coming right back down the USMNT’s throat. Berhalter, therefore, wanted his team to keep the ball; to use possession to halt the rising tide; to play his way.Some players, however, felt they could have doubled down on route one instead.This, as I wrote, is essentially a status report on the Berhalter era:
Until Sunday, Berhalter’s process had been humming. At half-empty American football stadiums, in front of pro-U.S. crowds, against inferior opponents, the U.S. rarely wavered from the boss’ approach. His teachings overrode their past tendencies, the freshly instilled philosophies uninfected by circumstance.On Sunday, that changed. Discomfort crept in. So did human nature.Inside players’ brains, in a way, there was likely tension: between what they knew and what they’d been told. In more serene environments, they had been able to adhere to coaches’ advice. In front of 50,000 Mexicans and Mexican Americans with immortal vocal cords, the beer in their cups waiting to fly, adherence was much more difficult. Some might view the postgame contradictions as problematic. But there was rationale on both sides. Route One, after all, had worked early. As long as coach-player disagreement is measured, reasoned, and communicated properly, it can actually be healthy.
9. So … the striker position
The most puzzling aspect of the entire month was Berhalter’s management of his striker rotation. Altidore is, to almost anyone with a lick of soccer knowledge, easily the best American at the position. He’s the team’s second-best playmaker. His hold-up play is vital. And yet … he only got more than 65 minutes once all tournament – in the meaningless final group match against Panama, with the reserves.There were rumblings early on about fitness, but Altidore played 90 minutes for Toronto FC before arriving at U.S. camp last month. Berhalter eventually confirmed that Altidore was “exactly where we need him to be,” and had “been ready to play.”OK, so load management, then?After the final, Altidore stopped to chat with print/online media for the first time all tournament. Presuming he’d had discussions with Berhalter about load management, I asked him: “What went into the way that your minutes and playing time were managed throughout the tournament?”His reply: “I don’t know.”In response to a follow-up, he confirmed he was fit.So … we have absolutely no idea what Berhalter thinks of his striker rotation going forward. I asked Berhalter ahead of the quarterfinal whether Altidore was his No. 1 striker if fully match-fit. He gave a non-committal answer. If I had to pick my biggest criticism of Berhalter at his first official competition, his management of Altidore would be it.Even if he was saving Altidore for the semifinal and final, he didn’t give Altidore a chance to build up his match fitness. Or, he yanked a gas-tank-still-full Altidore in the 64th minute of a tie game. Or he doesn’t rate Altidore significantly ahead of Zardes. Either way, he was or is wrong.
10. Tyler Boyd emerged … then disappeared
We also have no idea why Tyler Boyd didn’t see the field in the semifinal or final. (I’m told he was not injured.) Starting Morris, for his direct off-ball running, made complete sense. Using Roldan and Lovitz off the bench in the final ahead of Boyd did not.In the short time we got to see the New Zealander, he seemed to have more upside than any other winger on the Gold Cup roster – though Arriola is better at present.
11. The player who helped himself the most …
… was Aaron Long. He barely put a foot wrong. He solidified himself as a starting center back, even when – er, if – John Brooks gets healthy.
12. Who else helped or hurt their stock?
The most pleasant surprise was Reggie Cannon, who went from not on the roster to 21st-birthday call-up to one of the USMNT’s better players in the final.Miazga was also excellent on Sunday after appearing to be second-choice through the quarterfinals (and after some lax marking on the Jamaica goal in the semis). Then again, the U.S. didn’t concede a single goal with Walker Zimmerman on the field.That positional battle in the center of defense probably speaks to a larger point: There are very few starting spots locked down for the foreseeable future. Probably only four. New players will be integrated in the fall. Competition for places is legitimate, especially as the attention now turns toward qualifying.
13. Zack Steffen, U.S. No. 1
One of those aforementioned four is goalkeeper. We didn’t necessarily “learn” that Zack Steffen is the No. 1, but the Gold Cup confirmed it. (Oh, hey, shameless plug for our feature on him.)
14. The vibe
The U.S. men are nothing like the U.S. women when it comes to personality and camaraderie. (In fact, the contrast can be pretty stark at times.) But the vibe around the team was generally good throughout the tournament. Players are receptive to Berhalter’s ideas and management style. They’re not all buddy-buddy, but for the most part get along with one another. There were no rumblings of rifts.
15. Berhalter’s captaincy rotation
Berhalter chose a new captain for each of the six games. It was Bradley, then Steffen, then Omar Gonzalez, then Pulisic, then Ream, then McKennie. It’s not a completely novel approach, but did raise eyebrows.Most captaincies, though, are symbolic anyway. The idea behind this scheme is that there isn’t one figure that others feel compelled to gravitate toward or fall in line with. Bradley, in a traditional sense, is probably the captain. But the whole point of what Berhalter calls “diversity of leadership” is that there isn’t one singular, domineering voice.Which, I guess, is all to say that this isn’t an issue – especially not three-and-a-half years out from a World Cup.
16 The big question: Where does Adams fit in?
As we turn our attention forward, and do some projecting of the future, the biggest question concerns Adams. He’s a sure-fire starter. Is he still a right back in Berhalter’s eyes? Meaning we’d revert to the “inverted” right back? Or is he a central midfielder, where he plays at club level?There’s no easy answer, in part because of the alternatives. Adams’ place in midfield would likely be the one currently occupied by Bradley – who, like him or not, is still one of the USMNT’s better players. Right back, meanwhile, is suddenly one of the team’s deepest positions, with Lima and Cannon both looking capable and DeAndre Yedlin returning from injury in the fall.We’ve seen Berhalter’s flexibility. We’ll see what he does here.
17. The current starting XI
What’s the USMNT’s starting lineup right now, if everybody’s healthy and a game against a team of Mexico’s caliber must be won tomorrow?I’ll go: Zack Steffen; Tyler Adams, Aaron Long, John Brooks, Tim Ream; Michael Bradley, Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic; DeAndre Yedlin, Jozy Altidore, Paul Arriola.
18. Who from the Gold Cup will be in Qatar?
Let’s frame the long-term look-ahead this way: Which players from the Gold Cup 23 are we more than 50 percent confident will be at the 2022 World Cup?
My list: Steffen, Long, Miazga, Bradley, McKennie, Pulisic, Arriola, Altidore.
(That’s eight. For what it’s worth, eight of the 23 from the 2011 Gold Cup made the 2014 World Cup roster. This time, the gap is five months longer. But this time, hopefully, the coach is the same.)
19. What about 2022 starters?
Similar question to wrap this up: Which players from the Gold Cup 23 are we more than 50 percent confident will start a 2022 World Cup opener?Factoring in the slim possibility the U.S. doesn’t qualify, my list cuts off at four: Steffen, Long, McKennie, Pulisic.
Mexico delivers harsh lessons to the USMNT
3:22 AM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent
CHICAGO — Throughout this Gold Cup, United States manager Gregg Berhalter spoke of nothing less than winning the tournament. Given the strength of Mexico’s side — even one shorn of players such as Tecatito Corona, Chicharito Hernandez, Carlos Vela and Miguel Layun — the odds of that happening seemed long.So the Gold Cup was always going to be about more than winning. It was going to be about gaining experience for the younger elements of the U.S. squad, as well as a manager new to the international game. It was also about absorbing tough lessons, and boy did the ones delivered in Sunday’s 1-0 Gold Cup final loss to Mexico hurt.One of the lessons is as old as the game itself: A team playing a more talented opponent simply has to take its chances, and the Americans didn’t, especially early in the match. Both Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore failed to convert clear breakaways in the first 10 minutes, with Mexico keeper Guillermo Ochoasaving Pulisic’s effort and Altidore failing to put his attempt on target. Paul Arriola darted through and beat Ochoa to a ball in the 31st minute, but could only roll his tight-angled effort wide. Jordan Morris had a header cleared off the line by Andres Guardado in the 51st minute.It was at that point that the game turned irrevocably, and it was time for U.S. to be handed some different lessons, most notably in terms of game management, both on the field and on the sideline. Berhalter never did have an answer for the tactical adjustments made by Mexico counterpart Tata Martino, in particular Martino’s moving of Rodolfo Pizarro to the right flank where he could run at Tim Ream, a center-back attempting to play left-back.Pizarro had already been a huge presence in the first half, teeing up Andres Guardado for a 16th-minute chance. Pizarro’s influence only increased in the second half, and the same was true of his teammates. Mexico’s grip on the game tightened. The U.S. proved incapable of keeping the ball. And after pounding on the door — with multiple shots going right at U.S. keeper Zack Steffen — Mexico finally carved out a goal of quality. Of course it was Pizarro in the middle of it, and his pass to Raul Jimenez was back-heeled to Jonathan dos Santos whose bending shot beat Steffen in the U.S. goal.So just how did the game get away from the U.S.? The assessments varied.”It became a very vertical game, and it opened up a lot of space,” Berhalter said postmatch about the second half. “We needed to avoid that by being able to keep [the] ball, being able to move the ball side to side, moving more horizontally rather than vertically.”We were rushing attacks in the second half, much too direct, and it cost us energy.”Berhalter added, “I think what we lacked was I think some of the confidence, some of the composure. We knew it was going to be a big event, we knew it was going to be a semi-hostile crowd. And I think what I’d say is the confidence is what we lacked. Mexico certainly had it.”Both Bradley and Altidore spoke of how the U.S. struggled to find the first pass when it regained possession.”We’ve got a young team, and I think there’s moments of growth there,” Altidore said about the second half. “I think if you look at that 10-15 minute period, we lost the game a bit. We were trying to play out of the back and stick to our guns and try to get up the field a bit, get in their half and try to change the momentum a bit.”The team’s inexperience in some parts of the field was evident as well, and was especially true for Weston McKennie. The Schalke midfielder was handed the captain’s armband, a surprising move given the presence of more experienced players such as Altidore and Michael Bradley. Whether it was the armband or the strength of the opponent, the occasion proved to be too heavy for McKennie. His passing was labored, and he lost dos Santos on Mexico’s goal.Berhalter’s attempts to combat the game’s change in fortune were mixed. Bringing on Cristian Roldan for the struggling Morris in the 62nd minute made some sense. Gyasi Zardes coming in for Altidore two minutes later, not so much. Both substitutions conveyed a message of being defensive in posture and playing to get to extra time.The introduction of Daniel Lovitz for Tim Ream was a head-scratcher given that Tyler Boyd was available, though Berhalter explained himself in his postmatch news conference.”When we brought on Cristian, the idea was to help us keep possession,” he said. “It was to help us overload the center of the field. I thought we had a difficult time in the center of the field tonight. We felt like he was going to give us the help that we needed centrally, and I think he did well.”With Gyasi, it was a case of legs, just getting fresh legs. It’s very hard to press Mexico if you don’t have the stamina, if you’re not ready to spring really hard. Jozy put in good shift. We were using him a lot, and I think he did a good job. But we needed some legs there.”In Daniel’s case, at the end of the game we wanted width, we wanted to move our wingers inside and get some crosses into the penalty box. We were willing to risk more staying with a two-and-one on the back line, getting our fullbacks high, tucking our wingers inside and trying to create pressure that way.”Berhalter’s moves regarding Altidore remain perplexing. The drop-off in play by the U.S. in each of the last two matches when Altidore departed was clear. At the least, Altidore could be counted on to occupy the opposition center-backs better than Zardes. Altidore was at a loss to explain it as well. Speaking to English-language media for the first time in weeks, he insisted that he felt fine when he was subbed out.”I felt really good, I felt strong. I felt like I was affecting the game,” the U.S. forward said.When asked about how he his minutes were managed in the tournament — he was the first player subbed in each of the last two games, and prior to that saw Zardes start most of the matches — Altidore said, “I don’t know. I felt good, or else I don’t think I’d be here.”The extent to which the U.S. can parley the experience of Sunday’s final, as well as the whole tournament, into continued growth is the big question going forward. Certainly the team looked more cohesive as the tournament went on. And while McKennie struggled in the final, and Pulisic’s finishing touch went missing on the night, it should be noted that both players showed progress over the last several weeks. The same was true of a back-line that conceded just two goals in the entire tournament.”We have a quality team, and we believe in a lot of the young players,” said Berhalter. “We think that at the end of the day, we need to gain experience. A game like this is perfect for us. It was a big occasion, a lot of the players first time playing in a game like this, and we need to learn. We weren’t ready for the step tonight but we will be ready.”The U.S. is still the beneficiary of lowered expectations as well as mediocre competition in the tournament. Given how many players Mexico was missing, it’s clear that a significant gap between the two sides remains. But the U.S. needed to start this cycle somewhere. Reaching the Gold Cup final isn’t a bad first step.
Armchair Analyst: Clinical Mexico put USMNT to the sword July 8, 201912:47AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer
No matter that the US men’s national team made the Gold Cup final, there are still questions. No matter that they often played flowing, enjoyable soccer – including and especially in the first half against Mexico – there are still questions. No matter that they had young players step up all over the field, no matter that they only gave up two goals throughout the tournament while scoring 15, no matter that they smashed a pair of teams (Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica) that really needed smashing, and a dose of reading from the book of “Turnabout is Fair Play,” there are still questionsNo matter that The System™ mostly worked, and a lot of what Gregg Berhalter’s been trying to do was vindicated by mostly linear progress (the Curacao game excepted), there are still questions. Here are a few:
- Can Tyler Adams manage the game from defensive midfield in the same way that Michael Bradleyso often did?
- Is there any other No. 9 in the US pool who can do the hold-up play that made Jozy Altidoreirreplaceable?
- Is there any upgrade available at left back?
- Can The System™ be more effective with Paxton Pomykalat central midfield and Christian Pulisic at left wing rather than Pulisic in central midfield and Paul Arriola at left wing?
- Will Weston McKennie continue to improve at central midfield – i.e., will Schalke actually play him there this coming season?
- Will we see a return to the hybrid RB/DM of the first four games of the Berhalter era, or continue with the more common overlapping right back we saw in this tournament?
These are all important questions, and there are at least a half-dozen others that need to be asked as well. But they’re questions that come from within the context of a team that’s both discovered and embraced an identity, and whose next 12 months have to be about leaning into it. They’ve asked and answered the “who are we?” question – it’s an answer I mostly like a lot, by the way – and now it’s about “how do we make who we are better?”
That’s the long view, and it’s a good one. Now a few thoughts from the game itself:
- Things spun out of controlin the second half of the game after a first 45 in which the US had, I would argue, the better of play (and unquestionably had the better ideas). Tata Martino made two decisive moves, flipping Rodolfo Pizarro to the right side and pushing both fullbacks much higher than they’d gotten in the first half.Pizarro, who’s arguably been the best player in the last two editions of the Concacaf Champions League, was both an attacking menace and a defensive improvement, as he neutralized US left back Tim Ream as a distribution hub. Ream’s ability to pick passes in the first half was often the path forward for the US, and in the second half it no longer existed. It changed the game, and tilted it decisively in Mexico’s favor.Meanwhile the pushed-up fullbacks further cut off the US ability to play from the back. There were no open avenues.
- Central midfield tracking hasworried me throughout the tournament, and central midfield tracking is what led to the game’s only goal:
This is on McKennie. This is what it looks like when a talented player just switches off, when he lacks the awareness necessary to make match-winning plays. That’s been the knock on McKennie at Schalke, and it was the knock on him throughout the tournament.I’m, nonetheless, mostly encouraged by his overall performance. He found more of the game as the tournament went on and generally was more awake to danger match by match. He had the best one of his career against Jamaica in the semifinals, and he did some good things against Mexico in before that frustrating, naive final hour.And that’s the lesson: It’s so often a game of moments. Mexican veteran Jonathan Dos Santos has the reps to understand that, while 20-year-old McKennie doesn’t.Yet.
- The other big, game-defining momentscame in the first 10 minutes of the game when first Pulisic and then Altidore missed chances they should’ve finished. The expected goals total for the game said as much:
Here’s the truth: If, at the start of the month, you’d offered me a 1-0 loss in the final with the US playing well but Mexico just being a bit more ruthless and clinical in the final third, I’d have taken it. I think most fans would’ve as well.Offer me that on top of the fact that the US really did seem to look like they knew what they were doing in the build-up and became progressively better at executing it, and I can’t complain too much.I know most feel differently. I don’t.
- I’m going to borrow a line frommy buddy Tutul Rahman, who you should follow on Twitter: The biggest thing is if Berhalter learns from this. Specifically the next six months have to be pushing the player pool and getting less cute with tactical changes. He has a system that works and now he has to improve it by aggressively integrating younger players, and moving Pulisic to his natural wing spot, and figuring out how to vary the defensive shape a little bit out of the 4-2-2-2 and into more of a 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1 that adds numbers to central midfield. Sometimes it really is that simple — just a numbers game.Mexico won it tonight. Tata did a good job, and Jona seized the moment. Mexico, despite struggling against Martinique, Costa Rica, Haiti and the US, are once again the kings of Concacaf. They were the better team in the biggest moments, and when you do that over the course of an entire month, at the end of it you get to lift a trophy.It’s a good lesson for this young US group — coach included — to learn.
Bradley and Morris too slow, get 4/10 as U.S. lose Gold Cup final to Mexico
Jul 8, 2019Jason DavisU.S. soccer writer
The rebuild for the United States finally hit a wall on Sunday in the Gold Cup final with a 1-0 loss to Mexico in Chicago.
Jonathan dos Santos‘ second-half goal was the difference, while Gregg Berhalter’s first competitive tournament as USMNT manager ends with a handful of positives and a host of bigger questions.
The Americans came out on the front foot in the first half and looked to be the better team for large stretches of the opening stanza. Via Jozy Altidore‘s hold-up play and Christian Pulisic‘s ability to dribble defenders, the United States created dangerous chances that should have resulted in gaining the lead. Defensively, the USMNT frustrated Mexico’s attempts to play through width.
Following the promising first half, the U.S. quickly lost control of the game following the break. A poor performance from midfielders tasked with linking the defensive line and the attack limited what the Americans could do. The wasted chances in the first half point to a problem with finishing that may dog the team going into the future.
Manager rating (out of 10)
5 — Berhalter got a lot right and the opening half spoke to the progress the United States has made under the new head coach. But the lack of second-half adjustments and a series of questionable substitutions keep the grade down. In his first test against the USMNT’s biggest rival, Berhalter fell short.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Zack Steffen, 6 — Slightly questionable with distribution. Hard to fault for the Mexico goal.
DF Reggie Cannon, 6 — Another strong performance for a young player emerging in the tournament. Naive with decision-making in the attacking end.
DF Aaron Long, 7 — Excellent for most of the night. Made one obvious mistake in the first half. Dominant in the air.
DF Matt Miazga, 6 — Passed into pressure when the U.S. struggled to play out of the back. Very good defensively, including in one-on-one situations.
DF Tim Ream, 4 — Played a safe and defensively focused left-back. Made several good defensive stops. Put under pressure in the second half and mostly held up, though with significant help.
Michael Bradley was caught out by the lightning-quick Mexico attack in the USMNT’s 1-0 Gold Cup final loss on Sunday. John Dorton/ ISI Photos/Getty Images
MF Michael Bradley, 4 — A step slow to disastrous effect on a number of occasions, including on the lone Mexico goal. Struggled with passing and turned the ball over frequently in the second half.
MF Jordan Morris, 4 — Too slow with decisions, particularly when defending. Popped up with an excellent headed chance cleared off the line.
MF Weston McKennie, 4 — Did plenty of necessary work defensively. Did not pass well. Failed to impact the game on the attacking end.
MF Christian Pulisic, 7 —Fantastic on the run with the ball at his feet. Dangerous all night. Met the physical challenge of the game.
MF Paul Arriola, 5 — Not secure with the ball. Limited going forward by defensive requirements on the left flank. Put Mexico under pressure with energy and created a chance out of nothing.
FW Jozy Altidore, 6 — Missed a golden chance in the eighth minute. Did immense work with hold-up and passing. Battled for an hour-plus and won most of the physical confrontations.
MF Cristian Roldan, NR — Battled up the wing to help the U.S. regain a foothold in the game.
FW Gyasi Zardes, NR — Provided one flick-on for Pulisic.
DF Daniel Lovitz, NR — Made a short appearance. Wasteful with the ball.
MLS W2W4: Lodeiro, Pity headline superstar showdown in Seattle
Seattle Sounders and Atlanta United’s rabid fan bases have been huge staples of Major League Soccer. Be sure to tune in to ESPN on Sunday at 3:55 PM ET. (2:45)
8:41 AM ETArch BellU.S. soccer writer
MLS teams are returning to full strength following the conclusions of the Gold Cup and Copa America, and a pair of matches on ESPN this weekend should provide plenty of entertainment, with the Seattle Sounders hosting Atlanta United, and D.C. United facing the New England Revolution. Also, north of the border, rivals Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact will clash for the first time this season.
Superstar showdown in Seattle
Transfer rumors always add an extra layer of intrigue to proceedings, and we’ll have plenty of that when the Seattle Sounders host Atlanta United on Sunday (3:55 p.m. ET, ESPN). For about the millionth time since he arrived in Seattle, midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro has been linked with a move back to Boca Juniors following his comments in an interview in which he expressed his affinity for the Argentine club where he played prior to joining Seattle.It may be that one day Lodeiro will end up back in the Bombonera, but for now the sense is that his near-term future is in Seattle. He’s under contract until 2021 and is the cog in Seattle’s attacking wheel. Still, the talk will remain as long as Lodeiro expresses his affection for Boca.The love for a former Argentine club is a trait shared by ex-River Plate man Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez of Atlanta United. Since arriving in Georgia from River after winning the 2018 Copa Libertadores in epic fashion, Martinez has struggled in his new digs, with just a goal and four assists.That has prompted its own share of transfer speculation, with TyC Sports of Argentina claiming that Atlanta wanted to loan out Martinez, a report that Atlanta boss Frank de Boer quickly dismissed. Anyone who watched Martinez at River knows his creative capabilities, and it’s worth remembering that his adjustment at River in 2015 took time as well. Perhaps Atlanta won’t see the best of Pity until 2020, however they could certainly use a glimpse or two in the Pacific Northwest.
Revs get a big summer Bou-st
The Argentine is a proven goal scorer wherever he has played. The fact that he had 10 goals in the Liga MX Clausura with Tijuana suggests he could be even more prolific in MLS. If Brian Fernandez‘s early success with the Portland Timbers after a good season at Necaxa is a hint of things to come, Revs fans can feel optimistic.
The combination of Bou and Gil could turn New England into a force to be reckoned with this fall. It remains to be seen if Bou will debut on Friday night at D.C. United (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), but those in the nation’s capital know all too well the impact that a big summer signing can make after Wayne Rooney‘s stateside arrival a year ago. Unfortunately for Rooney, partner in crime Luciano Acosta will be missing due to suspension, giving a New England team with a spring in its step all the more motivation.
New arrivals in Canada
Saturday’s Canadian Classiquebetween the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) arrives at an interesting moment for both teams.o continue the transfer theme, Ignacio Piatti is another player who has constantly been linked with a move back to his native Argentina, but Impact president Kevin Gilmore made it clear that Piatti won’t be leaving anytime soon.That will be a relief to the Impact faith ful, but the wait continues for Piatti to return from an injury that will keep him out until summer’s end. The Argentine danger man has played just five matches this season, yet manager Remi Garde somehow has the Impact sitting fourth in the East.On the other side, TFC boss Greg Vanney has been missing many of his key pieces due to international duty, but Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley are back in the fold, while new arrivals Omar Gonzalez and Erickson Gallardo should give Toronto a good shot in the arm. With Toronto teetering on the playoff line, Vanney needs contributions from those four to become a contender.
PREVIEW | INDY ELEVEN RETURN TO USL CHAMPIONSHIP ACTION IN REMATCH AT HARTFORD ATHLETIC
By IndyEleven.com, 07/10/19, 5:15PM EDT Boys in Blue Seek to Extend Undefeated Streak at Hartford’s Dillon Stadium – 5:00 P.M. ET Dillon Stadium | Hartford, CT
SETTING THE TABLE:
Indy Eleven: 10W-2L-4D, 34 pts., 2nd in Eastern Conference
Hartford Athletic: 2W-12L-4D, 10 pts., 18th in Eastern Conference
LAST TIME OUT:
Indy Eleven 1 : 1 Louisville City FC | Saturday, June 29
Indy Eleven claimed a point from the first of two 2019 Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest (LIPAFC) matchups against the defending USL Cup champions. Midfielder Tyler Pasher scored the game’s first goal in the 9th minute, notching his seventh of the season and fifth in the month of June. Louisville leveled the score in the 55th minute after Paolo DelPiccolo’s Goal of the Week winning free kick found the back of Indy’s net.
- Indiana’s Team will be looking to be rude housewarming guests this Saturday, when it will serve as Hartford Athletic’s first opponent at the renovated Dillon Stadium, an 84-year-old venue that received a $13 million facelift by Athletic ownership group Hartford Sports Group.
- With its 1-1 draw against Louisville the last time out, Indy Eleven extended its undefeated streak in USL Championship play to 10 matches (6W-0L-4D), which is tied with Ottawa for the second-longest such streak in USLC this season and three games behind Tampa Bay’s season-starting 13-game undefeated run.
- However, the LIPAFC stalemate also resulted in the end of the club’s record-setting five-game win streak.
- Indy Eleven is also looking to extend its unbeaten streak on the road to three games, as the side hasn’t lost a match on the road since its 2-1 defeat to NYRB II on April 28. The only other away loss for the Boys in Blue – or any loss in league play, for that matter – came in the season opener on March 9 at St. Louis FC (1-2), which puts Indy’s impressive away ledger at 5W-2L-0D.
- Midfielder Tyler Pasher looks to continue his red-hot hot month of June into July. The Canadian scored five goals and recorded one assist in six games last month, resulting in a well-deserved place among the USL Championship’s five Player of the Month nominees.
- Indiana’s Team hopes to continue its four-game winning streak against 2019 USL Championship newcomers on Saturday night, having claimed all 12 possible points against expansion sides this season: 1-0 vs. Hartford (March 9), 3-0 at Memphis 901 FC (June 8), 2-1 at Loudoun United FC (June 15), and 3-0 vs. Birmingham Legion (June 26).
- Former Boy in Blue Wojciech Wojcik will face his former club for the second time in 2019. Wojcik made 22 appearances and scored two goals from 2015-16 with Indy.
- Hartford forward Jose Angulo is no stranger to facing the Boys in Blue as he’s made appearances against Indiana’s Team with Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL), where he made 47 appearances and scored 11 goals.
- Fellow Hartford forward Giuseppe Gentile is also familiar with the Boys in Blue, having squared up against the Indiana’s Team every year since 2015 as a member of now six different NASL and USL Championship sides.
INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH | DF MITCHELL OSMOND
Osmond put up another stout defensive 90-minute shift against Louisville City FC last time out, tallying two tackles, two clearances and a game-high six interceptions against the back-to-back USL Cup champions.Minutes came few and far between at the start of the season, but Osmond made the most of his recent six-match stint in the starting XI, which largely coincided with Neveal Hackshaw’s national team duties with Trinidad & Tobago. In the last 540 minutes of regular season play, the 25-year-old has accumulated 16 tackles, 17 clearances and 15 interceptions. Additionally, the University of Rio Grande graduate has completed over 85 percent of his passes on the season, created two chances on goal and has put his single shot on frame. But perhaps the most important number regarding Osmond is 0.50 – that’s the number of goals allowed per game with Osmond on the backline, the team conceding just thrice during his six June starts.
HARTFORD ATHLETIC PLAYER TO WATCH | MF HARRY SWARTZ
Swartz has been potent in front of goal for Hartford Athletic during his 10 appearances for the club. The 23-year-old has scored three goals for Hartford throughout the month of June, leaving him tied with forward Jose Angulo as the team’s leading goal scorer nearly halfway through the club’s inaugural season.The Massachusetts-born midfielder boasts an incredible conversion rate at 43 percent, scoring all of his goals within the first 30 minutes of the match. The objective will be to keep Swartz from finding space within Indy’s penalty area, as the scorer has scored his trio of goals from inside the opposition’s 18-yard box.
MATCHUP TO MARK | INDY FW THOMAS ENEVOLDSEN VS HARTFORD DEFENSE If defense wins championships, then Hartford Athletic is in trouble. The club currently finds themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, having conceded the most goals in the Eastern Conference and the second most across the league at 41. Hartford’s defense has allowed 13 goals in their last five matches played, which can only spell good news for Indy Eleven forward Thomas Enevoldsen.The Dane is tied with striking partner Dane Kelly for second most goals scored at four through Indy’s first 16 games, but his impact isn’t just felt from the back of the net – he’s equally as adept at creating attacking danger as well. The 31-year-old has created the most goal scoring chances of anyone on Indy Eleven’s roster with 37 key passes, tied for sixth most chances in the Eastern Conference. During the most recent three-game-in-seven-day stretch, the Danish striker accounted for two goals after scoring against Birmingham Legion (June 26) and assisting on Tyler Pasher’s first-half goal against Louisville City FC (June 29). Enevoldsen and the rest of the Indy attacking corps will be chomping at the bit heading into the fixture against a porous Hartford defense.
Don’t miss out on the Boys in Blue’s return to USL Championship play this Saturday at 5:00 p.m. ET when they head off to Hartford Athletic. Catch all the action live via ESPN+or follow along on the Indy Eleven Live Twitter feed, presented by Honda.
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