So I will start with a wish of a very Happy New Year to everyone! Nice to see the US ladies receive tons of recognition as Time’s Athletes of the Year, Rapino as SI’s Sportsperson of the Year, Ertz as US Athlete of the Year, and Carli Llyods Hat Trick in the 2015 World Cup as women’s Goal of the decade. The US Men start January camp in Qatar as the mostly MLS based group prepares for the Costa Rica game Feb 1 on ESPN News.
Not many games on TV this weekend as the EPL and Germany are off – we do have FA Cup games on ESPN+ Sunday Chelsea vs Nottingham Forest at 9 am, at 11 am Liverpool will host Everton at 11 am for a Derby match-up on the ESPN+. In Italy Napoli hosts Inter at 2:45 on ESPN+ Monday, at the same time Arsenal hosts Leeds United in Cup play. Tues we get a Manchester Derby League Cup style at 3 pm on ESPN+.
Top EPL Goals of 2019
Pulisic Watch: Chelsea’s American star shines in Champions League (video)
Football resolutions for 2020: Don’t mess this up, Liverpool
Pulisic Watch: Chelsea’s American star shines in Champions League (video)
US Coach Jesse Marsch: ‘We will be proud eventually’ after loss to Liverpool
Which players should be on the USMNT Best XI of the 2010s?
So many choices, but we ask you to break them down.
We’re about to close the book on the 2010s, and many fans are thinking back to some of the good times (and bad) that occurred during the decade. When it comes to the players that came through the United States Men’s National Team, there can be a healthy debate about who dominated the 2010s for the team. Some people may discuss their preference, while others may break out stats and analytics. But, it’s still a debate that can carry us into the new year.Of all the players that featured for the USMNT from 2010-2019, who stood out? Who was the best of the best? We break down a list of players who form the starting XI of the USMNT All-2010s team.
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
There really isn’t a better choice for the 2010s between the net than Tim Howard. He will go down as arguably the best goalkeeper the United States has ever produced. He helped set up the game-winning goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup and he became the Secretary of Defense with his performance in a loss against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup. He had dozens of other terrific performances throughout the 2010s, and he’s a no-brainer choice for the Best XI of the decade. (Honorable Mention: Brad Guzan)
DaMarcus Beasley finally retired this year after a stellar career, but he bailed the USMNT out many times over the course of the decade with his performance at left back. John Brooks, Matt Besler, and Fabian Johnson were guys that were extremely important throughout the decade on the defense. At times, each of those players were the most reliable defenders on the roster, and they were called upon many times to keep the opposition out of the net.(Honorable Mention: DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron)
Landon Donovan is arguably the greatest male player the United States has ever produced. Christian Pulisic will likely take that title very soon (if he hasn’t already). Jermaine Jones was dominant in the middle for the USMNT, the fierce bull that the team needed. Michael Bradley was dominant in the middle for many years for the USMNT, and he has been a part of some of the program’s greatest goals ever. This is a strong midfield that were important throughout the decade. (Honorable Mention: Tyler Adams, Graham Zusi)
Clint Dempsey is the best American forward of all time and arguably the greatest male player of all time. Jozy Altidore, if he can be healthy the next few years, could still catch Deuce and Donovan atop the all-time goalscoring list. Both players throughout the decade hit a level that no other players could match, and they’re easy picks for the All-2010s team. (Honorable Mention: Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris)
Hit the comments and give us your best XI of the decade. There’s plenty of players that merit discussion, so let us know which players made your list and why you think they stood out as the best USMNT players of the 2010s.
Christian Pulisic at Chelsea: USMNT star’s performances assessed, game by game
Jan 1, 2020Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent
Christian Pulisic is in his first season at Chelsea, following a $73 million move from Borussia Dortmund. The campaign’s first half saw the 21-year-old U.S. international make 22 appearances in all competitions, scoring six goals and claiming five assists.
How he performed out of 10: 6. It was another lacklustre performance from Chelsea, and they were oftentimes downright dysfunctional. Pulisic didn’t stand out from that assessment, for better or worse. He enjoyed moments of quick interplay and clever close control that created opportunities, but his finishing was lacking and at times his decision-making was labourious.
Highlights: The U.S. international’s quick feet were a ray of hope throughout his 66-minute performance. His four take-ons were more than fellow attackers Tammy Abraham and Willian combined in his time on the pitch, creating a pair of chances in the first half and leading to three shots in the second. His passing wasn’t as sharp as it should’ve been, but he did dispatch a couple of clever balls that led to chances, one scooped effort to send Abraham into the area and another to Mason Mount that put the Blues in position to enjoy an extended spell of position in and around the Brighton box.
Lowlights: His decision-making in transition was at times poor, which manifested itself in a passing percentage of 77% — better than only Abraham and N’Golo Kante. He was impatient after beating two defenders in the first half, sending in a hopeful cross forward when he had no players forward with him. The shots he created for himself through clever footwork in the second half let him down; they were from positions and distances that should’ve yielded more than two missed targets and one simple save from Mat Ryan.While the lowlights paint a picture of nothing but doom and gloom from Pulisic, no one from the West London club looked particularly impressive. Pulisic was one of 11 Blues dressed in black whose performances were as dark as their kits.
Pulisic on Chelsea form: “I can do better”
Joe Prince-Wright,NBC Sports•January 2, 2020
Christian Pulisic has admitted he must improve his finishing as Chelsea dropped more points in the Premier League on New Year’s Day.The USMNT star, 21, returned to the Chelsea starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 14 in their 1-1 draw at Brighton and lasted 66 minutes after his slight hamstring issue.Pulisic had several shots on goal at Brighton but he and his Chelsea teammates couldn’t double their advantage after taking an early lead.“We said at half time that we had the chance to kill the game and we just weren’t able to,” Pulisic said. “We couldn’t get the goal and in the end they found an unbelievable goal. So now it is about doing a bit more to keep going, attack and create chances and just have that killer instinct. Just a little bit of that, we are missing that.“I can do better with that as well. Just being more clinical in the final third, finding the right pass or shot and scoring the goals. That’s both mental and technical. After we scored the first goal it was just about continuing and just not stopping there, making it two or three and putting the game to bed. We’ve had troubles with that this year and then in the end, they fought until the end, scored a great goal and that is how it goes.”[ MORE: Pulisic Watch – How did he perform? ]
Pulisic got into some great positions and caused Brighton lots of issues with his dribbling and clever runs in the final third, but his shooting was wayward. He snatched at a few shots and looked like he was hurrying a little and maybe that is because he’s now gone seven games with a goal or an assist for Chelsea.His purple patch in October and November proves he can score goals in the Premier League but Pulisic just needs that little bit of luck to get the ball rolling again. Everything else is going well but as he said himself, he needs to improve his finishing.Chelsea need to improve theirs overall too, as Frank Lampard‘s side continue to blow hot and cold in their battle to finish in the top four and cannot keep squandering big chances against teams in the bottom half of the table.Pulisic admitted that with Chelsea now able to buy players in the January window due to their transfer ban reduced upon appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) he is now relishing the chance to compete with new players for minutes.“It is normal that teams look to improve and and if players do come in there is competition, that is how it goes,” Pulisic said. “So we’ll be ready for that and hopefully we’ll have players that come in and want to help us.”
I have to be more clinical, says Chelsea star Pulisic
AFP•January 2, 2020London (AFP) – Christian Pulisic says he and his Chelsea team-mates have to develop a killer instinct in front of goal if they are to stop dropping points as they did against Brighton on Wednesday.The 21-year-old United States captain missed three gilt-edged chances in the 1-1 draw — though ultimately it was not too costly in terms of the race for Champions League places as both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur lost.Fourth-placed Chelsea have a five-point advantage over United while Spurs and Wolverhampton Wanderers are a further point adrift.However, Pulisic, who has scored five times in his first season with Chelsea since his £58 million transfer ($76 million) from Borussia Dortmund, says Chelsea must put right their lack of accuracy when chances pop up.”We said at half-time that we had the chance to kill the game and we just weren’t able to,” said Pulisic.”We couldn’t get the goal and in the end they found an unbelievable goal.”So now it is about doing a bit more to keep going, attack and create chances and just have that killer instinct. Just a little bit of that, we are missing that.”Pulisic, who earlier in the season became the youngest Chelsea player to score a hat-trick in the 4-2 win over Burnley, says he is as much to blame as the others.”I can do better with that as well,” said the forward.”Just being more clinical in the final third, finding the right pass or shot and scoring the goals. That’s both mental and technical.”
Armchair Analyst: First USMNT camp of the 2020s a sign of what’s to come
December 30, 20192:48PM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer
The January US men’s national team camp, which is always an extended camp and never falls even partially during an international break, is a time for experimentation. In the past that experimentation has usually meant new faces at the fringe of the roster – guys on the verge of working themselves in for real, or out for good – or tactical tweaks, or the introduction of a new head coach. Last year’s camp, the first under Gregg Berhalter, was a time for all three.This year’s camp has an almost entirely different feel. First off, it’s not in Carson, California, the traditional winter palace for Camp Cupcake. Rather, the bulk of the camp (January 5 through 25th) will be in Doha, Qatar, theoretically in preparation for the 2022 World Cup.Second, this camp roster has much more of a youth national team(s) influence than past camps. There are 14 U-23s mixed into the 25-man roster, and three of those guys are actually U-20s. Two of those have never played a first-team minute.So it is a wildly experimental group, one that seems to say “we really are trying to integrate our programs from both the bottom up and the top down.” Let’s take a look at it through that lens:
The full-time USMNTers
Sean Johnson is either second or third on the goalkeeper depth chart. Reggie Cannon (U-23 eligible) is second or third on the right back depth chart. Aaron Long is a starter at center back and Walker Zimmerman is third or fourth on the CB depth chart.Sebastian Lletget is the starting No. 10 as of now, and Cristian Roldan is second or third on the No. 8 depth chart. Jackson Yueill (U-23 eligible) is second on the No. 6 depth chart.Jordan Morris is a starting winger, while Paul Arriola and Jonathan Lewis (U-23 eligible) are probably third and fourth on the winger depth chart. Gyasi Zardes is second or third on the center forward depth chart.
The fringe guys pushing in
Matt Turner and Bill Hamid are both there to challenge Johnson and try to leap ahead of Brad Guzan. Turner was called in back in November as well, while this is Hamid’s first US camp with Berhalter.The only field player on the roster that fits this mold is left back Chase Gasper, who’s in his second straight camp after a strong rookie season for Minnesota United. Gasper’s just about a year too old to be U-23 eligible, otherwise he’d be in this next group…
Cannon, Yueill and Lewis have already been mentioned. There’s also Quakes Homegrown ‘keeper J.T. Marcinkowski, who’s played a bunch in the USL Championship the past couple of years and seems to be the No. 1 choice at ‘keeper for the U-23s. I will admit surprise that Philly‘s Matt Freese isn’t on this list, but there are only so many places up for grabs.Center backs Justen Glad and Mark McKenzie have both been at US camps before, though neither has made an appearance. Know who’s not here? Fellow U-23 eligible CB Miles Robinson, who has made a full US appearance but was injured (hamstring) back in October while doing fitness training after a USMNT game in which he didn’t play. Atlanta weren’t happy about it publicly, and my guess is they were livid about it privately.Twelve weeks is usually plenty of time to recover from a hamstring strain, and they have their own January camp opening up on the 11th ahead of their CCL campaign. Plus it seems like they’re no longer wild about releasing players unless they absolutely have to.Left back Sam Vines had an understated and solid – and sometimes defensively outstanding – age 20 season for Colorado. He’s not a game-breaker out there, but he’s not a match-loser, either.Paxton Pomykal has been capped once, and is healthy after an October procedure to clean up a lingering muscle issue in his lower abdomen. Brenden Aaronson‘s been to a camp but hasn’t been capped, and Christian Cappis has performed well – sometimes as a No. 8, sometimes as a No. 6 – for both his club in Denmark and the US U-23s.I still don’t know what position Jesus Ferreira is best at. What I do know is that he had one of the most productive seasons by a teenager in MLS history, registering 8g/6a while playing some as a No. 9, some as a winger and some as a central midfield playmaker. This is his first camp after officially earning US citizenship.
Here’s where it gets kind of fun: The inclusion of LA Galaxy right back Julian Araujo, Wolfsburg U-19 winger Uly Llanez and unattached D.C. United academy product Bryang Kayo (there are rumors he’ll be signing with Wolfsburg) seems to be Gregg Berhalter’s way of saying “we want to integrate as large a part of the core of the next U-20 group into the full program as quickly as possible.”Araujo, who played 900 minutes for the Galaxy this year, was born in 2001, as was Llanez, who’s been tearing it up in the German youth ranks after developing in the Galaxy academy. Kayo’s a 2002. It’s a very, very good bet that all three of those guys will be part U-20 qualifying, which is in June. It’s close as hell, and so let’s get these kids bloody.
A few notes:
- Contrast Wolfsburg letting Llanez gowith Borussia Dortmund presumably refusing to release Gio Reyna, who’s made the 18 for them in the past. That suggests Llanez isn’t quite ready to break through into the first team, which is obviously just fine – he’s still a kid.
- Michael Bradleyand Wil Trapp were regulars for the US in 2019, but neither are here, nor is Jozy Altidore, nor is Guzan (who wasn’t released). I wouldn’t bet even a small amount that this means Berhalter has permanently moved beyond those guys (there’s a good chance Bradley is still rehabbing after the injury he picked up in MLS Cup), but I wouldn’t be entirely shocked, either.
- Conspicuous in their absenceare a pair of MLS-based U-23 strikers, Jeremy Ebobisseand Mason Toye. Ebobisse just had surgery, so that explains that. Toye… it’s tougher to say. He had a scorching run this summer, but struggled mightily in his most recent U-23 camp.Olympic qualifying is in March, by the way. For all of these age-eligible guys, the time to start performing is right now. Anybody who comes out of the gates slow in 2020 is at risk of losing their spot.
- Another U-23, Cappis’s Hobro teammateEmmanuel Sabbi, is also conspicuous in his absence. My guess is Hobro intend to sell him next month (there have been rumors for a year now), which is why he’s not there.
- Remember, before you lose your minds in the comments section below, that the January camp is not held during an international date and therefore clubs are under no obligation to release players. That especially includes European clubs, almost all of whom have their seasons re-starting this month and are holding camps of their own.
Here’s the roster:
|GK||Johnson, Sean||New York City FC|
|GK||Hamid, Bill||D.C. United|
|GK||Marcinkowski, JT||San Jose Earthquakes|
|GK||Turner, Matt||New England Revolution|
|D||Araujo, Julian||LA Galaxy|
|D||Cannon, Reggie||FC Dallas|
|D||Gasper, Chase||Minnesota United|
|D||Glad, Justen||Real Salt Lake|
|D||Long, Aaron||NY Red Bulls|
|D||McKenzie, Mark||Philadelphia Union|
|D||Vines, Sam||Colorado Rapids|
|M||Aaronson, Brenden||Philadelphia Union|
|M||Lletget, Sebastian||LA Galaxy|
|M||Pomykal, Paxton||FC Dallas|
|M||Roldan, Cristian||Seattle Sounders|
|M||Yueill, Jackson||San Jose Earthquakes|
|F||Arriola, Paul||D.C. United|
|F||Ferreira, Jesus||FC Dallas|
|F||Lewis, Jonathan||Colorado Rapids|
|F||Morris, Jordan||Seattle Sounders|
|F||Zardes, Gyasi||Columbus Crew SC|
My MLS best XI of the decade | Bobby Warshaw
|December 26, 2019|
Eveery player wants to pursue excellence. The ultimate goal is to achieve excellence that lasts, that leaves a legacy. It’s not just a singular act or year, but a mark that leaves an impression that gets remembered.That’s what we’re looking at today. The MLS Team of the Decade. The players who set the highest standards for their respective positions.This is far from a science. For me there are two main factors that go into consideration: Longevity and Peak. The maximum height of ability, significance and contribution achieved matters; and the full body of work over the 10 years matters. The final score is not a direct sum of the two, nor is there a precise weight for either category. It’s a subjective measurement of the players’ contributions as a player.Miguel Almiron, for example, might have been the most effective player the league has ever seen — high Peak. He only played in MLS for two years, though, so he has a low Longevity score. Put together, he doesn’t quite make the list.
|Stefan Frei – Goalkeeper|
|2 MLS Cups, 1 Supporters’ Shield, 1 USOC, 3 Canadian Championships|
|It would be nice to ease into a column like this, but we start with one of the toughest decisions in the team. Nick Rimando has the most games played and the most wins; he’s been consistently excellent for 10 years (though hasn’t won a trophy this decade). Luis Robles won three Shields and a Goalkeeper of the Year award (and the Best XI nomination that comes with it). Both would be worthy picks. It’s tough to skip over a guy with seven trophies (!) in 10 years, though. Stefan Frei won a trophy in six different years this decade. His 2016 MLS Cup performance included one of the most iconic saves in league history. He’s been good for the 10 years, and great in the biggest moments.|
|Runners-up: Nick Rimando, Luis Robles|
|Justin Morrow – Left Back|
|1 MLS Cup, 2 Supporters’ Shields, 3 Canadian Championships, 1 Best XI, 16th in Games Won|
|It’s been easy to overlook how good Justin Morrow has been throughout his career. He entered MLS in 2010 as a second-round draft pick and took two years to become a starter. Since then, he has been one of the left backs almost every season. To put his 2017 Best XI selection into context: Only three outside backs have made the Best XI this decade (Todd Dunivant and Kemar Lawrence are the others). Morrow has been equally adept at both sides of the ball. He can lock down opposing wingers and then use his speed to fly into the attack. He’s also been able to adapt between styles and formations, from the bruising “Goonies” of the San Jose Earthquakes to the cerebral treble-winning Toronto FC sides.|
|Runner-up: Todd Dunivant|
|Steven Beitashour – Right Back|
|1 MLS Cup, 3 Supporters’ Shields, 3 Canadian Championships|
|It’s not a coincidence that two of the best teams of the decade — the 2012 Quakes and 2017 TFC — had Steven Beitashour and Morrow controlling the flanks (and we could add 2019 LAFC to Beitashour’s list). Beitashour was drafted two spots (No. 30 overall) after Morrow in the 2010 draft. Like Morrow, it’s been easy to miss Beitashour’s excellence. (Such is life as an outside back, I suppose.) It’s interesting to describe Beitashour as a player. He doesn’t have an A+ trait; he doesn’t stand out of the page in any way; he hasn’t had any specifically spectacular individual seasons. Rather, he’s simply an excellent soccer player who always plays to a certain level. He’s diligent defensively, solid on the ball and smart going forward. Beitashour might have been the best value-for-championship-potential player in MLS over the last decade.|
|Runner-up: Graham Zusi|
|Chad Marshall – Center Back|
|Omar Gonzalez – Center Back|
|Marshall: 1.5 MLS Cups, 1 Supporters’ Shield, 1 USOC, 1 Defender of the Year, 2x Best XI|
|Gonzalez: 3 MLS Cups, 2 Supporters’ Shields, 1 Defender of the Year, 4x Best XI|
|It’s often difficult to get excited about defenders. They stop the excitement rather than create it. Chad Marshall and Omar Gonzalez, though, were as fun to watch as any attacker in the league. They went about the position with equal measures of grace and dominance. They could hang with the most talented attackers, and you’d struggle to find a moment when they looked frazzled. They were each dominant in the air – count them in the top tier with Ike Opara, Kei Kamara and Alan Gordon – and deceivingly quick on the ground. While neither received enough credit for their passing, they both played in two of the best passing teams of the last 10 years. Most importantly, they were both winners. Eight of the 10 MLS Cups in the 2010s have featured either Marshall or Gonzalez.|
|Runner-up: Matt Besler|
|Diego Chara – Midfielder|
|Ozzie Alonso – Midfielder|
|Diego Valeri – Midfielder|
|Chara: 1 MLS Cup|
|Alonso: 1 MLS Cup, 1 Supporters’ Shield, 3 USOC, 1 Best XI, most games won|
|Valeri: 82 goals, 62 assists in 229 games, 3x Best XI, 1 MVP|
|Ozzie Alonso and Diego Valeri are locks. They both embody the combination of Peak + Longevity. You could build a base for Nico Lodeiro, who has had the single largest footprint on his team of the options here, or Kyle Beckerman or Dax McCarty, who have been steady forces in the engine room for almost every possible game, to take Diego Chara’s spot. It’s always been easy to overlook the Colombian. If we look at the full body of work over the 10 years, though, I feel safe giving Chara the spot. He’s been one of the best players on the field in just about every one of the 278 games he’s played this decade.|
|Runners-up: Nico Lodeiro, Kyle Beckerman, Dax McCarty, Federico Higuain, Brad Davis|
|Robbie Keane – Forward|
|92 goals, 51 assists in 146 games, 3 MLS Cups, 1 Supporters’ Shield, 4x Best XI, 1 MVP|
|Robbie Keane only played five full seasons in MLS, but he had one of the highest Peaks possible. He made the Best XI four (!) straight years and won three MLS Cups. He was virtually un-defendable from 2012 to 2015. He made the list over David Villa and Thierry Henry, who lived in similar “what’s a defender supposed to do?” territory. Ultimately, their MLS tenures are apples to oranges; Keane landed into a dynasty while Villa started a club from scratch and Henry’s New York Red Bulls had just missed the playoffs when he arrived. It’s unfair to keep Villa or Henry off the list just because they didn’t win trophies that nobody expected them to win, but we need a differentiator, and the game is about championships in the end.|
|Sebastian Giovinco – Forward|
|73 goals and 57 assists in 125 games, 1 MLS Cup, 1 Supporters’ Shield, 3x Best XI, 1 MVP|
|Sebastian Giovinco gets the last spot because he was the most spectacular individual of the decade. Villa, Keane, Josef Martinez et al could put together unreal performances; Giovinco’s were better. Nothing in the past 10 years compared to some of the individual performances that Giovinco provided. He had the highest Peak score of anyone in the league. He set a new bar for how an individual player could impact a game.|
|Chris Wondolowski – Forward|
|153 goals, 35 assists, in 312 games, 1 Supporters’ Shield, 3x Best XI, 1 MVP|
|Chris Wondolowski’s in. You can’t dispute that. He receives a max Longevity score — in the last 10 years, he went from Development Player to Designated Player and scored 152 of his record 159 goals. He also hit a high peak, with an MLS MVP award in 2012.|
|Runners-up: Kei Kamara, David Villa, Thierry Henry, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Landon Donovan, Josef Martinez|
|It hurts to leave Kamara and BWP off the list. They both pounded home goals for almost the entire 10 years — BWP finished with 117, Kamara 115 — and I would understand if someone would pick their steady Longevity over Giovinco’s ridiculous peak.|
|Bruce Arena – Manager|
|3 MLS Cups, 2 Supporters’ Shields|
|Bruce Arena won more trophies than anyone else during the decade. He also put together the last unquestioned dynasty, and perhaps the best team in league history. Peter Vermes turned Sporting Kansas City into one of the model clubs, winning four trophies along the way. He established the first “pressing” team in league history, only to pivot halfway through the decade and continue winning. The last spot goes to the Sigi Schmid/Brian Schmetzer combination. Sigi guided the Sounders through the first half of the decade, quickly pushing an expansion team into the top echelon of the league. Schmetzer took the club the last mile, winning two MLS Cups in four years. It’s hard to decouple their work and what they’ve each meant to the Club of the Decade.|
|Runners-up: Peter Vermes, Sigi Schmid/Brian Schmetzer|
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