11/12/20 –US Men today vs Wales 2:45 pm Fox Sports 1, Nations League this weekend, Euro Qualifying today

USA Friendly’s Thurs 2:45 FS1 vs Wales/Mon 2:45 vs Panama FS1

So huge excitement for the upcoming friendly’s with an almost entirely European group of players – many of them under the age of 23.  In fact the average age is just over 22 for this group that will take on Wales and Garreth Bale.  OF course Christian Pulisic will not play – but first timers Gio Reyna of Dortmund, Konrad de la Fuente from Barcelona and Sebasatian Soto of Telstar – all U20 WC players for the US should excite folks.  Also American born 18 YO winger Yunus Musah starting now at Valencia, a kid born in New York who grew up in England, has accepted the invite to check out how the US does things after representing England at the youth level. Also look out for Dual National Nicholas Gioacchini a 20 year-old forward from Caen in France.  He might just get the start as he’s eligibile to play for the US where he was born and lived until he was 8, Italy where he lived with his Italian dad until going to Caen at 15, or Jamaica where is mom is from.  He has played for both the US and Italy at the youth level.  Interesting that both our young center forward prospects are dual nationals who will be deciding soon who they will play for.  Lets hope both get a run to show us what they’ve got today.  Honestly – with all the new guys – extremely excited to see how the youngsters looked today – even if we take a beating against a much more experienced squad in Wales.  I see 2-1 Wales or maybe 2-2 if the kids up front can score.  

My thoughts for the Wales game start

My 11

Soto or Gioacchini

Konrad, Reyna, Yunus Musah

Adams, McKinney

Robinson, Brooks, Richards, Dest

Steffan

The USMNT roster

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City), Zack Steffen (Manchester City)

DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (Boavista FC), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht), Tim Ream (Fulham), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), Antonee Robinson (Fulham)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton)

FORWARDS (8): Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Uly Llanez (Heerenveen), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Sebastian Soto (Telstar), Tim Weah (Lille),

Who Are the New Guys-

There’s a bunch! Let’s meet them:

FW: Niko Gioacchini: A 20-year-old true center forward who plays for Caen in Ligue 2. He’s rugged and strong, does good work holding up the ball and runs a lot. He reminds me a lot of Vancouver’s Lucas Cavallini. And like Cavallini at the same age, he needs to refine his goalscoring instincts. But the raw materials are good and he’s getting real minutes and scoring fairly consistently in a pretty good league at a young age.

FW: Sebastian Soto: Another 20-year-old center forward, Soto started for the US U-20s at last year’s World Cup and made news recently by flirting with accepting a call-up from Chile. He basically lost a year of development by not playing because of his club situation, but is now scoring goals for fun in the Dutch second tier while on loan to Telstar from Norwich City. He looks stronger than he did 18 months ago, but is still kind of a lightweight. He’s also much more of a poacher than a target man.

W: Gio Reyna: You know who Gio Reyna is and what he does by now, right?

W: Konrad de la Fuente: Konrad was, like Soto, a part of that U-20 team last year. Unlike Soto he struggled badly, to the point where you could question what his immediate future was. It turns out his immediate future was significant improvement with Barcelona, to the point that he’s now made the gameday squad a couple of times (but has yet to debut) for the full first team. And he’s still just 19.  He’s very right-footed and has looked much more comfortable playing inverted than as a traditional winger, as he did for Tab Ramos and the US U-20s last year.

AM: Richy Ledezma: That U-20 team was stocked, is what I’m saying. Ledezma didn’t get to show his whole range of skills since he was recovering from an injury and didn’t play much, but when he got on the field — especially against France — he was a dynamic, game-breaking No. 10. He just glides both on and off the ball, and has the ability to finish plays either by scoring or by finding the last pass.

He has not yet broken through for PSV into the regular first-team rotation (he just made his debut last week) because 1) he is too right-footed, which causes him major problems, and 2) his reactions in transition defense are poor.  I still have a lot of Richy Ledezma stock, though.

CM: Yunus Musah: The youngest member of the roster, as he was born 16 days after Reyna in 2002, Musuah’s also a surprise inclusion. He’s a tri-national who had mostly represented England in the youth national team ranks, and the US had to push to get him. They pushed hard, and they got him — at least for this camp. Nothing that happens over the next week can cap-tie him, remember.

Musah, who was born in NYC and came through the Arsenal academy system, is starting for Valencia in La Liga mostly as a right midfielder though sometimes as a right winger. Consensus seems to be that his future is more likely to be as a box-to-box No. 8, and Berhalter explicitly compared him to McKennie, so I don’t think there’s too much tea-reading necessary to figure out where he’s going to play in this camp.

DM: Johnny Cardoso: Or just “Johnny,” actually, for the New Jersey-born but Brazil-raised 19-year-old, who is already a regular with Internacional of Porto Alegre. That’s one of Brazil’s biggest clubs, and that means he’s already played a bunch both in Brazil’s top flight and in the Copa Libertadores. Johnny lacks a bit of defensive bite but I think he should be right at home in the “drop between the defenders and orchestrate from deep” role.

DM: Owen Otasowie: A giant 19-year-old defensive midfielder (who might actually fancy himself as more of a No. 8) who was born in NYC and has spent the past couple of years with the Wolves academy and in their youth ranks. He’s made one first-team appearance, back in last year’s Europa League, but hasn’t been seen or heard from with the first team since then. Otasowie’s also played some center back, both for some of the Wolves youth teams and the US U-18s. I hope that’s his long-term position.

CB: Chris Richards: Ok, back to last year’s U-20s. Richards was the rock in the center of that defense, and arguably the best prospect on that team (though obviously there are cases to be made for others, with Dest being the most obvious). He is big, strong and fast — probably an A- overall athlete — and a very good-to-great distributor of the ball (though opinions from people I respect vary on that). When he made his debut for Bayern Munich’s first team earlier this year he played as a right back. I’ll go ahead and guess that fewer than 3 percent of his total minutes for the USMNT, no matter how many he eventually accrues, will come at that spot. He is a pure center back here.

GK: Chituru Odunze: I am not going to give you a scouting report on the third-string goalkeeper. Just know that he is huge, he is from Raleigh, he is a US-Canadian dual-national and he’s with Leicester City playing in the youth ranks these days.

Thur, Nov 12                                 

12 pm ESPN2                                  Georgia vs North Macedonia Euro Qualifying

2:45 pm ESPN2                              Serbia vs Scotland Euro Qualifying

2:45 pm ESPN+                              Hungary vs Iceland Euro Qualifying

Sat,  Nov 14                                    Europes Nations League

2:45 pm ESPN+                              Portugal vs France

2:45 pm ESPN+                              Spain vs Switzerland

2:45 pm ESPN+                              Ukraine vs Germany

Sun,  Nov 15

9 qm ESPN+                                    Scotland vs Slovakia

12 noon   ESPN+                           Ireland vs Wales 

2:45 pm  ESPN2                             England vs Belgium

2: 45 pm ESPN +                            Poland vs Italy

2: 45 pm ESPN +                            Iceland vs Denmark

Tues, Nov 17 

2:45 pm ESPN2                              Croatia vs Portugal

2:45 pm ESPN+                              Spain vs Germany

2:45 pm ESPN+                              France vs Sweden 

USA

USA vs. Wales, 2020 friendly: What to watch for By Donald Wine II
How USMNT Call-Ups Fared in Their Final Pre-Camp Games  BY AVI CREDITOR
What to Look for USA Vs Wales – Matt Doyle

Scouting Wales

Pulisic leaving U.S. camp, Reyna set for debut  1hJeff Carlisle

The USMNT Picks Up the Pieces After a Long Time Away BY BRIAN STRAUS
How USMNT’s November Camp Pieces May All Fit Together BY AVI CREDITOR


How USMNT prospect Johnny Cardoso will complement Pulisic and Reyna in midfield
 
Tim Vickery
Future of USMNT brighter than Mexico – Saucedo
 
Tom Marshall

The Weston McKinney Story – Gaurdian

Discussion with Serginio Dest of Barcelona
 

Nations League 

Nations League W2W4: Heavyweight clashes as COVID and injuries take toll
Mourinho told Bale will be looked after by Wales

USA vs. Wales, 2020 friendly: What to watch for

We preview the first USMNT match in 10 months!  By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Nov 11, 2020, 7:01am PST

, after a 286-day layoff due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be back in action tomorrow when they take on Wales at Liberty Stadium in Swansea. The USMNT will be looking to close out a weird 2020 the way it started: with a win. The 22nd ranked team in the FIFA World Rankings will look to play well on the road behind closed doors at the home of a Welsh team that’s ranked 20th in the world and looking to sharpen up before they finish UEFA Nations League play.

2020 Form

USA

W (1-0) – Costa Rica – Friendly

Wales

W (1-0) – Bulgaria – UEFA Nations League

D (0-0) – Ireland – UEFA Nations League

W (1-0) – Bulgaria – UEFA Nations League

W (1-0) – Finland – UEFA Nations League

What To Watch For

Control the middle of the field: This is the battle to be most excited about when the two teams hit the field. Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie in the middle trying to control possession and advance the ball forward? Dream status. This is where the biggest battle will be. If the USMNT can control possession in the midfield, they will have a great chance to keep the Welsh at bay and have some opportunities to score.

Create attack through the middle: We’re all highly anticipating to see the attack go through Gio Reyna, but the young wings coach Gregg Berhalter has at his disposal will also be fun to watch. We have some speed, so look for the young’uns to exploit that on the flanks. Because of that speed, they hopefully will be able to get behind the Cymru defense and create some chances to score. That possession will help, and remaining in control in the final third is going to be essential.

Play like there’s no tomorrow: The coronavirus pandemic has proven to us all: you don’t know when your next match will come. The intensity and grit that has defined the USMNT over much of the 2010s has been absent lately. There’s no better time than now to reclaim that mantra. We can’t assume the Panama match will be played as scheduled because so much can happen between Thursday and Monday. So, the players should try to win the intensity battle. Play like there’s no match on Monday or for the foreseeable future, and just go for it.

Enjoy it: A bonus 4th item: let’s all have fun with this! It’s our first USMNT match in 10 months! It’s great to see the team get back together and for us to reunite and talk about the team and its direction. We’re excited to see the new players and some of the young stars combine to give us some thrills. So, let’s enjoy that tomorrow. We’re certainly going to overanalyze performances in what has been a messed up year, but one thing is for sure: the boys are back!

Lineup Prediction

The USMNT has a ridiculously young roster, with 10 players having never stepped onto the field in the red, white, and blue. Because of that, it can be an interesting lineup choice for Gregg Berhalter, but in the end, this is what we could see on the field: Projected USMNT Starting XI

Gioacchini

Konrad/Reyna/Weah

MCKennie/Adams

Robinson/Brooks/Miazga/Dest

Steffan

Zack Steffen’s the #1 goalkeeper, and he’s going to get the start in this first game. Because it’s a friendly, don’t be surprised to see Ethan Horvath enter in the second half, but chances are Steffen gets the full match. On the back line, Antonee Robinson and Sergiño Dest are the fullbacks, and John Brooks and Matt Miazga the centerback pairing. Richards could be an interesting plug in here in place of Miazga, but against Wales Berhalter opts for the player with a little more experience.In the midfield, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie link up, with Adams serving as the defensive midfielder and McKennie going box to box. Ahead of them, Gio Reyna is in the middle to serve up the attack, with Konrad de la Fuente and Tim Weah on the wings to provide speed and creative options. Expect Yunus Musah to get some playing time as well.Up top, Sebastian Soto could get the nod here, but Berhalter looks to give an immediate debut to one of his new dual nationals, and Nicholas Gioacchini gets the start.

Prediction

This is an intriguing matchup, the first time the two teams have stepped on the field together in 17 years. However, because it’s a friendly, it’s going to be a struggle for both teams to get into it early on. It will pick up around the 30 minute mark as both teams begin to relax a bit and play ball. There will be some chances, but not a lot of scoring. Nicholas Gioacchini scores the lone goal for the United States, the first given up by Wales this year. However, a penalty is hammered home by Gareth Bale in the 2nd half, and it ends in a 1-1 draw.

Armchair Analyst: How the US men’s national team will play vs. Wales & Panama

November 11, 202010:32AM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

It has been nine-and-a-half long months since the US men’s national team last took the field, so now feels like a very good time for a reset of what Gregg Berhalter’s trying to accomplish, how he’s trying to accomplish it and who he’s trying to accomplish it with. This is especially true since this newest 24-man camp roster, announced last week and taking the field for the first time on Thursday against Wales, is stuffed with largely new and almost entirely very young faces.That doesn’t mean this isn’t a reboot after an up-and-down 2019 from Berhalter and the USMNT. But it a distinctly new phase.

What Happened Last Time

Way back in early February a largely experimental and primarily MLS-based US side — this was the January camp game, remember — pretty thoroughly bossed what I’d consider the Costa Rican A- team. It ended 1-0 on a Uly Llanez goal after Reggie Cannon had drawn a penalty thanks to a smart overlap, but the score really did flatter the Ticos, who never really threatened.The game was a departure from what the US had done throughout most of 2019 not because of the personnel or the scoreline, but because of how they’d done it. There was much more pressing out of a 4-3-3 and the mid-block 4-4-2 (or 4-2-2-2) that had proved itself tissue-soft against Mexico in September and Canada in October was mothballed.

How do the US Want to Play?

This is where formational shorthand kind of fails. If you ask me what formation Berhalter wants his team to play in, I’ll probably just say “4-2-3-1” or “4-3-3” because one of those two will be how it’s written on the team sheet. But the reality is that there will be multiple different looks depending upon the phase of the game.This is not new or unusual in the world of soccer! There are very few teams that defend in a 4-3-3, possess in a 4-3-3 and attack in a 4-3-3. Our game is beautiful and fluid and dynamic, and that means you’ll see a lot of different shapes.

Who Are the New Guys?

There’s a bunch! Let’s meet them:

FW: Niko Gioacchini: A 20-year-old true center forward who plays for Caen in Ligue 2. He’s rugged and strong, does good work holding up the ball and runs a lot. He reminds me a lot of Vancouver’s Lucas Cavallini. And like Cavallini at the same age, he needs to refine his goalscoring instincts. But the raw materials are good and he’s getting real minutes and scoring fairly consistently in a pretty good league at a young age.

FW: Sebastian Soto: Another 20-year-old center forward, Soto started for the US U-20s at last year’s World Cup and made news recently by flirting with accepting a call-up from Chile. He basically lost a year of development by not playing because of his club situation, but is now scoring goals for fun in the Dutch second tier while on loan to Telstar from Norwich City.

He looks stronger than he did 18 months ago, but is still kind of a lightweight. He’s also much more of a poacher than a target man.

W: Gio Reyna: You know who Gio Reyna is and what he does by now, right?

W: Konrad de la Fuente: Konrad was, like Soto, a part of that U-20 team last year. Unlike Soto he struggled badly, to the point where you could question what his immediate future was.

It turns out his immediate future was significant improvement with Barcelona, to the point that he’s now made the gameday squad a couple of times (but has yet to debut) for the full first team. And he’s still just 19.

He’s very right-footed and has looked much more comfortable playing inverted than as a traditional winger, as he did for Tab Ramos and the US U-20s last year.

AM: Richy Ledezma: That U-20 team was stocked, is what I’m saying. Ledezma didn’t get to show his whole range of skills since he was recovering from an injury and didn’t play much, but when he got on the field — especially against France — he was a dynamic, game-breaking No. 10. He just glides both on and off the ball, and has the ability to finish plays either by scoring or by finding the last pass.

He has not yet broken through for PSV into the regular first-team rotation (he just made his debut last week) because 1) he is too right-footed, which causes him major problems, and 2) his reactions in transition defense are poor.

I still have a lot of Richy Ledezma stock, though.

CM: Yunus Musah: The youngest member of the roster, as he was born 16 days after Reyna in 2002, Musuah’s also a surprise inclusion. He’s a tri-national who had mostly represented England in the youth national team ranks, and the US had to push to get him. They pushed hard, and they got him — at least for this camp. Nothing that happens over the next week can cap-tie him, remember.

Musah, who was born in NYC and came through the Arsenal academy system, is starting for Valencia in La Liga mostly as a right midfielder though sometimes as a right winger. Consensus seems to be that his future is more likely to be as a box-to-box No. 8, and Berhalter explicitly compared him to McKennie, so I don’t think there’s too much tea-reading necessary to figure out where he’s going to play in this camp.

DM: Johnny Cardoso: Or just “Johnny,” actually, for the New Jersey-born but Brazil-raised 19-year-old, who is already a regular with Internacional of Porto Alegre. That’s one of Brazil’s biggest clubs, and that means he’s already played a bunch both in Brazil’s top flight and in the Copa Libertadores.

Johnny lacks a bit of defensive bite but I think he should be right at home in the “drop between the defenders and orchestrate from deep” role.

DM: Owen Otasowie: A giant 19-year-old defensive midfielder (who might actually fancy himself as more of a No. 8) who was born in NYC and has spent the past couple of years with the Wolves academy and in their youth ranks. He’s made one first-team appearance, back in last year’s Europa League, but hasn’t been seen or heard from with the first team since then.

Otasowie’s also played some center back, both for some of the Wolves youth teams and the US U-18s. I hope that’s his long-term position.

CB: Chris Richards: Ok, back to last year’s U-20s. Richards was the rock in the center of that defense, and arguably the best prospect on that team (though obviously there are cases to be made for others, with Dest being the most obvious). He is big, strong and fast — probably an A- overall athlete — and a very good-to-great distributor of the ball (though opinions from people I respect vary on that).

When he made his debut for Bayern Munich’s first team earlier this year he played as a right back. I’ll go ahead and guess that fewer than 3 percent of his total minutes for the USMNT, no matter how many he eventually accrues, will come at that spot. He is a pure center back here.

GK: Chituru Odunze: I am not going to give you a scouting report on the third-string goalkeeper. Just know that he is huge, he is from Raleigh, he is a US-Canadian dual-national and he’s with Leicester City playing in the youth ranks these days.


My Starting XI:

Gioacchini

WeahReyna

Musah/MCKennie

Adams

Robinson/Brooks/Richards/Dest

Steffan

A few notes:

  • Remember, this represents just one of the US shapes/formations.
  • Weah hasn’t been playing much for Lille, and when he has been out there it’s often been as a forward. I still want to see him as an inverted winger here even if he can only go 60 minutes. I also refuse to worry about his playing time with Lille until February at the earliest. Give him time.
  • Antonee Robinson is very north-south, while Sergino Dest very much isn’t. Both guys are “attack first” fullbacks, and there is a danger that having them both out there will cause the US to become unbalanced. Figuring out if that is in fact true is what friendlies are for.
  • I think Musah starts even though Lletget was a late call-up, but I won’t lose my mind if Lletget starts and Musah comes off the bench for 20 or 30 minutes. At this point we’ve got to trust Berhalter’s ability to recruit, right?
  • There is no way John Brooks plays both games. I expect him for one and Tim Ream for the other.
  • I don’t actually care which of Richards or Matt Miazga get whichever minutes.
  • My guess is that Ethan Horvath will get one of these games, as Steffen no longer has work permit issues to worry about.

It’s been too long. Enjoy the show, everyone.

USA vs. Wales, 2020 Friendly live stream: Time, TV schedule and lineups

The USMNT is back in action for the first time since February.

By Brendan Joseph  Nov 12, 2020, 6:01am PSTSHAREAll sharing options

After an extended break due to the coronavirus pandemic, international soccer is back in full effect. The United States men’s national team has convened in Europe for a pair of friendlies. The first is against hosts Wales at Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium.Manager Gregg Berhalter called in a strong 24-player squad mainly comprised of talents based in Europe. There are several exciting names that fans have been clamoring to see play together, with Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Sergiño Dest, and John Brooks leading the way. Compelling newcomers Johnny Cardoso, Yunus Musah, Sebastian Soto, Konrad de la Fuente, Nicholas Gioacchini, and Giovanni Reyna were included and should make their debut at some point during the next two matches.The U.S. will be without star player Christian Pulisic. The Chelsea attacker left camp due to a hamstring injury, a recurring issue this year. Striker Josh Sargent was also not included in the roster. Werder Bremen opted to not grant his release due to quarantine in Germany.

These friendlies represent a chance for the team to come together and craft an identity before the start of 2022 World Cup Qualifying. “I want to see us be very aggressive on the defensive side of the ball,” Berhalter told USSoccer.com. “We have enough speed in the back to play a higher line and I’d like our team to be more compact when we’re pressing. I think we should be very aggressive offensively, getting behind the opponent and putting them on their heels… It’s just about getting them on the field, playing together and comfortable with each other.”Wales is gearing up for the final two matches of the UEFA Nations League against Ireland (November 15th) and Finland (November 18th). Interim manager Rob Page leads a 27-player roster featuring notable talents such as Gareth Bale, Ben Davies, and Tom Lawrence. The Dragons are currently ranked 20th in the world and have qualified for the upcoming European Championship scheduled to be played next summer.

 

Christian Pulisic leaving United States camp, Gio Reyna in line for debut

2:31 PM ET  Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

United States midfielder Christian Pulisic will not play in Thursday’s friendly against Wales, and will leave camp on Wednesday night as he recuperates from a hamstring injury, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced.

The Chelsea midfielder had always been unlikely to play in the match after sustaining the injury while warming up prior to his club’s match against Burnley on Oct. 31, and later suffered a setback in training.

– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
– Marsden: Dest talks Barca, U.S. team ambitions

But U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter was eager to see Pulisic in person, having not had his first choice group together in over a year. Pulisic arrived in camp, which is being held in Cardiff, Wales, last weekend.”[Pulisic] had a great three or four days with the team,” Berhalter said on a Zoom call with reporters. “He was able to get treated, and able to be with the guys, connect with the staff again. It was great to see him. Unfortunately, he won’t be taking part in the match.”Pulisic’s departure means he will miss out on the likely debut of Borussia Dortmund midfielder Gio Reyna — son of former U.S. captain Claudio — as well as the returns of Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie and RB Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams. This quartet of players is expected to form the core of the side for years to come.”[Pulisic] is a player that we’re certainly going to miss, and with his quality we wish we could have him on the field, but that’s not going to happen,” said Berhalter.For his part, the 17-year-old Reyna said he doesn’t plan to alter his game in Pulisic’s absence.”I think I just have to play my game like always try to do, like I’ve done with Dortmund so far,” Reyna said, “I think if I can emulate what I did at Dortmund so far this season here, I think I can be successful here too.”Of course. I’m, we’re gonna miss Christian, obviously. He’s such a good player and he always offers so much for us. It’s unfortunate that he can’t play, but I think for me, it was always just trying to help the team get involved and obviously try to score goals in the system.”Chelsea manager Frank Lampard previously called Pulisic’s hamstring injury “very, very minor.” Pulisic last played on Oct. 28, when he scored a 90th-minute goal in a 4-0 Champions League group stage win against Krasnodar.He has no goals in three Premier League games this season after tallying nine goals and four assists in 25 matches in his debut campaign with Chelsea in 2019-20.Pulisic has not played for the U.S. since October, 2019. The next FIFA international window is next March.

USMNT has brighter future than Mexico, says Pumas’ Saucedo

6:00 PM ETTom MarshallMexico correspondent

Pumas and United States Under-23 international winger Sebastian Saucedo says the USMNT has a brighter future than Mexico due to the number of players at big European clubs, and added that he believes players based in Liga MX have been undervalued by U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff.The 23-year-old dual Mexico-United States national said he talks regularly with Pumas teammates and Mexico internationals such as Johan Vasquez about the promising generation of young players in the United States setup. He said that Mexico is held back by Liga MX clubs asking for inflated prices for young players, and thinks the United States has the advantage moving forward.

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“There are a lot of really good players in Mexico, but the reality is what we talked about,” Saucedo said in an interview with ESPN’s Ahora o Nunca. “I think [Chivas striker Jose Juan] Macias talked about [Mexican clubs] sell[ing] very high. It’s a difficult issue in Mexico because they deserve to go to Europe. [Macias] is right because the thing is that in MLS they sell them cheaper to give them projection in Europe, that’s where the USMNT wins. I see a better future for the USMNT for the players that are playing in JuventusChelsea, Leipzig …”

gap in quality with Liga MX, Saucedo said he sees it “closing in the future,” but that Mexico’s first division continues to get stronger.

The former Real Salt Lake player recently returned to training after injury and is focused on making an impact for title-chasing Pumas. However, he is pessimistic about getting future opportunities to play for the United States’ senior team.

“The U.S. national team hasn’t called me up and I’m focused on the Under-23s,” said Saucedo. “Hopefully [the] Tokyo [Olympics] happen, but I’m more focused on my club than the national team because I don’t think the opportunities will come here in Mexico.””There are players in Europe that are playing and they are called just because they play in Europe,” he continued. “They under-appreciate the Mexican league. The Mexican league has spectacular players that are called up to their national teams. And it seems a little unjust.”Saucedo played for the U.S. U20s at the 2017 World Cup alongside the likes of RB Leipzig‘s Tyler Adams and Werder Bremen‘s Josh Sargent and was in the frame to be involved for the U23s at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying event in Guadalajara last March, until it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.But a full national team call is yet to come for Saucedo, who became a regular starter for Pumas in his first season in Mexico.”It’s a little bit frustrating,” he said. “There are players that deserve to be in the national team and there are others that don’t. That’s football.”The California-born Saucedo said the last contact he’s had with the full U.S. national team was after he signed for Pumas early in 2020.”The last time someone called was Gregg Berhalter in January when I arrived at Pumas, but I think that maybe he thought I was coming here for the Mexican national team and an opportunity [with El Tri],” said Saucedo. “Pumas is a huge team that has Mexican national team players and he maybe thought that my decision would be [to go with] Mexico. I never had the intention to come for the Mexican national team.”

How USMNT prospect Johnny Cardoso will complement Pulisic and Reyna in midfield

Nov 9, 2020Tim VickerySouth America correspondent

As their most recent squad announcement for this month’s matches against Wales and Panama showed, the United States men’s national team has some exciting individual talents coming through. With an average age of 21 years, 10 months, the likes of Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna will take the headlines, but a team is not made of glamour alone and the good news is that a midfielder from Brazil is also emerging who can set the stage for the more attacking players to succeed.Joao Lucas de Souza Cardoso was born in Denville, New Jersey, where his Brazilian parents ran a porcelain business. When their son was only 3 months old, they went back home to Criciuma in the south of Brazil, though Joao Lucas was never allowed to forget his North American roots. When he showed promise at football, he was nicknamed “Johnny.”

Now 19-year-old Johnny Cardoso has become the first player in 24 years to earn a call-up to the U.S. while playing for a club outside North America or Europe. (Cobi Jones last did it, during the 1996 CONCACAF Gold Cup while playing for Vasco da Gama.) A year ago, Cardoso was named to the roster for the United States U23 team for the first time for a camp in Miami and now he’s in the big leagues.

Much of the credit for this recognition has to go to Eduardo Coudet, his club coach at Internacional, in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. An Argentine, Coudet is in his first year in charge of the club and when he took over he was eager to have a look at the products of Inter’s much-praised youth ranks. The youngster who caught his eye was Cardoso — not one of the players the local media had considered among the most likely future stars, but now the attraction is clear.

Coudet was a midfielder with a top-level career that was solid rather than stunning. He had a few games with Celta Vigo in Spain, but his best football was played in Argentina with Rosario Central and River Plate, before he ended his playing days in Mexico and then with Philadelphia Union and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. He was not exceptionally quick or skillful, he had no outstanding talents, but he understood the game and could make a midfield tick by doing the simple things at the right time. Clearly, Coudet saw some of those qualities in Cardoso.

Cardoso has been with Inter since 2014. He began as an attacking midfielder and then played with some success as a striker, but on his way through the youth ranks he was transformed into a deep-lying midfielder precisely because of his ability to understand what to do and when to do it. Coudet, then, saw a player who was not blessed with excess pace but was quick on the turn, quick to make the pass, quick to move into position to receive. Cardoso is strong enough to take care of himself in a crowded midfield and he can keep the ball moving, which keeps his team ticking over.

September was his best month so far and he started a number of big games for Inter. Coudet uses his defensive midfielder almost as a third center back, and though Carsoso has had some experience in this role, most of his appearances have come higher up the field, where Coudet values the calm maturity of his play. Cardoso has taken just a few months to go from being just one more of the club’s youth products to a star of the future.

After an injury spell, he is being eased back into contention, and started Wednesday night’s 2-1 win against Atletico Goianiense in the Copa do Brasil. There is plenty of competition for places in the Inter midfield, and he is unlikely to start many games when the team is at full strength, but the club is fighting on three fronts: Inter is top of the league and still alive in both the Copa Libertadores and the domestic cup. The matches are coming thick and fast, and there will be chances for fringe players.The hope is, for club and country, that Cardoso can grow into something much more than a fringe player.

The USMNT Picks Up the Pieces After a Long Time Away

With 10 uncapped players and established stars who haven’t been in camp for a year or more, there’s a re-immersion process of sorts for the U.S. men’s national team in order to achieve the results and product its coach desires.

BRIAN STRAUSNOV 10, 2020

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You play to win the game, sure. But sometimes, the game(s) you’re trying to win aren’t necessarily being played that day.The numbers on the scoreboard were rough—embarrassing, even. They read Mexico 3, USA 0 that day at MetLife Stadium in northern New Jersey. It was September 2019, and the U.S. national team had suffered its worst loss to El Tri in a decade. Mexico was stocked with first-choice stars that night and the USA’s lineup was a mixed bag. But excuses typically aren’t tolerated in rivalry games. So coming on the heels of a defeat in the Concacaf Gold Cup final, the result elicited frustration and criticism from fans.USA coach Gregg Berhalter knew that was coming.“I see where the narrative is going now,” he said at his postgame press conference.But for Berhalter, there was more to the narrative than the scoreboard. There were other numbers—more granular, nuanced numbers—that were less about the outcome of one game than about his long-term goal of building a team that was more comfortable with the ball. Berhalter knew El Tri would press. So he challenged his team to play through it, to keep and rotate the ball and to find teammates in the spaces the pressing Mexicans vacated. When it failed, the Americans tried again. And when Berhalter looked at the postgame analytics—figures associated with possession, how many pass attempts and touches the USA had in certain areas of the field, etc.—he saw the foundation of a structure he was trying to build.The scoreboard was important. Those other numbers were, too.“It’s a delicate thing, because I know people want us to win. I understand that. I’m not foolish,” he told Sports Illustrated. “But we also have a process we have to go through. We have to do this if we want to get to where we want to get to.”It’s a difficult thing to introduce a new generation of players to international soccer, to get them to play the game a bit differently than their U.S. predecessors—to “disorganize the opponent with the ball”—and to do it all during the very intermittent and fractured schedule that governs national teams even in normal times.Berhalter had been a club coach. He’d been accustomed to immersing his players in daily details, building chemistry and partnerships and patterns through repetition and routine. Now he was trying to build a core and a system of play with only a few days of face time per month, at best. He felt it was time for the USA to play differently. He felt it was worth the effort.“It’s the hardest thing in the world,” Christian Pulisic said moments after the Mexico game. “It’s hard to teach a real system and be very specific with it. It’s not easy.”Pulisic continued, “Of course there’s frustration when you lose 3–0. There’s always frustrations. But we have a style of play that we’re setting out and we’re still trying to execute and obviously today we didn’t pull it off at all times. But there were a few good moments, and that’s all we can take from it and just try to continue to learn.”Berhalter and the Americans ground out a 1–1 draw with Uruguay a few days later and then dispersed, as national teams do. And they’ve played only five games since—five games in 14 months. Thanks to the pandemic, there’s been almost no time to build on what was established last fall. Berhalter’s project was, at least superficially, put on extended pause. And during that time, even more young, talented Americans began knocking on the senior-team door. When the manager announced his 24-man team for this month’s long-awaited friendlies against Wales (Thursday) and Panama (Nov. 16), it included 10 uncapped players.

None of those players will have had the opportunity to work on those patterns and partnerships with their new U.S. teammates. Other, more seasoned (but still youthful) internationals are back together for the first time in a year. And not only do they have only a couple days to train fully before facing Wales in Swansea, they’re all quickly approaching a 2021 stretch in which the USA has a Gold Cup and the start of World Cup qualifying to negotiate.

Berhalter’s plan always was going to take time. And time has taken on new meaning in 2020.

Speaking to reporters from Wales on Monday, Berhalter said that despite the delays and time spent apart, he felt there was a core in place that has grasped the way he wants to play. Pulisic, midfielder Weston McKennie, defender Tim Ream and goalkeeper Zack Steffen all were capped at least 10 times last year, while John Brooks, Reggie Cannon, Sergiño Dest, Sebastian Lletget, Matt Miazga and Josh Sargent made multiple starts.

Just as crucially, time together doesn’t end when camps disperse. Berhalter and his staff stay in constant contact with their players, talking soccer and even going over footage of their club games. For those near the surface of the player pool, Berhalter’s system should be well understood by this point. He now feels it’s time to deepen that pool, owing to the emergence of new talent and the busy year ahead.

“When we have our core together, I think it’s a team that’s made progress. I think now’s a great time to look at some new players, to look at some of the younger guys who’ve been doing a great job with their club teams. And so that’s what we’re using this camp for,” Berhalter said Monday.

“Admittedly, [building comfort and chemistry] is something I think about also,” he continued. “In this [Wales] game, it’s going to be probably six or seven guys that are on the field for the first time playing together. So it will be a new experience. But I think when you look at the core, and the players we were able to influence over the last 18 months, that’s definitely a group that is up to speed.”

There’s even the possibility of additional wrinkles, he revealed, as he looks to use the squad’s youth and athleticism to his advantage.

“It’s about taking advantage of the quality that we heave in the team, and what I mean is, are there times where we can be more aggressive pressing? I think I was very comfortable with a mid-block 4-4-2 before. We’ve talked about the transition from that into more of a 4-3-3 defending. There’s no secret on that, and it’s based on the athletes that we have and the quality that we have,” he said.

“It won’t change much in terms of us wanting to control the ball. It won’t change much in terms of us wanting to use the ball to create goal-scoring opportunities, and we have guys that can do it. For me, it’s just adding another layer to our group.”

If there’s anyone who might feel like there’s considerable catch-up to do, it’s Tyler Adams. The 21-year-old New Yorker is certainly considered part of Berhalter’s core. He’s a rising star in defensive midfield at RB Leipzig and has big-game, UEFA Champions League experience. But Adams missed last year’s Gold Cup and Concacaf Nations League games with injuries and hasn’t played for the USA since March 2019. And he played then, in a friendly against Ecuador, as a right back.

But Adams explained that his work as a defensive midfielder in Leipzig and his frequent conversations with the U.S. coach leave him level with almost everyone else heading into this week.

“I would say everyone’s quite behind, because we’ve had eight months off to a pandemic. But other than that, it’s just about coming in and taking as much information in as possible,” Adams said.

Berhalter maintained steady contact with Adams during his injury layoff and the pandemic pause.

“He’s really helped me through a lot of different things, a lot of different variables. We’ve talked football and, you know, what my role in the team will be like,” Adams said. “He’s also been able to help me think about the game in a different way as well. He has a similar style to the way [Leipzig coach] Julian Nagelsmann plays, so my development under Julian has allowed me to make the understanding of my game evolve here as well. That’s been really good. [Berhalter] has a lot of bright ideas, and I’m just hoping we can now implement them in the game scenarios and just continue to progress.”

Training time isn’t the only time that Berhalter and staff can use to implement their system. They hold meetings with players, both individually and collectively, and had iPads filled with select video clips waiting for the players when they arrived. Time together may be brief, but it does seem to be immersive. The key will be building at the right rate toward next year, accepting scheduling quirks beyond their control and maintaining realistic expectations for a group featuring many new faces. World Cup qualifying kicks off next September. That’s when you really play to win.

“Moving forward, we obviously need to progress day by day,” Adams said. “It’s different when you have guys that played [Sunday]. They’ll only train twice before the first friendly and then we won’t be able to train that much time between this friendly and the next one [against Panama].

“For myself, with a lot of young guys, we’re going to have to really take as much information in as possible,” Adams continued. “With how the schedule looks moving forward and what competitive games [we have], we know we have to progress rather quickly, because a lot of the guys in this group that are here can play such a key factor going forward.”

The schedule is tight, but it also offers a slight reprieve. World Cup qualifying originally was supposed to begin two months ago. So while Berhalter and his staff lost nearly a year in on-field development time, they’ll get a chunk of that back in next year’s Nations League and Gold Cup matches.

“I have a lot of hope for this group of players. I believe in this group of players and I think as they continue to gain experience for both their clubs and country, they’re going to continue to grow and be fantastic players,” Berhalter said. “But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We have to realize that there are 10 players in camp that are in the full national team for the first time and it’s going to take development. There’s no question about that.”

UEFA Nations League W2W4: Heavyweight group deciders as COVID and injuries take toll

4:50 AM ETTom HamiltonSenior Writer

The climax of the UEFA Nations League is here — stream LIVE on ESPN+ (U.S. only) — with some of the continent’s biggest teams fighting for a place in the finals in October 2021, as well as preferable seeding ahead of the World Cup 2022 qualifying draw.This year, preparations have been disrupted by COVID-19 — due to both the virus and players battling an intense fixture pile-up, a number of Europe’s best talents are unavailable. Finally, in this most turbulent of years, there is a growing unease around one of Europe’s most successful nations, while others feel that this is the right time to bring in some exciting young talent.Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the final two rounds of Nations League group play.

COVID chaos

The build-up to the Nations League has been a tangle of logistics, biosecure bubbles, COVID-19 testing and load management. But also muddying the waters are the differing quarantine rules from country to country, with the new restrictions on Denmark proving particularly taxing. The UK government has banned all travel from Denmark by non-UK citizens and has not offered an exemption for elite athletes. So, with Iceland playing Denmark on Sunday, Iceland’s team, as things stand, will not be permitted to travel to the UK to face England at Wembley on Wednesday, leaving the two countries scrambling to find a neutral base for their game.

This is also affecting the Denmark squad with neither Tottenham’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, nor Brentford’s Henrik Dalsgaard and Mathias Jensen, released for international duty.

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COVID-19 has also put a direct dent in the Denmark squad with Hoffenheim’s Robert Skov and a physio testing positive, while Belgium captain Eden Hazard has too and will miss out this week. Germany will be without Niklas SuleKai Havertz and Emre Can while striker Eden Dzeko will be absent for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Then there is Italy. Manager Roberto Mancini, who has tested positive, named a bloated 41-man squad for their three matches — one friendly against Estonia and Nations League games against Poland and Bosnia and Herzegovina — given the upheaval at home due to the pandemic, that saw six Serie A clubs recently report positive results.

Injury toll

With a number of Europe’s best players sidelined through injury, club managers will be keeping their fingers crossed that their stars return home unscathed after three bruising games in seven days. England are already sweating on Marcus Rashford‘s fitness after he injured his shoulder against EvertonTrent Alexander-Arnold will miss out following his calf injury against Manchester City on Sunday and Joe Gomez is facing an extended period on the sidelines after injuring his knee in training Wednesday.

Elsewhere, Spain are without Barcelona‘s Ansu Fati following a knee injury that’s expected to keep him out for four months, and Germany star Joshua Kimmich is unavailable until January with a knee injury he picked up against Borussia Dortmund.

The Netherlands sent Steven Bergwijn back to Spurs after fitness tests, and Virgil van Dijk is a long-term absentee; Nathan Ake might be sidelined for weeks after suffering a muscle injury in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw vs. Spain. And Belgium will be without Timothy CastagneLeandro Trossard and Yannick Carrasco.

Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo available despite the forward picking up an ankle knock at the weekend — he scored once against Andorra in Wednesday’s 7-0 romp after coming on as a half-time sub — but the list of those on the sidelines is mounting up, much to the anger of their clubs.

Managers are absolutely fuming about the relentless fixture list. Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer called the Premier League schedule “an absolute shambles” and said the authorities had set his team up to “fail” ahead of their win at Everton on Saturday. Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp has previously been critical of the international break and the lack of rest time for the players, while Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho says when his players leave for national duty, “I’m never expecting good things, I’m only expecting negative things. Never good things.”

Meanwhile, national team bosses have named larger squads not just to cope with any COVID-19 complications, but also to juggle their options. “It is important that we have enough players we can count on,” was Bosnia and Herzegovina boss Dusan Bajevic’s message after picking 32 players, but France manager Didier Deschamps has played down any concerns about the players hitting a wall.

“I wouldn’t say there’s any risk of burnout, but fitness is something that needs to be taken into account,” Deschamps said. “These past weeks, the players played in nine matches: one every three days, including the European competitions. I can’t say I’m not relieved when I see one of my internationals start on the bench for his club!”

Crunch matches for European giants

We are at the business end of the Nations League group stage, so pool matches are effectively “play-off games” for spots in the semifinals, and for promotion/relegation. Portugal-France in Group 3 on Saturday in Lisbon (2:45 p.m. ET on ESPN+) is a perfect example. Portugal are seeking to defend their Nations League crown and have named a squad of 25 players, with 37-year-old Pepe absent through injury.

“We can take the opportunity to look at players from our extended squad,” Portugal boss Fernando Santos said, with one eye on the future. “[Potential debutants] Paulinho and Pedro Neto are part of that list of 40 or 50 players that I think are all very good. There are none of them that I do not trust or do not have quality.”

Portugal and France face off on Saturday in a likely group-deciding match in Nations League Group A. Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

On the other side of the ledger, France’s form is very hard to gauge, especially after a shock 2-0 friendly defeat to Finland on Wednesday. Deschamps has tried various different formations — 4-3-3, playing three at the back, a 4-4-2 diamond — so you sense he’s still testing the water for his best mix ahead of next summer’s Euros. There are questions over Kylian Mbappe‘s fitness due to a hamstring injury, while Benjamin Pavard and Presnel Kimpembe are also doubts.

Deschamps has also spoken out about Paul Pogba‘s situation at Manchester United, saying “he cannot be happy, neither with his playing time, nor with his positioning.”

This is also playing out against a backdrop of angst regarding the draw for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. The top 10 European sides in the FIFA World Ranking will be seeded for the draw next month. Belgium, France, England, Portugal, Spain, and Croatia are all guaranteed Pot 1 seeds, but a bad week for Italy, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, alongside a good week for Switzerland or Poland, could cause one of the more traditional European superpowers to face an awkward route to Qatar 2022 with only the group winners guaranteed to qualify.

Italy (Group 1) are on an unbeaten run of 20 games and Mancini was in bullish form ahead of round batch of matches, which started with a 4-0 friendly win over Estonia on Wednesday. “Poland are ahead of us in the standings? We’ll win against Poland and we’ll top our group,” he said.

Denmark’s preparations are up in the air due to COVID-19, and the Netherlands have made an average start to life under Frank de Boer. The Oranje are in real danger of missing out on a spot in the semifinals, drawing 1-1 with Italy last time out, while De Boer has also overseen a 0-0 draw with Bosnia and Herzegovina and a 1-0 defeat to Mexico. Their buildup has been disrupted by Bergwijn’s unavailability, and Mohamed Ihattaren pulled out with an illness.

If Netherlands lose to Bosnia, and Poland beat Italy, then the meeting of the Dutch and the Poles next week is effectively a shootout for a World Cup qualifying draw seeding spot.

And all is not well with Germany (Group 4). There are dark clouds shrouding the national team, with general manager Oliver Bierhoff lashing out at the media earlier in the week, asking them to support the national team instead of being overly critical. He admits there is a growing gulf in relations between the country and national team, but while Bierhoff says he believes this is mostly down to the 2018 World Cup disaster, there’s also a feeling the national side values financial spreadsheets and projections above everything else.

There is also a growing clamour for Germany to call up previously discarded veterans Thomas MullerJerome Boateng and Mats Hummels. They have been in outstanding form and Boateng and Hummels could solve Germany’s problems in defence. Despite that, a comeback has been ruled out by manager Joachim Low and Bierhoff. If they slip up against Ukraine on Saturday, their place among the World Cup seeds could be in real doubt.

Germany’s match against Spain on Tuesday (2:45 p.m. ET on ESPN+) is a shootout for a spot in the semifinals, and there are also plenty of questions around Luis Enrique’s side. Spain suffered a poor loss to Ukraine last time out and there has been plenty of chopping and changing in the squad.

Who is Spain’s No. 1 goalkeeper? Who is best placed to partner Sergio Ramos in defence? And who will score up front? It looks likely David De Gea will remain between the posts ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga and Unai SimonPau Torres will play alongside Ramos, while they have called up a rejuvenated Alvaro Morata to answer their issues up front. “Since [Alvaro] Morata returned to Juventus, he is a different player both in attack and in defence,” Luis Enrique said. Let’s hope he manages to stay onside.

And in Group 2, favourites Belgium welcome England to Leuven on Sunday (2:45 p.m. ET on ESPN+) — after the game was moved from Brussels due to the city’s 10 p.m. curfew. England have to win the game to stay in contention for a place in the finals for the second successive edition. But in the back of the players’ minds is the physical toll of this run of fixtures.

“It’s all too much, not just for me,” winger Thorgan Hazard said. “Champions League, Bundesliga, Nations League … I don’t want to complain too much because we have to do our job, but it is a lot.

“Well, here at the Red Devils, everyone will get playing time. The national coach has selected many players. Playing them in all three matches for 90 minutes would be difficult. The players will not burn themselves out. Our coaches also ask us to be careful, not to risk too much.”

New faces

With all the absentees and upheaval, the international window gives managers the chance to introduce some youngsters. Borussia Monchengladbach‘s Marcus Thuram, 23, is looking to follow in his father Lilian’s footsteps for France. He has been superb for Gladbach this season, with three goals and five assists in 11 matches, and is one of two uncapped players in Deschamps’ squad — 27-year-old Monaco defender Ruben Aguilar being the other.

Elsewhere, England could hand a debut to 17-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham, called up following the withdrawal of Southampton‘s James Ward-Prowse. Bellingham joined Borussia Dortmund in the summer and has made 11 appearances to date, including 30 minutes off the bench against Bayern Munich at the weekend. If he makes his debut, the incredibly talented teenager will become the third-youngest England player in history after Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney.

There are also potential debuts for exciting right-back Bote Baku for Germany, with uncapped defensive duo Philipp Max and Felix Uduokhai also named. Meanwhile, Belgium have selected Hertha Berlin striker Dodi Lukebakio in their squad.

Spain have Atletico Madrid‘s midfielder/forward Marcos Llorente in the party, while there is a recall for Arsenal‘s Hector Bellerin — hoping to make his first appearance since 2016. Italy have a host of potential debutants with Alessandro Bastoni (Inter Milan), Davide Calabria (AC Milan), Gian Marco Ferrari (Sassuolo), Luca Pellegrini (Genoa), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta), Mattia Zaccagni (Hellas Verona) and Pietro Pellegri (Monaco) all in the squad.

Coatesville’s Zack Steffen has it all at Manchester City, except the one thing he needs most

Steffen has played just two games for City this season, and they were both in September. He’s likely to start for the U.S. men’s national team in its friendlies Friday and next Monday.

Jonathan TannenwaldSTAFF WRITER

Zack Steffen has just about everything a soccer player could want.He’s part of one of the world’s biggest clubs, England’s Manchester City. The training facility is among the world’s most lavish, bankrolled by billionaire owners from the United Arab Emirates. His teammates include world superstars Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Agüero. The coaching staff is led by Pep Guardiola, one of the game’s all-time philosophers and winners.There are even Americans to socialize with, since Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle are playing for City’s women’s team this season. They’re planning to all have Thanksgiving dinner together.But there’s one big thing that Steffen currently lacks: regular playing time.He knew it might happen when he joined the English superpower last July. At first, Steffen was far enough down the depth chart that it made sense to loan him to Germany’s Fortuna Düsseldorf last season. But now he’s the No. 2 to starter Ederson. That means he’s on the bench a lot.The Coatesville native has played just two games for City since coming back from Germany. Both have been in the EFL Cup, a tournament that big English clubs treat as an afterthought. It’s understandable, and it might even be OK if not for the fact that Steffen was out injured for the second half of the last Bundesliga season. His City debut on Sept. 24 was his first game action since last Dec. 22. He suffered a patellar tendon injury after that, then suffered a knee ligament injury in late April.

» READ MORE: Zack Steffen wins Manchester City debut

On Thursday, Steffen is expected to play for the U.S. national team for the first time since October of last year. The Americans visit Wales for a friendly in the program’s first game since February, with a squad that is almost entirely European-based. The following Monday, they face Concacaf rival Panama on neutral turf in Austria. (Both games are 2:45 p.m. ET kickoffs, televised on FS1, UniMás and TUDN.)Some time next year, World Cup qualifying will start and the games will count for real. And if Steffen is still on City’s bench, the question he faced in a slew of forms during a transcontinental Zoom call Wednesday will keep getting asked.How can he be in top shape for the national team if he isn’t playing for his club?There’s an obvious answer: Manchester City practices at a higher level than many teams play games at. And it was the answer Steffen gave with his trademark calm and politeness.“The talent that we have at that club has already made me a better keeper,” he said. “Their goalie coach is really detailed and is very eager to make me a better goalkeeper. And then just working with those guys day in and day out, the training, the level of intensity, and skill, and talent, and all that, everything that goes into it, I feel myself growing.”

» READ MORE: The Union’s Brenden Aaronson is the latest Philly-area native to move to Europe

Guardiola’s system is especially demanding of players, laid out down to the smallest details of how to pass and how to defend. Although he has been a manager for 13 years, only a small fraction of the world’s players have learned his ways firsthand.“It’s awesome to be on the inside and really see how he works day to day,” Steffen said. “He has a good balance of being focused and intense, but with that he brings humor, and he brings just his genuineness, and just kindness.”But there’s still nothing quite like a live game, and Steffen hasn’t played in one since Sept. 30.“Obviously, I do want to get games, They’re most important, and I want to be out on the field,” he said. “I’ll keep working hard and keep pushing those guys in front of me, and they’ll keep pushing me.”Steffen said that he has fully recovered physically from the knee injury. But the mental side of the game has needed some work too.“City has given me a lot of confidence to go back out on the field,” he said, taking time to again specifically praise the goalkeeper coaches. “Each day, the keeper coach, the keepers, the players, they’re pushing me to get better, and I feel like I’m in that process. I’m feeling good and feeling better each and every day, each and every week. And just being around those high level players has made me better — and has made me a more confident player as well.”

U.S. roster for November friendlies

Goalkeepers (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge, Belgium), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City, England), Zack Steffen (Manchester City, England)

Defenders (7): John Brooks (VfL Wolfsburg, Germany), Reggie Cannon (Boavista, Portugal), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona, Spain), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht, Belgium), Tim Ream (Fulham, England), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich, Germany), Antonee Robinson (Fulham, England)

Midfielders (7): Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, Germany), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional, Brazil), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Sebastian Lletget (Los Angeles Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus, Italy), Yunus Musah (Valencia, Spain), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton, England)

Forwards (8): Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona, Spain), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen, France), Ulysses Llanez (Heerenveen, Netherlands), Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Sebastian Soto (Telstar, Netherlands), Tim Weah (Lille, France)

Notes: Christian Pulisic was part of this week’s training camp, but left Wednesday to deal with a hamstring injury that’s been bothering him all season. Josh Sargent was also initially on the roster, but forced to withdraw because of local government coronavirus regulations affecting his club team, Germany’s Werder Bremen. Lletget was called in to replace him. No other MLS players were called in, to avoid subjecting those preparing for the playoffs to the league’s quarantine mandate for players returning to the U.S. from abroad.Jonathan Tannenwald

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