1/22/20 USWNT vs Colombia Tonight 7 pm ESPN2, US Men next Sun 7 pm, McKinney wins Trophy with Juventus, FA Cup Weekend

Games to Watch this Weekend

With FA Cup this weekend –not a ton of big games to watch this weekend – most of them will be next week.  Of course Man United and Liverpool do battle again – after their disappointing 0-0 draw last week  – this time in FA Cup Action on Sunday at 12 noon on ESPN+.   We also get Genoa traveling to Juventus and American MF Weston McKinney (fresh off winning his first major trophy – the Italia Supercup Wed) on Sunday morning on ESPN2 at 6:30 am.  (Set that recorder).  Sunday also gives us a chance to see new 19 yo American forward Hoppe (scorer of 5 goals in 3 games) as Schalke will host Bayern Munich on Sunday at 9:30 am on ESPN+.   Weekday action in the EPL next Wed has Everton vs Leicster City at 3 pm on NBCSN, and Tottenham vs Liverpool Thurs 3:15 pm on NBCSN.  (see full schedule in the OBC)

US Ladies vs Colombia Tonight 7 pm ESPN2

The US ladies finally took the field again for the first time in forever.  It was nice to have Rapino and Llyod back on the forward line as both had assists to Sam Mewis helping her to her first hat-trick for the US.  In fact it was an all Mewis affair as her sister Kristie – came off the bench to score – giving the Mewis’s 4 goals on the night.   Colombia certainly had a young squad and did not put up much of a fight  – especially on the offensive end.  But Colombian veteran GK Sepulveda was spectacular in holding what could have been 8-0 to just a 4-0 scoreline for the US.  The ladies should face a stronger team tonight, Friday, Jan 22 at 7 pm on ESPN2.  It was great to see Catarina Macario – the Brazilian who flipped to the US this week.  Having come to the US at 12 and playing for Stanford for 3 season’s  (where she was player of the year last year) she’s on her way to Lyon in France where she’s headed to one of the top teams in the world.  She looked good and will certainly have an increasing role for this US team and could become its next superstar.  I look forward to seeing her perhaps start Friday night in the middle as I suspect coach will play a lot of new players in this second game.   Last time to enjoy before the She Believe’s Cup coming in late-Feb.   

US Men – play next Sun 7 pm on FS1.

So maybe the US does have a new Hoppe after 19 year-old American forward Matthew Hoppe became the first American to score a hat trick in the German Bundesliga for Schalke in just his 5th game?   Then the next game he scored again, the following game again – that’s 5 goals in 3 games and ties him for the goal lead in Jan with Bayern’s World Player of the Year Robert Lewandowski.  I think its time for a call up to the US team for him like soon!!  Interesting to see Seattle and US winger Jordan Morris is evidently going on loan to Swansea who is in the running for advancement in the Championship in England (2nd division).  I would like to think with starters now at Chelsea, Juventus, and Barcelona that someone in the EPL or Germany would take a flyer on one of the best wingers on the US National team.  Perhaps he can help Swansea get back in the EPL – and at least be seen by bigger European teams.  Cool story here on American’s in Europe.  The US Men and U23s are still training and will face Trinidad and Tabago on Sunday, Jan 31 at 7 pm on FS1.  

FA Cup on ESPN+

The  FA Cup is back and Chorley from the 6th division will host EPL squad Wolverhampton TODAY at 2:45 pm on ESPN plus.  Other giant killer games include Crawley Town of the 4th division traveling to Bournemouth at 10 am on Saturday and 4th tier Cheltenham Town hosting the mighty Manchester City assumably with US GK Zach Steffan in Goal at 12:30 Sat.  and 4th Tier Wycombe Wanderers hosting Tottenham on Monday at 2:45 pm.  Of course the big game is Man United vs Liverpool at 12 noon on ESPN+ Sunday.  Me I will be rooting for the little guys vs the EPL squads – Yes Gotta love the FA Cup!

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri,  Jan 22

2:45 ESPN+                       Chorley vs Wolverhampton FA Cup

2:30 pm ESPN+                 Dortmund (Reyna) vs M’Gladbach

3 pm beIN Sport                PSG vs Montipellier

7 pm ESPN2 USA Ladies vs Colombia

Sat,  Jan 23

                              (FA Cup Games on ESPN+)

7:15 ESPN+                         Southampton vs Arsenal FA Cup

10 am ESPN+                      Bournemouth vs Crawley Town

10 am ESPN+                      Swansea City (Morris soon?) vs Nottingham Forest

9:30 am ESPN+                   Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)

12:30 pm ESPN+               Cheltenham Town vs Man City

3 pm Peacock                       Aston Villa vs New Castle United (Yedlin)

3 pm beIn Sport                     Alaves vs Real Madrid

Sun, Jan 24

6:30 am ESPN2                    Juve vs Bologna 

7 am EPSN+                         Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Luton Town FA Cup

9:30 am ESPN+                   Schalke (Hoope) vs Bayern Munich

12 noon ESPN+                  Man United vs Liverpool FA Cup

3 pm EPSN+                         Everton vs Sheffield Wednesday

3 pm beIn Sport                   Atletico Madrid vs Valencia 

Mon,  Jan 25

2:45 ESPN+                         Wycombe Wanderers vs Tottenham FA Cup

Tues,  Jan 26

2:45 pm ESPN2 or +         Inter Milan vs AC Milan  Coppa Italia

Weds,  Jan 27

1 pm NBCSN                      Chelsea (Pulisic ) vs Wolverhampton

2:45 pm ESPN2 or +         SPAL vs Juventus –  Coppa Italia

3:!5 pm NBCSN                Everton vs Leicester City

Thurs  Jan 28

3 pm NBCSN                     Tottenham vs Liverpool

Sun, Jan 31

7 pm FS1                            US Men vs Trinidad and Tobago

USA Women


Secret to U.S. women’s soccer team’s success? Intense internal competition
LA Times
Sam Mewis hat trick helps USWNT past Colombia
USWNT vs. Colombia, 2021 friendly: What we learned  By Donald Wine II
Mewis Sisters Power USWNT’s 2021-Opening Rout of Colombia  BY MOLLY GEARY SI

– Sauerbrunn named new USWNT captain
– USWNT’s Dahlkemper completes move to Man City
– Macario files FIFA switch to rep USWNT

Trinity Rodman is ready to make her own Rodman legacy in pro soccer   Kathleen McNamee

USA MEN

SSFC Spotlight: Matthew Hoppe an overnight sensation in Schalke  By Brendan Joseph S&S
How USMNT prospects adapt to life in Europe and what their clubs do to help
dESPN
USMNT to play Trinidad & Tobago to conclude January Camp Jan 31 7 pm FS1
Americans at home: The pros and cons of Jordan Morris moving to Swansea City
USMNT 2021 to-do list: Find a striker, build depth behind stars
USMNT’s Aaronson scores in FC Salzburg debut
U.S., Mexico set for Olympic qualifying in March
Orlando’s Perea flips to USMNT from Colombia
A few minutes with Aaronson |
 Stock watch: Hoppe, Musah, Yedlin, Green | 
Scouting report: Otasowie

WORLD

FA Cup: How to watch Manchester United – Liverpool, 15 other ties
Liverpool’s 68-game unbeaten home run ended by Burnley

Surging Man City to be without De Bruyne for 4-6 weeks

Why Chelsea aren’t Giving up on Lampard Yet
What’s wrong with Liverpool? Maybe not as much as you think

Title-chasing Leicester suffer Vardy blow

Borussia Dortmund face a critical month, yet another rebuild. How did they fall behind?
 
5hStephan Uersfeld and Tom Hamilton

Real Madrid’s Copa del Rey conquerors have budget under $1m a year  12hChris Wright
Milan and Inter continue duel for top spot, Roma set for Spezia rematch

King size: keeper sets world record for long-range goal

USWNT could win Olympic gold if they can balance experience with next generation – Julie Foudy ESPNFC

:46 PM ET. Thankfully, eventually, we found a way.

– Sauerbrunn named new USWNT captain
– USWNT’s Dahlkemper completes move to Man City
– Macario files FIFA switch to rep USWNT

I can’t even imagine how many times in 2020, the current national team must have yelled, building character! or, perhaps, something more colorful. With the pandemic came the shut-down of leagues and, then, the shut-down of sports, the closure of fields, parks, gyms… all the things you need in your profession to help maintain your game. So the players did what any motivated athlete does… they figured out a way to make it work, safely. They went overseas to play, they played in an NWSL bubble, they picked up games and training where they could.Thankfully, eventually, they found a way.If you need any further proof on if they passed the test of adjusting and adapting to 2020, look no further than their game in the Netherlands on Nov. 27 last year. It was a replay of the 2019 World Cup final and, it’s worth noting, against a very good Dutch team that had many players in professional leagues who had continued to keep playing (more consistently than the US, that’s for sure) in Europe after much of the continent brought sports back.I thought the U.S. team would understandably look rusty and tire quickly, having very few players who were fit enough to last 90 minutes. Instead, we saw the USWNT run the Dutch off the pitch. And now, as 2021 greets us with a huge Faustian laugh (wait, that is not how it was scripted), the big question — WHERE IS THE TEAM? in the continuum of growth given the challenges of 2020 — has been answered.

The bigger question, in my opinion, leading into the Olympics in July is: how do you sprinkle in some youth into this veteran group? Or maybe you don’t. But I would argue that it’s the most important decision that coach Vlatko Andonovski has to weigh in these coming months.Carli Lloyd turns 39 at the start of the Olympics. Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn will turn 36 right before the Olympics. But it is not their ages that matter, of course; it’s always what accompanies the number in terms of the training environment and conditions they’re in.Carli Lloyd has missed much of 2020 from a playing perspective due to injury. Megan Rapinoe has also barely played in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, and as she said recently, “I was not ready for competitive games because I did not have a consistent training environment with teammates.” She spoke of “needing a longer runway”. And equally important, her body just needed a rest.There is a reason why no Women’s National Team has ever won the World Cup and then won the Olympics the very next year. It is super-tough turn. The players are exhausted. Maybe, dare I say, this Olympic delay allows for rest that actually makes the team better because two of their biggest superstars were allowed to physically & mentally recharge. Or, maybe not because the time off was too long. These next three months will tell us everything.Can Lloyd and Rapinoe come back after such a long layoff with the same force and game-changing ability? With only 18 players on an Olympic roster (compared to 23 for a World Cup), it’s hard to make the argument that you would take them at less than full fitness. And if you don’t take them, which young players can fill the void? Are these younger players ready for the big stage? How does that affect the dynamic of this team? So many questions to be answered.The great news is the fact there are some very talented young players who have the potential to break into that 18 player Olympic roster. Just to name a few…

– Catarina Macario, the Stanford superstar who moved from Brazil to the United States when she was 12 years old, was told on Jan. 13 that she is now eligible, as a U.S. citizen, to play for the United States of America.This is a player who scored at will at Stanford (she led the nation in goals and assists in 2019), led them to a national title in 2017 and 2019, and was twice the Mac Hermann Trophy winner for best collegiate soccer player. She will not conclude her senior season at Stanford as she just signed with Olympique Lyonnais in France.

– Sophia Smith, also from Stanford University, was drafted as the top pick by the NWSL’s Portland Thorns in 2020 and dominated the youth national teams. A broken ankle her freshman year at Stanford in 2018 slowed her career a beat, but Sophia made it known she was back and healthy after being named the 2019 College Cup MVP.  

Also clearly in the mix of younger players still in college or fresh out …

– Emily Fox of UNC, who just got drafted as the #1 NWSL pick by expansion team, Racing Louisville
– Jaeline Howell, a junior from Florida State, who helped lead her FSU team to a national title in 2018
– Naomi Girma, a junior at Stanford, who was recently voted US Soccer Young Player of the Year

It’s a great problem to have if you are Coach Andonovski, but hard decisions await. Buckle up!

USWNT vs Colombia, 2021 friendly: What we learned

The Mewii are unstoppable ! Stars and Stripes By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Jan 19, 2021, 8:29am PST

The United States Women’s National Team opened 2021 the way they played throughout 2020: breezing to victory. Their 4-0 victory over Colombia at Exploria Stadium last night was an expected result for the best team on the planet, but it was how they played (and a standout performance on the Colombian side) that gave us something to take and hopefully see how they improve when the two teams meet again on Friday.

The Mewii are on fire.

The last 5 goals for the USWNT have gone like this: Kristie Mewis, Samantha Mewis, Samantha Mewis, Samantha Mewis, Kristie Mewis. Samantha Mewis followed up her incredible 2020 campaign, where she was U.S. Soccer’s Women’s Player of the Year, by nabbing a hat trick against Colombia. It was a natural and perfect hat trick, scoring the first goal with her left, the second with her head, and the third with her right foot (We here don’t care that the 3rd was via penalty). Mewis has somehow improved from the final part of 2020, where for Manchester City and the USWNT she has starred.However, the other person on the team that has been on fire lately has been Kristie Mewis, who came on as a substitute last night to score the 4th and final goal of the night. Since she was called up to the USWNT for their friendly against The Netherlands back in November, she’s been terrific off the bench. She scored the 2nd goal against the Dutch, starting the Mewii connection of power.In a year that’s super important to determine who will be a part of the 18 players and 2 alternates that head to Tokyo for the Olympics this summer, Kristie Mewis has given every reason why she should be on that plane. And, the love between the two has, in a way, made them both play loose on the field. It’s a joy to watch, and I hope we get a lot more of both Kristie and Samantha on the field in 2021.

The high pressure is suffocating and exciting.

USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski said before the match that the team intended to play with a high pressure, and golly did they do just that. Samantha Mewis scoring inside the first 5 minutes of the match was a testament to the relentless high pressure that the team had on both offense and defense. It was suffocating to Colombia’s attack, and their defense couldn’t handle the pressure. It also made it so the American defense and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher needed other ways to entertain themselves for the vast majority of the match.The U.S. outshot Colombia 22-0 (11 on target). The USWNT controlled possession 64% of the time, and the only reason it wasn’t higher was because they were taking all those shots. They had 80% pass accuracy while limiting Colombia to only 62% pass accuracy. The pressure never let up, and it created a ton of scoring chances for the Americans. They could be crisper in the attacking third with those shots, and they probably can’t be as aggressive against a better team. Still, it’s clear that the team will be effective at putting incredible pressure on a defense with success.

Sandra Sepúlveda was the player of the match.

No offense to Samantha Mewis, but Colombian goalkeeper Sandra Sepúlveda was the MVP of the entire match. She made some incredible saves on the night to keep her team in it as long as possible, and he was dazzling on the night. The relentless pressure that the USWNT placed on Colombia made Sepúlveda incredibly busy on the night. She had 7 saves in total, and her play caused more shots to go just wide or over the bar that didn’t necessarily count in the save column.The USWNT wasn’t as sharp on the offensive end as they could have been, but their frustration was assisted by Sepúlveda’s performance. She stood up to the high pressure relatively well compared to the rest of her teammates, and the USWNT will have to figure out how to finish against Sepúlveda should she remain in goal for the Colombians on Friday night.

We are right to be excited about Catarina Macario’s debut.

The most exciting moment of the evening, outside of the goals, was the debut of Catarina Macario. Macario debuted at the start of the second half, coming on as a substitute for Megan Rapinoe. She was employed as the 11, which is something that Vlatko Andonovski admitted was not a part of his game plan. A knock picked up by Sophia Smith in warmups caused Andonovski to switch up his plans and place Macario in that spot. But, you could see why everyone has been highly anticipating the debut of the first naturalized American to play for the USWNT.Her creativity at times leaves you breathless, as if you know she’s about to do something special. She may not have scored, but you can see the talent and the potential in her, and she belonged on the field. We will see how she continues to integrate with the team on the field, but it’s clear already that she could become the next superstar for the best team on the planet.The next match for the USWNT will be a rematch against Colombia on Friday. Coverage begins at 7:00pm ET on ESPN2.

Sam Mewis’ hat trick, Catarina Macario’s debut highlight USWNT’s 4-0 win over Colombia

by The Associated Press, Updated: January 19, 2021

  •  

ORLANDO, Fla. — Having collected her first career hat trick, the celebration continued for Samantha Mewis as she cheered on her big sister Kristie.

Samantha Mewis scored three goals and Kristie added another to give the United States a 4-0 exhibition victory over short-handed Colombia on Monday.

“I’m just so proud of Kristie. I think it’s so cool to watch her success here and to have her here,” said Samantha Mewis, the reigning U.S. Soccer Player of the Year. “I feel so lucky that we both get to be here and it’s just been so much fun.”

The U.S. extended its unbeaten streak to 33 matches. The defending World Cup champions have a 49-game undefeated streak on home soil.

The teams were set to play at Exploria Stadium again on Friday.Rapinoe served up a perfectly placed cross to Samantha Mewis in front of the goal in the fourth minute. The younger Mewis, who plays for Manchester City of the FA Women’s Super League, scored again in the 33rd minute. She converted a penalty kick early in the second half to complete the hat trick before subbing out.

Kristie Mewis, who came in as a sub in the second half, scored in the 86th minute. It was her third international goal.

The television broadcast caught Samantha’s enthusiastic applause in the stands after her sister’s goal. Kristie has earned call-ups to the national team recently following her standout play for the Houston Dash.

“It’s the first game of 2021, we wanted to start the year off on the right foot. We definitely had been preparing hard for this game so it feels good to come away with a win as a team,” Samantha said. “Then to have some individual success and then to see Kristie score a goal as well, it was just so much fun and I really am just so proud of her.”

Catarina Macario came off the bench for the second half, making her first appearance for the national team. Macario, who was born in Brazil, became a U.S. citizen last fall and recently received approval from FIFA to play for the Americans.

Macario decided to forgo her senior season at Stanford and sign with French powerhouse Lyon.

» READ MORE: NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird faces heat over complex draft rules and Catarina Macario joining Lyon

Catarina Macario, left, made her long-awaited U.S. national team debut.

Colombia was without three players — midfielders Daniela Montoya, Diana Carolina Ospina and defender Carolina Arias — who were in isolation because of COVID-19 tracing protocols. A fourth player, midfielder Ana Gabriela Huertas, had inconclusive test results and was ruled out of the match. Those players could be available on Friday.

“I thought we did a good job but at the same time I want to give credit to the Colombian players for doing a great job in the one-v-one duels,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “When we were putting pressures on individual duels I thought that was the only area we could have done a little bit better.” Andonovski announced before the game that defender Becky Sauerbrunn would take over as team captain. In recent years, the captain’s armband was passed among a group of veterans, including Rapinoe and Lloyd.Andonovski, who replaced Jill Ellis after she stepped down following the 2019 World Cup victory, is 12-0-0 as the U.S coach.

How USMNT prospects adapt to life in Europe and what their clubs do to help

  • ESPN

Joe Scally is one of three young Americans to make the move from the U.S. to Europe this January. Brenden Aaronson went from the Philadelphia Union to FC Salzburg, his former teammate Mark McKenzie signed for Genk, and Scally completed his move to Borussia Monchengladbach having signed for them just over a year ago. Scally packed five suitcases for his move from New York to the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. He had everything covered, from his XBox One to clothes for all seasons, along with various keepsakes, but he forgot one key item: pancake mix. Meanwhile, McKenzie is still trying to work out how to get his prodigious shoe collection (100 pairs and counting) over to Belgium.

Jump to: A few minutes with Aaronson | Stock watch: Hoppe, Musah, Yedlin, Green | Scouting report: Otasowie

United States youth international right-back Scally signed for Borussia Monchengladbach from New York City FC more than a year ago, in December 2019, but he had to wait until this month to join them following his 18th birthday on New Year’s Eve. On Jan. 3, he waited until the last possible moment to wave goodbye to his family and girlfriend at the departure gates of John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens and flew to Monchengladbach to complete the move that had been a year in the making.Scally had never lived away from home before — he discovered early on that he could master eggs for breakfast, but struggled to put together lunch and dinner. His current specialty is sausage and pasta, cooked in an air fryer. “I throw in some sauce as well,” he told ESPN.For now, Scally is living on the Borussia Monchengladbach campus, which houses their stadium and training ground. They have four apartments in the on-site hotel for new players; from there, the club’s player liaison officers will help them find permanent accommodation. Scally plans to live alone, but find somewhere in the city center big enough to welcome his family and partner once COVID-19 lockdown regulations are eased.

Mark McKenzie was introduced as a Genk player last week after joining from the Philadelphia Union. YORICK JANSENS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

An hour away across the Belgian border to the west, McKenzie is settling into life at Genk. He FaceTimed his family as he picked out his apartment and has picked up a car — a Mercedes C-Class. “It’s definitely a step up from my old Honda Accord,” McKenzie told ESPN. He has a photographic memory, meaning he’s comfortable in navigating his new home city, but he still leans on his team manager Wout Maris for some essential local knowledge.

“I’m trying to understand the rules of driving out here and what those are, I think that’s been the biggest adjustment in trying to navigate the speed,” McKenzie says. “Wout was very explicit in stating they have speed sensors everywhere! Watch your speed so you don’t get hit with tickets.”

For Scally, the move to Gladbach was a long time coming. As he played out his final season at NYCFC with his transfer confirmed, his teammates called him “Monchengladbach” in training.

“My focus was on NYCFC, but at the back of my mind I had a little thing, like there was a bigger year coming,” Scally told ESPN. His training plan was tweaked slightly to align it closer with Gladbach’s — he’d do more hang cleans in the gym. And as the months until his move ticked away, he kept in close contact with one of his best friends: Giovanni Reyna at Borussia Dortmund.

“I’ve been talking to him a lot about the living, the play, all this type of stuff,” Scally says. “Especially now as I’m only an hour away from him, I’m able to see him so it makes it a lot easier. He told me in the beginning it’ll be hard, but it gets better … and it’s great.”

Americans in Europe

ESPN highlights the biggest stories around United States stars plying their trade overseas, bringing inside information to their successes and struggles, sitting down with some of the national team’s top players, and scouting the next generation of Americans breaking through across Europe.

Scally has enjoyed the adjustment period, telling ESPN that introduction to life at Gladbach has been “very, very welcoming. The players have taken me under their wing and helped me a lot.” He’s spoken most to Oscar Wendt, the Sweden defender who’s friends with NYCFC full-back Anton Tinnerholm, and 18-year-old midfielder Rocco Reitz. Then comes the training: it’s a higher intensity than what he’s used to, but he’s relishing the chance to get stuck in.

Over at Gent in the Belgian First Division A, center-back McKenzie has found that the intensity of training naturally forces him to take his game to the next level. “I’m trying to ultimately push myself, but also push my teammates, make their jobs, make their lives harder,” McKenzie says. “The thing here is, the processing has to be fast, you’ve got to know what you’ve got to do before you get the ball. Your awareness, where you’re at on the pitch.

“As center-backs, the runs and the interchange between the attackers, and the positions, I think in all those areas, the tempo and the intensity has climbed up a notch.”

Scally has two immediate things on his to-do list. First, he needs to learn German. “It’s tough… I’m starting lessons as I need to learn the language. Most of the guys on the team speak English so it hasn’t been hard but the coach, when he does practice, speaks in German.” And second? He needs to source a different video game console. “Everyone here has PlayStation… the guys on the team were like, ‘We don’t play XBox.’ It’s all FIFA, Fortnite, Call of Duty … I’m good at FIFA.”

Scally is just one of 50 U.S.-qualified players in Germany‘s top three divisions and has followed the path many others have taken from the States to the Continent, or from other countries, to settle in the Bundesliga. At German side TSG Hoffenheim, 16- to 18-year-olds can choose between boarding school and host families. “We like pairing them with host families as it helps them stay grounded and adjust,” says Hoffenheim’s head of international operations, Tony Mamodaly. “But every player is different. Some guys are 16 and are like 25, and others are 22 and have never cooked in their life before.”

Scally turned 18 on New Year’s Eve and was able to complete his move from NYCFC to Borussia Monchengladbach, where he’s already settling in nicely. Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Once the player goes through into the senior setup — or for those new arrivals signed as first-team players — the club has two player liaison officers available alongside the team manager, including one who’s there for the Brazilian players they sign.

“They take care of apartments, logistics and help them settle in,” Mamodaly says. “They give [new signings] recommendations on the best areas to live and also take care of their health insurance. One of the most important things is communication: We want them to be part of the team so they need to speak the language.” Hoffenheim have in-house teachers and a collaboration with Anpfiff ins Leben — an organization that helps young people prepare for the future, both professionally and personally — to help the players adjust.

“We try to help the kids develop as athletes, but also human beings and use sports as a tool to access life,” Mamodaly says.

Hoffenheim are also home to 16-year-old Las Vegas-born midfielder Lucas Tamarez, as well as 19-year-old winger Quincy Butler from Sacramento, California. “We really try to be there for our guys 24/7,” Mamodaly says. In the words of our team manager, we can give them the wings but they need to learn to fly themselves.”

Scally’s still waiting for his cooking to round out, but he’s settled into life at Gladbach, with a steady routine of training and then FaceTiming his family and girlfriend every day. He’s loving life in Germany and is looking forward to his debut, but he’s missing his pancakes. “I can’t find the mix anywhere,” Scally says. “I asked Gio about it and he actually made the same mistake, so he brought it back from home. So I need to find that.”

And while McKenzie has a few pairs of his 100-strong shoe collection with him, he’s trying to work out how to get the rest over. “It’s definitely going to be quite interesting in trying to get my precious cargo from home sent out here,” McKenzie says. “But I got a few of my ‘gem’ pieces with me, just to make my next place feel a little bit like home.” — Tom Hamilton, with additional reporting by Jeff Carlisle and Stephan Uersfeld

A few minutes with … Brenden Aaronson

Aaronson moved to Salzburg with arguably the most hype of any MLS player moving overseas since Alphonso Davies left the Vancouver Whitecaps for Bayern Munich, where he’s gone on to become one of the best left-backs in the world, if not the best. There’s no doubt about it: There is a large contingent of fans in the U.S. more interested than ever in the Austrian Bundesliga.

So, fresh off scoring on his Salzburg debut in a 6-0 friendly win over second-division side Vorwarts Steyr, Aaronson sat down with ESPN’s Sebastian Salazar to talk about his move to Europe.

Stock watch: Assessing the ups and downs of Americans abroad

Matthew HoppeSchalke 04 — On the rise: Hoppe’s breakout has been a curious one. The 19-year-old Californian had never been a particularly proficient scorer in Schalke’s junior ranks, to the point that some at the club were unsure whether he’d make it at senior level, sources told ESPN’s Stephan Uersfeld, but he had a reputation for his hunger and his ferocious training. Injuries in the forward line gave him his shot, and in addition to the height and speed he brings to Schalke’s front line, Hoppe has demonstrated clinical finishing to net four goals in six Bundesliga appearances.

Now that he’s a known quantity, he won’t be able to take opponents by surprise anymore, increasing the pressure on his shoulders, which will only grow following the arrival of club-legend striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Yunus MusahValencia — Trending down: After lighting up La Liga in the opening months of the 2020-21 season, Musah has fallen back to earth. But as he is just 18 years old, “falling back to earth” is only relative to his prodigious beginnings — starting just two of Valencia’s past eight games. According to ESPN’s Sid Lowe, that has little to do with any regression from the New York-born midfielder and everything to do with the return to form and fitness of Goncalo Guedes and Denis Cheryshev, along with the emergence of Thierry Correia pushing Daniel Wass back into midfield.

The circumstances of a thinned squad gave Musah the platform to take off, and the circumstances of teammates now fit and in form has taken it away — for the time being, anyway.

DeAndre YedlinNewcastle United — On the rise: In the first three months of Newcastle’s season, Yedlin had played just 180 minutes, all in the Carabao Cup. In 10 games since the start of December, he’s started six and come off the bench in two more. Steve Bruce seems to be taking a right-back-by-committee approach this season, but at present, the former Seattle Sounders FC standout has the hot hand. Ultimately he may still leave the club when his contract expires this summer — this run of form will only increase the number of interested parties — but his departure may no longer be the foregone conclusion it once appeared to be if he keeps getting minutes for the mid-table Magpies.

Julian Green, Greuther Furth — On the rise: When fit, Green has always been a starter for Furth, but this season has seen him hit new heights, with sources telling ESPN’s Stephan Uersfeld that the team’s shift from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 — which has meant Green moving from a wing position to a No. 8 role — and fully grasping manager Stefan Leitl’s methods in his second season in charge of the 2. Bundesliga club firmly in the race for promotion.

Green, who made his U.S. debut six-and-a-half years ago, is still only 25 — and has never given up hope of returning to the national team.

Scouting report: Owen Otasowie

One year and a week after making his senior debut for Wolves in a 4-0 Europa League win against Besiktas, the 20-year-old made his full Premier League appearance against Burnley on Dec. 21. Although he was taken off by Nuno Espirito Santo after an hour, Otasowie displayed some good runs, showed off his deft first touch and was not short of confidence.On the evidence of the night at Turf Moor, the American may still need some matches to deal with the pace of the traffic in the centre of a Premier League midfield, as he was caught in possession on a number of occasions. But since then, Otasowie has been given a few more minutes coming off the bench: in fact, he could’ve marked the new year as an unlikely hero had he managed to direct his injury time header under the bar against Brighton right before the final whistle in the 3-3 draw.

The New York City-born midfielder, who collected his first USMNT cap with a late substitute appearance against Wales in November, is easily recognised by his imposing physique and neat ball control. Whether he’ll end up as a holding midfielder or a box-to-box No. 8 is still a subject of discussion, but he clearly has the characteristics to make a career in both roles: he usually has a measured and precise passing game, takes up intelligent positions and is hard to knock off the ball when he sets off on forward runs, though he’s still prone to overdo this aspect, and can end up running into blind alleys. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen

1/15/20 USWNT vs Colombia Mon/Fri 7 pm, USMNT New Hoppe?, Chelsea vs Fulham 12:30 Sat NBC, Man U vs Liverpool Sun 11:30, Inter vs Juve Sun 2:45

Games to Watch this Weekend

Big games this weekend in the EPL mostly on Peacock unfortunately as 1 & 2 Man United and Liverpool do battle Sunday at 11:30 am with Aston Villa facing Everton at 7 am on the Peacock. We also get Inter hosting Juve and US mid Weston McKinney Sun at 2:45 pm on ESPN+.   Sat gives us Dortmund and US mid Reyna hosting Mainz in Germany at 9:30 am on ESPN+ while Wolfsburg and US defender host RB Leipzig and middy Tyler Adams also at 9:30 on ESPN+, while Pulisic and Chelsea travel to Fulhum America and US defender Robinson at 12:30 pm this time on NBC .   

USA

The US ladies have 2 games this week vs Colombia from Orlando Monday night at 7 pm on FS 1 and Friday, Jan 22 at 7 pm on ESPN2.  It will be interesting to see the mix of new vs old players – assuming this is a tune-up for the She Believe’s Cup coming in mid-Feb.    So does the US have new Hoppe after 19 year-old American forward Matthew Hoppe became the first American to score a hat trick in the German Bundesliga for Schalke in just his 5th game?   While its wonderful –obviously the kid needs to find the net consistently for club before he will be called up to the US team – still great to see! 

FA Cup

Enjoyed watching the FA Cup last weekend – especially Chorley from the 6th division taking out the youth team of Derby County to advance to the next round where they will host Wolverhampton next Sat.  My favorite was probably the people sitting in their Gardens and on their front porches watch Mourino and Tottenham as they played at Marine near Liverpool.  Pretty surreal scene –with no fans in the park – but watching from their yards instead.  Gotta love the FA Cup!

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Jan 16

9:30 am ESPN+                    Wolfsburg (Jones) vs RB Liepzig (Adams)

9:30 ESPN+                          Dortmund (Reyna) vs Mainz

10 am NBCNS                     Leeds vs Brighton

12:30 pm NBC                     Fulham (Robinson)  vs Chelsea (Pulisic)  

3 pm Peacock                       Leicester City vs Southampton 

Sun, Jan 17

6:30 am ESPN2 ?                  Napoli vs Fiorentina 

7  am Peacock                      Aston Villa vs Everton 

9  am NBCSN                       Sheffield United vs Tottenham 

9:30 am ESPN+                    Bayern Munich vs Freiburg

12:30 am Peacock               Liverpool vs Man United

2:45 pm ESPN+                Inter vs Juve (Mckinney)

2:45 pm ESPN2                Barca (Dest) vs Athletic Bilbao SuperCup Final

Mon, Jan 18

3 pm NBCSN                       Arsenal vs New Castle (Yedlin)

7 pm FS1                              US Women vs Colombia  

Tues, Jan 19

2:30 pm ESPN+                    Dortmund (Reyna) vs Bayern Leverkusen

3:15 pm NBCSN                  Leicester City vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

Wed, Jan 20

3:15 pm NBCSN?                Man City vs Aston Villa

3:15 pm ?                             Fulham vs Man United

2:45 pm ESPN2                    Juventus (McKinney) vs Napoli Coppa Italia 

5:15 pm beIN Sport             Santos vs Boca Juniors – Copa Libertadores

Fri, Jan 22

2:30 pm ESPN+                    M’gladbach vs Dortmund (Reyna)

7 pm ESPN2                         US Women vs Colombia  

Sat,  Jan 23

                              (FA Cup Games in England 10 am ESPN+)

10 am ESPN+                      Chorley vs Wolverhampton FA Cup

10 am ESPN+                      Man United vs Liverpool FA Cup

9:30 am ESPN+                    Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg (Jones)

Sun, Jan 24

6:30 am ESPN2                    Juve vs Bologna 

9:30 am ESPN+                    Schalke vs Bayern Munich

3 pm beIn Sport                    Atletico Madrid vs Valencia 

USA

Americans Abroad – SI Avi creditor

Schalke’s Hoppe becomes first American to score Bundesliga hat trick
Meet the Bundesliga’s next U.S. sensation: Schalke’s Hoppe
  or-Kristian Karlsen

Megan Rapinoe: Capitol Siege Showed America’s ‘True Colors’BY JENNA WEST
For USMNT, National Upheaval Makes Representing the Country Complex BY BRIAN STRAUS

Klinsmann: Young USMNT stars’ UCL experience can boost World Cup hopes

Berhalter: We’ll have to get “creative” with rosters in “jammed” 2021

What’s Jozy Altidore’s future with the USMNT?

Orlando’s Perea USMNT eligible after FIFA approves switch from Colombia

USMNT legend Cherundolo says he’s talked to MLS teams about coaching role

Guardiola praises Steffen after another start, clean sheet for Man City

EPL


Manchester United-Liverpool Preview

Why Man United’s rise to Premier League summit under Solskjaer is a big deal
  Gabriele Marcotti
Liverpool vs. United title race is box office but Man City are team to watch

Are Chelsea’s summer signings to blame for club’s woes?

Spurs too reliant on Kane, Son to be considered contenders
Chelsea-Fulham Preview

Wayne Rooney retires to become permanent Derby manager

World

How PSG plan on reuniting Messi with Neymar
Ter Stegen 10/10 as Messi-less Barca reach Supercopa final

Bilbao to face Barca in Super Cup final after ousting Real Madrid

Athletic knocks out Madrid to reach Super Cup final vs Barça

Barcelona presidential elections postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions, club confirm

MLS

Indy 11 forward Tyler Pasher signs with MLS Houston Dynamo

Official: Toronto name Chris Armas head coach

Extratime: Are Portland strong enough to compete for CCL?

Jordan Morris: I’m open to “the right opportunity” for European move

Man United top the Premier League under Solskjaer, the ‘company man,’ and it’s a big deal

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Jan 11, 2021Gabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC

It was ugly, cold, wearying, full of incidents and ultimately resolved by a piece of individual brilliance, but when referee Kevin Friend blew his whistle after seven minutes of injury time (including three minutes of time added on to the time added on), there was one over-arching takeaway. Manchester United were top of the Premier League in January.Not joint-top, not pretend-top, not goal-difference top, not top-if-they-win-their-games-in-hand-top, but top-top.You have to go back all the way to 2013 (and the end of the Sir Alex Ferguson Era) to find the last time United were this high at this stage of the season. That’s a long time ago. Seven-and-a-half seasons without being top after the turn of the year… the last time the club suffered a longer drought of that kind was in the 1970s — which, you may recall, was also when they were relegated.What does it mean?Here, you drift into psychology and intangibles. It’s easy to define what it does not mean. It does not mean they will win the Premier League, or even that they’re first or second favourites to do so. (That would be Man City and Liverpool.) It does not mean they’re particularly good, or they will be particularly good in years to come, or that the successful title-winning side that United fans dream of will look much like this one. But it does mean that a psychological barrier has been broken, and it’s something Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can leverage to his — and United’s — advantage.It’s also, to some degree, a vindication of the club’s decision to turn to him to replace Jose Mourinho and, effectively, bringing things in-house by hiring a former player who “understands” the culture at Man United rather than another pedigreed coach from elsewhere, And, in that sense, it’s not dissimilar to the choices big corporations make when their boards turn to new leadership.When a multinational needs to replace its CEO, it has two options, broadly speaking. It either promotes from within, doubling down on its corporate culture, or it brings in a fresh approach, turning to a proven executive who can act as a disruptor and shake things up for the better.The club’s four managerial appointments post-Sir Alex fall fairly neatly into either category. While David Moyes had no formal United connection, he was very much a “continuity candidate.” He was hand-picked by Sir Alex, he had spent the previous 11 years coaching 30 miles away at Everton, and he included club stalwarts Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville in his coaching staff.Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal (who came after Moyes) had won a combined 15 league titles and three Champions Leagues when they were appointed. They were brand names, and they were proven; they were “disruptors” in the good sense, the tech startup sense. They were there to change a culture for the better. It’s no coincidence that after being sacked, both did what superstar CEOs do when they’re brought in with great fanfare to turn a company around, only to be shown the door a few years later: they complained about an unwillingness to change, a lack of support internally and entrenched structures that made progress impossible.Whether they were right or wrong isn’t the point of this column and, in any case, has been endlessly debated elsewhere. The point is that after hiring back-to-back bosses with fancy résumés who were brought in to tell the club what they didn’t necessarily want (but maybe needed) to hear, United did a 180 with Solskjaer. After the “disruptor,” enter the “company man.”

Match-winner Pogba sends United top ahead of Liverpool showdown

Burnley vs. Man United VAR drama! Premier League controversies rated

It’s not a knock, by the way. Carlo Ancelotti, with his three Champions League crowns, freely and proudly describes himself as a “company man” too. And that’s how Jan Aage Fjortoft, who played with him at international level and has known him for a quarter of a century, described Solskjaer when we had him as a guest on the Gab + Juls show this Monday.

Solskjaer’s public persona — earnest, unfailingly polite, avoiding confrontation — is that of an on-message corporate suit. Behind the scenes, no doubt, he can crack the whip — nobody sticks around in coaching if they don’t occasionally play the bad cop — but more than anybody, he has “toed the party line.”Take United’s transfer business. Goodness knows he’d have plenty to moan about there. Take Paul Pogba‘s future (undecided) in the last 18 months of his contract, Jadon Sancho still playing for Borussia DortmundBruno Fernandes arriving six months late, losing a center-forward like Romelu Lukaku without bringing in a replacement until January (and then, when the replacement arrives, it’s Odion Ighalo) … the list goes on and on. But he doesn’t. And it suits the club’s powers-that-be (Ed Woodward and his close-knit advisers, as well as the Glazer family) just fine.y

If you’re a cynic, and many were at the time, you might have read Solskjaer’s appointment and subsequent long-term contract as the club taking the easy way out. Liverpool and Manchester City were in the ascendancy; trying to close the gap quickly would have been expensive, stressful and probably futile. So you peddle some tropes about United DNA and hire a guy whom everybody likes (or, at least, nobody dislikes), is fully invested in club culture and won’t create headaches or controversy.

is that overly cynical? Maybe. But as Fjortoft himself hinted, Solskjaer is under no illusion about why he got the job and that it wasn’t his body of work as a coach that secured it. The most important thing is that now that he’s there, it doesn’t matter why he was chosen: he will rise or fall based on results, and because results have been mixed, he’s endured the weekly spin cycle. United DNA! #OleOut! Top of the league! PE Teacher!The best Solskjaer can do is keep going. He’s not a “big idea” coach like Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola — if he is, we haven’t seen it — and he’s not as charismatic as Mourinho or Diego Simeone. He’s a man-manager who executes schemes that are basic, but effective, when executed properly and who looks to put his most talented players in situations where they can do the most damage. Zinedine Zidane won three Champions Leagues and two La Liga titles doing just that at Real Madrid.Of course, Zidane had more charisma, a better-run club with a more recent history of success and, crucially, better players at his disposal. But that’s the model Solskjaer’s United seems to be pursuing, whether it’s because it’s the path of least resistance after Van Gaal and Mourinho or whether they truly believe it’s the best option.That sort of model is built upon sporting capital and credibility.By restoring United — even if it turns out be only for a short while — to the top perch, Solskjaer has taken a big step forward, taking pressure off himself (and off those who appointed him) and buying himself time. Time to work and make a difference. It’s one of the most precious commodities a manager can have.

Meet Schalke’s Matthew Hoppe: The Bundesliga’s next U.S. striking sensation

Jan 12, 2021

  • Tor-Kristian Karlsen

It was always going to take something special for Schalke 04 to avoid equalling an embarrassing record at the weekend. The club had not won in the Bundesliga for almost a year, a total of 30 matches, and failure to beat Hoffenheim would have seen them equal Tasmania Berlin’s league record (set back in 1965-66) of 31 games without a win. Thanks to Matthew Hoppe, they avoided such ignominy.

Hitherto a relative unknown, the 19-year-old American scored an astonishing hat trick (the first by a U.S. player in the Bundesliga), which gave Schalke a 4-0 win over Hoffenheim and even lifted them off the foot of the table.

In only his third start for the club, the striker became an overnight sensation, so here’s the lowdown on the Bundesliga’s newest star.

Where has he come from?

Having just turned 18, Hoppe sealed his move to Schalke on July 1, 2019 following two prolific years playing with the Arizona-based U.S. Barcelona Residency Academy in the (now defunct) U.S. Soccer Development Academy league.

fter joining up with U.S. international midfielder Weston McKennie (who has since moved on loan to Juventus) in Germany, Hoppe spent his first year playing for Schalke’s U-19s, for whom he scored three goals in 17 games, before being promoted to the club’s second team, which plays in the fourth level of German league football, ahead of the current campaign.

Though he only had one goal in 16 games in the Regionalliga West for Schalke II before making the step up to the first team, Hoppe has since amassed 302 minutes across six games in the Bundesliga and DfB Pokal. And, of course, he has three goals.

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1:58

Will this be a flash in the pan for Matthew Hoppe?

Kasey Keller and Steve Cherundolo debate whether or not his hat trick is a sign of things to come for Matthew Hoppe.

Position

Given his physical profile and skillset — Hoppe is 6-foot-2 tall, athletic and powerful — he moulded into an out-and-out centre-forward once he reached his mid-teenage years and after scoring nearly 60 goals in two seasons prior to leaving the U.S., it was clear that position was his best chance of making a career as a professional, on either side of the Atlantic.

That said, he was occasionally utilised on either side of midfield for Schalke II and, while his performances in Schalke’s youth and second team showed promise, his form gave no indication of the incredible impact to come against Hoffenheim.

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1:28

Matthew Hoppe recounts ‘amazing’ La Masia experience

American Matthew Hoppe explains what it was like to train with Ansu Fati and Konrad de la Fuente at La Masia.

Strengths

With such little first team experience — or even any meaningful record from high-level youth football, and no appearances to date for the U.S. national teams at youth level — it’s still early to make any strong predictions about where Hoppe’s career is ultimately heading.

However, while a memorable hat trick (and all the media attention it brings) could heap pressure on some young players, the California-born youngster seems to have the mental side of his game in order. New Schalke coach Christian Gross was quick to point out his excellent attitude after his stunning performance against Hoffenheim. Indeed, it was precisely that mentality which made Gross opt for Hoppe to start such an important game.

Tor-Kristian Karlsen

Tor-Kristian Karlsen is a Norwegian football scout and executive and is the former chief executive and sporting director at AS Monaco. He will write regularly for ESPN on the business of soccer and the process of scouting.

That praise is echoed by those who have kept a close eye on Hoppe throughout his early career; his dedication, humility and willingness to learn are second to none and those qualities translate into industry and graft on the pitch.

Hoppe’s enthusiasm is contagious; no ball ever seems lost and his off-the-ball running is executed with conviction that, along with his ability to time runs on the right side of the offside line, proved vital against Hoffenheim. Unlike many strikers, he’s happy to close down opponents, tackle and do his pressing duties.

Whereas many 19-year-olds appear gangly and skinny, Hoppe is neither. His body strength appears well-developed, though it will be interesting to see if his potential to dominate in the air can be backed up with good heading technique.

On the evidence of the Hoffenheim game, Hoppe looks to have rediscovered his finishing skills from youth football. The opening goal — a delightful chip with his weaker left foot (he also scored another with his left) — was not only exquisite in its execution, but a bold and confident way for a teenager to finish off an attack.

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Klinsmann: Matthew Hoppe’s heroics are a fairytale story

Jurgen Klinsmann heaps praise on Matthew Hoppe after the American teenager’s heroic hat trick for Schalke.

Weaknesses

It goes without saying that Hope needs time to develop the facets that can help him become a well-rounded, complete centre-forward. His timing in the air is still a work in progress, while his first touch will also improve as the Schalke coaching staff teach him the value of holding the ball up, helping the team and causing a nuisance even when he’s not facing the goal

What’s next?

Having cited Tottenham’s Harry Kane as his earliest inspiration and becoming an admirer of Bayern Munich‘s Robert Lewandowski and, especially, Borussia Dortmund‘s Erling Haaland since arriving in Germany, Hoppe models himself on these talented, industrious stars.

With size and power, his fearless approach and startling impact mean it is inevitable he will be compared to Haaland especially. And if he can continue to show the work ethic and level-headedness of the Norwegian striker, despite his new-found celebrity, Hoppe has a chance of going on to achieve great things.

Jurgen Klinsmann: Champions League challenges USMNT young stars and boosts World Cup hopes

  • Jurgen Klinsmann

Jurgen Klinsmann won the World Cup and European Championship with Germany during a glittering career in which he played for InterTottenham and Bayern, among others. As a coach, he led Germany to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup and managed the U.S. men’s national team from 2011-16. In addition to a column for ESPN.com, he appears as a pundit on FC Daily.

With the World Cup less than two years away, it is an exciting time to be a fan of the U.S. men’s national team, which is developing the core of a team that can make a run in the tournament’s knockout stage.

In the last 12 months, several players moved to clubs at the very top level in Europe and the experience they will get, playing in the best leagues and in the best competition in the world — the Champions League — is good news for the national team.

Christian Pulisic was at Dortmund and then joined Chelsea last year; since then, Giovanni Reyna has followed in his footsteps in GermanyWeston McKennie has moved to JuventusSergino Dest is at Barcelona and Tyler Adams plays for RB Leipzig.

None of these players is older than 22 and that is another major change from past generations of American players, who went to Europe after establishing themselves in Major League Soccer or playing at college. It is wonderful to see a lot of youngsters being courageous and giving it a shot at an earlier age than before.

– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
– FC 100: Pulisic, Dest make the cut in 2020

Youth systems, academies and MLS deserve credit for their work with young players in this country. They learn a new culture in Europe, but Pulisic and Reyna, for example, have skillsets that were developed in America at 10, 11, 12, 13 years old. The success of U.S. U-17s and U-20s, which consistently get to youth World Cup knockout games, shows the talent that exists.

And the path to Europe continues to appeal; we hear good things about Bayern Munich‘s Chris Richards, who moved from FC Dallas, while this week Joe Scally signed for Borussia Moenchengladbach from New York City FC.

Germany is a good destination because there is open-mindedness to give youngsters playing time, but opportunities exist across Europe. Brenden Aaronson, for example, has gone from Philadelphia Union to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, where he finds huge support from his coach — and fellow American — Jesse Marsch.

So how do you make the best chance to succeed at the top level? It is important to have good people surrounding you to help adapt to a new environment; Reyna is a good example, as his dad, Claudio, played in Europe and his mother — Danielle Egan — represented the U.S. women’s national team.

You have to be open-minded, ready to learn and fight for a spot every day and understand that, sooner or later, “I have to kick someone in front of me out.” If you have a setback, like an injury or a coaching change, understand that you have the ability to prove yourself all over again. It is natural for players to think about their own situation, which is why that support network is super important.When you get a chance, take it! Reyna got his first Bundesliga minutes less than one year ago and has made himself a key player for Dortmund. Like Pulisic, he can play in different positions and that is a good thing because the chance increases to influence games; instead of being expected to score, there is opportunity to assist, pass well and create chances.

With young attacking players, change of pace is always an important characteristic. I saw it with Christian the first time I watched him when he was 15 or 16 and said this kid not only has very good technique, but he can ‘jump’ players in a split-second. Giovanni is very similar, though he is taller and has a different flow to his movement. Dest can also go by players in the first few yards.

Klinsmann: Matthew Hoppe’s heroics are a fairytale story

Jurgen Klinsmann heaps praise on Matthew Hoppe after the American teenager’s heroic hat trick for Schalke.

The Champions League restarts next month and is almost like a feeder system for a successful World Cup, which is why the big European countries, plus Argentina and Brazil, are contenders every four years.

Being involved in tactically advanced games will test their abilities, but also teach leadership and character qualities needed to negotiate the late rounds of a tournament. Without sustained competition in CONCACAF, American players must figure out a way to deal with World Cup knockout games, to reach and go beyond the fifth game, into semifinals and finals.

Playing every year in the Champions League will give you that knowhow, and that is why what I have seen developing over the last couple of years is so exciting. You are a child of your environment and if your environment is Barcelona, every year it is about titles; it is the same with Chelsea, Dortmund and others. At Juventus, McKennie plays for a team that has won the league nine seasons in a row!

At big clubs, expectations are clear and you live them every day. Now they must be transferred to the national team, so it is not enough to settle for getting out of a World Cup group and having everyone tell you that that is a success.

For USMNT, Representing the Country Amid Upheaval Remains a Complex Endeavor

With recent events thrusting the U.S. into the world’s spotlight for the wrong reasons again, the USMNT confronts what it means to represent the country at a time of upheaval.

BRIAN STRAUSJAN 12, 2021

  •  

It’s a new year, but not much has changed. The coronavirus shows no signs of abating despite the advent of a vaccine. There’s scandal and chaos at the highest levels of government. And the U.S. men’s national team, still incomplete and unable to gather in full, trains under the shadow of it all, saddled with both the honor and complexity of representing the USA in 2020 and now 2021.

In November, when coach Gregg Berhalter convened a camp of players based in European leagues, it marked the national team’s first time together since the pandemic pause and the social justice reckoning sparked by George Floyd’s death. There had been long discussions about what it meant to represent a country in upheaval, especially on a squad that’s so diverse.

Together, they came up with a message and a commitment: “Be The Change.” It was emblazoned on anthem jackets for the friendlies against Wales and Panama, and it was adopted as a sort of team credo. It was not only a call to action. It was a reminder that as an extension of their country, national team players could take it upon themselves to set the example. That credo didn’t expire once they returned to their clubs, Berhalter said Monday, and it remains relevant as the annual January camp kicks off in Bradenton, Fla.

This is a different group of players, just like the December camp in South Florida was a different group players. It’s been 14 months since Berhalter had access to his entire player pool at once, and that pool now looks quite different. This time, he’s invited 12 senior-squad players based at MLS clubs along with 27 candidates for the U.S. U-23 national team that’ll contest the Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament in March. In the meantime, they’ll all keep one eye on the friendly that’ll conclude the camp at the end of the month. An announcement—the opponent is likely to be Serbia—is expected in the coming days.

John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images

It’s a complex setup for a complex time, both on the soccer calendar and in real life. Berhalter and his players are thinking about representing the USA at the Olympics, the Concacaf Nations League finals, the Gold Cup and in World Cup qualifying, and they’re also thinking about representing a country that’s just experienced a contested presidential election and the shocking assault and riot at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

When addressing the issue Monday, Berhalter stressed the importance of continuing the conversations and commitment that started last fall.

“I think there is a conversation to be had. We haven’t had it yet. But I think [like] with anything, our efforts don’t stop when the year ticks over. The efforts need to be consistent and they need to keep going, and the way I see this is, this is a low point for us. There’s a lot of room to improve as a country,” he said.

“It’s something where we can all be better examples,” he continued. “We can all be better citizens, and when you’re watching that, it doesn’t jive at all with what we know America to be. It’s not who we are as a country, and it’s disappointing to see, but all we can do is be good examples and continue our efforts in trying to be change and trying to make change. I think that’s the important message to the team, is that our work isn’t done just because the year changed. We need to keep going and persevere with all of our efforts.”

It remains to be seen whether the team will make a statement on game day. There are still two and a half weeks of training to go. But veteran forward Jordan Morris said Monday that the team is already talking about the bigger picture.

“Obviously we all realize how horrific those events were, and we all understand that there’s a need for change in this country in a lot of ways. And I think the big thing for us, and I’ve talked to the guys about it a little bit, is hopefully our goal as a national team is to be a positive representation of what that change can be and how we need to move forward,” Morris said.

“I think it’s also, in these hard times, we hope to be as a team, hopefully a positive light. Because I know that these times are super challenging and there’s so much going on, so much stress with those events—like I said, just absolutely horrific. So we’re hoping that as a group this year we can be a positive light.”

One way to be a positive light is to be successful on the field. Such is the nature of sports. Negotiating the 2021 schedule will require cohesion on multiple levels, as Berhalter and his staff seek to make up for lost time while building multiple squads—a U-23 team for the Olympics, senior sides for the Nations League and Gold Cup and then, ultimately, the first-choice team that’ll set out on the road to Qatar in September. The first big month on the calendar is March, when the senior team will play friendlies inside a FIFA international window while the U-23s head to Mexico (most likely) for the Olympic qualifiers.

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After failing to qualify for the previous two Olympics, U.S. Soccer is doing what it can to give this current crop of U-23s every opportunity. They’ll get a couple of weeks with coach Jason Kreis in Bradenton, and then a handful will join the 12 senior players for the Serbia friendly.

“We do have two groups in camp, and we’re split for most of the camp,” Berhalter explained. “Meals are split. Team building activities are split. But at training is one time where we can actually compete together, and that’s where we are working together to make numbers and we’re able to focus a little bit more on our 12 [senior] players. But the whole group is there. The whole group is working together, and it’s great for both coaching staffs to be able to assess the players and see some of the comparisons in camp.”

Morris, 26, said setting an example also could happen in small ways, as the veterans look to help steer the younger players toward the Olympic spotlight.

“It’s super exciting to see all the young talent,” he said. “A big goal of this camp for us as senior players is helping the Olympic team get ready as well, because it’s a big competition for them coming up. I know when I was coming up as a younger player, having the veteran guys in camp and being able to learn from them was super important. So we’re hopeful we can kind of do the same for the younger group that’s here.”

Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports

When it’s over, Berhalter will have seen his European-based stars for a camp, most of the best in MLS for a camp, and then his Olympic hopefuls (with some senior seasoning) for a camp. That’s a tough way to build chemistry, but the scheduling is out of U.S. Soccer’s control. The bonus is that after a 10-month break in 2020, Berhalter should have a sense of the talent at his disposal. He can start thinking about what the Olympic, Nations League, Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying rosters might look like. When connections among players can be forged, all the better.

“The idea is to keep everyone engaged, everyone on the same page and everyone up to speed with what we do and how we want to play,” Berhalter said. “Because we’ve seen these two groups. … I think we’re able to tie that together nicely and really have a good idea of the player pool. I think that’s what it comes down to, just having a real good understanding of what the player pool looks like so when we need to make the difficult decisions when it comes to [World Cup] qualifying, we get it right.

“But in terms of Nations League, Gold Cup, those are two events where there’s trophies awarded and we want to compete to win them,” he added. “There’s no question about it. That will give us one final opportunity before qualifying to test guys and put them under pressure to perform.”

Be successful and “Be The Change.” It’s no easy task. Morris said that for the players, it begins with small things, the day-to-day work during and after training, when skills are enhanced and bonds are strengthened.

“Every camp is an opportunity to learn and continue to get better and I think also, building a brotherhood here,” he said. “I think that’s a big thing we talk about, is building a brotherhood. We know going into an important year, it’s important that we’re all together, all on the same page. So every opportunity that you have, especially in a longer camp like this, just to be around the guys, it’s awesome.”

BY

 BRIAN STRAUS

1/8/20 US Teams announced, FA Cup Weekend, Leipzig vs Dortmund Sat 12:30

FA CUP

So the eyes get big young kids eyes full of wonder as England’s FA Cup enters round 3 this weekend on ESPN+.  It’s the little guys vs the Giants – The EPL Powerhouses like Liverpool and Tottenham vs the neighborhood team with teachers and butchers and bar hands vs the multi-billion dollar clubs. Imagine Indy 11 taking on Seattle or even worse Liverpool or Barcelona.  That’s what we get and more this weekend.  The games I will have my eyes on Sat 7:15 am Chorley vs Derby County and Sunday 12:30 Marine hosting Tottenham on ESPN+.  If ever a tie summed up the FA Cup, is is the one that will send Premier League giants Tottenham and their charismatic manager Jose Mourinho to Marine on Sunday. The Merseyside club play in the Northern Premier League North West Division, four rungs below the Football League (7th division), and a team which includes a binman, teachers and supermarket workers has already worked its way past Barnoldswick Town, Frickley Athletic, Runcorn Linnets, Nantwich Town, Chester, Colchester and Havant and Waterlooville. Coronavirus restrictions which mean the game will take place behind closed doors have cost Marine around £100,000 in lost revenue, prompting them to stage a virtual raffle in which first prize is the opportunity to take over as manager for a pre-season friendly.

Marine’s hopes of causing an upset may be remote, but National League North Chorley (5th division) may feel they will never have a better chance of claiming a Sky Bet Championship (2nd division) scalp and a place in the fourth round. Derby County will send a team of Under-23 and Under-18 players to Victory Park on Saturday with manager Wayne Rooney, his staff and their entire first-time squad bubble self-isolating after nine positive Covid-19 tests. The Magpies have already put League One duo Wigan and Peterborough out of this season’s FA Cup. (See the big games on the FA Cup Schedule in The Ole Ballcoach.     Other decent FA Cup games worth watching are Arsenal vs New Castle and US mid Deandre Yedlin on Sat 12:30 ESPN+, and Man City vs  Birmingham Sun at 9:30 am on ESPN+ with US GK Zach Steffan between the pipes.  US and Man City GK Zach Steffan makes game saving beauty.

Games to Watch this Weekend

With the England in FA Cup play this weekend the attention turns to Germany and Italy where some big games are on hand. In Germany RB Leipzig with Adams in the #6 slot will face Gio Reyna and Dortmund at 12:30 pm on ESPN+ with 2nd spot in the table on the line for the Red Bulls and 3rd for Dortmund.  At 9:30 am 3rd place Bayer Leverkusen will host Werder Bremen and forward Josh Stewart.   Barcelona and US right back Serginio Dest will travel to Grenada at 12:30 pm on beIN Sports, while Osasuna hosts Real Madrid at 3 pm on beIN Sport.  Sunday Juve and Aron McKinney travel to Sassuolo at 2:45 pm on ESPN+, while the early morning wake-up Sunday features a battle between 2nd place Inter hosting 3rd placed Roma at 6:30 am on ESPN2.     

USA

The US Men’s and Ladies teams have announced rosters for their annual January camps and games at the end of the month for US Based players. The ladies are of course missing their European club players like Mewis, Heath and of course Alex Morgan is out with Covid.  The ladies will convene and then have 2 games vs Colombia from Orlando on Jan 18 and Jan 22 at 7 pm.   The Men have announced a smaller full roster along with a full U23 Squad that will battle represent the US in the Olympics this summer.  The men are planning a game in late Jan as well. 

 

U-23 USMNT DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB):


GOALKEEPERS (3): JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake), Brady Scott (Austin FC)


DEFENDERS (10): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), George Bello (Atlanta United FC), Chris Gloster (PSV Eindhoven/NED), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake), Aboubacar Keita (Columbus Crew SC), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids)


MIDFIELDERS (6): Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United FC), Bryang Kayo (Wolfsburg/GER), Andrés Perea* (Orlando City SC), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)
FORWARDS (7): 
Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC), Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC), Djordje Mihailovic (Montreal Impact/CAN)

 U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM – JANUARY TRAINING CAMP ROSTER BY POSITION:


GOALKEEPERS (4): Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)


DEFENDERS (10): Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA), Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Fox (UNC), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)


MIDFIELDERS (8): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Jaelin Howell (Florida State), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG), Catarina Macario (Stanford), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)


FORWARDS (5): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage)

They play Columbia Mon Jan 18, 7 pm on FS1 and again on Fri, Jan 22 at 7 pm on ESPN2. 

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri, Jan 8

2:30 pm ESPN+                    M’Gladbach vs Bayern Munich (Carter)

2:45 pm ESPN+                   Aston Villa vs Liverpool (FA Cup)

Sat,  Jan 9

7 am ESPN+                         (FA Cup Games in England 7/10 am, 1 & 3 pm)

7:15 am ESPN+                   Chorley vs Derby County  FA Cup

9:30 am ESPN+                    Bayer Leverkusen vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

12:30 pm ESPN+                 Arsenal vs New Castle United (Yedlin) FA Cup

12:30 pm ESPN+                 RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Dortmund (Reyna)

3 pm ESPN+                         Man United vs Watford FA Cup

Sun, Jan 10

6:30 am ESPN2 ?                            Roma vs Inter 

8:30 am ESPN+                    Man city (Steffan) vs Birmingham City  FA Cup

9:30 am ESPN+                    Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Morecambe FA Cup

12 noon ESPN+                   Marine vs Tottenham FA Cup

2:45 pm ESPN+                     Juve (McKinney) vs Sassuolo

Wed, Jan 13

3:15 pm NBCSN?                Aston Villa vs Tottenham 

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

5:15 pm beIN Sport             Santos vs Boca Juniors – Copa Libertadores

Fri, Jan 15

3:15 pm NBCSN?                Fulham (Robinson)  vs Chelsea (Pulisic)  

Mon, Jan 18

7 pm FS1                              US Women vs Colombia  

Fri, Jan 22

7 pm ESPN2                         US Women vs Colombia  

USA Ladies
Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and 25 others called up for U.S. national team

Soccer-Morgan ruled out of U.S. training camp after positive COVID-19 test

US Ladies Called in For Jan 18 + Jan 22 Games

 

USA Men

 Doyle: Explaining the two USMNT rosters
US U23 and Senior Teams Announced for Jan Training  S&S
U 23 USA Team Announced  Brian Straus SI
US Olympic football hopefuls gather before qualifying
US and Man City GK Zach Steffan makes game saving beauty
Guardiola heaps praise on USMNT’s Steffen

 

WORLD
Serie A: USMNT’s McKennie scores as Juve takes down Milan; Inter, Napoli fall

PSG held by Saint-Etienne in Pochettino’s first match
Ranking the EPL Clubs
Three things we learned from Manchester United – Man City
Klopp: Liverpool cannot promise center back addition because of pandemic
Milan teams regroup as Roma, Juventus close gap in Serie A

Dortmund hunt win at high-fliers Leipzig to rejoin title race

FA Cup third round: How to watch, start time, stream link, preview, odds
What to Watch in Spain this weekend
MLS
MLS proposes 2-year CBA extension to players, no salary cuts

LA Galaxy hire former star Vanney, coached Toronto to MLS treble

Wiebe: Three things Vanney needs to do to return Galaxy to MLS elite
Report: Phil Neville in talks with Inter Miami

Boehm: What’s next for Inter Miami?
Official: Union Homegrown McKenzie transfers to Genk
Matt Besler joins Austin FC as free agent
Bob Bradley to receive lifetime achievement award
BoGetting closer: Pitch installed at Cincy’s West End Stadium
Behm: Why RSL turned to once fierce rival Mastroeni to revive fortunes

 

INDY 11

·        INDIANA’S OWN RECE BUCKMASTER SIGNS WITH INDY ELEVEN
·      DEFENDER KARL OUIMETTE RETURNS TO INDY ELEVEN

 

Premier League Club Power Rankings, Vol. III: Manchester Rising

Nicholas MendolaThu, January 7, 2021, 10:54 PM EST

We’re still not halfway through the Premier League season, and the balance is not going to return to the matches played column any time soon.So the irregular litmus test that is our Club Power Rankings rolls on without worry.

[ MORE: Previous power rankings – November | Vol. I – Oct ]

Buckle up, we’ve had two months since our last run through the league, and one of those months held most of the Festive Fixtures.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: 2020-21 Methodology

As a reminder, ProSoccerTalk is using a different method to ranking teams this season, at least until everyone’s played each other once.

Here are our considerations:

  • Form — Winning and losing in three recent matches plus notable injuries
  • Sense and strength matter — If the champs lost two-straight hard luck matches and a relegation candidate got 2 weird VAR breaks to win, we note the big picture over the little.
  • The table — Of course it matters.
  • Head-to-head — The results better be notable if a head-to-head loser goes above a team that beat it recently.
  • Numbers > Luck— Did a wicked deflection or bad bounce make a dominant side fall to a poor one? Let’s look at xG, shots, chances, possession, and other indicators.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Vol. III

20. Sheffield United

October: 17
November: 20

Why? You serious, Clark?

19. West Bromwich Albion

October: 18
November: 18

Why? Sam Allardyce has been in charge for four matches. He’s drawn Liverpool and got angry that anyone would infer they had fortune smile on them. He’s lost the other three games in blowout fashion and basically said his players aren’t good enough and that his “never been relegated” record is basically because his clubs have bought him better players than were there when he got there.

18. Brighton and Hove Albion

October: 13
November: 14

Why? The world’s biggest head scratcher. The anti-Burnley (see below). Graham Potter’s Seagulls are winless since a Nov. 21 defeat of Aston Villa, and they’ve won the xG battle in five of those eight matches.

They’ve now had the following matches on their xG record:

  • Lost 2-3 to Man United (xG advantage 2.98-1.58)
  • Drew 1-1 with Liverpool (xG advantage. 2.31-0.28)
  • Lost 2-1 to Southampton (xG advantage 2.03-1.35)
  • Drew 1-1 v Sheffield United (xG advantage 2.90-1.04)

It’s wild.

17. Fulham

October: 20
November: 17

Why? The table matters, and the table spot stinks, but four-straight draws before COVID came to Craven Cottage in large numbers. No one really wants to play Scott Parker’s hard-fouling bunch and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa is one of the division’s most overlooked players.

16. Burnley

October: 19
November: 19

Why? A huge tree falls in the forest, leaving a massive tree-shaped dent in the cold, wet ground and bouncing to the side. It fills with water to finish off any of the Aesthetically-pleasing flowers that survived impact. Sean Dyche signs that dead tree. The worst-passing team in the league with the fourth-worst shots-per-game and possession, winning more aerials than anyone else, and completing fewer dribbles than anyone else, are still going to find a way to stay in the PL. Have won the xG battle just twice since the start of November but have a 4W-3D-2L record in that span. BURNLEY. Let’s see how they look post-takeover.

15. Newcastle United

October: 16
November: 16

Why? If you’re going to try and get by with a manager like Steve Bruce, someone players will play for but also be left unprepared when things go off-script during the flow of the game, you need a dominant midfielder going box-to-box. With apologies to passing maestro Jonjo Shelvey, industrious Isaac Hayden, and buzzing bee Matty Longstaff, that’s not there right now. Also, the COVID-19 absence of Allan Saint Maximin is terrible on so many levels. Bring us our entertainers!

14. Crystal Palace

October: 11
November: 11

Why? Where would they be without Wilfried Zaha? Well, they are 5W-2D when he scores or assists, 1W-2D-4L when he doesn’t, and have lost both matches without scoring when he doesn’t play.

13. Leeds United

October: 5
November: 15

Why? They are who they are — Very entertaining and great to have in the league but maddeningly inconsistent. Incredible numbers: Leeds have 24.89 xG and 22.95 xGA from open play alone (no set pieces, corners, or penalties). Those numbers would put them ninth amongst all teams in all scenarios for goals scored and give them the eighth-worst goals conceded. Tighten it up (but also, don’t).

12. Wolves

October: 14
November: 6

Why? Out-performed Tottenham in a 1-1 draw just after Christmas but have been unconvincing in nearly every game since Raul Jimenez was injured. Decent against Villa and had a nice period versus Manchester United, but they don’t look like the Wolves we’ve come to love (and fear).

11. Arsenal

October: 9
November: 10

Why? Turns out playing Alexandre Lacazette more as if he was an really good finisher more times than not is a good idea. It’s the lone reason for the rebound but it’s up there. And Thomas Partey should be back soon.

10. West Ham United

October: 7
November: 12

Why? Back-to-back strong defensive performances against good attacks in Saints and Everton. Don’t be surprised if David Moyes is getting Manager of the Year talk in the press if the Irons handle their business in a run of Burnley, West Brom, and Palace, the first two at home.

9. Aston Villa

October: 2
November: 9

Why? Very much in the top-end discussion. But given a chance to prove that their four-match unbeaten run had restored their early-season power, Villa was outplayed by Chelsea in a 1-1 draw and Manchester United in a 2-1 loss. Work to do.

8. Chelsea

October: 6
November: 4

Why? Followed up a nine-match unbeaten league run by taking four of 18 points. Frank Lampard’s public face and words has been confusing and he better hope his players have a better idea of what he’s trying to do than the rest of us have been able to figure out after 17 games. That City loss was a wake-up call for plenty of people who believed Chelsea had made it back.

7. Southampton

October: 15
November: 5

Why? The defeat of Liverpool was solid and deserved but also a bit fortunate, too. They’ve allowed one goal from their last four, and it was to Man City, but they’ve also scored one goal in that stretch. Up ahead? Leicester, Leeds, Arsenal, Villa, and Manchester United. That’s a proving ground!

6. Tottenham Hotspur

October: 3
November: 1

Why? There are valid individual excuses for all of the matches of their recently-ended four-match skid but combined they don’t work. Villa, Sheffield United, and Liverpool are next. Better find 5-7 points there if you want to be in the title fight, and at least one better come at home to the reigning champions.

5. Leicester City

October: 8
November: 3

Why? It’s challenging to get a feel for the ceiling of Brendan Rodgers’ men. Are they the team that bossed Palace and drew or the one that looked meh at Newcastle but found the requisite winner? There are numbers that scare us: Outscored 9-0 on corner kicks and set pieces. Ten goals from penalties. And of their surface-level extremely impressive 23-11 advantage in goals from open play? It shrinks to approximately 17-15 in terms of expected goals. Look out.

4. Everton

October: 1
November: 7

Why? Carlo Ancelotti has taught the Toffees how to win a different way since James Rodriguez was injured. He returned in a 1-0 loss to West Ham, and Everton had four-straight before that while allowing just one goal from a gauntlet of Chelsea, Leicester City, and Arsenal (then Sheffield United).

3. Liverpool

October: 4
November: 2

Why? The Reds are winless in three PL outings for the first time since May 2018, and this the first time the Reds have scored just one goal in three matches since Sept. 12, 2015. That said, Liverpool out-attempted West Brom 17-5, Newcastle 11-8, and Saints 16-7, holding 78, 74, and 68 percent possession in those games. They simply didn’t score enough. That was enough to have some claiming Pep Guardiola had lost his touch earlier this season, so it’s one thing or the other here. We bet it’s unlucky.

2. Manchester United

October: 12
November: 13

Why? A 10-match unbeaten run in the league is nice, but we’re more interested in how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men responded to taking zero of six points from the final two UEFA Champions League group stage matches by collecting 14 of 18 points in the Premier League by a combined score line of 14-7. That seven, though. And winless against the traditional Big Six despite all four matches coming at home.

1. Manchester City

October: 10
November: 8

Why? Unbeaten in seven league matches while conceding a total of two goals, City has also beaten Manchester United and Arsenal away in the League Cup and blasted Marseille in the UEFA Champions League. Since allowing eight goals in season-opening matches against Wolves and Leicester City, Pep Guardiola’s men have allowed multiple goals just once while kept 14 clean sheets in 23 matches across all competitions. Now if they can keep Sergio Aguero healthy…

Guardiola heaps praise on USMNT’s Steffen

Joe Prince-WrightFri, January 8, 2021, 9:24 AM EST

USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen has received glowing praise from Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.Steffen, 25, has stepped in admirably for usual first-choice goalkeeper Ederson in recent games. The Brazilian star tested positive for COVID-19 in late December and has been self-isolating ever since.After making his Premier League debut at Chelsea in a 3-1 win last week, Steffen starred in City’s 2-0 League Cup semifinal win against Manchester United at Old Trafford Wednesday, pulling off a fine save from Bruno Fernandes early on.“He [Steffen] has settled incredibly well to the dynamic of the group. He listens in training. He made an incredible save in the first half from Bruno Fernandes, but his other actions, like with the ball, he did really well,” Guardiola said.How much will Steffen play in the second half of the season?

Steffen will play in Man City’s FA Cup game against Birmingham City on Sunday, and that will be his seventh appearance of the season for City.It is likely he will play in the FA Cup in the remaining months of the 2020-21 season and that could mean another five outings for Man City, if they reach the final and Ederson doesn’t come in for the final few FA Cup games.That experience would be invaluable for the young American goalkeeper.Even if his future doesn’t lie with being the number one at Man City (Ederson, 27, is probably one of the top five goalkeepers on the planet) he has proven he can play at the Premier League level and a loan move to a midtable PL club is surely his next move.Spending last season on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga clearly helped his development and as well as making fine saves, his always-impressive distribution has also improved.The USMNT need Steffen to being playing regularly and the way he’s stood in for Ederson proves he will be doing that for another team in the Premier League, or in another of Europe’s top leagues, next season.

5 talking points ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup third-round ties

Damian Spellman, PAThu, January 7, 2021, 8:27 AM EST

Aston Villa

The magic of the FA Cup will be alive and kicking this weekend, with the big guns entering the competition during third-round weekend.There are both all-Premier League clashes and classic David and Goliath showdowns among a fixture list which has thrown up a series of talking points.

Fairly cross on the Mersey

Premier League champions Liverpool have become accustomed to sweeping almost all before them in recent seasons, but will head for Aston Villa on Friday evening smarting. The Reds have not won in three games after failing to beat both West Brom and Newcastle before losing to Southampton. They have not gone four matches without a victory since September-October 2018, when they were defeated in League Cup and Champions League ties by Chelsea and Napoli respectively and drew with the Blues and Manchester City in the league. They have been to Villa Park already this season – and lost 7-2.

Mourinho heads for tier eight

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho takes his side to non-league Marine (Mike Egerton/PA)

If ever a tie summed up the FA Cup, is is the one that will send Premier League giants Tottenham and their charismatic manager Jose Mourinho to Marine on Sunday. The Merseyside club play in the Northern Premier League North West Division, four rungs below the Football League (7th division), and a team which includes a binman, teachers and supermarket workers has already worked its way past Barnoldswick Town, Frickley Athletic, Runcorn Linnets, Nantwich Town, Chester, Colchester and Havant and Waterlooville. Coronavirus restrictions which mean the game will take place behind closed doors have cost Marine around £100,000 in lost revenue, prompting them to stage a virtual raffle in which first prize is the opportunity to take over as manager for a pre-season friendly. Imagine if Mourinho won it.

Chorley not?

Marine’s hopes of causing an upset may be remote, but National League North Chorley (5th division) may feel they will never have a better chance of claiming a Sky Bet Championship (2nd division) scalp and a place in the fourth round. Derby County will send a team of Under-23 and Under-18 players to Victory Park on Saturday with manager Wayne Rooney, his staff and their entire first-time squad bubble self-isolating after nine positive Covid-19 tests. The Magpies have already put League One duo Wigan and Peterborough out of this season’s FA Cup.

Emphasis on U-23s, Olympic Qualifying Group

Jozy Altidore is back as part of a smaller USMNT squad, while a more comprehensive look is being given to the U-23 players in the pool.

BRIAN STRAUS JAN 5, 2021   SI

To kick off a uniquely busy year, the U.S. men’s national team will conduct a pair of uniquely busy January camps that start Saturday at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.With up to five competitions scheduled over the next 11 months—the Concacaf Nations League, Gold Cup, World Cup qualifying, Olympic qualifying and the Olympics themselves—USA coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff face the prospect of putting together multiple rosters while evaluating player availability and form across multiple continents.To that end, he capped 42 players in only four games in 2020, the same number that appeared across 18 matches the year before. And on Tuesday, he unveiled two January camp squads—one of 12 senior players who will prepare for a to-be-announced friendly against Serbia (most likely) at the end of the month, and another of 26 U-23 players who will train with coach Jason Kreis ahead of the Concacaf Olympic qualifying competition that’s expected to happen in Guadalajara in late March. On Jan. 24, several U-23s will move up to fill out the remainder of the senior side.“This is an important year for our national team programs, and we are looking to maximize every possible opportunity,” Berhalter said. “For the senior team players, this is an opportunity to continue to develop as a group and build on the foundation of a busy and challenging year. Being alongside our U-23 team gives that group a chance to prepare for Olympic qualifying while further integrating into our culture and game model.”John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty ImagesLike previous January camps, the roster(s) are dominated by MLS players who are out of season. There are two European-based players on the U-23 list—defender Chris Gloster from PSV Eindhoven and midfielder Bryang Kayo from Wolfsburg. Olympic competitions aren’t included in FIFA’s international calendar, meaning clubs aren’t required to release players for them. Even though a significant portion of Berhalter’s first-choice team is Olympic eligible—he fielded 28 U-23 players in 2020—there’s a good chance they won’t take part. Chelsea isn’t going to allow Christian Pulisic to just run off for a few weeks during the stretch run of the Premier League campaign, for example. So it’s likely the bulk of the Olympic qualifying roster will come from MLS.Berhalter will then have to juggle his senior team between the Nations League (June) and Gold Cup (July) as he prepares for the start of World Cup qualifying in September.The most intriguing selection among the senior players is veteran striker Jozy Altidore, 31, who hasn’t played for the USA since the 2019 Gold Cup. He had two goals and one assist in 14 games for Toronto FC last season. Berhalter also is continuing his pursuit of dual-national players who aren’t yet committed or tied to the USA. LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo, Orlando City midfielder Andrés Perea and Orlando striker Daryl Dike are among the U-23 selections who remain eligible for multiple national teams. This month’s camp will mark the first time since March 2020 that Kreis has been able to bring the U-23s together, and it probably will be the last before the Olympic qualifiers. They’ll train separately in Bradenton between Saturday and Jan. 24.“With Olympic qualifying approaching quickly, this training camp is a great opportunity to prepare ourselves and evaluate some new faces,” Kreis said. “While 2020 was a very challenging year, it was impressive to see so many U-23-eligible players make major strides on the field. Some of them have been involved with the senior team over the last few months and it’s exciting to now get our players and staff back together in camp alongside Gregg and his group as we prepare for a very important qualifying tournament.”Here’s a look at the two January camp squads:

SENIOR ROSTER

The only newcomer on the senior list is LAFC right back Tristan Blackmon. New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner has been called up before but remains uncapped. Sebastian Lletget was the only player to appear in all four 2020 friendlies.Notable omissions include Columbus Crew forward Gyasi Zardes, who’s been a staple under Berhalter, underwent a minor medical procedure and isn’t fit, and D.C. United goalie Bill Hamid, who started last month’s 6–0 exhibition win over El Salvador.

GOALKEEPERS

Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

DEFENDERS

Tristan Blackmon (Los Angeles FC), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

MIDFIELDERS

Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

FORWARDS

Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Chris Mueller (Orlando City)

UNDER-23 ROSTER

Eight of the 26 players have been capped by the senior team and nine were involved in last month’s camp that preceded the El Salvador friendly. There’s also considerable youth—seven players will be age-eligible for the 2024 Olympics as well.Two noteworthy dual-nationals who Berhalter called up in December are not on this month’s lists. Toronto FC forward Ayo Akinola, 20, accepted an invite from Canada to join its January camp, which, ironically, also is taking place in Bradenton. Akinola scored against El Salvador.Also absent is Galaxy forward Efrain Alvarez, 18, who played for the USA U-15s and then Mexico’s U-17s before accepting Berhalter’s invitation last month. Alvarez was ineligible to play against El Salvador because he hadn’t filed a one-time change of association. Likewise, Perea is unable to play this month because he previously represented Colombia at the FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cups.Meanwhile, the absence of 21-year-old Philadelphia Union center back Mark McKenzie, a 2020 MLS Best XI selection, suggests a transfer to Europe may be imminent. Similar reports surrounding FC Dallas right back Bryan Reynolds—some of which link him to Juventus—weren’t sufficient to keep him off Kreis’s list, however. His FCD teammate, midfielder Tanner Tessmann, is set to train with Bayern Munich following camp, according to ESPN, as part of a relationship between the clubs that already resulted in Chris Richards’s move to the German champions.

GOALKEEPERS

JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake), Brady Scott (Austin FC)

DEFENDERS

Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), George Bello (Atlanta United), Chris Gloster (PSV Eindhoven), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake), Aboubacar Keita (Columbus Crew), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids)

MIDFIELDERS

Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United), Bryang Kayo (VfL Wolfsburg), Andrés Perea (Orlando City), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)

FORWARDS

Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes), Daryl Dike (Orlando City), Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Benji Michel (Orlando City), Djordje Mihailovic (Montreal Impact)

Armchair Analyst: Explaining the two USMNT rosters for January

January 5, 20213:04PM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

The US men’s national team dropped two rosters on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the annual January camp. One of the rosters is composed solely of players age 24 and older, and the other is — you’ve probably already guessed it — for players 23 and younger.The message here is clear: the older guys are mostly there because they’ve shown that they’re core players, to one degree or another, for the full national team, and any player who fits that bill can expect to get their ticket punched at least once or twice in 2021, which is likely to be the busiest year in USMNT history. There could be as many as 21 full international games on the schedule this year at last count.Just as clear is that the younger guys are in camp not for full USMNT reasons, though a few of them are already regulars, but specifically for Olympic reasons. And hence this is being run as two separate and distinct camps — Gregg Berhalter’s in charge of the olds and Jason Kreis is in charge of the youngs — which is not usually the way.“This is an important year for our national team programs, and we are looking to maximize every possible opportunity,” Berhalter said is a press release. “For the senior team players, this is an opportunity to continue to develop as a group and build on the foundation of a busy and challenging year. Being alongside our U-23 team gives that group a chance to prepare for Olympic Qualifying while further integrating into our culture and game model.”A quick run-down for those who are a little bit confused about Olympic stuff (if you’re not confused, just skip a bit):

Q: “Why the age cut-off?”

A: Olympic qualifying is for the U-23 age group, which means only players who were born on January 1, 1997 or later are eligible.

Q: “Aren’t some of those guys are 24 now, Matt?”

A: You’re correct. Very good math on your part. But the Olympics were among the whole raft of things that were postponed last year, and rather than push the age cut-off to January 1, 1998 and keep it as purely U-23, FIFA made the (IMO good) decision) to keep the same age cohort eligible even though they are now, technically, no longer U-23s.

Q: “If that’s the age cut-off, then why aren’t Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Gio Reyna, Sergino Dest, Tim Weah, Reggie Cannon, Chris Richards and Josh Sargent here?”

A: You need to relax. This is not a FIFA-sanctioned international window, and there is no way to force or compel teams that have actual games right now to release players for this camp. It has been this way for as long as there has been a January camp.

MLS teams aren’t playing games right now, so MLS players are here. There are also a couple of Europe-based guys who’ve yet to break through to the first team and are in their respective youth teams, and let’s tip our hats to Wolfsburg and PSV for being cool and letting those guys head to Florida. 

Q: “What’s the point, then?”

A: Well, you know what else those clubs aren’t required to release those players for? Olympic qualifying! FIFA does not mandate clubs release players for youth tournaments, and both Olympic qualifying and the Olympics itself are considered to be youth tournaments. And as it stands, other than maybe Richards, there is zero chance any of the young Yanks Abroad making headlines in Europe are going to be released for Olympic qualifying. ZERO. You will not see them, and it’s not the USSF’s fault or Gregg Berhalter’s fault or Jason Kreis’s fault. It’s just how the rules are.

MLS teams have the right to refuse to release any of their players as well, by the way. But MLS teams have almost always played nice with the USSF over these types of things, and I would expect the vast, vast majority of potential call-ups to have damn near a permanent green light from their clubs.

Q: “So that means…”

A: Yes, you appear to have once again done the math: That means come Olympic qualifying, the bulk of the team is going to come from this group. Pulisic is not walking through that door, and McKennie’s not walking through that door, and Sargent’s not walking through that door, and Yunus Musah and Owen Otasowie and Johnny Cardoso* aren’t walking through that door.

(*) I could maybe see it happening with Johnny, to be fair, but it’s a long shot.

So what you’re looking at with the U-23s is damn near a complete Olympic qualifying roster, save for one or two spots, and January is likely to serve as a cut-down camp. So let’s start there:

GOALKEEPERS: J.T. Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake), Brady Scott (Austin FC)

As I see it, it’s likely a two-man race between Marcinkowski and Ochoa. Marcinkowski was largely very good for San Jose after claiming the starting job mid-season — though he did struggle in the playoffs — while Ochoa disappointingly only got one game for RSL this past year, but probably has the higher upside.

Scott beats out Jonathan Klinsmann for the third spot on the depth chart.

LEFT BACKS: Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), George Bello (Atlanta United), Chris Gloster (Jong PSV)

I have them in this order for a reason. Vines generates an order of magnitude less buzz than he should given his performances for club and country:

Bello, on the other hand, has generated more buzz than his play has warranted, though the delta between “actual buzz” and “deserving buzz” narrowed considerably given his play over the second half of Atlanta United’s season, and he is on the radar of almost every big club in Europe. If the improvement curve he showed this autumn is real, he will be sold for many, many millions of dollars within the year.

Gloster got that European move but hasn’t been able to make it sing. He’s not been a regular contributor for Jong PSV in the Dutch second tier, and chances are the New York Red Bulls academy product will be on his way back to MLS sooner or later.

RIGHT BACKS: Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas), Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake)

Reynolds is still learning the finer defensive aspects of the game, having only switched to fullback from winger about 18 months ago, but he is an attacking force of the sort that the likes of Juventus and Roma pay attention to (and eventually pay lots of money for). Araujo is the opposite — a natural defender who’s still figuring out how to add value on the overlap and in the final third.

Herrera seems to be there making up the numbers, but don’t rule him out: He is probably the best two-way player of the three at the moment, and is the only one of the six fullbacks on the roster who has experience playing both RB and LB. That matters for depth reasons during small-roster, short-rest tournaments.

CENTER BACKS: Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution), Aboubacar Keita (Columbus Crew)

Pineda, a ball-playing converted central midfielder, was one of the most pleasant surprises in the league this past year, though Kessler probably topped him in the “pleasant surprise” category. Both guys walked right into the starting lineups for their teams and added value on both sides of the ball. What separates Kessler a bit is that he did it in the playoffs. This was superb:

Kessler’s defensive nous created transition moments for the Revs all year long. The modern game is all about transition moments.

Keita was not a starter for Columbus, but earned a good chunk of playing time and like both Pineda and Kessler, he can ping a pass and open up the game. What makes him stand out is that he does that with his left foot, and is the only left-footer among this bunch.

Robinson took a massive step backwards in 2020 for Atlanta, but was rightfully on the MLS Best XI in 2019 and has the tools to get back there. Unlike the other guys at this camp he’s not really a ball-playing center back, but defensively he can be — has been — better than any of them.

I am surprised that Justen Glad and Auston Trusty aren’t here. And obviously Mark McKenzie would be here if he wasn’t about to be sold to Genk.

REGISTAS: Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas)

Okay, so here’s where I’m going off course a little bit. Usually I list the central midfield cohort as “defensive midfielders,” “central midfielders” and “attacking midfielders,” and usually there’s a certain amount of delineation amongst the group as to make it sort of intuitive to spell it out like that.

That’s not the case here, so I’m just going to list Yueill and Tessmann as what I’ll expect them to be: tempo-setting, game-dictating, deep-lying, playmaking midfielders. Their job isn’t to press and win the ball back, but to shield the backline and dictate the team’s shape on both sides of the ball.

Yueill’s done this job well for both club and country. Tessmann, who like Ochoa, Bello, Araujo and Reynolds, is also age-eligible for the 2024 Olympics, was superb at this for Dallas this past year.

Both of these guys can push higher as more traditional No. 8s, and in fact that was Yueill’s role for most of the final two months of this past season. But I don’t think that’s how they’ll be used this month.

Am I surprised Aidan Morris isn’t here after his outstanding MLS Cup performance? Yes. 

CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS: Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers), Bryang Kayo (VfL Wolfsburg), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United), Andres Perea (Orlando City)

Williamson was awesome as a two-way No. 8 for the Timbers this year, a revelation who was essential in their switch from “counter a bunch and cross way too much” to “actually use the ball to break teams down.” He was fun:

It’s a safe bet he would’ve played a role in last month’s thumping of El Salvador had he been healthy.

Kayo is an uber-talented two-way central midfielder who’s yet to break into Wolfsburg’s first team, and has been released for the January camp for the second straight year. That’s good — it’s nice of Wolfsburg to play nice — but it’s also bad, since it shows that he’s not really in their immediate plans. Wolfsburg are notoriously slow about progressing kids up the ranks and into the first team, for what it’s worth.

Dotson has spent a lot of time playing as a d-mid and a right back, but is probably best understood as a two-way, destroying central midfielder for this camp, as his lack of passing range would prevent him from playing the regista role in the way that Kreis (and hence Berhalter) would want.

It’s interesting that Perea, the Tampa-born son of a former Colombia international, is in his second straight US camp. He is not eligible to play until/unless he files a one-time switch. Maybe that’s in the works?

As mentioned, there are no real attacking midfielders with this group. Brenden Aaronson’s off to Salzburg and Cole Bassett, who was rostered vs. El Salvador but did not play, isn’t here (which shocks me, but there are whispers in the wind that he’s off to Europe to train). Neither is young Caden Clark, which surprises me at least a little bit (he was originally scheduled to go to Leipzig this month, though that fell through).

WINGERS: Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Djordje Mihailovic (Montreal Impact), Benji Michel (Orlando City), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes)

I’ve been beating the Lewis drum forever, and while he’s delivered in spurts and earned himself a new contract, he’s yet to earn a starting spot for club or country, at any level. The talent to do so is obvious, and there is no time like the present.

Mihailovic had something of a breakout season for Chicago playing largely as a playmaking, inverted left winger, which is a role I sort of expect to see him in for this camp. That said it wouldn’t shock me at all if he’s actually used as an attacking midfielder for this camp.

There is no question as to where either Michel or Cowell will play: On the wing, where they can drive forward off the ball and make hard, direct runs at goal. Michel is six years older than Cowell and naturally is more polished, but Cowell — the youngest player in this camp — has an attention-grabbing level of fearlessness and flair. I don’t expect him to make the final roster, but it wouldn’t shock me if he did.

FORWARDS: Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Daryl Dike (Orlando City), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas)

I think USMNT fans are more excited about Dike than about Ebobisse, and I get it. Dike’s got a combination of touch, soccer IQ and off-the-charts physicality that is unique. There is a reason I made multiple videos about him this year:

I do think, though, that if Ebobisse had been used as a center forward for the past two years in Portland he’d be a regular 20-goal scorer. A big part of it is he’s figured out how to get the one-touch goals that any center forward needs, and a big part of it is that, as with Dike, when the ball’s on his preferred foot he wallops the crap out of it. Striking the ball clean is a damn good trick!But the big thing with Ebobisse is that he’s dominant in the air in a way, at this point, that Dike is not. Set pieces played an outsized role in determining success at the international level and in tournament play (just go back and watch Portland’s MLS is Back Tournament run), and I can’t just look past that.That said, I’m happy with either choice.I am somewhat surprised to see Jesus Ferreira here given how significant his struggles were for Dallas this past year and how he doesn’t really fit a clear role for the way Berhalter’s teams play. Yes, he was pretty good last year against Costa Rica as a false 9, but it’s not like the US blew the Ticos off the pitch that day.For those wondering: Ayo Akinola is with Canada. He would have to file a one-time switch to play for them.


And now here’s the full roster. As per the USSF press release, “The senior team group, consisting of players aged 24 and older, will train alongside the U-23 USMNT through January 24, at which point several U-23 players will be elevated to the full USMNT roster in advance of a planned match at the end of the month.”

GOALKEEPERS: Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

Johnson has been a mainstay for Berhalter and Turner is here for the obvious reasons. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t get his first US appearance.

CENTER BACKS: Aaron Long (RBNY), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC), Tristan Blackmon (LAFC)

Long is probably still the first-choice CB partner for John Brooks, though his grip on that spot is at least somewhat tenuous. Zimmerman has been in the mix since Berhalter’s first game in charge, and has obviously kept himself in the mix with a superb 2020 season.

Blackmon is the only surprise inclusion of the over-24 crowd, the only player in this group who’s still purely a prospect, and the only field player who’s uncapped. He’s primarily been a right back for LAFC, but take a look at the current RB depth chart for the USMNT — Dest, Cannon, DeAndre Yedlin, Reynolds, Araujo, Herrera, etc — and then tell me if you think Blackmon is here for that spot or for his likely eventual conversion to center back.

And so the fact is there are no actual fullbacks on this roster. Daniel Lovitz had a very good season for Nashville and Chase Gasper was excellent for Minnesota but they are not going to be ahead of Vines or Bello this month. I think Nick Lima‘s mostly been very good when he’s played for the US, but pushing Reynolds, Araujo or Herrera up for the friendly against the as-yet unnamed opponent.

CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS: Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

Lletget’s almost certainly going to start this friendly, and is in contention to be a starter for the full national team no matter who’s called in. People are going to hate that sentence, but it’s true.

Acosta and Roldan are more than just making up the numbers, but as I see it both are more likely to be part of the Gold Cup squad this summer — which is likely to be a B team — than the A squad for World Cup qualifiers or grabbing a role as one of the three overage players at the Olympics should the US qualify.

They could, of course, begin to change some minds with standout performances this month.

Note that neither Michael Bradley nor Wil Trapp got the call for this camp. As with Lovitz and Lima, it seems like they’ve been sorted down the list a bit.

WINGERS: Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Chris Mueller (Orlando City)

Morris and Arriola are proven at the national team level several times over. Mueller is not, though he made quite an impression with two goals and two assists in his first US appearance last month.

“Yeah, but it’s only El Salvador!” is not a worthwhile sentiment to me, by the way. Part of being a great team is beating the brakes off of bad teams, which is something the US hadn’t done for a long, long time. Then they whupped Panama 6-2 in November and whupped El Salvador 6-0 in December, and Mueller was the Man of the Match in that one. He belongs here, and will have a chance to prove he can compete with or even usurp Morris and Arriola at this camp.

FORWARD: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)

This feels like Jozy’s last ride. Berhalter made it clear last year where he stands on the veteran, who is by far the most experienced player at this camp, when he said Jozy’s still the most talented forward in the pool (true) but that his constant fitness issues have compromised his position on the depth chart.n the past you could say “yeah, but…” and point to any number of things, including Jozy’s ability to open the game up with his passing, his ability to physically dominate opposing CBs and thus allow for easy outlets when the midfield is overrun, and his ability to put the ball into the net even when injured. But both Ebobisse and Dike do those first two things, and as for the third… an injured Altidore scored in the 2019 MLS Cup. A coming-off-an-injury-and lacking fitness Altidore did this in the 2020 playoffs:He’s just 31, so there’s a chance he hasn’t hit the end of the road. He’s going to have to prove it, though, because I don’t think the likes of Dike and Ebobisse are going to be just sitting around, waiting their turn. Nor are Sargent, Nico Gioacchini and Sebastian Soto, none of whom are at this camp but all of whom will, I’m sure, be watching.There is no Gyasi Zardes this month after the Crew striker underwent a minor medical procedure, according to a US Soccer spokesperson. While he would have been there if fit, at the same time, what more could Berhalter learn from his inclusion? Gyasi knows how to play the center forward role in damn near the exact way Berhalter wants, and just had a very long year in which he logged a lot of hard minutes. Giving him a few more weeks to recover, and then giving game time to either Jozy or one of the kids makes sense.This is what could’ve happened had Jozy made that run, by the way:Let’s hope those are dance steps that Ebobisse and Dike show they know as well.

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