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.
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
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
Serie A: USMNT’s McKennie scores as Juve takes down Milan; Inter, Napoli fall
PSG held by Saint-Etienne in Pochettino’s first match
Klopp: Liverpool cannot promise center back addition because of pandemic
Milan teams regroup as Roma, Juventus close gap in Serie A
MLS proposes 2-year CBA extension to players, no salary cuts
LA Galaxy hire former star Vanney, coached Toronto to MLS treble
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.
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
Why? You serious, Clark?
19. West Bromwich Albion
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
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)
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.
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
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
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
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).
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).
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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).
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
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
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
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.
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:
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.
Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
Tristan Blackmon (Los Angeles FC), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)
Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Chris Mueller (Orlando City)
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.
JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake), Brady Scott (Austin FC)
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)
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)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The truth is I really don’t care what XI the US end up playing in the friendly, but since I know you all love these graphics…
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