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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1:17

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

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