US Ties Jamaica 1-1
The USMNT is fortunate to salvage at tie at Jamaica 1-1 as a late goal by Jamaica was called back on an over the back call. (Hi-lights) I thought the starting line-up was spot on with Busio stepping in for Weston McKinney (suspended Yellow Card) and Richards stepping in for Miles Robinson (Red Card suspension). The only thing I would have done is put Matt Turner back in Goal for Zack Steffan. Steffan played great vs Mexico – but Turner is our best Shot Stopper and with bad field conditions – I just preferred Steffan back there (please don’t tell me he wouldn’t have made that save on the goal – he’s done it in every game.) It was a great strike by Jamaica’s superstar and Adams should have never left him open but Steffan was out of spot, his footwork questionable and his reach incorrect. Sorry but Turner at least gets a paw on it – (may not of saved it but) it was hit from 30 yards out. Still the US definitely looked less energized in the empty stadium but we outshot them 9-6 with each getting just 2 shots of goal each. They got off to a great start as Man of the Match Tim Weah scored the 1st goal and the first 20 minutes we looked solid. But the energy left the US after the Jamaica wonder goal by Michail Antonio of West Ham United – and the US really didn’t recover. The addition of Pulisic and Acosta did not impact the game in the 65th minute this time – as Musah (Strep Throat) and Weah (who looked exhausted after going 90 vs Mexico) came off. I thought Busio was way over his head as he didn’t win 1 challenge all night and was basically a blank spot on the field. He’s young – he’ll learn. Musah just 18 was special as always – but the defense didn’t step up in the 2nd half and the midfield was overrun some in the 2nd. Overall this is a disappointing result and we were lucky to get out with a point. Later Canada rose to top in the table as they Stunned Mexico in IceTeca 2-1. Highlights
US Stands in 2nd – But
A quick glance at the Table has the US where we want to be in 2nd place overall with 15 points. But the US honestly has the most difficult run down the stretch. We still play at Canada in January and at Mexico and Costa Rica in late March. That’s 3 games – where you don’t expect to pick up points. That’s part of why the Jamaica game and letting that 3 points go – hurts. The US, of course, must win our final home games with El Salvador and Hondorus in January and Panama in March – but we might need to get a least a point and a tie at Canada/Mexico or Costa Rica – we have never done that in qualifiers in Mexico or Costa Rica – and Canada honestly looks like the top team in CONCACAF right now. So while things looks good now – finishing in the top 3 (the 4th team has to playoff to get to the World Cup) is still not a lock. The good news for the US is Panama is the closest battling for th 3rd spot and they still travel to Costa Rica/Mexico/Jam while finishing up at home with the US.
Remaining CONCACAF World Cup qualifying opponents
points in parenthesis
Canada (16) : at HON, vs USA, at SLV | at CRC, vs JAM, at PAN
USMNT (15): vs SLV, at CAN, vs HON | at MEX, vs PAN, at CRC
Mexico (14): at JAM, vs CRC, vs PAN | vs USA, at HON, vs SLV
Panama (14): at CRC, vs JAM, at MEX | vs HON, at USA, vs CAN
Costa Rica (9): vs PAN, at MEX, at JAM | vs CAN, at SLV, vs USA
Jamaica (7): vs MEX, at PAN, vs CRC | vs SLV, at CAN, vs HON
El Salvador (6): at USA, at HON, vs CAN | at JAM, vs CRC, at MEX
Honduras (3): vs CAN, vs SLV, at USA | at PAN, vs MEX, at JAM
More on 2-0 Win over Mexico from Cincy
So this was my view from the Glorious American Outlaws Section vs Mexico last week after we scored the goal – (some pics) the atmosphere was amazing as Dos a Cero was achieved at home in front of a stadium full of American Outlaws in Cincy. Special shout out to Jeremy Stroebel and Witney Zalenski of American Outlaws Indy as they helped me secure fantastic tickets behind the goal in the AO section just 2 days prior to the game. If you aren’t a member you should join, if nothing else join us for US games at Union Jack in Broad Ripple.
Of course by now everyone has heard about the Quote from Mexican Goalkeeper Memo Ochoa – about the US Seeing its self in the Mirror and wanting to be Mexico. Pulisic’s goal and then pulling up his shirt to show the Man in the Mirror on his T-shirt was the ultimate response. God I love Pulisic !! Cool video – Man in The Mirror
Here’s a hilarious sequence on US Coach Greg Berhalter who by the way has beaten Mexico 3 times in a row – NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE – and has us at the Top of the Table midway thru World Cup Qualifying. Listen I question his tactics sometimes – but you could argue this is the Best coaching job by a US Manager ever. Was he is doing with a team that’s average age was 23 years old Friday night is amazing. He has completely changed the way we play – he has adjusted to his talent – which is young but outstanding – and he adopted a high press attack that absolutely dominated Mexico. The first half was even – but the US just ran roughshod over El Tri in the 2nd half with 55% possession and far more shots. (19-9 overall). We are young and Mexico is old – the torch is being passed to US – and its time the world took notice. We still have been qualification games ahead but Berhalter has the US playing better, more offensive, attacking futbol than anyone ever. At this point I would say the Jury is no longer out on Berhalter – its time to give him the respect he has earned – he’s our Coach – will be our Coach thru the 2022 World Cup when this team makes a Quarterfinal run. He’s a former US National Team player, an MLS Champion Coach, and now he’s making his mark on our national team.
Interesting news that Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic – is said to be on Barcelona’s wish list for Jan transfer.
NWSL CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS Sat 12 noon at Louisville on CBS Tickets Available Just $15
Interesting watching #1 Seed Portland and all those US players lose 2-0 at home to the Chicago Red Stars. Sophia Smith, Becky Saubraun, Klingingberg, and the NWSL Regular Season Champs Thorns lost to the young Red Stars and Tierna Davidson. Even without quarter-final hero Mal Pugh (due to COVID-19 protocols), the Red Stars still had enough offensive firepower to eliminate the top-seeded Thorns yesterday. Red Stars forward Katie Johnson scored just minutes after subbing in for an injured Kealia Watt, and midfielder Sarah Woldmoe netted an insurance goal in the second half to secure the 2–0 win. No. 2 OL Reign vs. No. 3 Washington Spirit: Both sides netted a goal within the first 12 minutes, but Spirit forward Ashley Sanchez defied the laws of physics to score the 68th minute game-winner and send Washington to their first title game since 2016. Undefeated in 11 straight on-field matches, the Spirit appear unstoppable. Now all that’s left is the championship game…and finding a new owner. What’s next: Neither the Spirit nor the Red Stars have won an NWSL title, but that’ll change this Saturday at 12 p.m. noon in Louisville at Lynn Family Stadium on CBS. Tickets are just $15 – if you have daughters who play soccer you should scoop up tickets and head down there!!
Indy 11 Names New Coach
Indy Eleven secured a sideline leader for the future with today’s announcement of Mark Lowry as the fourth permanent head coach in club history. Lowry, one of the USL Championship’s most successful coaches since joining the league in 2019, has already begun his duties on behalf of Indiana’s Team and is expected to arrive in Indianapolis on Wednesday. Lowry lands in the Circle City after a three-season stint with El Paso Locomotive FC, which he guided to a 42W-19L-29D record in USL Championship regular season, USL Championship Playoffs, and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup action from 2019-21. The 36-year-old native of Birmingham, England, improved Locomotive FC’s record across each of their first 3 seasons of play, the first 2 of which culminated in back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference Final. Lowry’s 40 regular season victories over those three years rank as the fourth most amongst USL Championship coaches across that span.“
GK Jordan Farr plays for San Antonio in USL Conference Finals Sat Night, 10:30 pm on ESPN+
Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr on load to San Antonio has reached the conference finals after a huge 2-0 win over Rio Grande Valley FC. Next up for San Antonio and Farr is a trip to LA to face Orange County SC at 10:30 pm on ESPN+. In the Eastern Conference Final its Indy 11 rivals Louisville FC traveling to Tampa Bay to face the Rowdies in St. Pete’s Al Lang Stadium at 7:30 pm on ESPN+.
MLS Playoffs Start
The MLS Playoffs start Sat with Phlly hosting NY Red Bull at 2:30 and Sporting KC hosting Vancouver at 4 pm all on Telemundo. Sad the playoffs don’t hit US English Speaking TV until Sunday with the NYCFC hosting Atlanta United and Joseph Martinez at 3 on ABC – at Yankee Stadium and Portland hosting Minn United at 6:30 pm on ESPN. (Previews) . Predictions Here’s the Playoff Bracket.
NBC Pays 2.8 Billion to Keep EPL
News today that the NBC has bid $2.8 billion to keep exclusive rights to the EPL – lets hope that means they will give us more NBC network games that matter. Will be interesting to see with NBCSN – going away 12/31/21 – that USA Network – which has much more coverage will be the home of the EPL along with NBC. I would love to see them add the 10 am Sat AM games to NBC – why not ? NBC doesn’t do any college game coverage until after 2 pm on Saturday’s and EPL would be interesting head to head vs college gameday coverage on ESPN and Fox. I was actually hoping ESPN would get a little piece of the package as well – they would cover the EPL more if they did. But oh well – glad at least that NBC stepped up. Big games this weekend include Chelsea’s vs Leicester City at 7:30 am on NBCSN on Sat and Liverpool hosting Arsenal at 12:30 pm on NBC. Sunday has Man City hosting Everton 9:30 am on NBCSN.
Guerin Catholic boys soccer coach Chris McGrath dies after lengthy COVID battle
Brian Haenchen, Indianapolis Star Thu, November 18, 2021, 3:06 PM·3 min read
Guerin Catholic boys soccer coach Chris McGrath died Wednesday morning, according to a CaringBridge entry by his wife, Shari McGrath.McGrath was hospitalized due to COVID in mid-September, and was later moved to the ICU and placed on a ventilator, according to a blog post from school president Rick Wagner in early October. He is survived by his wife, and their three children: daughters Emily (17) and Julia (19), and son Ryan. “Chris peacefully passed away this morning at 10:45 surrounded by his family,” Shari wrote. “He fought one hell of a fight, but there was nothing more that the medical staff could do for his lungs. “In an email to the school community Wednesday, Wagner asked for continued prayers for McGrath’s family, as well as GC faculty, staff, students, and “most especially the boys soccer program, as these young men move forward during this challenging time.” “The Guerin Catholic community sends our love and support to the McGrath family and the boys soccer program,” a statement from the school on Twitter read. “May he rest in peace.”McGrath, who was an active member of the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association, won more than 60 games during his tenure as Golden Eagles head coach (2016-21), with semistate appearances in 2019-20. Assistants Jacob Cloran, Jim Alvarez and Anthony Alvarez shared coaching responsibilities in McGrath’s absence, guiding the senior-driven Golden Eagles to the sectional finals, where they lost to eventual Class 2A champion Brebeuf Jesuit.”We’ve just come together as a group,” Cloran said after a 2-1 victory over Cardinal Ritter in the Sectional 26 semifinals. “When you’re on a team, you lift people up when you’re down and you work through things.”McGrath’s involvement in the Indy soccer scene extended well beyond his role as Guerin coach.
In fact, he was perhaps best known for founding Sogility, a soccer-specific training facility in Westfield that takes a technology-driven approach to training. Opened in 2018, the indoor facility has been so popular that the company plans to break ground on a new, larger building to the east of its current location later this year.“While we mourn Chris’s untimely passing, his influence on elite soccer in Central Indiana will be a part of his legacy,” Sogility CEO Jimmy Carson said in a statement. “We will continue to grow Sogility based on the foundation he established. Please keep his family, the Sogility family, and all those that Chris influenced in your prayers.”A prayer service for McGrath is scheduled for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at St. Vincent’s 86th Street near the benches and statue at Entrance 1, according to a press release from Sogility. Further details about the arrangements are to come.A GoFundMe page established on behalf of the McGrath family late last month has raised more than $23,000 towards its goal. Those interested in donating should follow this link. Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen.
BIG GAMES TO WATCH
7:30 am NBCSN Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leicester City
9:30 am ESPN+ Hoffenhiem (Richards) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)
10 USA Wolverhampton vs West Ham
12 noon CBS NWSL Championship Chicago Red Stars vs Washington
12:30 pm NBC Liverpool vs Arsenal
2:30 pm Tele Philly Union vs NY Red Bulls MLS Playoff
4 pm Tele Sporting KC vs Vancouver
11 am beIn Sport PSG vs Nantes
7:30 pm ESPN+ Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Louisville City USL
8 pm FS1 Santos Laguna vs Atletico San Luis (Liga MX)
10 pm ESPN+ Orange City vs San Antonio (Jordan Farr Indy 11 GK)
9 am NBCSN Man City vs Everton
11:30 NBCSN Tottenham vs Leeds
12 noon CBSSN Inter Milan vs Napoli (Italy)
3 pm ESPN+ Real Sociedad vs Valencia (Musah)
3 pm ABC NYCFC vs Atlanta United MLS Playoff
6:30 pm ESPN Portland Timbers vs Minn United MLS
Tues 11/23 UCL
12:45 pm EST Dynamo Kiev vs. Bayern Munich Paramount+
12:45 pm EST Villarreal vs. Manchester United Paramount+
03:00 pm EST Barcelona (Dest) vs. Benfica Paramount+
03:00 pm EST BSC Young Boys (Pfuk) vs. Atalanta Paramount+
03:00 pm EST “ Lille (Weah) vs. RB Salzburg (Aaronson) Paramount+
03:00 pm EST Sevilla FC vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Brooks) Paramount+
03:00 pm EST Malmö vs. Zenit St Petersburg Paramount+
03:00 pm EST Chelsea (Pulisic) vs. Juventus (McKennie) Paramount+
8 pm FS1 Nashville vs Orlando City MLS Playoff
10:30 pm FS1 Seattle Sounders vs Real Salt Lake
Wednesday, November 24 UCL
12:45 pm EST Beşiktaş vs. Ajax Amsterdam Paramount+
12:45 pm EST Inter Milan vs. Shakhtar Donetsk Paramount+
03:00 pm EST Club Brugge vs. RB Leipzig (Adams) Paramount+
03:00 pm EST Manchester City vs. Paris Saint-Germain Paramount+
03:00 pm EST Atletico Madrid vs. AC Milan Paramount+
03:00 pm EST Liverpool vs. FC Porto Paramount+
03:00 pm EST Sporting CP vs. Borussia Dortmund Paramount+
03:00 pm EST Sheriff Tiraspol vs. Real Madrid Paramount+
Thursday, November 25 (Europa)
12:45 pm EST Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Lazio Paramount+
12:45 pm EST Galatasaray (Yedlin) vs. Marseille Paramount+
12:45 pm EST Red Star Belgrade vs. Ludogorets Paramount+
12:45 pm EST FC Midtjylland vs. Braga Paramount+
12:45 pm EST Real Betis vs. Ferencvaros Paramount+
12:45 pm EST Bayer Leverkusen vs. Celtic Paramount+
12:45 pm EST SK Rapid Wien vs. West Ham United Paramount+
12:45 pm EST Dinamo Zagreb vs. Genk (Mckensie) Paramount+
03:00 pm EST Brondby vs. Lyon Paramount+
03:00 pm EST Rangers vs. Sparta Prague Paramount+
03:00 pm EST PSV Eindhoven vs. SK Sturm Graz Paramount+
03:00 pm EST AS Monaco vs. Real Sociedad Paramount+
03:00 pm EST Leicester City vs. Legia Warsaw Paramount+
3:00 pm EST Olympiacos vs. Fenerbahçe Paramount+
03:00 pm EST Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Antwerp (Vines) Paramount+
Sat, Nov 27
11 pm FS1 USWNT vs Australia
PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals Starting price: $4.99/mo.Features Champions League, US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, , Serie A, Europa League Free Trial
My View after the 2nd Goal from the USA vs Mexico Last Week
Decisive Sounds Define USMNT’s ‘Decent’ Draw Brian Straus SI
What we learned from Concacaf qualifying: USA wobble as Canada surge to the top
Tim Weah scores and USMNT holds off Jamaica for tie in World Cup qualifying2022 Concacaf World Cup Qualifiers: USA 1-1 Jamaica – A fortunate draw away from home
Gregg Berhalter praises USMNT backs, Michail Antonio; Updates Pulisic, Musah health
Wales seal World Cup playoff spot with draw vs. Belgium
Indy 11 & USL Championships
· · Championship Playoffs Preview: Orange County SC vs. San Antonio FC & Jordan Farr at GK
NWSL FINALS & USMNT
BIG GAMES TO WATCH
30 am NBCSN Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leicester City
9:30 am ESPN+ Hoffenhiem (Richards) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)
10 USA Wolverhampton vs West Ham
12 noon CBS NWSL Championship Chicago Red Stars vs Washington
12:30 pm NBC Liverpool vs Arsenal
2:30 pm Tele Philly Union vs NY Red Bulls MLS Playoff
4 pm Tele Sporting KC vs Vancouver
11 am beIn Sport PSG vs Nantes
7:30 pm ESPN+ Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Louisville City USL
8 pm FS1 Santos Laguna vs Atletico San Luis (Liga MX)
10 pm ESPN+ Orange City vs San Antonio (Jordan Farr Indy 11 GK)
9 am NBCSN Man City vs Everton
11:30 NBCSN Tottenham vs Leeds
12 noon CBSSN Inter Milan vs Napoli (Italy)
3 pm ESPN+ Real Sociedad vs Valencia (Musah)
3 pm ABC NYCFC vs Atlanta United MLS Playoff
6:30 pm ESPN Portland Timbers vs Minn United MLS
04:00 pm EDT Dynamo Kiev vs. Barcelona (Dest) Paramount+, PrendeTV
04:00 pm EDT
World Cup qualifying bubble watch: Portugal, Mexico and Italy are in varying degrees of trouble
Henry Bushnell Wed, November 17, 2021, 12:35 AM
Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal have taken long routes to the World Cup before. Eight years ago this month, in fact, they were 20 minutes and one goal away from missing the tournament altogether. Four years later, Italy reminded international soccer that its giants aren’t immune to qualifying failures. That the unthinkable can happen. That the sport’s bluebloods can miss out on its banner event.And four years after that? Here we are again. Only this time, the road is even longer.Qatar 2022 is 12 months away. Its field is essentially half-full. And for now, neither Portugal nor Italy is a part of it. The last two European champions suffered stunning upsets this past weekend, and stumbled into a perilous playoff round that could still send them to the World Cup, but also could send them home. Each will have to win two do-or-die games in March to avoid ignominy. They could even find themselves on a collision course that inevitably subjects at least one of the two to the unthinkable fate.Oh, and they aren’t alone. World Cup mainstays from the Americas are struggling, too. None has outright missed the World Cup just yet. But a few are very much on the bubble as the 32-team competition takes shape.What follows is a snapshot of that bubble after a wild November international window that concluded with 13 teams officially qualified; with 38 other nations realistically in play for 19 unclaimed spots; and with Canadians diving into piles of snow to celebrate a famous win over Mexico.So, let’s dive in with them.
Already qualified (13)
- Brazil — Unbeaten and nearly perfect in South America’s qualifying gauntlet
- Argentina — Also unbeaten, and now officially en route to Qatar after Tuesday’s draw with Brazil. Last cycle took Argentina to the brink, needing a final-day hat trick from Lionel Messi. This cycle, by those standards, was smooth.
- France — Uninspiring but never truly threatened in a weak European group
- Belgium — Dominant yet again. Belgium’s last World Cup qualifying loss was in Estonia on Oct. 14, 2009.
- Spain — Scraped by Sweden on the final two matchdays
- England — Scored 39, conceded 3 in 10 games. British media have transitioned from moaning about their team to moaning that World Cup qualifying is a waste of time.
- Germany — Stunned by North Macedonia early on, but cruised thereafter
- Denmark — One of the first to secure qualification — and didn’t drop points until they had
- Switzerland — The beneficiary of Italy’s final-day flop
- Netherlands — Left it late, but held off Norway and Turkey to finish atop their group
- Croatia — Had to beat Russia on the final day … and did, thanks to an injured defender’s clumsy, monsoon-aided own goal
- Serbia — Stunned Portugal with a 90th-minute winner to send Ronaldo and Co. tumbling toward the playoffs
- Qatar — Automatically qualified as the host. No business being at a World Cup otherwise. (No business being the hosts, either, but that’s another discussion for another day.)
The locks (2)
(Percentages in parentheses are each team’s qualification odds from We Global Football)
Iran (100%) and South Korea (99.9%) — On 16 and 14 points, respectively, in an otherwise astonishingly weak Asian Group A, where no other team has more than 6 points. The top two qualify automatically. There are four games to go. Those two will be Iran and South Korea.
The likelihoods (4)
Ecuador (98.2%) — Six points clear of fourth place in South America with four games to go. Two stumbling South American teams would have to pass the Ecuadorians. And with two of their remaining opponents, Brazil and Argentina, already qualified, a late collapse seems unlikely.
Saudi Arabia (86.2%) — Absolutely strolling through the tougher of the two Asian groups. The Saudis often struggle against World Cup-caliber opponents, but steamroll lesser foes.
United States (96.2%) — At first glance, the U.S. is right in the thick of an Octagonal dogfight. But it looks like the best team in CONCACAF. It still gets Honduras, El Salvador and Panama at home. Nine points from those three games should be enough on their own. Even a fourth-place finish would leave the Americans as likely favorites in an intercontinental playoff. “We’re on the right track,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said Tuesday. And he’s right.
Canada (95.5%) — Unbeaten and roaring toward a first men’s World Cup berth since 1986. Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Mexico, in frigid Edmonton, felt like a crowning capital-M Moment. Yes, there are still only two points separating first and fourth place. But the Canadian’s look like strong favorites to qualify.
The top of CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying table. (Screenshot: Google)
The non-playoff bubble (9)
Mexico (97.3%) — So, on one hand, Mexico still has the top combo of talent and experience in CONCACAF; it has four of six remaining matches at home; it’s still in great shape to qualify. On the other hand, it’s reeling after losses to the U.S. and Canada. It could have a new coach when qualifying resumes in January. This feels a lot more like 2014 — when Mexico very nearly missed the World Cup — than 2018 — when it qualified comfortably.
Panama (46.2%) — Two massive comebacks have Los Canaleros punching directly up at Mexico and the U.S., level on points with El Tri in third place. If there’s a team that can unseat the current top three, it’s them.
Japan (90.3%) and Australia (49.8%) — Both trailing Saudi Arabia. One will nab the second automatic qualifying slot in Asia’s Group B, the other will likely win the Asian playoff. (Japan’s probability is so much higher than Australia’s because its one-point lead is more significant than you realize, because three of its four remaining matches are at home, and because it’s a much better team than the Socceroos.)
Colombia (72.2%), Peru (24.2%), Uruguay (46.3%), Chile (20.3%) and Bolivia (1.6%) — If we accept that Ecuador is in, these five nations, separated by two points, are scrapping for just one automatic qualification spot and one intercontinental playoff berth.
Colombia, narrowly leading the pack and with the easiest remaining fixtures (Peru and Bolivia at home, already-qualified Argentina and lowly Venezuela away), is in the best shape of the bunch. But Uruguay has the most talent and World Cup experience.
Bolivia, meanwhile, has been dominant in La Paz. A result in Venezuela in January could put it in position to pull off the biggest shock of the qualifying cycle.
South America’s qualifying table. (Screenshot: Google)
The European playoffs (12)
Europe’s final three participants will come from a 12-team playoff field that’s chock-full of intrigue. The teams will be drawn into three pods of four. One-off semifinals and a final in each pod will send one team to Qatar and three packing.
There are six seeded teams, including Portugal and Italy, that can’t meet in the semifinals. But there’s nothing protecting them from sharing a pod, and potentially meeting in a high-stakes final.
Games will take place in March. Here’s the seeding for the Nov. 26 draw, which will determine matchups and brackets:
Seeded: Italy (49.5%), Portugal (44.9%), Sweden (32.6%), Wales (28.3%), Russia (28.1%), Scotland (22.2%)
Unseeded: Poland (20.5%), Austria (17.0%), Czech Republic (17.0%), Ukraine (15.8%), Turkey (13.7%), North Macedonia (10.5%)
The African playoffs (10)
In Africa, 10 four-team groups produced one winner each. Five of the 10 winners will be seeded, five unseeded for the playoff draw. Each playoff is two legs, with the victor going to the World Cup and the vanquished watching from home.
Seeded: Algeria (68.7%), Senegal (62.4%), Morocco (58.0%), Tunisia (54.4%), Nigeria (52.7%)
Unseeded: Cameroon (47.2%), Egypt (44.0%), Mali (42.2%), Ghana (37.8%), DR Congo (32.7%)
The intercontinental playoffs (1)
The fifth-place team from South America, the fourth-place team from CONCACAF, the winner of a playoff between two third-place teams from Asia, and one team from Oceania will be pitted against one another for two spots in Qatar. The matchups will be determined by a draw. Home-and-home series will be played in June 2022 — after the World Cup group stage draw has already taken place on April 1.
It’s not entirely clear how Oceania plans to choose its contestant in the intercontinental playoffs. But that contestant will almost certainly be New Zealand (43.7%).
The longshots (7)
Paraguay (1.0%) — No wins against non-Venezuelan opponents. Still only four points behind Peru in fifth, but with four nations to leapfrog to get there.
Costa Rica (8.1%) — A 95th-minute winner against Honduras on Tuesday night established Los Ticos as the best bet to crash CONCACAF’s current top four.
Jamaica (4.2%) — Seven points out of the playoff place with six games to go. Is it doable? With Michail Antonio and Leon Bailey in the fold, yeah. But likely? No.
UAE (3.1%), Lebanon (0.7%), Iraq (8.0%) and Syria (0.3%) — One of these four teams will meet Australia or Japan in the Asian playoff — where they’ll be a heavy underdog to advance to an intercontinental playoff, where they’d be a heavy underdog as well.
Still mathematically alive: Oman, China, El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Tahiti, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga and
USMNT’s World Cup qualifying lessons: McKennie is key, defense has depth, but will road form hurt them?
Nov 17, 2021Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent
For the United States men’s national team, the just concluded round of World Cup qualifiers finished much like the previous two. There were more positives than negatives even if there was a nagging sense that points were left on the table. In this instance, Friday’s 2-0 defeat of rivals Mexico provided its usual boost, but like most sugar highs, the buzz wore off. Tuesday’s 1-1 road draw with Jamaica was disappointing because the Americans were expected to perform better, and ultimately, the USMNT found itself fortunate to escape Kingston with a draw.
The most encouraging sign of progress arrived via Tim Weah. The Lille attacker was an absolute menace against El Tri, wearing a groove down the right wing with his persistent, positive runs and delivering a critical assist on Christian Pulisic‘s goal that opened the scoring. He followed that up with the 11th-minute goal against Jamaica that gave the U.S. a brief lead.
Weah’s performance built on his showing from the previous window, in which he forced the game-winning goal against Costa Rica, and such has been the winger’s play that the U.S. hasn’t really felt the absence of injured attacker Gio Reyna. On a team in which effective wing play is prized, Weah has cemented his spot in manager Gregg Berhalter’s rotation and looks a solid bet to head to Qatar, should the U.S. qualify.The other source of comfort came from the team’s center-backs — in particular, Walker Zimmerman. This is a player who was left off the initial roster for the October window, was then called in due to John Brooks‘ back injury and subsequently looked sharp in games against the Reggae Boyz and Panama. In this window, Zimmerman made the most of additional playing time and was a dominating presence in both matches, though he counted himself lucky to be bailed out by a foul call on Damion Lowe that wiped out what would have been a late, game-winning Jamaica goal.Miles Robinson was solid against Mexico, his late red card notwithstanding, while Chris Richards has performed well in both of his World Cup qualifying starts. The center-back position has been touted as an area of strength and depth, and it became so clear in this window that Brooks, long thought to be a lock for the starting XI, arguably has some considerable work to do to win back his spot.The progress showed by the likes of Weah and Zimmerman hints that there is indeed depth within the U.S. player pool, but like just about every team on the planet, the depth is uneven and there are certain individuals the U.S. simply can’t do without.One of those is Weston McKennie. The Juventus midfielder rebounded from the two-game, internal suspension meted out by Berhalter, and he remains the emotional hub for this team — so much so that his absence was palpable against the Reggae Boyz. At present, there’s simply no other player who provides the same level of two-way play as McKennie, which is all the more reason he needs to compete with more discipline. It’s one thing to pick up a yellow card for a tactical foul; it’s another to be issued a caution for getting into a fracas with an opponent, which is what happened against Mexico.Pulisic’s value also remains immense, as his substitute performance against Mexico reaffirmed. The only concern is his durability. USMNT fans will be hoping that the two months between now and the next window will see the Chelsea winger build on his fitness and get a run of games with his club, which is no easy task given the talent around him.The striker position has some questions around it as well. Ricardo Pepi spent the past two matches basically taking his share of lumps for the team and he held up relatively well, assisting Weah’s goal on Tuesday. But it seems as though the U.S. could benefit from having a different (read: more physical) kind of forward at its disposal. Berhalter loves his strikers to be mobile, which is better to help press from the front. It’s also why, at present, a player like Jesus Ferreira is in the mix while Daryl Dike isn’t. But there may be a time when the USMNT will need a scrappier kind of goal, and Dike seems much more likely to conjure up that kind of play than Ferreira or even Josh Sargent. Through all of this, eight games into the World Cup qualifying campaign with six to come in early 2022, the U.S. finds itself about where it hoped to be, in second place. Achieving this while missing some key players like Reyna, Pulisic and McKennie for extended stretches leads to more of a glass-half-full perspective. Compare and contrast that with four years ago, when the USMNT was perpetually vulnerable and ultimately slid out of the top four.However, there’s also a nagging sense of déjà vu because the Americans seem unable to string together impressive performances. When the U.S. last qualified in the 2014 cycle, the team put its stamp on that qualifying campaign with a three-game winning streak; a similar run of form didn’t materialize four years later. It’s easy to pin this lack of consistency on the team’s youth, but the choice of young players isn’t something that’s been forced on Berhalter — it’s an approach he willfully chose long ago.ayThe reality is that the Octagonal is turning into a four-horse race with the U.S. challenged by Mexico, Canada and Panama. Just two points separate those sides, while Costa Rica still has a heartbeat following its dramatic home win over Honduras. One place the U.S. does not want to be in is fourth in the standings, which would force an intercontinental playoff. Circumstances can change quickly, too — look at how Mexico went from first to third in this window — and the U.S. doesn’t want to head into the last qualifying window in March needing a result at either Mexico or Costa Rica.The 2021 calendar year has been one of achievement for this U.S. side. It claimed two trophies and fashioned a rare three-game winning streak against Mexico. Along the way, this group of players is maturing, too, but for all of this team’s growth, the USMNT needs to find more of a killer instinct on the road in World Cup qualifying that will create some separation between itself and the other contenders. Doing so will take the U.S. to its ultimate goal.
Opinion: With disappointment of 2018 World Cup qualifying still fresh, USMNT’s draw feels more like a loss
Nancy Armour, USA TODAYTue, November 16, 2021, 11:24 PM
Forgive supporters of the USMNT if they don’t share Gregg Berhalter’s calm and positivity.The angst from the U.S. men’s national soccer team’s shocking failure to make the World Cup four years ago remains, making a winnable draw in Jamaica feel more like a loss. No matter how many times Berhalter said the team is on track, that ending this window in first or second place is what they wanted, fans will eye the Concacaf standings warily, wondering how costly those two dropped points might be.The Americans are in second place in the Concacaf World Cup qualifying standings, with Canada in first and Mexico in third. But only the top three teams automatically advance to the World Cup in Qatar next year and, with six qualifiers left, just two points separate the top four teams.“We’re looking at it as good result,” Berhalter insisted after the U.S. men needed a questionable disallowed goal to escape Jamaica with a 1-1 tie Tuesday night. “Anytime you can get a point away from home is a good thing in Concacaf, I want to be very clear by saying that.”Most qualifying windows, that would be a reasonable statement to make. But all those near misses in 2017 have left their mark. Had the U.S. men only won another home game four years ago, or picked up another couple of points on the road, they would have been in Russia.Instead, they were shut out for the first time in 32 years, kickstarting the rebuild that has produced the youngest U.S. team ever. Most talented, too.Which helps explain the frustration with Tuesday night’s result.The USMNT had one of its finest performances ever against Mexico on Friday night. The “Dos a Cero” scoreline might have been similar, but this victory was like none of the others. The U.S. men dictated the style and tempo of the game, forcing El Tri to adapt and react rather than the other way around as usual.Christian Pulisic being sublime was not a surprise, but Tim Weah and Yunus Musah were revelations. Weston McKennie’s command and skill underscored why the U.S. men are a lesser team when he’s not on the field. Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson were a dynamic combination on the backline.It was the kind of performance that grabs the attention of the rest of the world, a declaration that this is not the same old U.S. team.And then, four days later, the USMNT was lucky to avoid a loss against Jamaica.“It was all in our hands,” Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said. “The U.S. didn’t create any goal-scoring opportunities tonight. They were gifted with a goal one time. The guys kept their head, stayed in the game, managed to equalize, and I think we could have gone on and won the game. Numerous opportunities presented itself, but we didn’t capitalize on it.“We could have easily come away with three points. But I’m grateful and we keep fighting.”Yes, the field was patchy, to put it kindly. The conditions were brutal, with temperatures in the 80s that made humidity feel more like the 90s. The Americans also were short-handed, with McKennie (yellow-card accumulation) and Robinson (red card) out and Pulisic still on limited minutes.But these are the kind of challenges all teams encounter. Conditions in Qatar are going to be tough, too. There will be quick turnarounds between games, particularly the deeper the tournament goes.If the Americans want to play with the best, want to be the best, they’re going to have to find ways to rise above whatever obstacle is put in front of them.Maybe it’s not fair to expect the young Americans to have it figured out yet. They are, as Berhalter pointed out, an Olympic-age team, with an average roster age of about 22.“Each game we play, we grow,” said Weah, who followed his breakout performance against Mexico with the lone U.S. goal Tuesday. “The consistency will come. We’re all young.”With 15 points after the first eight games, it’s hard to fathom the USMNT not qualifying for Qatar. But the top four teams are so close that one bad game — or two dropped points, perhaps — could make the difference between booking an automatic trip to Qatar and having to sweat out a playoff.And the rest of the USMNT’s games won’t be easy, with trips to Canada and Mexico in the last two windows.Not only is Canada much improved, Canada Soccer isn’t above gamesmanship. It staged Tuesday night’s game in Edmonton, where it was so cold the federation giddily dubbed Commonwealth Stadium “Estadio Iceteca.” Azteca has always been a house of horrors for the USMNT, with just one victory there in a rivalry that dates back to 1934.”We don’t take anything for granted,” Berhalter said. “The next window is going to be important.”Especially when you’ve left points on the table.Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USMNT doesn’t have luxury of leaving points on table in qualifying
The USMNT will surely qualify for the World Cup. The real question: How far can it go while there?
Henry BushnellTue, November 16, 2021, 7:01 PM
The U.S. men’s national team is going to qualify for the World Cup. That was true before this past weekend. It was especially true after a rousing Dos a Cero defeat of Mexico on Friday. It’s still true after a 1-1 draw in Jamaica that some will brand disappointing. The U.S. entered Tuesday night with a 98.3% chance to qualify, per one model. Its odds remain well above 95%. It will need roughly nine points from its last six games, and unless something goes horribly wrong, it will surely get them.The real question now, after a successful November window, is not whether the USMNT will reach Qatar. It’s how much damage the U.S. can do while there.The answer based exclusively on a viewing of Tuesday’s game in Kingston would be a timid “not much.” The U.S. started strong, and took a lead via the ascendent Tim Weah. But it faded after a Michail Antonio rocket leveled the score. Control of the game eluded the U.S. midfield. Second-half chances for the Americans were scarce. A guilt-edged Jamaican miss and a questionable call helped them escape with a point.
MICHAIL ANTONIO. THERE WAS NO STOPPING THAT. 😳His second goal in three appearances for Jamaica 🇯🇲 pic.twitter.com/r6uK1XUCkZ
But all of that that would ignore the bigger picture. This team, which regularly sets “youngest to” and “youngest since” records, is growing on the fly. It’s been good enough, despite inexperience and injuries and suspensions and grueling travel, to rise to the top of CONCACAF’s “Octagonal,” North and Central America’s qualifying grind. More importantly, there’s no telling how much better it can get.
This young USMNT will continue to grow
The only certainty is that the USMNT has time. Twelve months, to be exact, until it will gather in Europe or Qatar. Twelve months for teenagers to mature, for early-20s stars to learn, for a young core that still has never played 90 minutes together to absorb one another’s tendencies, to get in tune. The team’s youth has been discussed plenty in recent months. U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter has said plenty that it still isn’t discussed enough. Tuesday’s starting lineup, with an average age under 23, was the second-youngest in USMNT World Cup qualifying history. It trailed only an October lineup. The front six, with 23-year-old Christian Pulisic recovering from injury and 23-year-old Weston McKennie suspended, were aged 22, 21, 21,19, 18 and 18. They play in Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1. They play in the Champions League, and have been linked with some of the world’s biggest clubs. In Qatar, they’ll presumably be joined by Borussia Dortmund’s Gio Reyna (19) and Barcelona’s Sergiño Dest (21). They are the generation that American soccer message-board obsessives always dreamed ofome will question why they couldn’t beat Jamaica, or Panama last month, or El Salvador the month prior. But “going through [qualifying] for the first time is challenging,” Berhalter pointed out in October. “CONCACAF is hard,” Tim Weah said last week. Conditions are “difficult,” Berhalter said Tuesday, and “rough,” Weah said. “Away games are super hard,” he added. Several teammates have echoed similar sentiments.They are the youngest senior national team in the world, bar none. And while their current collective strength is debatable, their future is clearly brighter than their present. Twelve months ago, a few of Tuesday’s starters weren’t even in the USMNT picture. Their development over the past year has been remarkable. Their development over the next year is the type of prospect that should have U.S. fans salivating.”I think we’re growing,” Weah said. “Each camp that we come in, the games that we play, we grow.”That is not to say that the Yanks will enter November 2022 as group favorites or World Cup contenders. It’s to say that — well, they could, couldn’t they?They won’t be Brazil or France, or Argentina or England. But why can’t they grow into the Netherlands or Colombia or Switzerland? And something even greater when the World Cup arrives on U.S. soil in 2026, when much of the current core will be in their primes?
The USMNT’s route to qualification
First things first, of course. They won’t take qualifying for granted. Berhalter will make that clear as he sends his players back off to their clubs on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. He won’t like reading this. Mathematically, a place in Qatar is far from secure. But with home games remaining against El Salvador, Honduras and Panama, it’s overwhelmingly likely. The worst-case scenario, at this point, is a fourth-place finish and an intercontinental playoff, in which the U.S. would very likely be favored.So a ticket will surely be punched in March. Attention will then turn to what the USMNT can do with it, and how far it can go. A year of vital growth — from 18 years old to 19 in some cases, from 21 to 22 in others — will hold the answers.
USMNT ‘on the right track’ for World Cup qualification despite disappointment of dropped points in Jamaica
November 17, 2021 by Larry Henry Jr SBI
The U.S. men’s national team concluded its 2021 competitive schedule on Tuesday night with a road draw against Jamaica, and although the result won’t feel like a positive to many, the Americans continued on the right track heading into its final six World Cup Qualifying matches.Gregg Berhalter’s side saw an early advantage slip away in a 1-1 draw with the Reggae Boyz in Kingston, hanging on for the USMNT’s third draw through eight qualifiers overall. While the USMNT did drop two points on the road, hanging on against a Jamaican side desperate for points was key to ending November’s window without a defeat.“We’re not looking at tonight as a disappointing result, we’re looking at it as a good result,” Berhalter said postmatch. “Any time you can get a point on the road is a good thing. I think for the guys to have their heads down because we wanted more from tonight is completely natural, but this is a point we’ll absolutely take from the road.“What we will do now is evaluate, we’re going to be back in camp in about two weeks for the friendly against Bosnia and then we have another break before the January camp begins,” Berhalter said. “There’s not a lot of rest for us. The message to the guys was to come into this camp and end in one of the top two spots and we’re in position to do that. Now we have six qualifiers left and hopefully we can see the qualification.”Outside of Michail Antonio’s thunderous blast in the 22nd minute, the Americans held the Jamaicans to only one shot on goal. Walker Zimmerman and Chris Richards did well to keep the West Ham forward in check for most of the match, while DeAndre Yedlin did the same with Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey.Timothy Weah continued his good run of form with his second international goal, showing off his determination in the box and clinical ability from a tight angle. Ricardo Pepi and Brenden Aaronson both logged a lot of running in the match, pressuring Andre Blake and the Jamaican backline for their 77-minute outings.It wasn’t a glamourous performance by the Americans at all, but it’s another positive step for this youthful squad of players.“I think we’re on the right track, having the guys get experience on the fly,” Berhalter said. “We’re playing an Olympic-eligible team in regards to age, roughly 22.3 years old average age. The guys have done a great job adapting to that and we’ve had some very strong performances at home and the road performances we’ve earned five points from four matches.”“In 2021 we’ve lifted two trophies, we’ve won 16 games, and we’re where we want to be in qualifying,” Berhalter said. “The guys have done a great job and it’s all down to them and their commitment to the program.”The USMNT will take plenty of positives from its four-point window, especially after handing rivals Mexico its first loss of qualifying on Friday. Several young players are racking up consistent minutes in the squad, providing an early glimpse of what the long-term roster could be for 2022 and beyond.Veteran players like Christian Pulisic, Zack Steffen, and Zimmerman have contributed big moments this month and will now aim to continue playing leading roles heading into the new year. Other players like Gio Reyna, Sergino Dest, and John Brooks could be back into the squad by January and February’s qualifiers, giving Berhalter even more options to call upon for matches against El Salvador, Canada, and Honduras.“The first window was a major learning experience for us in terms of how to mentally prepare for these three games and get through the travel and we got five points from those matches,” Berhalter said about the September window. “Then the next two window we still averaged four points in each of those, so that’s pretty good when you think about the inexperience and youth of this group.“We’re learning on the fly,” Berhalter said. “One game is in a cold environment, the next is in a tropical place, so it’s all different challenges we have to face. I think the guys have done a good job of learning as we go, and now it’s about making sure we’re ready for 2022. We will take our position for right now.”
Gregg Berhalter praises USMNT backs, Michail Antonio; Updates Pulisic, Musah health
Nicholas MendolaTue, November 16, 2021, 8:44 PM
Gregg Berhalter wasn’t about to play the blame game when it came to the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Jamaica in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday in Kingston.In fact, he was all about the positives.The USMNT coach celebrated his back line and really his entire team after the Americans took four of six points from Mexico and Jamaica to stay in a World Cup qualifying position more than halfway through the Octagonal.“I think we’re on the right track, having to get the guys experience on the fly,” Berhalter said. “We’re playing an Olympic-aged team and it’s really learning as we go. We’ve had really strong home performances and got five points on the road. When I look at 2021 in general, we lifted two trophies and we’re in the position we want to be in World Cup qualification.”
Timothy Weah’s acute finish put the Yanks ahead 1-0 only for Michail Antonio’s vicious goal from 34 yards to leave the match level at halftime.The Yanks are now off until a December friendly and a pair of January qualifiers, and will certainly hope to be a bit healthier when they come back to CONCACAF matches.There’s a question of whether all players will be released for the January games, but Berhalter could use only Christian Pulisic off the bench, lost Weston McKennie and Miles Robinson to yellow card accumulation, didn’t have Giovanni Reyna at all, and had to play an ailing Yunus Musah versus Jamaica.
“Yunus was a little bit under the weather,” said Berhalter, who lifted Musah with 24 minutes to play in Kingston. “He came down with strep throat and we could tell that was taking a toll on him. We were thinking about halftime. But I don’t want this to be about the field.”Berhalter explained that his pregame comments about Pulisic perhaps starting were about gamesmanship, as the American came into the match when Musah exited the fray.“He wasn’t ready to start the game,” Berhalter said. “He’s working his way back, man. We wanted to keep the big picture in this window. He’s doing well.”Berhalter heaped praise on center backs Walker Zimmerman and Chris Richards for Tuesday’s performance as well as Miles Robinson’s work alongside Zimmerman against Mexico.
After all, Jamaica’s forwards are their strength.“It was one big moment, his goal, but we all watch Michail Antonio every week in the Premier League and he’s dominating,” Berhalter said. “He can turn really well, if you get in a physical battle you’re probably not going to win. Don’t forget Leon Bailey, Tecatito, Raul Jimenez, Lozano. We faced some good competition this window and our back line held up well.”As for the pitch, Berhalter didn’t like it but knows that Jamaica had to fight the same battle.“It gets really choppy and you have to get the ball out of tight areas,” he said. “It’s tough. Both teams had to deal with it and we chose slightly different ways to go about it. We wanted to go side to side to get behind them and Jamaica wanted to go direct. Chris Richards and Walker Zimmerman did a really good job with Antonio and what came their way.””I was happy to get the goal against them but unfortunately we didn’t get the full points but we take the one point and we continue.”Tim Weah joins @jennyachiu to discuss the @USMNT‘s draw on the road against Jamaica. 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/fUsuzLQ3I5
Jamaica vs USMNT final score: 3 things we learned as Weah scores again
The United States men’s national team made it four of six points from the international break, burnishing its World Cup stock with a 1-1 draw against Jamaica on Tuesday in Kingston.They’ll take it.Timothy Weah’s acute finish put the Yanks ahead 1-0 only for Michail Antonio’s vicious goal from 34 yards to leave the match level at halftime.A dodgy pitch and officiating that apparently required X-ray worthy fouls for a whistle to be considered left this match ugly despite the two fantastic goals.Gregg Berhalter’s Americans open the door for either Mexico or Canada to pass them for first on the table with a win later in Edmonton, but their 15 points will find them in an automatic qualifying spot until at least January.
Jamaica’s fourth draw leaves it with seven points through eight matches. The Reggae Boyz will finish at least four points out of the playoff spot.
Jamaica vs USMNT final score, stats
Final score: Jamaica 1, USMNT 1
Scorers: Weah (11′), Antonio (22′)
Shot attempts: USMNT, 9-6
Shots on goal: 2-2
Possession: USMNT, 62%
Three things we learned from Jamaica vs USMNT
1. The F in CONCACAF is for Foul: The past few qualifiers have seen CONCACAF nations targeting Christian Pulisic with contact after contact, much of it the illegal variety, and Jamaica made sure to foul just about everyone in a U.S. shirt. Pulisic was on the bench to start but Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson were targeted and sent airborne on multiple occasions.
2. Jamaica finding itself: The USMNT may end up grateful to have played Jamaica twice in the first eight qualifiers because Michail Antonio and Leon Bailey are just finding their footing and each other in the Reggae Boyz shirt. Antonio, of course, scored a vicious goal from 34 yards, and Bailey was a first-half menace to the USMNT. The Reggae Boyz may have drawn too many matches already, but should only get better as long as Antonio and Bailey keep showing up.
3. Lack of VAR benefits USMNT? The joke that is CONCACAF not helping every Octagonal nation have access to VAR may have actually helped the United States, as Jamaica had the ball in the goal late only to see Walker Zimmerman adjudged to have been fouled by the scorer. Replays showed that the play was close enough that a video reviewer might have awarded the goal.
Man of the Match: Liam Moore
The Reading center back was a handful for the Yanks, with three clearances, a blocked shot, two interceptions, and a tackle helping Jamaica limit true danger from the Americans.
Jamaica vs USMNT recap
The subpar pitch conditions were on display early as both teams fought odds bounces and worse footing, and Weah showed confidence when he put the Yanks ahead despite the territory.
Weah worked a 1-2 with Ricardo Pepi, who had worked back toward the ball from inside the 18, and worked his defender before spinning a shot past Andre Blake, off the far post, and over the line.
2-0 was a distinct possibility when Andre Blake robbed Brenden Aaronson after the Reggae Boyz defenders blocked a Ricardo Pepi chance.
Jamaica leveled the score before the break when Antonio buried a shot from 34 yards after being given a glimmer of light from an aggressive backtracking Tyler Adams.
Gianluca Busio looked very good for the Yanks in the early stages of the second half and curled a shot just over the bar in the 52nd minute.
Bobby Decordova-Reid should’ve had it 2-1 to the visitors when Antonee Robinson cut out a cross onto the path of the Fulham man, who missed badly over the goal from the edge of the six.
Christian Pulisic entered for the final 24 minutes and was fouled twice, drawing a free kick, but was otherwise fairly well-handled by the Reggae Boyz.
Jamaica had the ball in the goal in the 84th minute but it was a fairly-clear foul on Walker Zimmerman that allowed the Reggae Boyz’ would-be goal.
USMNT player ratings: Tim Weah shines as rest of attack sputters vs Jamaica
The USMNT picked up another point on its path to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with Tim Weah standing out as the Yanks’ best player and back-to-back man-of-the-match winner.The rest of the attack, though? Not so much. The defense was solid and only conceded from a seemingly impossible strike. Balancing those two facts will not be easy for USMNT fans, especially now that World Cup qualifying goes on hiatus for two months.Here’s a look at who stood out (for better or for worse) for Gregg Berhalter’s side, with some special bonus commentary from not onnly PST’s Nicholas Mendola (italicized), but also PST’s honorary American (for a night, or until the USMNT plays England in the World Cup again), Joe Prince-Wright (also italicized)…
GK – Zack Steffen: 6 (6.5) – So, Steffen is the no. 1 goalkeeper again, just like that? There was plenty of uproar last month when Matt Turner kept the starting place when Steffen returned to the team, but it doesn’t appear to have nuked the USMNT’s chemistry or confidence, as some believed it would. Having two trustworthy goalkeepers is a luxury, not a problem. And no, there’s no way Turner (or probably any other goalkeeper in the world) gets to the lightning bolt that came out of Michail Antonio’s foot (WATCH HERE – Jamaica’s only shot on target for 75 minutes).
When it comes to Antonio’s goal, could he have saved it/broken his hand? It’s a slim possibility, but I have a hard time faulting the Manchester City keeper for not getting to the vicious shot from distance. With the dodgy pitch, his footwork was important. (NM)
RB – DeAndre Yedlin: 6 (5.5) – Sergiño Dest remains the starter at right back (when healthy), but the November international window made it quite clear that Yedlin is the firmly entrenched backup.
Didn’t get close enough on multiple occasions to stop crosses and should have been punished when Bobby Decordova-Reid missed a sitter. Some poor crosses in the final third, too. Very much Sergino Dest’s backup. (JPW)
CB – Chris Richards: 6.5 (6.5) – This was a tough spot for Richards to step into, especially after watching the Miles Robinson-Walker Zimmerman partnership blossom as World Cup qualifying wore on, but Richards never looked out of his depth while battling for 90 minutes against one of the world’s most in-form strikers at the moment. This was a big test, and he passed.
A tough outing for the young center back, but he did OK. Tried to step high on Antonio as much as he could. Couldn’t get on the ball (usually a huge strength of his) as much as he would have liked, but stood tall. (JPW)
CB – Walker Zimmerman: 7 (7) – With Robinson unavailable due to suspension, the responsibility of organizing the defense fell solely on Zimmerman. Typically, it’s Robinson who waits behind as Zimmerman surges forward to break up play ahead of the backline, but Zimmerman pulled double-duty to ease the 21-year-old into a tough spot. He did it well, as evidenced by Jamaica’s paltry attacking output.
At times he was exposed for pace by Antonio, but the West Ham man does that to a lot of defenders. Calm, composed, and a big part of keeping the Yanks organized. The question isn’t whether he’s one of America’s top two center backs, but how much of a problem that will be against more explosive center forwards at a World Cup. (NM)
LB – Antonee Robinson: 5 – It’s hard to remember Robinson doing anything other than squaring the ball for Decordova-Reid inside the USMNT’s six-yard box. He’s been great in recent outings, but it wasn’t his finest moment.
DM – Tyler Adams: 6.5 (6) – For a second straight game, Adams’ impact was limited by opponents’ plan to deny him easy possession of the ball and simply harass him at every turn when that didn’t work. This is the new reality for the USMNT and Adams, the Yanks’ most important and influential player, as he continues to ascend to the next level. Good news: Adams and Berhalter are smart enough to adjust when World Cup qualifying resumes in January.
Solid and steady throughout, but could he have done more to stop Antonio cutting inside and driving toward goal on his stunning strike? Probably. Getting caught on the wrong side of forwards cutting in from the left is one weakness in his game that he must work on. The captain dug deep alongside Busio and Musah, but the USMNT definitely missed Weston McKennie (suspension) in midfield alongside Adams. (JPW)
CM – Gianluca Busio: 6 (7) – Speaking of tough spots, Busio was likely selected to replace McKennie with the aforementioned anti-Adams gameplan in mind. With Adams unable to get on the ball as often as Berhalter would like, having a pair of ball-carrying shuttlers one line ahead would, in theory, fix the USMNT’s supply chain issues. It’s a big change, on the fly, with limited training time, and so on and so forth. The inexperience of Busio and Yunus Musah fell short of what the USMNT needed from its central midfield duo, though neither individual struggled by any means.
It was a night with precious few standout performances from the USMNT, but Busio was the new piece in the puzzle, and I thought the Venezia youngster showed the composure of a much older player (being pro since you’re a kid at Sporting KC helps that maturity along). He was very good in tight spaces and even found himself into shooting position for what would’ve been a marvelous second goal. (NM)
CM – Yunus Musah: 6 – See, above: Busio, Gianluca.
RW – Tim Weah: 7.5 (7.5) – This game featured Weah’s best moment to date in a USMNT shirt, even if not his best overall performance. Heck, it wasn’t even his best outing during this international window. It wasn’t so long ago that Weah looked like he might fall considerably short of the lofty hopes and dreams of USMNT fans, but he has clearly hit a massive development upswing in the last 6-12 months, and the USMNT is benefitting in big ways.
Start him at a 7 for the goal alone, a wonderful finish that showcased physicality, power, and a quality finish. Weah is daring Berhalter to play anyone else opposite of Christian Pulisic, and honestly he may be next man up if Ricardo Pepi continues to run cold. (NM)
LW – Brenden Aaronson: 5.5 – An anonymous game from arguably the most consistent attacking player through the first two windows (six games). The physicality of the Jamaican challenges made it plenty difficult for Aaronson to remain upright.
CF – Ricardo Pepi: 5.5 (5) – The 18-year-old was unlucky to not score the USMNT’s second goal shortly after the first, but that was about it from Pepi. The problematic position remains problematic. Countdown to World Cup: 12 months, at which point he’ll (hopefully) be a street-wise veteran.
Hardly had a kick, but kept on working up top. Involved in build-up to Weah’s goal. Some hefty challenges on him early in the game seemed to unsettle the FC Dallas forward. After his fine start to qualifying, the teenager is a marked man. He’s playing like a player who knows they have a lot of big European clubs watching them. Everything seems a little rigid and forced right now. (JPW)
Sub – Christian Pulisic: 5.5 – A fully fit, full-of-confidence Pulisic doesn’t do this, but goodness was it frustrating to watch on Tuesday, and I’m glad someone else noticed it. The USMNT needs more from its most accomplished attacker, and hopefully it will come with fitness and playing time.
Breaking down the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Jamaica: thoughts & player ratings
The United States national team finished the November window with four points from two games. The players were perhaps a bit disappointed but the team is still on a heallthy pace to qualify. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta breaks down the game with his thougths, analysis, and player ratings after a second viewing
BY BRIAN SCIARETTA NOVEMBER 17, 20214:50 AM
THE UNITED STATES DREW Jamaica 1-1 to end its November window and turn the page heading into the final two World Cup qualifying windows in January and March. The game wasn’t pretty and the U.S. team could have done better, but drawing on the road still keeps Gregg Berhalter’s team on pace to qualify.The starting XI was hardly as surprise. Nine of the players remained from the lineup that defeated Mexico while Chris Richards replaced the suspended Miles Robinson and Gianluca Busio replaced the suspended Weston Mckennie.Meanwhile, Jamaica had its best starting XI featuring Leon Bailey and Michail Antonio. Playing in Kingston, the U.S. team was matched up against the best Jamaica had to offer.The U.S. team started strong with Tim Weah scoring in the 11th minute. On the play, Weah received the ball in the midfield, played it to Ricardo Pepi. With his first touch, Pepi got the ball back to Weah who moved into the box, got around Bobby Decordova-Reid, and then beat Andre Blake for a 1-0 advantage.The lead lasted just 11 minutes as Antonio got the ball in the midfield, took advantage of space on the left side of the midfield, and unleashed a 34-yard blast that beat Zack Steffen.The U.S. team controlled the remainder of the first half but was unable to capitalize.The second half became very physical. The U.S. still held the possession edge but Jamaica had two dangerous chances, once when Antonee Robinson was lost on a cross and Decordova-Reid sent a shot over the bar. Then towards the end, Jamaica had a goal called back when Damion Lowe was judged to have fouled Walker Zimmerman before his header.The final whistle sounded with both teams disappointed. The U.S. team failed to take advantage of a big opportunity while Jamaica’s position in the table is in terrible shape as it sits seven points back of qualification.Here are some thoughts on the U.S. performance.
FINAL THIRD/SET PIECES LACKING
Poor field conditions aside, the U.S. team controlled the run of play. Consider this, the U.S. was 326/428 in passing while Jamaica was just 171/269. The U.S. completed 155 more passes than Jamaica, nearly twice as many. The U.S. team also had a huge edge in completed passes in the attack half: The U.S. team completed 154 passes in the attacking half while Jamaica had just 92That pressure did not yield nearly enough chances. Heading into 2022, the final ball needs to be there. lso, crossing was very ineffective. The U.S. team was credited in the stats as sending in 20 crosses. Only twice were these crosses accurate.Set pieces are the biggest weakness of the U.S. team so far this entire World Cup qualifying campaign. It is surprising because the team was effective at this in Nations League and at the Gold Cup. In qualifying, there has been no end-product. Last night, the U.S. team had Pulisic, Busio, and Aaronson taking the kicks without any success.
THE PHYSICAL GAME
Without Weston McKennie, Gregg Berhalter elected to start two teenagers in a three-man midfield in Yunus Musah and Gianluca Busio. While talented, Jamaica was able to neutralize their talent with a lot of fouls and forcing the U.S. team into trying to win second balls as opposed to having opportunities to dribble.The midfield structure broke down a lot. Tyler Adams typically likes to get on the ball 80-100 times a game. When he does that, the rest of the team plays better and the other midfielders are able to attack more. Against Jamaica, Adams had just 55 touches and was not able to have the impact in the game he typically does.Adams had the biggest drop off but then that led to the other midfielders seeing a drop off. Busio had just 66 touches over 90 minutes. Musah had 46 touches over 66 minutes and his replacement, Kellyn Acosta had just 12 over his 24 minutes.When the U.S. midfielders are not on the ball but the U.S. team is controlling possession, that either means that the defenders touch the ball a lot, the ball was involved in the front three, or the ball is forced out to the wings a lot. Neither Aaronson, Weah, or Pepi had 30 touches, so Jamaica’s pressure was designed to not allow the U.S. team to have an easy time in the middle of the field.Jamaica finished with 15 pass interceptions while the U.S. team had just four. Yes, the U.S. team should have more since they had more attempts, but Jamaica was able to telegraphy well what the U.S. team was trying to do.The physical game really hurt the U.S team’s midfield. If Weston McKennie played, he could have won more physical battles and helped the team go up the middle.The wingers and fullbacks couldn’t threaten enough from wide positions to open the game up.
The U.S. team has a favorable window in January but a brutal window in February. Is the U.S. team going to rotate lineups or try to keep the same XI in-tact? Winning the two games at home is absolutely critical to the team’s chances and El Salvador and Honduras are good opportunities where the team should be heavily favored.Set pieces, better crossing, and winning the physical games are key. One thing 2021 has taught is that only rarely are teams ever going to be completely healthy. Gio Reyna and Sergino Dest should be back from their current injuries (and Pulisic should be fit) but will there be more injuries?The U.S. team has done well this qualifying campaign considering that it is sending out starting XI’s with average ages often under 23 and none of the players having been through qualifying before. It’s learning on the fly.The good news is that it is far more likely that the U.S. team continues to improve as opposed to regresses. But limiting mistakes and finding ways to make big plays is what typically determines qualifying or not.
THE STARTING LINEUP
Zack Steffen: The Manchester City goalkeeper allowed a shot from 34-yards and while it was a brilliant shot, Steffen’s positioning could have been better. He wasn’t forced into any big saves and made a few mistakes in the second half with his distribution and decision-making to leave his line. He did make a few nice clearances off crosses and set pieces. Rating: 5.0
Antonee Robinson: The Fulham-based left back had a tough game and was lucky Decordova-Reid didn’t score after he got past Robinson. His passing just wasn’t there. Rating: 4.5
Chris Richards: The Hoffenheim central defender did well to cover for Antonee Robinson, who was typically pushed deeply into the attack. He had a few suspect moments but generally acquitted himself well. Rating: 6.5
Walker Zimmerman: While some of his long-balls weren’t accurate, Zimmerman’s aerial ability was important to team’s defense as he won 7/10 duels and 6/8 aerials, and had four clearances. Jamaica was sending balls into the box and Zimmerman regularly did well to defend them. Rating: 7.0
DeAndre Yedlin: While his crossing was also lacking, Yedlin was solid defensively and made no major mistakes. Rating: 5.5
Tyler Adams: It was a tough assignment for Adams who far more defensively inclined than the other midfielders. He broke up players but didn’t get on the ball nearly enough. When he did, he did well and had a nice range of passing. Rating: 6.5
Gianluca Busio: His first World Cup qualifying start, Busio had a nice shot from distance and was on the ball more than all of the other midfielders. He set up two chances and his passing range was sharp. Rating: 7.0
Yunus Musah: It was a strong start to the game for Musah but he faded a bit (and it was later revealed he had strep throad). He’s a threat off the dribble but had some tough turnovers too. Rating: 6.0
Brenden Aaronson: The Salzburg attacker was good in the press to limit Jamaica’s possession. His final ball wasn’t there but he was aggressive every time he was is possession. Rating: 6.0
Tim Weah: The Lille attacker had a fantastic goal when he blew through the Jamaican defense. He tired but is strong start to the game gave the U.S. team and edge and the lead. Rating: 7.5
Ricardo Pepi: The FC Dallas forward need to get the ball more for shots – he had just two shots which were both blocked. He worked well with Weah on the goal for the assist. Rating: 6.0
Kellyn Acosta: The Colorado midfielder added some bite to the midfield late. Rating: 6.0
Christian Pulisic: Pulisic came off the bench and battled hard, drew a bunch of fouls. His set piece delivery didn’t improve the U.S. team’s struggles but Pulisic helped to keep Jamaica on their back foot. Rating: 6.5
Paul Arriola: The DC United winger only had four touches but won a corner late. Rating: NR
Jesus Ferreira: The FC Dallas attacker only had two touches but one of them was a dangerous ball into the final third. Rating: NR
The Thump and the Whistle: Decisive Sounds Define USMNT’s ‘Decent’ Draw
After a booming goal from Michail Antonio and a late, favorable foul call, the U.S. may be fortunate to leave Jamaica with a point, but it’s a valuable one in the big World Cup qualifying picture. Brian Straus SI
KINGSTON, Jamaica — The sound of Michail Antonio’s foot striking the ball had almost the same reverberation—the same sort of visceral thump you can feel surge through your chest—as the beat in the Bob Marley medley that was blasting inside Jamaica’s National Stadium about half an hour earlier.This is a country that’s defined in part by sound, and so the first match played in front of Jamaican fans since before the pandemic fittingly was as well.There was the din of the vuvuzelas and air horns carried by the small but enthusiastic crowd of 4,100 here at the venue they call The Office. There was the unmistakable leathery punch you could hear across Independence Park as Antonio, a new Reggae Boy recruit, leveled the score on a stunning, world-class goal that altered Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier. And then there was the whistle that saved it for the U.S. men’s national team, which unexpectedly benefited from a road refereeing decision that fell its way.The Costa Rican middle man ruled out a potential Jamaican game-winner in the 84th minute, thus preserving a 1-1 draw for the Americans. Perhaps if The Office was filled to its 35,000 capacity, Juan Calderón would’ve been less decisive or sympathetic in that critical moment.“I don’t think you get that call at times,” said U.S. center back Walker Zimmerman, the player Jamaica’s Damion Lowe was adjudged to have fouled before heading home what would’ve been the backbreaker. “So it’s fortunate.”But this was an odd game in a slightly surreal setting. Jamaica has been taking the pandemic really seriously. There are signs and billboards around the capital reminding residents to comply with protocols. Entering a hotel, business or bus often required temperature checks and/or a liberal spritz of hand sanitizer, and masks are ubiquitous inside and out. Once Marley’s music ended, the stadium PA was used most frequently to remind fans scattered around the bleachers to keep their masks on and stay six feet apart.A national curfew of 8 p.m. pushed Tuesday’s kickoff forward to 5 p.m, which feels almost like lunch time in Concacaf. And so the moon rose over the lush green hills sitting just behind the arena as the U.S. and Jamaica contested a scrappy and physical qualifier during which you could hear just about everything—from the shouts of individual supporters to the pivotal plays that’ll shape the road to Qatar.“It wasn’t really much of a soccer match. It was more just physicality—who could run longer and just continue to fight, and I’m proud of the boys of how they did that,” U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen said. “It wasn’t a pretty match and we knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty game going into it. We knew that we needed to fight and that’s exactly what we did. We got a decent result.”There was some pregame pressure on the Americans to equal the proactive performance they put on last Friday in Cincinnati. There, the U.S. played Mexico off the TQL Stadium stadium pitch in what became an instant “Dos a Cero” classic. Conditions were far different here in the Caribbean, however. Weston McKennie’s suspension and Yunus Musah’s strep throat (he played 65 minutes) impacted the U.S. midfield, the Reggae Boyz were buoyed by having any fans at all and the choppy field lent itself to the direct, long-ball soccer the hosts chose to play. Absent the requisite chemistry and rhythm in midfield, not to mention the turnovers it often creates against teams that try to keep the ball, the U.S. was left to try to limit Antonio and compatriot Leon Bailey and endure the slog.The draw (and Canada’s subsequent win over Mexico) ensured the U.S. (4-1-3) would conclude the November window in second place in the Concacaf Octagonal, which will send the top three finishers to next year’s World Cup and the fourth to an intercontinental playoff. U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said here that he was happy with that big picture, even if Tuesday’s outcome wasn’t ideal. The lineup he fielded in Kingston was the second youngest in the U.S.’s World Cup qualifying history, averaging under 23 years of age.“We’re looking at it as a good result. Any time you can get a point away from home it is a good thing in Concacaf qualifying. I want to be very clear by saying that. For the guys to have their heads down because we wanted more is completely natural, but this is a point that we’ll absolutely take on the road,” he said.“We wanted to end in first or second position this window, and we’re in position to do that. We’re going to do that. So that’s positive. And now we have six games left—two windows [early next year]. And that’s where we want to hopefully seal the ualification.” The Americans looked like they ready to take a big step toward Qatar early Tuesday. They enjoyed the stronger start and took an 11th-minute lead through winger Tim Weah, this month’s U.S. revelation. The son of a Jamaican mother (and a very famous father), Weah lifted the visitors in front with a beautiful run through two defenders and a tight-angled, left-footed finish past goalkeeper Andre Blake. It was the potential highlight of the night for 10 minutes.Antonio, 31, is new to the Jamaican national team but he’s an established Premier League star who’s tied for second on the 2021-22 scoring chart. The London-born son of Jamaican parents had harbored hopes of playing for England, but after several close calls, he agreed to represent the Reggae Boyz and finally received his passport in August. Tuesday’s game was just his third appearance.In the 22nd minute, he picked up the ball in midfield and held off and then turned Tyler Adams before cutting back onto his right foot and unleashing a shot that echoed around the stadium and shook in the air, bedeviling Steffen. Antonio has Premier League class and confidence infused into an imposing tank of a body. He didn’t do much else Tuesday—the U.S. back four was excellent. But his 35-yard sonic boom reset the game.“Jeez, it was a good one,” Adams said. “Usually when a player cuts in from there, you’re not thinking that he’s going to shoot it. But he didn’t hesitate.”Steffen said the shot’s movement reminded him of the Jabulani, the controversial 2010 World Cup ball that seemed to have a mind of its own.“It was coming in fast. It was moving. I’d have to see it again, but I don’t think I really had much of a chance,” Steffen said.It took the reeling Americans until the second half to rediscover their legs, and Gianluca Busio, McKennie’s replacement, had a promising shot that curled just over the crossbar. But the better chances fell to the hosts. Christian Pulisic’s 66th-minute entry failed to spark the U.S. and as the visitors began to sit deeper, Jamaica earned a corner kick and appeared to take the lead. But as Lowe was racing toward his bench in celebration, Steffen had already taken the free kick and sent the U.S. on the attack. The whistle was quick, both Berhalter and the players said. And while Jamaica didn’t protest much, the lack of VAR in Concacaf qualifying may have helped the Americans.“It looked like he shoved Walker. I thought it was a good call,” Steffen said.“I think the ref blew the whistle pretty early,” Zimmerman said. “I think he had his eyes on it from the beginning of the play, thankfully.”“He called it really early, so it seemed he was pretty confident of the call,” Berhalter added. “He blew the whistle early and that was a relief.”A quick whistle and a sigh of relief—those are the sounds of a close call and a point on the road. But what you won’t hear from this U.S. contingent is a moan or lament. The perspective following the tie was mostly broad and positive. This team is now familiar with the Concacaf grind, and everyone knows what sort of pitfalls lie on the road to the World Cup. The Americans avoided them, for the post part, in Jamaica. Four points in a two-game window that included a showdown with Mexico, and which was played with a handful of high-profile players missing or injured, is a decent return.Berhalter will convene separate camps in December and January. There will be a friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Dec. 18, and then qualifying resumes with critical matches against El Salvador, Canada and Honduras Jan. 27-Feb. 2. The top half of the Octagonal standings is air tight, but the U.S. is where it wants to be.“When you think about the youth of this group, the inexperience of this group in Concacaf qualifying, you know we’re on the right track,” the manager said. “We’re going through a lot here, man, and we’re learning on the fly and the guys have done a good job with that. We’ll take our position right now and focus on 2022.”
What we learned from the USMNT’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw at Jamaica
By Matthew Doyle @MattDoyle76 ARMCHAIR ANALYST: MATT DOYLE MLS.com Tuesday, Nov 16, 2021, 08:45 PM
The US men’s national team went down to Jamaica on Tuesday evening and, for 20 minutes, they looked a whole hell of a lot like the side that beat Mexico Dos a Cero last week. Sure, they were missing Weston McKennie’s energy and attacking presence in central midfield, and yes, they were struggling some with the spongy turf of Independence Park.
But Tim Weah scored himself a golazo in the 11th minute and damn near set up another in the 15th. The US were all over the ball, all over the hosts and all about creating distance atop the Octagonal standings for the first time in World Cup qualifying.
Then, in the 22nd minute, Michail Antonio got loose in midfield, strode into the final third and unleashed a thunderbastard from 35 yards that Zack Steffen only managed to wave at as it went top bins. Out of nothing it was 1-1, and after that goal a giddy and gorgeous US outing turned into more of a grim, resolute and ultimately fairly lucky road point.
It was, in one game, an example of how the US want to play – front foot, high energy, connecting passes, multiple runs and runners in the box – and how they absolutely, positively must not. Because the Antonio golazo immediately took the wind out of the US sails, and they never quite got it back.
That’s the big-picture story of the game. Let’s dive into some of the minutiae:
• Each window thus far has had at least one player step forward and make a case for themselves. This window will be remembered as the Tim Weah & Walker Zimmerman window.
Weah, through 20 minutes, was in the same type of form that got him the Man of the Match nod vs. El Tri, and scored as pretty a goal as you could ever hope for. This is gorgeous:
Zimmerman, meanwhile, won everything in the air* all night, and his distribution continues to be an asset rather than a negative. I suspect both these guys made strong cases to be starters once the next window comes around.
(*) Go rewatch how dominant Zimmerman was in the air, consistently outjumping everyone on the field. And then minutes from full time, he suddenly can’t jump higher than 12 inches off the ground?
That doesn’t track. What does track is that he was pretty obviously held down – a classic, clever striker’s foul – and the angle that shows it just wasn’t available on the broadcast. A guy who’s won everything in the air for the past two games doesn’t suddenly forget how to jump.
• Ricardo Pepi’s link play continues to evolve, though his hold-up play is coming along more slowly.
Often those two things are conflated. For clarity, here’s what I mean: On sequences like the one that led to Weah’s goal, in which Pepi gains a yard of separation from his defender, he’s become much more dangerous at connecting meaningful passes. And because his soccer brain and game sense are growing damn near exponentially, he’s become smarter and better at timing his movements and finding those pockets where he can create a yard of space and start linking play.
Where he still struggles is with the physical demands of rugged hold-up play. By this I mean he still can not put his back into a defender, hold them off, shield the ball and allow his teammates to advance upfield. He still lacks that physicality and feel.
When the US are flowing, as they were in the first 20 minutes, Pepi’s improved link play is a game-changer. When the US are bogged down, as they were for most of the final 70, his lack of rugged hold-up play is noticeable and can make it tough for the midfield to find a release valve.
• Ok, about that midfield: Gianluca Busio, McKennie’s replacement, had a chance to make a statement. The one he ultimately made was “I’m no replacement for Weston McKennie.”
Busio’s young and has been very good with Venezia, and I think it’s fair right now to say that he’s much better suited to tactical games on pristine Serie A turf than he is for physical battles in the chop and slop of Concacaf. It’s not just that he doesn’t win those physical battles, it’s that he’s rarely in position to fight them in the first place.
As of the 60th minute he hadn’t registered a tackle, interception or a foul. Worse yet is that he hadn’t registered a single duel as per Opta, which is almost impossible for a central midfielder. That lack of midfield confrontation speaks to how uninvolved he was – how the Reggae Boyz didn’t even feel his presence – and explains, to a pretty good degree, why the US midfield struggled to dominate the game the way they’d managed against El Tri.
He did play better over the final 20ish minutes, but by that point the game was gone and the US were just holding on.
• Compounding this was Tyler Adams having, by his standards, a poor outing. The most glaring moment came on Antonio’s goal. Watch, at the very start of this clip, how Adams jumps a potential passing lane rather than immediately getting touch tight on Antonio:
This is a mistake. The reason Antonio strode into the attacking third in rhythm is because Adams made the wrong choice there, and then was never able to scramble back and get touch tight. If he had been, he’d have blocked that shot, or even forced Antonio into a pass.It’s still a golazo, obviously. But these seemingly tiny margins matter a great deal when facing a striker as dangerous as Antonio.
• I agreed with Briana Scurry’s halftime analysis on Paramount+ that Steffen should’ve done better with his footwork, reading of the play and technique to at least give himself a chance at getting a hand to Antonio’s shot.
That is not the same thing as saying that I think he should’ve saved it, or that Matt Turner would’ve saved it. But Steffen’s sloppy footwork is a recurring theme and explains why he often gets a weak push when attempting to save shots that are going high. Think Daniel Royer’s goal in the 2018 playoffs, or Niall McGinn’s goal from earlier this year.
From a goalkeeper friend of mine:
He just gets going sooo late.
When there is an above-shoulder save across your body, you want to use your top hand (which would be his right in this situation). He just doesn’t have time to get a deep enough plant on his left so he can rotate his torso.
So when you see a keeper use their left in a situation like that, it’s a tell-tale sign that they’re reacting late for some reason.
• Chris Richards was pretty good, though I think he was lucky to get away without being called for a handball in the first half. Still, games like this are very good growing experiences for a young center back who has a good chance of starting in Qatar a year from now, should the US qualify.
• Both fullbacks had weird games – good at the start, but DeAndre Yedlin became bizarrely disengaged, while Antonee Robinson’s sloppiness seemed to increase exponentially with each passing minute.
I don’t know why, and each of them had a hand in one of the game’s pivotal moments: Bobby Reid’s spectacular miss midway through the second half. Easily the biggest let-off of the game for the US.
• Brenden Aaronson constantly got into good spots and just lacked the burst and/or 1-v-1 ability to leverage them into high-quality chances. Then Christian Pulisic came on and… stood at the touchline, waiting to get on the ball then dribble, inverted, into midfield.
It’s not a useless thing by any stretch, as Pulisic drew multiple fouls in dangerous spots, and with better service that actually could’ve been a difference-maker.
But it’s hard to watch the US and not imagine what it would be like if Pulisic was as willing to do the early, hard running as Aaronson is. Watching him repeatedly go 1-v-3 into the hurt locker has become dispiriting.
A four-point window is good. Not great, obviously – six would’ve been great. If it’d been six, I’d have fired off a “congrats to the USMNT for qualifying for the World Cup tweet” and risked the wrath of the soccer gods.
But they’re not there yet. This is a young team and Berhalter is still sifting his way through important parts of the roster, and right now it’s clear that the drop from McKennie & Musah to the back-up No. 8s is something of a glaring issue. But even as that’s happened, the US have discovered more depth at center back than most thought was available ahead of qualifying.
So the process continues. Qualifying for the World Cup has never been easy, and that certainly hasn’t changed this time around.
Three Takeaways from the USMNT’s World Cup Qualifying draw at Jamaica
By Charles Boehm @cboehm Tuesday, Nov 16, 2021, 10:35 PM MLS..com
The US men’s national team didn’t win, which means a large chunk of their fans will be irate for the foreseeable future. And yes, there were ample shortcomings and misunderstandings in Tuesday evening’s 1-1 draw with Jamaica at the National Stadium in Kingston.But as one who witnessed a past edition of the USMNT contrive to lose in a similar scenario at that lovable, vuvuzela-haunted concrete bowl, I’m here to tell you: Gregg Berhalter, Tim Weah & Co. should snatch that point with both hands and escape Independence Park gratefully. Here are three observations from the Yanks’ eighth game, and 15th point, of the Octagonal.
Clunky tempo in the land of rhythm
Jamaica have punched far beyond their weight on the global stage in cultural terms, due in large part to the incredibly vibrant musical landscape that’s gifted the globe with reggae, dancehall, the building blocks of hip-hop and myriad other styles.
The USMNT couldn’t find their flow at all on the scruffy pitch at The Office, however.
Whether it was the surface, the sultry Caribbean air, the din of horn honks from the small (COVID-19-restricted) crowd, the hole of the suspended Weston McKennie – whose value was strikingly underlined by his absence – or a combination of everything, the relentless pace of play and fluid passing exchanges that lit up Friday’s thumping 2-0 win over Mexico were nowhere to be found.
“The conditions change – as you’re playing on that field more, it turns, and it gets really choppy, and then you have to try to get the ball out of tight areas, it becomes challenging,” said Berhalter postgame, making sure to note that while his players were disappointed with the result, he felt just fine gutting out a road point.
“Our passing percentage was down a good bit; Jamaica’s was extremely low in the game. So it’s just the conditions, both teams had to deal with it, and we chose slightly different ways to go about it. We wanted to keep the ball on the ground, move the ball side to side and get behind them. And Jamaica chose to play very direct and relied on first balls and second balls … Overall, a very disruptive game because of the direct play of Jamaica.”
Big players make big plays
The general perception is that the USMNT boast superior talent to the Reggae Boyz, understandable given the two teams’ relative places in the Ocho table. Weah’s wonderfully-taken early solo strike seemed to vindicate that point of view, with the slick winger – whose mother is Jamaican – continuing his rich run of form for both club and country.
But that’s a generalization applied across an entire squad. And no one on the pitch possessed more strength, attacking menace and overall quality than the dangerous Michail Antonio, who flipped the game on his head with that astonishing piledriver that hurtled past Zack Steffen from long range to equalize the score.
That’s one of the elite strikers in the world’s most popular league, a talent who could well be starring for England right now if a few junctures in his career had unfolded a bit differently. He’s now scored in back-to-back games for Jamaica and no matter where the islanders are in the standings, his individual ability merits great caution and respect from any opponent.
Berhalter praised the USMNT’s Chris Richards-Walker Zimmerman center-back duo for how they coped with Antonio and the hosts’ overall bombardment of long balls and searching deliveries down the channels. Still, the US back five let their concentration slip in that fleeting phase of broken play, and the West Ham man made them pay.
“We know what his capabilities are,” said Reggae Boyz coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore of Antonio. “He was blessed with a wonderful strike; I think he had the Americans on their back foot for most of the game, and I think it’s a great performance for Michail tonight.”Antonio’s strike destabilized the visitors and underscored their failure to build upon Weah’s solid start, which should have allowed them to better manage the terms of engagement. Letting a game like this spin out of their control and become a ragged, end-to-end affair invited Jamaica back into it when they should’ve been feeling demoralized at falling behind yet again.
“When you talk about the direct play, the physical duels in this game, it was challenging, and it was a lot of stretched field, open field,” said Berhalter. “And it made it hard to get around duels sometimes and very difficult. But overall, I think both teams competed well, and we’ll move on.”
Yay, more goalkeeping discourse
Antonio’s howitzer blast was a gorgeous hit by any measure. What’s more subjective is whether Steffen could’ve done better on the play.
For some observers – this correspondent included – it’s uncharitable, even unrealistic to suggest that any other goalkeeper would have a ghost of a chance to parry it away from the top corner. Others, like US women’s national team goalkeeping legend Briana Scurry on the Paramount+ studio analysis team, saw red flags with the Manchester City man’s footwork as he reacted to the ball rocketing off Antonio’s boot, and there’s something to that.
It might not be fair to dock Steffen points for conceding a worldie like that. Yet he looked jittery for much of the rest of the match, punching instead of catching a couple of box deliveries and looking static on the late Damion Lowe headed corner-kick finish that was waved off by a soft-looking foul call. And it slots all too neatly into the ongoing debate about whether he’s a better option than Matt Turner in the USMNT nets.
Conventional wisdom says Turner is the superior shot-stopper and has the advantage of regular minutes with the New England Revolution, while Steffen’s distribution and all-around game gives him the edge but comes with the drawback of only spot match duty as the backup to Ederson at City. After the Mexico game, Berhalter revealed that the coaching staff had tracked the number of possessions gained by Steffen’s comfort with his feet compared to Turner’s more basic passing.
Yet he’s quite noticeably stopped short of declaring Steffen to be his No. 1, even though that was the de facto reality for much of Berhalter’s tenure before this year. On Friday he noted that Steffen would have to “keep his form” to stay ahead of Turner, adding “we’re not hesitant to change goalkeepers.”
Some people consider a clear, undoubted No. 1 in goal to be a bedrock element of a successful team; Berhalter is apparently not one of them.
Assessing the Octagon with 2021 over and just two windows remaining
The November games are over and CONCACAF now has just two qualifying windows remaining. There is now separation between the top half and the bottom half. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta looks at the top four teams and discusses the pros/cons of where each sits in their pursuit of qualifying.
BY BRIAN SCIARETTAPOSTED
NOVEMBER 17, 2021
THE OCTAGON or “Ocho” will now head into the final two windows with each team playing three times in January/February and then three times again in March. Each team has played eight games heading into 2022 and after the November window, we can see a clear separation between the top half and the bottom half.
The top half consists of Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Panama – in that order. Just two points separate leading Canada from fourth-place Panama. A five-point gap separates Panama from the bottom half where Costa Rica sits with nine points, Jamaica with seven points, El Salvador with six points, and Honduras with just three.
It is not impossible for Costa Rica to move into the top four, but for now it seems like current top four are the most likely to finish in the top four. We just don’t know their places.
As most know by now, the top three qualify for the World Cup while the fourth-place team has to go to an intercontinental playoff – where it could likely be the underdog.
Between Canada, the USA, Mexico, and Panama you have a four-team race for three spots.
Here is a look at each team and why their fans should feel both optimistic and concerned over their current standing.
January Window: @Honduras, USA, @El Salvador
March Window: @Costa Rica, Jamaica, @Panama
Canada is atop the group, is playing well, has yet to lose, and the 2-1 win over Mexico capped a six-point window and created a sense of euphoria the country has never seen about its men’s national team in well over a generation. The team is loaded with talent with Alphonso Davies perhaps the best player in all of CONCACAF, Jonathan David/Cyle Larin comprising of the best forward tandem, and Tajon Buchanan another budding player full promise. Everyone is stepping up and on Tuesday it was Alistair Johnston who made a big play to create Larin’s first goal over Mexico.
Schedule-wise, Canada is done with Mexico and doesn’t have an away trip to the United States. A lot of the heavily lifting has been done.
Canada seem is riding a wave of positivity that seems destined to carry it to Qatar and then in a spot to build up its team ahead of co-hosting the tournament in 2026.
Canada has performed well thus far but has been doing so mostly at home. Of its eight games, five have been in Canada. While it has earned draws on the road against the USA, Mexico, and Jamaica (certainly very strong accomplishments), it will now have to play four of its final six games on the road in Central America. Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama are tough places to play and a hiccup or two should be expected.
There are also a bunch of other things that should cause concern. In each of the upcoming windows, the team is going to have to travel a lot. 1) Assemble in Canada, 2) travel to Central America and play game one 3) return all the way to Canada for game two and 4) travel back to Central America for game three. On top of the travel, the fluctuation in temperature between Canada in the winter and Central America could be eighty or ninety degrees.
While four games are on the road, one of the home games is against a U.S. team that is a regional power that has won both the Gold Cup and Nations League in 2021 while beating Mexico three times.
Also, combine this with the fact that for the January window, Canada’s MLS based players will still be offseason and that makes it harder considering the Canadian team, while boasting an strong XI, is still not as deep as the U.S. or Mexico yet.
January Window: El Salvador, @Canada, Honduras
March Window: @Mexico, Panama, @Costa Rica
The United States team is generally improving. Without question, the team is in a much better start than it was a year ago. It’s starting lineups now typically boast an average age of under 23 so a learning curve was expected. For years, American fans have been stressing the future of this team. But the talk now is turning into something substantive on the field. And the team is also getting deeper. It won the Gold Cup with mostly reserve players and then against Mexico this past window, there was no Gio Reyna, no Sergino Dest, Christian Pulisic had to come off the bench, and John Brooks was left off the roster due to form. The U.S. team can miss chunks of its main group and still compete well.
The good news for the U.S. team is that the team seems far more likely to continue to improve than to regress. After a draw against Canada, the U.S. team looked comfortable playing at home against teams that it should beat with wins over Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Mexico. The team is playing home games like it did when players like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Carlos Bocanegra carried the team through very strong qualifying cycles in 2006, 2010, and 2014.
That is very important when you consider the two home games in January are against El Salvador and Honduras, which are struggling to compete in the Octagon. If the U.S. team can compete like it should, it should rack up points in January. When you look at Panama’s tough window in January, there is real opportunity for some big separation.
The United States has three brutal road games remaining. Heading to Canada is going to be no fun and the U.S. team has never won a competitive game away at Mexico or away at Costa Rica. After a loss on the road to Panama, can the U.S. team find a way to eke out points in any of its four toughest road games? The game against Jamaica wasn’t reassuring.
That puts an unusual amount of pressure on the team to win its remaining home games – which are very doable, but the team can’t slip up. Massive squad rotations worked in the road trip to Honduras but didn’t against Panama. The U.S. team needs to enter March in a strong position because that window is its hardest of qualifying.
The U.S. team is young and that has paid off, but the remaining part of the schedule is a test of maturity. Winning the toughest road games in this region is hard. Just, look at the beating Mexico took in November if you’re looking for proof.
January Window: @Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama
March Window: USA, @Honduras, El Salvador
Mexico had a brutal November window. They had tough road tests against the United States and Canada and came up short against two emotionally changed opponents in hostile environments. Fair enough.
But despite that, Mexico is in strong position when you look at the standings. Just three of its first eight games have been at home. It only took a beating in its two hardest games. Compared with the United States – which has its hardest road games coming up – Mexico was also able to draw at Panama, win at Costa Rica, and win at El Salvador. Those seven road points more than offset the two losses in November to put it on pace to qualify.
Azteca is a brutal place to play and Costa Rica, Panama, and El Salvador will be heavy underdogs. Hosting the U.S. team can be tricky as the U.S. team should be confident and has draw there the last two cycles. But by the time the third window rolls around, Mexico will have momentum and will be looking to go in for the kill against its archrival.
Games aren’t played on paper. On paper, Mexico should be favored in most of its upcoming games. But Mexico’s toughest opponent isn’t another CONCACAF team. It’s Mexico. This team can beat itself when it is down and the November window set the stage for a winter of discontent where fans are angry with head coach Tata Martino. The players say dumb stuff to the press and are visibly frustrated on the field (this was visible against the U.S. in Cincinnati and against Mexico in Edmonton).
All it’s going to take is a stumble out of the gate in January and the normally supportive home crowd could turn angry at its own players. Mexico’s passion for its own national team cuts both ways and the self-destruct button is within reach.
January Window: @Costa Rica, Jamaica, @Mexico
March Window: Honduras, @USA, Canada
Who is hotter than Panama now? The November window was epic for Panama which rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Honduras 3-2 on the road. Then at home to El Salvador, Panama was down 1-0 in the second half but defeated Hugo Perez’s team 2-1 to complete a perfect six -point window.
A team that can will itself to win through a belief in itself is always a dangerous team. The players are all very emotional and are able to score goals when needed. They are seemingly never out of any game and the team rotates effectively – so they’re not reliant on any one or two players.
The team has been boosted in large part by two wins – a 1-0 home win over the United States when the U.S. was just off. Then a staggering 3-0 win over Jamaica on the road. But Panama also drew at home to Costa Rica and drew at home Mexico (which are below what the U.S. and Canada did to the same opponents). It also lost on the road to El Salvador. Panama’s most recent wins were against the two worst teams in the Octagon and Panama needed epic rallies for those wins.
Panama has a harder schedule than the United States, Mexico, and possibly Canada. If it can win at Costa Rica or Mexico, only then will they have the inside track towards a top three finish.
The team has a wave of positive emotion right now but the biggest detriment to momentum is time. Two months until the next qualifier will halt that momentum and Panama will have to press forward with its talent. While Panama is good, it doesn’t have the talent of Canada, Mexico, or the United States.
Soccer is tough to predict, and predicting CONCACAF is almost impossible. One bad bounce, one bad call, one big mistake can change everything.
Despite the problems Mexico had in November, it has the right schedule ahead to not just qualify but to finish atop. Four out of six games at Azteca has it just where it wants to be. It also has a decent number of points on the road. November’s scheduling was just too tough. Tata Martino might be embattled, but Mexico should find the remainder of the schedule winnable.
The United States doesn’t have an easy schedule like Mexico, but the January window is favorable. The team is improving, and the young players are gaining experience a fast rate.
Canada has put itself in a great position. The four road games and travel are difficult but it will become easier for the players to take if they sense a World Cup ticket is getting close. They might have some hiccups, but they have enough talent and experience to cross the line.
Panama seems like the odd team out here. The schedule is tough, their momentum will dissipate with the two-month break. Panama is a good team, but a bit behind the other three.
For that reason, I’ll predict the top four order of 1) Mexico, 2) United States, 3) Canada, 4) Panama
|The Boys Break Down a Point Away in CONCACAF||Grant Wahl Nov 18|
As we do after every USMNT World Cup qualifier, I was joined by Landon Donovan and Chris Wittyngham to discuss the USMNT’s 1-1 tie at Jamaica in Kingston. I really enjoyed this discussion and think you will too.
Hey there. Welcome to Landon, Wahl and Witty on the Road to Qatar. I’m Grant Wahl. Thanks so much for joining me. We’ve got a special episode in partnership with Meadowlark and Le Batard and friends with reaction from Landon Donovan, Chris Wittyngham and me to the U.S. men’s national team’s 1-1 tie against Jamaica on World Cup qualifying Matchday 8. Landon’s with us tonight, I think from Southern California. You in San Diego, Landon?
I’m in San Diego. Yes.
Awesome. Witty’s in South Florida. I’m in Kingston, Jamaica, where I’m writing for my Substack newsletter, which you should sign up for free or pay at grantwahl.com to get my posts in your inbox. Guys, it’s great to be with you. How are you?
What’s going on, Witty?
I didn’t love that performance, but it’s a point on the road and I’m told that that’s what you’re supposed to get. It’s a point on the road. So I guess I’m okay with it.
This was a really interesting one guys, just doing some postgame interviews with the players in particular. They’re disappointed about this, which I know we’ve discussed this over time. Getting a point on the road in Concacaf World Cup Qualifying is not a bad thing, as long as you’re getting three points at home. U.S. has been doing that lately. But it was just interesting to see this sort of reaction from the players here. It was pretty muted. They felt they could have gotten three points. Landon, what was your sense of the whole thing?
Exactly what I expected as I always say. So listen. All the factors, if you just took everything out of it, and you said U.S. against Jamaica on neutral ground without having played a game three days earlier, et cetera, et cetera, you’d say, “Okay.” You’d be disappointed in a 1-1 result. I know very well all the factors involved. So hugely emotional game against Mexico. It is so difficult three days later to get up emotionally for a game against one of the bottom dwellers of the group, away with lots of travel, plus the physical recovery involved. It’s just difficult and not an easy place to play, not a great field, no atmosphere in the stadium, all these different reasons. And that makes it difficult. So in the end, just take the point, get on the plane, go back to your clubs and we’ll see you in the new year.
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Chris, what stood that to you in this game?
Well, I think I would be surprised that the U.S. players felt like they deserved more from that game, because their performance did not. I mean, the only thing that deserved a win from that is that they were 1-0 up. But after that, they didn’t really play very well. And I thought they left a lot out there just in terms of their attacking play. They couldn’t really keep possession of the ball very much. Gianluca Busio, I thought, was the only player that was helping them tick, but didn’t offer really anything else and didn’t really offer much threat in the final third. He’s certainly a player that was a lightning rod for conversation tonight. But I think, in the overall, I really hated that playing surface. It just, you can tell how much it hurts the United States’ ability to play. They’re just not used to it.
Everything that we saw from Yunus Musah that we loved in Cincinnati on Friday, it’s negated by the playing surface. And it was also revealed after the game that he had strep throat as well. So he was kind of playing through it as well. And then I think, when you just look at Jamaica, everything except for their front three is basically a really high end USL team or a low end MLS team. But that front three, just by virtue of the names and the pedigrees, they can summon a moment. And that’s exactly, that’s all they did is they summed a moment.
Although, I mean, they probably frankly, should have won the game considering the chance that Bobby Decordova-Reid had, and the goal that was disallowed from Damion Lowe as well, but Decordova-Reid, Michail Antonio and Leon Bailey. That’s Premier League pedigree up top. If they played in a U.S. shirt we’d be like, “Oh, wow. Look, they’ve got three players who have been in the Premier League up top.” And so, those are real threats and Antonio summoned a moment and they probably could have snuck away with all three points, given the other two chances that they had.
Two really good goals in this game though, Tim Weah putting the U.S. up 11 minutes in, third straight, good game for Weah, even though he did tail off in the second half. He said he got really tired, and here’s a guy who’s not playing 90 minutes every game at club level right now. And then, Antonio with maybe the best goal I’ve seen somebody score against the U.S. in quite a while. And that totally changed Jamaica because until that point, the U.S. was completely bossing this game. The goal kind of comes out of nowhere from distance. But then after that, it seemed like it perked Jamaica up and they actually performed more toe to toe with the U.S. for the rest of the game. And I felt like what Chris said is true, that if one of these teams looked like they were going to win the game in the second half, it was Jamaica, not the United States.
Yeah. I agree with that, Grant. And, my experiences playing against Jamaican teams is very much rhythm based. And confidence based, when things are going their way and things are going well, they play better, especially at home. And so, when the U.S. come out, score the goal sort of on top of the game, Jamaica looked like a bottom feeder in the group, and then they score the goal and everything changes. And so the momentum shifted. They actually had real belief again. And to be honest, probably should have had a man sent off with the tackle on Tyler Adams. And were fortunate not to have that, but they were much better the rest of the game. And I’ll just say it again, if you’re the U.S., just get out of Jamaica, get on the flight out of Kingston, take the point and we’ll see you in the new year.
But I guess, the U.S. fans’ response and I saw when Gregg Berhalter said that a lot of the responses were, “Why are you happy with this? Why are you happy with a point?” And I understand, that’s the formula, right? This is basic math. You’re trying to get to … I saw on Twitter, it’s basically 1.7 points per game is enough to qualify you for the World Cup. If you win all your home games and draw your away games, you’re at two points per game and you’re doing the math. But there was a feeling coming off the Mexico game that it was a step forward. And again, we’ve done a few of these pods with away Concacaf matches. And you’re wondering, what is it that you’re not able to replicate away from home? Why does a goal deflate you in that way?
But Witty, we’re going to have this re-education process every four years with new U.S. fans. And it’s amazing that we are having these conversations because it means we’re bringing new U.S. fans in all the time. Every time we qualify and then make a World Cup, we’re bringing in new fans. But the reality is, I can promise you if we’re sitting here in 12 years, we’re going to have the same conversation. Why couldn’t they beat El Salvador? Look at all these guys playing at Barcelona and Real Madrid. And it’s just, we’re going to have the same conversation every time. It’s not easy. And there’s all these mitigating factors and you saw it again tonight.
Maybe we should have titled our podcast, The Re-education Camp.
But I do want to talk a little bit about the absences for the U.S. in this game and the impact that they had on it. So Miles Robinson out, first time he hasn’t played, I think, in qualifying. I thought Chris Richards was fine replacing him in this game. Now Weston McKennie, out on a yellow card suspension. And I wrote this after the game. And I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are. I feel like the central midfield three of McKennie, Adams, and Musah is so far in away the best central midfield for this U.S. team right now. And I feel like if you don’t have all three of them, you’re going to have some issues. That just seems to be what happens here. And I almost feel like they’re so complementary to each other that the whole becomes better than the sum of the parts in a way.
And I thought that not having McKennie out there, Musah didn’t play as well. Adams didn’t play quite as well as he normally does. And Busio wasn’t bad or anything. And he had a really nice shot attempt on goal at one point, but it was just different and it wasn’t quite as effective. And you’re playing on the road and I realize there’s other factors here, but I just feel like that central midfield three really works well together. And you can tell when even just one of them is not there.
So I’m going to beat a dead horse and Witty, you just tell me to shut up, but this is why, again, I got so frustrated when Weston made those decisions. And they’re just a different team when he’s not on the field versus when he is. And would he have made a difference that won the game at this point? At this point I would bet money, yes. You can say in the Canada game, well, who knows, but I think he would’ve made a difference tonight. Maybe he breaks up the play where Michail Antonio scores the goal. Maybe he gets in the box and gets on the end of a header. You just don’t know. And so that’s why you need him on the field. And you saw it again tonight when he’s not on the field, we just look like a different team. Tyler Adams and Musah were fine. Nothing, they weren’t terrible. They were fine. But that combination of three, and tell me if you disagree, Witty, but they are just, like Grant said, just better than what we have right now.
I guess my feeling would be a level of concern off of that, that there isn’t someone who I feel can step in. I was really hoping that Busio would have a better game. I think it’s a really tough spot for him to be in, just because I think a lot of that game, if you look at the three-man midfield of Jamaica, it’s all about physicality. It’s all about being able to get stuck in. And that’s not really Busio’s strength. I think he’s getting better in Italy. It’s a perfect league for him to learn that. But he’s 19.
And I thought, Daniel Salloi had a nice backing of his former teammate when he said, “Hey, do you remember your first game in World Cup qualifying when you were starting at 19? It’s tough.” But to your point, Landon and Grant, Weston McKennie has not started an away World Cup qualifier since the opening day against El Salvador. And you can’t imagine there’s a player that’s better suited to the style of play away in Concacaf in the U.S. team than Weston McKennie. I guess I’d just ask you, what do you feel like that indispensability is with Weston? What do you feel like the U.S. lack through his absence?
That’s a good question. So I’ll answer first. Grant, I’m curious to hear what you have to say. First of all, there’s a physicality, that Busio is a very good player, but Weston just has a physicality about him. That’s different. He covers ground differently. He wins duels differently. He tackles differently and he gets on the end of crosses, gets himself in the box and scores goals, which is different. And then there’s a dynamic between the three of them that it’s hard to pinpoint. You can’t necessarily pinpoint chemistry and why that is, but there is, it’s become clear. And so Busio might be the right guy, eventually too, or maybe he’s the fourth guy to those three or Kellyn Acosta is the fourth to those three. But right now, those two just don’t have the chemistry, Kellyn Acosta and Busio, that the other three have. And, you’re seeing that grow game after game.
|So I’m Savoring Every Moment of the Octagonal||Grant Wahl Nov 15|
IRISH TOWN, Jamaica — I can’t tell you how much I’m going to miss the men’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament in the future. The current format has more or less stayed the same since qualifying for World Cup 1998: The USMNT has been part of a months-long home-and-away tournament involving five—or, this time, seven—other teams in the region.The games truly matter, and if you’re someone who follows it closely—I’m covering all 14 qualifiers on-site—you also get a memorable travel experience around some of the most gorgeous parts of North and Central America and the Caribbean.But I’m treasuring every moment this time around because it’s likely never going to be the same again for the USMNT. The U.S., Mexico and Canada are co-hosting World Cup 2026, and while FIFA hasn’t yet made it official that the hosts will receive automatic bids, everyone assumes that will be the case. So the U.S. almost surely won’t need to qualify in the next cycle. What’s more, the men’s World Cup will expand from 32 to 48 teams in 2026. So even when the U.S. has to qualify for World Cup 2030, the challenge will be infinitely easier if CONCACAF sends, say, a guaranteed six teams to the World Cup instead of the current three. There just won’t be that much at stake for the USMNT.And don’t get me started on what happens if FIFA gets its way and institutes World Cups every two years (World Cup 2028?), which wouldn’t leave time to have a meaningful regional qualifying tournament like this one.
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So I’m savoring everything on these trips. In Honduras, it was the pre-match fireworks that extended into the game’s first five minutes and the PA system playing Live Is Life, the soundtrack for Diego Maradona’s most memorable warmup of all time. In Honduras, it was the amazing pre-game pupusas from a food truck that I demolished on a paper plate, the Hondureña who made them smiling at my smiles. In Panama, it was doing a pre-game Twitter Spaces from the stadium in two languages with my friend Nicolle Ferguson.And the games in the U.S. have been a blast, too, from Nashville to Austin, from Columbus to Cincinnati. I’ve been blown away by all the new MLS stadiums, and the communal energy at those games has been off the charts. The convincing U.S. win over Mexico took it to a new level. There hasn’t been this much excitement around the USMNT since World Cup 2014 in Brazil.That brings us to Jamaica, which might be my favorite trip of the bunch. The game is in Kingston, which isn’t like the tourist destinations on the other parts of the island like Negril and Montego Bay (where most of the American Outlaws are staying, quite reasonably, before taking a bus to and from the game). My favorite place to stay here is a 45-minute drive into the Blue Mountains above Kingston. It’s a boutique place (that’s not overly expensive) called Strawberry Hill. Every morning I brew some local coffee, go out on my terrace with a ridiculous view overlooking the city and sit down to write. On Sunday morning, the beautiful sounds of singing from a nearby church service filled the air. This morning the sounds are coming from the roosters in the neighborhood. You couldn’t ask for much more. There’s a reason I’m staying here an extra day after the game and not returning to New York until Thursday.This isn’t a paid ad for Strawberry Hill, but if you ever come to Jamaica, consider taking the road less traveled—which is to say, narrow roads with crazy hairpin turns up into the mountains—and check it out. The place is owned by Chris Blackwell, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame producer who co-founded Island Records and brought to the global masses Bob Marley, U2, Steve Winwood, Grace Jones, Melissa Etheridge and a bunch of other artists. As you might expect, great music is playing all day long at the bar and restaurant here, and the walls of the place are covered in Blackwell’s classic music-themed photographs and, in one special room, gold and platinum records commemorating millions of albums sold. Strawberry Hill is where Marley came to recover after being shot in 1976. And you never know who you might meet here. One day when I was having a Red Stripe or three at the bar before a qualifier in 2013, I got into a fun soccer conversation with a guy who was clearly a fan of the game. It turned out to be Captain Horace Burrell, the longtime president of the Jamaican Football Federation. The Captain, as most people called him, had a fascinating life. He had served in the military for decades (hence: Captain), had fought on the U.S. side in the 1983 invasion of Grenada and had become wealthy as the proprietor of the Captain’s Bakery chain across Jamaica. In soccer politics, the Captain was an ally of both the notorious Jack Warner and U.S. Soccer. He served a six-month suspension from FIFA in 2011 for his role in the Mohamed bin Hammam CONCACAF bribery scandal.The Captain was what I’d call a charming rogue, in the same way that the former Mafia don Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno was described by the old New York City columnist Murray Kempton. The Captain served his time with FIFA—he got caught and deserved to—and he eventually came back stronger than ever, playing a major role with then-U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati in 2016 in swinging the FIFA presidential election from Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman to Gianni Infantino in the final round of voting.The Captain passed away from cancer a year later. He was a figure in the grey areas of FIFA politics. But I’ll still remember having beers with him that day and getting a sense of what he was about. In the military he had picked up aviation skills. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he left Strawberry Hill that day in 2013 in his helicopter.
Who’s in? Who’s out? How every European nation made the World Cup finals
Dale JohnsonGeneral Editor, ESPN FC
The group stage of European World Cup qualifying is complete, with only the playoffs left to decide the final three places at Qatar 2022.
Here’s how the 10 groups played out.
|1 – Serbia||8||6||2||0||+9||20|
|2 – Portugal||8||5||1||1||+11||17|
|1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs|
A stunning turnaround in Lisbon as Portugal threw away an early lead and a direct place at the World Cup finals.Renato Sanches netted on two minutes, only for Dusan Tadic to equalise just after the half hour. And the real drama came in the 90th minute, as Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the goal to win the group.Portugal are seeded in the playoff draw.
|1 – Spain||8||5||1||1||+10||19|
|2 – Sweden||8||5||0||3||+6||15|
|1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs|
Spain had a worrying time against Sweden, needing a point to advance to the finals, before Alvaro Morata calmed the nerves with what proved to be an 86th-minute winner.Spain go direct the the World Cup finals, while Sweden enter the playoffs.Sweden are seeded in the playoff draw.
|1 – Switzerland||8||5||3||0||+13||18|
|2 – Italy||8||4||4||0||+11||16|
|1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs|
Switzerland scored three second-half goals at home Bulgaria to get the 3-0 win they needed to put pressure on Italy.
The European champions couldn’t respond, held to a goalless draw away to Northern Ireland.
It means Switzerland qualify for the World Cup and, just like in qualifying for the 2018 edition, Italy must go through the playoffs. Roberto Mancini’s team will be seeded in those playoffs.
|1 – France||8||5||3||0||+15||18|
|2 – Ukraine||8||2||6||0||+3||12|
|1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs|
France had sealed their place in the finals on Saturday, so on the last day it was all about the runners-up spot.
Finland had it in their own hands, but they fell to a 2-0 loss at home to France.
That opened the door for Ukraine, who won 2-0 away to Bosnia and Herzegovina to steal into second place. They will be unseeded in the playoffs.
|1 – Belgium||8||6||2||0||+19||20|
|2 – Wales||8||4||3||1||+5||15|
|1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs|
Belgium qualified for the World Cup with their 3-1 win at home to Estonia at the weekend.
Wales and Czech Republic were already assured of a playoff place via the UEFA Nations League so the last day was about finishing second and hopefully being seeded in that draw.
Wales were losing at home to Belgium, but Kieffer Moore earned the 1-1 draw which confirmed the Welsh would be one of the best runners-up.
Although the Czechs beat Estonia 2-0, they will be unseeded in the playoffs.
|1 – Denmark||10||9||0||1||+27||27|
|2 – Scotland||10||7||2||1||+10||23|
|1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs|
Denmark qualified but missed out on finishing with a 100% record after defeat to Scotland in their last game.That victory was crucial for Scotland, and it means they will be seeded in the playoff draw.Austria didn’t finish inside the top two, but are guaranteed of being unseeded in the playoffs as a UEFA Nations League group winner.
Netherlands avoided the World Cup playoffs with victory over Norway. Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Image
|1 – Netherlands||10||7||2||1||+25||23|
|2 – Turkey||10||6||3||1||+11||21|
|1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs|
Netherlands finally booked their place in the World Cup finals, but it took two late goals to be absolutely sure.
The Dutch would have been knocked out had Norway scored in Eindhoven, but goals from Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay in the last six minutes sealed safe passage.
Turkey held on to second place ahead of Norway with a 2-1 win in Montenegro, but they will be unseeded in the playoffs.
|1 – Croatia||10||6||2||1||+16||23|
|2 – Russia||10||6||1||2||+13||22|
|1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs|
Croatia got the win they needed against Russia in split to climb above their visitors and top the group.
Fedor Kudryashov scored an own goal in the 81st minute to give Croatia and 1-0 win.
Russia will have to go through the playoffs, where they will be seeded.
|1 – England||10||8||2||0||+36||26|
|2 – Poland||10||6||2||2||+19||20|
|1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs|
England cruised to the World Cup on the final day, winning 10-0 away to San Marino.
But it wasn’t such good news for Poland, who had already qualified for the playoffs but lost their final match 2-1 at home to Hungary.
That defeat meant Poland would be unseeded in the playoffs.
|1 – Germany||10||9||0||1||+32||27|
|2 – N Macedonia||10||5||3||2||+12||18|
|1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs|
Germany had already secured their place in October, leaving the playoff place up for grabs this month.
North Macedonia were in danger of throwing it away, drawing 1-1 at home to Iceland, before two goals from Eljif Elmas gave them victory and a place in the playoffs.
However, North Macedonia will be unseeded in the playoff draw so face an away semifinal.
HOW THE PLAYOFFS WORK
The 10 runners-up from the groups are joined by the best two UEFA Nations League group winners not to have finished in the top two of their qualifying group.
We now know that Austria and whoever misses out on the top two from Group E between Czech Republic and Wales will qualify via the Nations League.
The playoffs, to be played in March 2022, will be seeded by qualifying points, with the two UEFA Nations League teams unseeded. The draw takes place on Friday, Nov. 26.
Seeded teams will be drawn at home against unseeded teams, to play one-legged semifinals.
SEEDED: Portugal, Scotland, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Wales
UNSEEDED: Turkey, Poland, North Macedonia, Ukraine, Austria, Czech Republic
The finals will see the winners of SF1 play SF2, SF3 vs. SF4 and SF5 vs. SF6. There will be a draw, also on Nov. 26, to determine the home team in each final path.
Argentina looking confident, cohesive with World Cup spot secured
10:58 PM ET Tim VickerySouth America correspondent
Argentina were at full strength, on paper at least. Lionel Messi may not have been close to full fitness — he had only played the last 15 minutes against Uruguay on Friday and looked short of his usual sharpness. And over the course of the game they lost Cristian Romero, their best centre-back, and midfield anchorman Leandro Parades to injuries. Lautaro Martinez also left the game at the interval. He may have been feeling a knock, but his replacement was also an admission by coach Lionel Scaloni that the game was not going as he had planned. An out-and-out centre-forward, Martinez was not able to get into the game because Brazil blocked Argentina in midfield so effectively.ADVERTISEMENTBrazil were without both Neymar and Casemiro — the players referred to by coach Tite respectively as the technical leader and the competitive leader. The attack was extraordinarily youthful; centre-forward Matheus Cunha was making his first start for the national team, Vinicius Junior his second and Raphinha his third. The other member of the attacking quartet, Lucas Paqueta, looks like a grizzled veteran in comparison, but he has only consolidated his place in the side over the last few months.But with the wingers helping back, and full-backs Danilo and Alex Sandro playing conservative roles, Argentina were denied the space to establish their customary passing rhythm in midfield. In comparison with the final of the Copa America in July, it was clear that the extra speed of Eder Militao at centre-back allowed Brazil to stay compact higher up the field so they could press more effectively. And if the defensive line was breached, the immaculate Marquinhos was there to cover. Alisson in goal was hardly troubled. He had to dive left to push away a shot from Rodrigo De Paul, and, in the 89th minute, Messi finally broke away but struck straight at the keeper.
|1 – Brazil (Q)||13||35||+23|
|2 – Argentina (Q)||13||29||+14|
|3 – Ecuador||14||23||+10|
|4 – Colombia||14||17||-1|
|5 – Peru||14||17||-5|
|6 – Chile||14||16||-1|
|7 – Uruguay||14||16||-7|
|8 – Bolivia||14||15||-8|
|9 – Paraguay||14||13||-9|
|10 – Venezuela||14||7||-16|
|1-4: Qualifies; 5: Playoff|
The clearer chances, however, came at the other end. Vinicius fluffed an audacious chip after a clever pass from Paqueta. Matheus Cunha was still more audacious, and shot narrowly over from inside his own half with Emiliano Martinez stranded. A Fred volley clipped the bar after a free kick had been half cleared, and a rare Danilo burst set up Vinicius for a shot that Martinez got down smartly to save.There was, perhaps, little on show that will linger in the mind of the neutral. Maybe the venue did not help. The game was taken to the small northern town of San Juan, with the crowd close and creating a frenetic atmosphere. Argentina’s usual home, River Plate’s stadium in Buenos Aires, might have provided the stage for a more cerebral affair, with more light than heat. Bit ever here, there was something to be learned. Brazil have had cause for concern at a lack of emotional control — they clearly did not do themselves justice when chasing the game in the final of the Copa America. Here they were tested, especially when Nicolas Otamendi got away with smashing a forearm into the face of Raphinha. But they were able to keep their cool — just. And with plenty of attacking flair combined with a record of just four goals conceded in 13 qualifiers, they can build for the World Cup in confidence.As can Argentina who, if not at their best on this occasion, have put together their most solid, coherent and frequently attractive side for the last few years. Their new total of 29 points guarantees their World Cup place because so many of the teams behind them dropped points — including Chile, who went down 2-0 at home to Ecuador.
Everything went wrong for Chile in the first half. They went behind early to a well struck shot from rampaging left-back Pervis Estupinan. Soon afterwards they had Arturo Vidal sent off. And Alexis Sanchez limped off. They made a bold effort to haul themselves back into the game, but the points were sealed in stoppage time when midfielder Moises Caicedo advanced to score a cracker from the edge of the box.Ecuador were the big winners of this round. They went into the action safely in third place, with a four point cushion, which has now been increased to six. Effectively this means that they are guaranteed to go into the final two rounds still in third place. A slot in Qatar is now theirs to lose.Chile’s defeat means that they fall from fourth to sixth, outside the qualification places. They are overtaken by Colombia, despite a deeply disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Paraguay. For both sides it was their fifth consecutive game without a goal. But Colombia have been defending so well that they have only lost one in their last 10, and are crawling to the World Cup one point at a time.Into fifth, the playoff spot, climb Peru, who have made a remarkable rally since the Copa America in the middle of the year. Their 2-1 win away to Venezuela was open and dramatic, with the two sides trading punches. At 1-1 the game was decided by two set pieces. Peru won a free kick on the edge of the area, and Cristian Cueva’s shot flicked off the defensive wall and beat the keeper. Straight away, Venezuela were awarded a penalty. Darwin Machis had already scored a fine goal, but his kick was at a comfortable height for Pedro Gallese to save. Gallese had more problems in stoppage time when a Machis shot took a deflection, requiring a fine reflex save. Such moments turned one point for Peru into three — and the difference could well be vital when the competition comes to an end.Peru are a point ahead of Chile, and of Uruguay, who found new ways to self destruct in their latest defeat, 3-0 away to Bolivia.
The extreme altitude of La Paz is an extremely tough challenge for visitors, and for almost half an hour Uruguay appeared to be taking the sting out of the game. But there are risks in defending deep, especially for the goalkeeper. At altitude,the ball flies through the rarefied air more quickly than usual, making it hard for the keeper to judge its trajectory.Bolivia’s veteran Juan Carlos Arce sent in a cross from deep on the left, looking for centre-forward Marcelo Martins Moreno. He stretched but was unable to make contact. Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera had to prepare to cover his shot, and when the ball went straight on it came at him quicker than he expected, slipped through his hands and tricked in off the far post.Then, just before half-time, Uruguay needlessly gave away a corner. Their marking was slack, and Martins Moreno rose to give Bolivia a two goal lead and put Uruguay in the dreaded position of having to chase the game while gasping for oxygen. They lost 3-0, a result that keeps Bolivia’s hopes alive, but which may well bring an end to the remarkable near-16 year reign of Uruguay coach Oscar Washington Tabarez.
Who will win MLS Cup in 2021? Predicting every Round 1 matchup and a champion
Drake Hills, Nashville TennesseanWed, November 17, 2021, 8:29 PM
Records were broken and a resurgence was forged in Major League Soccer this season, as the New England Revolution, winners of the Supporters’ Shield, set a regular-season points record in the post-shootout era and the Colorado Rapids had their best conference finish in club history.The MLS Cup Playoffs begin Saturday and the Revs and Rapids enter as respective No. 1 seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences. Both received first-round byes.New England (73 points) will host either New York City FC or Atlanta United FC on Nov. 30 in the conference semifinal round, and Colorado will await the Portland Timbers or Minnesota United FC for a second-round clash on Thanksgiving Day.
Here’s who I think will survive Round One, followed by my picks along the way to the MLS Cup Final.
Eastern ConferenceNew England is good. They’re record-setting good. But are they better than 2017 Toronto FC?
The Reds were the last team to do the double: lifting the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in the same season. U.S. Men’s National teamers Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and a dangerous Sebastian Giovinco helped TFC to lift the cup. I’m predicting New England to do the same.
MVP candidate Carles Gil (4 goals, 18 assists), goal-getters Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou (31 combined), teaming up with premier youngster Tajon Buchanan are enough firepower.
(4) New York City FC vs. (5) Atlanta United
Winner: Atlanta United
Atlanta United’s Luiz Araújo and coach Gonzalo Pineda were timely additions to Josef Martinez and Miles Robinson anchoring the Five Stripes. New talent working cohesively will be enough to limit NYCFC’s Taty Castellanos, who won the Golden Boot this season (19 goals, 8 assists).
(3) Nashville SC vs. (6) Orlando City SC
Winner: Nashville SC
Nashville SC has not lost at home this season, becoming the seventh MLS club in history to do so. A fourth meeting against Orlando City won’t be breaking that streak. Nashville’s MVP candidate Hany Mukhtar has scored two goals against the Lions this year.
(2) Philadelphia Union vs. (7) New York Red Bulls
Winner: Philadelphia Union
The New York Red Bulls are the sleeper team of the East and its record proves a 1-0 score line is all RBNY needs. Their last five wins were secured by a one-goal margin.
The Union is strong at Subaru Park and will be too strong for RBNY.
Rapids coach Robin Fraser took this club from a bottom-half team in the league to a No. 1 seed in three seasons, the first in club history.Colorado’s scoring comes by committee. Michael Barrios has been the attacking catalyst (8 goals, 8 assists), but the development of Jonathan Lewis (7 goals) and the return of Dom Badji (5 goals) has led the Rapids to the top.A seasoned playoff bunch like the Portland Timbers should end the Rapids’ MLS Cup journey in the second round, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rapids home-field advantage and an early goal gets them passed the Timbers.
No. 4 Portland Timbers vs. No. 5 Minnesota United FC
Winner: Portland Timbers
Sebastian Blanco and Felipe Mora were worth a combined 18 goals this system. Add in the surprise of Dairon Asprilla adding a spark up front and they should handle business for Portland at Providence Park.
No. 3 Sporting Kansas City vs. No. 6 Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Winner: Vancouver Whitecaps
This seems to be the anticipated upset of the postseason. The way Vancouver ended the season against the Seattle Sounders, only losing one of its final nine matches, an upset is fitting. MLS newcomer Ryan Gauld and Cristian Dájome are two players to watch in this one.
No. 2 Seattle Sounders FC vs. No. 7 Real Salt Lake
Winners: Seattle Sounders
The Sounders should handle business at home in Round One. With a healthy Raúl Ruidíaz, a margin of multiple goals wouldn’t be a surprise.
For stories about Nashville SC or Soccer in Tennessee, contact Drake Hills at DHills@gannett.com. Follow Drake on Twitter at @LiveLifeDrake. Connect with Drake on Instagram at @drakehillssoccer and on Facebook.
USMNT’s faltering draw to Jamaica illustrates bumpy road to Qatar 2022
WRITTEN BYMIKE DECOURCY
There was a moment in the first half, not even 20 minutes into the United States’ World Cup qualifier at Jamaica, that American midfielder Yunus Musah gathered the ball in the center of the field at Independence Park and contemplated one of his favored rampages toward the opposing goal. He had demolished Mexico with his physical strength and dribbling skill, and it was time to do the same to the Reggae Boyz.As Musah advanced, though, the ball did not. The field — yes, the field — had other ideas.It’s not always the opposing fans or the refs or the pressure of the circumstance. Sometimes, it’s as simple as lacking the comforts of home. For a squad that included three teenagers and was the second-youngest the USMNT ever deployed for a qualifier, being unable to count on the ball rolling evenly was among the many reasons it left Jamaica with a 1-1 draw and a single point to add toward its total.“We’re not looking at it as a disappointing result. We’re looking at it as a good result,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter told reporters. “Any time you can get a point away from home is a good thing in CONCACAF qualifying. I want to be very clear by saying that.“I think for the guys to have their heads down because we wanted more is completely natural, but this is a point that we’ll absolutely take on the road.”It’s a point more precious than American fans are likely to appreciate. The U.S. easily could have lost, given one blown opportunity at a wide-open tap-in for Jamaica’s Bobby Reid and a disallowed goal from his teammate, Damian Lowe, on an 84th-minute set piece.The U.S. took a 1-0 lead on forward Timothy Weah’s inventive 11th-minute goal, which required a sweet feed from striker Ricardo Pepi, two nifty moves from Weah and a left-footed finish past ace goalkeeper Andre Blake. That was answered 11 minutes later, though, when Jamaica’s Michail Antonio — currently third in the Premier League in goals for West Ham United — drove to the left against U.S. midfielder Tyler Adams, stopped and cut back to his right foot and left Adams behind. He blasted a searing shot from 34 yards that found the top right corner, beyond the reach of goalkeeper Zack Steffen.“Obviously, it was a rough game. Not the result that we wanted,” Weah said. “We knew it was going to be difficult.“Conditions were rough, but that’s no excuse. We wanted to execute, but it wasn’t there today.”(Getty Images)
It’s difficult to reconcile this torpid performance against the brilliance of Friday night’s victory over Mexico. But combining the two gives the USMNT four points from the two-game window in CONCACAF qualifying, and still leaves it in position to earn an automatic position in the 2022 World Cup field.The Americans now have five points from four road games, slightly ahead of the “win your home games, draw on the road” standard that tends to assure qualification in this format. However, they’re also a couple points behind at home because of a 1-1 September draw against Canada. Their 15 points through eight games is three more than they earned in the entire 10-game qualifying round when failing to qualify for Russia 2018.Qualifying will not be easy. Not that it ever has been.“It was difficult conditions, it really was,” Berhalter said. “Controlling the ball, playing the ball was challenging. You can chalk it up to simply that. It was challenging field conditions, and the movements weren’t always clean. That’s something you can’t control.”This is not something Musah would have encountered often while growing up in Italy or later England, where he trained in the Arsenal youth program. Pristine pitches predominated once he moved to Spain to join Valencia in 2019, and that’s what was in place in Cincinnati — even though it rained — when the USMNT dominated rival Mexico to earn a 2-0 victory and take over first place in the final round of World Cup qualifying.After that moment in the 18th minute, though, Musah seemed to abandon the skill that had made him such a force against Mexico. With midfielder Weston McKennie out because of a yellow-card suspension — and with Musah muted and fellow teen Gianluca Busio just a shade hesitant in his first qualifying start — the Americans lacked the engine that had driven them four days earlier.Berhalter allowed that he thought Musah was bothered by the conditions, then told Sporting News he also was bothered by a case of strep throat.“We could tell that was taking a toll on him,” Berhalter told SN. “I don’t want this to be about the field, I really don’t. It was the same for both teams. We had enough time to be moving the ball. It was difficult, but we had enough time. And it’s just something you have to deal with. And we’re used to dealing with that.” Are they, though? Most of the USMNT still has played in just a few CONCACAF road qualifiers. Hesitation was horrifically huge for many of those who played Tuesday. So many circumstances that could have been devastating developed because players expected balls to roll into their feet, only to see them die and be beaten to the play by the opposition. There were passes fed in the direction of teammates that lacked the necessary pace, including one to Steffen that traveled so slowly it nearly allowed Jamaica another simple scoring chance.That’s what happened on the play that set Reid up, with U.S. right back DeAndre Yedlin waiting too long to pursue what should have been a simple clearance. Instead, Jamaica was able to feed a cross to the far post, where left back Antonee Robinson tried to clear it for the Americans. Instead, he knocked it directly across the goal to Reid. What should have been a simple tap-in was blasted over the crossbar because Reid panicked.In the 84th minute, Jamaica’s corner kick was pursued by Lowe directly in front of the goal, but he was called for climbing over defender Walker Zimmerman’s back to head the ball past. Berhalter said he heard the whistle quickly, so he believed referee Juan Gabriel Calderon of Costa Rica was convinced of his call.“When you think about the youth of this group, the inexperience of this group in CONCACAF qualifying, we’re on the right track,” Berhalter said. “Just thinking about it, you don’t often get where you’re in a qualifying competition, one venue is freezing cold, and the next venue is this tropical climate.“Most continents, when they have qualifying, the weather’s consistent. So we’re going through a lot here, man. We’re learning on the fly. The guys have done a good job with that. We’ll take our position now and focus on 2022.”To be clear, he meant the six games remaining in qualifying that will be played in the new year — not “Qatar 2022.”The Americans are not there yet. And the road to get there will remain bumpy.
INDY ELEVEN INSTALLS MARK LOWRY AS HEAD COACH
By Indy Eleven Communications, 11/16/21, 9:35AM EST
England Native Set to Lead Indiana’s Team to Success Following Three Standout Seasons at the Helm of El Paso Locomotive FCINDIANAPOLIS – Indy Eleven secured a sideline leader for the future with today’s announcement of Mark Lowry as the fourth permanent head coach in club history. Lowry, one of the USL Championship’s most successful coaches since joining the league in 2019, has already begun his duties on behalf of Indiana’s Team and is expected to arrive in Indianapolis on Wednesday.
“In Mark Lowry, Indy Eleven has found a coach who will be as passionate about connecting with and contributing to our community as he will be to strengthening our club on the field,” said Greg Stremlaw, Indy Eleven President and Chief Executive Officer. “While still a relatively young coach, his impressive results speak volumes both as a tactician and a leader, and we cannot wait to see those traits put into action.“We believe the process of finding our next head coach was worth the considerable due diligence taken in recent months, which involved interest from more than 250 candidates from across the soccer world. We firmly believe in Mark’s ability to again make Indy Eleven one of the elite USL Championship competitors on the field and burnish our credentials as one of the league’s premier organizations,” Stremlaw concluded.
Lowry lands in the Circle City after a three-season stint with El Paso Locomotive FC, which he guided to a 42W-19L-29D record in USL Championship regular season, USL Championship Playoffs, and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup action from 2019-21. The 36-year-old native of Birmingham, England, improved Locomotive FC’s record across each of their first three seasons of play, the first two of which culminated in back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference Final. Lowry’s 40 regular season victories over those three years rank as the fourth most amongst USL Championship coaches across that span.“I want to put on record my sincere gratitude to El Paso Locomotive FC for the last three years. I had a wonderful time and will always be thankful for what they gave me,” said Lowry. “Looking forward, it’s an honor to be named Head Coach of Indy Eleven. It’s a club with an impressive history and one I’m familiar with dating back to the NASL days.“I’m excited for the challenge of getting the club back to where it belongs, fighting for championships and towards the top end of the table,” continued Lowry. “It’s what this fan base deserves, and you have my word I’ll work hard every single day to instill a winning culture and a culture of high standards that embody what it means to represent Indianapolis and the Eleven brand.”During El Paso’s recently concluded 2021 campaign, Lowry led Locomotive FC to an impressive 18W-4L-10D (64 points) ledger that easily clinched the Championship’s Mountain Division title and marked the third highest point total across the 31-team league. Lowry earned the July 2021 USL Championship Coach of the Month honor, which coincided with the club’s 23-game home undefeated run that stretched over a calendar year and was, at one point, the longest such streak in North American professional soccer. Prior to El Paso, Lowry became familiar with Indy Eleven as a member of the Jacksonville Armada FC coaching staff. Lowry began his head coaching career as the interim boss of the then-NASL side in August 2016 before a positive run of results helped him shed the interim tag by that October. Following the 2017 NASL season, Lowry stayed on to lead Armada FC during their 2018 season in the NPSL’s Sunshine Conference before moving to USL Championship circles as the first head coach of El Paso Locomotive FC.Lowry also spent four seasons in the Orlando City SC organization, spending time with both their Academy system and U-23 entry in the then-USL PDL (now USL League 2). Prior to Orlando, Lowry gained extensive experience as a player, academy coach, and scout in the English professional system. Lowry was a player scout and academy coach for English Premier League (EPL) side Wolverhampton Wanderers FC in 2009 and a player scout for Birmingham City FC in 2007 and 2008, also then in the EPL. He currently holds his UEFA “A” coaching license.With Lowry now settling into his new position, Indy Eleven expects to make announcements surrounding its 2022 roster and coaching staff in the coming weeks.
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