USA vs El Salvador Thurs 7 pm ESPN2 in Columbus (hype video)
So the next round of Qualification is here – and they include at home Thur, Jan 27- 7 pm on ESPN 2 vs El Salvador in Columbus (we are heading that way around 2:15 Thurs!! So a couple of things to discuss – its going to be cold folks – GET OVER IT !! Heck don’t worry I will dress warm. The dang fields at Columbus and Minn are both heated grass fields. They have heated benches – no one is going to die of frost bite. Yes it might be 20 degrees in Columbus and even colder in Minneapolis but heck ½ our guys play in England where its cold by the way. Either way the US will be MUCH better at adapting to the cold weather than either El Salvador or Honduras will be? PERIOD! And all the idiots questioning US Soccer’s decision to play to in cold weather around our frozen visit to Canada where we can basically send them back to 3rd with a win can just BITE IT if the US actually gets 9 points like I think they will in this 3 game window. Listen El Salvador will be missing their top center back in Westfield’s Eriq Zavaleta and we are simply better player by player than El Salador and we are home. My starters are below with Jordan Morris and Weah/Aaronson coming off the bench mid 2nd half. I think Adams will also be an early subout if we get a lead (Acosta will come in to replace Adams who is on a yellow.) Same for Dest and perhaps a center back with Chris Richards coming in. Listen Christian Pulisic (see his press conference) is gonna be pissed coming from Chelsea (where he has been benched again) he’s going to score vs El Salvador and Canada if I had to guess. Also McKennie is on fire at Juve and Musah just scored last week, Aaronson is on fire at Salzburg and Adams is back starting for Leipzig. We should kill El Salvador – at least 2 -0. My official prediction 2-0 USA. (Dos a Cero)
(behind the Crest video) (US last time out) (American Outlaws – We will Fill the Stadium – we ask you to watch !!)
My pick for Starters vs El Salvador Thurs
Pulisic/Pepi/Aaronson or Weah
Antonee R/M Robinson/Zimmerman/Dest
Turner (Steffan didn’t travel he’s hurt)
For those going to Columbus, join us with the American Outlaws Thursday pre-game at Brother’s Bar & Grill – we are leaving for CBus Around 2:15 pm.
@ Canada Sun 3 pm on Paramount+.
As for at Canada on Sunday in a half empty stadium due to covid, they are missing their best player in Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies (out for 4 to 6 weeks) and perhaps without their best forward as well – they are ripe for the picking. We are better than Canada with those players – we should beat them without them – even in Canada. It will be interesting to see if Pulisic and Weah start here or if one of them is replaced by Aaronson in this 2nd game or even Jordan Morris if he plays well as a sub Thursday night. I think the defense and midfield stays the same however assuming we play well Thurs night. Maybe a switch at right back? Or at least early subs.
If the US can secure 2 wins and tie at Canada – qualification will all but be assured. Two wins and loss in Canada will keep things interesting as Canada (16), US (15), Mexico (14) and Panama (14), Costa Rica (9) lead the way in World Cup Qualifying. Anything less and things will get interesting – as only the top 3 teams qualify with the 4th team having a playoff to advance.
US ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB)
GOALKEEPERS (4): Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire), Zack Steffen (Manchester City) ARRIVING LATE FROM ENGLAND, Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Sergiño Dest (FC Barcelona), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim), Antonee Robinson (Fulham FC), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), DeAndre Yedlin ARRIVING LATE FROM EUROPE (Galatasaray), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Luca de la Torre (Heracles), Sebastian Lletget (New England Revolution), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)
FORWARDS (8): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea FC), Tim Weah (Lille), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)
Lay off of Coach Berhalter
Finally I am getting sick of the US fans screaming about all of the MLS guys on the roster this time. This is a big roster – there are covid concerns and concerns with our US players trying to fight for playing time at the home clubs in Europe to consider. Sure I am not thrilled with Zardes – but hey he has scored-in a US Jersey something Dike (now out 8 weeks with West Brom), and Josh Sargent (finally scored his 1st 2 goals for Norwich last week) have not done in forever. Now I am confused about not having Jordan Pfok but word is he flirting with a club change in Europe. As for say Jordan Morris – he ws our starter at right wing before he got hurt a year ago – we need to know if he is back and can hang with this group again. Acosta – no he should never be an 8 again – but he is our 2nd best #6 right now – and he won the US vs Mexico game in the Gold Cup as Captain. He will be needed in case Adams gets a yellow. And I am sorry Busio is not as good at the 6 as Acosta and he’s not an 8 (attacking mid) in this lineup. As for Lletget, Arriola and Roldan some guys are here because they are good locker room guys and if they don’t play – hey its ok – they didn’t fly all the way over from Europe to be here. Roldan is a good late sub and doesn’t mind coming off the bench late – and this summer he proved he could unlock stacked CONCACAF defenses with his guile and his pinpoint passing sometimes. Lletget and Arriola give 150% every time they play – they are old school US players – not skilled enough but all heart. There is roon for that especially with this big a roster. So sorry US Soccer Whiners – I don’t want to hear it. Listen Berhalter is 2nd in Qualifying and has beaten Mexico 3 TIMES IN A ROW – so JUST SHUTUP already. I know he’s an American – which means he must stink – but for me as a former US player who played in Europe – I think he is getting things right. If this team qualifies first in the group – even 2nd – I think folks will just have to put up with it! I for one am enjoying the ride. Go USA !! (behind the Crest video) (US last time out) American Outlaws – We will Fill the Stadium – we ask you to watch !!
Indy 11 Open Tryouts
Think you have to what it takes to play professional soccer? Indy 11 is holding open Tryouts this Thurs and Fri Jan 27 & 28 with representatives from Indy 11 and 5 other professional and semi-pro clubs at Grand Park. The 11 have unveiled their schedule with season tickets available for purchase. The Indy Eleven tandem of midfielder Neveal Hackshaw and defender Noah Powder have been called up to the Trinidad & Tobago Men’s National Team ahead of its first international exhibition of the year against Bolivia. The friendly is set to take place this Friday, January 21, at 4:00 p.m. ET in the Bolivian capital of Sucre.
Congrats to former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr who has caught on with San Antonio (after helping them reach the Western Conference finals last year)
BIG GAMES TO WATCH
Thurs, Jan 27
9:30 am Para+ Iran vs Iraq
7 pm ESPN2 USMNT vs El Salvador (Columbus) WCQ
7 pm Para+ Jamaica vs Mexico WcQ
7:15 pm fubotv Chile vs Argentina
8 pm Para+ Honduras vs Canada
9 pm Para+ Costa Rica vs Panama
Sat Jan 29
10 am ESPN+ Fulham vs Blackpool
11 am fubo tv African Cup Quarters – Game 1 Gambia vs Cameroon
2 pm fubo tv African Cup Quarters – Game 2 Tunisia vs Burkina Faso
Sun, Jan 30
11 am fubo tv African Cup Quarters – Game 3
2 pm fubo tv African Cup Quarters – Game 4
3 pm Paramount+/Telemundo USMNT @ Canada
6 pm Para+ Mexico vs Costa Rica
6 pm Para+ Panama vs Jamaica
7 pm Para+ Honduras vs El Salvador
Tues, Feb 1
9:30 am Para+ Iran vs United Emirates
6:30 pm fubotv Argentina vs Colombia
7:30 pm fubotv Brazil vs Parguay
Weds, Feb 2
2 pm beIn Sport African Cup Semi
7:30 pm FS1 USMNT vs Honduras
9 pm Para+ El Salvador vs Canada
10 pm Para + Mexico vs Panama
Thurs, Feb 3
2 pm beIn Sport African Cup Semi 2
Sat, Feb 5
7:30 am ESPN+ Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Plymouth Argyle FA Cup
10 am ESPN+ Man City vs Fulham (Robinson, Ream) FA Cup
12 noon Para+ Inter vs Milan Milan Derby
12:30 pm ESNP+ Bayern Munich vs RB Liepzig (Adams)
3 pm ESPN+ tottenham vs Brighton FA Cup
Sun, Feb 6
9:30 am ESPN+ Dortmund vs Bayer Leverkusen
10:!5 am ESPN+ Barcelona (Dest) vs Atletico Madrid
2:45 pm Para+ Juve (Mckinney) vs Hellas Verona
3 pm ESPN+ Real Madrid vs Granada
2022 SheBelieves Cup schedule
Feb. 17 in Carson, Calif.
#16 Iceland vs #22 New Zealand, 8pm ET – ESPN
#1 USWNT vs #24 Czech Republic, 11pm ET
Feb. 20 in Carson, Calif.
USWNT vs New Zealand, 3pm ET – ABC
Czech Republic vs Iceland, 6pm ET
Feb. 23 in Frisco, Texas
New Zealand vs Czech Republic, 6pm ET
USWNT vs Iceland, 9pm ET – ESPN
USMNT tomorrow vs El Salvador 7 pm ESPN2
USA vs. El Salvador, 2022 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for By Donald Wine II S&S
How should the USMNT rotate for January WCQ? By Justin Moran S&S
USMNT favors frigid forecast, but will it yield home-field advantage? Jeff Carlisle ESPN
Adversity isn’t Limited to USMNT in this WCQ Window – SI Avi Creditor
Tyler Adams: USMNT midfield can “dominate games” with Weston McKennie & Yunus Musah NATIONAL WRITER: CHARLES BOEHM MLS.com
What shaped USMNT’s latest Octagonal roster? Gregg Berhalter on fitness, conditions & COVID
“It’s mind over matter”: USMNT embrace ice-cold conditions for winter World Cup Qualifiers
What If The USMNT Isn’t Actually Embracing The Cold And… the 18 Conner Flemming
How Many Points Do the US Need to Qualify – the 18
FORTRESS COLUMBUS: Detailing the USMNT’s History of Success in Central Ohio
READY TO PLAY: How Lower.com Field and Allianz Field Have Prepped for USMNT’s Winter World Cup Qualifiers
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Five Things to Know About El Salvador
DETAILED EL SALVADOR ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS):
GOALKEEPERS (2): Kevin Carabantes (FAS; 4/0), Mario González (Alianza; 19/0)
DEFENDERS (7): Roberto Domínguez (Chalatenango; 48/1), Alexander Larin (Comunicaiones/GUA; 70/4), Ronaldo Rodriguez (FC Tulsa/USA; 18/0), Bryan Tamacas (Alianza; 52/1), Eduardo Vigil (Firpo; 7/0), Romulo Villalobos (Municipal Limeno; 5/1), Eriq Zavaleta (Unattached; 13/1)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Eric Calvillo (El Paso Locomotiv/USA; 3/0), Darwin Cerén (Houston Dynamo/USA; 81/4), Enrico Hernández (Vitesse/NED; 8/1), Bryan Landaverde (FAS; 5/0), Christian Martinez Mena (San Carlos/CRC; 7/0), Marvin Monterroza (Alianza; 40/2), Narciso Orellana (Alianza; 44/1), Kevin Reyes (FAS; 4/0), Alex Roldan (Seattle Sounders/USA; 12/2)
FORWARDS (5): Nelson Bonilla (Port FC/THA; 49/16), Cristian Gil (Metapan; 1/0), Jairo Henríquez (Aguila; 23/3), Walmer Martinez (Monterey Bay; 18/2), Joaquín Rivas (FC Tulsa/USA; 24/4)
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USA vs. El Salvador, 2022 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for
It’s an opportunity to take care of business as a new window opens.By Donald Wine II@blazindw Jan 26, 2022, 7:00am PST Stars and Stripes
a unique international window by resuming World Cup qualifying against El Salvador tomorrow at Lower.com Field in Columbus. The USMNT enter the match in 2nd place in the Octagonal standings with 3 more points in sight against La Selecta, who sit in 7th place in the table and in desperation mode. For the Americans, it’s a chance to take care of business at home and hopefully making the environment a cold and unwelcoming one for El Salvador. La Selecta is there to spoil the party, and they still are dangerous enough where they can have a moment that allows them to steal a result on the road.
W (1-0) – Bosnia & Herzegovina – Friendly
D (1-1) – Jamaica – World Cup Qualifying
W (2-0) – Mexico – World Cup Qualifying
W (2-1) – Costa Rica – World Cup Qualifying
L (0-1) – Panama World Cup Qualifying
L (0-1) – Chile – Friendly
D (1-1) – Ecuador – Friendly
L (1-2) – Panama – World Cup Qualifying
D (1-1) – Jamaica – World Cup Qualifying
L (0-1) – Bolivia – Friendly
What To Watch For
Embrace the environment. The sooner the team realizes that they have to play in the bitter cold, the better. They have to generate the energy out on the field in a different way, and they have to show they have the advantage early on. Make it a long night for El Salvador by punching them in the mouth with a cold fist from the opening kick.
Play power football. There will likely not be as many opportunities to get creative, and the elements may not allow for it at times. So, the next option is to just push the ball forward. The USMNT should prepare to be physical with El Salvador and use that muscle to get the ball going downfield and towards goal.
The midfield should be the best unit on the field. If the USMNT’s midfield can control the pace and the tempo of the game, the team will be very effective. They have to be the engine and set the tone for everyone on the field.
The USMNT are thin at a couple of positions while loaded at others, so it means that Gregg Berhalter will likely begin with what he thinks is his best lineup. This is what we predict Berhalter will list as his starting XI against El Salvador:When it comes to Zack Steffen’s competition with Matt Turner for starting goalkeeper, Steffen appears to have held onto the #1 job in Berhalter’s eyes. However, since he is listed as day-to-day due to back tightness, it’s Turner that gets the start in Columbus. Antonee Robinson and Sergiño Dest begin the match at left and right back, but don’t be surprised to see Robinson come off early in an effort to rest him for Canada, while Dest moves to the left side. In the middle, Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson have proved to be a terrific partnership, and they’re the starting centerbacks.In the middle, It’s M-M-A time, as Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, and Tyler Adams form that core. Adams will operate more defensively, leaving McKennie and Musah to be able to stretch forward or fall back where needed.Up front, Christian Pulisic will occupy his normal position of left wing, with Tim Weah back and giving the USMNT some speed on the right wing. Ricardo Pepi gets the start up front, but we should expect to see Brenden Aaronson, Gyasi Zardes, and possibly Paul Arriola to come on as substitutes depending on how the match progresses.
It’s a cold night in Columbus, but the team gets to light some fireworks on the field. It’s a 2-0 victory that is hard earned but well deserved.
How should the USMNT rotate for January WCQ?
The roster is out, and we’re past the halfway point in qualifying. Let’s discuss potential approaches.By Justin Moran@kickswish Jan 25, 2022, 8:00am PST
Gregg Berhalter’s 28-man USMNT roster has been revealed for the penultimate 2022 World Cup qualifying window. Here’s the schedule:
- El Salvador at home Thu, Jan 27 in Columbus, OH
- Canada away Sun, Jan 30 in Hamilton, Ontario
- Honduras at home Wed, Feb 2 in St. Paul, MN
Berhalter has said that since travel is less severe this window, it’s possible some players may be able to start all three games, which limits the need for rotation.
There are two major questions that essentially determine how you line up this window:
- Can we afford to rotate somewhat for the home games? If you think we can comfortably beat Honduras and/or El Salvador at home without our best players, that frees us up to go strong vs Canada. However, if you go strong and leave nothing to chance at home, you have to rotate at least a little for Canada.
- Do you play an “iceball” lineup in any of the games? Weather could be a huge factor both in Hamilton and St. Paul. If you choose to start a lineup specifically geared to playing a completely different style, that likely frees you up to use stronger lineup(s) in the other game(s).
Tyler Adams and the Yellow Card
Tyler Adams is carrying a yellow card. Next time he receives a yellow card, he will be suspended for the following match. There’s been a lot of game theory going around about whether Tyler should be rested to prevent missing an important game, or pick up a yellow on purpose in order to time his potential suspension optimally.
Resting Adams to avoid him missing a match is illogical. By sitting him on the bench, you’re doing exactly what the suspension would do, with the threat of future suspension unchanged. Having him take a yellow on purpose makes a little more sense, but then you could run into issues if he picks up any more yellows the rest of qualifying. Having him miss multiple games due to card accumulation is the worst possible scenario.
Weah’s fitness and vulnerability
Tim Weah returned to play just in time to make this roster. He has 89’ under his belt: a 22’ sub appearance, and a 67’ start. So he’s fit to play at least 60’. However, the weather may also be a limiting factor for young Timothy. Exposing a player who just recovered from a muscle injury to extended minutes in freezing-cold temps is a great way to re-injure him. Berhalter will need to be judicious in his use of the budding star attacker.
With all that said, here’s my approach. The home games are absolutely critical. They MUST be 3 points each. With that in mind, I start the strongest possible lineup in games 1 and 3. If El Salvador is completely overmatched in the first game, that allows substitutions to rest key players like Pulisic, Dest, and the MMA midfield trio, enabling them to play a larger role vs Canada, perhaps even starting.
Perhaps nearly the entire team will be able to start all 3 games without performances suffering. That would be fantastic, but I have my doubts. So I’m laying out a heavily rotated squad for Canada, with hopes of more of the A-team being fit and available. I don’t go with a full “iceball” lineup for Canada, but it is a different approach.
What do you think? How would you rotate the squad this window? Let us know in the comments.
USMNT favors World Cup qualifiers in frigid temperatures, but will chilly climate yield home-field advantage?
2:14 PM ET Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent ESPN
Every run-up to a World Cup qualifying window has its area of focus. Usually it centers on player availability, or the opponent. But the upcoming trio of games for the United States men’s national team against El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio; Canada in Hamilton, Ontario; and Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota, has a special point of emphasis.The weather, and just how much of an advantage it might provide for the U.S. team.To the surprise of no one, it will be cold. It is late January (and early February), after all. According to Accuweather.com, the forecast for Thursday’s match (7 p.m. ET, watch LIVE on ESPN2) against the Cuscatlecos is expected to be in the low 20s with light winds and a chance of intermittent snow. Slightly colder but dry conditions are expected for the Canada match. The encounter with Honduras is forecast to have temperatures go down to 9 degrees, with wind gusts up to 17 mph and a 94% chance of snow, although obviously much can change between now and then.With those conditions come questions. How will preparation be affected? Will the players be negatively impacted? How well will the respective fields — at least in those venues where the U.S. has control — hold up?The reality is that any time it comes to selecting venues for World Cup qualifiers, there are innumerable moving parts. There’s venue availability, the state of the field, the impact of travel and yes, the weather.
Mind games in venue selection
That travel issue is one of special importance to U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter. Berhalter is well known for wanting to keep travel time to an absolute minimum, whether it be flight times or bus rides to and from practice. And yes, Berhalter has considerable say as to where the U.S. ends up playing.”If we were the Senate, the manager would have 51% of the vote,” U.S. Soccer’s director of events, Paul Marstellar, said in October.In this case, with Canada hosting the middle match of the window, the U.S. team’s choice of venues was dependent on where that game was held. When it looked as if Canada might opt for Vancouver, the U.S. Soccer Federation had San Jose, California, and Portland, Oregon, lined up.But when the Canada Soccer Association opted for Tim Hortons Field — 42 miles southwest of Toronto — the calculus changed and Columbus and St. Paul were selected because of their proximity to Hamilton.Major East Coast metropolitan areas have been precluded from World Cup qualifying matches despite being closer to travel for the European-based players, which lends credence to the notion that the U.S. venue selection process looks like a bit of overthinking. But Marstellar adds that the demographics and the popularity of rival teams in those areas inhibit a pro-USMNT atmosphere. “Between [Mexico and] Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, those are also games that are challenging in terms of venue selection. Given the number of folks that they have throughout the country, which is why all the games against those teams end up being in, you know 20,000-seat MLS-specific venues,” Marstellar added.And while New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., all have newer soccer-specific stadiums, the experience of some home qualifiers from years past seems to stick in the collective memory. Honduras fans have a history of showing up in droves, with the 2001 win at RFK Stadium for the Catrachos as well as a narrow defeat in 2009 at Chicago’s Soldier Field being the most prominent examples.And then there was the 2-0 loss to Costa Rica during the doomed 2018 qualifying campaign. That result at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, has also taken on outsized importance in the discussions about venue selection. Then-manager Bruce Arena criticized the choice, even though it was a night when the U.S. had considerable home support in terms of fans but the team performed so poorly it only sounded as if the crowd was being shouted down by the Ticos‘ faithful.
‘Feels like extra weight’
Yet the U.S. obviously feels it isn’t in the position to be taking any chances. The limited number of seats in Columbus and St. Paul should guarantee a pro-U.S. crowd, and Berhalter has continually talked up the perceived advantage of playing in the cold. Many of the U.S. players perform for European clubs, while the vast majority of Salvadoran and Honduran players play for teams in warm-weather climates.”This is an opportunity for us to gain an advantage on our opponents,” he said during a Zoom call with reporters. “They’re all coming from the equator, and it’s going to be really difficult for them to deal with these conditions.”There haven’t been all that many occasions when the U.S. could play the cold-weather card. Since 2000, only four U.S-hosted World Cup qualifiers have seen the temperature hit 40 or lower. Included in that quartet are a pair of iconic games: the 2001 encounter in Columbus with Mexico (the first installment of the Dos a Cero chronicles), and the “Snow-clasico” against Costa Rica at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado, in 2013. The temperature at kickoff of both of those games was 29.USMNT and World Cup veterans Jermaine Jones and Herculez Gomez, who both took part in that match against Costa Rica, had differing responses to playing in the cold. “If you come out to warm up, or you walk out to check the field, it feels cold,” Jones said. “But then if you really got into just getting warm, and doing the warm-up and do all that stuff, then I think it’s just getting your body up to temperature. Your body gets ready, you’re ready to play.”Gomez felt the impact to a greater degree.”You feel it in your lungs. You feel it in your face. It feels like you have something on you,” he said. “It feels like there’s extra weight.”Yet both agreed that the challenge is more mental than physical,”If you’ve never experienced it, it’s a grind,” Gomez said. “Athletes being creatures of habit, a lot of athletes are superstitious. A lot of athletes have routines. A lot of athletes do the same thing, repetition. And when you change something like that, it’s an adjustment period. it’s definitely something that on the fly is very difficult to handle.”
Preventing another Snow-clasico?
The USSF’s own Recognize to Recover guidelines for playing in cold weather, combined with the forecast, indicate there is a “high risk of cold-related illness”. But USSF Chief Medical Officer Dr. George Chiampas is confident that the conditions can be managed, and that things could be a lot worse. From his vantage point, dealing with cold, dry conditions with light winds is easier than coping with altitude or the twin obstacles of heat and humidity. In the upcoming matches, the players will be constantly moving, and there are ways to mitigate the cold, be it layers or Vaseline on the feet. Staying hydrated is key as well.”These are all things we can manage,” Chiampas said of the cold.There is an impulse to think that players are more susceptible to muscle pulls in cold weather, but Chiampas said, “I don’t think the data is there to support that. I think what we always get worried about is probably getting cleated, getting stepped on, a tackle. Those collisions in colder temperatures are probably going to be a little bit more painful.”The biggest challenge might be keeping the players on the bench warm. While there will be layers and blankets, the key is making sure the players get a proper warm-up and get their body temperature raised. Do those two things and any concerns about muscle pulls are drastically reduced.”We’re going to obviously have to adjust a little bit and think through our warm-ups,” Chiampas said. “Obviously, we’re limited with the number of people we can warm up at a time, so you may have to see them get up multiple times. Traditionally, you see one group and then a second group. So you may see a little bit more frequency there.”Given the U.S. team’s confidence in managing the temperature, focus is shifting to field conditions. The impulse is to think that the game won’t be pretty, which would seem to play into El Salvador’s blue-collar approach.”I don’t think you want to dirty the game against a team like El Salvador,” Gomez said. “I think you want the elements to be favorable for both because that means it’s favorable for [the U.S.]. I really don’t think taking El Salvador to Columbus is an advantage for the US. men’s national team. If anything, you dirty the playing field for them.”This is where the undersoil heating systems at Lower.com Field and Allianz Field will give the U.S. an advantage, or so the thinking goes. The idea is that as long as the field isn’t frozen, then the U.S.’s technical advantage should still be in force. The system at Lower.com Field consists of three boilers that pump a mixture of water and glycol through 10 miles of what is called PEX piping that lies about 10 inches beneath the surface of the field. Ben Jackson, the director of grounds at Lower.com Field, said that while the stadium only opened last July, the undersoil heating system has been running continually since late October.
“If we didn’t have that [system], right now the field would be frozen,” Jackson said. He added, “We were able to raise the temperature up and push growth and recover and get everything back to a really good spot by the end of December. I think it’s probably going to be in the best state that it’s been throughout the year.”One potential wrinkle is that snow is expected to fall in the Columbus area through Monday evening, up to several inches. Jackon anticipates that while much of the snow will melt off, some kind of removal — be it mechanical or manual — will be required.
“We can just take some shovels out there, just do kind of an all hands on deck and throw a bunch of people at it to shovel stuff off,” he said.Snow on game day — which is what is forecast for the Honduras game — would be a different story. Although the heating system would help, it wouldn’t necessarily be enough to prevent snow from collecting on the playing surface.”[Dick’s Sporting Goods Park] had the same thing and look what happened in the Snow-clasico,” said Gomez about undersoil heating systems.Adding precipitation to the equation wouldn’t be beneficial to the players in that adding damp conditions would make it more difficult for them to maintain their body temperature. If the Snow-clasico is anything to go by, a slugfest would likely ensue. Not exactly the perfct recipe for a match the U.S. is heavily favored to win.”It’s concentration at the utmost. It’s not easy,” Gomez said.The current crop of U.S. players, for its part, is embracing the challenge. Defender Walker Zimmerman spoke of wanting to play in something “iconic.” Securing maximum points, and moving closer to World Cup qualification, will no doubt suffice.
Tyler Adams: USMNT midfield can “dominate games” with Weston McKennie & Yunus Musah
By Charles Boehm @cboehm MLS/com Tuesday, Jan 25, 2022, 04:56 PM
When the US men’s national team gathered in Nashville for the start of the Concacaf Octagonal World Cup qualifying round nearly five months ago, influential midfielder Tyler Adams set what seemed like logical expectations for his talented side’s opening matches – visits to El Salvador and Honduras sandwiched around a home date with Canada.“We’re looking for a nine-point week, bottom line,” said Adams. “We want to set the standard.”
That trio of games turned out to be tricky, with a frustrated USMNT forced to settle for draws in the first two matches before requiring a ferocious second-half comeback to beat Honduras and instead come away with five points.
Perhaps head coach Gregg Berhalter thought Adams’ honesty backfired, because he and his players have constantly, insistently repeated variations on the phrase “one game at a time” ever since. That mantra has returned in force this week as the Yanks prepare to meet that same trio of opponents in the reverse fixtures, starting with Thursday’s clash with Los Cuscatlecos at Lower.com Field in Columbus (7 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN,).
“I mean, I will tell you right away, I don’t ever go into a game and say I want to tie or not get maximum points. For me, the whole point of playing and competing is you want to win and get three points,” Adams told reporters in a Tuesday afternoon media availability.“[But] when you start to look too far ahead, and I’m already thinking about playing in a game against Canada, that’s overlooking a good opponent in El Salvador, where we went to El Salvador and drew. So I don’t want to have the mindset of looking too far ahead and creating a distraction for myself. I want to stay focused on exactly what’s in front of me and what the aim of the target is.”El Salvador and Honduras are currently stuck at the bottom of the Ocho standings and Sunday’s visit to Canada at Tim Horton’s Field in Hamilton is a much-anticipated meeting of the eight-team group’s current leaders. But taking maximum points at home has long been considered central to the recipe for successful qualification, making the game-by-game mindset a must in the USMNT’s eyes.Nonetheless, the squad is riding a strong undercurrent of optimism and belief, thanks in large part to the performances and playing time many key contributors are enjoying at club level.
Antonee Robinson is a regular contributor for a surging Fulham side currently five points clear atop the English Championship. Chris Richards (Hoffenheim), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) and Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg) have racked up quality minutes for prominent European clubs this season and many among the United States’ MLS-based contingent are coming off career years.“The expectations are different with the league we’re [Fulham] in at the moment, but playing in a winning team that goes on and feels like they should be winning every game, dominating every game, you do have a different mindset and it’s definitely a confidence booster,” said Robinson on Monday. “And that is similar to how I feel with the US, because I’ll back the team that we have against any other team that we’re going to play against. So the confidence I have in everyone else and myself on the pitch is a lot higher.”Perhaps none are flying as high as the “MMA” central-midfield of Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah.Adams has earned the trust of Dominico Tedesco since the Italian-German manager took charge of RB Leipzig in the wake of Jesse Marsch’s departure. McKennie is “probably in the form of his life,” in Berhalter’s words, doing a bit of everything – including some clutch goals – for Juventus. And Musah has clambered his way up the pecking order at CF Valencia, starting in their last three La Liga matches and scoring his first goal of the season at Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
“Right now Weston is scoring goals for fun, so I’m going to hold him to it and put a little bit of extra pressure on him that he needs to score some goals now,” said Adams with a smile. “So every time we get a set piece and there’s a good delivery, I’m thinking that he’s going to score. And as far as Yunus, obviously, he’s had a great performance and a big game for his club and to see him playing regularly now at Valencia is super important as well.
“I think form coming into competitions like this is always super important because you come in with this confidence and a little bit of swagger and you help dictate games at the end of the day. And being a young team, I think it’s important that all of our players have confidence.”The MMA trio have been ferociously effective when all are fit and available for Berhalter’s selection, though that probably hasn’t been the case often enough for the coach’s liking during Ocho play.
When unveiling the current roster last week, Berhalter suggested that the circumstances of this winter window might allow players to start in all three qualifiers, a heavy level of use both Robinson and Adams said they would welcome – even in the heart of a heavily congested club calendar.“I think when the three of us are out on the field, we feel like we have a strong chemistry and we’re able to dominate games and that’s important,” said the New York Red Bulls product of his engine-room partnership.
“But exactly like Antonee said, we have great confidence in our group when we’re playing at a high level and we’re all focused on that one goal, and what we need to do, and not looking too far ahead is when we’ve always achieved our best results.”
“It’s mind over matter”: USMNT embrace ice-cold conditions for winter World Cup Qualifiers
By Charles Boehm @cboehm Monday, Jan 24, 2022, 05:37 PM
The pictures speak for themselves, driving home both the extreme conditions and historical symmetry.On their first full day of an enormous week-plus of three crucial Concacaf World Cup qualifiers in seven days, the US men’s national team frolicked on a snow-shrouded pitch at the Columbus Crew’s OhioHealth Performance Center, just a stone’s throw west of the field where the program’s “La Guerra Fria” and “Dos a Cero” legends were born at Historic Crew Stadium.As the white stuff fell, the mercury scarcely climbed above the freezing point all day in the Ohio state capital. Similar temperatures are forecast for Thursday, when the USMNT host El Salvador at Lower.com Field (7:30 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN). Over the next few nights, the lows are slated to dip deep into the single digits in Fahrenheit.But the Yanks are here by choice, and they insist there’s nowhere they’d rather be. It’s the start of a rare midwinter window of qualifying action, and in pursuit of any possible psychological or climatological advantage whatsoever, the USMNT are leaning into the theme. Way, way in.“I was just outside today training and it’s really cold, and my feet felt cold,” said Austria-based midfielder and Philadelphia Union product Brenden Aaronson in a Monday afternoon media availability. “But listen, I’m used to it, I just got back from where it was snowing last game. So I think a lot of these guys are used to it, playing in Europe, and most of the MLS guys, I would imagine. So yeah, I think we’re ready to go.”Gregg Berhalter’s squad wants to be prepared for the icy conditions awaiting them in Sunday’s visit to Hamilton, Ontario to face Canada at Tim Horton’s Field, a clash of the Octagonal’s top two sides at the moment. But their bigger priority is making El Salvador and Honduras, next Tuesday’s adversaries at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minnesota, as uncomfortable as possible in pursuit of a full six points from this window’s two home dates.
“It’s just about embracing the cold. Get ready, understand that mentality and what it takes to succeed in those moments,” goalkeeper Matt Turner, a New Jersey native who’s familiar with the chill as a longtime regular for the New England Revolution, said on Friday. “And just have fun with it. I mean, this is America. This is the beauty. We could play in 90 degrees and we can play in 0 degrees in the same time of year. It’s a pretty cool thing. So we’re excited. We’re looking forward to embracing it.”
That’s pretty clearly become a chief talking point for the USMNT.“I look back at some of my first times watching the men’s national team, and seeing that [2013 Snow Clasico] game in Colorado against Costa Rica sticks out in my head. I was even talking to my wife over the break. I was like, ‘I want it to be freezing. I want it to be cold. I want it to snow,’” said defender Walker Zimmerman. “I want to be a part of something so iconic that I saw and really remember growing up. That’s exciting to me.”
On Monday English-American fullback Antonee “Jedi” Robinson harked back to fond memories from the festive seasons of his youth.“It’s something I think everyone’s looking forward to. Growing up in England, I’m not a stranger to snow,” said the Fulham standout. “Kind of takes me back to when I was younger, I remember Boxing Day, it was a big thing in my Sunday league team, we used to play ‘dads vs. lads,’ so all the sons would be playing against the dads on a snowy pitch. That’s some of the happiest football I have ever played.”The natural rejoinder to this framing is to point out that the United States possess deeper player pools and superior talent to their winter guests, and risk shrinking that gap by flirting with conditions that could slow play or hamper peak performance. A hint of that possibility briefly crept into view when Aaronson was asked about his tactics for managing the temperatures.“There’s no real way of getting around how cold you’re going to be,” he said. “I think just kind of coming to terms with it and having little thingsyou can do, like getting hand warmers or maybe wearing double socks in the game, maybe little things you can do. But there’s no, really, way of getting past that. I think it’s just you got to get warm as fast as you can on the field and all the adrenaline starts to kick in, and then you’re ready to go in the game.”Berhalter has said he’s been assured that the heated pitches in Columbus and Saint Paul will ensure good field conditions, plus that his players are familiar with the cold. And on this region’s road to the World Cup, gamesmanship is widely perceived as a near-necessity, a box to be checked, and slyly.After weathering myriad forms of it on trips to trips south over the decades, from sweltering tropical heat to pulled fire alarms and fireworks and loud all-night parties in hotel parking lots, the USMNT consider situations like this to be a rare chance for them to return the favor.“It’s mind over matter,” said Berhalter on Friday upon naming his 28-man roster.
“This is an opportunity for us to gain an advantage on our opponents. They’re all coming from the equator, and it’s going to be really difficult for them to deal with these conditions. They’re going to take a couple breaths in and it’s going to hit them like they’d never been before. And our guys who have been playing in Europe, in cooler temperatures, and most of the guys here have played in cool temperatures, will be ready to go.”
What shaped USMNT’s latest Octagonal roster? Gregg Berhalter on fitness, conditions & COVID
By Charles Boehm @cboehm
The US men’s national team are about to immerse themselves in deep-winter conditions for three massive World Cup qualifiers as a global pandemic continues to rage, and their head coach has picked a large squad he believes can embrace that environment and push the program to the doorstep of Qatar 2022.
Hosting El Salvador in Columbus (Jan. 27) and Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota (Feb. 2) on either side of a top-of-the-table clash with Canada in Hamilton, Ontario (Jan. 30), the USMNT will spend the next week and a half in what’s forecast to be bone-chilling cold. But for Gregg Berhalter, that’s something to celebrate, not dread.
“Thinking about the weather conditions, this is when I think about historic World Cup qualifiers in our history. And certainly the two that come to mind are the game in 2001 against Mexico in Columbus [dubbed “La Guerra Fria”], and then the [2013 “Snow Clasico”] game in Denver against Costa Rica, where the weather is playing a key role in really giving us the upper hand,” said Berhalter on Friday afternoon as he named his 28-player roster for the Concacaf Octagonal matches.
“So we expect to embrace the conditions, enjoy the conditions and really be able to take it to our opponents in this.”
The former center back continues to wave off concerns about dangerously low temperatures, preferring to emphasize the home-field advantage it can offer against adversaries from tropical locales.
“It’s a mindset, it really is,” Berhalter declared. “I played in Germany when it was -15 Celsius, -20 Celsius, and I played with short sleeves. And the reason why I did that is because it’s a mindset. It’s mind over matter in this case, once you get running, once you get sweating, I think you’re good to go.
“Just as all the times we go down to Central America and we’re playing in the humidity and the heat and sometimes the smog and the altitude at times, this is an opportunity for us to gain an advantage on our opponents. They’re all coming from the equator, and it’s going to be really difficult for them to deal with these conditions.”
COVID concerns loom
Despite US and Canadian leagues being in their offseason, nearly half of the rostered players (13, to be precise) are MLS-based standouts already in the January camp that just concluded in Phoenix, Arizona. That decision reflects the coaching staff’s confidence in the work that group has put in, as well as concerns about others being exposed to the highly-infectious Omicron variant of COVID-19 on their trans-Atlantic travels.
Berhalter revealed that one player, Venezia midfielder Gianluca Busio, has already had to bow out of this month’s action due to a case of COVID, and he says he expects more positive tests to crop up in the coming days; additional players are on standby to join the team in mid-window if needed. Further, regular starters Tyler Adams, Zack Steffen and DeAndre Yedlin are carrying yellow cards that mean their next such caution will trigger a one-game suspension.
“When I look at the threat of COVID and how quickly this new variant has been spreading, we can expect guys to come into camp and test positive, that’s just the nature of it,” said the coach. “So we need some protection on that. When we think about the potential of playing three games in seven days, that’s enough right there to need a bigger squad. We think about yellow-card accumulation, we can be missing some guys from that; potential for injuries.
“And then finally, any potential wear and tear that the [artificial] turf in Hamilton can bring. So that’s exactly why we increased the roster size a little bit and we feel that we’ll have enough cover no matter what happens in this window … We think fitness won’t be an issue in this camp.”
Berhalter offered nuanced answers on the topic of lineup rotation, noting that the roster is heavy in certain areas, namely winger and right back, in order to provide ample options where key contributors may not be at maximum fitness.
“There’s some positions that we purposely are loaded in for,” he said, “that we don’t expect the players to be 90 minutes fit, we expect to be approaching it in a platoon type of method where we put guys on, we take guys off and we work that way. As long as they can go, they can play, when they can’t give any more, then sub them out. When I look at the winger position in particular, we have Christian [Pulisic], Brenden [Aaronson], Timmy [Weah], Paul [Arriola] and Jordan Morris, who are more than capable of playing that position.”Yet he also contended that the circumstances allow for key players to log heavy minutes in all three games. And he confirmed that the entire group is eligible to travel to the Canada match, a signal that everyone is fully vaccinated and able to pass border regulations.“I’m not sure you can’t play all three games. If you think about this, our travel’s minimized, we have a 50-minute flight up into Canada, then another two-hour flight to Minnesota,” said Berhalter. “It’s no different than a player performing for his club three games in a week, so I’m not ruling out a guy being able to play three games in a week.”
Should the USMNT boss’ words prove decisive, they could move atop the Octagonal this window. The Yanks sit second 15 points from eight games, a chance to prove adverse conditions can provide an upper hand.
How Many Points The USMNT Needs To Qualify For The 2022 World Cup
TRAVIS YOESTINGJ ANUARY 24, 2022 the `18
WITH CONCACAF WORLD CUP QUALIFYING REACHING ITS CLIMAX, WE ENUMERATE WHAT THE U.S. NEEDS TO BOOK A TRIP TO QATAR.
After the debacle of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the focus and attention on the U.S. men’s national team’s qualification efforts for Qatar 2022 have been greater than ever. What was once taken for granted is now the source of constant anxiety. As we near the end of Concacaf qualifying, we explain exactly what USMNT needs to qualify for World Cup 2022. Concacaf 2022 World Cup qualifying — at least for the U.S. — consists of a single round-robin group stage against seven other Concacaf nations. The USMNT plays seven home games and seven away games over the course of seven months, a schedule condensed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The top three teams qualify for the Qatar World Cup while the fourth-place team enters single-match playoff against the top team from Oceania.Here’s the latest on what USMNT needs to qualify for World Cup 2022, which we’ll update throughout the qualification process.
What USMNT Needs To Qualify For World Cup 2022
Through Jan. 26
Currently the U.S. is in second place in the eight-team group with 15 points, one behind Canada. Mexico and Panama are right behind at 14 points before a considerable drop to fifth-place Costa Rica at nine. We are back! More #CWCQ Final Round action coming our way this week, and this is where every national team stands.-. While there are countless permutations in play, the USMNT can qualify outright for Qatar 2022 in this window — if everything goes perfectly. If the USMNT won all three of its matches, it would reach 24 points. That would be enough to qualify if Panama loses all three of its matches and Costa Rica gets five or fewer points in this window and Jamaica fails to win all three of its matches. That would leave fourth place at 14 points, 10 behind the U.S., which at that point would be ensured of a top-three finish. The same could be true if Mexico loses all three of its matches, but because Mexico and Panama play each other on Feb. 2, it’s impossible for both nations to lose all three matches. Los Canaleros have a hugely important window with matches against the two teams right behind them (Costa Rica on nine, Jamaica with seven) and the showdown with Mexico.Intensity keeps rising as the #CWCQ Final Round reaches its boiling point. Here are the upcoming matches in our triple game week:It’s more likely the USMNT will head into the qualifiers on March 24, 27 and 30 still needing results. Here’s a rundown on what the USMNT needs to qualify for World Cup 2022 regardless of other results.
How Many Points USMNT Needs To Qualify For World Cup 2022
If the USMNT wins out, it’s going to Qatar, as simple as that. Of course, that’s easier said than done. How many points the USMNT needs to qualify is a trickier question to answer. Because teams behind the U.S. play each other, it’s impossible for all of them to win every match. The U.S. has a little bit of breathing room, currently six points ahead of fifth place, the first spot that goes home. Even fourth place is almost as good as qualifying this year because even Oceania’s best team, New Zealand, is ranked 110th in the world, while the lowest-ranked team in this Concacaf qualifying stage is Honduras at 76th (the U.S. is currently 11th). In October, I calculated the estimated total points that would be needed to qualify outright to be 21.2, with 18.4 needed to finish fourth. By those computations, the USMNT needs just two more wins to feel good about qualifying for Qatar, which is certainly attainable with two home matches this window. If the U.S. can beat El Salvador and Honduras in Ohio and Minnesota, respectively, even a defeat to Canada would leave it with 21 points. But those calculations were based on historical results. There has been an inordinate number of draws this time and the entire table is clumped more closely together; Panama’s impressive start has created a large gap between fourth and fifth while making the gap from first to fourth just two points. This means two wins could be more than enough or it could be not nearly enough. Currently, the pace for the top four is as follows with points per game and estimated total points based on results so far.
Concacaf World Cup Qualifying Points Per Game (Extrapolated Total Points)
- Canada — 2.0 (28)
- United States — 1.875 (26.25)
- Mexico — 1.75 (24.5)
- Panama — 1.75 (24.5)
- Costa Rica — 1.125 (15.75)
- Jamaica — 0.875 (12.25)
- El Salvador — 0.75 (10.5)
- Honduras — 0.375 (5.25)
Based on this, the USMNT must do better than Costa Rica’s pace of 1.125, which would extrapolate to 16 points. To qualify outright (top 3) the U.S. would need 24.5 points. By that quotient, the U.S. needs just one more draw to ensure a top-four place and three more wins plus a draw to ensure a top-three place. Again, this is all based on teams following their current form. If we did that the rest of the way, there’d be no need to continue the qualifiers. Things will change, so it’s impossible to say this early exactly how many points the USMNT will need, especially with the U.S. still to play every team except Jamaica once more.Definitively, we can estimate the number of points needed based on potential results, as shown below. The “at most” category represents the most possible points needed based on a worst-case scenario of results for the U.S. elsewhere; the “at least” category represents the best-case scenario, which is highly unlikely to transpire with six matches left but could technically happen.
What USMNT Needs To Qualify For World Cup 2022 (At Most)
- Games Remaining: 6
- Points Available: 18
- Points Needed For Top 3: 16
- Points Needed For Top 4: 12
What USMNT Needs To Qualify For World Cup 2022 (At Least)
- Games Remaining: 6
- Points Available: 18
- Points Needed For Top 3: 3
- Points Needed For Top 4: 0
The exact number of points the USMNT will need is somewhere in between all the aforementioned scenarios, somewhere in between three and 16 points, probably closer to 10 points for top three and three points for top four, as suggested initially. If Costa Rica or Jamaica make a surge, as many expect they might given their talent, and if Panama struggles, as many expect it might given its talent, these numbers will fluctuate over the coming weeks. What we do know is the USMNT doesn’t want to go into its final match needing a result, as World Cup qualifying ends with a trip to Costa Rica, a place where the U.S. has never gotten a point from a final-round World Cup qualifying match.Check back here throughout the Concacaf World Cup qualifying process as we explain what USMNT needs to qualify for World Cup 2022. And if you spot any errors in our calculations, feel free to let us know and we’ll get it corrected, because we were nerdy liberal arts majors, not nerdy math majors.For more on how to watch the USMNT’s Concacaf World Cup qualifiers, click here.
What If The USMNT Isn’t Actually Embracing The Cold And This Was All A Terrible Idea?
CONNOR FLEMINGJANUARY 25, 2022 AS QUALIFYING BEGINS AGAIN I FIND MYSELF WORRYING ABOUT THE WEATHER.
It is, we’re learning, a question that can be framed in countless ways — “Will it be an advantage? But will it really be an advantage? How will you prepare? How will you mentally prepare? Will you put hot chicken broth in your water bottle so it doesn’t freeze?” — but really only ever has one definitive plan of action: Deal with it. n Sunday, the USMNT started arriving in Columbus, Ohio, to collectively grow an extra layer of skin ahead of Thursday night’s World Cup qualifier against El Salvador at Lower.com Field, where the forecast calls for a pleasant day of partly cloudy skies and a high of 34° F.The squad and its legion of The Athletic writers, however, are seemingly preparing to discover the Northwest Passage. Brenden Aaronson said Monday that his feet felt cold, leading him to consider wearing two socks — great for warmth, not so great for feeling the ball at your feet. Antonee Robinson said it was going to be like “Dads vs. Lads,” so it’s possible that he’s not really up to speed on anything right now. Meanwhile Gregg Berhalter is proposing that he rub down the entire squad’s feet with Vaseline like a sort of CONCACAF Christ figure.
It’s a mentality. The hype for the weather in Columbus, Ontario and Saint Paul has become absurd, to the point where the mythos of it all has clouded the fact that horrible weather usually produces horrible results. The earliest recorded uses of the winter home-field advantage come from warfare, where a superior, aggressive force is brought to its knees by a ragtag band of defenders and the weather. Perhaps the most famous example is the French invasion of Russia in 1812, when 500,000 soldiers under the command of Napoleon were routed by the Generals Janvier and Février (January and February), amounting to losses of around 380,000. But why is the USMNT — second in the Octagonal — taking on the role of the besieged underdog against the nations in seventh (El Salvador) and eighth (Honduras)? Our players are more used to it, sure, but our players are also much better than those representing La Selecta and Los Catrachos. Shouldn’t we be looking to emphasize our technical quality rather than looking to play with a depressurized ball that’s assumed all the qualities of a rock? When we look back on the most famous of cold-weather games — the Snow Clasico in Colorado — one point that’s largely forgotten in the romanticism of playing without lines and the dusting of Jermaine Jones’ afro is that it was a good call because Costa Rica was better than us. They knew it, we knew it. That Ticos squad went on to the 2014 World Cup and never lost a match despite playing Italy, England, Uruguay, Greece and the Netherlands (losing to the Oranje in a shootout), so staging the match in unplayable conditions was a stroke of genius. But do we really fear Alex Roldan and Alberth Elis that much? Do we really think that Sergiño Dest is going to be enjoying life in the frozen tundra? This is such a massive window against relatively easy opponents, and getting nine points would effectively book America’s place in Qatar, but have we made it more difficult on ourselves?These are my musings as I prepare to attend the match in Minnesota, where the current forecast is for 12° F and snow showers, and I’d be lying if I didn’t personally agree entirely with Walker Zimmerman’s sentiment: “I want it to be freezing. I want it to be cold. I want it to snow.”I just don’t want to have to go to the Azteca and San José next window needing positive results.
Adversity Isn’t Limited to USMNT in World Cup Qualifying Window
The conditions that both are and are not under the U.S.’s control aren’t optimal, but then again, its opponents are dealing with plenty to overcome, too.
- AVI CREDITOR SI 1/26/21
It has been established quite emphatically that it’s going to be cold. Nearly half of the squad is out of season. Some key players are hurt. Others have their club careers in the balance, with MLS trades and potential European transfers swirling. One player has had travel issues just getting to camp. Generally speaking, the conditions are not ideal for the U.S. men’s national team entering the penultimate World Cup qualifying window. It’s not a vacuum, though. The U.S.’s fortunes over the course of the next three matches are tied to those of their opponents as well. And those opponents are not exactly operating under optimum circumstances, either.Take Thursday’s opponent El Salvador, for instance, a team that held the U.S. to a scoreless draw in the opening match of World Cup qualifying but has only five points since and has been all but reduced to playing spoiler. It’s not going to be accustomed to the frigid temperatures of Ohio, nor is it slated to be entirely at full strength (El Gráfico reports the two center backs who started vs. the U.S. in September may not be available Thursday). Last-place Honduras, which the U.S. will play to close the window, is also all but eliminated, is on its second coach of the Concacaf Octagonal and, like its fellow Central American nation, should not be playing at its peak in the Minnesota cold. That’s the logic from the USMNT side, which systematically chose its two home locations for this window by prioritizing shorter travel for the middle match—at first-place Canada, in Hamilton, Ontario—while creating layers of complications for its other opponents and ensuring a partisan crowd. “We know a large portion of our guys are playing in Europe. They’re playing in cold weather right now,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said last month. “They should be able to adapt pretty nicely.”If it’s tough for us, and we have guys playing in Europe in cold weather, what’s it going to be like for Honduras, who’s coming from Honduras midweek, coming from 85-, 90-degree temperatures?”
There’s an acknowledgement that forcing the U.S. players to also contend with the cold isn’t ideal, either. But then again, braving and taming the elements while subjecting opponents from warmer climates to them has traditionally been a badge of honor for this team, a rite of passage of sorts. Welcoming Mexico to Columbus in the cold months began with “La Guerra Fria” over 20 years ago, and playing Costa Rica through a Colorado blizzard set the stage for the famous “Snowclasico” of the 2014 qualifying cycle. These are the games that can strengthen a team’s bond if things go right, and while it’s rare to find a player who will admit to preferring elements like that if given the choice, it’s not exactly a foreign concept for some in U.S. camp.“It’s obviously cold out here, but something that I’ve been used to growing up in New York and playing academy games throughout the winter on turf fields,” U.S. star midfielder Tyler Adams said from Columbus, where the temperature at first kick Thursday is slated to be in the high 20s. “You’re used to this, pushing the snow to the side and being able to play and enjoy it. The cold is not going to stop us from doing what we do. If anything, it’s just going to cause us to run a little bit more to stay warm.”Added center back Walker Zimmerman: “I was even talking to my wife over the break. I was like, you know what? I want it to be freezing. I want it to be cold. I want the snow. I want to be a part of something so iconic that I saw and I really remember growing up. And that’s exciting to me. So I think the guys are ready to embrace it, embrace the cold. And it will be a really good environment for us fan-wise, as well.”The cold is no obstacle for Canada, which enjoyed a famous win over Mexico in frigid Edmonton at a stadium that was, temporarily anyway, renamed the “Iceteca” as a nod to Mexico’s Estadio Azteca. But the current first-place side will be missing its top attraction, with Bayern Munich left back Alphonso Davies out as he recovers from myocarditis following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. The coronavirus has impacted another key cog for the Canadians as well, with midfielder Stephen Eustáquio recently testing positive. His availability for Canada this window remains in question. Nine of Canada’s 25 players are based in MLS and thus facing the same out-of-season dilemma that 13 of the U.S. players have been combatting. Two key components out wide, Tajon Buchanan and Richie Laryea, just completed transfers to new clubs overseas and are in the midst of that transition. There’s also the matter of Canada’s home-field advantage. The crowd surrounding the turf field at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Stadium has been limited to 50% capacity due to COVID-19 protocols, with the Canadian Soccer Association canceling and refunding all of the 24,000 tickets it had sold before reselling 12,000. It’ll be loud and partisan, just not as much as initially planned.This entire qualifying process has been about navigating through adversity. The three-game windows have put more stress on squads than any previous qualifying campaigns. For the U.S., specifically, it has never had what most would consider its ideal XI all on the field together, not during qualifying or before it. You’ll often hear coaches talking about how their teams need to suffer to find success. There will be plenty of suffering over the course of the next week, physically and psychologically. The U.S. is banking on the fact that its ability to absorb all of that exceeds that of its three opponents, and by doing so takes the Americans that much closer to the hotter locale that has been its target destination all this time: the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.“Understand that mentality and what it takes to succeed in those moments,” said goalkeeper Matt Turner, who is in line to start with Zack Steffen suffering from back tightness and yet to join the team from Man City. “So for me, it’s embracing the cold. It’s keep up my focus sharp for the moments when I’m called into action and just have fun with it. I mean, this is America. This is the beauty. We could play in 90 degrees and we can play in zero degrees in the same time of year. It’s a pretty cool thing.”
READY TO PLAY: HOW LOWER.COM FIELD AND ALLIANZ FIELD HAVE PREPPED FOR USMNT’S WINTER WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS
EXPERT GROUNDSKEEPERS HAVE WORKED FOR MONTHS TO ENSURE FIELDS WILL BE IN GREAT SHAPE FOR THE WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS IN COLUMBUS AND ST. PAUL
JANUARY 25 2022
Qualification for the World Cup in Concacaf is always a difficult gauntlet. Each of the region’s top teams use whatever edge they can to create a unique home field advantage. Mexico plays nearly every home game at Estadio Azteca, a legendary venue that sits more than 7,000 feet above sea level and requires teams to deal with the effects of altitude. Central American squads like Honduras and Panama host games in the middle of the day amidst sweltering tropical heat and humidity.
This month, the same gamesmanship will be deployed by the United States. While the U.S. Men’s National Team has enjoyed raucous home crowds through the first eight games of the Octagonal, the new January international window provides opportunity for another edge: winter weather in the middle of the country.The USA will play both its home games this slate in the bitter cold of Columbus, Ohio — a familiar fortress with plenty of history — and St. Paul, Minn. — a potential new polar stronghold. “We expect to embrace the conditions, enjoy the conditions, and really be able to take it to our opponents in the big picture of this window,” said USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter during his press conference following last week’s roster announcement.While the air above may dip into the single digits, the field below the players feet should be in great shape thanks to the well-seasoned grounds crews at Lower.com Field in Ohio and Allianz Field in Minnesota. Their extensive efforts will make these chilly contests possible as they maintain a quality surface in the face of potential inclement winter weather. “For Thursday’s match against El Salvador, you can expect a uniform surface when it comes to playability, especially during winter in Ohio,” said Ben Jackson, Director of Grounds for Columbus Crew. “The field will not look as aesthetically pleasing this time of year. However, the pitch and subsurface should have good lateral and vertical strength as a result of the heating system. Air temperature shouldn’t have a significant effect on the field quality.” Special underground heating systems at the venues in Columbus and Minnesota will ensure that the grass stays high-quality and playable for matches of this caliber. At Lower.com Field, the underground heat has ensured a field temperature in the mid-50s since early December and U.S. Soccer has rented out additional grow lamps ahead of Thursday’s match. The Twin Cities’ underground heat and grow lights have kept its playing surface warm, growing and free of snow for almost all of the new year. In fact, the technology ensures that both fields have a “just watered” type of play due to the condensation of the warm field and cool air. “No matter how much snow we get in the lead-up to the game, our underground heat and lamps can melt it,” said Allianz Field Groundskeeper Mitch Ronning. “We’ve dealt with plenty of snow before here. “We are utilizing our hydronic field heat system to warm up the subsurface temperatures to help ‘wake up’ the plant from the winter and also the field heat is helping melt some of the snow that is on the field.“We will also be using field covers to cover the playing surface once snow is removed to help trap some of that heat for the plant and more so give the field protection from the cold temps.” Ronning described the process of trapping the heat as “similar to that of a human using a blanket in bed at night to keep them warm” and is confident the process will help ensure the field is as good as possible.
Cold temperatures provide one challenge for field maintenance, but snow brings another wrinkle. While fans may dream of winter wonderlands akin to the 2013 Snowclasico game in Commerce City, Colo., the grounds crews have measures in place to keep the playing field clear of any kind of wintry mix.Heating technology will keep the fields snow-free in the run-up to the game and can easily melt matchday dustings. With any kind of accumulation as kickoff draws closer, both crews prefer to avoid using plows in order to avoid potential damage to the field. While shovels serve as the main tool for heavy snowfall when game time looms, Minnesota also employs a thick cover to lay over and protect the field that a plow can drive over. If it really starts to come down, both stadiums have red paint on reserve to mark out more visible field lines.Fans should enjoy cover from the elements as most seating at Lower.com Field and Allianz Field falls under the protection of overhangs. U.S. players will have the comfort of specially purchased heated seat cushions on the bench, but the squad stands more than ready to take on the arctic elements.
“You know what? I want it to be freezing. I want it to be cold,” said USMNT defender Walker Zimmerman. “I want the snow. I want to be a part of something so iconic that I saw and I really remember growing up. And that’s exciting to me. So, I think the guys are ready to embrace it, and it will be a really good environment for us fan-wise as well.”
FORTRESS COLUMBUS: DETAILING THE USMNT’S HISTORY OF SUCCESS IN CENTRAL OHIO
THE USMNT RETURNS TO COLUMBUS’S LOWER.COM FIELD FOR USA-EL SALVADOR, PRESENTED BY VOLKSWAGEN, ON JAN. 27 (7 P.M. ET ON ESPN2, UNIMÁS AND TUDN)
MICHAEL LEWISJANUARY 24 2022
When the U.S. Men’s National Team hosts El Salvador in Columbus in a FIFA World Cup Qualifier on Jan. 27 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN2, UniMás, TUDN), the visitors must overcome more than the wintry weather expected for the Concacaf Octagonal match.Los Cuscatlecos will be challenged by the USMNT’s tradition of success in the central Ohio city.Welcome to Fortress Columbus.A place the USMNT loves to call home, no U.S. city comes close to the record 11 qualifying matches hosted there, and the team’s record speaks for itself.Since playing its first WCQ match in Columbus back in 2000, the USMNT hold a 8-1-2 record including the four memorable “Dos a Cero” victories against Mexico that have largely defined the team’s dominance against El Trí on home soil since the turn of the century. In those 10 games, the USA has outscored its foes, 16-4, while registering seven shutouts.A fortress indeed, according to USMNT legend Landon Donovan.”I think people may need to make sure they don’t conflate the stadium with what was really the successful piece of it, which is the people in Columbus and people who traveled into Columbus,” Donovan, who enjoyed his share of victories in Columbus, told ussoccer.com recently.”For the longest time, we didn’t have a place in our country where we knew we were going to have a home field advantage. Forget about location. The home field advantage is dictated by the people in the stands. The people of Columbus and of Ohio and whoever would travel in made those games what they were and gave us a true homefield advantage, certainly for the first time in my playing history. I think most players even before me would agree.”A former assistant of Gregg Berhalter with both the Columbus Crew and U.S. Men’s National Team, current Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff — whose heroics as a substitute made the first 2-0 win against Mexico possible back in 2001 — also has fed on and soaked in the high-energy atmosphere.”The history of the game against Mexico and that turning point originated right there in Columbus,” he said. “I’ve been at some of these other matches in Columbus. It’s full of energy. The fans understand what role they play, and they understand the history of the game. That’s continued to resonate with the fan base in Columbus. When the national team is in your city, it’s important to carry the message, to carry the weight, to carry the energy, because you’re playing for a lot.”
A TRADITION IS BORN
After playing Costa Rica to a scoreless draw in the first qualifier on Oct. 11, 2000, the USMNT found their footing on Feb. 28, 2001, in a 2-0 triumph over El Trí in a match played in frigid, 29-degree temperatures that are likely to be replicated in Thursday’s match against El Salvador.Wolff, who had just four caps and one goal under his belt entering the match, replaced an injured Brian McBride in the 15th minute. After latching onto a Clint Mathis long ball, Wolff scored one of the most important goals in USMNT history two minutes into the second half when he rounded Jorge Campos before slotting home into the empty net.He turned playmaker in the 88th minute, beating defenders Claudio Suarez and Alberto Macias on the right side of the box and before finding Earnie Stewart, who put the ball home from 12 yards.Wolff said that coming on as a substitute helped him. “Really having not to think much probably was a good thing because you just go in react, rely on instincts,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to play against Mexico in Los Angeles at the end of at the end of 2000. So, there was some familiarity there. Certainly, competing against Mexico, whether it was a hostile crowd or a home crowd.”
WATCH: USMNT BEGINS “DOS A CERO TRADITION IN COLUMBUS | FEB. 28, 2001
Donovan, 18 at the time, had a front row seat on the U.S. bench to the proceedings, witnessing one of the signature moments in USMNT history. The atmosphere left an indelible impression with him.”I had never seen a crowd like that rooting for an American team,” he said. “It was just so eye opening for me at a young age. That certainly holds a special place in my heart even though I wasn’t even on the field that day.”Four years later, Steve Ralston and DaMarcus Beasley’s tallies lifted the USA to another 2-0 win against Mexico, a result that came with the added bonus of clinching qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. In 2009, Michael Bradley’s brace helped the USA to a third-consecutive “Dos a Cero” home qualifying win against Mexico to open the final round of qualifying with another 2-0 victory.The “Dos a Cero” tradition against El Trí continued in 2013 as the USMNT again booked a spot at the World Cup with a 2-0 triumph against their rivals. Donovan had a big say in that match as his corner kick set up the first goal by Eddie Johnson in the 49th minute before he celebrated his own in the 78th minute. Goalkeeper Tim Howard produced some stellar saves late in the first half when it was still scoreless.
WATCH: USA BOOKS 2014 FIFA WORLD CUP TICKET | SEPT. 10, 2013
“Anytime you win a game to qualify for the World Cup, and it happens to be against Mexico, it’s hard to top that,” Donovan said. “That was a very memorable night.”In 2016, Mexico broke the streak, using a last-minute header by Rafa Marquez to earn a 2-1 win against the USA in the opening match of the final round of 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying.Beyond the wins against Mexico, Columbus has also served as a welcoming place for the team to recover after difficult road results.Only four days after losing an early lead and suffering a 2-1 semifinal round defeat at Jamaica on Sept. 7, 2012, the USMNT returned to Historic Crew Stadium, using Herculez Gomez’s 55th minute free kick to earn an emotional 1-0 win on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.The team faced a similar scenario during the semifinal round in 2016. A poor performance led to a disappointing 2-0 defeat in Guatemala, pushing the team’s back against the wall for advancement when it faced Los Chapines again four days later in Columbus.The home crowd again provided the perfect backdrop to the USA’s resounding 4-0 thumping of Guatemala on March 29, 2016, a match that also marked then 17-year-old Christian Pulisic’s senior team debut.
A NEW VENUE
While the streak against Mexico ended, Columbus’s importance to the USMNT continued last fall as the team hosted Costa Rica in its first match at brand-new Lower.com Field on Oct. 13In a similar situation to the 2012 matches against Jamaica, the USMNT landed in Ohio on the back of a 1-0 defeat at PanamThough the side surrendered a first-minute goal to Keysher Fuller, the boisterous Columbus crowd willed a thrilling comeback. The USMNT equalized behind Sergiño Dest’s 25th-minute wonder strike before the right back set up the game-winner in the 66th minute. The Barcelona defender sent a short pass to Tim Weah on the right side of the penalty area, where the Lille forward drilled a shot that hit the right post, then caromed off goalkeeper Leonel Moreira before entering the net.The tally went into the record books as an own goal by the keeper. Moreover, it gave the USA the win and three more important points on the Road to Qatar.On Thursday against El Salvador, the USMNT will be prepared to build on their winning tradition at Fortress Columbus.
Scouting El Salvador
The USMNT heads into its second match against La Selecta. By Brendan Joseph Jan 25, 2022, 7:00am PST S&S
The United States Men’s National Team churned through 2022 World Cup qualifying, and is now in the back half of the schedule. Carrying 15 points from eight matches, Gregg Berhalter has his squad on pace to claim a spot in Qatar, although any stumble could result in a ticket to the inter-confederation playoffs. The upcoming fixture against El Salvador will be contested at Lower.com Field in the historically significant city of Columbus, Ohio.This is the 26th meeting between the two nations, with the USMNT holding an 18-1-6 advantage. The last match-up occurred in September at the start of qualifying, ending in a scoreless draw. El Salvador is at seventh place in the eight-team CONCACAF table with a 1-4-3 record, eight points out of the playoff spot. Despite an impressive 1-0 win over Panama and the aforementioned opening result, the lack of victories has made a spot in Qatar all but out of reach.La Selecta is led by former U.S. international Hugo Pérez, who was appointed to the manager role in April of 2020. The 58-year-old has compiled a 7-9-6 record while in charge. His focus appears centered on turning over the player pool, giving experience to younger talents, and building toward the future. The team prepared for the upcoming match with December friendlies against Ecuador and Chile, as well as three closed-door scrimmages against local club sides.Pérez named a 23-player squad for the upcoming international window. Joshua Pérez, a former U.S. youth international, is absent. The manager is attempting to find a balance between talents both from abroad and within the domestic Primera División, continuing to add new talents at a steady rate.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Kevin Carabantes (FAS), Mario González (Alianza)
DEFENDERS (7): Roberto Domínguez (Chalatenango), Alexander Larín (Comunicaciones), Ronald Rodríguez (FC Tulsa), Bryan Tamacas (Alianza), Eduardo Vigil (Firpo), Rómulo Villalobos (Municipal), Eriq Zavaleta (Toronto FC)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Eric Calvillo (El Paso Locomotive), Darwin Cerén (Houston Dynamo), Enrico Dueñas Hernández (Vitesse), Bryan Landaverde (FAS), Christian Martinez (San Carlos), Marvin Monterroza (Alianza), Narciso Orellana (Alianza), Kevin Reyes (FAS), Alex Roldan (Seattle Sounders)
FORWARDS (5): Nelson Bonilla (Port), Cristian Gil (Metapán), Jairo Henríquez (Aguila), Walmer Martinez (Monterey Bay), Joaquín Rivas (Tulsa Roughnecks)
Pérez alternates between various forms of the 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 formations, preferring the former during the Octagonal. Outside of a few fixtures, he has stuck to the same lineups, a healthy mix of veterans and recent introductions to the program. Over the past few matches, the strategy has involved long balls, crosses, and shots from distance. The defense has demonstrated a susceptibility to commits fouls in less than desirable areas and on set pieces.
Projected El Salvador Starting XI (via LineupBuilder.com)
Mario González has started at goalkeeper for every match during the Octagonal, a trend that appears unlikely to change. The 24-year-old made his senior international debut last June and became established as the number one with a wide array of acrobatic saves. A touch undersized at 6’0”, his tendency is to stay on the line, avoiding challenging for crosses and fast breaks. In a recent interview, he expressed little pressure for the upcoming fixture and is unbothered by the potential of a cold Ohio winter.Described “as one of the top young center backs in CONCACAF,” Ronald Rodriguez is a relatively new member of the squad, starting in five qualifiers since debuting for the squad last summer. A few days ago, the 23-year-old secured a move from Club Deportivo Águila to FC Tulsa. He is a dangerous target on set pieces and drills the ball around the field. His partner should be Eriq Zavaleta, another recent addition to the squad. The former U.S. youth international had an up-and-down season for a struggling Toronto FC but can be an asset in a possession-based build-up.Alexander Larín should start at left back, a consistent lineup presence for Pérez. He is an attack-minded player and has a tendency to shoot, while also serving as the designated free kick taker. On the opposite side of the formation is Bryan Tamacas, a 26-year-old on the books at domestic Alianza. His specialty is making bombing runs into the final third, picking out a cross or cutting inside with a sharp dribble.Midfield is the strongest group in the El Salvador formation. In a curious case, Christian Martínez had his senior international debut in March of 2021, suiting up for Costa Rica. A few months later, he switched to La Selecta and has made several appearances at the six. His full-body tackles are complemented by steadiness in the build-up and incisive long balls that open up opposing defenses. If Pérez opts for a more defensive posture, Darwin Ceren is the logical inclusion for anempty bucket. The 32-year-old is responsible for jump-starting the attack, facilitating possession and funneling the ball up the field. If a more advanced player is required, Marvin Monterroza fits the bill and provides quick combination with teammates.Vitesse winger Enrico Duenas Hernandez has appeared in every qualifier. The 20-year-old former Dutch youth international is a methodical mover of the ball, waiting and spinning until selecting the correct pass. The other side of the field features Alex Roldan, who has served as captain in recent matches. His ability to play a diagonal ball to the back post is dangerous, while also sneaking into the box for the occasional finish.Proving that formations are fluid and positions are mere suggestion, Águila winger Jairo Henríquez has slotted into a striker role. He contributed three goals and three assists in 2021, while also facilitating possession with constant movement. Joaquín Rivas has been his main partner during qualifying but is scoreless thus far, a disappointing run after scintillating form at the recent Gold Cup. The 29-year-old has a tendency to drift behind defenders, find empty space, and claim more than his share of headers.El Salvador achieved an impressive result in the first Octagonal fixture, holding the USMNT to a scoreless draw at home. Since then, the two nations have moved in different directions, with World Cup qualification appearing a distant dream for La Selecta. This is an important match for Gregg Berhalter, as anything less than three points would be seen as the true squandering of an opportunity.The match is scheduled for Thursday, January 27th at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include ESPN2, TUDN USA, UniMás, and FUBO TV (free trial).
What next for Christian Pulisic at Chelsea?
Joe Prince-WrightMon, January 24, 2022, 3:00 PM
LONDON — It feels like USMNT star Christian Pulisic is truly at a pivotal stage of his career with Chelsea in the Premier League.Deep into his third season at Chelsea, Pulisic, 23, has been an unused substitute in their last two Premier League games.He could have been rested after he started six Premier League games in a row over the busy festive period and played at wing-back, as a false nine and in his usual left-wing spot as Chelsea’s squad was decimated by injuries and illness.But there’s also a growing sense that it could mean playing second fiddle is his role at Chelsea as long as Thomas Tuchel is in charge. Tuchel has recently criticized his attacking unit for lackluster displays and Christian Pulisic hasn’t played since his own lackluster outing at Manchester City.There are also growing whispers that Pulisic may be thinking about leaving Chelsea this summer to go elsewhere and be ‘the main man’ at another European giant, as reports consistently link him with a move to Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool and others.
Is Pulisic at the right club at the wrong time?
Right off the bat, let me say this: Pulisic could easily stay at Chelsea for a few years under Tuchel (who seems likely to stay at Stamford Bridge longer than most Chelsea managers…) and be just fine.But is just fine enough?Christian Pulisic is a generational talent for the USMNT. In a World Cup year, does he want to go into Qatar in December (assuming the USMNT qualify…) with 10 starts, two goals and one assist to his name in the 2022-23 Premier League season?No. He doesn’t. He is ambitious and looked annoyed (who wouldn’t be?) at not coming off the bench in Chelsea’s 2-0 win at home against Tottenham on Sunday.It is not the first time Pulisic has battled with being out of the squad at Chelsea. But the other battles mostly happened when he was much younger and just settling in.Frank Lampardtook a while to warm to him and Tuchel has admitted openly that he loves having Pulisic as an option off the bench to make an impact. Pulisic should (and definitely does) want more than that.Now he is back fully fit, everything seems to be right for Pulisic at Chelsea. Except for the style of play and his playing time. Those are two big factors.
Is now the right time to move on?
In Tuchel’s usual 3-4-2-1 system it is all about the wing backs providing the width and wide attackers cutting inside to get on the ball. Pulisic loves to stay wide and dribble inside with the ball. He isn’t able to do that often at Chelsea due to their playing style.With the 4-1-4-1 system Tuchel used against Tottenham he may be able to do that more off the left, but then he has to get past Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Mason Mount just to get into the starting lineup.Those star names, and even Romelu Lukaku, have been criticized heavily by Tuchel in recent weeks for not producing enough in attack. But Christian Pulisic is the only one of them who hasn’t played a single second of action since Tuchel spoke those harsh words following their defeat at Man City on Jan. 15.
As long as Tuchel is around it feels like playing time will continue to be a battle for Pulisic at Chelsea. It’s not that Pulisic isn’t rated at the club. It’s that his output has been impacted by injuries and he has scored 20 goals and added 10 assists in 96 appearances. That averages out to one goal involvement in just over every three games.Is that enough? Has Pulisic been given enough of a chance by Tuchel, in his preferred position? There are other questions we should look into around how well his style of play suits the Premier League.Pulisic’s name is massive in the global game. His potential is massive. Chelsea are a massive club in the best and most-watched league on the planet. All of this should add up. He has shown glimpses of his brilliance, as recently as his superb lobbed finished against Liverpool on Jan. 2, and especially in games against Real Madrid and Porto in Chelsea’s run to UEFA Champions League glory last seasonIt just hasn’t been exactly what all parties wished for. And that’s okay.But it makes you wonder if, after three seasons at Chelsea, he may move on this summer in search of somewhere where he will truly become a global superstar. Bayern Munich? Barcelona? Liverpool? Will he have the same issues there? Or maybe he moves to the next group of clubs down to be a true star on a team that really, truly needs him?With two years left on his contract this June, Chelsea know they will be able to demand top dollar for the USMNT star this summer and then his transfer value will diminish if he doesn’t sign a new deal.These next few months feel huge in determining whether or not Christian Pulisic’s future remains at Chelsea.
I think the game play, and the sharpness, and things like that are always going to come a little bit later. So coming to this camp, I’ve actually felt really, really good. I feel like there’s definitely still some things that are a little bit fast and things that I want to continue to work on. Continuing to get sharp in front of goal is obviously, a big one for myself. That’s a big part of my game. So I’m definitely not quite at a hundred percent where I was before the injury, but I’m feeling really, really good.
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