1/29/22 USMNT vs Canada for 1st Place Sun 3 pm Paramount plus, African Cup Quarters

Gameday Updates –

Winger Tim Weah did not travel to Canada as his vaccination (he got Covid right before his 2nd shot and has to wait the allotted 9 months -he’s at 8 – and unlike most other Countries Canada won’t allow him in. Of course Berhalter knew this and played Weah (who was very good vs El Salvador) the full 90. I had already predicted Aaronson for Weah – and a move to the left side for him with Pulisic moving to the right.

This Behind the Crest is worth the Watch CONCACAF – WRAP-UP Can Pepi Solve #9 Conundrum

Of course today’s game is only on Pay TV in the US as Paramount plus has rights for all CONCACAF Away games. It is on Telemundo in spanish if you have that. Or Get a Free Code :

1. Click here and select “Try It FREE.” (Note: To get the free 30-day trial, you’ll need to use this link ONLY.)2. Select any plan.3. Sign up for an account.4. Enter “QUALIFY” (excluding the quotes) on the right underneath the subtotal and hit “Apply.”5. Enter your billing information.6. Click “Start Paramount+” and start streaming.

Or you can always watch with the American Outlaws in Indy that’s at Union Jack in Broadripple American Ootlaws Indy. I am hosting a watch party at home !

Hey soccer fans – so I thought I would add a US Mens Soccer Special Edition this weekend for the big game vs Canada for first place on Sunday at 3 pm on paramount plus/telemundo/universe.  Hype video.  Yes right in the middle of American football’s Championship Sunday the US Men are playing new nemisees  – Canada who current sits top of the table.  You could argue that Canada is actually playing the best so far in this Round of Qualifying with huge ties at the US and Mexico and huge wins both at home and on the road.  Right now Canada is the better finishing team with Jonathan David up front.  The US counters with literally no #9 (just like normal). Now I happen to think Berhalter purposely did not put his best team on the field.  I think this is a 3 game window and he’s gonna put his best team on the field vs Canada on Sunday.  You could say he got away with the win – without his strongest backline (missing Miles Robinson) and without his #9 (Pepi).  Remember this is the first time Pepi has made the cross-world trek from Europe coming off a weekend game where he played 70+ minutes. Resting him and saving him to score against Canada might have been a great idea.  (Zardes coming in after we took the lead 1-0 at home in Columbus was fine – it re-energized the crowd but if we were behind it would have been Pepi to help us win it).  I thought Aaronson should have started with Weah coming off the bench (to save him) but obviously Berhalter felt Aaronson will start vs Canada with the roles reversed – and that is fine. The big question is what does coach do to get Pulisic off the snide.  Christian was upset to be pulled off in the 65th minute – but he sucked Thursday night.  Berhalter has to find a way to build Pulisic’s confidence back up – and get him back to doing what he can do. I think vs Canada I would move Pulisic to the right side – his movement and connection with Dest is just stronger than it is with Robinson – who likes to stay wide on the left (where Pulisic should be).  I move Aaronson to the right and of course start Pepi at the #9.  Adams will have to cover that right side as Dest will get caught out some – I plug in Miles on the right inside backline along with Richards on the left.  I think the US is gonna win this game vs Canada 2-1. (What would you think if Berhalter starts Aaronson on the right and Weah on the left and brings Pulisic off the bench at half time?  Either way – I think Pulisic is gonna score and we are going to come out of this game at the top of table.  I still don’t know why Berhalter doesn’t get credit for what he has done.  He’s got the best % record of wins ever for a US Manager – he’s brought in over 50 players most of them under the age of 25 and has the program headed in the right direction.  I still think the US should try to win the group while growing this team into the Golden Generation I think they will become. 

Antonee “Jedi” Robinsons Goal vs El Salvador   Goal/Backflip in Slow-Mo               USA vs SLV Hi-Lites

My pick for Starters vs Canada Sun

Pulisic/Pepi/Aaronson

McKinney/Musah

Adams

Antonee R/Richards/M Robinson/ Dest

Turner  

Breaking Down El Salvador Game

So obviously we all expected more than a 1-0 win in a sold-out packed Lower.com Field Thurs night in Columbus.  I had picked 2-0 but honestly was hoping for a 3-0.  Still the US had 70% possession and took 17 shot, while only giving up 2 shots –none officially on goal all night.  On a night when Pulisic played as poorly as he has ever played in a US shirt, a nght when our #9 couldn’t score from 2 feet away – the US found a way to win it.  “Jedi” Robinson’s goal and subsequent back flip put the US up in the 48th minute and they never really looked threatened again. Honestly if Dallas’Jesus Ferreira just scores one of his wide open shots 5 feet in front of the goal – it’s a solid 2-0 win and everyone is fine.  We were right behind the goal where Ferreira somehow kicked the ball over the goal (Wondo style).  I mean he was 5 feet away – I don’t know how it was even possible to kick it over from there – it took a miracle for him to miss that one.  But if he just finishes 1 or both of those gimme’s the US wins it easy 3-0. The US dominated in every phase of the game – just not the scoreboard.  I thought the defense was fine – the centerback pairing a surprising Chris Richards and Zimmerman (instead of Miles Robinson).  I thought they played fine with both covering for each other well – Zimmerman did struggle with his passing – giving away at least 4 bad balls.  The outside backs (Dest and Robinson) were electric moving forward and each made good recovery runs defensively to not let El Salvador get any good shots off.  GK Matt Turneron his way to Arsenal after these games – had an uneventful night but commanded his box. Of course Tyler Adams as always was the lynchpin – as the #6 Dmid- he honestly covers everyone’s mistakes. 

The MMA midfield of Musah, McKennie and Adams continues to grow as McKennie gave us a 8.5 performance – pushing and displaying his fancy footwork all over the field.  Musah is just unbelievable at turning and carrying the ball up field (I LOVE HIM) he had just 6 performance for the game – but still he’s 18 and he’s playing like this!!  Now the front line – there is your question for this day.  Again we had 17 shots – so it must have been ok – but Weah was just ok on the night wing – he had a couple of good crosses and a shot.  Now his cross is what allowed Robinson to score coming out of the scrum- but I thought he was just ok.  We talked about Jesus – bu the biggest issue was Pulisic.  He has been struggling at Chelsea and it carried over to Thurs night.  I thought he pressed – tried to hard to create often cutting back in and right into 2 or 3 defenders.  He’s a winger – a left winger – and I really think much like Donovan back in the day – Pulisic needs to run a folks 1 vs 1 wide out then sneak into the box where he is deadly.  Its not his job to get it at midfield and carry it forward – Musah and McKennie can do that.  Berhalter has got to find a way to get Pulisic off the snide – give him more space in the box where he can regain his confidence.  Overall – I give the US a score of 6 and Berhalter a 6 as well.

RankClubPointsPPGGPWLTGFGAGDHomeAway
CONCACAF Table 
STANDINGS 
1Canada192.19504155104-0-11-0-3
2United States182951313584-0-11-1-2
3Mexico171.9952213852-0-13-2-1
4Panama141.69432111012-0-22-3-0
5Costa Rica121.393337703-1-10-2-2
6Jamaica70.789144712-50-2-21-2-2
7El Salvador60.679153411-71-1-30-4-0
8Honduras30.339063517-120-4-10-2-2
COLUMBUS, OH – JANUARY 27: Christian Pulisic #10, Matt Turner #1 and Tyler Adams #4 of the United States during the national anthem during a game between El Salvador and USMNT at Lower.com Field on January 27, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio.

 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)

Earn your Degree While You Watch Your Kids Soccer Practice – ½ the time and cost of Traditional Schools

USA WCQ

COLUMBUS, OH – JANUARY 27: Antonee Robinson #5 of the United States scores a goal and celebrates during a game between El Salvador and USMNT at Lower.com Field on January 27, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio.

W2W4 – S&S

Grant Walh 12 min podcast from Canada

The USMNT’s Pulisic Problem, lessons learned from El Salvador & what to expect at Canada ARMCHAIR ANALYST: MATT DOYLE

Concacaf realities may lead USMNT to keep Canada rematch in perspective

Not perfect, but task complete: USMNT grind toward Qatar 2022 with El Salvador win
Canada ready for World Cup ‘battle’ with US

One goal, one more step forward for USMNT
USMNT player ratings: Defense, midfield dominate; Pulisic struggles

Analysis: Robinson’s goal gives the USMNT 1-0 win vs. El Salvador ASN

Antonee ‘Jedi’ Robinson gives Berhalter, USMNT the World Cup qualifying win they were looking for  Kyle Bonagura  ESPN
Antonee Robinson’s goal lifts USMNT over El Salvador in World Cup 

United States men’s national soccer team defeats El Salvador in Concacaf World Cup qualifier

What we learned during Canada’s Alphonso Davies-less statement win at Honduras

Canada player ratings: Buchanan, David power World Cup Qualifying win at Honduras

 USA


 Arsenal transfer news: USMNT’s Matt Turner, New England agree on move

Sources: Arsenal, USMNT’s Turner agree terms

Why DeAndre Yedlin, USMNT star, is coming home  Bruce Schoenfeld

USMNT prospect Kevin Paredes completes transfer to Wolfsburg

 Robinson Sees Benefits for USMNT in Overseas Moves

 
USWNT stars Megan Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle re-sign with OL Reign

World

State of World Cup Qualifying Around the Globe; Who’s In, Current Tables 
Peru stun goal-shy Colombia, Venezuelan Rondon’s treble sinks Bolivia

World Cup qualifying: Iran clinches berth; Saudi Arabia, South Korea close

Favourite son Eto’o is pride of Cup of Nations host city Douala

Serie A star Barrow revels in Gambia’s stunning AFCON run

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Sat Jan 29

10 am ESPN+                       Fulham vs Blackpool

11 am fubo tv                     African Cup Quarters – Gambia vs Cameroon 

2 pm fubo tv                        African Cup Quarters –Tunisia vs Burkina Faso

Sun,  Jan 30

11 am fubo tv                     African Cup Quarters – Egypt vs Moroco

2 pm fubo tv                        African Cup Quarters – Senegal vs Equatorial Guinea

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 1

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

Image

 

Quickly taken: Four thoughts between WCQ MD9 & MD10

It’s No. 1 v. No. 2 Sunday + Is Costa Rica set to make a run?

   Jon Arnold Jan 28 1

There are just two days of rest between Thursday’s critical World Cup qualification matches and Sunday’s equally critical contests.Those of course are days of “rest” as teams travel to their matches, work on recovery, analyze the game plan, find the opponents’ weaknesses, speak to the media and walk the field at the stadium.Undoubtedly, we’ll see some teams utilizing different personnel while others will ask their top stars to give as much effort as possible to get results in Sunday’s games. Then, it’s time for a luxurious two additional days off before Wednesday’s matches.Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. Here are four thoughts after Thursday’s matches and ahead of Sunday’s games:

No. 1 vs. No. 2 another chapter in fledgling Canada-US rivalry

The best rivalry in Concacaf is United States vs. Mexico. The exciting rise of Canada, the undefeated current leaders in the World Cup qualification table, has produced another pair of rising rivalries adding spice to the final round of qualification.The first is Canada’s surprisingly vigorous rivalry with Mexico, thanks to the Gold Cup semifinal and a pair of tight WCQ matches. The second is a more natural rivalry with the neighboring United States, stretching back to the North American nations landing in the same Concacaf Nations League group and Canada earning its first win against the U.S. since 1985 in that competition.The World Cup qualification streak goes back even farther. Canada’s last victory over the U.S. in WCQ was in 1980 ahead of the 1982 World Cup in Spain (though they’ve somehow only met three times since then).Obviously, lots has changed since the early 80s. Canada was impressive Thursday in Honduras, coping with the Catrachos’ attack without much difficulty and getting strong attacking contributions from Tajon Buchanan and Jonathan David to earn a comfortable win in their first trip to Central America.“We bent a little bit, but we didn’t break, and that’s I think the story of the identity of this team,” Canada manager John Herdman said after the match.The U.S. has taken more criticism than Canada this cycle, but to me that feels simply a product of expectations. The Americans sit just one point behind Canada in the table, scoring two fewer goals to this point and losing one match, a slip-up in a difficult Central American trip of their own.While they didn’t steamroll El Salvador last night, they were relatively comprehensive in victory, limiting scoring chances for La Selecta and putting themselves in positions to score.

While neither Herdman or U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter would say they were pulling a few punches ahead of this game, the middle in a three-match set, my hunch is they’re looking forward to this one.I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mark Anthony Kaye, who was in risk of a yellow card suspension and didn’t dress for Canada’s win in Honduras, available, with other personnel modifications likely in the midfield and attack.Berhalter, too, had to feel forward Jesus Ferreira gave his team the best chance to beat El Salvador. “The Cheetah” was solid but I wonder if he turns to Ricardo Pepi or Gyasi Zardes, and if those players are better able to connect with Christian Pulisic, who had a rough night in Columbus.Whether Canada flexes its muscle and moves further clear at the top, the U.S. gets three points and re-establishes its hegemony or the teams share a point (and potentially get jumped by Mexico) it should be another chapter in a rivalry that only is just beginning but sets up to be one of the best in the Americas in the not-too-distant future.One rueful side note: It’s a shame more people in the U.S. won’t watch it.The home federation sets the time for the match, and with the game taking place on a turf field in a cold-weather climate, there’s logic for Canada’s decision for a day game.Yet, it means it’s going against the National Football League’s AFC Championship (Go Chiefs), bumping the game from a potential CBS slot to the Paramount Plus streaming service.Whether or not you like the NFL, there’s no doubt it’s a ratings behemoth that brings all the eyeballs. The casual sports fan Sunday will opt for football. Hopefully it’s a game for the ages that us hardcores enjoy live and others catch up with via highlights and media coverage.

Hope for Costa Rica?

Costa Rica secured an enormous 1-0 victory against Panama, and the headline from that match understandably is that the Ticos are still alive, scratching for that fourth place spot Panama currently is in.Bryan Ruiz scored the goal, and Costa Rica has to get credit for fighting for the result.

Yet, watching the match it felt like yet another Costa Rica game following largely the same script. Panama had 74% of the possession and was able to find scoring chances but couldn’t convert – sometimes thanks to Keylor Navas making good saves, other times because of their own inability to capitalize on, erm, clear-cut scoring opportunities.Costa Rica now goes to Mexico, facing not only a team with a deeper squad (in a place where they haven’t won a World Cup qualification match since the famous Aztecazo…that was 20 years ago) but also goes into altitude against a squad with a fresh Hirving Lozano and potentially recuperated Raul Jimenez in the attack.“I think tiredness is, ultimately, mental. We’ve got to be prepared for the game that’s coming. We’ve got to be at 100% no matter what,” Costa Rica attacker Joel Campbell, who plays his club soccer in Liga MX, said after the Panama win. “Mexico is going to push us to the limit, and if we want to go to the World Cup, we’ve got to push there.”“We’re getting closer to those first four,” he continued. “The first thing you have to do is win at home, then steal points on the road. We’ve got to get back those points we lost at home in Mexico. It’s tough, but I’m confident in this team that we can do it.”I’m not entirely convinced that’s the case, but in an interesting twist both teams have games left this window in Mexico and against Jamaica.

Temperature check in Panama

Speaking of Jamaica, Panama has a game that now is crucial to hanging on to its fourth-place spot, and a must-win for the Reggae Boyz if they want to have any hope to jump into the qualification places.Both countries are coming off disappointing results, with Jamaica and new manager Paul Hall perhaps more frustrated in their recent showing than Panama.“I think as long as there is a mathematical chance, we are OK,” Hall Thursday. “What I want to see from the players is that we can go somewhere and we can get a result.“I will always, until the last minute, tell the players, ‘Let’s go for the game, let’s go for the win.”That was tougher to do against a Mexico team with more depth, even despite El Tri’s absences because of injuries, Covid and suspensions. It may be tough to do as well against a Panama team that has been together much longer than this Jamaica group and will have the Estadio Rommel Fernandez backing it.Yet, it’s also possible Panama begins to feel the pressure. There are expectations after they followed up their 2018 qualification with a good start, and the questions in Central America were more about jumping into the top three than falling out of the top four altogether.It’s still Panama’s place to lose, but it wouldn’t feel nice at all to lose it.“It’s time to turn the page and look forward to what comes next, which is Jamaica,” forward Rolando Blackburn said. “We have to take advantage of the home-field.“We’ve got to keep working in training, be sharper in this match,” he continued.“There’s no margin for error.”

A dead rubber?

It’s tough to imagine Honduras vs. El Salvador on Sunday ending up being about anything more than pride.That pride still will be there. This is perhaps Central America’s most intense soccer rivalry (something, something, Football War, something), and certainly for El Salvador it would be massive to even score a goal in San Pedro Sula, as El Salvador never has been able to score in a WCQ in Honduras.Yet, neither side will qualify for the World Cup.The narratives around the teams are totally different. El Salvador, with their energetic style of play and lack of success in recent cycles, has been praised by writers like me who see something fresh for La Selecta.El Salvador seems to be moving in the right direction, with youth programs being bolstered both in men’s and women’s soccer and recruitment and development efforts expanding under sporting director Diego Herniquez.For Honduras, there has to be some way to get the young generation of players who are continually qualifying for the Olympics and impressing at the youth level to take the jump to the next level. While Alberth Elis and Anthony Lozano are performing well in European clubs, the domestic-based defense isn’t ready for the challenge of international play when they’re used to trying to shut down attackers in the Honduran league week after week.Is it the manager? As Diez put it, “With Coito and with Bolillo, we keep embarrassing ourselves”At least with Coito it seemed there was a long-term plan. Gomez was brought in as something of a quick fix.That hasn’t worked. It’s time again to look to the future.

USA vs. Canada, 2022 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for

The biggest match of the window.By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Jan 29, 2022, 7:00am PST

The United States Men’s National Team, fresh off a 1-0 victory over El Salvador on Thursday night, travel to Hamilton, Ontario for a big road match on Sunday against Canada. In a battle between the top two teams in the Octagonal standings, the big matchup will take place before a Tim Horton’s Field crowd that will be energized despite the reduced capacity to 12,000 attendees. For the USMNT, it’s a chance to assume control and put a remote possibility to qualify for the 2022 World Cup during this window in play. However, it will be the chance for them to put their best match together against the upstart Canadians.

Latest Form

USA

W (1-0) – El Salvador – World Cup Qualifying

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

Canada

W (2-0) – Honduras – World Cup Qualifying

W (2-1) – Mexico – World Cup Qualifying

W (1-0) – Costa Rica – World Cup Qualifying

W (4-1) – Panama – World Cup Qualifying

D (0-0) – Jamaica – World Cup Qualifying

What To Watch For

Silence the crowd. It won’t matter that there will only be 12,000 fans in a stadium that was set to host 23,500. The Canadian fans will be ready and into it from the opening kick. It’s the job of the USMNT to give them a reason to remain quiet and out of it. Taking the momentum early and keeping it will ensure that the only noise the United States hears is the pocket of American fans who made the trip to Hamilton.

Lock up Jonathan David and Tajon Buchanan. With Alphonso Davies not in the lineup, Canada’s hopes for generating goal scoring will fall squarely upon the shoulders of Tajon Buchanan, with the actual scoring being the responsibility of Jonathan David. The American defense needs to keep eyes on them and continue to keep their shape so that Canada cannot create any scoring chances.

Use the personnel that fits the style of play. Against El Salvador, the USMNT generated a lot of scoring chances from the wings by serving balls into the box on crosses. However, with Jesus Ferreira playing the false 9, there wasn’t a lot of structure on who would be there to put a head to those crosses. The USMNT should utilize the guys who are particularly good on aerials to put more pressure on Canada’s defense when they’re serving balls into the box.

Lineup Prediction

Gregg Berhalter has hinted that with the short window and short travel between Columbus and Hamilton, it sets up for him to not make a lot of changes against Canada. With Canada being the biggest match of the window (and arguably one of the most important of the entire Octagonal, look for Gregg Berhalter to go with a lineup that looks like this:

Predicted Lineup vs. Canada

Matt Turner continues to hold down the goalkeeper spot, particularly with Zack Steffen battling his back tightness. The back line continues to remain the same one that we saw against El Salvador, with Antonee Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, Chris Richards, and Sergiño Dest. However, it’s possible we see Miles Robinson in place of Richards.The M-M-A midfield of Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, and Tyler Adams will continue to work and serve as the engine of the team. Up front, Christian Pulisic will start again on the left and Jordan Morris will occupy the right in place of Tim Weah, who reportedly didn’t make the trip to Canada. The main change: Ricardo Pepi gets the start at the 9 as they hope he can finish some chances in the box. Look for Brenden Aaronson to once again get significant time in the 2nd half as a substitute.

Prediction

This may sound crazy, but the USMNT steal a victory in Hamilton. 2-1 is the final score.

Concacaf realities may lead USMNT to keep Canada rematch in perspective

By Charles Boehm @cboehmFriday, Jan 28, 2022, 02:23 PM

“Top-of-the-table clash.”Those can be magical words in any competition, a distillation of a match’s high stakes as well as its likely – or hoped-for, at least – levels of quality. When schedules and results align for a faceoff of two frontrunners, especially far enough into the campaign for the standings to carry real weight, it tends to become the biggest fixture on the docket.

For the current window of Concacaf Octagonal World Cup qualifying, that’s Canada vs. the United States, who lock horns on the frigid FieldTurf at “The Donut Box,” aka Tim Horton’s Field in Hamilton, Ontario on Sunday afternoon (3:05 pm ET | Paramount+, Universo, Telemundo in US; OneSoccer, Sportsnet in Canada).Some of the key protagonists seem to see it that way:Even without Alphonso Davies, this could well turn out to be a classic, the latest high-water mark of a border rivalry suddenly simmering with almost as much vibrance and relevance as the ancient USMNT-Mexico showdown.You can be sure that Les Rouges’ cunning apture of a 1-1 draw in Nashville in September didn’t sit well with the Yanks. It certainly didn’t with the 43,028 fans in attendance at Nissan Stadium that evening, who greeted the final whistle with a wave of boos.For two historically underachievement-prone programs intent on changing the way the world perceives them, this matchup is a chance to lay down a marker. (By the way, it’s also a vindication of sustained investment in player development by MLS clubs in both countries; just peruse the list of academy products who’ll be in uniform.)Looking ahead a bit, three points in Canada would ease US nerves in March, when Gregg Berhalter’s side must close out their Ocho slate with the traditionally brutal trips to Mexico and Costa Rica on either side of a home date with Panama. And results like Sunday’s count not only for qualification to Qatar 2022 but also the FIFA rankings that will be used to seed teams for that tournament’s draw.So there are both numerical and psychological arguments for goosing the throttle and having a go here.But the inconvenient reality is that Sunday doesn’t really matter as much to the Yanks – at least, not in the way that their supporters, and neutrals seeking an engaging spectacle, might wish. Not compared to Wednesday’s meeting with Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota.As satisfying as it might be to avenge the dropped points in Tennessee and knock those noisy neighbors down a peg or two, the USMNT’s overriding priority coming in this window is securing all six points available to them on home turf. You know the old Hexagonal saying about successful qualification, and it’s turning out to apply to the Ocho, too: Win at home, draw on the road.So the CanMNT need a W in Hamilton more; even though they have yet to lose in this cycle, they dropped points at home in an opening-day draw with Honduras at BMO Field. This time around they’re forced to jet to San Pedro Sula and San Salvador for away games on either side, though.The Americans got a necessary three points against El Salvador on Thursday. And of the remaining two, it’s the game at Minnesota United FC‘s Allianz Field that is a must-win for the US. Or to put it another way: It was the home losses to Mexico and Costa Rica that really doomed them in the 2018 cycle just as much as, if not more so, than that iconic stumble in Couva.What is Berhalter’s outlook? He has made “one game at a time” a team-wide USMNT mantra on par with “His name was Robert Paulson,” and made the calculated gamble of siting these games in the coldest, least hospitable settings imaginable for the Central American visitors, even at the potential risk of severe winter storms turning them into ice bowls where victory or defeat hinges on a single slip or snowy skip of the ball.“The way I see it is, all windows are tough. All windows are difficult. All windows are important,” Berhalter intoned before the win over El Salvador. “Any three-game window, there’s nine points on the line, right? This window is no different. And every point is valuable. Every point you get gets you closer to eventually qualifying for the World Cup. So to us, there’s no extra emphasis.“I think it gets a little bit dangerous when you start over-emphasizing one window versus other windows.”If Wednesday really does come first, some lineup shuffling might be in order. Tyler Adams (who is carrying a yellow card), Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah and Antonee Robinson look essential to the best version of the USMNT and all of them went the distance in Columbus, save for Musah’s 89th-minute exit. Christian Pulisic looked uncomfortable and ineffectual in his 65 minutes on the pitch and might benefit from a substitute’s role next time out.Then again, if the Yanks are really serious about “one game at a time” then perhaps they’ll leave nothing in reserve on this jaunt to Ontario.Berhalter has posited that it’s physiologically feasible for his players to feature in all three of this window’s games, a prospect Adams and Robinson welcomed earlier in the week. Plus, Thursday’s 2-0 home loss to Canada might have crushed winless Honduras’ dwindling hopes for good – and Los Catrachos have only rarely in their qualifying history taken points on US soil.So to borrow a term popularized by a prominent Canadian rapper, let’s all hope Berhalter is feeling YOLO this weekend, and we can entertain the possibility of a full-bore Canada-US slugfest.But that’s not really his MO, is it? He knows it’s Wednesday that can put the USMNT on the doorstep of Qatar, and Sunday is likely to unfold accordingly.

Preview: Canada – USA – yanks abroad

On the heels of their narrow victory over El Salvador on Thursday night, Gregg Berhalter and his USMNT squad will head north of the border to take on Canada in a difficult test that will determine the new CONCACAF pecking order.With the top three of the qualifying group – Canada, the USA and Mexico, in that order – all having won on Thursday night, little has changed in the battle for the three automatic qualification spots for the region, aside from the trio all having a bit more breathing room ahead of fourth-place Panama.While far from mathematically assured, the overall qualifying situation is slowly narrowing in on looks to be a competition amongst the three to determine the presumptive CONCACAF hierarchy for the time being.Sunday’s game is one that will go a long way to determine this; if either the Americans or Canucks score a victory, they are guaranteed to momentarily be in first place, while a draw will likely still be enough for the Canadians to hold the edge, even if only by goal differential in the likely case of a Mexico victory over Costa Rica in Azteca.Apart from guaranteed sub-freezing conditions, what can be expected on Sunday afternoon when the teams kick off at 3pm Eastern time?Considering the goalscoring successes of both of these teams, a dull, goalless affair would not be a recommended bet for the gambling types.The Canadians can claim the two top scoring players in qualification so far, with Jonathan David, one of the world’s best forwards on current form, and Cyle Larin having scored four goals apiece in the first nine games.Even though they are without their arguably best player – attacking wingback Alphonso Davies – due to a Covid-related heart concern, they are the most dangerous attacking team in the group, and will test the central defensive partnership of Walker Zimmerman and either Chris Richards and Miles Robinson.Larin and Brenden Aaronson traded goals back in early-September when these two teams last met, in a 1-1 draw in Nashville that momentarily put Gregg Berhalter and his squad into a minor crisis.In the seven qualifying games since, the Americans have earned 16 points while putting 12 goals in the opposing teams’ nets, the best points-per-game record in the qualifying group over that period of time.Coming off of their narrow win over El Salvador, where a moment of opportunistic brilliance from a defender, Antonee Robinson, was necessary to avoid embarrassment, the Americans will have to make at least one adjustment to their starting eleven.Outside forward Timothy Weah, who has been one of the more effective attacking players for the US, was unable to make the trip to Canada due to issues with his vaccine credentials, which are valid in France but incompatible with entry requirements in Canada.Berhalter touched upon the issue in his pre-match comments, explaining “He had one vaccine shot, [then] he got Covid [while] he was awaiting the second shot. Due to the time of when he got Covid, he wasn’t able to get that second shot. However in France, he’s listed as fully vaccinated, because the one shot plus Covid means you’re vaccinated, [but] as a technicality it wasn’t acceptable in Canada.”This will likely lead to the return of Ricardo Pepi to the starting lineup, after the 19 year-old Texan did not take the field at all against El Salvador. Additionally, Jesús Ferreira could lose his starting spot after wasting several opportunities, which could see a front three of Pepi, Aaronson and Christian Pulisic.In addition to Weah, defender Brooks Lennon is also unavailable after Berhalter revealed in pre-game comments that the 24 year-old returned to his club team in Atlanta with an ankle problem, however his participation was in any case unlikely.With no update on the arrival of keeper Zack Steffen, likely meaning he will remain in England for the entire window with his nagging back issue, Matt Turner will be in goal, but will be hard pressed to earn what would be a fourth shut-out in his seventh qualifying match between the sticks.With both teams also quite resilient in the defense – they are tied with the best goals-against record only allowing five apiece – the battle will ultimately come down to which of the two can better deal with the others’ main point of attack, which is significantly different between the two.For the Canadians, their primary strength is through their front three of David, Larin and new Brugge arrival Tajon Buchanan, who currently form the most lethal attacking trio in CONCACAF, and will put the American back line to the test.Conversely, Berhalter’s squad has seen hot-and-cold inconsistency from its front line throughout qualifying. Instead, the team draws strength from its dynamic full-back play, particularly with Robinson and Sergiño Dest remaining constant threats anytime they gain possession with room to run. Additionally, a major, and still-growing impact comes from a robust, if not oppressively dominant central midfield, which will likely feature the “MMA” trio of Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah and captain Tyler Adams.In short, the tasks for the Americans will be avoid even a single costly mistake against the deadly Canadian trio, while the hosts will have to avoid being systematically ground down enough to fall victim to a sneak attack from the sides.Berhalter summed up his respect for their hosts in his pre-game comments, drawing comparisons to his own squad, but setting the path for achieving their goals.“It’s similar to us that they have a young player pool [and] they have highly talented players,” he complimented. “When you think of Alfonso Davies, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin, Tajon Bucanan and onathan Osorio, they have a talented group of players, let’s make no mistake about it.”“If you guys remember what I said in 2019 after we lost them,” he continued, “I said it’s a good team [and] I didn’t think that team was given enough credit.”“It’s [now] a couple years later, [they are] top of the table after nine games, they’re a well-coached team, they know how to play, they have a clear philosophy, and they deserve to be where they are right now.”“For us it’s an opportunity to try to get first in the group, and that’s where we want to finish. To do that, we’re going to have to have a good game against Canada.”The game kicks off at 3pm Eastern time, in Tim Horton’s field in Hamilton, Canada.On the heels of their narrow victory over El Salvador on Thursday night, Gregg Berhalter and his USMNT squad will head north of the border to take on Canada in a difficult test that will determine the new CONCACAF pecking order.With the top three of the qualifying group – Canada, the USA and Mexico, in that order – all having won on Thursday night, little has changed in the battle for the three automatic qualification spots for the region, aside from the trio all having a bit more breathing room ahead of fourth-place Panama.While far from mathematically assured, the overall qualifying situation is slowly narrowing in on looks to be a competition amongst the three to determine the presumptive CONCACAF hierarchy for the time being.Sunday’s game is one that will go a long way to determine this; if either the Americans or Canucks score a victory, they are guaranteed to momentarily be in first place, while a draw will likely still be enough for the Canadians to hold the edge, even if only by goal differential in the likely case of a Mexico victory over Costa Rica in Azteca.Apart from guaranteed sub-freezing conditions, what can be expected on Sunday afternoon when the teams kick off at 3pm Eastern time?Considering the goalscoring successes of both of these teams, a dull, goalless affair would not be a recommended bet for the gambling types.The Canadians can claim the two top scoring players in qualification so far, with Jonathan David, one of the world’s best forwards on current form, and Cyle Larin having scored four goals apiece in the first nine games.Even though they are without their arguably best player – attacking wingback Alphonso Davies – due to a Covid-related heart concern, they are the most dangerous attacking team in the group, and will test the central defensive partnership of Walker Zimmerman and either Chris Richards and Miles Robinson.Larin and Brenden Aaronson traded goals back in early-September when these two teams last met, in a 1-1 draw in Nashville that momentarily put Gregg Berhalter and his squad into a minor crisis.

In the seven qualifying games since, the Americans have earned 16 points while putting 12 goals in the opposing teams’ nets, the best points-per-game record in the qualifying group over that period of time.Coming off of their narrow win over El Salvador, where a moment of opportunistic brilliance from a defender, Antonee Robinson, was necessary to avoid embarrassment, the Americans will have to make at least one adjustment to their starting eleven.Outside forward Timothy Weah, who has been one of the more effective attacking players for the US, was unable to make the trip to Canada due to issues with his vaccine credentials, which are valid in France but incompatible with entry requirements in Canada.Berhalter touched upon the issue in his pre-match comments, explaining “He had one vaccine shot, [then] he got Covid [while] he was awaiting the second shot. Due to the time of when he got Covid, he wasn’t able to get that second shot. However in France, he’s listed as fully vaccinated, because the one shot plus Covid means you’re vaccinated, [but] as a technicality it wasn’t acceptable in Canada.”This will likely lead to the return of Ricardo Pepi to the starting lineup, after the 19 year-old Texan did not take the field at all against El Salvador. Additionally, Jesús Ferreira could lose his starting spot after wasting several opportunities, which could see a front three of Pepi, Aaronson and Christian Pulisic.In addition to Weah, defender Brooks Lennon is also unavailable after Berhalter revealed in pre-game comments that the 24 year-old returned to his club team in Atlanta with an ankle problem, however his participation was in any case unlikely.With no update on the arrival of keeper Zack Steffen, likely meaning he will remain in England for the entire window with his nagging back issue, Matt Turner will be in goal, but will be hard pressed to earn what would be a fourth shut-out in his seventh qualifying match between the sticks.With both teams also quite resilient in the defense – they are tied with the best goals-against record only allowing five apiece – the battle will ultimately come down to which of the two can better deal with the others’ main point of attack, which is significantly different between the two.For the Canadians, their primary strength is through their front three of David, Larin and new Brugge arrival Tajon Buchanan, who currently form the most lethal attacking trio in CONCACAF, and will put the American back line to the test.Conversely, Berhalter’s squad has seen hot-and-cold inconsistency from its front line throughout qualifying. Instead, the team draws strength from its dynamic full-back play, particularly with Robinson and Sergiño Dest remaining constant threats anytime they gain possession with room to run. Additionally, a major, and still-growing impact comes from a robust, if not oppressively dominant central midfield, which will likely feature the “MMA” trio of Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah and captain Tyler Adams.In short, the tasks for the Americans will be avoid even a single costly mistake against the deadly Canadian trio, while the hosts will have to avoid being systematically ground down enough to fall victim to a sneak attack from the sides.Berhalter summed up his respect for their hosts in his pre-game comments, drawing comparisons to his own squad, but setting the path for achieving their goals.“It’s similar to us that they have a young player pool [and] they have highly talented players,” he complimented. “When you think of Alfonso Davies, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchaan and Jonathan Osorio, they have a talented group of players, let’s make no mistake about it.”“If you guys remember what I said in 2019 after we lost them,” he continued, “I said it’s a good team [and] I didn’t think that team was given enough credit.”“It’s [now] a couple years later, [they are] top of the table after nine games, they’re a well-coached team, they know how to play, they have a clear philosophy, and they deserve to be where they are right now.”“For us it’s an opportunity to try to get first in the group, and that’s where we want to finish. To do that, we’re going to have to have a good game against Canada.”The game kicks off at 3pm Eastern time, in Tim Horton’s field in Hamilton, Canada.

USMNT Pulls Within Range of More Immediate, Long-Shot World Cup Qualifying Scenario

The last time the U.S. men’s national team faced the long-shot scenario, things didn’t work out so well.The events of October 2017 are well-documented and have been dissected ad nauseam over the last four-plus years. The failure to qualify for the World Cup was very much a foundational issue, but had a series of events not gone the way they did on Oct. 10—an American loss to Trinidad & Tobago, Panama and Honduras wins over Costa Rica and Mexico, respectively—then the U.S. would have still overcome all of those faults and not been eliminated from contention that night.The long-shot scenario this time around, at least, is one the U.S. would happily welcome. Its 1–0 win over El Salvador on Thursday night, coupled with results elsewhere around the region, provided an express lane to Qatar that could see the U.S. wrap up its return to the World Cup before the final qualifying window. It’s not the most likely scenario, but it is at least plausible—though it requires the U.S. to accomplish something it has yet to do in the previous three-match windows: win out.The dream scenario of clinching a top-three finish before trips to notoriously difficult destinations in Mexico and Costa Rica two months from now starts with the U.S. going to first-place Canada and beating the surging neighbor to the north on Sunday. It then continues by returning home to Minnesota and topping a last-place Honduras side that has been reduced to playing spoiler.That alone would make it almost a certainty—but not a complete mathematical certainty—that the U.S. will return to the World Cup after missing Russia 2018. But for it to happen next week, it also needs Panama to lose its next two matches (at home vs. Jamaica, at Mexico) and for Costa Rica to not exceed two points in its remaining two games (at Mexico, at Jamaica). That would put the U.S. 10 points clear of fourth place with three games to play (and nine points left up for grabs). When it comes to the baseline of qualifying for the World Cup, it doesn’t matter where the U.S. finishes in Concacaf’s top three. First-place bragging rights are great, but they come with the same automatic ticket as third place. It could potentially benefit the U.S., currently ranked 11th by FIFA, if it wound up topping the table, as it relates to results impacting the seeding for the World Cup draw, but that’s getting even further ahead of ourselves.You won’t catch Gregg Berhalter or any U.S. player discussing or entertaining any of those permutations. Any mention about the March window and what potentially lies ahead if things don’t go well now is met, understandably, by a “one game at a time” response, which is as cliché as much as it is perfectly logical. The U.S. can’t get caught looking too far forward or taking other results for granted. That’s how long-shot scenarios like those from 2017 enter the chat.Thursday night’s result resonated with a number of known truths about World Cup qualifying in Concacaf. The performance wasn’t great—Berhalter and U.S. players lamented the missed chances and slow start—but the points are all that ultimately matter. As Berhalter, who was also critical of some other aspects of his side’s showing, said following the match, “The big picture of this game is we’re still in very good position in World Cup qualifying, the three points were vital at home, and we achieved that.”The U.S.’s recurring theme of a slow start followed by a more emphatic second half unfolded again (the U.S. has now failed to score in the first half of seven of its nine qualifying matches), while some questions surrounding individual performance and ruthlessness in the final third persist. But the way the table is breaking, the runway for a flight to Qatar—in November, not the less-desirable one in June for an intercontinental playoff that is reserved for Cocnacaf’s fourth-place finisher—is clearing for takeoff. “We’re definitely one step closer,” said Antonee Robinson, Thursday’s goalscorer. “We’re really happy to get the win. … We’re one step closer to our goal of qualifying for the World Cup.” Canada ready for World Cup ‘battle’ with US

Fri, January 28, 2022, 5:34 PM·3 min read

Canada coach John Herdman has told his team to prepare for battle as they take on the United States in a pivotal CONCACAF World Cup qualifier on Sunday.The Canadians have emerged as the surprise package of Central America, North America and the Caribbean’s qualifying competition, unbeaten in nine matches and leading the eight-team final round with 19 points.A victory over the second-placed United States in Hamilton, Ontario, on Sunday would put clear daylight between Canada and the chasing pack.With only four games remaining after Sunday, victory could leave ‘Les Rouges’ firmly on course for their first trip to the World Cup in 36 years.Sunday’s game takes place at the compact Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.Due to local Covid-19 regulations, capacity for the game has been halved to around 12,000, but Herdman hopes the smaller crowd will nevertheless create a hostile environment for the visitors.”It’s going to feel tight and compact. We want the US to feel that,” he said.”It’s a battle. It’s two teams that are desperate for three points and will do anything for it,” said Herdman, the 46-year-old Englishman who took over as Canada’s men’s coach in 2018 after managing the women’s side for seven years.For so long the whipping boys of CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying – prior to this campaign, Canada had not reached the final round of regional qualifiers since 1998 — Herdman has forged a close-knit group who are anything but pushovers.They served notice of their capability in November with a 2-1 win over Mexico, and on Thursday grabbed a 2-0 win on the road over Honduras.Herdman believes the win over Honduras on Thursday embodied his team’s spirit.”To get a 2-0 on the road was important for the team, to get our first win on the road, as well,” he said.”More than anything, it was just about three points — that’s all it comes down to. We bent a little bit, but we didn’t break. I think that’s the story of the identity of this team,” Herdman said.”It’s a special story that’s unfolding. It seems like every (player) is able to contribute on the journey,” he added.”We’ll keep relying on that mettle, that camaraderie, that brotherhood and we’ll fight, that’s what it will be in any game against the US. You’ve got to bring the battle, it’s a cup final at home.”The US meanwhile arrive in Canada after an unconvincing 1-0 home win over El Salvador in Columbus on Thursday.A victory over the Canadians on Sunday would give coach Gregg Berhalter’s side valuable breathing space, however.While they remain well-placed to qualify, the USA still must travel to Mexico and Costa Rica in March, traditionally awkward away games against two teams who are desperate for points.Mexico, who needed two late goals to overcome Jamaica 2-1 on Thursday in Kingston, host Costa Rica in a vital clash at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on Sunday.Panama, who are fourth in the standings behind Mexico, face a home game with Jamaica while Honduras host El Salvador in Sunday’s other game.

USMNT EARN THREE CRITICAL POINTS, WITH ROOM TO IMPROVE

By Doug McIntyreFOX Sports Soccer Writer

The U.S. Men’s National Team is one step closer to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. 

After another frustrating first half in Thursday’s critical qualifying match against overmatched El Salvador, the USMNT’s attack once again came alive in the final 45 minutes, with defender Antonee Robinson’s 52nd-minute goal standing up as the game winner in Columbus, Ohio. The three points helped the U.S. temporarily top CONCACAF’s eight-team standings, but Canada reclaimed first place later in the evening with a convincing 2-0 victory in Honduras. The Americans and Canadians meet Sunday north of the border. “The big picture of this game is we’re still in very good position in World Cup qualifying,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said afterward. “The three points were vital at home, and we achieved that. Now it’s time to regroup and come up with a plan to attack Canada.”Here are three quick takeaways on the USMNT’s victory.  

1. A win is a win …

It’s not how; it’s how many (points, that is). Thursday’s 1-0 victory was far from a thing of beauty against a team that — on paper, anyway — the U.S. should have been able to handle easily on home soil. But then, that’s the nature of CONCACAF’s eight-team, 14-match, double-round-robin tournament. Every game is a street fight, the pedigree of the rosters be damned.The seventh-place Salvadorans didn’t seem at all fazed by the freezing temperatures (it was 31 degrees at kickoff) in Ohio’s capital, not with their own World Cup hopes dependent on their pulling off a stunning upset against the heavily favored Americans. And as has been the case throughout qualifying, the Americans couldn’t find their feet in the opening stanza. Jesús Ferreira, a surprise starter at center forward over Ricardo Pepi, looked like a player in the middle of the MLS offseason in squandering a pair of first-half chances, though his headed pass eventually set up Robinson’s winner. Ferreira was hardly alone; captain Christian Pulisic and the rest of the U.S.’s European-based stars weren’t much sharper. “I wouldn’t say this was our best game,” Berhalter admitted. “We didn’t finish enough of our chances that we had.”But as has been the case throughout the Octagonal, the U.S. looked like a different team immediately after the intermission.Robinson’s strike — the left back’s second crucial goal in qualifying — calmed down his teammates and the packed house in Columbus. And while the U.S. didn’t add the insurance tally they would’ve liked, they still pitched a shutout (keeper Matt Turner didn’t even have to make a save) and got the all-important first three of the nine points that will all but assure their return to the grandest stage in soccer after they missed out in spectacular fashion four years ago. “We got the win,” Robinson said. “We’re one step closer to our goal of qualifying for the World Cup.”

but the U.S. was far from convincing 

Given the stakes, the weather, the travel and the fact that the full-strength U.S. roster hadn’t played together since mid-November, perhaps a game this ugly was to be expected. Whatever the reason, the U.S. just didn’t play very well. Not playing well and winning anyway is better than the alternative, to be sure. Still, for probably the eighth time in nine Octagonal matches so far — the lone exception being November’s comprehensive 2-0 “dos a cero” triumph over rival Mexico — the cohesiveness of the U.S. left a lot to be desired. “At times in the first half, the distances between our midfielders was too far apart,” Berhalter said of the Tyler AdamsWeston McKennie and Yunus Musah trio.  “The team was disconnected a little bit.”They’ll have to be much sharper if they want to take even a point out of Sunday’s trip to Canada, to say nothing of March’s daunting road matches in Mexico City and San Jose, Costa Rica. (The U.S. has never won a qualifier in either locale.) “It’s our first international game since the last window, so we weren’t going to turn up with the short time that we’ve had to prepare and just play an amazing game of football and win six-nil,” Robinson said. “It was always going to be a tough, tight affair. And you know, they made it difficult for us.”

USMNT’s focus now shifts to Canada 

The Americans’ victory combined with the Reds’ triumph in San Pedro Sula keeps the Canadians one point ahead of the second-place U.S. That means Sunday’s match in Hamilton, Ontario, will go a long way toward determining who wins the group. (Third-place Mexico also held serve Thursday, scoring twice late to top Jamaica 2-1.) “We have to be better for next game,” said U.S. forward Tim Weah, for whom bragging rights are also at stake Sunday. Jonathan David, his close friend and teammate with French champion Lille, is Canada’s star forward.”We’ve been waiting for this game. The whole year, we’ve been talking about it. We’ve been joking about who’s going to win, who’s going to score,” he said. Lineup changes are likely. Weah, who just returned from a hamstring injury, hasn’t played on artificial turf field in years. The temperatures in Hamilton will be even colder than in Columbus. “We’re going to have to assess everyone tomorrow,” Berhalter said when asked how much he’ll rotate players, adding that McKennie, who had a noticeable limp at the end of Thursday’s contest, was fine.Whoever plays, “it’s probably going to come down to who wants it more, which is the case for most of these games,” Robinson said. “We’re going to really try and take it to them. We don’t care that it’s away from home. We need to win more than them.”

Antonee ‘Jedi’ Robinson gives Berhalter, USMNT the World Cup qualifying win they were looking for

Kyle Bonagura ESPN Staff Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When the United States men’s national team went into halftime with El Salvador on Thursday without a goal, any feeling of anxiousness that might have crept into the home locker room would have been understandable. With a World Cup berth not yet secured, anything other than a win would have been considered a massive disappointment.For this U.S. National team, though, it was a familiar and, maybe, an even comfortable position. The team has struggled in the first half throughout qualifying — it has just two first-half goals in nine games — but has routinely found ways to strike back in the second half. This game would be no different. As he did against Honduras in September, left-back Antonee Robinson — who goes by the nickname Jedi — summoned the force for an important goal early in the second half, which held up in a pivotal 1-0 win.”We call our full-backs the superpower of our team,” United States manager Gregg Berhalter said. “We do that because they produce; they give assists and goals and if you look at World Cup qualifying so far, our full-backs have contributed heavily.”The sentiment of being linked to mystical abilities works just fine for Robinson, who has been called Jedi since he was a young boy due to his fascination with the Star Wars movies.”I feel weird being called Antonee,” he said. “I prefer being called Jedi.”The United States has received strong play from other full-backs — namely Sergino Dest and DeAndre Yedlin — but Robinson, in particular, has developed into one of the most important players on the roster. His value was illustrated when Berhalter didn’t include any other natural left-backs on the roster this window and was reinforced throughout the performance against El Salvador in which he made significant contributions in both defense and in attack.Playing on the same side of the field as Christian Pulisic, who routinely dropped into midfield and moved centrally, Robinson was tasked with staying wide, where he was able to pressure the opposing outside back with the ball and get in position to send in crosses. In defense, he was part of a unit that was rarely challenged all game, often intervening in opposing attacks before they had a chance to develop.On the goal, Jesus Ferreira, who earned his first start of qualifying, headed the ball into the area, where Robinson calmly slotted it home from about six yards out near the back post. It was a bit of a broken play, but Robinson credited Berhalter’s strategy of having him hover near the back post when the ball came in from the opposite side.He celebrated with a cartwheel into a backflip into a fake injury and a celebratory strut, which awakened the sold-out crowd of 20,000 in Columbus, where the team is now 9-1-2 all time in World Cup qualifying matches.Forward Timothy Weah admitted afterward he briefly thought Robinson pulled his hamstring during the celebration, but Berhalter found himself in awe more than anything.”If a guy scores like that and chooses to do that, who might demand [he doesn’t]. That’s an amazing physical feat,” Berhalter said. “So congratulations to him for even being able to do that. I think it’s really impressive.”Coupled with Panama‘s loss at Costa Rica a short while later, the United States took a major step toward qualification. With five games left, the U.S. has a four-point lead over fourth-place Panama, the key team to watch with the top three finishers receiving automatic bids to Qatar 2022.”It wasn’t the prettiest game and there were times when we played good football, times when we just had to kind of dig it out,” Robinson said. “Chances that we didn’t put away, but we got the win and are one step closer to our goal of qualifying for the World Cup.”Throughout the week, the U.S. National team’s players maintained the frigid conditions in Columbus — it was 32 degrees at kickoff and snowed lightly in the hours leading up to the game — wouldn’t be much of a factor and there wasn’t much evidence to indicate it was. With 18 points through nine games, the U.S. has six more than it did through nine games in the 2018 cycle (when qualifying consisted of 10 games).It will train Friday in Columbus before a short flight to Canada later in the day in advance of Sunday’s game in Hamilton, which is located roughly an hour outside of Toronto. More than any perceived weather advantage the United States thought it was generating by playing in frigid Columbus, it was the minimal travel following the game that it valued. Conversely, Canada has a 2,000-mile trip back home after its 2-0 win against Honduras that allowed them to stay atop the CONCACAF standings.After injuries kept Pulisic out of the starting lineup for the past five qualifiers, he captained the side during his return against El Salvador. It was an intriguing prospect to see him start with the midfield trio of Tyler AdamsWeston McKennie and Yunus Musah for the first time, but the combination didn’t result in many threatening moments. On the left wing where he’s most comfortable, Pulisic had trouble maintaining possession and when Berhalter subbed him off in the 65th minute for Brenden Aaronson, it was a just decision.”It’s just about him finding his top form, and really finding ways to get him in front of goal because that’s where it really shines,” Berhalter said. “When he’s in front the penalty box is where he does his best work.”Berhalter’s decision to start Ferreira at striker was the only surprising decision in the starting XI. It had appeared Ricardo Pepi, Ferreira’s former teammate with FC Dallas, had latched onto the starting role having started five of the past six games, but Ferreira offers something different. He’s not the finisher Pepi is — highlighted by two missed chances in the first half — but he’s better at linking play with the midfield and wingers, which was also on display.Ferreira conjured up four chances created against El Salvador are the most by a USMNT player during a game this qualifying cycle, matching the four from the resident Jedi against Jamaica.”[Ferreira] had enough chances to score a couple goals,” Berhalter said. “So that’s the most important thing. If he didn’t have any chances in the game, I would have been concerned. But he did have chances and I think it’s just a matter of him being able to finish those off. Regarding his link up play, I thought it was excellent.”

Analysis: Robinson’s goal gives the USMNT 1-0 win vs. El Salvador

It wasn’t pretty, but that doesn’t matter. The United States national team earned a critical 1-0 win over El Salvador in Columbus to continue a promising path towards qualifying for Qatar. The U.S. team did not play poorly and was always in control, but the offensive cohesion was lacking most of the night. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta breaks it down. 

BY BRIAN SCIARETTAPOSTEDJANUARY 27, 20227:05

THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL team did not win big or win pretty on Thursday against El Salvador – but it won. In the end, three points is three points and the 1-0 victory puts Gregg Berhalter in great position in World Cup qualifying with five games remaining.The U.S. team had the chance to take the lead early and set the tone but missed several chances – including two by Jesus Ferreira and this kept El Salvador alive and motivated. Despite not finishing well, the U.S. team kept up the pressure for most of the game.n the second half, the U.S. team finally found a breakthrough in the 52nd minute when Tim Weah dribbled into the box. His shot was deflected up, but found Ferreira near the penalty spot. Ferreira swung a header wide to Antonee Robinson who finished from close range to give the United States a 1-0 lead.For the remainder of the half, the U.S. team would keep up the pressure but fail to extend the lead. It’s best chances came on set pieces when Weston McKennie and Gyasi Zardes would head corner kicks over the bar.In addition to the win, the United States avoided any yellow cards and will have no players suspended for the Canada game.Here are my thoughts on the game. 

EXCELLENT FULLBACK PLAY

 The U.S. team has been strong at both fullback positions so far in World Cup qualifying. Antonee Robinson and Sergino Dest have both scored and assisted at various points in qualifying. Dest had a big goal against Costa Rica. Robinson has had big goals against Honduras and then tonight. It has become a big part of the U.S. team under Berhalter.Robinson has improved mightily over the past year and a half (since the COVID shutdown) and his role in the U.S. team has grown dramatically. In this game, it was more than just the goal. Robinson was very dangerous presence.Dest also had a positive influence on the game and was important in keeping the U.S. in control of this game. 

U.S. DEFENSE STRONG UP THE MIDDLE

 El Salvador had a few half-chances but generally didn’t test the U.S. team too much. Matt Turner didn’t have to make a single save.Defensively, one of the strongest areas for the U.S. team is the triangle of Tyler Adams sitting in front of the central defense pairing of Chris Richards and Walker Zimmerman. That is a strong defensive contingent sitting in front of Turner and in this one, all three played well. It didn’t seem like El Salvador was ever too much of a threat. 

OFF-NIGHT FOR PULISIC

 There are always a ton of expectations on Christian Pulisic and when he struggles, it stands out. That is the price of being one of the best players in the entire region.There is no denying that Pulisic was simply not good in this game. Most notably, he was only 2/15 in his duels and was dispossessed nine times before getting pulled in the 64th minute. There was also decision making and on one break in the first half, he missed a wide open Tim Weah to his right only to force it down the left side that was well covered.Pulisic didn’t have it tonight, but he is still a great player. Now it will be up for him to shake it off to get back into form for a tough visit to Canada on Sunday.

 LOOKING AHEAD TO CANADA

 Canada defeated Honduras 2-0 on the road on Thursday and will now make the trip back home to face the United States in Hamilton.Once again, the conditions will be tough. While it will be played in the afternoon, the forecast calls for a high of 23 degrees with a chance of snow. On top of that, it will be played on artificial grass. This game won’t be pretty and it will be a grind. Berhalter probably won’t make too many changes. He will probably start either Zardes or Ricardo Pepi up top. It is hard to see Adams or McKennie getting replaced. If there is a change in the midfield, perhaps it is Musah in place of someone used to playing in terrible CONCACAF conditions.The opportunity is there for the United States. A draw would certainly be acceptable but a win would put the U.S. team in an outstanding position – first in the group, playing for a nine-point window that would essentially book a ticket to Qatar. With Panama losing to Costa Rica, the USMNT, CAnada, and Mexico have separated themselves from the pack a bit.

PLAYER RATINGS
THE STARTING LINEUP

Matt Turner: The New England Revolution keeper (for now) didn’t have to make a save but his distribution was actually strong as he connected with 4/6 long balls and twice played Antonee Robinson up the field in a position to make a break. Rating: 6.0

Antonee Robinson: The Fulham left back was the best player on the field for this game. He scored the only goal and was dangerous throughout. Rating: 8.0

Chris Richards: The Hoffenheim central defender was an important part of keeping El Salvador off the board. One tough moment when he failed to close down on Alex Roldan who missed a shot just wide. But Richards was generally steady. Rating: 6.5

Walker Zimmerman: The Nashville central defender was his usual steady self in the back. He had a few effective passes out of the back into the attack, won most of his duels, and contained the middle. He still needs to be a little more of a presence on set pieces because he is one of the team’s main targets. Rating: 7.0

Sergino Dest: The Barcelona right back worked hard on both sides of the ball – winning 12/21 duels, coming up with big tackles, and then with the ball he was always looking to advance it forward. Rating: 6.5

Tyler Adams: Sitting in front of the backline, Adams did a lot of the dirty work and kept El Salvador a bay. He was also effective in possession – getting the ball forward into advanced possessions. He played the defensive midfield position well and avoided a yellow card which would have suspended him against Canada. Rating: 7.5

Weston McKennie: The Juventus midfielder had some tough giveaways but he brought energy to the game that ensured that the U.S. team was in control of the game. Rating: 6.5

Yunus Musah: Musah’s combination play on the night was lacking on the left side and he seemed to lack chemistry with Pulisic. The Valencia midfielder, however, had a few nice individual moments which created danger including a side-footed shot in the second half which forced a save. Rating: 6.0Christian Pulisic: It was a very tough game for the U.S. team’s best player who just didn’t have it. He was dispossessed a lot, lost most of his duels, and his decision making were all not up to his standard. Rating: 4.5

Tim Weah: The Lille winger was a handful to defend and was involved in many of the team’s best chances. His dribbling drew a lot of attention from El Salvador’s defenders. Rating: 6.5

Jesus Ferreira: The FC Dallas attacker missed two chances early in the game – which he helped to create for himself. But he worked well with others and set up chances for Pulisic in the first half and Musah in the second. His hard work paid off in the second half when he assisted on Robinson’s goal. He also wn a big share of his duels (8/12) – which helped in the press and the possession edge and was credited with four key passes. It was a good outing, but he should have finished one of those two chances.  Rating: 6.5

 THE SUBSTITUTES

 Brenden Aaronson: The Salzburg winger came into the game in the 65th minute. He wasn’t part of anything too dangerous but he helped keep the U.S. on the front foot. Rating: 6.0

Jordan Morris: Was part of a double substitution in the 72nd minute and had a few nice runs but was mostly quiet. Rating: 5.5

Gyasi Zardes: The forward replaced Pepi. He hit a header over the bar which he should have gotten on frame but he did well in a hold-up situation that played Antonee Robinson into the attack for a chance. Rating: 5.5

Kellyn Acosta: Late cameo. Rating: NR

How Kellyn Acosta’s dirty work is pushing U.S. Men’s National Team forward in World Cup qualifying

Drake HillsNashville Tennessean In the next two months, five matches will determine the U.S men’s national soccer team’s fate for the FIFA World Cup. Midfielder Kellyn Acosta has become essential, yet rarely exalted, in this effort, and U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter knows it.Acosta, 26, played in 21 of 22 USMNT matches last year, the most of any player since 1994. In 2021, he played the full 120 minutes in both victories against Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup, assisting on the winning goal in the latter.Acosta has played in eight of the USMNT’s nine World Cup Qualifiers thus far.“Kellyn’s a competitor, first and foremost,” Berhalter said this week. “We know we need guys on the field that want to compete to win games. We know (they’re) highly competitive fixtures. Every single game has a lot on the line. … To have a guy on the field that is going to compete is valuable. We’re very comfortable with Kellyn.”Comfort with Kellyn often means discomfort for his opponents – on the field in the middle of a melee with Mexico or a shoving match with Canada. Even at the team hotel, mixing skill and banter when playing cards or shooting dice, Acosta doesn’t discriminate when choosing his victim.his competitive nature, Acosta said, has created an edge for the U.S. in qualifiers, creating a “winning mentality where, in each play, it hurts if you don’t prevail.”The U.S. is (5-1-3,18 points) in second place in qualifying and will square off with first-place Canada (5-0-4, 19 points) on Sunday in Hamilton, Ontario (2 p.m., Paramount+).Acosta is part of the engine that the U.S. hopes will get it to the World Cup in Qatar in November, simply by being the unsung leader who’s in love with doing the dirty work.“I may not wear the captain’s armband, but I just try to use my experience to help better my teammates on and off the field,” Acosta told The Tennessean. “I just try to lead by example. Whether that’s just work ethic, whether that’s making plays, whether it’s sticking up for my teammates – different aspects of the game that maybe go unnoticed, but I think it goes a long way and to showing the camaraderie of the team.”As the U.S. prepares for its rematch with Canada on Sunday, what comes to mind is captain and midfielder Tyler Adams’ retaliating shove on Mark Anthony-Kaye, sending the Colorado Rapids midfielder to the grass at Nissan Stadium in September.As boos rang in from the predominantly-U.S. crowd, and Canadian players circled around referee Oshane Nation to suggest a red card should be issued instead of a yellow, in came Acosta, stepping in for Adams – who riled up fullback Richie Laryea just enough to require teammate Samuel Adekugbe and others to hold him back from charging Acosta.Acosta boasts the third-most appearances (46) for the U.S. on this roster with an average age of 24, which includes the midfield of the future in Adams, 22, Weston McKinnie, 23, and Yunus Musah, who is 19. All of them are up for CONCACAF’s toughness, but none more than Acosta.’I’m not saying that the team is soft by any means,” Acosta said. “But I try to add that dimension, that no matter what’s gonna go on, I have your back no matter what.”Acosta is one of four on this roster (along with Christian Pulisic, Paul Arriola and Gyasi Zardes) who tasted World Cup Qualifying failure in 2017 against Trinidad and Tobago. His 13 World Cup Qualifying appearances carry value held in high regard by teammates.“Kellyn, like you mentioned, just the way he battles, the way he helps us to get through this qualifying process and also … just as a mentality, I feel like the team has really stepped up and I like the focus that I’m seeing right now,” Pulisic said.Mentality is a motif for the USMNT, and its ball-winning defensive midfielder preaches it by doing what no one else wants to.“His effort, his work rate … I think he inspires other players, and with his mentality,” Berhalter said.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.

Not perfect, but task complete: USMNT grind toward Qatar 2022 with El Salvador win

By Charles Boehm @cboehmThursday, Jan 27, 2022, 11:47 PM

After Antonee “Jedi” Robinson finally found the breakthrough, lashing the game’s only goal past Mario González in the 52nd minute to nudge the US men’s national team ahead of El Salvador, the Fulham left back wheeled away towards the corner flag to execute his now-signature backflip as his teammates raced to join him – then suddenly clutched at the back of his leg, the dreaded universal sign of a hamstring injury.But Robinson was just entering the second phase of his celebration, a faux muscle strain segueing into a cheeky little dance delivered with a grin, inspired by the flamboyant footwork of a Kenyan player that went viral a few years ago.“He kind of scared me because I thought he pulled his hammy,” Tim Weah, whose saved shot triggered the goal sequence, admitted postgame. “But you know, it all worked out in the end.”FullscreenThat might just sum up the USMNT’s 1-0 World Cup qualifying win at Columbus’ Lower.com Field.The hosts and favorites controlled most of the possession and created enough scoring chances to stack up an expected-goals number nearly 15 times that of Los Cuscatlecos. Yet time and again they failed to finish, allowing their tenacious, technical guests to hang on and create danger on their efficient forays forward. The US didn’t really seem assured of the victory until the final whistle, while captain and talisman Christian Pulisic turned in one of the most anonymous performances of his USMNT career.With just five Octagonal matches remaining as Qatar 2022 looms ever closer, however, three points will do the Yanks just fine, as a results-centric mindset inevitably outweighs deeper concerns for the time being. They remain second in the Octagonal table, accruing 18 points from nine games (5W-1L-3D record) before a crucial test Sunday at table-leaders Canada (3:05 pm ET | OneSoccer, Paramount+).

“I think we lacked connection in our pressing. There was too often too much space between our lines; we weren’t able to make that next play on the pass and the pressure was broken,” noted manager Gregg Berhalter postgame. “The ambition to play forward and get behind them, what was missing from the 90 minutes – we had it in spurts but overall I think we could have done that much better. The big picture of this game is we’re still in very good position in World Cup qualifying. The three points were vital at home and we achieved that.”

Didn’t always feel this dominant, but… 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/WJz3bfE6Aq

— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr) January 28, 2022

The coach himself injected a new wrinkle into his attack for this occasion, surprising many with his selection of Jesus Ferreira ahead of Ricardo Pepi in the starting No. 9 role, the first career WCQ start for the FC Dallas star and a shift towards his more nuanced interpretation of that position than his former club teammate’s.While Ferreira failed to convert a few inviting looks in the early going that would have dramatically changed the game’s tenor, Berhalter was mostly effusive with his praise.“He had enough chances to score a couple goals. So that’s the most important thing. If he didn’t have any chances in the game, I would have been concerned. But he did have chances, and I think it’s just a matter of him being able to finish those off,” Berhalter said of Ferreira. “Regarding his linkup play, I thought it was excellent. And a number of times he was setting players up, as we expected him to do. So overall, although we might only try to judge No. 9s by their goal production, I still think he had a solid performance.”

🐆 pic.twitter.com/qoagsx88KA

— FC Dallas (@FCDallas) January 27, 2022

Berhalter could afford to lodge quibbles about evaluation metrics for his forward because he once again received key attacking contributions from a very different spot.With Robinson’s second strike of the Ocho, USMNT fullbacks have now scored three goals and notched three assists in this qualification campaign. That’s a crucial quantity, given that the Yanks have still failed to score from a set piece – usually a trump card for the program – in this cycle and no one has scored more goals than Pepi’s three, the most recent of which came back in October against Jamaica.Add that to the tempo-setting muscle of the “MMA” central-midfield combo of Weston McKennie – who was quietly excellent on this night – Yunus Musah and Tyler Adams, and this team’s floor is considerably higher than past vintages.“We call the fullbacks our superpower of our team,” declared Berhalter. “We do that because they produce, they give assists and goals. If you look at World Cup qualifying so far, our fullbacks have contributed heavily. Sergino [Dest] has a goal and assists, Antonee Robinson has goals and assists, DeAndre Yedlin has an assist. Our fullbacks are great for us and they’re a big part of how we play, especially when we’re dropping our midfielders lower. They’re really important.”

Chances to qualify for World Cup 2022 – CONCACAF

🇨🇦 Canada – 99.5%
🇲🇽 Mexico – 99.4%
🇺🇸 USA – 98.8%
🇵🇦 Panama – 58.0%
🇨🇷 Costa Rica – 17.1%
🇯🇲 Jamaica – 3.2%
🇸🇻 El Salvador – 0.3%
🇭🇳 Honduras – 0.0%

— We Global Football (@We_Global) January 28, 2022

Robinson himself tried to keep the balance between pragmatism and self-criticism, nodding to the unique circumstances of this rare winter window and the bigger-picture priority of making one dogged step forward after another.

“It wasn’t the prettiest game. And there was times when we played good football, times when we just had to kind of dig out chances that we didn’t put away. But we got the win and we’re one step closer to our goal of qualifying for the World Cup,” said the English-American dual national.“Everyone’s at different stages, some lads are in preseason, some lads have had a heavy fixture period, myself included. And it’s our first international game since the last window, so it was never going to be [that] we turn up with the short time that we’ve had to prepare and just play an amazing game of football and win 6-0. It was always going to be a tough, tight affair, and they made it difficult for us. They were aggressive, they sat tight,” he continued.

“We had to stay strong, stay resilient to keep a clean sheet, and that’s massive for us going forward. They’re the games that we have to keep winning if we want to qualify.”

The USMNT’s Pulisic Problem, lessons learned from El Salvador & what to expect at Canada

By Matthew Doyle @MattDoyle76Friday, Jan 28, 2022, 01:22 PM

On the pregame Twitter Spaces, ahead of the eventual 1-0 US men’s national team win over El Salvador in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday night, Andrew Wiebe asked me what I wanted to see from the US. What would, in his words, “spark joy”?I said something to the effect of “I want them to show the ability to create repeatable, high-level chances based upon well-drilled and purposeful movement of, and off, the ball.”And I kinda sorta got what I wanted. Lost in all the sturm und drang of the postgame analysis, which rightfully focused on the frustrations that led to a narrower-than-it-should-have-been victory over one of the Octagonal’s minnows (though full credit to Hugo Perez for infusing his side with such confidence and clarity in their principles of play that they never actually play like minnows), is that the US are now showing the ability to create those types of sequences. They really do, for the most part, know how they want to play. Most of them understand the system and apply it.

Here is well-drilled and purposeful movement of, and off, the ball from Weston McKennie, Jesus Ferreira, Sergino Dest and Tim Weah:

It’s just a little bit too slow and a lot too sloppy, and there is one run missing (more on that in a bit), but the ideas are there.

Here is a similar sequence in the second half:

The difference is that Weah makes an early run to create both width and depth – those clipped balls over the top were a nightmare for La Selecta all night, and I’m mad the US didn’t hit more of them – but it still results with the US getting the match-up they want in the channel they want, and this time it has a happy ending because the extra run, the one that was missing in the above sequence, was made.

If you think this can only work against El Salvador, here is a fun sequence vs. Mexico:

It was, once again, something similar on the first goal vs. El Tri:

This is how the US want to play, and how they are quite often playing these days. They have, for the most part, bought into how Gregg Berhalter sees the game, even if they don’t always execute on it.It has only rarely sparked true joy for me, though, and almost not at all on Thursday. Let’s go back to my answer above: “I want them to show the ability to create repeatable, high-level chances based upon well-drilled and purposeful movement of, and off, the ball.”That is the right answer, but it is not the complete answer. The complete answer is “I want them to show the ability to create repeatable, high-level chances based upon well-drilled and purposeful movement of, and off, the ball, and to do so at pace.”The US, for whatever reason, often progress the ball at a walk and are slow to exploit advantages even when they’re right there for the taking. Berhalter said as much at halftime, telling ESPN’s Sam Borden: “We need to play forward a little bit quicker – we win the ball, there’s space. Second thing is we need to threaten their backline. Every time we do that we’re dangerous. We just haven’t done that enough.”Berhalter is uncannily good and honest in those halftime interviews. He always nails the exact issues the US were struggling with during the first half, and almost always fixes it for the second half.

I do not think he’s saving this wisdom for the players for halftime. I’m certain he wants them to execute the above at pace from the whistle, and to be fair, the game’s best chance (Ferreira’s missed tap-in) came from a very good, very familiar sequence. They really can do it before the clock hits the hour mark.But usually, they don’t. And almost never for the full 90. It is weird, and it is frustrating, but perhaps this is just the mark of a young, inexperienced team that’s had to battle more injuries and absences than the vast majority of the competition over the past six months.Anyway, three points are three points, and the parts are in place to collect more over the next couple of games. They just have to do what they’ve already been doing, except faster.

The Pulisic Problem

I have made this point over and over again: When Christian Pulisic plays on the left wing of the 4-3-3, he never stretches the field. His first, last and at times only instinct is to come back to the ball, point at his feet, go inverted and try to dribble three guys. It’s like the weight of that No. 10 makes him think he’s got to be Messi out there. So he turns the ball over a frankly unacceptable percentage of the time – 15 turnovers on 30 touches in the first half on Thursday.Worse than that, though, is that he clogs the middle and makes it harder for the US to build through the zones where they should be at an advantage. Here is the network passing graphic from the first hour of the game, just before Pulisic was subbed off:

He’s added nothing when playing inverted like that, and actually ends up breaking the US shape in build-up by making the field smaller and pushing at least one (and sometimes two) of the US central midfielders out of the middle. El Salvador were playing a diamond, and with Pulisic checking deep like that, and Ferreira playing as a false 9, Yunus Musah had basically no choice but to drop deep and wide, basically outside of La Selecta’s defensive shape.

That renders Musah – the best US ball-progressor – ineffective by creating an overload in a pretty useless spot of the field, and puts Pulisic in a position where he’s just going to go into the hurt locker again and again and again. He’ll draw some fouls that way, but he’ll also turn the ball over a ton and what he’ll never do is create useful width or depth of the sort that Weah’s excelled at.

So above, when I said that “most of them understand the system and apply it,” there’s one guy I’m thinking of who just doesn’t seem to get it.

Here is the other concern from this night: Even when Pulisic was supposed to be inverted, he was slow to recognize patterns developing and thus didn’t threaten the El Salvador defense.

Let’s go back to the first clip above. Here is Ferreira dropping all the way off to help the build-up sequence and open space for Pulisic to attack the backline:

You know that the US are about to create a 2-v-1 with Weah and Dest, and that the left-sided center back is going to be pulled out. There is an opportunity here to get at a dead sprint against a backpedaling defense and just annihilate them.

He does not see it:

Everybody else in the US attack is sprinting, but Pulisic is standing still. Weah, McKennie, Dest and Antonee Robinson all get to the box before Pulisic does.

That is bad. This whole sequence is designed for Pulisic to get into the box and score the type of goal he scored vs. El Tri, but it just didn’t click for him. And while Dest’s touch was sloppy (scroll back up and watch the play again), I actually think that if Pulisic is making a hard run to either the near or far post, Dest would’ve just one-timed a low, early cross to him. There would’ve been no need for the extra touch that led to the turnover in the first place.

Go back and watch the goal sequence and you’ll see that Pulisic did better in his second-half cameo, and was in the six-yard box ready to pounce, having taken the space that Ferreira and Weah’s movement created.

But even if he’d scored there instead of Robinson, it would not have gone down as a good game from the guy who’s supposed to be the USMNT’s best player. And I really do think the solution can be as simple as having him and Weah (or Brenden Aaronson, or Jordan Morris) swap sides.

  1. Pulisic’s been more consistently dangerous throughout his career as a right winger. He can stretch the field just like Weah does, and is better 1v1 when getting the edge.
  2. Putting him on the right means that he can combine more with Dest, who is more inventive in attacking combination play than Robinson.
  3. Robinson always gets to the endline and loves to hit crosses to the far post. Pulisic is wonderful at attacking those exact types of crosses if that’s his main job out there.
  4. Weah has straight-up said that he prefers left wing to right wing, and while he will certainly come inside more than he has when playing on the right, I don’t think he’d ever do it to the gum-up-the-whole-works extent that Pulisic has.

So in the end it’s an argument for simplifying things for a guy who’s clearly one of the most talented players in the pool (I still think he’s the most talented player in the pool), but who also happens to be struggling with the system as a whole. Flip him to the right, flip one of the other guys to the left, and get him in front of goal.

I’m choosing to believe, from Berhalter’s postgame presser, that he’s seeing the same things I am:

“We put Brenden in, a guy who we know can repeat high-speed runs and really is relentless attacking their backline,” Berhalter said about subbing Aaronson on for Pulisic in the 65th minute. “So we thought it was a sub that was going to give us some help. Regarding Christain, it’s just about him finding his top form and really finding ways to get him in front of goal because that’s where he really shines. When he’s in front of the penalty box is when he does his best work.”

Amen. Move what pieces need to be moved in order to get him there.

A few more notes

• McKennie’s first half was maybe as good as I’ve ever seen him play, but his second half was sloppy as hell. A whole lot of El Salvador being on the front foot over the final 20 minutes came from McKennie just no longer commanding the game and giving the ball away too cheaply.

• Chris Richards really struggled with his decision-making over the first half-hour, repeatedly dribbling into traffic and failing to quickly see progressive outlets.

• I’d almost never choose to play with a false 9, and I think both Berhalter and Ferreira would quibble with designating Jesus as a “false 9” instead of just a regular No. 9 who has distinct attributes in this pool. But regardless, I do think the gambit showed promise. Ferreira dragged players around, was crisp in his passing and found two great chances.

Of course, it would’ve been nice if he’d finished one of those.

The downside to having Ferreira out there is that the US crossed the ball 23 times, and he is 5-foot-8. Ferreira’s good, but both from open play and especially on restarts, he is not an aerial threat. Even against El Salvador.

• Speaking of restarts, Pulisic’s dead-ball delivery was superb. The best the US have had it on set pieces in any of the qualifiers thus far.

• Tyler Adams was weirdly hesitant to be aggressive playing the ball forward. I can’t believe he didn’t release this pass as soon as it was presented, instead of holding on an extra beat and putting Aaronson in an offside position:

• StatsPerform clocked the xG on the night at 2.98-to-0.2 in favor of the US. That’s a paddlin’, and if Ferreira had finished either of his early chances, maybe the scoreline and overall feel of the game would’ve better reflected the underlying numbers.

But they didn’t, and this is not the first time that’s happened in qualifying. I’m not sure yet what this kind of consistent underperformance means, or if it means anything at all.

What does it mean at Canada?

The Canadians will likely do something close to what they did against Mexico two months ago, constantly threatening in behind from both the wide areas and with balls over the top to either Cyle Larin or Jonathan David. This is also similar to how they played at the US back in September, though in that game they were much more content to play against the ball (they had just 25% possession) than I suspect they will be on Sunday.

The US should adjust almost nothing except making a few personnel changes. Miles Robinson in for Richards and either Reggie Cannon or DeAndre Yedlin for Dest. I’d start Pulisic on the right and Morris tucked in on the left, with Pepi in for Ferreira up top.Just that and tell them to do what they’ve been doing for a while now. And remind them to do it at pace. 

USMNT, with another surging second half, takes another step toward 2022 World Cup

Henry Bushnell  Thu, January 27, 2022, 8:55 PM

If soccer games lasted only 45 minutes, the U.S. men’s national team would be on the brink of missing another World Cup. And no, that isn’t an exaggeration. Not after Thursday night, after another frustrating first half, another 45-minute stalemate against a country one-fiftieth the United States’ size.It was Game 9 of a 14-round qualifying gauntlet. It was also the ninth time the USMNT trudged into a locker room at halftime without a lead. And it was the ninth time that, within a panic-prone fan base, there was something between horror and unease.Then, as there so often hs been since the cycle began in September, there was a response. A second-half surge. And a significant step toward the 2022 World Cup.Antonee Robinson lashed home a 51st-minute winner. The U.S. beat El Salvador, 1-0. It momentarily jumped to the top of North and Central America’s qualifying table. The Americans likely won’t end the night there — Canada will reclaim pole position if it hangs on to beat Honduras — but they are well on their way to Qatar.In reality, they have been for months. But sluggish first halves have made the campaign more tense and trying than a simple list of results would make it seem. The U.S. has scored just twice before halftime. If games ended there, its record would be 0-8-1.But four months ago, there was the comeback in Honduras. In the months that followed, there were second-half breakthroughs against Jamaica, Costa Rica and Mexico. On Thursday, there was another one, courtesy of the man, Robinson, who initiated the turnaround way back in San Pedro Sula.Now there are just five games remaining, and perhaps as few as two more victories necessary, and very little doubt the U.S. will get them.There was, though, at halftime in Columbus, some doubt about Thursday’s result. By the end of Thursday’s 90 minutes, the performance looked dominant on paper, but for a while, it was anything but.There were chances in the first half — most notably for U.S. striker Jesus Ferreira — but only chances wasted. There was an out-of-sync press, and Christian Pulisic giveaways, and simmering frustration.But then came the goal, and American attackers streaming forward, and a breather for Pulisic, with Canada up next on Sunday and Honduras next week.The gauntlet concludes in March, with trips to Mexico and Costa Rica, and a home date with Panama. The worst-case scenario, at this point, seems to be a fourth-place finish and an intercontinental playoff against New Zealand. The far more likely outcome is a top-three finish and a plane ticket to Qatar in November.

Arsenal, USMNT keeper Matt Turner agree to terms – sources

Jan 27, 2022Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Arsenal has agreed to terms with the New England Revolution on the transfer of United States international goalkeeper Matt Turner, sources tell ESPN’s Taylor Twellman.

A source with knowledge of the discussions told ESPN that the fee for Turner’s transfer is $6 million up front and could be as much as $10m with add-ons. The Revs also get 10% sell-on percentage if Turner moves on from Arsenal. The upfront fee is lower than the $7.5 million Manchester City paid for Zack Steffen‘s transfer from the Columbus Crew in 2019, a deal that also potentially reached $10m with add-ons.Twellman added that Turner will join the Gunners in the summer, allowing him to remain with the Revs for the start of the 2022 MLS regular season. It will also keep travel to a minimum for Turner for the remainder of World Cup qualifying. With Steffen currently suffering from a back injury, Turner is almost certain to start for the U.S. in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio (7 p.m. ET; stream LIVE The move also points to backup keeper Bernd Leno remaining with Arsenal for the rest of this season, though it’s been reported that Newcastle United is interested in acquiring the Germany international. The move, assuming it is completed, amounts to the latest in a series of giant steps Turner has enjoyed in the past several years. In 2016, he went undrafted by MLS clubs, then signed as a free agent with the Revs after a successful trial. Following a pair of loan stints with second-tier side the Richmond Kickers, he took over the starting spot in 2018 and has been a mainstay ever since, making 107 league, cup and playoff appearances. He was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2021, a campaign in which he was also named the MVP of the MLS All-Star Game.Turner has enjoyed a similar rise at the international level, making 13 appearances for the U.S. — all in 2021 — and backstopping the U.S. to the Gold Cup title, while winning the Golden Glove award as the tournament’s best goalkeeper.

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