3/29/22  USMNT vs Costa Rica 9 pm CBSSN, Indy 11 Home Opener Sat 7 pm

US Qualifies for World Cup with W, Tie or 5 goal loss to Costa Rica Wed Night at 9 pm on CBSSN 

Ok so 4 years after the debacle in Cuovo (Trinidad & Tobago) the legendary loss that knocked the US men out of the World Cup for the first time in 28 Years, the US Men have all but qualified for this Winter’s World Cup in Qatar. Pulisic claimed his first ever Hat Trick for the US team with 2 Pks and this spectacular goal.  The US crowd  in Orlando – unbelievable – as the atmosphere was like the American Outlaws Section all over the stadium. (Game Hi-Lites ).  My 3 buddies at the game all said it was the BEST Atmosphere they have ever seen for a soccer game in the US.   The Bottom line is the US is in the World Cup this winter – if we don’t lose to Costa Rica Wednesday night 9 pm on CBS Sports Network & Paramount plus -by more than 5 goals.  It would take a 6 goal loss to a Costa Rica team that is likely to be resting at least 7 of their starters and 9 overall now on yellow cards.  The stupidest rule in all of sports -yellow card accumulation- (across 10 Qualifying games plus any playoff) means that since Costa Rica would need a major miracle (a 6 goal win over the US Wednesday night at home) that Costa Rica will most probably rest all of their starters who have 1 yellow card to make sure they don’t miss the 1 game playoff in June vs New Zealand (probably) to a trip to Qatar.  To expect a player – especially a Dmid or Defender to only get 1 yellow card in 10 friggin games is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!  It cost us Weah and Yedlin this past game – and almost cost us Adams the past 2 games.  Its the dumbest rule in all of sports – imagine suspending LaBron because he got 1 yellow card (flop foul) in game 2 of the playoffs and again in game 6 of the conference finals and having him miss Game 1 of the NBA Finals – that’s what soccer does and IT’S THE DUMBEST RULE IN ALL OF SPORTS!! 

Shane’s Starting Roster for Costa Rica Wed

Pulisic //Pfok//Weah

Musah//Reyna

Adams

Jedi Robinson//Robinson//Zimmerman//Yedlin

Steffan (should be Horvath)

I truly think Berhalter needs to see his best players on the field – if only for a half vs Costa Rica.  We still haven’t seen Pulisic, Reyna, & Weah on the field at the same time.  I would even consider putting Weah at the 9 slot – and putting Reyna on the right wing and adding De La Torre beside Musah just to see what that would look like (imagine when we add McKinney in the summer for De La Torre and Dest on the right back) – we have never seen our best players on the field at the same time since Berhalter became coach – mainly because of injuries.  Wow – we could really be good come World Cup time.  Wait – that’s right – we have to not lose by 6 goals Wed – before we can say World Cup.  I actually think Berhalter will put out a first team squad on Wed night – and we will find a way to actually win a game in Costa Rica for the first time EVER !!  We have tied before but never won in Costa Rica – I see the US winning 2-1 Wed night !! Go USA !!

ATMOSPHERE WAS ELECTRIC

Wow Orlando – what a magical night in the Mickey City – as the ENTIRE Stadium looked like an American’s Outlaw’s Section – the ENTIRE GAME.  They stood and jumped and screamed and sang – and JUST WOW !! Well Done Orlando !!  I had 2 buddies there who said it was the BEST Soccer Game they have ever been to.  Just Awesome !! The only complaint I had was how, just how could this game not have been on big Fox?  I mean what was on Fox Sun night  that the USA Men Qualifying for the Damn World Cup doesn’t slot a prime Time 7 pm start on Fox rather than Fox Sports 1 (The Simpsons and Ice Age).  Pre-game and Post Game on FS1 – sure but the dang Game should have been on FOX.  They host the Dang World Cup for Heaven’s Sake in just 8 months!

POG

Some controversy as the US blowout 5 to 1 win over Panama – was not quite enough to celebrate Qualification into the World Cup.  The team came out with a Qualified Banner – and then quickly replaced it with the thanks to the US Fans – but we are being critized for it  that and Pulisic’s goofy Worm Celebration after the 2nd PK goal.  the   I absolutely loved how Fiesty he was – he was Angry and Intense –  and his first ever Hat Trick was needed.  You could tell he was ticked-off about missing that goal in Mexico – and he took it out on Panama. 

Oh and here’s  Why – on the Worm Celebration

Christian Pulisic explains his worm celebration from Panamá game last night. “I met someone really special yesterday. His name was Mason, and his one request was that if I scored, he wanted to see a worm celebration. That’s what that was for,” Pulisic said.

Mason Ogle is a 17-year-old high school student from Omaha, Nebraska. He is currently receiving treatments for bone cancer and tumors in his lungs, but still managed to play high school soccer last fall. He was invited by USSF to be the game ambassador yesterday.

Man is the Pulisic guy something or what? Please note that while Pulisic was the undisputed POG – the tandem of Zimmerman and Robinson have not given up a goal in 7 WCQ Games when they play together.  The Goal on Sun was Zimmerman and Long – and they just don’t have the same chemistry as Zimmerman/Robinson do.  Zimmerman is a BOSS – he could well be the Breakout star of the World Cup in Dec! 

Berhalter Was Spot On Again

I laugh at the people calling for Berhalter’s head – all he has done is take the youngest US team in history and one of the youngest in the world – and found a way to get us qualified (almost) despite never once having his best 4 players on the field at the same time due to injuries.  He has introduced tons of young players and found the likes of Brendan Aaronson, Musah, De La Torre, Busio, Pepi, Ferriera and more as he just finds a way to plug guys in and still make it all work – no matter who is out injured – he finds a way to balance the roster and get the result needed.  His true judgement will come in the World Cup this Nov/Dec but lets give credit where it is due – he’s 1 game away from getting us back in the World Cup with the youngest, most talented team the US has ever seen – he has turned us from a defensive – hold on for dear life counter attack team – to a possession based – dominate teams we are better than squad.  Again we’ll find out more in the World Cup but for now –  Berhalter has succeeded (Lallas video)

Anyone looking for a place to watch the big game Wednesday Night – the American Outlaws Indy will be hosting at Union Jack’s Sports bar in Broadripple!!

Indy 11 Host Home Opener Sat Night 7 pm at the Mike

The Indy 11 finally arrive home after 3 straight on the road and a 0-1-2 mark to start the season.  New GK Elliot Paniccomade GK of the Week in the USL as he helped the Indy 11 take a 1-1 tie at Louisville last weekend (hi-lights).   The 11 will kickoff their home opener at 7 pm Saturday night vs LA Galaxy II visit

 indyeleven.com/tickets to get single game tickets for as low as $16 plus fees.  Word on the Street is they are close to a sell-out so make those plans early to attend!!

BIG GAMES ON TV

Wed,  Mar 30

9 pm Para+                         USA @ Costa Rica

9 pm Para+                            Panama vs Canada

9 pm Para+                            Mexico vs El Salvador 

Indy 11 Season Schedule

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USA


USMNT looking to make history in Costa Rica
  23mKyle Bonagura

USA vs. Costa Rica, 2022 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for  By Rob Usry  S&S
Pulisic’s fiery Captain America display puts U.S. on cusp of World Cup
dSam Borden

Carlisle: Berhalter vindicated as U.S. thrash Panama
Report: U.S. 5-1 Panama
USMNT player ratings vs. Panama

Analysis & player ratings: Pulisic’s hat trick has USMNT on verge of World Cup ticket ASN

USA v. Panama, 2022 World Cup Qualifier; What We Learned By Adnan Ilyas
USMNT’s workmanlike reaction to win is understandable after 2018 World Cup disappointment | Opinion

Pulisics Hat Trick – has US at Edge of World Cup
USA all but seal place at World Cup as Pulisic hat-trick fuels rout of Panama

U.S. men’s national soccer team effectively clinch spot at World Cup in Qatar with one qualifier left to play

WATCH: Christian Pulisic’s 1st USMNT hat trick (That nutmeg-driven 3rd!)

Herc Gomez on US Win and W2 Look 4 – Video 13 min
Transfer news: Brenden Aaronson to Leeds, Cody Gakpo to Arsenal

CONCACAF 

2022 World Cup: How United States and Mexico can qualify 2dDale Johnson
Oh Canada! Larin and Buchanan lead team to first men’s World Cup since 1986

Canada clinches first World Cup berth since 1986 in front of raucous crowd

WORLD

World Cup contenders: France, Germany, Brazil the teams to beat  Mark Ogden

While Ronaldo, Messi and Lewandowski make World Cup, Qatar will miss peak talents Salah and Haaland  Mark Ogden

Mane’s Senegal beat Salah’s Egypt to reach WC

Top seeds confirmed for World Cup finals draw  Dale Johnson

World Cup: Who has qualified and who is still in contention? ESPN

Portugal are more than just Ronaldo, and stronger for it
Egypt loses World Cup playoff, Senegal fans fire laser pointers in pens

Lewandowski strikes as Poland punch World Cup ticket

US Ladies

USWNT’s Williams, Davidson suffer major injuries  hCaitlin Murray
USWNT, Kansas City forward Lynn Williams suffers season-ending injury

Tierna Davidson to miss 2022 season with ACL tear

Indy 11

Indy 11 Ties Louisville 1-1

Indy 11 GK Wins Team of Week Nod

Indy 11 Jerseys revealed

Full Ticket Offerings for 2022 Indy Eleven Games Now on Sale

BIG GAMES ON TV

Wed,  Mar 30

9 pm Para+                         USA @ Costa Rica

9 pm Para+                            Panama vs Canada

9 pm Para+                            Mexico vs El Salvador 

Indy 11 Season Schedule

How will USMNT lineup vs. Costa Rica?

Joe Prince-Wright Tue, March 29, 2022, 9:07 AM·3 min read

How will the USMNT lineup for their final World Cup qualifier at Costa Rica on Wednesday (watch live, 9:05pm ET)?

How do you lineup for a game which you can afford to lose by five goals and still qualify for the 2022 World Cup? 

It is an intriguing proposition for USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter because there are a plenty of things going on here:

1) you want to rest your star players. 2) you have to avoid a disastrous defeat which could knock you out of automatic qualification. 3) you need a certain amount of experience sprinkled throughout the team to avoid any kind of heavy defeat, but you want to give fringe players a chance.

Below is how I would line up the USMNT in Costa Rica, from the start, while remembering that you can make five subs and four of them would probably come on at half time to get the job done.

Latest USMNT news

Transfer news: Brenden Aaronson to Leeds, Cody Gakpo to Arsenal 2022 World Cup qualifying, live! Scores, how to watch, schedule, odds Costa Rica vs USMNT: How to watch live, stream link, team news

USMNT lineup vs Costa Rica (4-3-3 formation)

—– Horvath —–

— Moore — Robinson — Long — Yedlin —

— Acosta — Adams — Busio —-

—- Weah —- Pepi —- Reyna —-

Analysis

Okay, most USMNT fans would want to play Zack Steffen, Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic to start. But what is the point? The job is 99 percent done. Those players have put in heavy shifts in two big games over the last few days.  The big question for Berhalter is this: do you start with your strongest team and if say it’s 0-0 or you’re only 1-0 down at half time, you then sub off most of the starters? Or do you start with a weaker lineup and then bring on the big boys at half time to close out qualifying in style?

I’d actually go for the approach of starting most of the back-up players to give them a chance to show what they can do. They are fresher, hungry to prove they deserve to be in the World Cup squad (it’s happening, folks) and I’m not sure there’s that much drop-off across the squad outside of Pulisic, Adams and Reyna. It really is a very even player pool, but you still need to put out a starting lineup which has plenty of experience just to get to half time in a good situation.

I would start Horvath in goal because there’s no need to risk Steffen picking up an injury (he had recent back issues at Man City) and he already looked a little shaky against Panama. I would give Antonee Robinson a rest and play Yedlin at left back, which he has done before. I would also play Aaron Long and Miles Robinson together at center back, then bring on Erik Palmer-Brown for Robinson. There is no doubt that Miles Robinson and Zimmerman are the USMNT’s first-choice CB pairing, so you need to see Long and EPB in these situations.

In midfield, Tyler Adams will anchor things with his experience, at least for the first half, while Gianluca Busio and Kellyn Acosta have shown they can be very useful with their energy and precision in the engine room. Tyler Adams should be given a rest given the incredible workload he went through against Mexico and Panama but he makes this team tick and should play for the first half. Then, Luca de la Torre and Cristian Roldan should come on to play 45 minutes.

Up top, Jordan Pefok or Ricardo Pepi should start centrally, with Tim Weah and Gio Reyna (to continue his return to full fitness) either side to bring a spark to the attack. Christian Pulisic should only be used if desperately needed. He won’t be.

USA vs. Panama, 2022 World Cup qualifying: SSFC Man of the Match

Hat. Trick. Hero.

By jcksnftsn  Mar 29, 2022, 1:08pm PDT    S&S

The United States Men’s National Team is in spitting distance of clinching qualification for the 2022 World Cup thanks to an overwhelming 5-1 win over Panama in Orlando on Sunday night. The team has secured no worse than fourth place in the group which is enough to make the playoff match against Oceania’s group. However, the dominant score line means that they can qualify outright by doing no worse than a 5-0 loss to Costa Rica on Wednesday night. There were a number of good performances in this match, eight of the eleven players scored higher than a seven and only one player was lower than a six. Compare this to Thursday’s draw at the Azteca, which was one of the better performances of the Hex but only two players scored over a seven on the ratings scale and you start to get a sense for the joy coming out of the match with Panama and closing in on World Cup Qualification. Not surprisingly it was Christian Pulisic and his hat trick that shone brightest of all, Pulisic earned a 9.0 rating by the community and the SSFC Man of the Match.Pulisic buried both of his penalty kicks, the first to open the scoring and the second to put the game out of reach just before halftime, and then added a jaw dropping third in open play to cap off his hat trick.

The ratings for all the players, along with the referee and head coach Gregg Berhalter:

Christian Pulisic – 9.00

Antonne Robinson – 7.67

Paul Arriola – 7.60

Walker Zimmerman – 7.51

Tyler Adams – 7.43

Luca de la Torre – 7.32

Jesús Ferreira – 7.19

Miles Robinson – 7.02

Shaq Moore – 6.81

Yunus Musah – 6.34

Zack Steffen – 5.80

—Substitutes—

Giovanni Reyna – 7.04

Kellyn Acosta – 6.44

Aaron Long – 5.87

Gianluca Busio – 5.62

Jordan Morris – 5.62

Gregg Berhalter – 7.59

Referee Iván Arcides Barton Cisneros – 6.30

Pulisic, U.S. close to World Cup qualification thanks to his fiery Captain America performance

  • ORLANDO, Fla. — Tyler Adams has been the de facto captain for the U.S. men’s national team during this World Cup qualifying cycle, but when the U.S. players emerged from the tunnel on Sunday, Christian Pulisic was at the front, the armband wrapped tightly around his sleeve.

It was fitting, too. On the night the U.S. all but clinched its place in this winter’s tournament, Pulisic — one of the few links from the team that failed so spectacularly nearly five years ago — led from the start.Pulisic scored twice in the first half on penalty kicks. He scored again just past the hour with the sort of balletic footwork in front of goal that gives American fans fever dreams. He had to be restrained by Gregg Berhalter when he tried to run at a mob of Panamanian players during a minor scrape near the sideline. He got a yellow card for screaming at (and charging toward) the referee after the official called a fairly benign foul in midfield, even with the U.S. fully in control.In a game where the U.S. needed everything from its stars, Pulisic was a frothing ball of fire — exactly what Berhalter was thinking when he turned to Pulisic to be the captain.”I think because of the journey,” Berhalter said. “You have a guy that’s been there before. He was on the field when we didn’t qualify, and this was us saying to him, this is a new group, this is a new team, and you’re a leader. We wanted to show that.”Nothing could ever get back what was lost in Trinidad in 2017, but this match and this performance, from a player whose ebbs and flows so often drive the feeling about American soccer in general, was as sweet and special a salve on the scar as one could have imagined.”It was a huge honor to be captain tonight,” Pulisic said afterward. “Absolutely we can enjoy tonight, but the job’s not done yet. We have one more really important game, and we’re taking it very seriously.”Pulisic’s restraint was understandable: There is still some work to be done. The combination of results in other matches this weekend means that the U.S. can do no worse than fourth place in this CONCACAF qualifying table, which would put them into a one-game playoff for a World Cup spot. (If the USMNT goes this route, it will face either the Solomon Islands or New Zealand in June for a berth to Qatar.) The USMNT will assure itself one of the three automatic places with a win, a draw or even a loss that’s no worse than a five-goal margin against Costa Rica on Wednesday in San Jose. And while history tells us that the strangest things can (and sometimes do) happen, even by Couva standards, this would be a stretch.

Six years after making his national team debut as a 17-year-old wunderkind, Pulisic seems virtually certain to finally get the chance to represent the United States on his sport’s biggest stage. In many ways, Pulisic’s transformation from what he was in the last cycle to what he is now tells the story of this U.S. soccer team rebirth.

CONCACAF Table

GPPTSGD
1 – Canada1328+17
2 – USA1325+13
3 – Mexico1325+7
4 – Costa Rica1322+3
5 – Panama1318-3
6 – El Salvador1310-8
7 – Jamaica138-11
8 – Honduras134-18
1-3 qualify; 4 into playoff

Back then, he was a diamond in the rough, one of the only fresh lights among a group of veterans trying to push for a final turn in the arena. Now, he is a relative veteran (even at 23), surrounded by a slew of rising American talent who have turned the U.S. into the sort of team that that no one would want to face in a one-off match. Berhalter, of course, deserves praise for marshalling this group — which has perpetually put out some of the youngest starting lineups in U.S. World Cup qualifying history — and pushing it to the brink of reaching its first goal. But the players have risen to the moment throughout this cycle whenever they needed it most, and they did it again against Panama.Pulisic was the motor. Five years ago, in the match before the ill-fated trip to Trinidad, Pulisic scored eight minutes into a victory over Panama here, running toward the corner flag and sliding on his knees in celebration. On Sunday, facing Panama in the same stadium, he put the U.S. in front in the 17th minute, coolly stepping up to take the penalty kick after Anibal Godoy fouled Walker Zimmerman in the area. This time, his revelry took him more to the sideline where he was surrounded by his teammates as the packed stadium thrummed.Six minutes later, Pulisic’s slick pullback pass led to Antonee Robinson‘s perfect cross and Paul Arriola‘s header to put the U.S. two in front. A four-man passing sequence led to Jesus Ferreira scoring a third before a half-hour had been played. Pulisic then added his second from the spot in first-half stoppage time, after which he asked his teammates for a bit of space and dropped to the ground before attempting a (very, very) short rendition of “The Worm” dance move.The Panamanians were out on their feet by that point. The stadium was bedlam. And Pulisic’s face was one of joy and glee.”I rate it like a solid 8,” Ferreira said of Pulisic’s attempt at “The Worm.” “Can’t give it a 10 because he didn’t go back down.” Arriola, while appreciating the spirit of the choice, said, “I’d probably give him a 5 just for flexibility. He could have been a little more flexible.”In truth, the last goal of Pulisic’s hat trick was the real prize. A pillowed touch and spin move around two defenders led to a lashed shot past the goalkeeper and reminded everyone that for all the pressure laid upon Pulisic — whether playing for Chelsea or the U.S. — there’s incredible talent beneath it all. When he’s in form, Pulisic’s pure skill and dynamism is at the highest level.With about 20 minutes remaining, Berhalter sent Gianluca Busio to midfield and the fourth official raised his board with Pulisic’s No. 10 on it in red. Pulisic removed the captain’s armband and passed it to Tyler Adams, then started a slow trot to the sideline as applause — including from Jordan Morris, who was waiting to come into the game — poured down.It was an ovation for a star. For a force. For a player who may not be the team’s every-day leader, but remains its face all the same. In 2017, the tears streaming from Pulisic’s eyes after the final whistle in Trinidad stood in for those of so many U.S. fans.Now, five years later, all that remains is the finish he’s been dreaming about ever since.

All But Done

Pulisic’s Hat Trick Fuels USMNT’s Blowout of Panama, Leaving a Formality in Costa Rica to Qualify for the World Cup

 Grant Wahl  Mar 28

ORLANDO, Fla. — If you’re Christian Pulisic, your first touch is never an end in itself. “It’s knowing which direction to take your first touch, and not just receiving it,” he once told me. “It’s putting yourself in a good position for what you want to do with it.”During the U.S.’s 5-1 thrashing of Panama in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier, Pulisic produced the first hat trick of his international career. His opening two goals came on penalties as the U.S. built a stunning 4-0 halftime lead, but the lasting image of a triumphant night will be of Pulisic’s sublime first touch—actually, first two touches—on his third strike of the game. With his back to the goal, Pulisic received Jedi Robinson’s cross with a caressing left-footed touch. But it wasn’t just that Pulisic brought the ball down cleanly; he also pulled it toward the goal between his own legs, allowing him to turn and beat his first defender. Now facing the goal, Pulisic took a single deft touch with the outside of his right foot, nutmegging his second defender and creating space for what looked, in the end, like an easy finish.

But none of it was easy. The hardest thing in soccer is true simplicity, as the great Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp showed us, and the most difficult place to do it is in front of the goal. When you watch the replay, it’s as if Pulisic is operating at a different speed from his opponents. The game slows down for him. Two touches. Shot. Goal. “What I like the most [about Pulisic] is his first touch,” his former teammate Nuri Sahin once explained to me. “When he gets the ball, his first touch opens him a huge space even if there is no space.”

Claudio Reyna on his son, Gio: “I remember when he was in the car and his team would lose when he was Under-11, Under-12, and he’d be crying after the game. And he’d get into the car and I would say, ‘It’s okay. It’s okay.’ And he felt like his teammates weren’t trying as hard as him. And I was like, ‘No, it’s probably they’re just not as good as you.’ And I was just trying to coach him through those moments. But he was so competitive.”…

We Beat Panama 5-1…But Was It Good Enough? Yanks Abroad

The USMNT needed a win on Sunday night, and they earned it in spades with a 5-1 drubbing of Panama. So why wasn’t that good enough? First let’s get the obvious accolades out of the way. More than any other game during qualifying, this was the one that Gregg Berhalter’s squad needed to win. Had the team taken anything less than three points, they would be at serious risk of not qualifying and setting up another nightmare scenario like what unfolded in 2017.Fortunately, the team won, and won by a lot. That means the game plan worked, and Berhalter and the boys all did their jobs well, and then some.Christian Pulisic scored a hat-trick, the attack generated had 15 shots, and we won 5-1! How then, could anyone other than the most jaded of obsessively pessimistic analysts be dissatisfied?  I am. I am dissatisfied. However, not because of the overall performance, but because of trends I see that could hurt the team in its attempt to perform in the big show in Qatar later this year.I’m walking away from this game with a sour taste in my mouth, and it all started brewing inside me during the last 20 minutes. The last 20 minutes of this game showed what kind of one-dimensional, conservative tactician Berhalter really is.For the second time in two games, this time with a five-goal advantage and with Panama running around like a bunch of headless chickens, Berhalter sent on substitutes with very obvious orders:Bunker. Completely.Now I know you’re going to say “We didn’t need goals, so bunkering is fine”. If you said this, you wouldn’t be wrong. Bunkering is “fine”. It’s sound. It’s defensible. It’s safe. But it’s not what we should be doing in this type of situation, and I’ll tell you why. When we see a team bunkering at the end of a game, it’s usually because they are the underdog and trying to hang on for dear life. They have scraped together a goal, and somehow managed to keep the ball out of their own net. They’re not feeling confident in attack, so they just put everyone behind the ball and hope to weather the storm while the opposition attacks.Whenever a defender can get a foot on the ball, it’s launched forward, knowing full-well there’s no one from their team who will be able to get it. With no attackers to receive the ball, the other team can push higher and higher.We did it at the end of the game against Mexico too, and still came out with a point. In that case, it was appropriate in the cauldron (even if the half-capacity cauldron) of Azteca.So what’s the problem this time around?The problem with bunkering is that it invites the other team to attack with everything they’ve got. It is a tactic that screams inferiority.  We were destroying Panama. We were the better technical team and we had a five-goal cushion. Realistically speaking, we could have done anything at all for those last 20 minutes, and Panama was not coming back under any fathomable circumstance.Berhalter has spent nearly four years “teaching” this team to play with a possession-based style, but for some reason he decided we weren’t good enough in possession to protect a five-goal lead for 20 minutes.Or alternatively, he chose the wrong time, and the wrong quality of opponent to practice this tactic…again…for the second time in 72 hours.To flip the well-known phrase on its head: the best defense is a good offense.If we have the ball, they can’t score goals. We needed cool heads, and to circulate and recycle passes ad nauseam. I’m not saying we needed to attack and push for a sixth or perhaps a seventh goal against Panama.In fact I’m saying we shouldn’t, but we should not have gifted possession to an entirely overwhelmed opponent.Tactically, it’s a simple drill: get the ball from the keeper to the center backs, who trade possession back and forth between each other before pushing up one side. When that side closes, go back again and switch to the other side. If Panama pushes up so high the CBs are smothered, they can play a mid-range pass to a midfielder who brings it forward to link up calmly. Then pass back and repeat.It’s an important drill, but in a rare opportunity against real opponents in a game situation.There’s no need to drive forward, and at a 5-1 advantage, there’s no need to score. But that doesn’t mean we should give up the ball and hope they can’t break us down. We need to know how to keep the ball, and we had a chance to practice doing just that. We ended up with lower pass completion and only 39% possession on the night, and a lot of that comes from the bunker-and-boot-it ineptitude of the at the end of the game. But in the end, we won. The target from the start (and since that horrible day in 2017) has been to qualify for the final tournament in Qatar, and we have essentially done that.We can straighten all of this out later, right? Maybe.Maybe Berhalter has just been playing down to the CONCACAF competition this whole time, and when the World Cup comes, he’s going to turn it on. Maybe he’ll select only the best talent and let them loose with those European tactics that wouldn’t work against chippy teams on the pitted fields of CONCACAF.Maybe we’ll see our players performing as well in the US jersey as they have in their Champions League games. I mean, Jordan Pefok didn’t shank any sitters against Manchester United or Atalanta.It’s possible, but I don’t believe it. I believe the way you practice is the way you play in real game situtions. I don’t think there’s a magical switch that gets flipped to suddenly change what’s been drilled.  And believe me, what has been drilled is not something that is going to be as successful against Argentina, France, England or Italy….er….not Italy, as it has been against Panama, El Salvador, and Jamaica. This game was an absolutely perfect opportunity to possess the ball against a desperate team.We needed to make Panama chase us. We needed the experience of stringing together 50 passes that accomplish nothing other than tiring out and frustrating the opposition. The possession-based team that Berhalter is trying to craft needs to be able to do this, but it’s not something that is ingrained enough in the historical fabric of the USMNT to ignore those rare low-risk chances when we can practice it in a competitive situation.This is a skill for a team, meaning it can be learned and repeated. So why hasn’t it been learned an repeated? Does Berhalter think we’re not good enough to keep the ball?He’s a vocal coach on the sidelines and he’s barking orders for 90+ minutes a game, so why not remind Zimmerman to keep a short and long option in mind before getting the ball from Steffen? Spread wide when Steffen has the ball in the back, and be ready to distribute. Don’t follow the attacker when he comes inside to pressure the goalie.

Instead, everything was launched 50 yards upfield in a seeming panic.It’s not insane to think that we could go up a goal or two against a top team during the World Cup. It’s happened, and could happen again in a few months.If that happens, do we simply sub out our attackers and bunker? Maybe we should just let Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, or Paul Pogba go to town, praying they don’t find a crack in our rock-solid defense? Does that sound like fun? We all endured the firing line against Belgium in 2014. It worked then, for 90 minutes, but that was a rare instance of individual heroism by a keeper having the best game of his career.Realistically speaking, we’ll need to recover after playing 25 minutes of a high press, and being able to control the game while recovering would be nice, and less exhausting.

After decades of waiting, following several generations of players, and enduring too many promises broken, we finally have a group of players that are good enough to take their game to the other team. I don’t want to curse them with any labels, but from top to bottom, this is the most skilled pool of players that any USMNT coach has ever had at his disposal.After four years of learning curve and possession, why won’t Berhalter let the players play, and let the football gods decide? This is basic. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. It’s what good head coaches of good teams do, and I believe we are a good team. But this is where we get to the crux of the problem.After watching the game against Panama, I don’t think that Berhalter believes we’re a good enough team to escape the bunker mentality.For USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter, only his tactics can save us. We’re well drilled in how to win in CONCACAF. We will almost certainly qualify on Wednesday, barring some force of god stopping the game from happening. On Friday is the draw when we will find out our World Cup opponents (oh, how I missed this 5 years ago), and that will begin a whole new journey.But just like Berhalter doesn’t trust his players to execute, I don’t trust Berhalter’s tactics against the best in the world.I don’t think a team like ours should put everyone behind the ball for the final 20 minutes, even in a close against a hypothetical team better than Panama. If Berhalter can’t trust Giovanni Reyna, Kellyn Acosta, Gianluca Busio, and Jordan Morris to keep the ball from Panama, what are we supposed to do against Germany or Brazil or Ital….Portugal? Why even show up?We won in Orlando. We’re all but qualified for the World Cup. The thing is, we’re going to have to actually PLAY in the world cup. We have the personnel to be able to do something special, but they’re being muzzled.The coach is blinded by his confidence in his own strategies. He has proven that he knows how to use the talent at hand. However, he doesn’t trust that the best generation of players we’ve ever had can get it done. I’m disappointed because it seems he won’t let our golden generation do what they do best…play the game.All I ask is for the coach to have the same confidence in our players’ ability to control a game as their collective skill dictates.

Gregg Berhalter’s selections justified with United States on brink of World Cup berth

ORLANDO, Fla. — It is a manager’s lot in life to be second-guessed. Decisions are analyzed to the smallest of details. Mistakes get highlighted. That’s especially true of international managers, with a country’s armchair coaches never holding back.Credit is due, then, to U.S. men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter. Over the past week he had some tricky choices to make, especially ahead of the World Cup qualifier Sunday against Panama. The U.S. was coming off an exhausting 0-0 draw with Mexico in the 7,200-foot altitude of Estadio Azteca. How much could the U.S. manager rely on the players who played the bulk of the minutes in Mexico City? There was also the injury bug that forced the U.S. to do without Weston McKennieBrenden Aaronson and Sergino Dest. The yellow card suspensions to DeAndre Yedlin and Tim Weah, as well as the positive COVID-19 test for Reggie Cannon, further limited Berhalter’s options further.

Even given those challenges, Berhalter’s personnel decisions on Sunday invited scrutiny. Was Paul Arriola really the best choice out wide ahead of Gio Reyna? What about Shaq Moore being an emergency call-up at right-back over the Bundesliga pedigree of Joe Scally? Then there was the decision to start Jesus Ferreira up top against Panama’s hulking back line.All of them came through in massive ways, not only delivering on Berhalter’s “next man up” mentality, but speaking to the team’s depth. Arriola scored a gorgeous goal with a glancing header. Ferreira troubled Panama with his movement and scored the kind of garbage goal that was thought to be the domain of Jordan Pefok or Ricardo Pepi. Moore barely put a foot wrong holding down the right side of the U.S. defense. And with Christian Pulisic delivering a hat trick — his first with the national team — the U.S. powered its way to a critical 5-1 victory over the Canaleros, putting the USMNT on the brink of qualification for the 2022 World Cup.”We wanted to be aggressive,” Berhalter said after the match. “We wanted to put them on their heels. We wanted to play with intensity and we also want to score goals. It’s great to see that output.”Granted, some of Berhalter’s decisions were made for him. The U.S. manager said that as many as 20 players and staff were laid low by a stomach bug after the Mexico game. Sources told ESPN that Reyna was among those impacted. But there was some internal logic to the decisions as well. Arriola’s work rate provided extra cover for Moore who last played for the U.S. back in October. It also allowed Moore to get into the attack where he was effective, helping to set up Ferreira’s goal. Arriola’s pressing helped on the attacking end as well. With Panama in desperation mode following its home draw against Honduras last Thursday, there was bound to be more space for Ferreira and his greater mobility to exploit.”We really had to call on our depth in this window, and it being the last window and an impactful window where qualifying takes place, it was something where guys needed to step up,” Berhalter said. “We talked early on about the ‘next man up’ mentality we have complete faith in anyone who’s called in. We don’t call players in unless we trust them and we think they can they can perform at a good level.”Berhalter pushed the right buttons in terms of playing time as well. A clearly fatigued Yunus Musah was pulled at half-time. Tyler Adams and Pulisic were substituted with the game well in hand, a move that prevented Adams picking up a caution that would have seen him suspended. The same was true of the team’s emotions. And the team’s depth pieces met the moment to make big contributions.

Keeping players engaged, especially when playing time drops, isn’t easy. It requires constant attention, keeping track of the pulse of the team and doling out playing time when the time is right. The performances throughout the entire team are proof that Berhalter is managing this aspect well.”The culture that Gregg and the staff have built for this group in this environment … we’re brothers,” Arriola said. “We really feel like that guys love coming into the national team getting together, on and off the field. I think we all click very, very well. And so we all understand that over time, number one is, in order to be a part of this team, you have to put the team first. And when I tell you everyone does that, everyone really, really does.”Of course, some decisions are no-brainers, namely penciling Pulisic into the starting lineup. Granted, the Chelsea attacker has endured an up and down qualifying campaign, coming through against Mexico at home, but also at times looking reluctant to push the tempo. But with Costa Rica’s 2-1 win in El Salvador preventing the U.S. from clinching qualification on the night, Pulisic delivered, scoring a pair of cold-blooded penalties in the first half — both off fouls by Panama’s Anibal Godoy — and polishing off his hat trick with a deft turn and finish from Antonee Robinson’s centering feed in the second.”We needed the three points bad to put us in a really good spot to qualify and we’re really happy with the performance,” Pulisic said through a team spokesperson after not being made available to reporters. “It feels great to get a hat trick, of course, my first one with the national team, but more importantly just to help the team to win and put us in a good spot with one game left.”The U.S. hasn’t completely wrapped up qualification just yet, despite the “Qualified” banner the players displayed after the final whistle that was then whisked away. It would take an unprecedented result in Costa Rica on Wednesday to slip out of one of the three automatic qualification spots. The Ticos would have to win by six goals to make up the edge the U.S. has in goal differential.Even with all of the tough results the U.S. has endured in Costa Rica over the years, the USMNT’s lead would appear to be safe. But the players, especially those that were on the field four-plus years ago when the U.S. failed to qualify, aren’t taking anything for granted.”I’m not celebrating anything,” said Arriola. “I was in this exact position, or very similar position four years ago, and we know how that qualification ended. So for me, I think it’s just maintaining focus, understanding that that we still have work to do and anything is possible. So for us, the mentality of this group is, and has to be to go down there to get a good result against Costa Rica.”Berhalter is of a similar mindset. There were enough sloppy moments on Sunday to make his radar perk up, and while the U.S. missed out on a chance to get a historic qualifying win at the Azteca, a win against the Ticos on Wednesday would make its own history.The final step is often the hardest. The U.S. has come far enough to be that close to qualifying. Wednesday is the time to break through and reach its goal.

 GB Flexes USMNT Depth Chart to keep 2022 World Cup Quest on Course

MLS – Charles Boehm  –  ORLANDO, Fla. – “Give the devil his due.”

The term is said to originate from William Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” written more than 400 years ago about the Hundred Years’ War. For those unfamiliar, it’s evolved into shorthand for showing a necessary respect for even the most despised figure.It’s a concept worth considering for even Gregg Berhalter’s most ardent critics, of which there is no small number, now that the coach has steered the youngest US men’s national team in history right to the doorstep of 2022 World Cup qualification. And the area in which he may deserve the most credit is the management and cultivation of a deep player pool that has enabled the program to weather the peaks and valleys of Concacaf qualifying.

Only two starters in the Octagonal-opening 0-0 draw at El Salvador almost seven months ago were in the XI for Sunday’s 5-1 rout of Panama. In fact, only four of those 11 starters in September were even on this month’s roster. Conversely, key contributors against Panama like Jesus FerreiraPaul Arriola, Shaq Moore and Luca de la Torre watched the beginning of the Ocho from home.

That’s what happens on the way to a World Cup, where injuries, suspensions, gains and drops in individual form, and other complications can render the concept of an “ideal XI” nothing more than, well, an idea, a hypothetical exercise. This cycle’s intensely compact three-match windows have only further exacerbated that – and destabilizing chaos can roll in at any moment, like the stomach bug that Berhalter said afflicted 20 members of the traveling party in Mexico last week.“We really had to call on our depth in this window, and it being the last window, an impactful window where qualifying takes place, it was something where guys needed to step up,” the coach said after the big win at Exploria Stadium. “We talked early on about the ‘next man up’ mentality. We have complete faith in anyone who’s called in. We don’t call people players in unless we trust them and we think they can they can perform at a good level.“The national team is difficult, because you don’t always have the guys that are in the best form or the guys that are most fit, because there’s injuries that happen. So I’m really pleased with guys like Luca stepping up, Gianluca Busio, Jordan Morris is involved now, a number of guys. But it makes a difference when you can call on these guys to perform.”

“‘Next man up’ mentality” has become one of Berhalter’s central talking points. According to U.S. Soccer, 29 players have made their first WCQ appearance on the road to Qatar, which ties the record set in the 1998 cycle. In all, more than three dozen players have seen the field, second-most in program history behind the 43 utilized on the road to South Africa 2010, which involved 18 qualifying matches compared to 14 total this time around.“We’re so fortunate that we have such a deep team with so many different qualities in the team,” said Tyler Adams last Monday. “It’s really, really exciting because a lot of guys can get different opportunities and we have so many different ways of breaking down opponents or structuring ourselves to be successful against opponents.”

As US players have filtered into big European clubs – most prominently, UEFA Champions League participants – with increasing frequency, it’s become common for pundits and supporters to frame the USMNT as far and away the most talent-rich side in the region, and thus a shoe-in for qualification, so long as Berhalter doesn’t fumble it away. But data gathered by MLSsoccer.com’s Jonathan Sigal shows how many of those top players have been available for only a fraction of the Octagonal.

Dortmund midfielder Gio Reyna has played just 14% of the total minutes in the Ocho to date. Barcelona fullback Sergino Dest has taken part in 36% of those minutes; for Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen it’s just over 38%, Lille winger Tim Weah 45%. Even Chelsea attacker Christian Pulisic and Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie, this team’s spiritual leaders and tone-setters, have only respectively played 45% and 53% of the time. At one point Salzburg attacker Brenden Aaronson had appeared in every game, but a knee injury ruled him out on the eve of the current window.

Of the 11 Europe-based USMNTers (Bayern Munich defender Chris Richards on loan at Hoffenheim) whose clubs took part in this season’s Champions League, only the foundational Adams (83.5%) has logged more than 60% of the United States’ Octagonal campaign. (Some of these numbers reflect the coach’s discretion: Wolfsburg’s John Brooks was dropped after some uneven moments in September and has since plummeted down the depth chart.)

USA 2022 WCQ: Minutes for UEFA Champions League players

PlayerMinutes played (%)Games played/missed*
Tyler Adams (M, Leipzig)977 (83.50%)12/1
Brenden Aaronson (M, Salzburg)659 (56.32%)11/2
Weston McKennie (M, Juventus)624 (53.33%)7/6
Christian Pulisic (F, Chelsea)533 (45.45%)9/4
Tim Weah (F, Lille)527 (45.04%)8/5
Zack Steffen (GK, Manchester City)450 (38.46%)5/8
Sergino Dest (D, Barcelona)424 (36.24%)6/7
Gio Reyna (M, Dortmund)164 (14.02%)3/10
Jordan Pefok (F, Young Boys)139 (11.88%)3/10
John Brooks (D, Wolfsburg)135 (11.54%)2/11
* through 13 of 14 Concacaf Octagonal matchdays

“When you think about Weston, he’s probably one of the best midfielders in our region, right? I mean, you could make that argument,” said Berhalter before Thursday’s 0-0 draw at Mexico. “When you think about Sergino Dest, probably the best right back in our region; Brenden Aaronson, a top winger in our region; Chris Richards, big potential as a center back; Matt Turner, those guys that are missing.

“But really, when you look at it, we knew this was going to be the case. And I said it to you a long time before, you don’t have all your guys, and it’s how you respond when you don’t have your guys that’s important. And that’s what we have to do this window,” Berhalter continued. “It’s not about looking back. It’s about staying in the present, focusing on who’s here, who’s in camp, who’s ready to play, and go out and compete. Because one thing I’ll tell you is that these guys can compete. Everyone we have on this roster right now, all 26 of them can compete.”

Certainly, there have been blips and bumps along the way.

Berhalter’s bid to dig out a point with a rotated lineup during the October visit to Panama City fell flat, leading to a grisly 1-0 loss. An experimental lineup and formation at Honduras in the opening window put the Yanks on course for a similar setback, until some halftime adjustments helped prompt a dramatic comeback from 1-0 down to 4-1 winners in San Pedro Sula.

“It’s a grind,” said Arriola last week. “Every game presents different challenges, the different atmospheres. The World Cup is on the line and that intensifies the atmosphere, every single game.

“At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is winning.”

USA 2022 WCQ: Top minutes for MLS players

PlayerMinutes played (%)Games played/missed*
Miles Robinson (D, Atlanta)874 (74.70%)10/3
Walker Zimmerman (D, Nashville)723 (61.79%)9/4
Matt Turner (GK, New England)720 (61.54%)8/5
Kellyn Acosta (M, LAFC)581 (49.66%)12/1
DeAndre Yedlin (D, Miami)441 (37.69%)8/5
Sebastian Lletget (M, New England)229 (19.57%)4/9
Paul Arriola (F, Dallas)206 (17.61%)5/8
Jesus Ferreira (F, Dallas)196 (16.75%)5/8
Gyasi Zardes (F, Columbus)179 (15.30%)5/8
Jordan Morris (F, Seattle)128 (10.94%)5/8
_* through 13 of 14 Concacaf Octagonal matchdays

_

After the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic handicapped the preparations of the USMNT and national teams around the world, Berhalter had to make efficient use of his 2021 and late-2020 schedule. Calling in a litany of names and fielding two mostly distinct squads across Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup, he and his staff tried to balance the priorities of building chemistry, stoking competition, exposing as many players to his game model as possible and winning games.

It seems to have worked. He’s spoken more than once of his conversations with his predecessors Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann, and points to one of those as the source of a cardinal truth that has guided this process.

“The biggest thing that I’ve learned – and Bruce hammered this home with me – is you’re never going to have your best team,” said Berhalter. “You’re always going to be missing players. And as soon as I came to terms with that, we were just much more peaceful about it. We’re much more intentional about the ‘next man up’ mentality, because that’s literally what it is.”

Now, pending Wednesday’s result in Costa Rica (9:05 pm ET | Paramount+, CBS Sports Network, Universo, Peacock), that approach has a deep, youth-filled squad on the precipice of a World Cup return.

While Ronaldo, Messi and Lewandowski make World Cup, Qatar will miss peak talents Salah and Haaland

5:53 PM ET

Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

PORTO, Portugal — Cristiano Ronaldo is heading to Qatar, but Mohamed Salah isn’t and neither is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose dream of becoming the first outfield player to bridge a 16-year gap between appearances at the World Cup fizzled out in a late, fruitless substitute rescue act for Sweden in Poland.

Every World Cup takes place with at least one leading player or major nation failing to qualify, but as the European and African sections came to a close (the conflict in Ukraine means that one spot is still to be assigned in the UEFA zone), the big names absentees are beginning to mount up.

Liverpool forward Salah, a potential Ballon d’Or winner this year, suffered his second penalty shoot-out heartbreak in less than two months as Egypt missed out on qualification by losing to Senegal — a repeat of their Africa Cup of Nations final loss to the same team.

And Ibrahimovic, who will be 41 when Qatar 2022 begins, can forget about returning to the World Cup stage for the first time — and probably last, but who knows with Zlatan? — since failing to score at Germany 2006 after his return from international retirement came to nothing. Robert Lewandowski‘s second-half penalty in Chorzow set Poland on the way to a 2-0 win and qualification for Qatar, ensuring that the Bayern Munich forward — for many observers, the best centre-forward in the game — will be at football’s biggest party when the World Cup is staged in November and December.

Salah and Ibrahimovic will join Norway’s Erling Haaland, who scored twice in a 9-0 win against Armenia on Tuesday, as World Cup absentees. Two of football’s biggest stars right now and a player who has been at the top of the game for over a decade, none of them will be in Qatar. And we haven’t even mentioned Italy, who have become the first European champions since Greece (winners in 2004) to fail to qualify for the World Cup.Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal booked their spot to the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday with a win over North Macedonia. Hugo Delgado/EPA

FIFA can be thankful that at least Ronaldo and his star-studded Portugal team will be in Qatar. Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Lewandowski will all bring their celebrity and class to the tournament, but none of them could be described as the next generation, or even players at their peak. All three have been superstars of the modern game, but Qatar will almost certainly be their last World Cup.

The new wave could have been led by Haaland had Norway qualified, but there are still enough stars heading for Qatar who can ensure that the spotlight doesn’t automatically fall on the old guard of Ronaldo, Messi and Lewandowski.

Sadio Mane‘s penalty against Egypt sealed qualification for Senegal, so the Liverpool forward will get the chance to do what Salah cannot by leading his country at the World Cup and potentially helping an African nation make it to the semifinals for the first time.Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench on Tuesday but could not help Sweden get past Poland in World Cup qualifying. PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

Kylian Mbappe, who confirmed his superstar status with his performance in the 2018 World Cup final for France against Croatia, will see Qatar as his opportunity to knock Ronaldo and Messi off top spot in football’s elite rankings, while Harry KanePhil Foden and Raheem Sterling will also eye this World Cup as their chance to establish their global greatness.

Germany’s Kai HavertzChristopher Nkunku of France and Spain‘s Pedri are others who could emerge as World Cup stars in Qatar.

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But while all eyes will be on Ronaldo when Portugal play in Qatar, their performance in play-off wins against Turkey and North Macedonia highlighted the quality within Fernando Santos’s squad. Portugal are no longer a team solely reliant on Ronaldo.

Ronaldo’s Manchester United teammate, Bruno Fernandes, scored twice to seal victory in Porto against the North Macedonians, who had eliminated Italy in the play-off semifinal, and the World Cup will unquestionably be a better tournament for his presence and that of Bernardo SilvaDiogo Jota and the Porto winger Otavio.

Portugal can defend too and, while they have deep reserves of flair further forward, there is no shortage of quality at the back, where the 39-year-old Pepe still organises and defends brilliantly. He and Danilo were outstanding against North Macedonia.

But although Portugal will be one of leading nations in Qatar, the party would have been greater had Italy, Salah, Haaland and Ibrahimovic also made it to the World Cup.

In their absence, others will create the headlines, and one of them could be Ronaldo. Qatar 2022 just wouldn’t have been the same without him.

USA vs. Costa Rica, 2022 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying: Scouting Costa Rica

The USMNT closes the Octagonal in Central America.

By Brendan Joseph  Mar 28, 2022, 1:34pm PDT  

The United States Men’s National Team has arrived at the end of the CONCACAF Octagonal, mere inches from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. The final match is against one of the region’s top programs, Costa Rica. Hosted at the Estadio Nacional in San José, the stakes are low provided Gregg Berhalter’s side can avoid surrendering handfuls of goals.Colombian manager Luis Fernando Suárez leads Costa Rica, assuming the role last June. He has extensive experience in charge of a variety of clubs and nations, including Atlético Nacional, Ecuador, and Honduras. After a slow start to qualifying, the 62-year-old has enjoyed a reversal of fortune, unbeaten in the last six matches.The last time these two teams met, the USMNT registered a 2-1 victory at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio. Since then, Costa Rica has risen to fourth place in the CONCACAF Octagonal table with 16 points from six matches. Los Ticos are churning through a successful window, reeling off 1-0 wins against Canada and El Salvador.“I know very well, we have done everything in the right way,” said the manager. “Then I have to highlight the work of the team, the commitment they gave for the country. I feel a great pride in directing a spectacular human group. Everything has been very stressful, but that makes us bigger. We have some limitations and even so, we are competing and that speaks well of the courage of the Costa Rican.”

¡ELLOS SON LOS ELEGIDOS!

Esta es la lista de convocados para los juegos eliminatorios ante , y

¡VAMOOOOOS SELEEEEE! pic.twitter.com/i46TGAdlR3

— FEDEFUTBOL Costa Rica (@fedefutbolcrc) March 18, 2022

Suárez initially named a 25-player roster but made several alterations, dropping Randall Leal and Aarón Suárez . There are 18 call-ups from domestic Primera División, including 13 from local powers Alajuelense and Herediano. Notable figures like Cristian Gamboa, Óscar Duarte, David Guzmán, and Allan Cruz were left out of camp.

***

GOALKEEPERS (3): Keylor Navas (Paris Saint-Germain), Esteban Alvarado (Herediano), Leonel Moreira (Alajuelense)

DEFENDERS (9): Francisco Calvo (San Jose Earthquakes), Bryan Oviedo (Copenhagen), Kendall Waston (Saprissa), Rónald Matarrita (FC Cincinnati), Keysher Fuller (Herediano), Juan Pablo Vargas (Millonarios), Daniel Chacón (Cartaginés), Ian Lawrence (Alajuelense), Carlos Martínez (AD San Carlos)

MIDFIELDERS (11): Celso Borges (Alajuelense), Bryan Ruiz (Alajuelense), Yeltsin Tejeda (Herediano), Alonso Martínez (Lommel), Gerson Torres (Herediano), Orlando Galo (Herediano), Jewison Bennette (Herediano), Youstin Salas (Grecia), Douglas López (Santos de Guápiles), Brandon Aguilera (Guanacasteca), Carlos Mora (Alajuelense)

FORWARDS (4): Joel Campbell (Monterrey), Johan Venegas (Alajuelense), José Guillermo Ortiz (Herediano), Anthony Contreras (Guanacasteca)

***

At this late stage of qualifying, the first-choice lineup is largely established, although the formation sometimes shifts between a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-6-1. Over the past five matches, Costa Rica has completely ceded possession, with an average of 32.8% of the ball (stats via ESPN). From the run of play, inwardly cutting wingers are targeted with direct passes over the top of the back line. The attack has cause for concern with 11 goals in 13 matches, but the stingy defense surrendered a mere eight during the Octagonal round.

Projected Costa Rica Starting XI (via LineupBuilder.com)

Despite slowly being phased out of the starting role at Paris Saint-Germain, Keylor Navas is the undisputed number one for Costa Rica. He is an elite shot-stopper, setting himself up for a save with stellar footwork, sometimes a full second before the ball arrives. The three-time Champions League winner shows up in big moments, racking up dozens of saves in a single match as a routine. Perhaps indicative of this confidence is his preternatural ability to stop penalty attempts.

This is likely the last rodeo for elder statesman Kendall Waston, who competes for Saprissa in the domestic league. The 6’5” mountain is tasked with winning headers in the defensive and attacking thirds, at his best in close-range one-versus-one scenarios and preventing target strikers from turning. His partner has been the smaller and quicker Francisco Calvo of the San Jose Earthquakes, another threat on set pieces. The 29-year-old is a hard tackler that loves to go to ground and gamble on interceptions, making long solo runs after regaining possession.

Keysher Fuller should be familiar to USMNT fans from the busy home fixture, scoring in the first minute and misplaying a ball that led to the game-winner (or loser, from Costa Rica’s perspective). The Herediano winger-fullback is comfortable in the final third, often reaching the box before the striker. He is constantly running, whether on a charged dribbling run or to chase down an opponent. The left side of the field has been a back-and-forth lineup battle between Rónald Matarrita and Bryan Oviedo. With the former suffering a devastating injury against Canada, the more static veteran will be trusted to hang back and serve as a more stable presence in the build-up.

The defensive midfielder baton may have been passed from the captain Yeltsin Tejeda to 21-year-old Orlando Galo, unless the manager opts to deploy them together. The younger player is a converted right back that tackles hard and recovers quickly after errors. In the 15th year of his senior international career, Celso Borges is still patrolling the center of the formation. Costa Rica’s cap leader facilitates possession and swarms passing lanes, performing the necessary tasks of a box-to-box. Normally a winger, Herediano’s Gerson Torres has lined up in the number ten role. He makes long, slaloming dribbling runs and has the ability to score from distance.

GOAL COSTA RICA! Celso Borges strikes just before halftime and Los Ticos lead 10-man Canada. Another twist in the Concacaf table—and not a good one for the #USMNT

(via @TelemundoSportspic.twitter.com/AcmjP5BxRT

— SI Soccer (@si_soccer) March 25, 2022

Since making his senior debut during last summer’s CONCACAF Nations League Finals, Alonso Martínez has become a regular part of the starting lineup. The Lommel SK winger plays a high line in hopes of leading the counter attack and looks to cut inside on one-two/give-and-go combinations in the final third. The goals have to come from somewhere, with the manager hoping that Joel Campbell can either score or more likely set up teammates. On the right day, his dribbling and general technical ability make him the most dangerous person on the field, with the potential to bewilder opposing defenders.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/2mvc4TwpsGk?rel=0 A late addition to the roster, Anthony Contreras made his debut in November but has started the last two matches. The 22-year-old striker scored 13 goals this season on loan with AD Guanacasteca in the domestic league. His inclusion was considered a “great surprise,” but the developing talent acquitted himself well. Against Canada, he played an essential role pressing the back line and forcing turnovers.

Contreras rewarded the manager’s continued faith with the opener against El Salvador, a stupendous acrobatic effort. He took advantage of a misplayed clearance and hit a beautiful bicycle for his first international goal. This could be the genesis of the next great CONCACAF striker, having answered the door when destiny unexpectedly knocked.

Anthony Contreras gets on his bike!

Costa Rica are up! pic.twitter.com/JqHozcPNyP

— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) March 27, 2022

The USMNT appears free from the burden of securing points on the road against Costa Rica. Los Ticos have been in this spot before but needs a win. As the match progresses and pressure builds, there may be openings for the American attackers to break through on the counter.

The match is scheduled for Wednesday, March 30th at 9:05 p.m. Eastern, 6:05 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include Paramount+, UNIVERSO, and FUBO TV (free trial).

INDY 11 GK Panicco Earns Team of Week Nod iin USL 

March 29, 2022 5:37 pm  Squad’s New Netminder Made Five Saves in Helping Indy Earn Rivalry Draw on Saturday

TAMPA/INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, March 29, 2022) – The USL Championship announced its Team of the Week for Week 3 of the 2022 regular season this afternoon, a list that included Indy Eleven goalkeeper Elliot Panicco. The 25-year-old netminder is the first member of Indiana’s Team to make the league’s weekly Best XI ledger during the young season.Panicco earned the nod by making five saves throughout Indy Eleven’s 1-1 draw at archrival and Eastern Conference leader Louisville City FC last Saturday night, helping the squad to a well-earned first point of the campaign.

The native of Paducah, Ky., who joined Indy Eleven on loan from MLS’ Nashville SC just prior to the start of the regular season on March 3, currently ranks tied for second across the USL Championship with 11 saves, which have contributed to his 73.3 save percentage and a 1.33 goals against average in his three starts thus far. 2022 marks Panicco’s second straight year in the Championship and comes on the heels of a standout 2021 campaign with Austin Bold FC, when he finished second in the league with 11 shutouts from his 28 appearances.

The Championship’s Player of the Week is selectedby the USL National Media Panel, which is made up of representatives from each media market in the Championship. Continue below to see the full Week 3 Team of the Week contingent.

Panicco and the rest of the Boys in Blue return to the Circle City for their 2022 Home Opener at IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Stadium this Saturday, April 2, against LA Galaxy II. Fans can secure tickets for that 7:30 p.m. kickoff and all 2022 matches at “The Mike” via a plethora of ticketing avenues – including single-game tickets2022 Season Ticket Memberships, discounted group tickets for parties of 10 or more, and expanded Premium Hospitality options – by visiting indyeleven.com/tickets or calling 317-685-1100 during regular business hours.

USL Championship Team of the Week – Week 3

GK – Elliot Panicco, Indy Eleven: Panicco recorded five saves as Indy withstood strong pressure from LIPAFC rival Louisville City FC to earn a 1-1 draw on Saturday night at Lynn Family Stadium and the side’s first point of the season.

Stefan Pinho Tally Helps Indiana’s Team Earn First Point of 2022 Against Eastern Conference Leader

View #LOUvIND Stats at the USLChampionship.com MatchCenter

LOUISVILLE, KY (Saturday, March 26, 2022) – The Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest rivalry again brought some of the best out of Indy Eleven, which picked up its first point of the 2022 USL Championship season courtesy of a draw 1-1 at Eastern Conference leading Louisville City FC. Forward Stefano Pinho opened his Indy Eleven account to give the Eleven a lead midway through the first half, but LouCity defender Sean Totsch’s 53rd minute finish brought the scoring to its eventual close, forcing a share of the spoils.

The road point allowed Indy to take a positive result away from its three-game road stint to start the season and gives Indiana’s Team some momentum leading into its home opener at IUPUI Carroll Stadium next Saturday, April 2, against LA Galaxy II. Fans can secure tickets for the 7:00 p.m. ET “Blue Out Blowout” kickoff via a plethora of options by visiting indyeleven.com/tickets or calling 317-685-1100 during regular business hours.While the rivalry game started off chippy, each team generated a chance within the first ten minutes, resulting in Eleven goalkeeper Elliot Panicco getting a mundane save opportunity and midfielder Justin Ingram pushing a header wide. LouCity forward Wilson Harris and Eleven midfielder Nicky Law each influenced the following minutes by generating chances, with Wilson’s shot just wide right of frame the most threatening but not enough to force Panicco into action.Louisville came into the contest without conceding a goal while Indy entered the game without a tally on the year, but things changed for both sides in the 22nd minute when Pinho made Law’s continued creative work pay off. After Law shook his defender in the left side of the area to gain space, his short, driven cross to the back post was nodded home by the Brazilian striker Pinho, allowing him to celebrate his account opener in front a sizeable contingent of Brickyard Battalion supporters who traveled down I-65 for the rivalry showdown.Louisville responded with a chance of their own in the 28th minute through Jorge Gonzalez, whose free kick was sent right to Panicco at the netminder’s right post. Indy nearly found its second through midfielder Jonas Fjeldberg’s shot in the 34th minute that forced a miraculous save out of Louisville goalkeeper Kyle Morton, his leaping tip at full stretch sending the ball off the crossbar and away from danger. Louisville’s Amadou Dia nearly duplicated Fjeldberg’s curling effort in the 41st minute, but his dipping shot couldn’t find frame, allowing the score to remain 1-0 in favor of Indy Eleven heading into the half.The field tilted the home side’s way in the second half, and initially it looked like Eleven midfielder Sam Brown’s sliding tackle in the 52nd minute deep inside the area would help keep Louisville off the board. However, the ensuing corner saw Totsch get on the end of the recycled set piece 10 yards from goal, and his first-time shot through traffic evened the score. Panicco made two consecutive stops in the 57th minute to keep things square, thwarting Louisville’s unrelenting attack.The pace of play slowed down on both sides as legs got heavier after the hour mark, but LCFC’s Enoch Mushagalusa did look to sneak one in from distance in the 66th minute only to see Panicco collect the driven chance easily. A skirmish between the two rival clubs just inside the final 10 minutes set up a tense finish, which only got more heated after a pivotal goalline clearance by Eleven forward Rodney Michael in the 83rd minute. Longtime LouCity nemesis Paolo DelPiccolo looked primed to put the home side ahead after redirecting another corner, but the debutant Michael snapped into action to clear the chance off the underside of the crossbar, keeping the score deadlocked despite vehement pleas from the home side to count the would-be goal. Nothing came from six minutes of stoppage time, allowing Indiana’s Team to go three straight games undefeated at Lynn Family Stadium dating back to last May.

USL Championship Regular Season
Louisville City FC  1 : 1  Indy Eleven
Saturday, March 26, 2022
Lynn Family Stadium – Louisville, Ky.

Scoring Summary:
IND – Stefano Pinho (Nicky Law) 22’
LOU – Sean Totsch (unassisted) 53

Disciplinary Summary:
IND – Jared Timmer (yellow) 35’
LOU – Brian Ownby (yellow) 85’
IND – Aris Briggs (yellow) 86’
LOU – Amadou Dia (yellow) 89’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-4-2): Elliot Panicco; Jared Timmer, Mechack Jerome, A.J. Cochran, Bryam Rebellon; Nicky Law, Sam Brown, Jonas Fjeldberg (Karl Ouimette 90’), Justin Ingram; Aris Briggs (Palmer Ault 90+6’), Stefano Pinho (Rodney Michael 72’)

IND Substitutes: Tim Trilk (GK), Ecris Revolorio, Bryce Warhaft, Luca Iaccino

Louisville City FC lineup (4-3-3): Kyle Morton; Ian Soler (Paolo DelPiccolo 45’), Wes Charpie, Sean Totsch; Amadou Dia, Napo Matsoso, Corben Bone, Manny Perez; Wilson Harris, Jorge Gonzalez (Enoch Mushagalusa 40’), Brian Ownby

LOU Substitutes: Parker Siegfried (GK), Jan-Erik Leinhos, Josh Wynder, Carlos Moguel Jr., Ray Serrano

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