I have 2 tickets to tomorrow Nights Game $75 each – AO Section behind the US Goal section 108 – if anyone wants to come along to Cincy.
USA vs Morocco Wed 7 pm ESPN2 / Sun 5 pm vs Uruguay FS1
The US Men are back with 4 big games here in June – the first 2 friendlies against top ranked World Cup Teams in Morocco and Uruguay. Morocco is ranked 24th right behind the US at 15th in the latest FIFA World Ranking while Uruguay is ranked just ahead of us at #13. I am headed that way tomorrow afternoon and have 2 extra tickets if at cost of $75 each.
Returning to the team off a broken foot is Weston McKennie of Juve (though I suspect he may not play more than a half in these 1st 2 games in early June.) Former German Youth National Malik Tillman (Bayern Munich) -whose dad is an American serviceman has flipped to the US and should get his first game action in the Red. White and Blue most probably at the #9 slot as a sub on Wed night I would think. Center forward Haji Wright hopes to ride his hot streak of goals at Antalyaspor into a June chance at claiming the unclaimed #9 shirt for the US along with a fairly hot Jesus Ferreira from Dallas FC. The Backline is looking for a replacement for starter Miles Robinson who is lost to an acheles heel injury for the year. Erik Palmer Brown and Cameron Carter Vickers fresh off his helping Celtic win the league in Ireland will battle with Aaron Long for the spot opposite Penciled in starter and Captain Walker Zimmerman. Also good to see 19 YO outside back Joe Scally (MGladbach starter) back in the fold and hopefully we’ll see him in action in 1 of the first 2 games. Sad to see midfielder Mihailovic who has reinvigorated his career in Montreal in MLS has been dropped due to a hurt ankle over the weekend. Also expect Turner to gets of lots of goal time in these next 2 games especially – as Steffan is out for these June games. I expect newly EPL promoted GK Ethan Horvath of Nottingham Forest to start the 2 Nations Cup games next week and the week after. See my starters below I have inserted Turner of course with #9 forward Haji Wright – (interesting story about him here), and I expect to see Weah on a wing and Aaronson to get a go at the #8 slot with Musah. I think he will give McKinney a 30 min runout until Sunday to give him more time to adjust. With more time – I would love to test Pulisic in the 10th beneath Wright, with Aaronson on the left and Weah on the right wing mid slots. And McKinney and Adams in the 2 man 6/8 roles. I am interested to see how Berhalter approaches this – does he play his strongest squads this week – against the best competition then let the tired EURO Starters go for next week’s Nations League games vs Grenada June 10 and @ El Salvador June 14, or does he keep everyone in camp for the entire 2 weeks ? I would keep everyone healthy in camp to give these guys a chance to build chemistry! I do think we will win 2-1 over Morocco (with a goal from Pulisic and hopefully Haji Wright.)
Shane’s Starters for Wed game vs Morocco in Cincy
The 26-man roster for June Games
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest),
Zack Steffen (Manchester City), Matt Turner (New England Revolution), Sean Johnson (DC United)
DEFENDERS (9): George Bello (Arminia Bielefeld), Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic FC), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes), Antonee Robinson (Fulham FC), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Luca de la Torre (Heracles), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Malik Tillman (Bayern Munich)
FORWARDS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Paul Arriola (FC Dallas), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea FC), Tim Weah (Lille), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor)
Ukraine vs Scotland Wed 12 noon on ESPN2
Ukraine will finally return to action trying to secure a birth to the World Cup thru the Playoff that was put off in March due to the War in Ukraine. Man I feel bad for Ukraine – but the winner of this playoff – (Winner faces Wales on Sunday at 12 noon on ESPN2) will be our first opponent in the World Cup. As much as I want to root for Ukraine we would much rather face Scotland if we want to advance to the next round. So go Scots !!
Champions League – Real Wins 14th, Courtois lays claim to top GK in the World
So it wasn’t the greatest game – but Real Madrid found a way to win again – a record 14th UCL Title despite being outshot 5 to 1 on the day. Liverpool dominated the opening half but Belgium Goalkeeper Courtois was up to the task making 9 huge saves on the night when he set the save record for a UCL Final. The heroics earned him player of the Match and Goalkeeper of the Tournament. Checkout all the Stories Below.
Reffing Section included below
Including a story about the ref shortage in the US and the reasons why. I still think 2 man instead of 3 man is a possible option in this time of low #s. I have reffed 2 man for almost 10 years now and I while I will admit the 3 man system gives more coverage – 2 man is just fine for U12 and below. Heck for Rec – 12 man is fine in my opinion until high school age kids are involved and even then its often ok and the 2 man system allows the two refs to actually get paid decently for the games – especially the U13 and below games. As for the shortage – my kids both reffed all the way thru high school – and my son still refs in college. It’s a great weekend job where you make good money – ($15-20 an hour) and you can often choose your own schedule – what other high school job lets you do that? :Let me know if your kid needs direction on reffing – and I will point you in the right direction.
BIG GAMES ON TV
Monn, June 2
3 pm Para+ KC vs Racing Louisville NWSL
Wed, June 3
2:45 pm ESPN2 Scotland vs Ukraine WCQ
2:45 pm FS1 Italy vs Argentina NL
7:30 pm ESPN2 USA vs Morocco in Cincy
Thur, June 2
2:45 pm FS1 Portugal vs Spain NL
7:30 pm ESPN2 USA vs Morocco in Cincy
Fri, June 3
2:45 pm FS1 Belgium vs Netherlands
10:30 pm Para+ Portland Thorns vs Angel City NWSL
Sat, June 4
12 noon ?? England vs Hungary NL
2:45 pm Italy vs Germany NL
Sun, June 5
12 noon ESPN2 Wales vs (Scotland or Ukraine)
2:45 pm Sweden vs Norway NL
2:45 pm Portugal vs Switzerland NL
5 pm FS1 USA vs Uruguay
Mon, June 6
2:45 pm FS1 Croatia vs France NL
Tues, June 7
2 pm Para+ United Arab Emirates vs Australia WCQ
2:45 pm FS1 Italy vs Hungary NL
2:45 pm FS1 Germany vs England NL
Weds, June 8
2:45 pm Belgium vs Poland NL
2:45 pm NL
Thurs, June 9
2:45 pm FS1 Portugal vvs Czechs NL
10:30 pm Para+ Canada vs Curacao
Fri, June 10
2:45 pm FS1 Austria vs France NL
10 pm ESPN+? USA vs Grenada
Sat, June 11
2:45 pm FS1 Ireland vs Scotland NL
3 pm ABC Charlotte vs NY Red Bulls
10 pm Para+ Mexico vs Suriname
Sun, June 12
9 am FS1 Northern Ireland vs Cyprus NL
12 pm FS1 Norway vs Sweden NL
3 pm ABC Charlotte vs NY Red Bulls
10 pm Para+ Mexico vs Suriname
Tues, June 14
10 pm ESPN+? USA @ El Salvador
Make your own teams or we can add you to a team. Cost is just $105 includes Jersey.
All evaluations and tryouts will be held at Shelborne Fields. 3451 W 126th St, Carmel, IN 46032.
June 7, 2022 – Players 10u, 9u and 8u (Birth Years 2013 to 2016)
Check-in starts 1/2 hour before evaluations begin.
Evaluations for all age groups: 6pm to 7:30pm
June 13, 2022- Players 11u and older (Birth Years 2004 to 2012)
Check-in starts 1/2 hour before tryouts.
Tryouts for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012: 5:45pm to 7:15pm
Tryouts for 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008: 7:30pm to 9pm.
Use this link to register for tryouts. Visit : carmelfc.teamapp.com Please email email@example.com. with any questions.
Carmel Dads’ Club Soccer Camp Powered by Indy Eleven – June 13-16
9am-12pm (Rain day reschedule June 17) Ages 6-13 Shelborne Soccer Fields – 3451 W. 126th St. Carmel, IN 46033 – REGISTRATION IS LIVE!
Robinson’s injury puts USMNT depth to the test 1hJeff Carlisle
Pulisic raves about U.S. reunion with Wright Jeff Carlisle
Being Japanese American in Soccer – Kellyn Acosta
WORLD CUP QUALIFYING
Champions League Final
Real Madrid, nearly overwhelmed by Liverpool, steals yet another Champions League title
Liverpool still an elite side but UCL final loss will test mental toughness James Olley
Champions League final chaos must not happen again because football, fans deserve better abriele Marcotti
Real Madrid missed Mbappe, so whom could they target instead? Jon Molyneux-Carter
‘I can’t do much more’ to win Ballon d’Or – Benzema
Vinicius strikes as Real Madrid beat Liverpool in Champions League final
Liverpool’s regret: Season for the ages has sour ending
Jurgen Klopp: Liverpool fans can ‘book the hotel’ for next Champions League final
Liverpool vs Real Madrid player ratings
‘Record man’ Ancelotti puts his landmark down to luck
Ancelotti keeps calm amid the storm to make Real Madrid champions again
Real Madrid are champions of Europe for a record-extending 14th time after Carlo Ancelotti’s
Which managers have won the most European trophies?
What caused pre-match chaos at the Champions League final?
‘Fake tickets’ to blame for Champions League final delay say UEFA
A record 5 American Refs were selected for the World Cup in Nov
US referee numbers are plunging and aggression is to blame
USA vs. Morocco, 2022 friendly: What to watch for
The first prep for Nations League with an eye on the World Cup.
The United States Men’s National Team are in Cincinnati to take on Morocco tomorrow night in a friendly at TQL Stadium. The USMNT is using this friendly to begin preparations for the Nations League group stage, which begins next week. They are also using this as the beginning stages of preparing for this fall’s World Cup. USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter will use this camp for final evaluations as he decides who will make the final roster that heads to Qatar.
They face a strong team in Morocco, ranked 24th in the world and who will also be at the World Cup this fall. With this window and September being the final opportunities to play decent competition to prepare for the World Cup, Morocco will serve as a formidable test. Fans should be in for an intriguing matchup, as the two teams have not faced each other since 2006.
L (0-2) – Costa Rica – World Cup Qualifying
D (0-0) – Mexico – World Cup Qualifying
W (3-0) – Honduras – World Cup Qualifying
L (0-2) – Canada – World Cup Qualifying
W (1-0) – El Salvador – World Cup Qualifying
W (4-1) – DR Congo – World Cup Qualifying
D (1-1) – DR Congo – World Cup Qualifying
L (1-2) – Egypt – Africa Cup of Nations Quarterfinals
W (2-1) – Malawi – Africa Cup of Nations Round of 16
D (2-2) – Gabon – Africa Cup of Nations Group C
What To Watch For
Keep the back line in sync. The defense will have the most scrutiny with all eyes on who will be the centerback pairing. The back line will want to remain in sync all match so that Morocco doesn’t get behind them for scoring chances.
Who’s stepping up on offense? The biggest question facing this team is who will do all the scoring, particularly at the center forward position. So many have been unsuccessful, so there’s an opportunity for players to show that they can be the consistent scorer that the team needs heading into the Nations League and the World Cup.
It’s the midfield’s match to control. The American midfield should be ready to battle all night, but they should be the ones in control. If they can do that, it will relieve pressure from the back line and give the forwards more chances to push ahead and look for the goal.
Gregg Berhalter will have some options when setting out his lineup. In the end, this is what we predict he’s going to do:Predicted Lineup vs. Morocco
With Zack Steffen out of camp due to family reasons, the starting goalkeeper job is Matt Turner’s. His back line will consist of Antonee Robinson and DeAndre Yedlin at left and right back, with Erik Palmer-Brown being granted the starting centerback role next to Walker Zimmerman.
In the middle, it’s MMA time, as Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah join Tyler Adams to form probably the best midfield core. Up front, Christian Pulisic will occupy the left wing, while Paul Arriola will be tried on the right. Haji Wright gets a shot to show he can provide the scoring in the middle.
It’s a difficult match for the USMNT, and it ends in a 1-1 draw.
One-time phenom has chance to find himself as USMNT’s starting World Cup striker
Henry Bushnell Yahoo Sports = Mon, May 30, 2022, 1:43 PM·9 min read
CINCINNATI — Haji Wright’s World Cup dreams initially sprouted amid broken glass. That’s what his mother, Serena, lovingly recalls about the boy who seemed attached to his soccer ball. His feet would carry it from the family’s Los Angeles backyard to the dining room table. He’d dribble it to the bedroom he shared with his younger brother, Hanif — and that’s where the window would shatter. The brothers broke it at least twice, Serena says. She threatened to leave it unrepaired. She offered them a squishy soccer ball alternative, but to no avail. They were obsessed.“They also broke a glass in the TV console,” Serena says. “And I was just livid each time.”She also cherished Haji’s attachment to the sport. He’d grown entranced by YouTube reels of early 21st century stars. After the family moved from Culver City up into L.A.’s hills, 11-year-old Haji would venture into the backyard alone and try to emulate legends. On long summer days, he’d pound the ball against the garage for hours on end, honing his non-dominant left foot and his shooting technique. He’d mimic the Thierry Henrys of the world, and he’d dream — of Europe, of World Cups, of goals in finals.or most pre-teens, they’re far-fetched fantasies. For Haji, they quickly became “real possibilities.” Soccer moms and scouts alike recognized his rare talent. The L.A. Galaxy academy came calling. Haji excelled at U.S. Soccer’s residency program, where he roomed with a fellow innocent teen named Christian Pulisic. He tallied 18 goals and seven assists in 22 matches for the U.S. under-17s, and became “one of the hottest prospects” in the country. He was the player who reportedly attracted German giants Borussia Dortmund to a youth tournament in 2014, where Dortmund ultimately discovered Pulisic. He was, according to FIFA’s official website in 2015, “poised to become the next big thing for football in America.”And then, to many American fans who’d lapped up the hype, Wright seemingly disappeared.He signed with Schalke in the German Bundesliga at age 18 in 2016. He’s since bounced around to five different clubs. He never got the U.S. men’s national team call-up that many assumed would come before his 21st birthday. And as he endured a goal-less 2019-20 league season at VVV-Venlo in Holland, he essentially fell off USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter’s radar.That’s when he turned to an outlook he’d adopted as his remarkably steep trajectory turned sideways. “All these experiences,” Serena would tell him, “are going to lead you to where you need to be.” He learned to shun negative thoughts and search for positivity. “There’s always tomorrow to prove myself,” he’d think, and he now says.Just two years later, he’s the hottest American male striker on the planet. As he banged in 14 goals in 32 appearances for Antalyaspor in the Turkish Super Lig this spring, those childhood dreams came back into focus. Wright is here in Cincinnati as the only true No. 9 at the USMNT’s most important pre-World Cup training camp, where it will face fellow 2022 qualifiers Morocco.And he will, Berhalter said, “get an opportunity” — to debut, at age 24, for the team he always seemed destined for, and maybe, just maybe, to make the USMNT’s neediest position his.
Haji Wright stood out amid star-laden USMNT youth teams
The hype first bloomed before Serena Wright knew much of anything about soccer, and perhaps even before she knew that Haji had taken to the sport during recess at school. She enrolled him in a rec league around age 7. Other parents were taken aback by his skill. Clubs began making their recruiting pitches. Summer camp invites multiplied. Before long, the words “Europe” and “overseas” entered conversations. “It just did not seem normal to me,” Serena says. It all happened “very quick.”It fueled young Haji’s confidence. On U.S. youth teams that also included Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, he and Pulisic were the headliners and the stars. Wright scored twice in a 4-1 U-17 victory over Brazil that resonated among American soccer diehards. He moved to Schalke as soon as he was eligible, shortly after his 18th birthday, and “talent-wise, he was ready,” Serena says.“There were some other pieces that still needed to develop,” she continues. He was, of course, still a boy. He needed Mom’s help with typical teen things, like driver certification. But he picked up the German language surprisingly quickly, and settled into a quiet life that revolved around soccer. In downtime, he absorbed himself in “Call of Duty” and an addictive, “Candy Crush”-like smartphone game called “Toon Blast.” After McKennie joined him at Schalke in August of 2016, the two Americans “were together almost every day,” Wright recalls.They also seemed to be on parallel paths. They were jointly promoted to Schalke’s senior team toward the end of Wright’s first full season. They were still teens, but “they belong in the first team next year,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel said at the time.As McKennie established himself in the Bundesliga, and Pulisic starred 40 minutes away at Dortmund, Wright began to struggle. After a difficult first preseason with Schalke’s senior team, he was sent on loan to SV Sandhausen in the second division. “And I remember he was really, really upset after that,” Serena says — not because he felt wronged, or unenthused by Sandhausen, but rather because he hadn’t “performed to his full potential” in preseason.“He was down on himself,” Serena says. And, alone in a foreign land, he had to learn how to pick himself back up.
Wright says he didn’t necessarily arrive in Germany envisioning a specific trajectory toward the top of the sport. He did envision playing in packed stadiums in the Ruhr Valley, and across the Bundesliga. He surely envisioned success, because as a child and teen, that’s all he really knew.“So then when [a setback] happens, it’s unexpected,” Serena points out. “He expected his path to be straightforward,” she continues, but inevitably, “the path, sometimes, is not linear.”Wright now understands this, more so than most 24-year-olds. But the “twists and turns,” Serena says, were initially challenging. Her son leant on her and his agent for encouragement as his visions failed to materialize. After a sputtering loan spell at Sandhausen, he returned to Schalke for the 2018-19 season, and made his senior debut in November. He scored his first goal in December, but it would be his only one for the club. After just seven appearances, he left the following summer.At Venlo, where he scored one cup goal and none in 22 league appearances, “it just wasn’t clicking,” Wright says. He understands how unfathomable those numbers are to fans who saw what he once did and see what he’s doing now. Soccer, he explains, comes with “rough patches.” Goalscoring often requires “a bit of luck.” Adjustments to new systems have taken time. Berhalter remembers watching Wright play as a winger rather than a striker, and saying: “We don’t think that’s his strength, and it’s gonna be hard to make an impact with our team in that position.”By 2020, Wright had acclimatized to soccer hardship. “He wasn’t upbeat, for sure,” during that season at Venlo, Serena says, “but I don’t think he was discouraged.”
Is USMNT about to find the striker it’s long been looking for?
The following year, he took a step down to SønderjyskE in Denmark, and that’s where things began to click. For years, Wright had been a “humble,” “modest,” “chill” team player — which aren’t necessarily the best qualities for a forward. “As a striker,” he now realizes, “you have to be selfish.”“I don’t think you have to be overly selfish,” he continues. “Like, if you’re 2-v-1 vs. the keeper, you [don’t] shoot, it’s not like that. But I think you definitely have to be selfish to a certain degree.”His coaches have noticed a new mentality that Wright puts into words: “I have to be the guy to score.”As he started doing just that last season in Denmark, Berhalter called to tell him: “You’re doing well, we’re watching, keep doing your thing.”He moved to Antalyaspor on loan last summer, and started slow, but caught fire over the season’s second half. He scored eight goals in eight games throughout April and May, and that’s why he’s here, in U.S. camp with the World Cup six months away.For years, ever since Jozy Altidore’s prime ebbed away, the USMNT has not had a consistent striker. Josh Sargent and Jordan Pefok are injured. Ricardo Pepi, who exploded into the starting lineup last fall, hasn’t scored in almost eight months, and needs a break. For Wright, Berhalter said last week, “now is the perfect time.”It is, perhaps, not precisely what Wright dreamed of all those years ago. But here he was Sunday, grouped with Pulisic, Adams and McKennie for a pre-training warmup circuit, riding with his former U-17 running mates on the national team bus. They swapped some old stories. “It’s a little nostalgic,” Wright says, and “crazy” that it’s been almost a decade since those innocent residency days.And it’s “fun,” he says. It feels “normal.” There’s “no weird energy or anything. It’s good times.”And “obviously,” he says of his impending national team debut, “I was hoping for it to happen earlier. But I’m here now. And that’s really all that matters.”
Miles Robinson’s injury testing USMNT depth in year that’s challenged resolve of Gregg Berhalter’s team
Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent ESPN
CINCINNATI, Ohio — In the moments after Atlanta United and United States men’s national team defender Miles Robinson went down with a torn Achilles tendon, international teammate Walker Zimmerman got a text from a friend who was inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium telling him that Robinson’s injury “looks bad.” Zimmerman then found the video on Twitter and saw the responses, and his “stomach just completely sank.”
“You start thinking about the timelines, you start thinking about the math, and while it’s not impossible to come back, certainly it’s going to be an uphill battle,” Zimmerman told members of the media on Monday. “I just immediately reached out to [Miles].”Zimmerman then called up Aaron Long, who almost a year earlier had suffered the same injury as Robinson, and let him know what happened.”It was a weird feeling I got,” the New York Red Bulls defender said upon hearing the news. “It was like heartbreak and instantly, like, ‘I need to be the one that that reachesout to him as fast as possible to let him know that I’ve been through this, and I will help him through this process.'”Both players have stayed in steady contact with Robinson since, with Long saying he’s called Robinson once a week, the better to answer questions and talk timetables. It helps that Robinson, at age 25, is three years younger than Long was when he was injured, but it’s a long process, one that will be filled with ups and downs. Long stressed the best thing Robinson can do right now is be patient.”There’s certain ways you can speed up the rehab process, but you’ve got to listen to your body,” Long said. “I’m just trying to tell him that now’s not the time to speed things up. You’ve got to let it heal for that first month or two.”Every player is different, although for Long, the mental hurdles were the toughest to get over.”I think more than anything, it’s just trying to get your calf and your brain just to be on the same page, and to almost trust yourself in certain moments of like exploding or backpedaling, things like that,” he said.
The irony is that Robinson’s ascension was aided in part by Long’s injury. The Red Bulls defender had been a mainstay under U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter during the first two years of his tenure. With friendly matches against Morocco on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN2) and Uruguay on Sunday, followed by CONCACAF Nations League games against Grenada and El Salvador, the door has been opened for Long to take on a greater responsibility than the substitute role he had in the final qualifying window.Robinson’s injury is the latest to strike a core U.S. player in what has been a year beset by them. Borussia Dortmund midfielder Giovanni Reyna missed most of World Cup qualifying with multiple hamstring injuries. Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie missed the last qualifying fixture window with a broken foot, and has just recently made it back.
But the U.S. team’s depth helped carry it to World Cup qualification. When Reyna went out, Timothy Weah and Brenden Aaronson stepped in and produced some dynamic displays on the wing. The same happened when McKennie was injured, with Kellyn Acosta and Luca de la Torre picking up the slack. Now the same will likely have to happen at the World Cup. Long is among those poised to step in, as is Chris Richards, although the latter suffered through ankle and thigh injuries during the latter half of the club season with TSG Hoffenheim.
The center-back position is of critical importance, and this was evident during qualifying. Even on the days when the U.S. didn’t play well, the center of defense was usually solid, evidenced by the team’s 10 goals conceded in 14 qualifiers. It didn’t seem to matter who was on the field either, be it Zimmerman, Robinson or Rchards.Yet chemistry is important, and there will need to be some retooling in this regard during the current camp, as well as in the last international window in September. When asked what traits they would like to see in a center-back partner, both Long and Zimmerman cited good communication as a critical attribute.”It’s more of a mental connection than like anything physical, or like a guy that’s fast, or a guy that’s strong, or good in the air or anything like that,” Long said. “I think it’s more just trust in being on the same page in not only like tactical moments, but big defensive moments, like putting out fires. I know where my other center-back is going to be in a moment where we can’t talk and we can’t discuss things. We know what we’re going to do in those moments together.”Zimmerman added, “I love when I have that [communication] on my back shoulder. You know, when I’m getting the instruction, consistently, constantly, that’s huge. And when you get games with other center-backs, you kind of develop that almost without them even talking sometimes. You know exactly where they’re going to be.”The coming months will reveal the extent to which that familiarity can increase.Center-back isn’t the only area of the field where depth will be tested in the coming months. In fact, while there are plenty of options at the striker position, none have performed with the kind of consistency to make the position their own. That’s why Antalyaspor’s Haji Wright — fresh off a 15-goal season in all competitions — will be the latest to get a look from Berhalter and his staff.”I think generally being called into camp, it’s always an opportunity for you to show yourself and take hold of your position, whatever it may be,” Wright said. “I do think it’s an opportunity for me and I’m ready to take it.”Left-back has been a position cited by Berhalter as one where there aren’t many options behind presumed starter Antonee Robinson. Joe Scally looks to be a candidate given his ability to play outside-back or wing-back on either side — during the past season with Borussia Monchengladbach he even had a brief spell at center-back — but so far (and yes, it’s early in camp) Scally has lined up on the right side of the U.S. defense. That leaves George Bello as the only alternative to Robinson.The hope is that the U.S. will enjoy a greater degree of health than it’s had in the first five months of 2022.
USMNT’s Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie rave about resurgent Haji Wright
6:33 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent
The United States national team’s Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie said they’re excited to be reunited with former teammate Haji Wright.
Pulisic and Wright played together at the 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup, and seven years later now are playing together with the full team ahead of a quartet of games over the next two weeks.The U.S. will begin its four-game run on Wednesday against Morocco at Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium (watch live at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2). That will be followed four days later with a match against Uruguay at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. Then come a pair of CONCACAF Nations League matches, first against Grenada at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas, on June 10, followed by a road game against El Salvador four days later.
Carlisle: U.S. seeks defensive depth after loss of Robinson
Back when they played together at the U17 World Cup, their roles were similar to what they are now, with Pulisic acting as the playmaker for Wrig. That was the duo back in the day, me and Haji,” Pulisic said during a roundtable with reporters. “We played a lot of games together in the youth national teams. And it’s cool to have him back in, first of all, seeing him do so well at club level, and having him in here is great.”So he’s gonna get his opportunity and yeah, I’m just so excited for him. And I know he’s going to use the opportunity.”McKennie not only crossed paths with Wright at youth level, but they were teammates at Bundesliga side Schalke 04 from 2017-19. And while Wright had the greater success at youth level, McKennie made bigger inroads at Schalke before moving to Juventus.”I think it’s beautiful,” said McKennie about Wright’s recall. “I didn’t have an easy path through the national team, especially in the youth. We had a bit of a different story at the youth age. And just to see that some players would be knocked down, some players would be [where] their spirit is gone, and I think just for him, finding his own path to get back in here is definitely one that’s inspirational and something that I can kind of relate to.”It’s wonderful and exciting just to see him in here, and kind of sharing the same story at the same time.”Wright’s meandering path saw him move from Schalke to a loan stint with Sandhausen and then to VVV-Venlo in the Netherlands, and he struggled to find the net at all three stops. He saw his fortunes improve with Danish SuperLiga side SonderjyskE starting in 2020, but it was a loan spell last season with Turkish Super Lig side Antalyaspor — where he scored 15 goals in 35 league and cup appearances — that got Wright back in the national team frame.”I really respect people who haven’t necessarily had it easy and given to them and everyone’s on their own path,” said Pulisic. “I’ve seen it myself. Ups and downs and to come out the other side and be performing like he is now is impressive.”
USMNT’s 50 games of Berhalter: How coach has made his mark on the national team
When the United States men’s national team takes on Morocco in a friendly on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, watch live on ESPN2), it will be the 51st time the Americans have taken the pitch under the stewardship of manager Gregg Berhalter. The former Columbus Crew boss took control of the national team in December 2018, and the 50 games he has since overseen give us a more-than-reasonable sample size to evaluate his impact on the USMNT.How has Berhalter put his stamp on the U.S.? How has he shaped it in his image? How has he influenced games from the dugout? How will his management style dictate results at this winter’s World Cup in Qatar?In order to answer these questions, we asked Kyle Bonagura, Bill Connelly and Jeff Carlisle to dive into Berhalter’s national-team tenure and detail where the U.S. stands after 50 games of Berhalter.
What is Berhalter’s style?
From a 20,000-foot view, one would guess that Berhalter has installed the identity he wanted with the USMNT. Known from his Columbus days as a manager with a preference for long spells of possession — building patiently from the back and unfurling more lengthy possessions than opponents (albeit without the rigorous counter-pressing that some sides attempt) — Berhalter has established exactly that: In 50 matches, his U.S. has enjoyed 56.8% possession overall and averaged 5.6 passes per possession. For context, that would have ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Premier League this season. Acknowledging that international opponents vary widely in quality, that still suggests that execution is matching intention.
Under Berhalter, the U.S. has also slowly eliminated the sudden-turnover disasters that can occasionally emerge from patient build-up play; opponents scored four goals from possessions starting in the attacking third in 2019, three in 2020-21 and none in World Cup qualification. Meanwhile, the possession rates have slowly risen — the U.S. was at 63% possession in 2021 friendlies and 57% during qualification.This all makes it sound like things are working out as imagined, but if you’ve watched the U.S. play in the past year or so, you’ve seen something that amounts far more to pragmatism than possession. Thanks to injuries, the quintet of Christian Pulisic, Giovanni Reyna, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Sergino Dest — all of whom currently play for renowned European clubs — have played in the same match just once for the U.S.: They teamed up to beat Mexico in last summer’s CONCACAF Nations League final … in a match in which they saw 43% possession and averaged 3.4 passes per possession.
In last summer’s Gold Cup, with what was considered a primarily second-choice squad, the U.S. beat Canada with just 45% possession (thanks in part to the fact that they led for 89 minutes), produced just six shots from 58% possession against Qatar, then managed just 37% possession in the victory over Mexico. And while they may have averaged 57% in World Cup qualification, the range was immense: from 72% in an easy win over Honduras and 71% in a draw with Canada, to 51% in a dispiriting loss to Panama and 50% in a draw with El Salvador to 39% in a win over Panama and 38% in a draw with Mexico.
In qualification, the U.S. was far more placid in possession on the road than at home and catered its style dramatically to game state. And against an opponent like Mexico, which also prefers to dominate possession, the U.S. seemed to often revert to the old “tenacious goalkeeping and route-one counterattacks” style of previous decades. It occasionally worked, too. The U.S. qualified despite a run of injuries that prevented its top 11 players from ever seeing the pitch at the same time, but its identity — both what’s preferred and what’s optimal — seems blurrier than it did a year ago. — Connelly
How has Berhalter managed his team?
Berhalter is not one to rule with an iron fist. In his relatively short tenure, he has established himself — mostly — as a players’ coach who has facilitated a culture that players want to be part of, and generally, speak highly of. In public, he’s so overwhelmingly positive that oftentimes it comes off as protective of the young squad.Take the 2-0 loss to Canada in qualifying, for example. Anyone who watched that game understood that even though the U.S. had the bulk of the possession, Canada was in control for nearly the entirety. Berhalter described it as a “dominant” U.S. performance. It wasn’t. The only way to make sense of what he said is if Berhalter wasn’t genuinely assessing the game as much as he was trying to send a positive message back to the locker room. Whether that’s an effective approach is up for debate, but that has been his style.It’s easy to see how Berhalter’s positive demeanor plays well when recruiting dual nationals, which is one area where he has experienced some big wins. Dest (Netherlands), Yunus Musah (England) and Ricardo Pepi (Mexico) all committed to the U.S. under Berhalter’s watch and played key roles during qualification. Bayern Munich’s Malik Tillman (Germany) and Chicago Fire goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina (Poland) made similar decisions this month, and while others haven’t gone Berhalter’s way — namely LA Galaxy right-back Julian Araujo (Mexico) — his track record has been very impressive.The most confounding part of his man management centers on one man: veteran center-back John Brooks. Despite playing more than 600 minutes more than any other American in a top-five European league this year (2,617 minutes in 31 league games for VfL Wolfsburg), Berhalter has routinely passed over him in favor of less proven options. Brooks wasn’t great when he did play for the U.S. early in qualifying, but Berhalter’s vague, changing reasons for his continued omissions indicate it’s something more than form or fit within the system. There’s no other way to explain how someone can ostensibly go from one of the team’s most important players to out of the picture in less than a year. More questions than answers remain. — Bonagura
How has Berhalter influenced games?
It was halftime of the United States’ away World Cup qualifier against Honduras, and Berhalter’s side was staring into the abyss. The Americans trailed 1-0, and a September window in which they had thought they were capable of getting nine points was suddenly looking like it would only result in two, a potentially disastrous start that would leave the U.S. in a sizable hole.
Berhalter was then aggressive in his choice of alterations. Out went Brooks, George Bello and Josh Sargent; in came Antonee Robinson, Brenden Aaronson and Sebastian Lletget. The formation changed, too, from a 3-4-3 to a 4-3-3. The changes worked a treat, as all three substitutes scored, and with Pepi tallying as well, the U.S. went on to secure a vital 4-1 win. While the rest of the campaign had a few hiccups, that victory in San Pedro Sula allowed the U.S. to breathe easier and stay firmly in control of its own destiny throughout qualifying.
Granted, not every tactical change has that kind of impact, but the victory highlighted Berhalter’s flexibility. Rather than stubbornly persist with his initial plan, he was willing to junk it if it wasn’t working. He didn’t care about reputations either, as evidenced by his decision to pull Brooks — widely regarded as the U.S. team’s best defender — from the match. He hasn’t played for the U.S. since.
All of these are positives in terms Berhalter’s ability to adjust on the fly.
Of course, the path the Honduras game took raises the question of how Berhalter and the U.S. found themselves in such a situation to begin with. In fact, there were other instances in which Berhalter seemed to overthink things, whether it was the decision to start Gyasi Zardes against Canada or the near-wholesale changes made for the away qualifying defeat against Panama.
But it’s also clear that triple-fixture windows, which typically involved three games in a seven-day timeframe, forced Berhalter into some tactical and personnel decisions that he otherwise wouldn’t have made. Injuries at times to key players like McKennie, Reyna and Pulisic only amplified that.The World Cup will offer up a more forgiving schedule. There will be three full days between games in Qatar instead of the two that were the norm during qualifying, yet it seems likely that the extra day won’t be enough for Berhalter to trot out the same lineup for all three games. The U.S. team’s depth will still be tested, and given the greater stakes involved, a premium will be placed on the manager getting his tactics and personnel decisions right from the get-go.Berhalter’s tactical evolution hints at progress in this area. The U.S. manager started out his tenure with an almost dogmatic approach of building out of the back. As time went on, starting with the home match against Canada in the CONCACAF Nations League, pragmatism crept in, and there was a greater willingness to be direct when circumstances dictated. There was more of an emphasis on pressing as well.Granted, at the World Cup, things never go fully according to plan. Berhalter’s willingness to adapt and change gears bodes well in that regard. — Carlisle
How will Berhalter’s team perform at the World Cup?
Group B seems impossibly tight in terms of the relative strengths of the teams involved. England has a clear talent advantage over the others and seems to have hit its stride under manager Gareth Southgate, although the U.S. has given the Three Lions fits in the past. Securing the second spot in the group looks like a challenge, though. The U.S. could just as easily advance as not. If one of Wales or Ukraine makes it through, it will have a roster comparable to the U.S. team’s in terms of quality. Iran is a complete wildcard given the relative unknown strength of the Persian Gulf Pro League, although history has shown that it would be a mistake to take Team Melli lightly.
Stylistically, the games will likely be a bit more open for the U.S. given that, unlike matches in CONCACAF, opponents won’t be as inclined to bunker in, but circumstances will dictate that as well. If the U.S heads into its final game against Iran needing a result, which seems likely, it might find itself facing precisely that circumstance. The U.S. team’s health will play a huge role. If the likes of Pulisic and Reyna can avoid injury, that will bode well. The big worry remains the No. 9 position. Pulisic, Reyna, Aaronson and Tim Weah can each win a match, but production out of the center-forward spot would be a big boost.The U.S. is a confident bunch, borne of a core group of players performing for some of the best clubs in the world, but advancing out of the group will likely go down to the wire. — CarlisleThe pragmatism we saw from Berhalter’s squad in the past year, shifting in intent and strategy depending on the opponent, isn’t going to go away in Qatar. And that’s probably the way it should be. While we don’t know who will join England, the U.S. and Iran in World Cup Group B — Ukraine and Scotland will play on June 1, with the winner facing Wales on June 5 for the final spot — we can already see that the diversity of approaches within this group is immense.In England, the U.S. will face one of the most talented teams in the world, one that combines an often conservative approach with pure playmaking talent. England is often OK with bunkering deep to defend at times, but with the skill in possession its players naturally possess, it still tend to dominate the ball against all but the best competition (last two years in tournament play: 61.9% possession, 7.9 passes per possession). The U.S. will almost certainly end up with 40% possession or lower whether things are going well or poorly. — Connelly
Since the draw, just about every casual conversation I’ve had with anyone about the national team has begun with some version of: “Do you think they’ll get out of the group?” For the USMNT, that’s the most basic way to measure success at a World Cup. If the answer is yes, it’s a success; if it’s a no, it’s a failure. For an event that is generally considered the only one that really matters for the United States (good luck making the case for the Gold Cup or Nations League), it’s a bizarre paradigm.
It’ll be easier to have a stronger feeling once the final team in the group is determined, but one of those teams will be widely considered the USMNT’s chief rival to get out of the group, behind favored England. Iran can’t be taken lightly, but on paper, it is the weakest of the six. — Bonagura
USMNT’s Matt Turner to play one more game in New England before Arsenal move
By Charles Boehm @cboehm Monday, May 30, 2022, 08:43 PM
CINCINNATI – Matt Turner knows about the risks.
He knows how difficult it will be to earn playing time at mighty Arsenal, how difficult a transfer overseas can be. He’s heard the concerns among US men’s national team fans and pundits that he and two of his fellow goalkeepers are staring at limited minutes in the run-up to the World Cup in Qatar.
“Those same people are probably the ones that were saying that because I play in MLS, I don’t deserve to play for the national team,” Turner told reporters at a media availability in downtown Cincinnati on Monday before the USMNT’s first match of their portentous June camp, against Morocco on Wednesday (7:30 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN).“So it’s hard for me to swallow all the things that people say from time to time. I’m going to go out there, I’m going to put my best foot forward. I think it’s definitely a step up for me, and I’m going to take this as far as I can do it.”
By “this,” Turner means his whole unlikely adventure with soccer, the sport he picked up very late in his adolescence by modern standards, only to turn out to be quite good at it. And even though staying with the New England Revolution might possibly give him an inside track in the competition with Zack Steffen (Manchester City) and Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest) for the national team’s starting job, he sounds certain that this is the time to leap into the English Premier League.“Well, I’ve been playing pretty well in MLS for the better part of three years now. And given the environment of transfers for goalkeepers in particular, this is the first real interest, first real offer that I’ve had,” the New Jersey native explained. “And I’ve been trying to make things happen for quite some time. So it seemed like the right time for me.“Being a week in, week out starter in MLS didn’t guarantee me to be a starter here for the national team, and going to the World Cup, I obviously want to play games. So I need to shake things up in my club career and I think this is a positive step forward, for me in the long term and in the immediate future.”Turner says he’ll play one more match for the Revs after this international window (June 19 home to Minnesota United FC), then jet across the Atlantic on June 21 to begin his Arsenal career in earnest. His wife Ashley, who is pregnant with their first child, is already en route to London to dive into the relocation process while Matt is with the national team.“I still have a little business to take care of over in Foxborough, one more game,” said Turner. “I’m hoping that it’ll be a nice little send-off and I can say bye to the fans and people that are so close to my heart, that really welcomed me to the area. It’s pretty emotional, though, overall, with everything because it’s where I first became a professional.“It’s where I became a man. It’s where I fell in love. It’s where I got married. It’s where I found out I was having my first child. So a lot of firsts in that area. And it’s going to be tough to leave behind, for sure. But I think I’m ready. I know who I am. And I know I’m ready for a new challenge.”Already a Cinderella story with his unheralded climb from undrafted rookie to US international, he’ll have to push his own limits yet again to earn a prominent role with the Gunners while competing with incumbent Aaron Ramsdale. And he’s just fine with betting on himself.
“I’m going to have an entire preseason to get comfortable, learn the system, learn the ropes. And I think there’s going to be a pretty busy fixture list in the beginning of the season. So I’m looking forward to the opportunities that will present themselves and I just want to showcase the best of my ability,” he said. “For me, I’ve always wanted to just get out there and see how far I can take this thing. That has always been my goal for football, for soccer. And so I’m going to take it a step further into the Premier League and we’ll see how it goes for me.
“It’s the sport that I love and I never thought that I’d be in the shoes that I’m in. So I’m playing with house money, and I’m going to just go for it.”
In World Cup year, can Matt Turner “take this leap and challenge myself” at Arsenal?
By Jonathan Sigal @JonathanSigal Wednesday, May 18, 2022, 04:11 PM
Now, with the Qatar 2022 World Cup six months out, there’s a realistic chance the Arsenal-bound netminder could start when the USMNT’s Group B campaign begins Nov. 21 against a to-be-determined European opponent.
The 27-year-old doesn’t lose sight of that arc, and he’s determined to force manager Gregg Berhalter’s hand with his strong play, having started eight World Cup qualifiers as the Yanks placed third in the Octagonal phase.
“My long, arching goal was to be on the roster in any facet,” Turner told The Call Up’s Jillian Sakovits and Susannah Collins. “And I think that’s changed and shifted a little bit to I want to be challenging to be the guy that’s playing in those games. Not just happy being on the team – happy being on the team, but also wanting to be between the sticks when that opening whistle happens.“I’m going to work hard, whatever it takes, whatever I need to prove when I’m over with Arsenal and give it my best shot like I always do. Wherever the chips fall, I’ll let them fall and I’ll do my role to the best of my ability, whatever it is.”
Turner’s likeliest competitor for the No. 1 role is Manchester City’s Zack Steffen, a former Columbus Crew standout. Also 27, he started five WCQs and played under Berhalter during their mutual MLS days.
They face remarkably similar obstacles toward earning first-team minutes, with Steffen the backup to Ederson at club level and Turner slated for a similar role behind Aaron Ramsdale. But Turner covets that test in London, challenging himself to succeed in the Premier League.
“I was talking to Alexi Lalas yesterday and he was like, ‘At what point are you going to stop being this underdog story and own everything?’ I think it’s around this time,” Turner said. “I think it’s around time for me to start putting on my big-boy pants, becoming a father, becoming a husband and moving over, changing leagues, changing scenery.
“I think that’ll be good for me. I think that’ll be good for my career, to sort of take this leap and challenge myself in a lot of ways, on the field, off the field and just help me to really continue that growth in personal and professional life.”
in-world-cup-year-can-matt-turner-take-this-leap-and-challenge-myself-at-arsenal&sessionId=684135d9c97889fd62bb3332a554907e5522122c&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px Before making that jump, Turner’s Revolution career has a few final chapters to write. In late June, he’ll depart the club where he went from an undrafted free agent to the 2021 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and earning a transfer that nets New England around $6 million initially and can reach just under $10 million with incentives.
Turner’s replacement seems to be rising Serbian talent Djordje Petrovic, a midseason acquisition by the reigning Supporters’ Shield winners. But filling the shoes of a player approaching all-time-great territory won’t be easy.
“Do I deserve a legacy? Am I a club legend? I don’t know,” Turner reflected. “I just hope that fans remember some of the fond memories that we all shared. They remember me for the things I was doing not just on the field but also off the field.
“… I just hope people know I always gave my all to this club every time I stepped out onto the field and I always really cared about the results and I always really cared about where this club was headed. I hope that it’s going to be continuing to trend in the same direction it has been since Bruce [Arena] got there.”
For more from Turner on The Call Up, check out his entire interview here.
Kellyn Acosta – Being Japanese American in America These Days
Los Angeles F.C. | United States
May 27, 2022
I’m Japanese. Most people can’t see it. That’s O.K. Some are surprised when they hear it. Again, I can understand. But once people know, the reactions are quite different. Some say, “Hey, that’s awesome!” Others go, “No way. You can’t be.”Yeah. It’s a weird feeling when people refuse to believe who you are.Sometimes I’ll go through the whole spiel. My dad was born in Japan and lived there until he was 10. My grandma is full Japanese. My stepdad, who I consider my grandpa, he’s Mexican — hence Acosta. There’s some Irish blood in there as well, so it’s kinda crazy. A lot of people think I’m Mexican or Spanish or Colombian but, you know, I’m American. Japanese-American. But even after I have said this, some people continue to insist that I’m not. Sometimes I have resorted to showing pictures of my family. Hard proof, right? Case closed.They still won’t believe me. “Naaaaaaaaah. No chance.”Some people have told me I’m adopted. For real. Thankfully I’m at a point in my life where I’m embracing my identity, which is why I’m writing this for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. It’s been a long journey to get here though, which is why I want to tell my story. Not just for all the Asian-Americans out there, but also for anyone who’s been made to feel like they’re somehow different. You see, when I was a kid, I was heckled for standing out. I grew up in Plano, in Texas, which is predominantly white. I’m not just Asian — I’m Black as well. Double minority. Double whammy, right?I was a complete outcast. Even my education was different. My dad is a hard-nosed engineer, very strict, so at home I got the streotypical Asian upbringing. Straight A’s. When my parents divorced, I spent a lot of time with my grandma, who I called Mimi. She would speak Japanese on the phone, watch Japanese news and eat food from the Asian market. In Asian culture a full stomach means a happy heart, so no matter how full I was when I got there, I had to eat. I’d wolf down rice bowls and sushi with wooden chopsticks. Sometimes I’d tell her that I wanted to become a soccer player. She just said that she didn’t care what I became, as long as I had a good heart. But it was hard. Plano is Cowboys Country. The average boy there will play American football, aim for collge and dream about the NFL. Fewe than .10% actually make it, but if you don’t try it’s like, “So what do you do?” Which is shorthand for, You must be a loser. Soccer? That was for girls. Some days I’d wear my soccer tracksuit at school, and I’d get all these comments. “Hey, why are your pants so tight?”“Why are you wearing skinny jeans?”“What are you doing?”If my parents worked late I would be in this after-school program, and my grandma would pick me up. People would see the Black soccer kid in the tracksuit walking over to this Asian lady, and then they would go, “What’s going on here? This guy’s a mess.”They would ask me, “Is she your nanny?” I’d say that she was my grandma.“But you’re not Asian.”“You don’t look like her.”“You’re adopted.”I heard it all. I heard it all. So eventually I tried to kind of hide my grandma away. I would ask her to call the school and let them know she was there so that she didn’t have to get out of the car. I wasn’t embarrassed. I was just tired of people making fun of me. But sometimes she would come in anyway. She’s my grandma, right? She didn’t care. So yeah, it took a toll. My family would tell me that the other kids were jealous, but when you’re a kid it’s hard to understand. One day, when I was about eight or nine years old, I snapped. I’m a pretty reserved person, but it just boiled over. This girl kept making fun of me. She just wouldn’t stop. So I grabbed a pair of scissors and threw them at her. They flew through the air. SWOOOOSSSSH. And they just missed her. Got stuck in a door right behind her. Everyone in the room gasped like, What just happened?I wasn’t trying to hit her. I had decent aim, so it was more to make a point. But I was shocked too. I didn’t know that I was capable of doing that, you know? The teachers called my parents and said they had to come get me immediately. They even kept me away from the other kids, as if I was a dangerous lunatic. I began to cry. I was like, This isn’t me. This isn’t who I am.My head was so cloudy. Being an outcast was eating me up. So I ended up trying to fit in. I’d ask for certain clothes so that I didn’t stand out. I had been in love with soccer since I was about five, and I had also been playing basketball and running track and field, but in seventh grade I began playing American football. It wasn’t me at all. I just wanted to make friends and be part of the group. I was trying to create a new identity.
Luckily, I had a friend who showed me how to be me.This guy was a real legend. His name was Zequinha, a Brazilian former professional soccer player, and in the ’60s and ’70s he had been a striker for some of the biggest clubs in Brazil: Flamengo, Botafogo, Grêmio, São Paulo. The guy was legit — he even played with Pelé. Toward the end of his career he had moved to Dallas, where he had started to coach and, when I was seven years old, that’s how I met him. Zequinha was a bit like my grandma: Strict, but sweet and soft-spoken. When you got to know him, he would tell all these crazy stories, like how he’d had to walk miles to training in Brazil, or how they used to tie grocery bags together to make a ball. Stuff that changes your outlook on life. We got so close that I’d stay at his house, ride with him in the car to games and hang out with his son, João, who was about my age. My life became even more multicultural. One night I could be eating a good old American burger. The next I’d be at Mimi’s slurping noodle soup, and then I’d be at Zee’s having feijoada.It was amazing. And you know, Brazilians, they’re different, right? They love creativity and freedom. They are who they are. So when I told Zee about being heckled at school, he told me to stop caring what people said. Stop tiptoeing around others. Stop trying to fit in. Stand out. Be who you are. This guy was my hero. I even dressed up like him once for Halloween, which was supposed to be scary but it didn’t matter, hahaha. (And yes, he had that hair.) But it took some time before I fully embraced what he’d said. It was only once I reached my teens that everything changed. I stopped hiding who I was. I didn’t care about trying to fit in. I told my grandma to come out of her car to get me. I quit American football. I did whatever felt right for me.And guess what? I performed a lot better.I was drawing on all these cultures for inspiraion. My dad always told me to give it 110%, because 100% wasn’t good enough. His buzzword was intensity. Zequinha told me to express myself. Suddenly I was thriving on this mix of Asian discipline and Brazilian creativity. By the time I was 13, people could see that I would turn into a special player, and they gravitated toward me. I was no longer an outcast. I came out of my shell. As I got older and more independent, nobody could really tell that I was Asian, so I didn’t really show it as much as I could have. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t proud. It was more like I was proud in silence. It’s only in these last few years that I have fully embraced my complete identity. Once I did that, it was like the clouds made way for the sunshine. I’m 26 now, and I love being different. I love that I understand so many cultures and that I can relate to so many people, like a social chameleon. I also feel proud that I may have the opportunity to become the first Japanese-American to play in a World Cup. I really hope that I can help inspire others with a similar background. But I wish it hadn’t taken so long. I wish that I had accepted who I was at a younger age.Unfortunately, I still know what it’s like to suffer discrimination and racism. Like walking down the street and seeing people cross the road to avoid me, as if I’m about to rob them. Or going into stores and getting asked, “Are you lost? You know how much that costs?”It’s crazy, it really is. And those are just the ones that pop into my head.Then you have the discrimination against Asian-Americans. There is a national coalition called Stop AAPI Hate that reported more than 9,000 anti-Asian incidents in the 15 months after the pandemic began in March 2020. I didn’t experience any racism like that personally, but I know that my grandma did. We have to keep speaking up about this, so that people realize it’s not O.K. In some ways, things are getting better. A big part of that is social media, and the fact that people are filming racist behavior. Before, it was always a matter of “he said, she said.” Now we have proof. We have to fight to keep that trend going. I also hope that we can celebrate Asian/Pacific American Heritage Mnth more, and educate people about thculture and history of Asian-Americans. It’s amazing how history can teach you things about yourself. A few weeks ago, I went to visit the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, here in L.A., with my dad and my grandma. My dad has become very Americanized since moving here, but in that museum he remembered things like, “Oh, this is what we had in school. This is what my teacher used to tell me.” My grandma hasn’t been to Japan in half a century, so to see her wind back time was really special, too. Apparently they would take refuge in a cave during the war. She’d have to grab a pail, go to a lake and get water for her brothers and sisters. When they moved to the U.S., they had to stuff everything they had in a bento box, which is like a picnic basket. They turned up here with nothing but a blanket, one change of clothes and a pair of bamboo sandals. I just remember going, This is nuts. Think about it. You wouldn’t even go on a three-day trip with that. My grandma was packing stuff for a new life. In six hours I felt more connected to her than I ever had in my whole life.After that I looked at her and dad with awe. Even though they had been strict with me, I thanked them for the upbringing they had given me. I’m Japanese-American. How could I hear those stories and not be proud of who I am?hoever you are, I hope you embrace your identity too. It doesn’t have to be about being Asian-American — it can be about your sexual orientation, or some interest that you’re afraid to share, or a fashion style that nobody’s into. It can be whatever. Once you embrace that, you’ll have a better understanding of yourself. Then you will realize that there are many people just like you. You’ll find people who support you and love you for who you are. And then you’ll be a lot happier. I’ll leave you with the words that Zequinha gave to me. Whatever you do in life, play with freedom. Be brave. Don’t hide. Forget what the others think.Only you decide who you are.
US referee numbers are plunging and aggression is to blame
We all want better officiating. But it’s tough for referees to develop when abuse from players and spectators hound them out of the game
Beau DureThu 26 May 2022 05.00 EDT The Guardian
My three-year-old could’ve made that call!” exclaimed commentator Kaylyn Kyle after an apparent handball wasn’t called at the end of an NWSL Challenge Cup game between OL Reign and the Washington Spirit.Unfortunately, most three-year-olds who grow up to be soccer fans will be armchair referees rather than being on the field where they’re actually needed.They’ll grow up to spend their hours on Twitter, dissecting photos and videos often taken from sightlines the actual referee and assistant referees do not have. They will also have far more time to process plays than the officials. And too many of them will grow up to become parents and coaches who prowl sidelines yelling at referees until those officials finally toss aside their whistles and quit.We all want better referees. But it’s tough for referees to develop when there’s much more incentive for them to quit than there is for them to stick with it and improve.It’s a simple spiral. Referees drop out of the sport, especially after discovering the joys of extra free-time during the pandemic. Less experienced referees fill their spots. Coaches, players and parents harass and abuse the less experienced referees. Then those referees quit. And then the pool of referees drifting upwards to the top level is that much smaller.
The story is familiar to players in England, where some semi-professional games are going forward with teenagers and some games below that level have no officials at all. In the US, the shortages are rampant at youth level and can even reach up to MLS Next, Major League Soccer’s academy program, for which some grassroots referees in Virginia have seen urgent calls for help.
In Utah, the state youth association had reached the point of canceling 570 matches and rescheduling more than 1,000 in one season. They sent out an email trying to drum up interest in referee certification. The response was telling.
“We were flooded with responses stating they would never register as referees or allow their children to register because they’ve seen how horrible the treatment of referees has been, and they refuse to be subjected to it,” said Jen Rader, the Utah association’s marketing and media manager.
The response: A ”zero tolerance” policy on complaining to referees. The name is more draconian than the actual policy, which recognizes the reality of heated competition.
“Exclamations in the moment are part of the game,” the policy states. “A ‘handball’ or ‘offside’ as an immediate response to a situation is more than acceptable so long as that exclamation ends there.”
Coaches and players can still speak respectfully with refs. And if things are unresolved, there’s a complaint procedure that takes place electronically, not with a barracuda parent going after a terrified teenager.
To an extent, referee shortages aren’t new. Wisconsin’s youth association instituted its own zero tolerance policy in 2015, citing a “persistent shortage of referees.” The most recognizable referee in recent history, the imposing Pierluigi Collina, warned in 2017 that soccer may face a global shortage of referees. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which oversees all US scholastic sports, launched a recruitment drive in 2017.
But the pandemic has worsened the situation. The US is dealing with labor shortages in many fields, all part of what has been called the Great Resignation, and refereeing is no exception. Spending weekends somewhere other than a soccer field has proven alluring for some, especially when players apparently have pent-up frustration to unleash.
“Since the pandemic, I have seen more heated parents, coaches and players than usual,” said Janet Campbell, who chairs referee abuse and assault hearings for North Texas Soccer. “They need to settle down and let the children play the game and let the referees do their jobs. They don’t seem to understand that you have to have referees to play the game.”
And the NFHS, five years after launching that recruitment drive, has had to redouble its efforts after seeing referee numbers drop from about 240,000 to 200,000 in three years.
Wisconsin is now offering financial incentives – paying for certification and uniforms for new refs, then raising game fees paid to referees in fall 2022 – in addition to beefing up its zero tolerance enforcement.
“Zero tolerance policies continue to be enforced and we are also taking steps to be more transparent back to referees and referee leadership of suspensions and sanctions that have been assessed to show the association is working to curb behavioral issues,” said Brandon Wachholz, Wisconsin’s youth referee administrator.
Another factor feeding the frenzy on the sidelines – the US now has no shortage of games on television, which means parents and players witness (and are perhaps tempted to emulate) pundits and the professionals dissenting referees’ decisions.
And to be sure, sometimes the critics have a point. Though Kyle’s rant of nearly three minutes over what was, at worst, a simple mistake was over the top, NWSL fans can’t be faulted for complaining about a few institutional issues. Namely:
• The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) assigns NWSL games to Tier B and Tier C referees in their development ladder, multiple tiers below MLS.
• The league lacks VAR, which might have shed some light on the incident Kyle decried as well as a horror tackle, committed by Washington’s Sam Staab, of which the referee didn’t have a clear view – screened, as is so often the case even with top-notch referees, by the defender trailing back to catch the attacker.
• MLS has some transparency via a weekly YouTube review, while PRO offers a weekly behind-the-scenes look at VAR in MLS.
• Refs assigned to the league also have a curious aversion to red cards – in 2018, Carli Lloyd and Marta were the only players to be sent off.
Kyle also happened to be on the field for one of the most controversial games in recent international play – a 2012 Olympic semi-final in which her Canadian team suffered two dubious calls in quick succession that allowed the US to get back into the game and eventually march on to the final. That game still elicits strong feelings in Canada. It was also the last major international game officiated by Norway’s Christina Pedersen, who was just 31 at the time. By the letter of the law, she didn’t even make mistakes – she simply made decisions that aren’t usually made. Fifa and Uefa aren’t prone to announcing that a referee has been removed from the public arena, but whether her disappearance was their decision or Pedersen’s, those two calls were clearly pivotal.
Pedersen’s exit from the international stage also proves that referees are held accountable – in many ways, more than players or coaches are. One bad game or even a couple of simple mistakes can sink a referee’s career. Players can fill blooper reels and still get called up to national teams. Players, coaches and even commentators can look at a play multiple times and still misunderstand the call. Case in point: On a 2010 World Cup broadcast, Efan Ekoku ranted about what he considered an erroneous offside call, either failing to notice that the attacker was well past the goalkeeper or failing to realize the rules say “second-to-last opponent,” not “last outfield player.”
And there’s no shortage of commentators. Ex-players happily line up to take a microphone, not a whistle. We’ll never hear of a broadcast in which the broadcaster simply couldn’t find anyone willing to take the gig.
But if the referee pool keeps dwindling, plenty of games will go forward without a full officiating crew. Maybe Kyle’s three-year-old should go ahead and sign up now.
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