11/28/22 USA vs Iran Tues 2 pm Fox, WC final Group Games thru Fri, Great WC Saves, CFC GK Coach on Way to NAIA Finals

It all comes down to Tuesday vs Iran – if the US wins – they advance to the knockout stages this weekend – if Iran (1-0-1) wins or ties they advance. This is a game the US needs to win if we want to continue to show the growth of the Golden Generation for the US before we host the World Cup in 2026. I thought US Manager Gregg Berhalter got everything right in his initial line-up vs England – going with a 10 of 11 starters from game 1 and an adjusted 4-4-2 look with a high press driving England crazy early. The US should have scored – our control of the ball vs a top 5 team in England was impressive (45-55) and we outshot them, bullied their midfield and honestly should have won this game. With the tie – the game sets up a winner take all game with Iran. We are going to half to score this game – which leads me to change line-ups below.

US Men Tuesday 2 pm vs Iran on Fox – Winner Advances

Shane’s Starters for Tues

Pulisic, Weah, Reyna or Aaronson

Musah, McKinney


Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Scally


First off bench Aaronson, Ferriera, Dest

Lets start with Reyna has to get on the field – I move Weah to the #9 slot – lets be honest none of our forwards has really shown anything this WC – let stop and get our best 11 on the field. With Reyna on the right wing – I go with Joe Scally at right back – Reyna and Scally are best buds so their chemistry should translate – with Scally a much better defender to cover for Reyna not coming back as much. The rest of the team stays steady with Pulisc and Musah on the left – I would still consider the 4-4-2 here again with Pulisic sliding to the 10 slot. McKinney played his best game in months and of course Adams is our BEST player period. The back line held steady last game vs England with Centerbacks Ream and Zimmerman both playing especially well. Of course Turner while making us nervous with his feet was flawless with his saves. Shane likes the US in this one over Iran 2-1 in a tension packed match. The US has to score first – so we better press early.


US vs England Hilights Your US Captain Tyler Adams Story  US CB Walker Zimmerman Ga Boy Story  US Goalkeeper Matt Turner    these 26 stories on our 26 players going to Qatar its awesome

Full U.S. Men’s roster for 2022 World Cup:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8 appearances for U.S./0 goals), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach/GER; 3/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0)

FORWARDS (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1)

World Cup News

So over 20 million people watched the US vs England making it the largest ever TV crowd for a :Men’s Game in the US – of course the 1999 World Cup Finals US Women’s World Cup still holds the record with 25 Million US viewers.

The World Cup commercials are out – which ones do you like best?  Nike  Addidas  check them all out hereIts Called Soccer – Classic Commercial   Oh and how about this stunner if true Lionel Messi set for richest deal in MLS history, summer move to Beckham’s Miami.  Congrats to IU Men’s Soccer off to their 28th Elite 8. IU Manages Marshall, Moment in Sweet 16 Win

Carmel FC GK Coach Headed to National Championships

Carmel FC GK Coach Noelle Rolfsen  GK for the Marian University Lady Knights in Indianapois is headed to Alabama next week for the NAIA National Championships.  They play Thurs Dec 1 at 5 pm and again on Sat, Dec 3 at 5 pm if they win. 

CARMEL FC GOALKEEPERS : Wednesday Night Trainings in Dec – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse 5:30 pm U12//6:30 pm U13-U14//8:30 pm HS U15+.

American Outlaws Watch Party Tuesday 2 pm Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple. https://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite


Mon, Nov 28

11 am Fox                            Brazil (1-0) vs Switzerland (1-0)

2 pm Fox                     Portugal (1-0-0) vs Uraguay (0-1-0)  

Tues, Nov 29

10 am Fox                            Netherlands vs Qatar

11 am Fox Sport 1            Ecuador vs Senegal  

2 pm Fox                              USA vs Iran

2 pm FS1                              Wales vs England  

Wed, Nov 30

10 am Fox Sport 1            Tunisia vs Frane  

10 am Fox                            Australia vs Denmark  

2 pm FS1                              Poland vs Argentina

2 pm Fox                              Saudi Arabia vs Mexico  

Thur, Dec 1 –                        

10 am FS1                            Croatia vs Belgium

10 am Fox                            Canada vs Morroco

2 pm  Fox                             Japan vs Spain  

2 pm Fox                              Costa Riaca vs Germany  

Fri, Dec 2 –                            

10 am FS1                            Ghana vs Uruguay

10 am Fox                            Portugal vs South Korea

2 pm  Fox                             Cameroon vs Brazil  

2 pm Fox                              Serbia vs Switzerland

Sat, Dec 3 –                           Sweet 16 Knockout Rounds

10 am Fox                            1A vs 2 B  USA?

 2 pm  Fox                            1C vs 2 D

Sun, Dec 4 –                       

10 am Fox                            1D France vs 2C

 2 pm  Fox                            1B England? vs 2A

Mon, Dec 5 –                     

10 am Fox                            1E Spain? vs 2F

 2 pm  Fox                            1G Brazil? vs 2H

Tues, Dec 6–                      

10 am Fox                            1E Spain? vs 2F

 2 pm  Fox                            1G Brazil? vs 2H

Fri Dec 9

Fri, Dec 9                             Quarter Finals Final 8–                  

10 am Fox                           

2 pm                     

Sat Dec 10                           Quarter Finals Final 8–                  

10 am Fox                           

2 pm                     

Tues Dec 13                        Semis – Final 4                  

2 pm  Fox

Wed Dec 14                        Semis – Final 4                  

2 pm  Fox

Sat, Dec 17                          third Place                         

10 am  Fox

Sun, Dec 18                         FINALS                 

10 am  Fox

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

CARMEL FC PLAYERS : Winter Players League (WPL) – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse
As the fall season comes to a close over the next month, we wanted to let you know that we will be launching an indoor soccer league over two six week sessions within our new Badger Fieldhouse. Games will be played on either Friday night ( 6pm to 10pm) or Sunday afternoon (1pm-5pm) depending on age groups: U8s, U9&U10, U11&U12, U13-U15 and U16+ (Coed Teams allowed). Referees for each game, 50 minute games, 5v5, 7v7 and 9v9 matches.
Session One (6 weeks): Jan 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th / Feb: 3rd, 10th
Session Two (6 weeks): Feb 17th, 24th / Mar 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th
Gather teammates and be ready to play!

===================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ====================== 


Try out the Best BarBQ in Town right across the street (131st) from Northview Church & Badger Field on the corner of Hazelldell & 131st. RackZ BBQ

Save 20% on your order 

(mention the ole ballcoach) 

Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

=====================RackZ BAR BBQ ======Save 20% ======================

US Men

 US has clear World Cup task against Iran: win or go home
US Soccer’s biggest misstep with Iran support was mistaking the World Cup for a bubble | Opinion

Lalas: US overlooked importance to Iran of ’98 Cup match

US Soccer shows support for Iranian women, briefly displays Iran flag without Islamic Republic emblem
Political foes Iran, US ready for World Cup battle

United States v. England, 2022 FIFA World Cup: What We Learned By Adnan Ilyas S&S

USA vs. Iran, 2022 World Cup: Scouting Iran  By Brendan Joseph  S&S

2022 World Cup: USA 0-0 England – it was a draw that felt like a draw By Parker Cleveland

Largest Crowd to See a Men’s Soccer Game on US TV

World Cup

World Cup Advancement: Knockout Stage Scenarios for Each Team

Why do Soccer Players Dive – Master of the Dark Arts – Yahoo Soccer –
Iran football legend Daei targeted by ‘threats’ after backing protests

Kevin De Bruyne said Belgium is too old to win the World Cup. Seems like he’s got a point

Spain vs Germany result: Niclas Fullkrug earns Germans vital draw to keep World Cup hopes alive

Netherlands under Van Gaal on cusp of advancing at World Cup

Vincent Aboubakar leads Cameroon comeback in six-goal draw vs Serbia

Canelo slams Messi over Mexico team World Cup jersey

Left-leaning and loved by Brazil fans: How Richarlison became the anti-Neymar

Canada Eliminated
‘The politics are finished’: Germany abandon World Cup protest gestures to focus on football

Top Three Moments From Day 8 of 2022 World Cup


‘He always shows up.’ How Memo Ochoa became Mexico’s consistent World Cup hero

Morocco’s Abdelhamid Sabiri Beats Thibaut Courtois for Free Kick Goal


Offsides rules at 2022 World Cup: Explaining how VAR technology impacts referee calls

VAR Review Wipes Out Moroccan Goal Vs. Belgium

Clint Dempsey: Be brave USA. Take risks and go out and play with no fear

Clint Dempsey: Be brave USA. Take risks and go out and play with no fear

Clint Dempsey Nov 28, 2022

I remember the night before my first World Cup start against Italy in 2006.I woke up from a nightmare that I played badly. That fear fueled me.Growing up, I didn’t have a league to dream about playing in. I had a highlight tape of the 1986 World Cup and I remember watching Diego Maradona and other greats. That’s what I dreamed about as a kid, the international game. That one day I’d be able to play in packed stadiums and represent my country and impact matches. At night before I’d go to bed, I prayed, man. I prayed that hopefully, I’d get that chance.So when I woke up from that nightmare, I thought about that kid in Nacogdoches, Texas. I didn’t want to have that feeling of going out there and not making a mark. I had felt that way once before: the Under-20 World Cup in 2003. I played maybe 20 minutes all tournament, coming off the bench in a game we had already won. That’s something that always sat with me. I didn’t want to let another World Cup go by that I wasn’t able to get on the field and make an impact. I didn’t want to have that feeling of going out there and not leaving it all on the field. You know what I mean?In Germany, that was something that was on my mind. You better believe I was fighting in training. I was gonna make sure I was gonna get on that field. I was gonna make them play me. I was gonna make them remember me.On Tuesday against Iran, the U.S. has to have that mentality. One game to go forward. It’s one thing to represent your country and be here, right? That’s dope. In a sense, you’ve made it. But there should be another side. You don’t wanna let this World Cup go by and you didn’t put your mark on it. You’re fighting for your country. For the people who didn’t make it back home. You’ve got to remember what it’s like to be that kid sitting at the TV, wondering if you’d ever get that chance. Hoping you’d get that chance.

Dempsey celebrates his goal in 2006 (Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

You don’t get a lot of opportunities in your life to truly do something special. And guess what? Here it is.This team, the way they played against England — with confidence, with style, taking the game to them, the way they moved, passed the ball, how they dominated midfield — it was great. Now it’s just about getting goals.There isn’t a secret to finishing. Look at the goal, pick your spot, look at the ball, make sure you hit it how you want to hit it. Sometimes things happen so quickly you don’t have a chance to think too much. But just trust it. That’s why you give everything you have in training, to replicate what it’s like in the game. It’s just a matter of time before it translates, one to the other.You can see it’s coming. The chances are there. It’s about converting. Like that Weston McKennie chance. I’m sure if he had that back, it’s in the net. You can’t put any outside pressure on it. Trust in the work you’re doing, keep shooting. Be brave. Take risks. If you don’t shoot, you don’t score. We’re getting the chances. We just got to make sure we’re putting them on frame. And if they keep doing what they’ve been doing, especially like they did in the last game, they’re gonna get the opportunities.Watching the England game made me feel real confident, because England in the last two major tournaments has done a great job. If you would have told England fans that Gareth Southgate was going to do what he was going to do — semi-finals of the World Cup, finals of the Euro — they would have bitten your hand off. And a lot of the guys on this England team had that experience. They played in a World Cup semi-final. They know what it’s like to get to a Euro final. We got guys who only know what it’s like to be in the finals of a CONCACAF Nations League and a Gold Cup. For almost everyone on this team, it’s their first World Cup. They’re learning on the go.

That shows that the future is bright for this team.

McKennie can’t believe he missed his chance (Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

I don’t think there are many midfields that can compete with ours. I’d take Yunus Musah, McKennie and Tyler Adams up against almost any midfield in this tournament. Christian Pulisic had an assist in his first game. Weston played great against England. Tyler has been great in both. Tim Ream has done a great job, he gives calmness to our team. Matt Turner has shown that he’s that No 1. Tim Weah getting our first goal is something he’ll remember for the rest of his life. And then you’ve got Brenden Aaronson and Gio Reyna, they want to make a mark on this tournament and they’re waiting in the wings.Now it’s about all these guys stepping up and showing why they should be here. You’ve got to go get out of the group. You get out of the group, people remember that. You win games, people remember that.This last game against Iran is not going to be easy. You look at our political history as countries, everybody is going to be up for that. Iran knows they likely only need only a tie to advance. The task will be made more difficult. And you could see against Wales the togetherness this Iran team has. They have a lot going on, on and off the field, back home. And that can either make you weaker or stronger. I think it’s making Iran stronger.I’ve been in these kinds of games before. Against Ghana in 2006, I scored to tie the game — a goal that changed my life — and Ghana got a penalty that I didn’t think was much of a penalty and we got knocked out. Against Algeria in 2010, I had a goal called back for offside and I wasn’t offside, and then Landon Donovan gets the goal and we go through. I remember every game and every goal of my World Cups. These are games of thin margins and big moments, and sometimes you’re on the right side of those moments and sometimes you’re not.On Tuesday, this U.S. team has got a chance to make history. We went from not making the World Cup in 2018 to being here but now, can you take it a step further? Can they take it to the next level?

What I would say is make sure you don’t leave this World Cup thinking, ‘Man, I wish I would’ve done this. I wish I would’ve done that’. Go out there and take it with both hands. Go out there and play with no fear.Make them remember you.

Iran players will not use flag controversy as motivation for USMNT game — Carlos Queiroz

Carlos Queiroz, Iran, USMNT

By Amitai Winehouse35m ago

Carlos Queiroz believes his players are not taking any motivation from the controversy around Iran’s flag ahead of their game against the United States.The US States Soccer Federation posted a graphic that included Iran’s flag without the emblem of the Islamic Republic. A U.S. Soccer spokesperson previously told The Athletic on Sunday that the federation made the change to “show support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights”.However, they have since deleted the posts. A USSF spokesperson said: “Clearly the decision we made was to show support for the women in Iran. That stands.“This is our decision, not anyone else’s or pressure from anyone else.”Iran head coach Queiroz, though, insisted he would not be motivating his players with the controversy.He said: “If after 42 years after this game I believed I could still win games with these mental games, I think I learned nothing about the game. This is not the case.”Widespread anti-government protests have raged across Iran since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in mid-September. Amini was arrested in Tehran by morality police for allegedly not covering her hair properly; she died in police custody three days later.Iran’s theocratic government has responded to the women-led protests with a deadly crackdown. According to Human Rights Activists in Iran, an advocacy group that has been monitoring the demonstrations, more than 450 people have been killed and more than 18,000 arrested as a result of the protests. Iran has not released arrest or casualty figures in months. Last week, the country blasted the UN’s announcement that it would set up a fact-finding mission to investigate the government’s response to the protests as an arrogant political ploy.U.S. Soccer removed the emblem from posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram updating the Group B standings following the U.S. men’s national team’s 0-0 draw against England at the World Cup on Friday. The third-place U.S. must beat second-place Iran in their group stage finale on Tuesday in order to advance to the knockout rounds. Iran will advance with a win or with a draw if Wales loses or draws against England on Tuesday.A USSF spokesperson said that federation had not been contacted by FIFA about removing the emblem from the flag.

The federation only made the change for its most recent social media posts that would’ve otherwise included the Iranian flag. U.S. Soccer has not removed the Islamic Republic emblem from the Iranian flag on its official website, including it on several different pages. The federation included the emblem on the Iran flag in social media posts it made on November 21.Iran introduced the Islamic Republic emblem onto its flag in 1980, one year after the Islamic Republic was established via revolution. The emblem includes four curves with a sword between them and is meant to represent the Islamic saying: “There is no god but God.”The flag has become a significant issue at the World Cup. The Associated Press reported that confrontations broke out between Iranian fans at Friday’s match between Iran and Wales in Doha, Qatar. Pro-Islamist Iranian fans, some waving the Islamic Republic flag, reportedly confronted other supporters of the national side who wore pre-revolutionary flags or shirts emblazoned with “Woman. Life. Freedom”, which has become a rallying cry for the protest movement.Queiroz did, though, heap praise on the US as a team.

Queiroz said: “Tomorrow will be a very very special game for us, for me particularly to be with the national team of Iran for the third time and to be able to move to the chance to qualify is something that makes us proud.“Once again we want to try to do our best against without any doubt, in my opinion, the most consistent and regular team that makes the best two performances in the group.“They played very well against Wales, very well against and England. All the other teams, including ourselves, were not so consistent.”The USMNT need to beat Iran to reach the last-16, while Iran could progress with a draw but would guarantee their advancement with a win.

USMNT rewatch: More struggles in front of goal, another Tyler Adams masterclass

AL KHOR, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: Weston McKennie of United States reacts after missing a chance during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between England and USA at Al Bayt Stadium on November 25, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

By Sam Stejskal Nov 27, 2022 TJHe Athletic

The U.S. men’s national team had one of its best performances in recent memory in their 0-0 draw on Friday against England, but, for all of the different ways it played well, the team once again struggled in front of goal.The U.S. was shut out, recorded just one shot on target and finished the England match with only 0.66 expected goals. Those totals came four days after the U.S. recorded one shot on goal and tallied just 0.79 expected goals in their 1-1 draw against Wales. The Americans’ two total shots on goal are the lowest of any of the 16 teams that played two matches at the World Cup prior to Sunday.The U.S.’s scoring issues aren’t isolated to the team’s run in Qatar. Dating back to a 2-0 loss at Canada in January, the U.S. has been shut out in seven of their last nine matches against World Cup opponents. The only goals in that stretch came on Monday against Wales and in a 3-0 home win against Morocco in a friendly in June.With all that said, the U.S. has actually done a much better job of getting into good positions at the World Cup than they did in their final two matches ahead of the tournament in September against Japan and Saudi Arabia, but they’ve continued to struggle with their final ball.“It’s difficult to score goals, that’s the starting point,” U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter said after Friday’s match. “And when you’re going against some top defenders in the world, it’s going to be even more difficult. For us, we were happy with the positions we got into, had some close opportunities. At times, we want to be even deeper, get the ball in front of goal, give them some problems, but at this level, goals aren’t easy.”Against Wales, Christian PulisicJosh Sargent and Tim Weah combined for an excellent team goal in the first half, a textbook play in which the U.S. disorganized the Welsh center backs with some smart movement that created space for Weah to run into for a solid finish. In the second half, the U.S. had chances to punish Wales in transition but struggled with their execution and decision-making.Opportunities were rare against England, but that was to be expected. Though they gave up a couple of consolation goals in their 6-2 win against Iran in the Group B opener, England has been excellent defensively at major tournaments under manager Gareth Southgate, conceding just eight times in 13 non-third-place games in the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020. The U.S. knew they’d have to be clinical in order to find the net on Friday. They weren’t.Weston McKennie had the U.S.’s best chance of the match in the 26th minute. McKennie was heavily involved in a well-worked, 15-pass buildup that ended with Weah whipping a cross to him in the middle of the penalty area, but he skied his right-footed attempt over the bar from eight yards.Pulisic nearly scored on a relatively innocuous opportunity in the 33rd, when he fired a speculative-looking shot from the left side of the area through a pair of England defenders, past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and off the crossbar.McKennie didn’t get over the ball and paid the price for his poor technique; he should’ve buried his chance. Pulisic made a good play out of nothing and got a little bit unlucky. Both near-misses illustrated the old truism about tight margins at the World Cup. A slip-up in one moment or an inch or two in another can make the difference between advancing to the knockout rounds or going home early.“Obviously, every player that gets an opportunity wants to put it in the bck of the net, but sometimes it’s not in the cards,” McKennie said on Friday. “That’s how it is. You can’t really change it after it happens, you can just try and keep getting goalscoring opportunities. But we still believe. If you get 100 chances, you create 100 chances, at least one of them’s going to go in eventually. I think the most important thing is that we created the chances and that we can be a threat.”There were a couple of plays later in the England match when the U.S. was once again let down by their decision-making. The first came in the 49th minute. Pulisic latched onto the ball on the left side and launched a counterattack, dribbling into the final third before finding striker Haji Wright on the flank. Wright cut in on his right foot and arrived into the box, eventually firing a shot that was blocked by England center back John Stones.ADVERTISEMENT

That was probably the wrong decision. Wright never had much of a chance of getting his shot past Stones and fellow center back Harry Maguire, who was providing cover closely behind. As you can see in the below screenshot, the U.S. likely would have had a better look if Wright had laid the ball off to an onrushing Weah at the top of the area.

That image doesn’t even show McKennie steaming into the open space to the right of Weah. Had Wright passed to him, Weah would have had the option to dummy the ball, leaving it for an unmarked McKennie, who might have been able to stroll into the box unimpeded.The U.S. made another poor choice in a big spot in the 89th minute, though it will be remembered more for the heart palpitations that it prompted than the promising attack it launched. Goalkeeper Matt Turner’s wild dribble out of his own area in that moment led to the U.S. progressing the ball up the left wing before swiftly moving it centrally, with Brenden Aaronson eventually playing fullback Shaq Moore into the right side of the area. The ball was begging to be hit first-time to Pulisic, who was making a hard run toward goal.

Inexplicably, Moore decided to set himself with a touch. That cut off his angle to play a pass across the face of goal, removing Pulisic — who, you’ll see below, had beaten Maguire — as an option. Moore ended up attempting to cut the ball back to Gio Reyna near the penalty spot, but his pass was easily dealt with by England.

Iran doesn’t have as much talent in the back as England, but they’ll probably be tough to break down in Tuesday’s must-win match for the U.S. Iran allowed just eight goals in 18 matches in Asian qualifying, the third-best mark in the entire confederation behind Japan and South Korea. Manager Carlos Queiroz started a number of normal reserves in their 6-2 defeat to England on Monday, but re-inserted his starters against Wales on Friday. They did a good job of locking down the Welsh as Iran emerged with a dramatic 2-0 win.Berhalter might consider changing his personnel for Tuesday’s match. It’s unlikely that Reyna will start ahead of McKennie, Weah or Pulisic, who have all been solid in Qatar, but Berhalter should go to him earlier than he has thus far if the Americans need a goal in the second half against Iran. It’s at least worth considering using him at striker, as well, with the Americans getting little production out of Wright and Sargent in their opening two games of the tournament. Reyna didn’t feature against Wales and only played seven minutes off the bench against England.While he may switch up his lineup, Berhalter doesn’t need to shift his tactics much. The Americans have gotten themselves in good attacking positions this tournament, but thanks to some poor execution in the final third, they haven’t turned their pressure into clear chances. When they did get good looks, they weren’t precise enough with their finishing.Opportunities are always at a premium for all but the very best teams at a World Cup. The U.S. simply need to start doing a better job with theirs.“Just need a little better luck,” Weah said after the game on Friday. “We definitely do have the opportunities, we just have to keep getting our shots off, keep doing what we do and the goals will definitely come.”

Tyler Adams shines again

He probably didn’t get as much attention after Friday’s game as Pulisic or McKennie, but captain Tyler Adams was excellent for the U.S. against England. The holding midfielder led all players with eight recoveries, making several big tackles to end promising attacks and teaming with Musah to completely stymie any attempt by England to play through the middle.This graphic from The Athletic’s John Muller was meant to be a joke, but we all know the best humor includes an element of truth. Adams was snuffing out attacks before they even began on Friday.That last feat is even more impressive when you consider that the U.S. was playing with one fewer central midfielder than usual due to Berhalter’s decision to shift from his customary 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2. McKennie was shifted out wide on Friday, meaning Musah and Adams had to patrol the middle of the field mostly on their own.The Adams-Musah duo had a particularly good play in the 20th minute. England lofted a long ball to striker Harry Kane between the midfield and defensive lines a few yards inside the U.S. half. Adams immediately made a strong run back to body the star striker, who was forced by the pressure to play a square ball to Bukayo Saka. The Arsenal winger quickly found Jude Bellingham in the middle of the field, but Musah quickly closed him down, forcing him to turn backwards before taking the ball off of him.The play was a good illustration of the defensive impact that Adams and Musah had on Friday. The situation could have been dangerous for the U.S., but their effort, intensity and defensive ability allowed the U.S. backline to drop and remain in control before Musah eventually won the ball.Adams had a couple of highlight-reel defensive plays of his own, with the best coming in the 52nd. Pulisic made a sloppy turnover in the middle third, losing the ball just as left back Antonee Robinson was making a long run up the flank. England quickly found Saka in the space Robinson had vacated. He looked likely to break into the penalty area, but Adams, who stayed with Kane just long enough to prevent a pass inside, broke at the perfect moment, riding Saka into the box then winning the ball with a perfect slide tackle.

Adams got up from the challenge yelling. It wasn’t clear if he was screaming at his teammates to clean things up or simply celebrating a tackle, but it was a big moment for the U.S. and for Adams, his biggest declaration yet that the captain’s armband should be his not just for the World Cup, but beyond.

USMNT Has Showed Promise at This World Cup—Now it Needs the Payoff

The USMNT walks away from a World Cup draw with England feeling good about its impressive performance. But without a win over Iran, its meaning diminishes.

AL KHOR, Qatar — It was prime time in Europe and the U.K. and the middle of Black Friday back in the U.S. And so there was a sense inside this stunning stadium designed to resemble a nomad’s desert tent that everyone on at least two continents, and probably more, was ensconced comfortably at home watching this narrative-rich World Cup match unfold.This was England-U.S., big brother against little brother, a high-profile tournament favorite that for many remains the arbiter of all things authentic in the global game, and an ambitious up-and-comer hoping to make a statement. You want to “change the way the world views American soccer,” as U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter and his players have claimed for the past three years? This was your chance. The world was watching.It saw a young, ambitious American team find its footing after a nervy opening quarter hour, bedevil England with a tactical wrinkle that took the favorites more than a full half to only sort of solve, dictate much of the match and create a couple glittering scoring chances. It saw a 0–0 draw—the first in U.S. World Cup history—that was as engrossing as a goalless game can be. And if it was listening closely, the world heard the mighty Three Lions booed off the field by a section of their own fans here at the Al Bayt Stadium in northern Qatar.“We went toe-to-toe with them and put in a really good performance,” U.S. “We went into this game to the outside world obvious underdogs. But for us, we didn’t feel like an underdog at all because we know our capability,” midfielder Weston McKennie said.But respect, acclaim, deference—those remain pending. What the Americans did with their thorough and memorable presentation was secure the chance to play for those things next Tuesday against Iran. 

Christian Pulisic and the USMNT drew England at the World Cup
Pulisic and the USMNT had their chances but couldn’t break through vs. England.Piotr Kucza/Newspix/Imago Images

World Cup success for the U.S. means advancing to the knockout rounds (and playing well there). Proving that you were England’s equal for 90 minutes on a humid evening in Qatar won’t mean much if you’re packing your bags five days later. Those moments on Friday evening when the U.S. had England pinned back, flailing and confused, will be reduced to ephemeral moral victories unless something substantive comes from them. The U.S. didn’t win and didn’t score, but it did earn the opportunity to be the author of its own World Cup story. If it wants to collect cachet abroad and stoke passion at home, it’ll have to take this 0–0 draw and use it as a springboard to the second round.“We’re chipping away at it and you need games like tonight to be able to do that,” Berhalter said. “We’re not done. Our focus is to keep going and I think hopefully, by the end of the tournament, we’ll give people something to talk about.“We want to capture the public’s attention,” he added. “We want to perform at a high level. We want to give them something to be proud of, and a night like tonight helps. But there has to be more to come, and that’s the focus as of right now.”The U.S. (0-0-2) will meet Iran (1-1-0) in their Group B finale on Tuesday at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha. England (1-0-1) will face Wales (0-1-1) simultaneously. The formula for the Americans isn’t complicated. Win or go home. Iran will be playing with a new lease on its World Cup life after responding to its 6-2 thrashing by England with Friday’s deserved 2-0 defeat of Wales.“If you told me beforehand we were gonna draw [England], I would’ve probably taken it. … All we can ask is for us to have destiny in our own hands and we have that. The job is definitely not finished, because Iran looked really, really good today,” said goalkeeper Matt Turner, who made three saves.”We obviously had to earn that right, so we know what we’re gonna have to do going into the last game and I think that’s important that you have that in your mentality,” captain Tyler Adams added. “But we know that we’re playing a good team at the end of the day, so it’s not going to be an easy win by any means. We’re gonna have to compete and be ready for them.”

The Americans haven’t had much trouble finding their will to compete at this World Cup. The net—that’s another matter. But once the U.S. got warmed up at Al Bayt, it put its emphatic stamp on the game. The early key was a shift from Berhalter’s customary 4-3-3 in defense to a 4-4-2, with winger Tim Weah joining striker Haji Wright up top, Pulisic drifting to left midfield and McKennie to the right. The adjustment messed with England’s build-up, created numerical advantages for the U.S. on both flanks and offered multiple targets when the ball turned over. Multiple players said the plan was unveiled and installed after the Wales game, but there had been some familiarity with the set-up from previous training sessions and camps.“It’s’ called the ‘amoeba,’” Brenden Aaronson said. “I think it worked tonight. I don’t think England had very many answers for it.”

USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter directs his side vs. England
Berhalter directs the USMNT against England at the 2022 World Cup.Paul Chesterton/Focus Images/Imago Images

But when those answers came, the U.S .was able to seamlessly return to its typical alignment. England had a couple looks at goal once the Americans started to tire in the waning minutes, and star striker Harry Kane launched a stoppage-time header that looked dangerous for a split second. In the end, however, the threat was minimal. The shutout was the first for the U.S. against a World Cup opponent from Europe since the famous 1–0 upset of England in 1950, Berhalter said.“It was super important against the ball that we had two forwards that were able to go to their center backs, and they did an unbelievable job tonight,” Adams said. “Controlling those center backs, allowing them to have time and space but not really any options, is important.”Pulisic and McKennie then created havoc on the flanks. Several U.S. threats emerged from the right, where defender Sergiño Dest, McKennie and Weah overwhelmed England with their movement and precision. Pulisic then had space on the left to find the ball. They had the Americans’ two best scoring chances. McKennie curled a one-time shot off a 26th-minute cross from Weah over the crossbar, and then Pulisic hit the bar with a near-post bid seven minutes later. Those were the moments where the game could’ve been won. Open looks were rarer in the second half as England adjusted, and center back Harry Maguire, often under fire for his uneven performances at Manchester United, was excellent.“It’s difficult to score goals. That’s the starting point. And then you add some of the top defenders in the world and it’s going to be even more difficult,” Berhalter said. For us, we’re happy with the positions we got into. We had some close opportunities. … but at this level, goals aren’t easy.”Yunus Musah, who played for England’s youth national teams before switching allegiance two years ago, Adams and McKennie were imperious. They covered ground, contested every ball, won tackles, put the clamps on young English star Jude Bellingham and dragged the opposition with them via dribbling or runs off the ball. The game was played to the rhythm of the U.S. trio.

The USMNT put the clamps down on England’s attack
The USMNT largely put the clamps down on England’s attack in a scoreless draw at the World Cup.Lan Hongguang/Xinhua/Imago Images

“Those guys have ridiculous engines, ridiculous quality with the ball and tenacity without it,” U.S. center back Tim Ream said. “Once they got their foothold in the game and we started to settle down on the ball, they dictated the tempo and the play.”

It was an impressive showing—perhaps even a statement. Shutting out England’s vaunted attack, establishing the pace and rules of engagement, playing without fear or hesitation—the U.S. did what many doubted. Several players walked through the postgame mixed zone underneath Al Bayt and said they were disappointed with the draw. They thought they deserved more, or that they at least had more in their grasp. Those extra two points and the potential headlines are gone, however. Still, all the points they need are available against Iran.England, somehow, remains winless against the U.S. at the World Cup. The Three Lions are now 0-for-3. But their status is intact. England is the birthplace of the game and the home of its most popular league. It’s one of only eight nations to have won the World Cup, a 2018 semifinalist and a regular in the knockout rounds. The U.S. isn’t there yet. Friday’s display is a promise—a sign of potential. A win against Iran represents the necessary payoff.“I think this team has come a very long way and I think we should be proud of the performance,” Pulisic said. “But most of all, it should spark confidence and it should give us a great feeling going into this last match that’s a must-win for us.”Adams said, “We have to look at our performances in the first two games and take the positives away and know that we’re making progress and moving in the right direction. It’s been a three-year journey of a lot of ups and downs. “So now that we’ve gotten here and tested ourselves against good quality opponents, it feels good. But we can’t be too happy with ourselves. We have to find some negatives and continue to iron them out before the last game.”

More World Cup Coverage:

Gregg Berhalter report card: How USMNT coach fared in World Cup vs England

Gregg Berhalter USMNT England World Cup

By Jeff RueterNov 26, 2022

The United States men held firm with World Cup contender England on Friday, playing out a scoreless draw.

So often, analyzing a match requires highlighting the heroes on the pitch and putting player performances under the microscope. With Paul Tenorio and Sam Stejskal expertly handling that angle from Qatar, we’re going to take a different approach and focus on the man on the touchline. After earning a C-grade in his World Cup coaching debut against Wales, let’s take a look at the decisions Gregg Berhalter made against England. 

Line-up/initial tactics A+

First impression: It’s a bit surprising to see just one change from the first game, but the line-up is still largely the first-choice XI. Haji Wright has been the pool’s hottest striker since joining Antalyaspor last season and should match up well with England’s center-backs. The real risk with running back most of the same starters is two-fold: risking injury and excessive wear-and-tear without rotation (which can be alleviated with his substitutes) and the fact three of the starters (Sergino Dest, Weston McKennie and Tim Ream) would be suspended if they were shown a yellow card after getting cautioned against Wales.

Lasting impression: A largely unchanged line-up masked an effective tactical modification from the Wales match. Rather than playing in Berhalter’s preferred 4-3-3, the U.S. mostly operated in a 4-4-2 shape with McKennie drifting wide on the right and Pulisic dropping further back on the left while also pressing further up. McKennie and Dest were tasked with providing most of the width down the right, as the Juventus man was largely trailed by England’s midfielders due to his more customary role.Pulisic’s work rate and threat from the left was essential to pulling this off, and he was also able to keep stride with Kieran Trippier and limit his crossing. So were the shifts of all three first-choice midfielders, with McKennie popping up on both ends to clear the ball in front of Matt Turner while also having two of the U.S.’s most dangerous shooting chances.Perhaps the real game-breaker was a more subtle change in approach. So often, Dest’s finest moments come when he’s given free roam, either as a facilitator in attack or when he cuts inward to line up his own shot. While he did manage to make one run of the latter type against England, he was particularly devoted to staying back and allowing McKennie to handle most of the attacking responsibilities from wide. The result was a U.S. side that overloaded that channel and targeted Luke Shaw and left center-back Harry Maguire. In total, the approach wasn’t flashy, but it was very effective to ensure England didn’t get off to a quick start as they had against Iran.


Berhalter inverted his look from the opener, swapping khakis for black pants and trading his black “STATES” Nike T-shirt for another of the company’s offerings in grey. After seeming to anger some on Twitter for wearing nothing clarifying that the States he represented are United, today’s top did so a bit out of order, with “States” stacked atop “United” underneath the company’s swoosh. That should clear that up.

Berhalter’s kicks were a pair of Supreme x Nike Air Max 98 TLs. The lower rise of these helped give a better look than his high-tops and khakis against Wales, making his strides along the touchline look less clunky on the broadcast. In contrast to Southgate’s customary suit (which was admittedly more casual than usual with a zip-up shirt underneath his jacket instead of a waistcoat), Berhalter cast a relaxed image for his players in a big game. 

Grade: B

Tactical tweaks/half-time adjustments:

First impression: Once again, Berhalter didn’t need to radically change things as he did so often during qualifying. The U.S. kept up its 4-4-2 base formation and made the subtle changes necessary to mirror its effectiveness as England looked to its left in hope of a breakthrough. Instead, the emphasis seemed to be not to let the game get out of hand. After controlling just one of nine five-minute intervals of the opening 45, the U.S. won the possession battle for five such windows in the second half. Wales were able to equalise in the last game, but that came down to overloads, slow substitutions and a couple of individual errors on the penalty and its lead-up. Here’s hoping the tried-and-true route fares better today.

Lasting impression: Bend, but don’t break. Keep it under control. Whichever mantra he prefers, the consistency worked. England saw the shot count dip from five in the first half to just three in the second; correspondingly, the Three Lions’ expected goals (xG) halved from 0.36 to 0.18 per half. Granted, so did the United States’ (0.43 in the first, 0.19 in the second), and the U.S. failed to threaten much on their seven corner kicks.Still, the decision to test Southgate’s often-questioned ability to adjust mid-match paid off. England’s best moments came after Jack Grealish was introduced in the 68th minute, at which point the U.S. had largely slowed England’s attempts to rekindle the attacking flame. With 90 minutes to show for this approach to a 4-4-2, the result was a front line which forced England to work the ball up from wide, while Yunus Musah and Tyler Adams did tireless work to prevent their opponents from shifting centrally once they broke that initial line of engagement.When play resumed, England shifted more of its attacking emphasis to the left. It did little to reignite the attack until Southgate brought Grealish in, at which point the Manchester City man was a pest as he worked into the flow of the game. I would be surprised to see this more conservative shape against Iran as the U.S. will feel a win is there for the taking, even after their 2-0 win over Wales earlier on Friday. Still, the players showed they could fit a more reserved style and that bodes well if this team advances beyond the group stage to face similarly stout opposition.

Grade: B+


First impression: *censored*

Lasting impression: When a team plays with as active of a press and as athletic of a defensive approach, players are bound to get gassed. When 1o of your 11 starters are making their second starts in five days, players are bound to get gassed. For all of their blunders, FIFA recognized this potential problem in conjunction with the (for most leagues) midseason World Cup and afforded coaches five substitutions across three in-match windows (so, excluding half-time).By the 65th minute, a few players looked ready for the hook. Wright and Weah had done well to force England’s center-backs to play it wide but were trading that peskiness for some of their usual effectiveness on the other end. McKennie and Dest were under greater duress as England switched its emphasis to the left, and with both Serie A players on a yellow card, neither could challenge Luke Shaw, Raheem Sterling or Grealish with full confidence. There were plenty of capable alternatives, too. The nature of the game could’ve suited Jesus Ferreira’s deep-lying approach to striker if the U.S. wanted to win on the counter, while Brenden Aaronson and Giovanni Reyna could both capably play in McKennie’s hybrid right/center midfield role. Berhalter brought four right-backs, so it isn’t as if there wasn’t an alternative to Dest with Shaq Moore, DeAndre Yedlin and Joe Scally on the bench.And yet, Berhalter didn’t make his first change until the 77th minute, when McKennie and Dest were replaced by Aaronson and Moore. Six minutes later, Wright and Weah made way for pressing expert Josh Sargent and Gio Reyna’s brief World Cup debut. At that point, there was little time for any of the quartet to work into the flow of the match. Reyna got just five touches to acclimatize after not playing against Wales, with England the stronger aggressors by the time he took the field. It isn’t that any of the four changes were bad calls or even remotely questionable. With how late they were made, however, it didn’t seem like any were made to change the game and go for a win. With the lack of urgency, it felt like the U.S. was looking to see out a draw in the final 15 minutes. Given such a golden opportunity to snatch control of Group B, it’s a rare letdown in an otherwise strong managerial display.

Grade: D+

Final marksGrade: B+

In all reality, this was one of Berhalter’s better days since taking over the United States. Only the trio of wins against Mexico in 2021 (Gold Cup final, Nations League final, home World Cup qualifier) come to mind as alternative picks. Still, the tardiness in changing out players didn’t convey confidence that the team could snatch a late win. In fact, the delay may have allowed England back into control for the final 20 minutes. Any U.S. fan would’ve taken a draw heading into the day. With a sharp tactical adjustment and his players’ buy-in, only an aversion to his bench blemishes this report card.

Gregg Berhalter addresses Wynalda comments on Gio Reyna: ‘That’s not what I represent’

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA - MARCH 30: United States manager Gregg Berhalter talks with Gio Reyna #11 of the United States before a FIFA World Cup qualifier game between Costa Rica and USMNT at Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica on March 30, 2022 in San Jose, Costa Rica.

By Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio Nov 28, 2022

On Friday, former U.S. men’s national team striker Eric Wynalda set off a portion of the American fanbase with some inflammatory claims about how head coach Gregg Berhalter is treating attacker Gio Reyna at the World Cup.

Speaking with LA Times columnist Dylan Hernandez on a Twitter Spaces ahead of the U.S.’s scoreless draw against England, Wynalda claimed that there was “internal strife” within the team about Berhalter’s decision to not play Reyna in the 1-1 draw with Wales last Monday. He also alleged that Berhalter lied to the media when he told reporters after the Wales match that he held Reyna out of that match because of an injury. Wynalda claimed that he had spoken with Gio’s father Claudio, the former U.S. captain and Berhalter’s childhood friend and ex-teammate.

“With Gio Reyna out of the lineup right now, which has been a massive controversy within the team — even his own teammates are wanting him on the field and it seems to be (causing) internal strife with the (team) and manager Gregg Berhalter,” Wynalda said. “I don’t know how much I should comment on that, but I’ve been trying to console Gio’s father, Claudio, for the last couple of hours, well, the last couple of days with everything that’s been going on. He was fit to play, Berhalter did lie to the media and say that it was an injury, ask the player to kind of go along with that story, which caused a rift between the two of them and now he’s on the bench which is really unfortunate. The situation should have been handled very differently.”Wynalda, for his part, appeared to slightly back off his initial comments in a tweet posted to his account on Saturday.Berhalter wasn’t asked about the claims in his press conference after the England game, but was asked on Monday if there was any rift between him and Gio Reyna and if he had, as Wynalda alleged, lied to media and instructed Reyna to tell reporters that he was hurt after the Wales match.

“Speaking of the four-year journey, right, there’s been also four years of interacting with you guys (the press contingent). And what I’d say is, you know, I’ll leave it to you to decide if I asked Gio to lie about it,” Berhalter said. “That’s just not who I am. That’s not what I represent. So, you know, if you have to take Eric’s word or my word or whatever, feel free, but I know what happened, that’s not what I represent. Like every other person, Gio is a member of this team that we care deeply for and we know can help the team. It’s a matter of when he can help us and how he can help us.”

Multiple sources familiar with the team’s dynamic who were granted anonymity in order to speak about internal issues told The Athletic that Wynalda’s claims don’t appear to be having any effect on the players. Another characterized it as nothing more than a parent, Claudio, being frustrated by a lack of playing time for his son, Gio.

In the press conference after the Wales game, to which Wynalda referred, Berhalter was asked why Reyna did not play. He said that “in the phase of the game that we were at, we went with Jordan (Morris), who we felt could give us something with speed and power.” He noted that the team had done a “last-minute check” on Reyna, deemed him “OK” and said that he envisioned him playing a role against England.Asked to clarify what the last-minute check was for, Berhalter said “you could see there was a little bit of tightness” during a scrimmage with Qatari club Al-Gharafa a few days prior, that the team had been “building him up” and that “we think he can play a big role in this tournament, question is when and hopefully on Friday he’ll be one further step ahead.”

A few minutes later, Reyna told reporters in the mixed zone that he was fully healthy.“I felt good, I felt ready to go,” Reyna said. “But it was just his decision.”Berhalter was asked about Reyna again on Nov. 24 in his pre-match press conference ahead of the draw against England.“I think I was pretty clear after the game saying he was available for the match and it was a coach’s decision that he didn’t play,” Berhalter said. “And he will be available for tomorrow’s match and we’ll see what happens.”Berhalter ended up bringing Reyna off the bench in the 83rd minute against England.It’s unlikely that this situation would have blown up as much as it did if not for the specific individuals involved. Wynalda, a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame who played in three World Cups, ran for U.S. Soccer president in 2018 with what the New York Times called, “an aggressive outsider approach,” pushing back against the “establishment.” He has coached in the lower divisions and worked as a broadcaster, and is known for his willingness to stir things up with blunt statements and criticisms. He embraces that role.Wynalda played with Claudio Reyna in the 1994 and 1998 World Cups. He was a teammate of Berhalter’s on the national team, as well. Berhalter and Reyna have a long history of their own, playing together on youth teams in New Jersey under Claudio’s father, Miguel, teaming up in high school at St. Benedict’s Prep, then reuniting on the national team at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.

Gio Reyna is one of the U.S.’s most technically gifted attackers, but injury issues prevented him from playing in most of the Americans’ qualifying campaign. He missed the team’s four matches in June because of injury, then had to be removed in the first half of their friendly against Saudi Arabia in September after feeling some tightness in his hamstring.

His lack of availability has made it difficult for Reyna and Berhalter to find where the 20-year-old fits best on the field for the U.S. ahead of the World Cup. As he’s shown with Borussia Dortmund, he’s capable of playing as a winger and in central attacking roles. The solid play of wingers Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah and midfielders Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah, along with the defensive duties Berhalter gives to his No. 8s, have made it difficult to justify taking any of them out of the starting lineup at the World Cup.Weah scored the opening goal for the U.S. in the 1-1 draw with Wales, Pulisic assisted that goal and hit the crossbar against England, and McKennie was one of the most important and best players on the field for the U.S. in the game against England.

There’s been some speculation that the U.S. would move Reyna to striker for their must-win match against Iran on Tuesday, but Berhalter said Monday that he and his staff “haven’t necessarily thought” about putting anyone up top other than listed No. 9s Jesus FerreiraJosh Sargent and Haji Wright. According to Transfermarkt, Reyna has never lined up as a center forward in his professional career, playing as an attacking midfielder, right winger or left winger in every game for which he has appeared for Borussia Dortmund.“We’re comfortable with the three that we have,” he said.

United States v. England, 2022 FIFA World Cup: What We Learned

The USMNT played England to a scoreless draw. But don’t let the scoreline fool you, this was a really impressive performance from the US against a very talented team.

By Adnan Ilyas@Adnan7631  Nov 27, 2022, 10:48am PST  Stars and Sstripels

England v USA: Group B - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

The USMNT took on England and walked out with a 0-0 draw. The scoreline is probably fair, but this was a really impressive performance for the USMNT. Depending on how you model the expected goals stat (xG), you either have a small edge for the US in attacking chances, or a fairly significant one. Either way, the US were visibly better than England.This of course gets hedged a little as England played conservatively. A draw was likely enough to put them through to the next round and avoiding nasty injuries or suspensions became the priority. Still, England has quality across the field, and yet, the US was there with them every step along the way, if not a half step ahead. Let’s break it down.

Coach’s Plaudits

The way that I write these columns is descriptive, not proscriptive. I write about which decisions are made, why, and how that reflects on what happens on the field, both the strengths and flaws. I generally avoid writing about what I think should be done. This approach allows room for the coach and the players to make unexpected decisions.This game vs. England was one of those games where the coach’s decisions surprised me. Going into the World Cup, it seemed like the choice of formation was already long decided. The USMNT played in a 4-3-3, and that was it. The formation was so stable, the biggest considered change was pushing a midfielder a little bit deeper. Berhalter has tried out a back-3 on a few occasions, but those experiments never yielded particularly memorable results.Given this record, a 4-4-2 was nothing less than a shock. Instead of a midfield 3, Weston McKennie shifted over to the right, similar to how he is used at Juventus. In turn, Tim Weah pushed up to striker, with Yunus Musah and Adams making up the two-man midfield. Christian Pulisic took up the left wing spot and Haji Wright played as the other striker (in place of Josh Sargent).In general, the 4-4-2 had fallen out of favor over the last ten years. But huge credit to Gregg Berhalter; against an England side stacked with attacking talent, it was the USMNT’s attacking 4 who had more touches, higher up the field.

The USMNT’s shape was quite flexible and asymmetric. McKennie on the right played deeper and tracked back more aggressively than Pulisic, who was more likely to keep high. This meant that the US could shift into a lopsided 4-3-3 shape, with Pulisic high on the left. As a result, Pulisic was more often already high up the field when he received the ball. The team still lacks that finishing moment (The thing about the US is that they always try to walk it in), but they are getting into those dangerous parts of the field.

On top of that, they are doing all this without conceding many real chances. England’s star striker, Harry Kane, had more touches in his own box than in the US’s. Obviously, a big part of that is the backline, which, to a man, was defensively solid. But the core of that defensive performance was in midfield. Yunus Musah and Tyler Adams were diligent and disciplined in pressing the English midfield. Thanks to Musah and especially Adams, the USMNT were consistently able to get 3 or 4 players to press and squeeze the English attacking and midfield players. As a result, the likes of Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling, and Jude Bellingham were left entirely quiet.

I’ve said this after the Wales game, but I will say this again. Berhalter deserves a lot of credit for the team he’s put out there. This team is impressive, even if the goals haven’t quite been there yet.

Player Performances

While the entire starting XI played superbly vs. England, I just wanted to spotlight a few specific players.

This game really let Weston McKennie shine. You know that heat map above, with so many touches on the right side inside England’s half? Yeah, that’s McKennie.

It’s a shame he didn’t really get a goal, but McKennie really stood out as the key to driving up the field.Also, this is hilarious.Matt Turner did not have too many saves to make in this one, but he looked assured when coming out to catch crosses. On top of that, his passing has taken a step up.There was also the moment at the end of the game where Turner came dribbling out of his box. All around, he looks confident and proactive, and I absolutely love it.For me, Tyler Adams was Man of the Match. There’s not much else to say here, but Adams was a huge part of why England had so little going on for a solid hour of the game. don’t have a particular stat or storyline for it, but Tim Ream was, once again, immense. My take away is that Ream

Thin Roster

It has become apparent that Berhalter only really trusts about half his roster at this World Cup. Through two games, we have had minimal rotation. The only starters to change from Wales to England was Josh Sargent for Haji Wright, with Wright making his first ever start v. England. And even in that case, you merely had a role reversal, with the players substituting for each other in the respective games where they started. The other consistent move has been to bring Brendan Aaronson on for Weston McKennie in the second half. No other player has gotten so much as 15 minutes of play, excluding added time.This is unusual compared to Berhalter’s past substitution patterns. In friendlies, Berhalter would frequently make several halftime substitutions. But even in qualifiers, Berhalter was far more aggressive with his subs. For instance, against Mexico, he made a pair of attacking substitutions at the 60th minute, bringing on Reyna and Jordan Pefok to refresh the attack. Given that there are high-intensity games every 4 days and that McKennie and Sergiño Dest only recently recovered from injuries, you would expect a more aggressive substitution and rotation policy. Instead, Berhalter appears very committed to his starting XI + Wright (or Sargent) and Aaronson.

Let’s talk about Gio Reyna’s minutes for a moment. Reyna has not played very much in this World Cup so far, with his only participation thus far manifesting as a substitution in the 83rd minute against England. This has many people anxious, or even openly pushing conspiracy theories, about the situation. Now, let’s take a step back.

Reyna has mostly been injured since appearing for the USMNT in their first qualifying match away v. El Salvador in September last year. This season, according to WhoScored, he has played a scant 661 minutes between the Champions League and Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund out of a possible 2070, less than 13 of the time possible. Last season, Reyna played a mere 442 minutes, approximately 5 games worth. All told, Reyna has had just over 12 games worth of playing time with his club in about 112 seasons. In the friendly v. Japan, Reyna played just 45 minutes, while against Saudi Arabia, he had just 30 before coming off due to an injury. 30 minutes v. Costa Rica, 45 v. Panama, 30 v. Mexico. This is not a player who has a record of health, or even a record of consistent match fitness.Now, I should stop for a moment to acknowledge that a major source for this angst is Berhalter himself. He said that Reyna had a little bit of tightness the day before the Wales game and that he left Reyna off as precaution (and that Jordan Morris better fit the game at that point v. Wales). Afterwards, Gio Reyna was asked and he said that he was healthy and that it was the coach’s decision. Finally, before the England game, Berhalter had this to say:

“I think I was pretty clear after the game saying he was available for the match, and it was a coach’s decision that he didn’t play,” said Berhalter. “And he’ll be available for tomorrow’s match, and we’ll see what happens.”

I personally think this is very straightforward. Gio Reyna is healthy, but Berhalter is skeptical that he can maintain that health.

The consternation for this is understandable given that Reyna is such an outstandingly talented individual. However, at this point, he is not a core part of this USMNT squad. All that missed time, nearly the entirety of the qualifying campaign, forced the team to move in a different direction, specifically with Tim Weah on the right. As the team is currently set up, the style complements Weah’s skillsets, not Reyna’s (and explains Berhalter’s preference for Morris v. Wales). Reyna is a very ball-dominant player; he wants the ball at his feet while facing goal so that he can dictate play. Weah, on the other hand, is more about driving at goal, making threatening runs off the ball, in behind the opponent’s backline. While Reyna’s not a defensive slouch, he does not come close to the kind of intensity that Weah brings on the press. You put the question of team fit and fitness together, and what do you get? Well, a coach’s decision.

In Closing

The USMNT needs a win to progress vs. Iran. A loss or a draw will see them go home, regardless of what happens in the England v. Wales game. Iran themselves can progress with a win, and probably also with a draw, though a large enough Welsh win would hypothetically bounce Iran in that scenario. This makes for a tough game for the US. That said, the MNT has already shown their quality; they merely need to execute and they will be through.

Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, I am proud of how this team had played.

After suffering from a severe case of the Mondays in a 1-1 draw with Wales, the USMNT would take on England. The Americans would head into the match with the knowledge that a win would put them at the top of the group, a draw would let them control their destiny as far as advancing and a loss would make things complicated.

Going into the game there were questions: would England be picked over and left on the ground in a heap of broken dreams like so many shoppers trampled by their compatriots at 2 am on Black Friday? Or would Tim Ream’s experience in watching English players score goals over the course of his career would be a decisive factor? Perhaps the match would be like a fried turkey – either 90 minutes would pass and it would end with something completely perfect that succeeded in making turkey edible or a series of small errors would add up to a gigantic fireball that consumed an entire residential neighborhood. In any event, the Thanksgiving references would mercifully end after the match.

The USA would try to exert its freedom over the tyranny of the newly crowned king with just one change from the game against Wales as Haji Wright lined up at striker.RANT WAHL USMNT World Cup Daily, Day 14

Explaining all the tensions surrounding the USA-Iran World Cup showdown.

U.S. Soccer removed the Islamic Republic symbol from the Iranian flag that it posted on the official USMNT Twitter account in support of women’s rights in Iran.

DOHA, Qatar — It’s fair to say there’s a lot happening around Tuesday’s USA-Iran showdown at the World Cup. You’ve got two teams fighting for one spot in the knockout rounds. You’ve got decades of political history (Iran’s taking of 52 U.S. hostages for 444 days in 1979-81) and soccer history (Iran eliminating the U.S. from World Cup ‘98 with a 2-1 victory).

And as of Sunday you’ve got a present-day conflict between the two countries over women’s rights in Iran that has the Iranian federation protesting to FIFA about U.S. Soccer, as well as a public spat involving former U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann and current Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, who once wrote a blueprint for U.S. Soccer on how to win the World Cup by 2010.

Got it? I know, it’s complicated.

Let’s break it down.

GrantWahl.com is reader-supported. Free and paid subscriptions are available. This is how I make a living, and quality journalism and traveling to Qatar require resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now.

Upgrade to Paid

Give a gift subscription


The stakes couldn’t be much higher in pure soccer terms on Tuesday. The U.S. has to beat Iran to advance to the knockout rounds. Nothing less will suffice. Being eliminated in the group stage would be a major disappointment for the USMNT. As for Iran, it needs only a tie to eliminate the U.S. and move on to the knockout rounds for the first time in its nation’s history at a World Cup.


On Sunday, U.S. Soccer confirmed that it had posted an Iranian flag without the Islamic Republic symbol on the official USMNT Twitter account as a show of “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.” U.S. Soccer added it was a one-time display and it will restore the Islamic Republic symbol moving forward.

The gesture is connected to nationwide protests in Iran over a woman named Mahsa Amini, who died in custody in September after being detained by Iran’s morality police for not wearing a hijab in accordance with regime standards. Protests have been constant inside Iran ever since, along with a crackdown by Iran’s hard-line rulers.

Iran’s players responded on Matchday 1 by not singing their national anthem, causing the Iranian regime to insist that they sing it for Game 2. Iranian fans in the stadium could be seen crying as the players half-heartedly mouthed the words.

Meanwhile, Qatar World Cup security was trying to prohibit fans from entering the stadium for Iran-Wales on Friday who were wearing Woman-Life-Freedom patches in support of Iranian women. My friend Camellia Senemar, an Iranian American who played soccer at Cal, posted this from the game:

Camellia Senemar @CamelliaSen

At #Iran #Wales game & so-called @FIFAWorldCup security harassing us & trying to stop us from entering the stadium for wearing #WomanLifeFreedom patches. We’re hearing undercover police were sent here by Islamic regime. They didn’t back down until I started recording on my phone.


10:19 AM ∙ Nov 25, 202236Likes14Retweets

Ciarán Fahey @cofathaigh

It was tense. Fans supporting the Iranian regime harassed people protesting against it as Qatari security seized flags, shirts and anything expressing support for #WomanLifeFreedom. With @IsabelDeBre for @AP #IranProtests #MahsaAmini #WorldCup #Qatar2022 apnews.comIran government supporters confront protesters at World CupAL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Tensions ran high at Iran’s second match at the World Cup on Friday as fans supporting the Iranian government h…5:25 PM ∙ Nov 25, 202213Likes5Retweets

Iranian state-affiliated media reported on Sunday that the Iranian federation would file a complaint with FIFA over the U.S.’s action posting an Iranian flag without the regime symbol in it:

Subscribe to GrantWahl.com @GrantWahl

Iran’s state-affiliated media is now saying the Iranian soccer federation will file a complaint with FIFA over US Soccer posting an Iranian flag without the Islamic Republic symbol as a show of support for women’s rights in Iran.

Tasnim News Agency @Tasnimnews_EN

The legal advisor of the Iranian Football Federation says the sports association will file a complaint against the US Soccer Team to FIFA’s Ethics Committee after the US Men’s National Soccer Team disrespected the national flag of Islamic Republic of Iran. https://t.co/z7uOrykk9k1:01 PM ∙ Nov 27, 202253Likes20Retweets


On Friday, the ex-U.S. coach Klinsmann repeatedly said on the BBC that “this is their culture” when discussing what he considered gamesmanship by Iran and in Latin American countries. He also took several shots at Queiroz, the Iran coach, in this clip that went viral:

Negar Mortazavi نگار مرتضوی @NegarMortazavi

This is unbelievable… Watch @J_Klinsmann dismiss brown athletes, from Iran to Guatemala, repeatedly saying “this is their culture”, while the host and other guests are sitting there listening to him go on and on, live on @BBCSport.


5:38 AM ∙ Nov 26, 20226,427Likes1,732Retweets

The obvious response is that Klinsmann himself once had such a reputation as a diver that he made fun of himself in England as a Spurs player in a goal celebration. And nobody said “this is their culture” about Germany at the time.

In response, the Iranian soccer federation—which has been really busy issuing press releases!—released a statement calling for FIFA to remove Klinsmann from the FIFA Technical Study Group for this World Cup, and Queiroz wrote an open letter to Klinsmann on his Instagram that’s plenty spicy as well.


A post shared by Carlos Queiroz (@carlosqueiroz_)

All the back and forth makes you wonder how anyone is watching or preparing to play soccer at this point. But we’ve got two more days left ahead of USA-Iran to see what else might happen.

What’s your sense of all this? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner’s idyllic hometown that fueled an improbable World Cup dream

USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner’s idyllic hometown that fueled an improbable World Cup dream

Sam Stejskalv Nov 10, 2022

To better understand the U.S. men’s national team before it begins the World Cup in Qatar, The Athletic traveled to the hometowns of several of its most important figures. We found a squad shaped not only by American society, but also influenced by traditions from every corner of the globe.Taken together, their stories provide a glimpse into a growing, increasingly vibrant American soccer culture that will be on full display between now and the World Cup final on Dec. 18.

There’s a place like Marc’s Deli and Pizza in just about every town in this part of the world. The scene is standard issue: A few Formica tables in the front, a deli case in the middle, pizza boxes stacked to the ceiling atop an oven churning out slices and pies in the back.Tucked between the colonnaded facade of the town’s high school and its post office, Marc’s is a standalone red brick building a short drive down the hill from Matt Turner’s childhood home in Park Ridge, New Jersey. Turner has been a regular at the shop most of his life. The owner, Marc Moschello, greets Turner’s mom, Cindy, by name when she walks in on a hot August afternoon. Marc’s son Anthony is running the counter. He jokes with Cindy about the floor hockey team that he and Matt played on as six-year-olds, laughs that he needs to send some Marc’s T-shirts to London for Matt to give to his Arsenal teammates, then makes sandwiches for me and Vinny Macaluso, Turner’s best friend from high school.We both get the Italian: ham, salami, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onions, peppers, oil and vinegar. As we wait for our heroes, Macaluso shows me a note on his iPhone. Turner had called the day before and told Macaluso to make sure I ordered the Italian, his usual.“That was the place that you go in, they know your name, they know what you get every time,” Turner told me over the phone from London a few days before I headed to Park Ridge. “Really just one of my favorite spots. Every time I go back to Jersey, it’s destination No. 1, for sure.”

Marc’s Deli and Pizza in Park Ridge. (Sam Stejskal)

Though only 30 miles from Times Square, Park Ridge seems like a world apart from New York City. Located in the northern reaches of Bergen County, nestled into the woods lining the border of New Jersey and New York, the town has been home to roughly 8,000 people for the last 50 years. The population isn’t the only thing that hasn’t changed much. The street that Marc’s sits on, Park Ave., may as well be straight out of the 1950s, with a local insurance agency and popular diner bookending opposite ends of a strip that includes Park Ridge High School, borough hall, a stationary shop/convenience store, a nail salon, a few nicely-maintained old colonials and an aquamarine train station that’s on the National Register of Historic Places.Park Ridge is the kind of town that was readily dreamed up by mid-20th-century Hollywood executives as their siloed version of idyllic America: suburban, small, mostly White, well-to-do, right-of-center. Richard Nixon spent his final years here, living in a gated community called Bears Nest located just around the corner from where Turner grew up. It’s not the type of place where sports are viewed as a way out. For many, towns like Park Ridge are where you go when you make it out.“It’s quiet. Peaceful,” Cindy said. “Everything is compact. When he was a little kid, Matt would wear his baseball hat backward, ride around town on his bike, go fishing in the brook, play on the field. It’s a nice place to grow up; it’s a really good place to raise your kids.”If a few things had broken just a little bit differently, Turner could easily be back here now, working an ordinary job, living an ordinary life close to his family and friends, many of whom remain in the area. Instead, he’s a goalkeeper headed to the World Cup with the U.S. men’s national team. The backup at Arsenal, he’ll likely start for the Americans in Qatar with Zack Steffen left off the squad entirely.

Any player’s odds of making a World Cup roster are incredibly long. For Turner, they were almost singularly astronomical. He didn’t even start playing soccer until he was 14, an age at which some of his U.S. teammates were already on the brink of turning professional. He never played high-level club soccer as a kid. He didn’t start for his high school varsity squad until midway through his junior season. Same for his time at Fairfield University, where a viral, embarrassing mistake made him briefly consider quitting the sport. He wasn’t drafted into MLS, only making the New England Revolution as an unproven trialist. It took him three-and-a-half years to become their regular starter, then another two to break in with the national team.

In many ways, the privileges of Park Ridge helped Turner overcome his late start to reach the highest levels of the sport. His parents could afford to send him to St. Joseph Regional High School — a well-regarded, sports-mad Catholic school a few minutes up the road from Marc’s and Park Ridge High. While there, his dad, Stu, shot and edited highlight videos that Turner would send out to college coaches in hopes of being offered a roster spot. Stu and Cindy provided enough so that Matt could spend his summers training instead of working. Park Ridge itself has a first-class public park that allowed him the space to hone his skills. Without all that, Turner may not have eked out his lone offer to play Division I. Without a place in D-I, MLS would have been a pipe dream, nevermind the World Cup.

Read more: What does USA draw against England mean for their knockout stage hopes?

There was the work, too. Countless hours of it. Much of it took place at Memorial Field. Located just off Park Ave., wedged between the small brook where he’d fish as a youngster and the town fire station, Turner has been coming to Memorial for as long as he can remember. At first, he was a spectator, tagging along with his parents to watch his older sisters play softball and soccer at the multi-purpose field. As he grew older, he’d bike past the public library and meet friends there for touch football games. As a teenager, when he began to fall in love with soccer, he’d head to Memorial many mornings to train.

Turner would often be on his own for those sessions, working through agility drills and goal kicks, launching ball after ball from the artificial surface into the netting that extends upwards behind one of the goals, shielding the playground behind. On weekends, he’d do his best to drag a buddy or two down to the field with him. Macaluso, who grew up and still lives close by in Emerson, N.J., was a regular partner.

“We’d start early,” he said from a picnic table next to the Memorial Field playground, not far from a banner promoting a softball and cornhole tournament that took place the previous weekend. “He’d always want to wake up and practice before the Arsenal game or whoever was playing, so he could watch them at 9, 10 o’clock. We’re coming out at 7, 8 a.m., get a quick workout in, and this was after, for me, a night out, doing whatever, staying up late, and he’d drag my butt up, get me out here. He was great with that.”

After the sessions, the pair would hit Marc’s for sandwiches, then head back to Turner’s house to watch Premier League matches. The ritual continued throughout college, with Turner heading to Memorial every day he could when Fairfield was out of school, logging more and more training time in hopes of one day becoming a professional player.

For a long time, that quest looked quixotic. His late start in the game meant that hoping for a spot in MLS was, charitably speaking, unrealistic. But places like Park Ridge breed optimism. Growing up here, surrounded by nice homes, attending nice schools, supported by a loving family, succeeding in school and in sports, a young Turner would have little reason not to be hopeful. Little reason not to think that as long as he had faith in himself, he could be anything he wanted. The circumstances in which he grew up contributed to his uncommon sense of self-belief, every drop of which was needed as he chased a dream many would have deemed delusional.

“The town shaped me in that way,” Turner said. “I always think to myself, without growing up in that town, I don’t think I would be where I am today.”

Of course, Park Ridge is also part of the reason he got such a late start in the sport. As is the case in all but a few parts of the U.S., including a couple of other pockets of northern New Jersey, soccer isn’t the main game in town. Even in Turner’s own family, it was at best secondary.

I’m reminded of that shortly after Cindy, Macaluso and I leave Marc’s, sandwiches in tow, and drive to Turner’s childhood home where the family still lives, a pale yellow house with a long front porch located at the end of a short cul-de-sac. As I walk past the basketball hoop in the driveway and enter through the garage, one of the first things I see is a framed illustration of home plate, a visual marker that this was a softball and baseball household.

Cindy was an accomplished softball player when she was growing up in nearby Westwood, N.J., coached Matt’s sisters in the sport at Park Ridge High and still plays for an over-50 team that competes nationally. True to his familial roots, Matt’s first love was baseball. A middle infielder, he devoted himself to the game as a kid, taking individual hitting lessons and playing for a local travel team. When it came time to decide if he’d go to public Park Ridge or private St. Joe’s for high school, baseball was a determining factor. A few friends from his travel team were headed to St. Joe’s, which had just hired their youth coach to lead the school’s JV squad. The program had a much higher profile than the one at smaller Park Ridge.

“If I played soccer, basketball and baseball at Park Ridge, I would have been a stud, but I wouldn’t have been taken seriously by universities because I would’ve been at a school with 60 kids per grade,” he said. “You really would have to stand out above and beyond in order to even sniff an opportunity. And this is my thought process for baseball, by the way. I wasn’t thinking about soccer. Whereas at St. Joe’s, if I just made it to the varsity there, I would have had a better chance of playing college baseball than I would have if I was a star at Park Ridge.”

Still, at least in one way, St. Joe’s was a bit of an odd choice for Turner. It’s a Catholic school, and while Cindy was raised Catholic, Stu, his father, was brought up Jewish. Turner was neither baptized nor did he ever become a bar mitzvah, but he identifies more with Jewish traditions than Christian ones. Turner had some trepidation about how he would fit in, but he ended up feeling more comfortable there than he ever did when he attended secular Park Ridge Middle School, where he said he was occasionally teased by classmates for having a Jewish parent.

The multipurpose field at Memorial where Turner trained on his own. (Sam Stejskal)

“Park Ridge is pretty much just a White town,” Turner said. “White people all over the shop. If you’re a little bit different, you can be looked at as an outsider. Going to St. Joe’s, I was in school with a lot more Black people, Asian people, guys that have now come out of the closet as gay, and everybody always gave each other an equal amount of respect.”

But even given that respect, soccer wasn’t exactly held in high regard at St. Joe’s.

“Football was king, then baseball, then basketball, then wrestling,” said Macaluso. “Soccer was a distant fifth.”

Macaluso, a holding midfielder, made the varsity team straightaway, but he remembers Turner and the other kids on the freshman team being trained by a coach who would walk around the practice field barefoot. Their sessions consisted of two types of drills: conditioning and shooting. That was it. Not exactly the best way to develop field players, though not necessarily the worst thing for a budding goalkeeper. Things got a bit more sophisticated by the time Turner moved up to varsity, but it wasn’t as if the team was dominant. St. Joe’s compiled a decent record, but only because of what Macaluso described as some otherworldly goalkeeping from Turner. There certainly was never any significant emphasis put on the sport, with St. Joe’s cutting the freshman soccer program during Turner’s junior year.

“We were probably like a .500 team or something. We were OK,” said Macaluso, who Turner, driven in part by superstition, part by routine, still makes a point to call in the hours before every single one of his matches. “But Matt was the only reason for that. He would save, it felt like, 30 to 40 shots a game.”

Thirty or 40 a game? Truly?

“Oh yeah. Oh yeah,” he said. “We would tie people 0-0, 1-1. We were not good, but we had an OK record because Matt kept us in every game. We would let up so many shots, penalties, it was so, so bad.”

Turner continued playing baseball and basketball into his upperclassmen years, but he didn’t stand out in those sports at St. Joe’s like he thought he would have at Park Ridge. Paradoxically, that worked in his favor. Had he stayed at Park Ridge and starred in baseball and basketball, he thinks he wouldn’t have taken soccer all that seriously. That he wasn’t a big player in those sports at St. Joe’s probably helped nudge him more towards goalkeeping, putting him on the path that, a decade after he left home, has him at the World Cup.

“If he stayed at Park Ridge, I don’t really know if he plays soccer all that much,” Macaluso said as we tucked into our sandwiches in the Turners’  kitchen. “100 percent,” added Cindy. “100 percent agree. He probably would’ve played, but this? This wouldn’t have happened for him.”

Turner’s story is riddled with those kinds of anecdotes. There were countless inflection points that could have changed the course of his career, innumerable moments when he could have easily quit soccer. That’s true of many players who reach this level, of course. Talent alone is never enough. Luck and timing and doggedness are always required. Turner had all that — and he had his hometown.

World Cup mystery solved: Why soccer players dive, as told by the master of the ‘dark arts’

Henry Bushnell Sat, November 26, 2022 at 2:23 PM

DOHA, Qatar — Alejandro Moreno has been labeled a “cheater” and a stain on soccer. He, like hundreds of other players who tend to fling themselves to the ground, has been branded a “diver” and a “flopper,” and had expletives hurled his way. He could preach for hours about why the criticism reeks of double standards, and at times racial bias, but we’ll get to that — for now, class is in session.

“I thought of it as a skill set,” Moreno, a former Venezuelan international and 11-year pro, says of soccer’s most fiercely derided tactic. Whether you call it diving or “drawing fouls,” as he euphemistically does, it’s “an art form.”

It is widely viewed as immoral, and Moreno, a master of the “dark arts,” would like to clarify: He does not condone the outright inventing of contact and conning of referees. But soccer, he argues, is “a morally flawed game, where players will do whatever is necessary to win.” They will shirt-pull and elbow and forearm-shiver. Defenders will do all sorts of illicit things that impede attacking players but don’t get penalized — unless, that is, the attacking player embellishes the impact of the shirt-pull, or feels a tap on the shin and theatrically tumbles to the turf.

“When a defender has taken the advantage away, maybe by a nudge, a push, a grab, slight hold — now you’re off balance; now, whatever advantage you had, it’s gone,” Moreno explains. “And so what are you supposed to do?

“You’re encouraged to fight through a challenge. But,” he continues, passion bubbling in his voice, “the way I see it is, if you’re gonna touch me, if you’re gonna nudge me, if you’re gonna push me, and you’re gonna take my advantage away? I have a recourse. And my recourse is, I’m gonna sell that contact, and I’m gonna make sure that I get a call out of it.”

This, above all, is the reason that soccer players flop and flail. Their diving not only works; at times, it’s necessary. Enduring contact downplays the severity of it — but the contact still mitigates the potential of an attack. Diving, on the other hand, is often a player’s only alarm bell, a means to alert refs to the true severity.

In situations that provoke uncertainty, refs tend to use a player’s reaction, their fall or lack thereof, as a hint. And this tendency, Moreno argues, implicitly tells players: “If you wanna get this call, you’re gonna have to go down.”

A couple months ago, Jose Mourinho made the same point. After one of his Roma players stayed up and didn’t get a call, the Portuguese manager ranted: “I have to change my advice to my players. I have to tell them, ‘Don’t try to stay on your feet, don’t play the ball, be a clown the way many who dive like they’re in a swimming pool do in this league.’ Because that is evidently how you get penalties.”

Moreno, though, would supplement that advice: “You sell the call without overselling the call,” he says. “And that’s where it becomes an art form.”

You don’t dive like you’re at a swimming pool. “You see the guys that throw their arms up in the air, and are rolling around,” Moreno says. “That’s not gonna get it done.” He advocates for a “natural fall” that, over time, for masters of the dark arts, becomes instinctive — but “it’s a natural fall because you’ve been impeded, not a natural fall because you’re being shot,” he notes.

“You don’t need to throw your arms up in the air. You don’t need to make the noise,” he says, adopting a professorial tone. “All of that takes the reality factor out of the challenge.” The goal, he says, is to “draw enough attention to it to where now you put doubt in the referee’s mind. Now, in that split-second, he’s gotta be able to figure out, did I see what I think I saw? And if you’ve done that, if you’ve created that doubt, then I think you’ve done your job.”

And if you don’t? “If you exaggerate and the referee deems that you have done so? That’s on you as a player for not being able to execute an art form the way you should,” Moreno scolds.

“If people were to attend my diving camp,” he jokes, “they’d be better at it.”

Mexico's Alexis Vega and Argentina's Gonzalo Montiel collide during the World Cup group C soccer match between Argentina and Mexico, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Mexico’s Alexis Vega and Argentina’s Gonzalo Montiel collide during the World Cup group C soccer match between Argentina and Mexico, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Moreno: Diving ‘is all over the game’

The reason Moreno feels so comfortable talking about and even extolling such a taboo tactic is that, well, he doesn’t think it should be so taboo. Why, he wonders, is flopping so reviled but cynical fouls that chop down counterattacks aren’t? Why is flopping unethical, but appealing for a corner after the ball blatantly touched your own foot isn’t?

“We seem to be able to separate diving as a form of cheating,” he says. “But the elbow the defender throws, apparently that’s not cheating. Or the grabbing of the jersey, that’s not cheating.”

The collective recoiling of soccer purists has led leagues, including MLS and the English Premier League, to fine and suspend players for diving. Moreno believes it represents a double-standard, wherein other forms of dishonesty or illegality are accepted as “part of the game,” yet diving isn’t.

“If you start paying attention to everything that happens on the field, you can hang on to very many different things, and say, ‘well that seems wrong; well that’s not right,’” he says in a weasely voice, chiding uptight traditionalists. “’Well that’s regrettable behavior there. That’s putting the game in disrepute.’ And then somehow we manage to forget all those things and focus all our attention on a very specific subject, and that is diving.”

What are some of “those things,” you ask? Well, there’s the occasional oil check, Moreno says. There are all sorts of nasty, vulgar insults. There are maulings every time a corner kick is taken, and pleas of innocence to referees when the subject is very much guilty.

And yet, Moreno points out, in European and especially Anglo soccer, “the ‘cheater’ tag seems to be exclusively reserved for attacking players. When a defender is shielding the ball towards the endline, feels minimal contact from the opposition, goes down, and draws the foul, somehow, that is acceptable and even praised as ‘clever,’ ‘good defending,’ ‘showed his experience.’”

Diving, Moreno says, is far less “frowned upon” in South America. Growing up in Venezuela, it “was very much part of the game, and there was no negative connotation to it,” he says. Problems only arise when cultures clash — and that’s where the biases kick in.

It’s perhaps true, Moreno says, that, due to those cultural differences, a disproportionate number of South American players at the top of the sport are prolific divers. “But what I find just so ridiculous is that, we seem to believe that it’s a Latin American issue, it’s a South American issue,” he says.” The belief turns one dive into a full-fledged sour reputation for a Latino player, when in reality, Moreno argues, diving “is all over the game. Arjen Robben is not from Tegucigalpa. He’s not.”

And he’s not judging Robben, a former Dutch star, he clarifies. His point is that nobody should be judged, or branded morally bankrupt, for trying to win a game — and certainly not based on their country of origin.

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 24: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal is brought down by Mohammed Salisu of Ghana during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group H match between Portugal and Ghana at Stadium 974 on November 24, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal is brought down by Mohammed Salisu of Ghana during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group H match between Portugal and Ghana at Stadium 974 on November 24, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Is VAR changing the game?

What Moreno never had to account for, and what today’s players must, is video review. Since VAR’s implementation late last decade, it has served as both a deterrent and a refereeing safety net that, at least in the penalty box, divers often can’t sneak through.

Although there’s little empirical evidence that it has begun to do away with diving, multiple players interviewed for this story — though not all of them — believe it has. “Sadly, yes,” Moreno said with a hearty laugh.

“I think it took some time,” U.S. defender Aaron Long told Yahoo Sports. “I think there’s a lot of habits that attackers get into. I think more than anything, guys know how to work the system. And once VAR came into the picture, I think it mighta took a half a season or a season, but you can’t really trick it. So I think it’s curbed a lot of that stuff. I haven’t seen as much.”

Defenders generally like VAR; attackers less so.

“VAR does a lot of things, and one of the things that it does is that it’ll highlight your ability, or in many cases inability, to draw the contact necessary for you to go down,” Moreno says. “And when you slow things down, you can highlight that a tackle looks worse than it is, but you can also highlight that a tackle is not nearly as bad as you thought it was.”

So, although diving will continue to be an attacker’s “recourse” between the penalty boxes, it is destined to subside where it’s most consequential, inside the area. It won’t punish the grabs and the nudges, but will detect the con artists. And “the high-morality crowd will say, ‘well yes, exactly, this is what we’re looking for,’” Moreno laments.

“What I would say is, it’s not gonna go away,” he says of diving. “And the guys that are really good at doing this, the guys that can really sell a foul, the guys that can draw contact, those guys will not go away. I hope it’s an art that is not lost.”

Andre Onana leaves Cameroon World Cup after disagreement with manager

AL WAKRAH, QATAR - NOVEMBER 24: Andre Onana of Cameroon reacts during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group G match between Switzerland and Cameroon at Al Janoub Stadium on November 24, 2022 in Al Wakrah, Qatar. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

By Dermot Corrigan

4h ago


Cameroon came back to draw with Serbia 3-3 in the World Cup Group G match.

Andre Onana has left the Cameroon World Cup squad ahead of their group-stage fixture against Serbia after a disagreement with his manager over the weekend.

Onana, 26, was omitted from his nation’s matchday squad on Monday. He and Rigobert Song discussed Onana’s style of play at Saturday’s training session, with the former defender wanting the Inter Milan goalkeeper to play more direct and not take any risks near his own goal.



After the conversation, Song decided it was better if Onana was not even on the bench for the rest of the World Cup, and the one time Barcelona youth team player has left the camp to return home.The Athletic has contacted the Cameroon FA for comment.

The goalkeeper played the entire 90 minutes for Cameroon during their narrow 1-0 defeat to Switzerland on their opening matchday, but his place in the starting XI has instead been handed to Devis Epassy.

Onana, who has 35 caps for Cameroon, signed for Inter Milan on a free transfer this summer following his time at Ajax. He started the season behind the veteran captain Samir Handanovic but has established himself as Inter’s No 1 since October, featuring in the last seven league matches before the World Cup break. In total, Onana has played 13 times for Inter this season, keeping five clean sheets.

Cameroon will be eliminated from the World Cup with a game to spare if they lose and Brazil avoid defeat against Switzerland later on Monday.

The Athletic has contacted the Cameroon FA for comment.

Cameroon’s next fixture is against Brazil on Friday.

11/25 USA vs England Today 1 pm on Fox, US Outlaws Watch Party at Union Jack’s Broadripple, Carmel FC indoor training starts next Week

So Black Friday has arrived – the largest ever TV Audience expected for a US Soccer game and the US could really use a tie here vs England.  With Iran’s win today – a tie vs England and win over Iran should put us thru to the next round. Honestly even a close lost it ok sh don’t tell our team.  I am going to pick England 2-1 still – I just don’t think we have the fire power to win this one.  We’ll see if the Berhalter way has the US with 45-55 possession and continued high press vs England’s back line.  I think we go right at McGuire and his lack of speed.  I look for Weah to really try to take advantage of that.  If it was me – I would put Weah up top in the #9 and have Reyna on the right wing with our MMA or MAA midfield.  But this is what I see below.  Bottom line we would love the tie – NO US TEAM HAS EVER LOST TO ENGLAND IN A WORLD CUP BY THE WAY – Men or Women’s.  We’ll see if that holds true today. 

US Men Friday 2 pm vs England on Fox

Shane’s Starters for Friday

Pulisic, Sargent, Weah

Musah, Reyna


Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Scalley


First off bench McKinney, Aaronson, Ferriera

So I start with the same front line as before – Pulisic and Weah combined to score and Sargent is bigger and stronger and more used to EPL play.  We have to get Reyna on the field however so I look for Musah or McKinney to get the rest – it could be McKinney as he is on a yellow card and is still somewhat injured – or it could be Musah as he was a bit overwhelmed vs Wales I thought.  I don’t think Berhalter will do this but I would go with Scalley on the right side back today – as Dest is on a Yellow Card and we need THE BEST DEFENSE we can have vs England.  I think Zimmerman stays a starter but I would not be upset to see Cameron-Carter Vickers he’s a starter at Rangers and has Champions League experience. 

I am sorry but I wish our American’s loved their national anthem the way Mexico does.   US Highlights – 5 minutes   England vs Iran hightlights    Your US Captain Tyler Adams Story   Our CenterBack Captain Tim Ream   Matt Turner Save   US Goal by Tim Weah  these 26 stories on our 26 players going to Qatar its awesomeMore hype videos

Full U.S. Men’s roster for 2022 World Cup:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8 appearances for U.S./0 goals), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach/GER; 3/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0)

FORWARDS (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1)

American Outlaws Watch Party Friday 2 pm Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple. https://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

Carmel FC GK Coach Headed to National Championships Carmel FC GK Coach Noelle Rolfsen  GK for the Marian University Lady Knights in Indianapois is headed to Alabama next week for the NAIA National Championships.  They play Thurs Dec 1 at 5 pm and again on Sat, Dec 3 at 5 pm if they win. 

Indiana U Men – Advance to Round of 16  with Win over St Louis

IU men’s soccer advanced to the round of 16 with a 1-0 win over St. Louis at Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington on Sunday afternoon. Here’s the Winning Goal


Fri, Nov 25

5 am FS1                              Wales vs Iran

8 am FS1                              Qatar vs Senagal

11 am Fox                            Ecuador vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox                     USA (0-1-) vs England (1-0)  

Sat, Nov 26

5 am FS1                              Tunisia vs Australia

8 am FS1                              Poland (0-1-0) vs Saudi Arabia (1-0)          

11 am FS1                            France (1-0)  vs Denmark (o-1-0)

2 pm FS1                              Argentina (0-1) vs Mexico (0-1-1)  

Sun, Nov 27

5 am FS1                              Japan (1-0) vs Costa Rica (0-1)

8 am FS1                              Belgium (1-0) vs Morocco (0-1-0)  

11 am FS1                            Croatia (0-1-0) vs Canada (0-0-1)  

2 pm FS1                              Spain (1-0) vs Germany (0-0-1)

Mon, Nov 28

5 am fS1                               Cameron (0-0-1) vs Serbia (0-0-1)

8 am FS1                              South Korea ((0-1-0) vs Ghana (0-0-1)  

11 am Fox                            Brazil (1-0) vs Switzerland (1-0)

2 pm Fox                     Portugal (1-0-0) vs Uraguay (0-1-0)  

Tues, Nov 29

10 am Fox                            Netherlands vs Qatar

11 am Fox Sport 1            Ecuador vs Senegal  

2 pm Fox                              USA vs Iran

2 pm FS1                              Wales vs England  

Wed, Nov 30

10 am Fox Sport 1            Tunisia vs Frane  

10 am Fox                            Australia vs Denmark  

2 pm FS1                              Poland vs Argentina

2 pm Fox                              Saudi Arabia vs Mexico  

Thur, Dec 1 –                        

10 am FS1                            Croatia vs Belgium

10 am Fox                            Canada vs Morroco

2 pm  Fox                             Japan vs Spain  

2 pm Fox                              Costa Riaca vs Germany  

Fri, Dec 2 –                            

10 am FS1                            Ghana vs Uruguay

10 am Fox                            Portugal vs South Korea

2 pm  Fox                             Cameroon vs Brazil  

2 pm Fox                              Serbia vs Switzerland

Sat, Dec 3 –                           Sweet 16 Knockout Rounds

10 am Fox                            1A vs 2 B  USA?

 2 pm  Fox                            1C vs 2 D

Sun, Dec 4 –                       

10 am Fox                            1D France vs 2C

 2 pm  Fox                            1B England? vs 2A

Mon, Dec 5 –                     

10 am Fox                            1E Spain? vs 2F

 2 pm  Fox                            1G Brazil? vs 2H

Tues, Dec 6–                      

10 am Fox                            1E Spain? vs 2F

 2 pm  Fox                            1G Brazil? vs 2H

Fri Dec 9

Fri, Dec 9                             Quarter Finals Final 8–                  

10 am Fox                           

2 pm                     

Sat Dec 10                           Quarter Finals Final 8–                  

10 am Fox                           

2 pm                     

Tues Dec 13                        Semis – Final 4                  

2 pm  Fox

Wed Dec 14                        Semis – Final 4                  

2 pm  Fox

Sat, Dec 17                          third Place                         

10 am  Fox

Sat, Dec 18                          FINALS                 

10 am  Fox

===================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ====================== 


Try out the Best BarBQ in Town right across the street (131st) from Northview Church & Badger Field on the corner of Hazelldell & 131st. RackZ BBQ

Save 20% on your order 

(mention the ole ballcoach) 

Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

=====================RackZ BAR BBQ ======Save 20% ======================

US Men 

Why USMNT Needs to Go for Win vs England Now – Yahoo Sports

Late red card changes everything for Iran, Wales — and USMNT

hy the USA can find vindication in World Cup’s two big upsets

World Cup 2022 odds: Expect record-breaking betting on USMNT-Wales match

USMNT embracing underdog role against England ahead of Friday’s match

Jedi Robinson has personal motivation to summon the force vs. England

What’s up with England star Harry Kane’s injury?

USMNT remains confident ahead of match vs. England

3 positives from USMNT’s draw with Wales

Get to know the USMNT’s 26-man World Cup roster


U.S. men disappointed with tie in World Cup. But young team can learn from it. | Opinion

USA’s European elite sparkle then fizzle on World Cup return against Wales

USMNT player ratings: Weah, Ream star as win slips away late

Player Ratings — – the18
Three talking points from USA v Wales at World Cup

Goalie Matt Turner’s Iconic Save Keeps USMNT Alive

Who is Tim Weah? What to know about the first USMNT player to score in the World Cup since 2014

America’s First World Cup Goal in 8 Years Ignites Instant Celebration

History of FIFA World Cup Matches Between USMNT and England

26 Stories See How our 26 Players Made it to Qatar

World Cup

Wales vs. Iran Highlights | 2022 FIFA World Cup

 Ronaldo Makes History as Portugal Holds On to Defeat Ghana in World Cup

Wednesday World Cup recap: Belgium outlasts Canada; Spain routs Costa Rica 7-0

Neymar Injures Right Ankle During Brazil’s World Cup Win

Report: Neymar Could Miss Rest of Group Play for Brazil


‘He always shows up.’ How Memo Ochoa became Mexico’s consistent World Cup hero

special guests. Wear your kits. Bring your signs. Raise a Tifo inside the theater if you want. And be ready for a can’t miss night.

USMNT World Cup group scenarios: What does USA need to qualify for the round of 16?

By Jacob Whiteheadh ago

In Friday’s first game, Iran beat Wales 2-0 after sensational late goals from Rouzbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian at the Al-Rayyan Stadium.Iran had the better of the chances, hitting the woodwork on several occasions, but luck seemed to be smiling upon the Welsh, despite Wayne Hennessey’s late red card. However, Cheshmi’s 99th minute strike from outside the area gave Iran a famous win, with Rezaeian then finishing a counter-attack.Although England vs United States needs little more significance — more of that later — the result has clarified what the USMNT need to do if they are to escape the group stages.The USMNT has successfully reached the knockout stage at six of the 10 World Cup tournaments that have qualified for.

Will they be through if they beat England?

Not quite — but almost. That will put the USMNT on four points, England on three points, Iran on three points, and Wales on one point.

Group B if USMNT win

United States1104

The USMNT play Iran in their final group game, and a point in that match would guarantee progression, while a win would see them win the group. England play Wales in the group’s final fixture.

However, if Iran beat the USMNT, Gregg Berhalter’s side would be knocked out if England beat Wales.

What about a draw?

It makes the situation fairly stark. England would have four points, Iran would be on three, the USMNT will have two points, and Wales only one.

Group B if USMNT draw


Simply put, a win against Iran will put the USMNT through, though whether that would be as group winners depends on England’s result against Wales.

However, any other result will see the American team knocked out.

Are the USMNT out with a loss?

This is where it becomes more difficult. Their fate would be taken out of their hands.

Group B if USMNT lose


England will be through as group winners on six points, with Iran on three points, and Wales and the USMNT each on one point.The USMNT need to beat Iran, and then hope that Wales fail to beat England. If Wales do beat England, the USMNT require their goal difference (goals scored minus goals conceded) to be better than Wales, as both teams would be tied on four points.

Who could the USMNT play in the knockouts?

They will play one of the teams from Group A — which includes hosts Qatar, the NetherlandsEcuador, and Senegal.

If the USMNT finish second their most likely opponent will be the Netherlands. They have lost four of their five games to the Dutch, but won the most recent 4-3 in 2015If the USMNT win the group, the most likely opponents are Ecuador or Senegal, who play in the final round of group games on Tuesday to decide progression. They have won five, drawn five, and lost five to Ecuador, but have never played Senegal.

What’s the history of England vs USMNT at the World Cup?

England did not play in their first World Cup until 1950, and their first ever game at the tournament was against the United States, who entered the match in Belo Horizonte as massive underdogs.However, a 38th minute goal from USMNT forward Joe Gaetjens gave his side a famous victory, and led to England being knocked out in the group stages.England have only lost on one other occasion to the United States — a friendly in 1993 — but faced them again in the World Cup in 2010. Though Steven Gerrard gave England an early lead, a mistake from Rob Green allowed Clint Dempsey to equalise. The USMNT would go on to win the group.The Athletic’s Oli Kay has explored the rivalry in more detail here.

Predicted US line-up

We brought you some early US team news earlier but, according to men in the know, Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio, it’s doubtful there’ll be much rotation after three days to rest, recuperate and prepare.The fitness of Sergino Dest and Weston McKennie remains a topic to watch, though all 26 players were participating in the portion of training open to the media on Thursday nightGio Reyna is considered one of the most talented players on the US roster but our USMNT experts think it’s unlikely Gregg Berhalter will bench Tim Weah or Christian Pulisic; we’re more likely to see Reyna in the second half.One area Berhalter may weigh a change is up top.Josh Sargent was disconnected from his attacking colleagues on MOnday but he did contribute to the goal-scoring sequence, chesting down a pass into the path of Pulisic, who took off on a lengthy run up the field before finding Weah with a brilliant through-ball.Berhalter could opt for Jesus Ferreira up top, but our team thinks Sargent’s physicality and ability on set pieces make him a better match-up for this game.

USA vs. England, 2022 FIFA World Cup: What to watch for

The big one’s here.

By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Nov 24, 2022, 9:00am PST  

74 Comments / 74 New

Share this story

US Men’s National Team vs Wales, 2022 FIFA World Cup

The United States Men’s National Team are back at it in their second group stage match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup tomorrow when they take on England at Al Bayt Stadium. The second this matchup was confirmed at the World Cup draw, the date on the calendar was circled: Black Friday. As most of America is off work today and tomorrow, the stage was set for one of the most anticipated USMNT matches of all time. And with it comes a ton of importance.

With the draw on Monday against Wales, the USMNT are sitting tied for second in Group B with 1 point, staring up at England. A result against the seeded team in the group would be massive to not only increase the USMNT’s chances of advancing, but to also open up the group a bit entering the final group stage matchday. A loss doesn’t eliminate the USMNT, but it will take destiny out of their hands and they’ll have to count on other results happening to get out of the group.


World Cup rooting guide

We know that most of you already have a rooting interest in the World Cup. But that’s probably just habit. SB Nation has devised a quiz based on your style of sports fandom that will scientifically* decide which team you really should be rooting for. Take it here!

*no actual science was used, your mileage may vary

Latest Form


D (1-1) – Wales – 2022 World Cup Group B

D (0-0) – Saudi Arabia – Friendly

L (0-2) – Japan – Friendly

D (1-1) – El Salvador – Concacaf Nations League

W (5-0) – Grenada – Concacaf Nations League


W (6-2) – Iran – 2022 World Cup Group B

D (3-3) – Germany – UEFA Nations League

L (0-1) – Italy – UEFA Nations League

L (0-4) – Hungary – UEFA Nations League

D (0-0) – Germany – UEFA Nations League

What To Watch For

Keep eyes on Saka. Bukayo Saka had a terrific match for England against Iran, and he has emerged as a star over the last couple of years for the Three Lions. His creativity on the field combined with his knack for putting shots on frame means that the defense has to make sure they keep tabs on him and not let him get free.

Play like the first half against Wales. The team we saw in the first half on Monday was one of the best USMNT fans have seen in ages. They played extremely well and was aggressive in taking the game right to their opponent. Let’s see more of that tomorrow against England, but this time, it has to be a full 90 minutes.

Go right at Harry Maguire. If Harry Maguire starts, there’s your weak link at the back. Our midfielders should be able to keep Maguire on his back foot, where he tends to mess up at times. The USMNT needs to exploit any holes created by England’s bad positioning and go right at them.

Lineup Prediction

With news that Gio Reyna is available to play on Friday, we really are at a squad that’s fully ready to play. With all that in mind, here’s the predicted lineup that Gregg Berhalter will start against England:

Predicted Lineup vs. England

The prediction is pretty simple: no changes for the USMNT. We can expect to finally see Gio Reyna make his World Cup debut, while Brenden Aaronson will also see the field earlier in relief. There shouldn’t be any surprise if Sergiño Dest or Weston McKennie come off early given that they both hold yellow cards, but Berhalter will still likely start them given their importance to what the team wants to do on the field.


Call this a homer pick if you want, but it’s another draw for the USMNT. 1-1.

England set to name unchanged starting XI to face USA, Kane fit to start

England set to name unchanged starting XI to face USA, Kane fit to start

By David OrnsteinNov 24, 2022

The Athletic has live coverage of the USMNT vs England in World Cup Group B play.

England manager Gareth Southgate is set to name an unchanged line-up for the World Cup game against the United States on Friday, with Harry Kane fit to start.Southgate decided to hand Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham their first World Cup starts in England’s first match of the tournament, and was rewarded with a thrilling 6-2 victory over Iran

The pair both found the target — Bellingham opened the scoring before Saka struck twice — alongside Raheem Sterling and second-half substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish.Kane, England’s captain, is poised to lead the line despite having a scan on his right ankle following a challenge during the Iran game.The 29-year-old was able to train with his team-mates on Wednesday and Southgate subsequently declared the Tottenham Hotspur forward was available for Friday’s encounter.Manchester United defender Harry Maguire is also set to retain his place in England’s starting XI, for what will be his 50th international appearance.There had been some question marks over the 29-year-old’s participation after he was replaced in the second half of the Iran win after complaining of illness.Maguire, however, made clear he was fit to play against the USMNT in a press conference on Thursday.“Obviously it was disappointing to have to come off the pitch,” he said.“I felt unwell in the second half but we have a great medical department. I have done all the tests and felt well since. I have been on the training pitch over the last couple of days and I feel good and ready to go.”It is anticipated Southgate will keep the back four which worked so well on Monday, with Kieran Trippier and Luke Shaw playing either side of Maguire and John Stones.Bellingham is expected to partner Declan Rice in midfield, with Mason Mount, Saka and Sterling played behind Kane.
England have a number of in-form options to turn to from the bench, with Rashford and Grealish already making an impact as substitutes.Eric DierPhil Foden and Callum Wilson were also introduced. Wilson was absent from an on-field training session on Tuesday, with England believed to be carefully managing the 30-year-old’s workload after a return from a hamstring injury earlier this season.England sit top of Group B and will secure progression to the knockout stage if they beat the US, who were held by Wales in their opening fixture.

Where England v USA will be won and lost: set pieces, Pulisic and pressing

Where England v USA will be won and lost: set pieces, Pulisic and pressing

Liam TharmeNov 23, 202227

England v USMNT is a game with many underlying narratives and there is likely to be a fascinating tactical battle on display.This will be the third meeting between the two sides at a World Cup — with all of them taking place in the group stages. USA produced a shock 1-0 win in Brazil in 1950 and the teams drew 1-1 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.Both teams went out in the group stages in 1950, while the USA finished above England, with both sides going through, in 2010.Here are the four tactical areas where The Athletic expects to see the game won or lost.https://theathletic.com/report/podcast-clip/?clip_id=6624

(1) Shape and wide area battles

US manager Gregg Berhalter sticks quite religiously to his 4-3-3, which against Wales saw Tyler Adams as the deepest of the midfield triangle.

To the left of him was teenager Yunus Musah, who kept pulling wide left to allow left-back Antonee Robinson to play in a more advanced space given that he is the best crosser in the team.

The pass network below shows how involved Robinson was in an attacking sense during the first 49 minutes. He played very high up the pitch and the blueness of his dot and the lines extending from it reflect a player who was highly involved in possession.

Robinson had the most passes in the final third of any American against Wales (23) and the second most crosses (six).

Viewing this rotation on the grab below, the full-back asymmetry is clear, with Adams deepest of the midfield three (blue dots).

But these rotations are also due to how passive and organised Wales are — under Berhalter the US have consistently struggled to break down defensively solid opponents.Gareth Southgate generally wants England to press but a slightly more measured approach, which allows Berhalter’s side to play more expansively, would open spaces to hit them in transition.Read more: England set to name unchanged starting XI to face USA, with Kane fit to startThe biggest reason for the US’s struggles against set defences is that it restricts the space Christian Pulisic has to operate in.

As a result, he has to drop deeper to become an option and has his back to goal when he does receive passes (see grab above). Anyone who has watched Pulisic knows his game is about exploiting big spaces and driving at opposition defences with space to play into.Southgate’s decision to start with a 4-3-3 for England’s opener versus Iran was more of a talking point — England have switched between a back three and back four in their last two major tournaments, but this move was seen as attacking by his standards.Declan Rice was the single pivot and he allowed Mason Mount and particularly Jude Bellingham to roam as ‘free No 8s’ between the lines.

England bossed the game, with 77.3 per cent possession and 34 sequences of nine or more passes in open play.The US will want significantly more of the ball than Iran, so Southgate could tweak personnel to move to a double pivot, perhaps bringing in Kalvin Phillips or Jordan Henderson to add midfield security.And while central midfield naturally feels like the area that needs to be controlled to win the game, both sides have key threats in wide areas, with Luke Shaw (left-back) and Kieran Trippier (right-back) pivotal in breaking Iran down from the wings.Wales’ back five prevented them from being overloaded when the US pushed their full-backs forward, and given that the wide spaces are key, it would not be a surprise to see England adopt a back five without the ball before transitioning to a back four when they have it.

(2) USA’s transition game and England’s counter-press

“If we look at what Christian (Pulisic) can bring to the USA at this World Cup, from a purely tactical perspective, he’s best in space,” wrote Leeds head coach Jesse Marsch in his exclusive column for The Athletic.

“So in transition moments and when he can be on the run and use his combination of agility and speed and technical ability, that’s when he’s able to be at his best.“We could see more of that in the England game.”Marsch was vindicated inside the first half against Wales — this probably feels like a familiar pattern for US fans, controlling the game with possession and wide area rotations (see above), only to score from a vertical attack against a disorganised defence.The goal originates from a launched Wales goal kick, with the US winning the first two aerial duels, leading to Pulisic eceiving Weston McKennie’s knockdown.The Chelsea winger drives forward into space, with right-winger Timothy Weah positioned in Neco Williams’ blind spot.

He doesn’t dribble far but crucially Pulisic engages centre-back Ben Davies and therefore gives Weah the time to make his perfectly arced run inside Williams, and the 22-year-old finishes with aplomb.

Pulisic came out as the top American ball carrier. He dribbled the ball 432 metres, almost 100 more than his next-best countryman, also making the most carries of 10+ metres.

“With the players, we’ve talked all week about setting the right tone and the right intent in our performance. That came through the way that we counter-pressed the ball,” said Southgate after the Iran win.

Rarely is any defensive performance a focus when scoring six in a World Cup game, but England were well positioned and responded well to possession losses to prevent Iran from transitioning quickly and made rapid regains.

An example can be seen within six minutes. Trippier attempts to find Saka but his pass is blocked.

Iran defender Majid Hosseini recovers the ball but instantly Trippier and Saka start to press, which is important because they come from both sides.

Trippier cuts off an easy forward pass down the line and the England midfielders move in (see Mount on grab below) to stop anything central. Saka tackles Hosseini and then shows good control and restraint to force him back…

… and eventually, England have Iran penned in, forcing Hosseini to kick the ball out of play.

The counter-press will not need to look this extreme and will be more essential in preventing counter-attacks than being a tool to regain possession, but if England can eliminate or reduce the US’s transition threat, it should help them control the game.

(3) England’s build-up play

Southgate’s reflections on England’s approach play against Iran were particularly interesting for a side that usually desire so much control. “We mixed our game up, we didn’t just play in front of the opponent, we constantly had runs in behind. We have to be that way and mix the game.”

Jordan Pickford’s pass map reflects this, with plenty of launched passes into the opposition half but a number of shorter ones, too, either out to the right or into the pivot.

The US press in a narrow 4-3-3, with their two wingers (yellow dots on grab below) close to the No 9, who tends to sit on the opposition defensive midfielder before pressing the back line.

Wales built up in their 3-5-2 against the US with a single pivot, so were matched three versus three against the press.

Naturally, this leaves space out wide for teams to play around the press, though Wales failed to exploit this effectively.

Outside centre-back Joe Rodon passes around Pulisic to wing-back Connor Roberts (white arrow), who bounces inside to Gareth Bale with one touch (blue arrow)…

… even though Bale miscontrols it, left-back Robinson was forced to jump onto Roberts and the knock-on effect is that centre-back Tim Ream steps out to engage Bale.

This vacates space in-behind that can be exploited with a clever passing pattern or better execution. Given England’s attacking success against Iran was underpinned by adventurous full-backs, exploiting these wide spaces could be key in unlocking the defence.

The US centre-backs particularly struggled to defend against Kieffer Moore (6ft 5in) in the second half.

He was able to pin Ream to control a long ball and then play through Brennan Johnson, who made a run beyond from deep.

This looks particularly similar to Harry Kane’s role in the build-up to the third goal against Iran, though the England captain is an injury doubt for the clash with USA.

He pins centre-back Rouzbeh Cheshmi and the ball ends up with Bellingham, who finds Kane’s diagonal run…

… and he can cross for Sterling to score.

Even if Callum Wilson starts ahead of Kane, England should still look to target the centre-backs and have runners beyond them, as well as exploit the lack of wide-area coverage in the US press.

(4) Set pieces

England scored the most set-piece goals (13) in European qualifying and they showed against Iran how threatening they are from dead-ball situations, notably from out-swinging corners.

Harry Maguire headed against the bar from a Trippier corner from the right before Saka doubled England’s lead with a volley following a Maguire knockdown from Shaw’s out-swinging delivery from the left. The below video works in the UK:

And this video works in the USA:


Comparatively, the US looked at their most vulnerable against Wales when defending set pieces. Excluding the penalty, the two best Welsh chances of the game came from consecutive set pieces with both being headers. This video works in the UK:

This Yellow Card Foul by Kellyn Acosta vs Bales may have saved a devistating goal in the last seconds as US GK Turner was way out.

USMNT World Cup foe England looms large in the American soccer psyche

England's midfielder Steven Gerrard (R) exchanges his jersey with US defender Carlos Bocanegra during their Group C first round 2010 World Cup football match on June 12, 2010 at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg. NO PUSH TO MOBILE / MOBILE USE SOLELY WITHIN EDITORIAL   AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)

By Sam Stejskal Nov 24, 2022 32

The Athletic has live coverage of the USMNT vs England in World Cup Group B play.

It’s probably not possible for countries as large, varied and divided as the United States, to have a defined national character. It’s too nebulous a concept, too narrow a thing to pindown for such a big, diverse group of people.

It’s undeniable, though, that some Americans are accustomed to moving through the world in a certain way. Some see it as fearless, others view it as arrogant, but, on the broadest level, they’re used to setting the cultural, political and economic agenda in most places on the planet.

That has never been the case in men’s soccer, though. Outside of select immigrant communities (particularly Latino), the men’s game exists in the shadows in the U.S. It’s more popular today than ever before, but it’s still niche, engaged in a never-ending battle for hearts and minds both at home and abroad. In a world in which Americans are almost always the favorites, the U.S. men have forever been a global underdog.

U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter, captain Tyler Adams and star attacker Christian Pulisic have spoken repeatedly over the last few months about their mission to change the way the world perceives American soccer. They won’t have a better chance to do that than on Friday, when the U.S. will take on heavily-favored England in a massive clash at the World Cup in Qatar.

“I think it’s obviously a huge opportunity to fast track the impact that we can have,” Adams said on Thursday. “When you get a result in a game like this, people start to respect Americans a little bit more.”

Our nations’ shared language, special political relationship and England’s status as one of the most important soccer countries in the world means the European nation holds an important place in the U.S. soccer psyche. We consume their league, are taught by their coaches at nearly every level from the grassroots on up and have long seemed to give added significance to anyone in the game who happens to speak with a British accent.The importance we give England isn’t so much because of a direct inferiority complex as it is general insecurity about our standing in the game. Whether domestically or internationally, just about everyone involved in the sport has experienced the occasional disrespect that comes with playing, watching or being a fan of men’s soccer in America. For kids, that may have come in the form of schoolyard taunts. For fans, it might revolve around the poor public perception of MLS or the men’s national team. For professional players and coaches, it’s historically meant being viewed as lesser than their counterparts from other countries, regardless of their actual ability.For the most part, this isn’t such a fun experience. We want to belong; we’d like to be seen as real players. Getting a stamp of approval from England is by no means necessary, but it would no doubt feel good for many in the American men’s soccer community.

Clint Dempsey understands this dynamic better than most. One of the greatest men’s players in U.S. history, Dempsey was largely overlooked when he was growing up in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he learned the game primarily through playing in the town’s mostly-Latino men’s league. Despite his relatively anonymous beginnings, he scratched his way to the pros, first in MLS, then in Europe, where he had an excellent run with Fulham in the English Premier League and earned a big move to Tottenham before he returned to the U.S. to finish his career with the Seattle Sounders. Along the way, he played in three World Cups and tied the all-time record for most goals for the men’s national team.

For all of his talent and success, Dempsey feels he never really got his due in Europe. He certainly wasn’t a huge star among the general public back at home. The respect he did get, he had to earn — repeatedly.“Being an American player, no matter where you are, you have a chip on your shoulder,” he said during a recent interview in New York City.That was the norm for American players as recently as five or six years ago. It didn’t matter if guys like Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Stuart Holden or, in eras before theirs, Claudio Reyna and Tab Ramos were as technically proficient and tactically sound as all but the absolute best of their peers. As Americans, they were often written off by folks from other countries as little more than hardworking and industrious.That kind of attitude trickled into how people thought about the national team. There’s perhaps been no better example of that dismissiveness than the buildup to the last time the U.S. and England met at a men’s World Cup in their opening group stage game in South Africa in 2010.

The morning after the countries were drawn together in December 2009, English tabloid The Sun splashed “EASY” across their backpage. The headline was an acronym for the four teams placed into Group C: England, Algeria, Slovenia, Yanks. The subhed was even more arrogant: “USA, Algeria, Slovenia: Best English group since The Beatles.”Dempsey, Holden and fellow U.S. international Maurice Edu were all playing in the U.K. at the time, with Dempsey in the midst of his run at Fulham, Holden at Bolton and Edu at Scottish club Rangers. Each of them remembered that headline vividly.“I definitely remember seeing those headlines, being over there and the banter with your teammates and the back and forth, the arrogance,” said Edu. “It was arrogance. Blatantly, that’s what it was. But that’s the world that we live in, in terms of how we were viewed from a global standpoint.”“We all saw that,” said the Scottish-born Holden, who will serve as the color commentator for FOX’s broadcast of the match on Friday. “And I think we all saw that as an opportunity.”The idea that England would have no problems handling the U.S. added to the American players’ general sense of indignation about how they were thought of in Europe. The night before the game, after coach Bob Bradley showed the U.S. a few final video clips, the talk among players turned to how they felt they were being underestimated by an England team they knew would be under massive pressure. England entered the 2010 World Cup with huge expectations, with the media and public putting pressure on Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Co. to win the nation’s first World Cup since 1966.

Not that the external noise bothered them in the opening minutes, as Gerrard gave England the lead in the fourth minute of that match. The U.S. were no slouches, though — they had beaten an incredible Spain team and took a 2-0 lead against Brazil in the Confederations Cup the summer before. They were gifted an equalizer at the end of the first half when goalkeeper Rob Green fumbled Dempsey’s shot from distance, then actually rattled the post through striker Jozy Altidore on a chance in the second half.

“Even when England scored, when Gerrard scored, I think there was still a feeling that we were right in in this game,” Holden said. “We were worthy of a point that day, if not three. And all of those storylines going in, I think favored us in many ways. We were quite happy for the conversation to be aout England and not about us, to kind of fly in under the radar, a little bit low pressure.”

The U.S. didn’t win that game, but they did end up topping the group, finishing tied with England on five points but claiming the top spot ahead of them via tiebreaker. It remains the only time a U.S. men’s team has won its group at the World Cup. For Holden, it’s “forever bragging rights” whenever an English fan comes at him.Things have changed for individual American players in the 12 years since South Africa. Thanks in large part to the work of players like Dempsey, Edu and Holden and the generations that preceded them, USMNT stars like Pulisic, Adams and midfielder Weston McKennie have been afforded more and better European opportunities than any previous generation of American players.The stigma that past U.S. players faced overseas has evaporated a bit, too. Brenden Aaronson, who plays with Adams at Premier League club Leeds United, said in Qatar last week that he doesn’t feel like he’s ever been treated differently as a player in Europe than he was when he played in the U.S. Dempsey, Edu and Holden have all felt that shift, too.Collectively, though, the Americans still have a long way to go. The U.S. did fail to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, after all. They’ve still never done anything of serious repute on the world stage. They want that to change, and they want to change how they’re perceived in the process.It’ll be difficult to achieve that on Friday. England is better than the U.S. at basically every position. One could mount a serious argument that there isn’t a single player on the Americans’ 26-man squad who would make the England World Cup roster. The style of match should suit the U.S. better than how play unfolded in Monday’s draw against Wales, but style can only go so far when there’s a significant talent discrepancy. Another draw would be an excellent result for the Americans.If they can snag a point, they’d make a dent in their unending battle for respect and relevance, both at home and abroad. And if they can somehow pull off an upset win against England, well, as Pulisic said last week, that would change a lot of things.“It hasn’t been the top sport or whatever back in the States, but we want to change the way the world sees American soccer, to be honest, that’s one of our goals,” he said.“I don’t think people necessarily get anything wrong. I think we have to prove ourselves, we haven’t been maybe at the level of some of these world powerhouses in recent decades. We’ve had good teams with a lot of heart in us, but I think we can take it to that next step. With a successful World Cup, I think that can change a lot of things.

The many layers of U.S. vs. England at the World Cup: Friends and teammates turned rivals

The many layers of U.S. vs. England at the World Cup: Friends and teammates turned rivals

Paul Tenorio and Michael Walker Nov 24, 2022

The Athletic has live coverage of England vs USMNT at the World Cup.

As a young kid growing up in the north of England, U.S. men’s national team assistant coach Anthony Hudson used to carry around the jersey his father, Alan, wore in his debut for the Three Lions against West Germany in 1975.

Hudson would pop in a VHS tape of his old man and brag to his friends.



“I was just very, very proud of him,” he recalled.

Hudson was born in Seattle when his father played there for the NASL’s Sounders, but he fell in love with the game back in England at the Victoria Ground in Stoke. He had dreams of following in the family footsteps, but even he probably never dreamed of where his career would take him: a World Cup game between his two countries.

“When the draw came out, it was an amazing moment,” Hudson said. “I remember calling my family and they’re all screaming and it was just a proud moment, an exciting moment. Any player or coach, the dream is to play or coach in the World Cup. So to be doing it and playing against one of the top teams, and one I have a connection with, is really special.”

On Friday evening at Al Bayt Stadium (2 p.m. ET), Hudson will be one of a healthy contingent of U.S. men’s national team players and staff with connections to their opponent, group-favorite England. Hudson, as well as midfielder Yunus Musah, left back Antonee Robinson, center back Cameron Carter-Vickers and goalkeeping coach Aron Hyde were either born in or have roots in England.


It will undoubtedly be a special moment when they hear both anthems.

“I don’t know how I’m going to feel that day,” said Musah, who was born in New York, moved to Italy and then England as a child, and has not only played for but captained England youth sides. “But it’s a special game, for sure, because I’ve been on both sides.”

For many of the players with roots in England, it’s created a bit of a fun rivalry with family and friends. Robinson, whose father was born in England but raised in White Plains, N.Y., said it’s been an easy choice for his family: they’ll cheer for the U.S. on Friday. Musah said most friends have told him they want him to play well, but are rooting for England to win.



Carter-Vickers smiled when asked during a news conference on Wednesday who his family would cheer for.

“Half of them want us to win and half of them want England to win,” said the defender, who was born in Southend-on-Sea, in the county of Essex, to an American father and English mother. Carter-Vickers’ father, Howard Carter, was a star basketball player for LSU in the 1980s. Carter-Vickers often went back to Baton Rouge, La., to be with family.

For Robinson, facing England will bring a bit of delayed gratification. He had a chance to play for the U.S. against England at Wembley in 2018, but was injured in training during the days leading up to the game. Robinson said he was devastated to miss the opportunity, but he’ll now have the chance to one-up the experience by facing England on the sport’s biggest stage.

“To actually finally get to play against England, and it’s at a World Cup, kind of puts two joyous moments into one,” Robinson told The Athletic. “It’s just one of those days that you’ve just got to enjoy every minute of it.”

Antonee Robinson (left) and Yunus Musah at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar. (Photo: John Dorton/ISI Photos)

The connections between this U.S. team and England run deeper than just the English-American contingent, however.

Several Americans currently play in or have previously played their club football in England.

Christian Pulisic is at ChelseaTyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson play at Leeds UnitedMatt Turner is the back-up at Arsenal, and Ethan Horvath starts in the second-tier Championship at Luton Town. Tim Ream has long been a stalwart at FulhamJosh Sargent is at Norwich City, another Championship team, DeAndre Yedlin spent parts of five seasons playing for Newcastle United, Gio Reyna was born in England and head coach Gregg Berhalter spent 18 months at Crystal Palace.

The familiarity and friendships between the two teams will add an extra layer to the all-important game. The match will pit club teammates — like Turner against Aaron Ramsdale and Bukayo Saka; Pulisic against Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling; Reyna and Jude Bellingham, among others — as well as former teammates, like Musah and Saka, and Carter-Vickers and Kieran Trippier against each other.


Where England v USA will be won and lost: set pieces, Pulisic and pressing

On the day of the World Cup group draw in April, Pulisic said that the first call he got was from Mount. Reyna joked this week that he and Bellingham may not be able to swap shirts if they get into a fight during the game.

“Of course it gets to a point where you talk about it and of course leading up to the game how excited you are to play against him, and you kind of talk smack, for sure,” Reyna said the other day. “But then, once you get on the field, it’s nothing really like that anymore. You’re kind of focusing, you don’t really even think about it. … We’ll text before, we’re already texting now, and then we’ll be ready to get after it.”

That familiarity could also prove to be a benefit for the U.S.Even though England are coming off a run to the final of the European Championship last year and beat Iran 6-2 on Monday in their opening game, there won’t be much of an intimidation factor for the Americans when facing an opponent with which they are so familiar. Many of them will be adapted to the English game.There are recurring themes and words to explain what U.S. players encounter in English football and what they take from it. “Speed” and “physicality” are mentioned repeatedly, which is not surprising. “Intensity,” too, is an expected response, but it is interesting that it is felt not just on the pitch but also off it. “Under a microscope”, is the phrase used by Horvath. It is an indication of the cultural environment of English football that strikes American players on arrival.

Horvath had been at a Champions League club, Club Brugge in Belgium, before joining Nottingham Forest last year. Prior to Brugge, he had been at Molde in Norway when they were managed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the ex-Manchester United striker who went on to coach that club. Horvath had gone to Molde at age 16, straight from his native Colorado.

“Even though you’re at a Champions League club, coming to England takes a bit of adapting, everything is that split-second quicker,” Horvath says. “That’s the main difference.

“Plus, in England everything is just under a microscope. That’s one of the biggest differences on and off the pitch. The football culture is more intense. In Belgium you can feel the intensity in Champions League games, but then in the next game, if you’re playing a mid-division team or lower, it’s kind of mentally challenging to get up for those games.”

At the international level, Horvath is coached by an Englishman. Aron Hyde, from Stourbridge, in the west Midlands, has been the U.S. goalkeeping coach for the past two years, having also done the job temporarily under Jurgen Klinsmann.

“The biggest things for me, when I think about football in England, is the speed and directness, power and aggression that’s involved,” said Hyde. “That competition drives quality, drives the environment. There’s the savviness of competing to win, because that’s what matters in England. And it’s constant. Football is everything in England, that’s the one thing that sticks out for these guys.

Can he tell when a U.S. player has been to England?

“Yes,” Hyde said, laughing. “One thing I do notice is they all come in and start calling me ‘mate’. … They try to make this conscious effort to fit in, to use the lingo, the banter. But you also notice they are improved by the natural competitive environment they’re in. I wouldn’t say it’s night and day, but I see it in all of them. No question.”Underneath it all, the connections and the familiarity, is the undercurrent of influence that English football has had in the U.S. From the influence of youth coaches who emigrated from England to the popularity of the Premier League, there is no European country that has had a bigger impact on the sport in the U.S.For that reason, the England game also creates somewhat of a proving ground for Americans.They know that back home, playing against England will be seen as a measuring stick for fans who have more familiarity with the Premier League than anything else.It’s an idea that’s been on the minds of those around the U.S. team going back to the day the groups were drawn.

“I know that there is a lot of respect for American soccer, but I think this is an opportunity, for sure,” Berhalter said that day. “This is an opportunity for us to show what we’re made of. They have a good team, but so do we. We have a young team, we have an athletic team, we have a team that doesn’t have a lot of fear, and it’s going to be a great game.“And I think even for the fans to be so familiar with (the England) players, they’re household names, and then to see us match up against them, I think it will provide some context and it’ll be, I think, really interesting for the fans as well.”

World Cup Daily, Grant Wahl Day 11

How Gregg Berhalter handles Gio Reyna against England will be one of the defining moments of his tenure.

The U.S.’s Gio Reyna never got into the game against Wales. But he could be a differentiator against England on Friday (Photo by David Ramos – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

In this column:

  • It’s Reyna Time against England. Does Gregg Berhalter know that?
  • Good Rivals on the USA-Mexico rivalry is OUT NOW on Prime Video
  • Thanksgiving in Doha!
  • The best stuff from Gregg Berhalter and Tyler Adams at today’s press conference

DOHA, Qatar — It hit me like a lightning strike right as England’s Jude Bellingham was bossing Iran early in the Three Lions’ 6-2 win on Monday: The first full day of the World Cup was going to be defined by two emerging-star best friends from Borussia Dortmund, Bellingham and the U.S.’s Gio Reyna!

See, I thought the 20-year-old Reyna, the U.S. player at this World Cup with the highest ceiling, was going to start on Monday against Wales. Reyna has been dogged by injuries over the past year, but he got healthy heading into the World Cup, and his creative and ruthless skillset adds something to the U.S. attack that just isn’t there otherwise.

So I was surprised when U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter omitted Reyna from the starting lineup. Still, the player he opted for instead, Tim Weah, obviously came good when he scored a terrific goal to put the U.S. ahead in the first half. The choice of Weah made the coach look good.

Then in the 66th minute, Berhalter pulled central midfielder Weston McKennie, who was gassed. Another chance for Reyna, who’s probably even better centrally than out wide. And another Berhalter decision to the contrary with Brenden Aaronson coming on instead. (Aaronson, who has been in good form, was fine in his stint.)

But in the 88th minute, when Berhalter pulled Weah and the U.S. was desperately seeking a goal and a moment of invention in any way possible, it was plain to see: Reyna Time. And Berhalter opted instead for Jordan Morris.

Understand, Morris has his qualities and deserves to be at this World Cup. Few things in the USMNT fanbase are more annoying than the dogmatic section that reflexively says MLS player = bad. Berhalter said after the game he chose Morris due to his physicality for the moment. But it didn’t make sense to me then, and it still doesn’t now, that Reyna wasn’t the choice.

GrantWahl.com is reader-supported. Free and paid subscriptions are available. This is how I make a living, and quality journalism and traveling to Qatar require resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now.

Upgrade to Paid

Give a gift subscription

To be clear, there is zero animosity between Berhalter and Reyna. Far from it. Berhalter went to high school with Reyna’s dad, Claudio, and Berhalter’s wife (Rosalind) and Reyna’s mother (Danielle) both played for the legendary soccer program at the University of North Carolina (which Gregg also attended). The families are close. Gregg Berhalter has known Gio Reyna literally since Gio was a baby.

When Berhalter was asked (by Yahoo’s Henry Bushnell) today about omitting Reyna entirely on Monday, the coach said: “I think I was pretty clear after the game saying he was available for the match, and it was a coach’s decision that he didn’t play, and he’ll be available for tomorrow’s match. We’ll see what happens.”

If there were just three substitutes allowed per team per game in this tournament, I might better understand a decision to hesitate on using Reyna. He’s had a habit of being pulled out of games early with injuries for both club and country over the past year. But there are five subs allowed per game at this World Cup, which should render that concern moot.

And the benefits of using Reyna against England, a candidate to win the tournament, could be enormous. Reyna brings an attacking element the U.S. needs. He has the technical ability and the swaggering confidence to try things on the field. He has the ruthless competitiveness to want not just to beat his defender but to destroy him. He plays like someone who thinks he’s the best player on the field against any team he might come up against.

Reyna is young, but he is special. Games like Friday’s against England are an opportunity to help define the USMNT for this tournament and for years to come. Berhalter’s tenure will also be defined by this World Cup and the decisions he makes. I hope he moves Weah to center-forward against England and goes with Reyna out wide from the start.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’re enjoying the holiday with your family and watching a ton of World Cup soccer on TV. I miss being with my family today, but we did have a nice Thanksgiving lunch with turkey and a lot of other stuff at an event hosted by MLS and U.S. Soccer.

Photos by Grant Wahl

Today’s also a big day for another reason: Good Rivals, our three-episode documentary series on the USA-Mexico soccer rivalry, premieres today on Prime Video. I’m in the film and served as a producer conducting a lot of the interviews of the U.S. figures in it. I can’t tell you how proud I am of the year-long project, the defining story of one of the greatest international sports rivalries, which is a co-production of Meadowlark Media, Skydance Sports and Ocellated Media.

The first two episodes are already up! Let me know what you think about them.

What stood out to me from the press conference of Berhalter and Tyler Adams today:

• I asked Adams if the U.S. would welcome a game against England in which they won’t have the majority of the possession and the task of breaking down a low block like it had to do against Wales for much of the time.

“I play for Leeds. Have you seen the way we play?” Adams joked. “But I think that it sets up to our strengths in a way. We feel that one of the qualities and characteristics of our team that we’ve progressed and built over the past three years is our pressing, the amount of guys that we have on the team that can get in and around the ball with our athleticism to cover spaces and cover ground. We play in a very aggressive way against the ball, and that ultimately sets us up to create a lot of transition moments, which you did see against Wales. So we’re going to see how we have to change little variations to how we do things and capitalize on those transition moments.”

• How does Adams see the England game playing out?

“I see the game being a very fast-paced game,” he explained, “if it’s anything obviously like the Premier League and the quality of players that I’ve faced in the Premier League so far. We know that they’re going to be able to counter quickly in transition. They’re going to be good with the ball, against the ball. The defenders obviously speak for themselves. But again, that being said, yeah, we’re going to have to adapt that at certain points in the game, but we think that our strengths play to our advantage in this as well, and it’s going to be a good matchup.”

• Berhalter, from a question by Jeff Carlisle of ESPN, didn’t think the U.S. took advantage of its transition chances against Wales.

“There were opportunities,” he said. “We just didn’t take advantage of them. It’s something we identified yesterday in the postgame meeting. And we need to do a better job of that. Especially those moments where the opponent pushes you back a little, which can happen in the match. We want to be in a high posture, we want to be pressing, but there’s going to be moments where we’re lower on the field, and we have to be able to take advantage of the space behind the defense. And we didn’t do that effectively against Wales.”

• Adams was asked (by Nancy Armour of USA Today) if having more familiarity with English players through club interactions has made England seem less intimidating than it used to be.

“England’s still a big team at the end of the day,” Adams said. “Intimidation factor? I wouldn’t say there’s many things out out there that intimidate me other than spiders. So it’s fine for me to obviously have the opportunity to play against all these big players. I’ve done it before. But we also want to show what we’re capable of and that U.S. Soccer is growing and developing in the right way.”

In other news:

• How many of our subscribers are in Qatar for the World Cup? Would any of you like to do a subscriber meet-up here? Let me know in the comments below.

• I want to apologize for putting the score of the U.S.-Wales game in the headline of the email that post that went out at the final whistle. Some of you are recording these games while you’re at work and got a spoiler as a result. I won’t be putting the scoreline in future headlines.

• As for the cadence of my daily posts from the World Cup, here’s what I’m aiming for: One good written post a day. That includes the 2,000-word magazine-style story I’ll post by 9 am ET the morning after every U.S. game. I’m pretty shattered after finishing those, so you won’t get a World Cup Daily post on days those U.S. stories publish. Hope you understand. I’m red-lining basically every day here as it is!

Get ready for USA-England at the World Cup!

Playing with Tyler Adams, USMNT’s World Cup captain: ‘He’s a natural-born leader’

Phil Hay and Sam StejskalNov 24, 2022

The first scouting report on Tyler Adams in Leeds United’s system is from January 2020.

Adams had been with Germany’s RB Leipzig for a year and Leeds dispatched Gaby Ruiz, their head of European recruitment, to watch him in the flesh. Leeds were in no position to actually sign him because they were just a second-division club at the time and Leipzig were heavily invested in Adams but so often in football, that first glance at a player plants a seed.Adams was interesting, a player with technical promise and personality. He was young, a few weeks shy of turning 21, but to the naked eye, he did not look it. Self-assurance, arrogance, maturity; whatever it was, the midfielder had it and Ruiz submitted his thoughts with interest.The club revisited their files on Adams this past summer, when speculative interest turned into a concerted bid to sign him from Leipzig. Another report, written by a different scout, Alberto Cordero, was effectively a green light to make the deal:“Dynamic in all his movements… a very fast player in small spaces… perfectly prepared to carry out continuous pressing in different areas… constantly generates continuity in his passes… able to carry the ball into attacking zones with great precision and speed… simple and correct… generates effort…”Cordero’s assessment continued in that vein before concluding that Adams was tailor-made for countryman Jesse Marsch’s Elland Road midfield, the opposite of a shrinking violet.

Tyler Adams(Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images) 

At that stage of the transfer market, it was a toss-up for Leeds, who had already paid another German club, Bayern Munich, £10million ($12.1m) for another midfielder, Marc Roca. They could have Adams or they could have Mohamed Camara, the tenacious Malian who played for Red Bull Salzburg.The difference in their prices was not huge but Leeds, Marsch and director of football Victor Orta fell on the side of Adams. He and Roca would be a more consistent pairing, they believed. And with Adams, they were also acquiring strong leadership qualities — a surrogate captain. (Camara went to Monaco of France’s Ligue 1 instead.)Those qualities were given a vote of confidence last week when Adams was named as the USMNT’s captain for the World Cup.He had worn the armband internationally before but this was something else, a 23-year-old asked to lead the U.S. through a tournament in which expectancy of them was higher than ever. Previously, the Americans had rotated the captaincy among the members of a “leadership council” and tellingly, the decision to award it to Adams permanently did not come from head coach Gregg Berhalter. It came instead from the squad — they took a vote and Adams was the winner.That call, one former U.S. international tells The Athletic, was an “absolute no-brainer” and almost every conversation about Adams — with current team-mates, old team-mates, coaches past and present — yields the same validation.He was the kid who broke the convention that footballers know their place until they are settled, established and old enough to answer back or throw their weight around. Whenever stories about his spell at New York Red Bulls in MLS are told, they invariably come back to an incident in which an attempt to remind him of his lack of seniority ended in a physical altercation which Adams won.The U.S. need that bite and they will need it in spades during their second group game against England in the coastal city of Al Khor having drawn 1-1 with Wales in the opener.

Robertson Aaronson AdamsUSMNT team-mates Adams and Brenden Aaronson show they are up for a battle against Liverpool (Photo: James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)

The “no-brainer” remark came from Sacha Kljestan, who played alongside Adams in New York.Without over-egging his foresight, Kljestan saw this coming a while ago.“Considering (the captaincy) was left to the players to decide, I’m not surprised it went his way,” he says. “I’ve known him since he was about 16 and I had him down as a natural-born leader very early on. It shines through in the way he is and the way he plays, this ultra-confident guy who kind of shocks you a bit but then quickly earns your respect.“I was 20 years old when I became a pro and I was one of those players who always deferred to the older guys. Always. It’s what most players do. Tyler was nothing like that. He came through at 15, 16 and from day one, he was sure of himself, never the sort to keep his mouth shut if he had something to say. He speaks well, he plays well and that makes him an ideal captain.”Adams’ trick, and his route to respect from the rest of the dressing room, was to back up his talk in the only way a young player can.He wanted to be seen to be making the most effort and although the U.S. let a 1-0 lead slip late on against Wales on Monday, Berhalter got an archetypal Adams performance from his captain, a blend of tackles, interventions and recoveries. He won the most tackles (five) and duels (eight) of anyone on either team and ranked third for possession regains.Leeds, more and more, have been witnessing that industry in the Premier League, aided by stamina which allows Adams to marshal the area between both boxes and manipulate the ball there. His total distance covered against Wales, over 13km, was the furthest of the World Cup to that point.

He is, though, capable in possession and more than a midfield disruptor.On and off the pitch, people close to him see two sides of him. Adams is fiercely competitive when the chips are down but people at Leeds described him as “sweet and easy-going” in normal life.He and Brenden Aaronson, the other U.S. World Cup squad member on Leeds’ books, live close to each other in the smart Yorkshire town of Harrogate and play golf together whenever matches and training sessions allow. Adams, according to Aaronson, is the more proficient golfer of the two and their competitive streak is such that both have hired instructors to improve their swings.“I’ve played with Tyler enough now to see that he’s a completely different person on the field,” Aaronson says. “Sometimes we yell things back and forth at each other, get into it a little, but we’re really good friends off it“On the field, he is just like… he puts his game face on and gives his all. Something that’s really underrated about Tyler is that, not only does he win a ton of tackles and he’s all over the place, but on the ball this year he’s been unbelievable (at Leeds), switching the point of attack, connecting the little 10- or 15-yard passes in the middle. He’s been fantastic, one of our best players.”

Leeds, like the U.S. squad, have a leadership group of senior players who interact closely with the coaching staff and offer a sounding board.It was set up by Marsch, the club’s American head coach, when he was appointed in February of this year.Interestingly, Adams is not part of that group yet but is a member of the council established by Berhalter, along with others including Christian Pulisic and Walker Zimmerman. The U.S. camp are fairly guarded in talking about the council in detail but it is essentially the voice of the squad, designed to keep people on the same page and maintain good channels of communication with Berhalter.Adams, who will turn 24 in February, is the youngest national captain in this tournament and Leeds’ first at a World Cup since Lucas Radebe with South Africa in 2002. He has never been far from the USMNT picture since Berhalter took charge in 2018. “I can go on and on about the strengths of Tyler,” Berhalter says, “but I think the other thing about him is his humility.

GO DEEPER My game in my words. By Tyler Adams

“He’s a guy whose team-mates know exactly what they’re going to get from him. They know he’s going to go out on the field and compete, they know he’s going to be thinking about the game, they know he’s going to be into the details of the game. He’s not just a competitor, he’s also a strategist. That helps the group because he calms people down and he’s the guy people get behind.”Kljestan, a veteran of more than 50 USMNT appearances who is in Qatar as a host and analyst on Fox Sports’ FIFA World Cup Now show, admits he needed to adjust to Adams’ forthright personality.“When he broke through as a kid, I definitely took time to warm up to him,” Kljestan says. “What he was just wasn’t what you expected of someone his age. There was nothing malicious in what he did or said. He just didn’t seem to be afraid of anyone.“He’d speak when he felt like speaking and he’d be totally honest so, to begin with, part of you is thinking, ‘I don’t know what to make of this guy’. But then he plays how he plays, he’s 100 per cent for the team and you forget about everything, other than the fact that he’s exactly what you want alongside you.”A few months ago, Mike Grella, another former New York Red Bulls player, told a story of Adams getting into a fight with, and beating up, an older team-mate who pushed him too far. Kljestan remembers that incident too although, like Grella, he prefers not to name the recipient of the beating.

“This was someone who played in the same position as him, someone who’d been around the game for much longer,” Kljestan says. “He’d get Tyler in headlocks from time to time, give him little digs — a bit of fun mostly, but maybe a way of showing who was in charge.“One day we came out of a team meeting and this guy, he was jabbing at Tyler, like he did. I don’t know, perhaps Tyler had just had enough. They started grappling and wrestling, serious all of a sudden, and, well, Tyler made this guy tap out. He didn’t mess with Tyler again after that.“It’s a good way to sum Tyler up. He doesn’t take s*** from anyone.”England will find that out in what should be the biggest examination of Adams’leadership to date.Gareth Southgate’s team are highly fancied to win the match, and are among the favourites to win the World Cup itself.For the U.S., a point or three might hinge on the player who will set out to attack England’s midfield like a wasp, entirely in his element.Giving him the national-team captaincy required a dressing room vote, but.

GRANT WAHL ON YANUS MUSAH — Ghana, Italy and England missed out on Musah, who picked the United States in the end (Artwork by Dan Leydon for GrantWahl.com)

VALENCIA, Spain — You can’t help but notice it when you visit the Valencia CF megastore at the Plaça de l’Ajuntament in this sun-drenched city on the Mediterranean. Front and center at the entrance this season is a giant image not of star forward Édinson Cavani or captain José Gayà or coach Gennaro Gattuso, a World Cup winner with Italy. Instead the marquee attraction greeting fans is a 19-year-old midfielder who could be the breakout star for the United States at the World Cup. 

Yunus Musah is a citizen of the world—born in New York City, blood from Ghana, raised in Italy and England, coming of age in Spain—and the global launchpad for one of the USMNT’s first Muslim players may be in Qatar, at the first World Cup hosted by an Islamic country.

“The World Cup has changed so many players’ careers,” Musah tells me during a long interview at Valencia’s training facility, his British accent shaped by seven years of living in London. “And I feel like so many footballers don’t actually ever get to experience the World Cup during their careers. So it’s an opportunity to grasp and to enjoy most of all. But also at the same time really focus and put your A-game out there. Because the whole world’s watching, and anything can happen.”

Musah fell in love with soccer at age 5, playing in a park with his older brother, Abdul, and a friend in Castelfranco Veneto, a small town in northern Italy. They would run around that park for hours during summer days, until they wore down the grass and only dirt remained in front of the goals. Yunus felt an exhilaration running with the ball and knifing through defenders who couldn’t keep up with him. “That was the initial thing that made me love it: doing a mad run and having a shot go in,” he says. “I still love doing that right now.”

Yunus first developed his soccer skills in Italy, often alongside his oldest brother, Abdul, whom he spent countless hours with at their mother Amina’s shop (Photos courtesy of Yunus Musah)

A mathematics professor explains why USMNT might be undervalued against England

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 21: Timothy Weah of United States celebrates after scoring their teams first goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between USA and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

By David Sumpter

Nov 23, 2022

The data is starting to come in. After the first round of World Cup games, we now have several ways to measure team performance. But what numbers give us the most insight about the upcoming games?

The first number to look at is the expected goals (xG). This is a measure of the quality of chances or, more technically, ‘the probability a shot is scored in a typical football match’. I illustrate the xG below in two different ways, first as the position of the shots on the pitch, and then as a lollipop diagram of when the shots came during the USMNT vs. Wales match. The higher the stick of the lollipop, the better the chance.

While the 1-1 result was quite fair in terms of the chances created in xG (0.86-1.17), Wales’ chances were boosted considerably by the 0.75xG from the penalty kick (75% chance of scoring provided by the penalty). So, it was the USA which had the best chances during open play.



Digging deeper, the plot below shows a measure known as expected threat or xT. Here is the xT for both of the Group B matches.

Less well known than xG, expected threat measures the quality of attacking play: passes in to dangerous areas and dribbles won. Here we see that the USA dominated the game in the first half, although less so in the second half, when Wales came forward looking for an equalizer.

Most of this bodes well for the USMNT, going in to its match against England, whose expected goals for the first match against Iran are shown below.

Again, the late penalty boosts Iran’s xG numbers, but the most interesting insight here is that England’s six goals were not nearly equaled in terms of xG (1.99). England was a bit lucky to score so many goals.

To understand the matchup between the USMNT and England, I have plotted the transition maps for the USMNT and against England. The size of the circle shows the quality of chances created during transitions – when the ball is regained by a team in open play and they launch a counterattack.

The USMNT scored against Wales from a transition (marked with a star) and generated a couple more chances in this way (large circles). For its part, England conceded three big chances from transitions. It is here the Three Lions’ weakness lies: when Iran did get the ball back against them, they were vulnerable to counterattack. With this in mind, I can see Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah doing the same thing to England that they did to Wales and get a goal in the first half.

I recommend you dig deeper in to the numbers for other matches, and live during the game, in the Twelve Football App, before you make up your mind where your money should go. For me, England are slightly overvalued in the current odds. And although I don’t think the States will win it, I can see good value in backing a draw on moneyline.



Wales against Iran is harder to call. Both teams were on the defensive in their first games, and neither got going until the second half. But, with the Welsh as favourites, the smart money is on a surprise from the Iranians.


GFOPs – There is no need to go to Qatar because we’re bringing the Cup to you. We cannot wait to raise a glass and make incredible memories all across this great country.









We will re-live the day’s on-field narrative. Celebrate your city’s distinct football culture. And chop it up with a slew of very

11/22/22  US ties Wales 1-1, Mexico-Poland Tues 11 am on Fox, US vs England Fri 2 pm Fox

US Men tie Wales 1-1, Friday 2 pm vs England on Fox

The first 45 minutes was perhaps the best half of soccer for the US since the US win over Mexico in the Nations League.  We were dominant with 75% possession and Pulisic slotted a perfect ball to Tim Weah for the well deserved first goal after 5 shots in the first half.  You have to give Berhalter credit for a perfect line-up in the first half – but boy did Wale come back in the 2nd half.  I thought the US was fine and we all knew Wales was going to press forward – but this game all came down to Walker Zimmerman our center back making a stupid and rash foul on Garreth Bale which gave up a PK and effectively cost us the game.  Give Wales credit for putting in subs that made a difference while Berhalter waited too long to make his subs – Yedlin for Dest (on a yellow) was waaay too late, and even Aarsonson for McKinney was ok – but a few minutes later my issue was Acosta for Musah (who was gassed).  The Acosta sub showed that Berhalter was going to try to hang on rather than go for the win. Reyna or de La Torre here would have signaled the US was going for the win and trying to get that counter attack goal – instead we absorbed pressure and for the most part held on – until the calamitous play by Zimmerman.  I thought the D held pretty well – Ream was god like in the center and Jedi Robinson was solid on the left.  Matt Turner made a huge save and also got a finger on the PK blast by Bale.  Overall the US was electricfying in the first half and had chances to score that second goal.  I have issues with the subs and it would have been nice to see the US adjust the 2nd half pressure with a formation change (to 4-4-2 from 4-3-3)  – allowing Pulisic to get further up the field on the counter attack rather than having to come back so much and get fouled repeatedly.  

Now about the Ref – this Qatar Center Ref – was definitely fluffing his feathers and decided he wanted to be THE STAR of this game.  He inserted himself WAAAAY to often and decided he wanted all his countrymen to see him take charge of this USA vs European game.  He was not consistent and simply LOVED TO SEE HIMSELF on the Screen.  I didn’t realize Qatar had pro soccer league much less one that would prepare them for a game in the World Cup.  Still the US lost this tie – and the Ref didn’t help. 

Shane’s Starters for Friday

Pulisic, Sargent, Weah

Musah, Reyna


Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Scally


First off bench McKinney, Aaronson, Ferriera

Matt Turner Save

 US Goal by Tim Weah

these 26 stories on our 26 players going to Qatar its awesomeMore hype videos

Full U.S. Men’s roster for 2022 World Cup:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8 appearances for U.S./0 goals), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach/GER; 3/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0)

FORWARDS (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1)

World Cup News

The World Cup commercials are out – which ones do you like best?  Nike  Addidas  check them all out here

Shane’s Starters for Friday

Pulisic, Sargent, Weah

Musah, Reyna


Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Scalley


First off bench McKinney, Aaronson, Ferriera

Matt Turner Save

 US Goal by Tim Weah

these 26 stories on our 26 players going to Qatar its awesomeMore hype videos

Full U.S. Men’s roster for 2022 World Cup:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8 appearances for U.S./0 goals), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach/GER; 3/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0)

FORWARDS (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1)

World Cup News

The World Cup commercials are out – which ones do you like best?  Nike  Addidas  check them all out here

American Outlaws Watch Party Friday 2 pm Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple. https://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

5 am Fox Sport 1               Argentina (Messi) vs Saudi Arabia

8 am FS1 Tunisia vs Denmark

11 am Fox                            Mexico vs Poland 

2 pm Fox                              France vs Austrailia

Wed, Nov 23

5 am Fox Sport 1               Morroco vs Croatia

7 am Fox Sport 1              Germany vs Japan

11 am Fox                            Spain vs Costa Rica 

2 pm Fox                              Belgium vs Canada

Thur, Nov 24  –                   Thanksgiving

5 am FS1                              Switzterland vs Cameroon

8 am FS1                              Uruguay vs Korea

11 am Fox                            Portugal (Renaldo) vs Ghana

2 pm Fox                              Brazil (Neymar) vs Serbia

Fri, Nov 25

5 am FS1                              Wales vs Iran

8 am FS1                              Qatar vs Senagal

11 am Fox                            Ecuador vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox                     USA vs England

World Cup Schedule

World Cup Schedule

US Men

U.S. men disappointed with tie in World Cup. But young team can learn from it. | Opinion

USA’s European elite sparkle then fizzle on World Cup return against Wales

USMNT player ratings: Weah, Ream star as win slips away late

Player Ratings — – the18
Three talking points from USA v Wales at World Cup

Goalie Matt Turner’s Iconic Save Keeps USMNT Alive

Who is Tim Weah? What to know about the first USMNT player to score in the World Cup since 2014

America’s First World Cup Goal in 8 Years Ignites Instant Celebration

History of FIFA World Cup Matches Between USMNT and England

26 Stories See How our 26 Players Made it to Qatar

World Cup

Guillermo Ochoa, Andrés Guardado Join Exclusive World Cup Five-Timers Club

FIFA Currupt Prez Infantino Lashes Out at World for Criticism of Qatar – Yahoo Bushnell
Mexico’s World Cup squad: Who starts in Qatar? Can Martino rely on Lozano, Jimenez?
Cesar Hernandez

Can Iran’s golden generation upset England, USMNT to claim historic knockout berth? abriel Tan  
World Cup betting: Harry Kane and Kylian Mbappe are the favorites for the Golden Boot

Who are the darkhorse squads in the 2022 FIFA World Cup?

2022 FIFA World Cup: Group B preview

2022 FIFA World Cup: Group C preview

 2022 FIFA World Cup: Group D preview

===================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ====================== 


Try out the Best BarBQ in Town right across the street (131st) from Northview Church & Badger Field on the corner of Hazelldell & 131st. RackZ BBQ

Save 20% on your order 

(mention the ole ballcoach) 

Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

=====================RackZ BAR BBQ ======Save 20% ======================

My 4 Thoughts on USMNT 1, Wales 1

Late Gareth Bale penalty gives Wales a big point against a U.S. team that will be disappointed it couldn’t hold the lead.

Tim Weah kept his composure and scored for the U.S. off a brilliant ball from Christian Pulisic (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

DOHA, Qatar — The USMNT tied Wales 1-1 in their opening game of the World Cup on Monday after a 36th-minute goal by Tim Weah was matched by Gareth Bale’s 82nd-minute penalty. Here are my four thoughts on the game:

GrantWahl.com is reader-supported. Free and paid subscriptions are available. This is how I make a living, and quality journalism and traveling to Qatar require resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now.

Upgrade to Paid

Give a gift subscription

• This is going to feel like two points dropped after a mostly positive U.S. performance. It sure looked like the U.S. was going to get a big three points in its World Cup opener as Weah’s goal stood up for nearly 50 minutes, but a misguided challenge by Walker Zimmerman in the box on Bale was whistled for the penalty, and the Welsh superstar (who hadn’t played 90 minutes in forever) converted the spot kick. The U.S. had chances to go up 2-0 at various times in the second half and will regret not executing better in the attacking third on those opportunities. But the truth is Wales performed much better in the second half and started to create some chances of its own. Wales ended up having a slight advantage on expected goals (1.56 to 0.79 if you include the penalty kick). It’s a shame that the U.S. couldn’t get all three points. It would have set up the Americans well to advance from the group. Now this group will be on a knife’s edge as I suspect the U.S. and Wales will continue to duke it out for second place behind an England team that looked great today in a 6-2 win over Iran. That said, there’s no reason the U.S. can’t give England a game on Friday. It’s just now that much more important.

• The Christian Pulisic/Weah combo continues to produce goals in big games. Remember when Weah’s gorgeous cross was hit by Pulisic for the game-winning goal against Mexico at home a year ago? Well, Pulisic returned the favor on Monday in the World Cup, embarking on a gorgeous run through the midfield and laying off a pinpoint pass for Weah to finish with ice-cold composure. We had wondered this week if Weah might get a surprise nod at center-forward considering the U.S.’s struggles at the spot and Weah’s history of playing there at club level. Weah didn’t start as the No. 9 on Monday, but he certainly provided a center-forward’s finish at speed going down the gut. Give credit to Gregg Berhalter for starting Weah ahead of Gio Reyna (who didn’t play at all) or Brenden Aaronson. Both those players can be impact guys, but Weah has a record of producing goals and assists for the national team that those guys don’t have. Weah’s father, the great George Weah, never got to play in a World Cup, so you have to think it was a special moment for the Weah family to see Tim put it in the net.

• The left side of Fulham’s back line looked good in red, white and blue. Berhalter smartly chose to start Tim Ream as his left center-back even though Ream hadn’t even been with the U.S. team in more than a year before this camp. And the 35-year-old Ream made the coach’s trust pay off, showing his usual skill playing the ball out of the back and playing solid defense. There’s a calmness and wisdom about Ream that not many U.S. center-backs possess, and his club familiarity with Fulham teammate Antonee Robinson helped too on Monday. Robinson got forward down the left side on several occasions, and while he didn’t have any truly dangerous crosses you still like seeing him get in the position to deliver them. Overall, the U.S. defense did well except for the penalty, and Matt Turner had a terrific reaction save in the 64th minute on a Ben Davies header on one of the few occasions the U.S. back line let one slip.

• The U.S. men haven’t won many World Cup games over the years, and you realize again how hard it is to get them. World Cup wins haven’t happened often in the modern era for the U.S. men: One in 2014 (Ghana), one in 2010 (Algeria), two in 2002 (Mexico and Portugal) and one in 1994 (Colombia). That’s it. Tonight will feel like a large missed opportunity because three points and a great chance to advance from the group were there to be taken. More than four out of five teams that win their first World Cup game advance to the elimination rounds. Now the challenge will be for the U.S. to shake off the frustration from what could have been in this game and get ready to play England. No England team has ever beaten the U.S. in a World Cup (men’s or women’s), and while it’s a small sample size, the U.S. should go into that game feeling like it can play with any team in the


Grant Wahl Unexpected Detention by World Cup Security

What happened when I wore a rainbow t-shirt to the Qatar World Cup in support of LGBTQ rights in a country where same-sex relationships are illegal.


DOHA, Qatar — When I arrived at the stadium media entrance to cover the United States-Wales World Cup game today wearing a rainbow soccer ball t-shirt supporting the LGBTQ community, the security guards refused to let me in, detained me for 25 minutes and angrily demanded that I remove my t-shirt.

“You have to change your shirt,” one guard told me. “It’s not allowed.”Same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar. But FIFA has been clear in saying that the rainbow flag would be welcomed at the World Cup. The Qatari regime, however, has said very little on the topic, raising concerns that things would be different on the ground.I sent out a hasty tweet:

Just now: Security guard refusing to let me into the stadium for USA-Wales. “You have to change your shirt. It’s not allowed.”

3:57 PM ∙ Nov 21, 2022 A moment after tweeting that, one guard forcibly ripped my phone from my hands.Nearly half an hour passed. One security guard told me that my shirt was “political” and not allowed. Another continually refused to give me back my phone. Another guard yelled at me as he stood above me—I was sitting on a chair by now—that I had to remove my shirt.I told him no.“You can make this easy. Take off your shirt,” one said.I told him no, adding that my shirt wasn’t political at all.My friend Andrew Das, a reporter for the New York Times, walked past, and I informed him what was going on. They detained him too.Eventually, the guards made me stand up, turn around and face the CCTV camera above us.“Are you from the UK?” one guard asked.“New York,” I said. This was getting annoying. I arrived when I did so I’d have enough time to watch the Netherlands-Senegal game, and now I was missing it.Finally, they let Andy go. And then a security commander approached me. He said they were letting me through and apologized. We shook hands.One of the security guards told me they were just trying to protect me from fans inside who could harm me for wearing the shirt.(A FIFA rep later apologized to me as well.)But the entire episode left me wondering: What’s it like for ordinary Qataris who might wear a rainbow shirt when the world isn’t watching here? What’s that like?

USA player ratings vs. Wales: A tale of two halves

By Connor FlemingNovember 21, 2022

email sharing button
Featured Image

The U.S. had it but Gareth Bale is inevitable.

To beat Wales to open its World Cup campaign, scoring twice was always going to be necessary for the United States. Why? Because even if he did absolutely nothing for 89 minutes, you knew Gareth Bale was going to score in the 90th. 

The U.S. got its first in a sensational opening 45 minutes, but that second goal never came as Wales gained the ascendency for large portions of the second half. The inevitable moment finally arrived in the 82nd minute after Walker Zimmerman fouled Bale in the area, and the 33-year-old came up clutch from the spot.

USA player ratings vs Wales 

Manager Gregg Berhalter: 7/10

Berhalter made two huge personnel decisions Monday: Weah on the right flank and Ream at center back. Weah scored the goal, Ream anchored the defense. The U.S. manager also recognized how Wales was going to attack on the flanks and hit those defensive weak spots going the other way. n the second half, he reacted quickly to the turning of the tide with some timely changes, but the 75th-minute triple sub didn’t work like Berhalter envisioned. As Landon Donovan said after the game, where was Giovanni Reyna? Berhalter was walking on water in the first half, but the second provided the Big Soccer Brains of Twitter with ammunition.    

Matt Turner: 6/10

Turner didn’t face a shot in the first half. In the second, he acrobatically tipped a diving header over the crossbar. He did everything right on Bale’s penalty — guessing the right direction and diving early — but it was an unstoppable effort. Turner didn’t have any memorable saves late, and he looked shaky with balls into the area before relying on a Kellyn Acosta tactical foul to prevent a goal while in no man’s land.       

Antonee Robinson: 6/10

Got forward effectively in the opening 45 and marshaled Gareth Bale into total silence. He went the full 90 and did well given the threat of Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts, but it was all rearguard action in the second 45. 

Tim Ream: 8/10 

His first 45 was close to perfection. He dealt with a couple dangerous situations with supreme calm and distributed beautifully. Nothing was getting by Ream, and that proved the case over 90 minutes with Wales only converting from the spot. Like everyone else, the second half was more of a struggle with the physicality of Kieffer Moore posing problems.  

Walker Zimmerman: 3/10

Like his partner in the heart of defense, his passing was quick, zippy and purposeful in the first half. Zimmerman looked confident — so confident that he tried to win the ball off Gareth Bale in the area despite being shielded. It was a stonewall penalty. It’s sad and unfortunate but he let his country down. 

Sergiño Dest: 6/10

98% pass accuracy in the opening 45! His passing was crisp, although he was given a soft yellow card, and he made life so miserable for Daniel James that the Fulham attacker was hooked at halftime. However, Dest’s lack of action at AC Milan was evident in the second half as he struggled with Wales’ direct approach and tired quickly.  

Tyler Adams: 8/10

The American with the most tackles, the most interceptions and the most midfield touches. Adams was the version of himself that’s been winning plenty of plaudits at Leeds United, and as every other American began to fade and surrender in the second half, Adams continued to battle. 

Weston McKennie: 5/10 

Another recipient of a soft yellow, but McKennie’s off-the-ball movement was constant, shifting the Welsh midfield and backline around. However, he wasn’t largely involved, his passing wasn’t quite at his teammates’ level and when Wales took the ascendency in the second-half, McKennie was rightly the first U.S. substitution. 

Yunus Musah: 6/10

Musah showcased his attacking talent in the first half with some nice dribbles and great passing, but the game completely passed him by in the second 45 as he looked like a big defensive liability. The decision to take him off and put Kellyn Acosta on made perfect sense.  

Christian Pulisic: 7/10

What an assist from LeBron on Tim Weah’s goal! Pulisic was heavily involved with 70 touches, but he didn’t look as dangerous off the dribble as usual (zero successful take-ons) and there was enough evidence here to take him off set-piece delivery forever. 

Timothy Weah: 8/10

The sharpest U.S. attacker in that glorious first half. A smart run, beautiful touch and dangerous cross almost opened the scoring, but then Weah did it himself in the 36th with a composed finish beyond Wayne Hennessey. He was replaced by Joran Morris in the 88th.  

Josh Sargent: 6/10 

Sargent did exactly what was required of him on the opening goal with good holdup play. He also glanced a header off the post from a difficult angle, but his second half was a lonely time before getting replaced by Haji Wright in the 74th.  


Brenden Aaronson, Jordan Morris, Haji Wright, DeAndre Yedlin and Kellyn Acosta tried to turn the tide as Wales grew into the second half, but none of them stood out as Wales drew level and pushed for a winner. Aaronson probably helped his chances of starting against England the most, and Acosta is the greatest tactical fouler in U.S. history.

Open in app or onlineAn Unexpected Detention by World Cup SecurityWhat happened when I wore a rainbow t-shirt to the Qatar World Cup in support of LGBTQ rights in a country where same-sex relationships are illegal.GRANT WAHLNOV 21 SAVE

USMNT Player Ratings: Weah’s goal, Zimmerman’s mistake define World Cup draw

By Bruce Arena

Monday, Nov 21, 2022, 05:33 PM

The first game at a World Cup is so important, something I’ve experienced twice with the US men’s national team.

In 2002 we beat Portugal 3-2, setting up a quarterfinal run. Then in 2006 we lost 3-0 to the Czech Republic, setting up a group-stage exit.

Where will things go after the USMNT’s 2022 World Cup began with a 1-1 draw against Wales on Monday? A point to start their Qatar 2022 trip isn’t the worst thing, but this young squad should have won 2-0 and not allowed Gareth Bale’s group to stick around.

Group B impact

I still think ​the USMNT are going to reach the knockout stages, probably needing a win over Iran on the final matchday (Nov. 29) and hoping for a point against England on Black Friday. But it’s also clear this team, in this cycle, didn’t have enough experiences against quality international teams to be fully ready for a World Cup. That’s mainly because of the pandemic, so it’s hard to toss blame, but it’s also a fact we played a bunch of Concacaf games that were way too easy. You need those top-tier teams that really challenge you.

And the England game is shaping up as a real test, after they beat Iran 6-2 and sent goal differential/goals scored in their favor. The question is are we grown-ups and do we understand this is one where we’re an underdog and we have to play smart, we have to play defensively, play a little bit differently than we talk about how we should play.

Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet, though. Here’s how I thought, person by person, the USMNT fared Monday against the Welsh. I’m using the following grading scale:

  • 1-4: Below average or worse
  • 5-6: Average
  • 7-8: Good to very good
  • 9-10: Excellent or outstanding





Matt Turner

Goalkeeper · USA

My former goalkeeper with the New England Revolution made a really strong save early in the second half, stepping up after mostly being a bystander. Turner had one hell of an effort on Gareth Bale’s PK, but that 82nd-minute shot was too strong to save – as good as he is from the spot.



Jedi Robinson

Defender · USA

Jedi could’ve been a little bit tighter on closing down crosses, but he defended fairly well. It’s clear how important the Fulham left back is to how the USMNT want to play; he’s eager to get forward and join the attack.



Tim Ream

Defender · USA

A few weeks ago, it seemed like Ream wasn’t even going to be on the USMNT’s World Cup roster. But the 35-year-old answered the call against Wales, passing well out of the back and going a good job organizing the defense. He’s your veteran leader out there, building off a key role at Fulham in the EPL.





Walker Zimmerman

Defender · Nashville SC

I hate dinging his grade, but Walker’s foul on Bale cost the USMNT all three points. He had to do very little defending, then in an important moment of the game he goes to the ground and concedes a penalty. That hurts his team.



Sergiño Dest

Defender · USA

Getting an early yellow card definitely didn’t help Dest. He was okay on both ends, but could’ve been more of a presence in the attack. You expect him to be more threatening going forward.


USMNT_Tyler Adams_HEAD

Tyler Adams

Midfielder · USA

I wanted to see more passing from Adams in pushing the US forward. He’s got the armband for a reason and is really strong defensively, but there’s room for him to impact the game more.





Weston McKennie

Midfielder · USA

Weston’s early yellow card took away from the aggressiveness we’re used to seeing from him. He’s at his best when he’s running all over the field, but I rarely saw him in the attacking third. Still, a solid game for Weston as he comes back from injury.



Yunus Musah

Midfielder · USA

I was surprised to learn Musah became the youngest player to start a World Cup match for the USMNT (19 years, 358 days), even younger than when we had Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley back in 2002. On the day, he picked it up in the second half and was overall pretty solid.



Christian Pulisic

Forward · USA

Pulisic’s influence really grew after the first period, and his through ball on Weah’s strike was great. I would’ve liked to see the USMNT’s main man get a shot on goal or find more ways to impact things.





Joshua Sargent

Forward · USA

The Norwich City striker was too quiet and could’ve gotten more touches. Sargent’s grade is on the low end of being “average,” but it’s not fully on him that we didn’t play forward quickly enough.



Timothy Weah

Forward · USA

Weah scored a goal in the World Cup. How can’t you give him a good rating? I wanted to see him get after Wales’ left back Neco Williams even more, but he stepped up. Give him full credit.


Gregg Berhalter

Head coach

What I’d be critical of is we could’ve made changes a little earlier in the game. I would’ve brought in two attacking players between the 60th minute to 65th minute. 

But at the end of the game, I don’t know how you blame a manager for an error in judgment that Walker makes. That’s tough to do. 






Brenden Aaronson

Midfielder · USA

Aaronson showed his usual aggressiveness, trying to get out on the break a few times. I wanted to see him subbed on earlier; those quick balls up to the forwards are threatening.



Haji Wright

Forward · USA

Wright probably could’ve come into the game earlier too after Sargent was pretty ineffective. He had some bright moments, but didn’t have enough time.



DeAndre Yedlin

Defender · USA

Yedlin came in and did his job, the sole USMNT player with past World Cup experience.





Kellyn Acosta

Midfielder · USA

I’m almost tempted to put Acosta higher after that stoppage-time yellow card he took on Bale, his LAFC teammate. That was a very smart play since Matt was caught off his line at 1-1.



Jordan Morris

Forward · USA

Morris didn’t play enough to get a rating. I would’ve brought on Gio Reyna instead, but it sounds like he might not have been 100% fit – or at least Gregg’s being careful with his injury history.

USA's defender #03 Walker Zimmerman and Wales' forward #11 Gareth Bale fall during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B football match between USA and Wales at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha on November 21, 2022. (Photo by Antonin THUILLIER / AFP) (Photo by ANTONIN THUILLIER/AFP via Getty Images)

The USMNT’s two tackles that defined their draw with Wales

Paul Tenorio Nov 21, 2022

The game, and potentially the entire trajectory of the U.S. team’s 2022 World Cup experience, changed in the matter of two seconds and a few feet of movement by Wales star Gareth Bale, who may be slowing physically with age, but not in his speed of thought.It was the 80th minute and the U.S. was holding on to a 1-0 lead. A crucial three points in their group opener was within their grasp. As the ball was cut back across their penalty box, U.S. center back Walker Zimmerman lunged forward to clear it from danger. The 29-year-old Nashville SC defender saw a clear path to the ball. But Bale lurked behind him.Bale had only 30 touches on the night, the lowest of any starter for Wales, but world-class players find ways to change games in those margins. On this occasion, it was Bale’s clever movement that was key. In the two seconds as the ball was played, Bale covered the few yards of space between him and Zimmerman and stuck his left leg and left shoulder in front of the defender. Zimmerman had committed and went through the back of the five-time Champions League winner. It was a mistake to leave in his feet, and it was an easy penalty call.

Bale is brought down by Zimmerman for the penalty (Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Bale finished the night with just two touches in the box: drawing the penalty and converting it with a blistering shot through Matt Turner’s finger tips. And just like that, the USMNT’s path through Group B became substantially more difficult.It was a mistake from one of the U.S.’s most dependable players at the worst possible time. Zimmerman was the lone U.S. outfield player not to take part in the first three qualifiers last September.

Berhalter didn’t call him initially for the October window of World Cup qualifying, but he was summoned late after Tim Ream and John Brooks withdrew from camp. Zimmerman stepped into the starting lineup in October against Jamaica and soon proved himself capable of performing with the national team.He became a reliable option at a time when the center back position grew shaky following injuries to Miles Robinson and Chris Richards. Going into roster selection for the tournament as Berhalter considered five or six options, Zimmerman was the one center back who had secured his spot on the plane to Qatar through his consistent play.But on the biggest of stages, a player who had become a stalwart lost himself slightly in the moment. It was instinctive to leave his feet for the clearance, he said. By the time he saw Bale, it was too late.The U.S. will now go into Friday’s match-up against group-favorites England aiming for a result to feel comfortable. A win or draw would put them on a clear path to advance out of the group stage. A loss would leave the U.S. in need of a win against Iran in the finale and some help from the rest of their group. This is how life goes at the World Cup. The difference between success and failure can be determined in a handful of moments across three games. 

The reaction

“We talked about it before the game, every play matters,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. “World Cup. You’ve got to be focused. Every single play can have a potential outcome on the game. It’s a high level that we’re playing. A good high intensity. And this particular play was a little bit unlucky for Walker, he had a lot of good challenges. This one, a little unlucky.”“We leave our feet in the penalty area and anytime you do that, you’ve got to be 100 per cent,” Turner said. “And this time a great defender, he made a mistake, and I do my best to try to pick those up and make the play not-so-bad, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that.”Zimmerman’s thoughts on the matter were succinct: “Wish I would have seen him out of the corner of my eye. “Sometimes you’ve just got to shrug it off. It happened. Move forward. Not much time to dwell on it…it’s not the first penalty  I’ve given up, it’s not the last one I’ll ever give up. You can learn from it.”Wales manager Rob Page didn’t put his side’s equalizer down to luck or Zimmerman’s vision, however. He credited Bale’s ability to put himself in the right spots.“(Bale’s) very good at finding those spaces, he’s intelligent, he’s got a wise head, so he puts himself in those positions in the box to be able to get penalties,” Page said. “He used all his wisdom there.”

Before the tackle

It would be unfair to treat Zimmerman’s tackle as the lone moment of vulnerability for the U.S. Wales had the better of play in the second half after bringing forward Kieffer Moore on for Dan James. The 6ft 5in Moore became a target up top and they went more direct, causing all sorts of problems for a U.S. team that controlled the first half.While the U.S. spent most of the first 45 minutes on the ball and in their opponents’ half — they had 66.1 percent possession at half-time — it was Wales that looked the bigger threat in the second half. Still, the U.S. seemed at least to be managing that pressure and dealing with it well enough. Turner was called upon to make a huge save on a header from Ben Davies in the 64th minute and Moore should have put a header on target shortly after that, but otherwise the threats were relatively tame.Even the penalty didn’t come without some controversy. The U.S. team was adamant that the ball went out of play near the corner flag in the 80th minute before Brennan Johnson played it back. The ball would be played out for a throw a few seconds later, and Wales took that quickly to start the sequence that led to the penalty. “Unless the replay shows differently, it was blatantly out of play,” said Antonee Robinson, who was the defender pressuring Johnson. “So it’s really disappointing. I kept saying to the linesman, ‘you’ve cost us the game,’ basically. It should be a win. And there’s nothing they can do, it’s a new phase of play, VAR can’t do anything at that point. It’s disappointing. The officiating was terrible, to be honest, on the whole game, so hopefully that improves for the tournament.”Berhalter addressed the play too.“Leading up to (the penalty) there’s a throw-in,” he said. “I’m looking down the sideline and was sure the ball went out of play. By a good margin. I’m really surprised that it wasn’t called.”

The other tackle

In the final moments of the game, Kellyn Acosta may have saved Turner and the U.S. from what would have been a devastating loss. The goalkeeper came way out of his box to clear away a long ball. As he raced back to his empty net, Bale looked to be lining up a shot from just past midfield that would have given Wales the win. Before he could hit the ball, however, Acosta, Bale’s LAFC team-mate, fouled him and picked up a yellow.“It’s a great foul,” Zimmerman said. “It’s professional.”One tackle that cost the U.S. a win and one that prevented a loss — the fine margins of the World Cup.It was a disappointing result for the U.S. in their first game back on the world stage since losing to Belgium in the round of 16 back in 2014.Eight and a half years ago, Tim Weah was a 14-year-old playing in the New York Red Bulls academy. Pulisic was 15 and still one month away from moving to Germany with his family to begin his professional career.Both had dreams of playing in a World Cup. Weah, the son of former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah, aspired for a chance to reach a stage his famous father had never played on.Pulisic’s wait lasted four years more than he expected — a destiny delayed on a soggy field in Couva, Trinidad five years ago. On Monday night in Doha, more than 6,500 miles from where they grew up, the two combined on a goal that looked like it might give the U.S. a crucial three points.Unfortunately, another player making his World Cup debut would flip the narrative. In 2014, Bale was no kid; he had been sold for a record €100 million transfer fee. But he, too, waited a long time for this moment — for a chance to write his name in the books at a World Cup.

Why Tim Weah over Gio Reyna was the right call for USMNT’s draw with Wales – Sam Stejskal Athletic

USA's forward #21 Timothy Weah celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B football match between USA and Wales at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha on November 21, 2022. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP) (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)

By Sam Stejskal

Head coach Gregg Berhalter had big decisions to make heading into the U.S. men’s team’s World Cup opener against Wales.Were Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest fit enough to start? Would he stick with Jesus Ferreira at striker or give Josh Sargent a run? Which two of Tim ReamAaron Long and Walker Zimmerman would get the nod at center back? Would Tim Weah or Gio Reyna start at right wing?

As it turned out, two of those choices were critical in what ended as a disappointing 1-1 draw for the U.S.

On the right wing, Berhalter guarded against some muscle tightness and rested Reyna, instead giving Weah the start. That paid off massively late in the first half, when Weah darted in behind the Wales defense and slotted a shot past goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

At center back, the U.S. opted for Ream and Zimmerman. For the most part, the duo did well, but a costly mistake by Zimmerman gave Wales a penalty that star forward Gareth Bale converted in the 82nd minute.

The two plays defined Monday’s result, which, while fair, left the Americans in a precarious position in Group B. The U.S, who will play group favorites and leaders England on Friday, may end up needing a win and some help in the final round of group matches next Tuesday in order to advance to the round of 16.“It’s pretty clear: It’s a disappointing result,” said goalkeeper Matt Turner, who got a hand to Bale’s blistering penalty. “The first half was great, but we didn’t score as much as we probably should have and that cost us. That’s an experienced team — in the second half it was disappointing that we let them in the game so much.”Weah was a huge reason the Americans were in a winning position to begin with. It wasn’t just that he scored the goal — the chance he buried probably never materializes if it was not for his specific skills.Though he only recorded one goal and one assist in nine appearances, Weah was probably the most consistently dangerous U.S. attacker during World Cup qualifying. No matter the opponent or stage, Berhalter can trust the 22-year-old to remain high and wide and use his speed to stretch opposing backlines.Fellow wingers Christian Pulisic and Reyna might be big talents, but they often pop up in central positions rather than run in behind opposing defenses.That ability made the U.S.’s goal. The Americans controlled the first half hour against a passive Wales, but, apart from a Sargent header off the post from close-range after an initial attack was recycled back into the box, the Americans didn’t create many good chances.hat changed in the 36th minute. After a bit of a scramble in midfield, Pulisic headed a ball forward to Sargent, who had dragged one of Wales’ three center backs forward by checking back.Sargent played the ball to an onrushing Pulisic, who drove into the attacking third. His run occupied the remaining two Welsh center backs, with right-sided center back Chris Mepham rushing up to confront him and left-sided center back Ben Davies sliding over to provide cover.

That prevented Pulisic from carrying the ball into the box, but it left space for Weah to run in to from the right. He took full advantage, racing beyond Wales wing-back Neco Williams and running onto Pulisic’s excellent through ball in the middle of the area before slotting the ball home.“One of my strong points is definitely running in behind the defense,” said Weah, whose father George, one of the greatest players in the history of the game and the current president of Liberia, was in attendance on Monday.

“I know when Christian gets the ball that he’s very creative, and he knows how to find those positions. It was up to me to just make the run, and the most important thing was to finish. It was an amazing moment.”It was an excellent team goal — and exactly the type of movement the U.S. was hoping for. Wales sat deep for much of the match, particularly in the first half. They were difficult to pick apart, stacking the middle of the final third with defenders and forcing the U.S. wide.The U.S. expected those tactics. In order to break Wales down, they knew they would have to draw one or more of Wales’ three center backs forward, then immediately exploit the space the defender vacated.Unfortunately, they weren’t able to produce that kind of movement all that often. Wales’ defensive discipline shunted the U.S. to the flanks time after time, and they struggled to hit accurate crosses

“Playing a back five, they can kind of just sit deep and it made it difficult for us to penetrate through them,” said left back Antonee Robinson, who spent a significant amount of time attacking.“It was difficult to try and find solutions and mix our game up and drag players out. It ended up getting to the point where it was players like Christian or Yunus (Musah) turning players one-v-one to take a player out, and then trying to beat the pressure. And obviously they’ve got quite good height in the back, as well, so crosses in the box, they’re decent at defending them.”

Things did come off perfectly for the U.S. on Weah’s goal, however. Even if Reyna was fully healthy, the ability to make that kind of run in behind probably means Weah would be in the starting XI.

But there was still controversy over Reyna not getting into the match. Berhalter used four of his five substitutions while the U.S. was leading 1-0; they were either made to take off tiring players, make the U.S. more defensively robust or achieve a combination of those two things.

The fifth change came after Wales equalized. It seemed like a natural time to bring on Reyna for Weah, who was cramping and looked fatigued. Instead, Berhalter introduced the far less heralded and technically skilled Jordan Morris, who wasn’t able to affect the game in the closing minutes.

Berhalter said that Reyna experienced tightness in the U.S.’s friendly against Qatari club Al-Gharafa SC on Thursday. The American training staff performed what Berhalter called “a last-minute check” on Reyna on Sunday to confirm that he was healthy enough to play against Wales.

Those results came back positive, but, given that the end of the game was an open, physical affair, Berhalter opted for the physicality of Morris over the historically injury prone Reyna, who missed a few weeks this fall after he tweaked his hamstring while with the U.S. in September.

“(Reyna) is gonna be OK and I envision him playing some role against England, but today we thought, given the nature of the game, (that Morris was the better choice).”

Reyna said after the game that he “felt good” and “ready to go, but it was just (Berhalter’s) decision” to not play him.

His ability to create chances out of almost nothing could serve the U.S. well on Friday against an England team buoyed by beating Iran 6-2.

The Americans don’t need a point against England in order to maintain their hopes of advancing to the knockout rounds, but any kind of result would be a massive boost.

A few more movements like the one displayed on Weah’s goal, coupled with magic from Reyna or another teammate, would go a long, long way toward achieving that.

USA 1 Wales 1: Bale to the rescue, Weah’s vertical movement and Pulisic delivered

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 21: Gareth Bale of Wales celebrates after scoring their team's first goal via a penalty past Matt Turner of United States during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between USA and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

By Stuart JamesPaul Tenorio and more Nov 21, 2022

It was Gareth Bale to the rescue for Wales in their opening game of the World Cup against the U.S. men’s national team as the forward who now plays in MLS for Los Angeles FC scored a late penalty to cancel out Tim Weah’s first-half goal.

Christian Pulisic set Weah up brilliantly to put Gregg Berhalter’s side ahead at the Al Rayyan Stadium but Bale won a penalty with less than 10 minutes to go after a clumsy foul by USMNT centre-back Walker Zimmerman.



Earlier in the day in Group B, England had thrashed Iran 6-2 and they are the clear favourites to win the group.

Our writers Stuart James, Paul Tenorio and Mark Carey analyse the key talking points from the game…

Bale steps up when it matters

James: Aged 33, Bale tends to produce moments these days rather than performances — and nothing changed here. On the fringe of the game for so long — he had fewer touches than anyone else starting in a Wales shirt — Bale delivered when it mattered yet again.

For much of the game it had been hard to escape the feeling that the pace and tempo of the match was too much for Bale — which would have been no surprise given how little football he has played in the build-up. Booked in the first half — harshly it should be said — Bale was unusually careless in possession.

Bale being Bale, though, there was another chapter waiting to be written in his glorious Wales career. On the night he earned his 109th cap, to equal Chris Gunter’s record, Bale won and converted the penalty that earned Wales a deserved draw after a hugely improved second-half performance, aided by the introduction of Kieffer Moore.

Pulisic delivered in his first World Cup game

Tenorio: Since breaking out with Borussia Dortmund as a teenager six years ago, Pulisic has carried a certain level of expectation on his shoulders. Pick a nickname. He is the Golden Boy. Captain America. Jokingly, in recent years, it’s been, “The LeBron James of Soccer”. The nicknames reflect both the pressure Pulisic has faced and how those hopes have changed as Pulisic’s career has aged.Pulisic has not impressed at Chelsea. Even with the U.S. over the qualification cycle, he was inconsistent. And yet, in the biggest moments, Pulisic has found ways to impact games — for club and country. He remains the biggest star in the sport back home.

Entering the World Cup, Pulisic had learned that he did not have to do everything for this U.S. team. The U.S. have welcomed a core of stars to their roster: Weston McKennieTyler Adams, Tim Weah, Sergino Dest, Gio Reyna, Yunus Musah and Brenden Aaronson among them.And yet Pulisic can never truly be just a cog in the machine. The U.S. ceiling is set by Pulisic. He is still the player most likely to turn a game on a dime. The player most capable of providing that ‘wow’ moment. And in his first World Cup game, Pulisic delivered.The moments he finds space on the ball are rare, and so as he got on the ball in midfield and was able to run at Wales in the 36th minute, you could sense something dangerous could happen. Indeed, Pulisic showed that game-changing savvy, taking an extra touch to pull two Welsh defenders one step closer to him, then slotting in a pass that put Weah in for his goal.In the second half, Pulisic continued to look dangerous, creating almost every decent opportunity for the U.S. It had been a five-year wait for Pulisic to get on this stage, and in that span the weight of his stardom has provided ups and downs. Even Pulisic has admitted some of how it has weighed on him. But in his first test at the World Cup, Pulisic looked up to the pressure — and more than capable of leading this U.S. team.

Page got his tactics wrong

James: There is no point sugarcoating it — Rob Page got his tactics badly wrong. It was a big call from the Wales coach to leave out Moore and pick Harry Wilson instead and it didn’t work. 

“I just think pace up top has got us success,” Page said beforehand, explaining his thinking. “I’ve got footballers in the middle of the park if I want to create space to hurt the opposition, and to do that I need quick players up top and DJ (Dan James) falls into that category.”That was the theory, but the reality was different. Wales were a team under siege in the opening 45 minutes, unable to retain possession, overrun in midfield and crying out for some sort of presence up front to give them an outlet in the face of the USMNT’s press. 

Instead, Moore was watching from the bench as Bale and James struggled to make any impression. James couldn’t make the ball stick, which is not his game anyway. As for Wilson and Aaron Ramsey, they were so high when Wales were trying to play out that it was easy for the U.S. to smother Ethan Ampadu and force their opponents into a long, hopeful ball that inevitably came to nothing.

Moore was introduced at the start of the second half — a change that was as predictable as the sight of the U.S. taking the lead nine minutes before the interval, when Weah ran onto Pulisic’s clever pass and finished coolly. 

Wales looked a totally different proposition with the Bournemouth striker leading the line.

Weah’s vertical movement paid off

Tenorio: The U.S. coach Berhalter had several tough decisions to make when it came to his starting line-up, among them whether to start Weah or Reyna on the wing opposite Pulisic.His decision to opt for Weah had a clear tactical justification behind it. The U.S. needed Weah to provide a threat in behind Wales’ back line, a verticality that Reyna typically doesn’t bring. With Pulisic preferring to check back into midfield or find the ball in the half spaces, and Josh Sargent preferring to receive the ball more often with his back to goal, Weah provided a level of danger that forced Wales to respect how much space they allowed behind them. 

(Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images)

The choice was not an obvious one, though. Reyna is undoubtedly one of the most talented attacking talents in the team and his creativity in the final third might have added an element against Wales’ low block to help a U.S. team that has typically struggled to break down opponents.Opting for Weah got exactly the result the U.S. had hoped when, in the 36th minute, Pulisic got on the ball in central midfield and drove at Wales’ back line. As the Welsh defenders moved to close Pulisic down, Weah sprinted into the space behind the centre-backs and Pulisic found him with a clever pass between the defenders. Weah then used the outside of his right foot to give the U.S. the lead.It was exactly the type of movement the U.S. and Berhalter would have imagined from Weah.

Midfield battle

Carey: Formations can often be misleading to represent what is actually occurring on the pitch, and it was difficult to determine what Wales’s midfield set up was across the game. Ampadu was anchoring the play, with Wilson to his left and Ramsey to his right. However, neither Wilson nor Ramsay are central midfielders in the typical sense, with both players’ attacking instincts meaning they were closer to the forward line than the midfield on plenty of occasions.That meant gaps opened when the U.S. had possession, and Wales were unable to cover the width of the pitch in central spaces.It is not Wales’s style to dominate the midfield. As covered in The Athletic’s World Cup group guides, Wales ranked bottom for possession (48.1 per cent) and open-play sequences of 10+ consecutive passes (78) during UEFA qualifying. However, this lack of presence in midfield meant that USA were able to dominate the central areas for long periods in the first half.By bringing Moore on at half-time, Wales were able to take the midfield out of the equation, play higher up the field and get their attack-minded players on the ball with more territorial dominance. The contrast between the first and second period was stark. Wales were good value for their equalising goal.

World Cup clinching scenarios: How USMNT can reach the Round of 16

By MLSsoccer staff @mls

Monday, Nov 21, 2022, 07:23 PM


1-1 draw with Wales wasn’t the best way for the US men’s national team to kick off their 2022 World Cup campaign, but it did serve its purpose.By earning their first point of the tournament, the USMNT have the Round of 16 within reach with two more games remaining in Group B – first against England (Nov. 25) and then Iran (Nov. 29).Monday’s result, which came after LAFC superstar Gareth Bale’s 82nd-minute penalty canceled out Timothy Weah’s 36th-minute opener, ensures Gregg Berhalter and company still control their destiny.The Three Lions are currently top in the group after their 6-2 thrashing of Iran earlier in the day, giving them all three points. The US and Wales follow with a point apiece, while Iran have zero points to their name. Only the top two teams of each group advance to the knockout stage.


The US can neither advance nor be fully eliminated after they take on England on Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – at Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar (2 pm ET | FOX, Telemundo).

However, the result will play a massive role in their overall chances. Below is a breakdown of the United States’ likelihood to advance based on potential point totals after all three of their matches:

  • 7 points (win next two matches): ADVANCE
  • 5 points (win one match, draw the other): Almost definitely ADVANCE
  • 4 points (win one match, lose the other): Could ADVANCE but need results to go their way
  • 3 points (draw next two matches): Almost definitely ELIMINATED
  • 2 points (draw one match, lose the other): ELIMINATED
  • 1 point (lose both matches): ELIMINATED

And here is a breakdown of their specific clinching scenarios depending on the result against England.

  • US beat England: They would advance to Round of 16 with a draw or win against Iran.
  • US tie England: They would advance to Round of 16 in most but not all scenarios with a win against Iran. They would be eliminated in most but not all scenarios with a draw against Iran. They would be eliminated with a loss against Iran.
  • US lose to England: They could advance to the Round of 16 with a win against Iran depending on results in other group stage games. They would be eliminated with a draw or loss against Iran.


In order of priority:

  1. Goal differential
  2. Goals scored
  3. Head-to-head result
  4. Goal differential in matches between tied teams (only in three-way tie)
  5. Goals scored in matches between tied teams (only in three-way tie)
  6. Fair play tiebreaker (based on negative points for yellow and red cards)
  7. Drawing lots

Regardless of Friday’s result, the USMNT will still have a chance to qualify for the Round of 16 when they take on Iran on Tuesday, Nov. 29 (2 pm ET | FOX, Telemundo).

Chance of advancing

Based on Group B’s Matchday 1 results, FiveThirtyEight gives the USMNT the second-best chance to advance.

What results do England, the USMNT and Wales need to advance at 2022 World Cup?

What results do England, the USMNT and Wales need to advance at 2022 World Cup?

By The Athletic UK Staff

Of the eight different 2022 World Cup groups, the one featuring England, the United States, Wales and Iran — group B — is mathematically the hardest, and therefore the most challenging to predict.It has the lowest average FIFA world ranking of any of the Qatar 2022 groups, with England (ranked fifth), USA (16th), Wales (19th) and Iran (20th) combining to give a ranking of just 15.In fact, it’s likely to be more difficult than any World Cup group we’ll see again because of the expansion to a 48-team World Cup from 2026, combined with increased geographical spread.It’s therefore not that surprising to find the group intriguingly poised after the first two fixtures. England hammered an underwhelming Iran 6-2, while the USMNT and Wales played out an entertaining 1-1 draw.But where do those opening results leave group B? And which team, the United States or Wales, should be happier with that draw in Doha? We take a look.

What happened on the opening day?

In the first fixture on the second day of the 2022 World Cup, England got their campaign off to a flying start with a thorough and conclusive 6-2 victory over Iran.

Jude Bellingham broke the deadlock in the first half, with Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling also scoring to give England a 3-0 lead at the break.

Even more goals came after the interval, with Saka getting his second, quickly followed by a consolation from Mehdi Taremi to make it 4-1.

Substitute Marcus Rashford made it 5-1 within minutes of being on the pitch, before Jack Grealish finished a flowing move in the 90th minute to cement England’s all-conquering performance.

The drama still wasn’t over though, as a last-kick Iran penalty completed the action.

Later on, it was Gareth Bale to the rescue for Wales in their opening game of the World Cup against the USMNT as the forward, who now plays in MLS for Los Angeles FC, scored a late penalty to cancel out Tim Weah’s first-half goal.

Christian Pulisic set Weah up brilliantly to put Gregg Berhalter’s side ahead at the Al Rayyan Stadium but Bale won a penalty with less than 10 minutes to go after a clumsy foul by USMNT centre-back Walker Zimmerman.

So who is left needing what?

Monday’s results were not surprising from a FIFA world rankings perspective. The strongest team in the group, England, beat the weakest, Iran. And the two sides in the middle played out a draw.Previous World Cups would suggest that both the United States and Wales need to beat at least one of England and Iran to qualify for the knockout stage. team could technically qualify for the knockouts with fewer than four points, of course. But studying the results of every World Cup since 1994 — when three points for a win was first introduced — shows that teams usually require at least four to progress.At the last World Cup, in Russia, both Argentina and Japan made it through to the knockout stage with four points: from a win, a draw and a defeat. The other six teams to qualify for the round of 16 as group stage runners-up collected either five or six points.In fact, since 1994 only one nation has qualified for the knockout stage with less than four points. That was Chile at the 1998 World Cup, who drew group stage matches against ItalyAustria and Cameroon, respectively.

Who are the favourites to progress?

Ahead of the World Cup, Nielsen’s Gracenote predicted every match of the tournament using a proprietary football ranking system. This allowed them to estimate the chances of different results for every possible match through extensive simulations, to assess the chances for each team to reach different stages of the tournament.This system correctly predicted that England would beat Iran, for example.Gracenote’s model predicts that, on Friday, England will beat the USA, while Iran are tipped to recover from their opening day setback to beat Wales.On the final day, it predicts England to beat Wales and the USA to overcome Iran.Should these predictions come to pass, England would top group B with a flawless nine points, with the USMNT securing passage to the knockout stage as group stage runners-up.Iran would finish third with Wales a disappointing fourth.

Why didn’t USMNT play Gio Reyna in World Cup vs. Wales?

By Charles Boehm @cboehm

  • Monday, Nov 21, 2022, 07:51 PM

AL-RAYYAN, Qatar — Time will tell – the next eight days, specifically – as to whether Gregg Berhalter made the right call on his fifth and final substitution in Monday’s riveting 1-1 draw with Wales.The US men’s national team manager, in the first test of their 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign, replaced goalscorer Tim Weah with Jordan Morris rather than Gio Reyna as the Yanks hunted a late goal to snatch back the two points they admit they dropped via Gareth Bale’s late penalty-kick equalizer.With Berhalter attributing the choice to “some tightness we were guarding against,” presumably somewhere in Reyna’s perennially problematic hamstring and groin muscles, the Borussia Dortmund wunderkind might well have picked up a strain that could end his tournament in the first match. Perhaps saving the 20-year-old for upcoming matches vs. England (Nov. 25) and Iran (Nov. 29) will pay off in the end, if Reyna helps produce the results the USMNT need to advance out of Group B and reach the knockout stages. Or maybe Berhalter would have gone with Morris, the Seattle Sounders FC homegrown, even without the New York City FC academy product’s said tightness in the calculations. And it was an 88th-minute change, albeit in a game with 10-plus minutes of injury time. Was it really the key factor or a sidenote?

Berhalter, Reyna explain

But in the short term, it’s hard to avoid the distinct sense that Berhalter’s entire four-plus-year tenure could hinge on that one decision – especially since his version of the situation did not exactly synchronize with Reyna. “It was trying to get him up to speed. There was some tightness we were guarding against,” said Berhalter of Reyna’s status in his postgame press conference at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, adding he’ll be ready to face Group B leaders England on Friday. “In the phase of the game we were at, we went with Jordan, who we felt could give us speed and power.”Reyna acknowledged there was some tightness after the Yanks’ scrimmage vs. Qatari Stars League side Al-Gharafa SC, the club whose stadium is serving as the USMNT’s World Cup training facility, on Thursday. But as Reyna spoke to reporters in the mixed zone, he left little doubt that he considered himself ready to play against Wales, which captain Tyler Adams confirmed, simply terming his teammate “available” but unused.“No, I feel great. I feel really good. I feel ready to go,” said Reyna, who played in just four of 14 Concacaf qualifiers amid injuries. “I felt good, I felt ready to go but it was just his [Berhalter’s] decision.“He doesn’t have to tell me why he didn’t put me in or why he does. But I’m 100 percent. I’m good to go.”Morris explained the coach’s message to him as he replaced Weah, whose 36th-minute strike was the USMNT’s first World Cup goal in eight-plus years. “My role there was to try and come in, be dangerous and try to help score a goal, whether that’s an assist or a goal, and just try to do my best to help the team win the game,” said the MLS standout.“We needed to make sure that we got a result in that sense. We come out with a draw, but we were definitely pushing for a win.”

England awaits

Now a daunting encounter with England, the group’s favorites even before their impressive 6-2 thrashing of Iran, looms. A politically charged affair with the Islamic Republic will arrive quickly after on Tuesday. Every point will be precious for the second-youngest team at this World Cup.“To have that [Weah] goal, and then feel like you have the game and you’re going to win the game,” said Brenden Aaronson, “it’s a punch in the face, you know? That’s what it is. And it’s just tough, but we’ve got to move on and look at the positives and look at film on what we can do even better defensively.”

Guillermo Ochoa, Andrés Guardado Join Exclusive World Cup Five-Timers Club

Anne M. Peterson

Mon, November 21, 2022 at 2:57 PM

Guillermo Ochoa, Andrés Guardado Join Exclusive World Cup Five-Timers Club originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa says people still come up to him on the street to gush about his performance in the 2014 World Cup against Brazil.

Ochoa made six saves in the scoreless draw with Brazil, which was among the favorites as the tournament’s host. He even denied Brazilian star Neymar on a header and afterward called it the “game of a lifetime.”

“I feel really grateful to be recognized globally, that means you have done good work,” Ochoa said Tuesday.

A towering fixture on Mexico’s roster since 2005, the 6-foot goalkeeper recalled the match eight years ago as he prepared to play in his fifth World Cup. Mexico opens the tournament on Tuesday against Poland in Group C. Argentina and Saudi Arabia are also in the group.

“I have seen how he plays in the World Cups and he has always been a genius. I especially remember what happened in 2014 and, to be honest, he is an excellent goalkeeper, with a lot of experience, Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny said.

Ochoa is among four players in Qatar who will join an exclusive group with five World Cup appearances, including Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Mexico teammate Andrés Guardado.

Before Qatar, there were only four players in the five-time club: Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon, Germany’s Lothar Matthaus and Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal and Rafa Márquez.

Guardado and Ochoa hold the distinction of being the first teammates to play together in five straight World Cups.

Both made their debuts with the Mexican national team on Dec. 14, 2005, a 2-0 friendly victory over Hungary.

“I think that by being in my fifth World Cup I am lucky,” Ochoa said through an interpreter. “On top of that, being in a World Cup is never easy for a footballer. There are great players throughout history who don’t have the opportunity. For me, playing in five has been wonderful.”

Mexico has appeared in the last eight World Cups and has advanced to the knockout round in the last seven.

Mexico also has oldest player at the World Cup, fellow goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera, who is 40. Ochoa is 37, while Guardado is 36.

11/21/22   World Cup has started, US Men play Wales Mon 2 pm, Join American Outlaws @ Union Jacks today

US Men – First Game Mon vs Wales 2 pm FOX, Black Fri 2 pm vs England on Fox

I have full World Cup breakdowns and predictions from lots of sites below. Not sure I am ready to share my full picks just yet – however I do like Argentina vs Brazil in the final. US Hype Video  I also think the US will beat Wales 2-1, lose to or tie England and then beat Iran 1-0 on some great saves by Turner. We will advance to the 2nd round – what happens then – I will answer after I see us play Monday. Oh England wins today 3-0. Also over 15 pages of World Cup below. Keep reading!

Shane’s Starters for Monday

Pulisic, Ferriera, Reyna

Musah, Mckinney


Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Dest


First off bench Aaronson, Weah, Wright

Thrilled to see Tim Ream here and the partnership he has with Jedi Robinson on the left – makes him a lock for the entire tourney in my mind on the back line.  He’s captaining Fulham to a top 10 ranking in the best league in the world and playing the best soccer of his life –he starts and is defacto captain = especially of the D.  Turner starts and is your GK the entire tourney unless hurt.  I  like the MMA midfield – with Aaronson the only chance to break in and play serious time here.  Pulisic is up top on the left with I think a rejuvenated Reyna on the right and Ferria in the middle though I would prefer Sargent get a run up top to start.  Love these 26 stories on our 26 players going to Qatar its awesomeMore US hype videos

Full U.S. Men’s roster for 2022 World Cup:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8 appearances for U.S./0 goals), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach/GER; 3/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0)

FORWARDS (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1)

World Cup News

The World Cup commercials are out – which ones do you like best?  Nike  Addidas  check them all out here .  The world Cup Opening Ceremonies are Sunday at 10 am on FS1 – before the 1st game kicks off at France’s Ballon D Or Winner Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the World Cup who along with the missing Paul Pogba and #6 Kante – might mean trouble for the defending World Cup Champs.  Also missing the Cup with injury are Mane for Senegal and _____ ??   Funny that no beer will now be allowed at stadiums in Qatar – ridiculous that the World Cup is in this backward, incredibly oppressive country  – (Worse than Russia).

American Outlaws Watch Party Monday 2 pm Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple. https://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

Carmel FC GK Coach Noelle Rolfsen has 4 saves in shutout win for her Marian U Knights


Women’s Soccer | Sat, Nov. 19, 2022 at 9:30 PM


INDIANAPOLIS – The Marian women’s soccer team punched their ticket into the NAIA National Championships on Saturday night, winning the Opening Round Final over Campbellsville 1-0. The Knights improve to 19-0-2 with the victory, advancing to Alabama for the fourth consecutive season.Marian wasted no time getting the offense going as Naomi Walters took the first attempt 26 seconds into the game that would go wide left before Campbellsville fired one back in the 2nd minute. The Knights continued to put pressure on the Tigers’ defense as Erin Oleksak fired one wide in the 13th minute.Olekak’s efforts would pay off around seven minutes later when she broke through the Campbellsville defense, booting one in back netting to give Marian the 1-0 lead. The Knights didn’t stop their offensive threat as Maya Decker would take her shot, making the Campbellsville goalie make the save. The Tigers responded with four shots in the half with Noelle Rolfsen making the save on two of the shot attempts.The Knights would see another great look after Gretchen Mallin found Walters in the box on a corner kick that would see a header by Walters go just high to send Marian into halftime with the 1-0 lead over Campbellsville.The second half of play remained an even matchup with both teams taking five shots in the half. Marian took the first two shots of the half with Jacelyn Smith and Decker each taking attempts before the momentum seemed to switch to Campbellsville for around the next eight minutes of action. The Tigers made the Marian defense work in the second half as they continued to pose a threat with their offensive attack, but it was the Knights also making the Tigers’ defense work as Walters found herself right in front of the goal, leading to the Campbellsville goalie making a miraculous save.The Tigers fired off three shot attempts in the final seven minutes to try and tie thing up, but Marian was able to hold off the #2 seeded Campbellsville to earn the 1-0 victory.Campbellsville outshot Marian 11-10, but it was the Knights executing on their attempts with Oleksak having the lone goal of the match on two shots. Walters took four shot attempts, while Smith and Decker each took two. Rolfsen recorded the shutout, making four saves in the win.Marian now advances to the NAIA Women’s Soccer Championship final site in Orange Beach, Alabama.MUKnights.com:


Sun, Nov 20

10 am FS1                            World Cup Opening Ceremonies  

11 am FS1                            World Cup Starts Qatar vs Ecudor

12 noon Big10N                Indiana U vs St. Louis U.   NCAA’s

Mon, Nov 21

8 am FS1                              England vs Iran

11 am Fox                            Senegal vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox                     USA vs Wales 

Tues, Nov 22

5 am Fox Sport 1               Argentina (Messi) vs Saudi Arabia

11 am Fox                            Mexico vs Poland 

2 pm Fox                              France vs Austrailia

Wed, Nov 23

5 am Fox Sport 1               Morroco vs Croatia

7 am Fox Sport 1              Germany vs Japan

11 am Fox                            Spain vs Costa Rica 

2 pm Fox                              Belgium vs Canada

Thur, Nov 24  –                   Thanksgiving

5 am FS1                              Switzterland vs Cameroon

8 am FS1                              Uruguay vs Korea

11 am Fox                            Portugal (Renaldo) vs Ghana

2 pm Fox                              Brazil (Neymar) vs Serbia

Fri, Nov 25

5 am FS1                              Wales vs Iran

8 am FS1                              Qatar vs Senagal

11 am Fox                            Ecuador vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox                     USA vs England

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

US Men

 26 Stories See How our 26 Players Made it to Qatar

How Christian Pulisic became American soccer’s reticent and resilient trailblazer Yahoo – Henry Bushnell

How a controversial youth soccer overhaul put the USMNT on a path toward World Cup contention  Yahoo – Henry Bushnell

Ted Lasso wishes USMNT luck at World Cup by writing letters to players … on billboards  Adam Snavely

===================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ====================== 


Try out the Best BarBQ in Town right across the street (131st) from Northview Church & Badger Field on the corner of Hazelldell & 131st. RackZ BBQ

Save 20% on your order 

(mention the ole ballcoach) 

Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

=====================RackZ BAR BBQ ======Save 20% ======================

US Men

GatorShane – The Ole Ballcoach – Coach Shane   shanebestsoccer@gmail.com if you have any questions. 

After squaring off against continental rivals to qualify for a spot at the quadrennial competition, 31 teams join Qatar, our problematic hosts, for the month-long tournament in hopes of being crowned world champs.

During the preliminary, round-robin stage of the World Cup, the 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four (A through H). Each will play three round-robin matches against their group foes.

  • At the end of the group stage, the top two teams based on points (three points for a win, one for a draw, zilch for a loss) advance to the round of 16. If teams are tied on points, there’s a handy list of tiebreakers that will decide who breaks through.

Each knockout-round match is a winner-take-all affair. The round-of-16 teams will duke it out for a ticket to the quarter-finals before hopefully earning spots in the semis and the December 18th final.

  • If teams can’t get the job done in 90 minutes, they’ll play a 30-minute extra time period. If they’re still tied? A nailbed-ruining penalty shootout beckons.

🇶🇦🇪🇨🇸🇳🇳🇱 Group A

The team of Netherlands line up during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 4 match between Netherlands and Belgium at Johan Cruijff ArenAon


The favorite: After failing to qualify for the 2018 edition and making an earlier-than-expected exit from the Euro 2020, a resurgent world No. 8 Netherlands team is eyeing the group’s top spot. Veteran head coach Louis van Gaal came out of retirement for the team’s rebound, but the Dutch will need attackers Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay to stay healthy for a deep run.

  • Don’t sleep on No. 18 Senegal, though. Momentum is building after the (very fun) team won February’s Africa Cup of Nations; however, their chances at becoming Africa’s first World Cup semifinalist took a hit when star Sadio Mané was ruled out with an injury on Thursday.

The dark horse: No. 44 Ecuador qualified for the World Cup thanks to a squad rejuvenation, arriving in Qatar with one of the youngest rosters in the tourney. And though the team will be without a few key players because of injuries, they still have a group of attackers eager to make this trip a memorable one.

  • The biggest question mark in Group A? Hosts No. 50 Qatar, which will make their World Cup debut this year. They held a uniquely long training camp but posted inconsistent results in their final pre-tournament friendlies.

The players to watch: Defender Virgil Van Dijk is a beacon of stability for the Netherlands, while attacker Boulaye Dia will be tasked with filling in for Senegal in Mané’s absence. Midfielder Moisés Caicedo will be crucial for Ecuador’s success, while Qatar attacker Akram Afif is peaking at just the right time.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿🇮🇷🇺🇸🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 Group B

Harry Kane celebrates scoring England's third goal during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 3 match between England and Germany


The favorite: No. 5 England has spent the last few years making its case as a contender, reaching the 2018 World Cup semis and the 2020 Euro final. Several important players from those teams made the trip to Qatar, but the aim for a young yet experienced English team is to quit being the bridesmaid and to bring the country’s second World Cup title home.

  • No. 16 U.S. is feeling ambitious, too. The Ted Lasso–backed team returns to the World Cup for the first time since 2014 with the tourney’s second-youngest squad and talent at each position.

The dark horse: No. 20 Iran enters its third consecutive World Cup as Asia’s highest-ranked team and has a reputation of showing impressive defensive mettle while struggling to score goals. Team Melli is hoping to boost themselvesinto their first-ever knockout berth, despite the risk that Iranian officials will use it to detract attention from the country’s continuing human rights crisis.

  • No. 19 Wales qualified for its first World Cup since 1958 with a world-renowned talisman — Gareth Bale. The team’s all-time goals leader has built a habit of bale-ing the team out of trouble, while Ben Davies will hold down the fort on defense.

The players to watch: England’s Harry Kane set an English record with 13 international goals in 2021, and fellow forward Phil Foden is in the best form of his career. Christian Pulisic will be key to solving the U.S.’ attacking issues while his teammate, 19-year-old midfielder Yunus Musah, is poised for a breakout tourney.

  • Like Wales relies on Bale, Iran will count on forward Sardar Azmoun.

🇦🇷🇸🇦🇲🇽🇵🇱 Group C

Argentina forward Lionel Messi (10) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the international friendly soccer game between Argentina and Jamaica


The favorite: You just don’t bet against Lionel Messi, who’s back at the World Cup with perhaps his best supporting squad yet. The reigning South American champs, No. 3 Argentina, are one of the favorites to win the whole thing, boasting a mix of veterans and younger players hungry to win the country’s third World Cup.

  • No. 13 Mexico may put up a fight for Group C’s top spot if talented attackers like Hirving “Chucky” Lozano and Alexis Vega are firing on all cylinders. After a lengthy string of poor results, though, expectations aren’t that high.

The dark horse: No. 26 Poland’s hopes of earning its first knockout berth since 1986 rest almost entirely on star striker Robert Lewandowski. He scored nine goals during World Cup qualifying and has solid attacking support from forward Karol Świderski.

  • Entering the World Cup as the second-lowest-ranked team competing, No. 51 Saudi Arabia’s weak offense will need to step up for them to have a chance.

The players to watch: While Messi dazzles, center back Cristian Romero will lead Argentina’s defensive strategy and spur their offensive approach (as long as he stays fit). Mexico’s longtime goalkeeper, Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa, is a must-know, and the same goes for Saudi midfielder Salem al-Dawsari, nicknamed “The Tornado.”

🇫🇷🇦🇺🇩🇰🇹🇳 Group D

Kylian Mbappe of France during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 1 match between France and Austria at Stade de France


The favorite: Defending champions No. 4 France will aim to sideline internal squabbles so they can lift back-to-back World Cups, boasting a stacked squad. Forward Kylian Mbappé is ready to succeed Messi as soccer’s biggest star, while midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni is an ideal candidate to maintain balance in the absence of injured N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba.

  • Euro 2020 semifinalists No. 10 Denmark can also do some damage. Gifted midfielder Christian Eriksen is in fine form after successfully recovering from a cardiac arrest during the continental championship last year. Amazing.

The dark horse: No. 30 Tunisia is eyeing its first-ever knockout-stage spot after steadily improving over the last few years thanks to new recruits like midfielder Aïssa Laïdouni. The team is also feeling hype after impressive wins over Japan and Chile in June.

  • A few short months after the dancing goalkeeper helped No. 38 Australia clinch a spot in Qatar, the Socceroos come to the World Cup without some key players who fell to injury. Midfielder Ajdin Hrustic, though, will be around to wreak havoc.

The players to watch: Denmark can count on Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Thomas Delaney to find balance in midfield. Tunisia’s goalscoring hopes lie with Youssef Msakni, while midfielder Jackson Irvine will provide stability for the Aussies.

2022 World Cup guide: Star players, must-see games, betting and more

Nov 17, 202 Adam Snavel

The biggest sporting event in the world, the FIFA World Cup, is upon us, with play set to kick off in Qatar on Nov. 20 when the host nation faces Ecuador at 11 a.m. ET. And in order to get you ready for the biggest competition in the world, we’ve put together a primer for the fan. From tournament favorites and popular narratives to sleeper picks and some of the more obscure storylines to follow, there’s something here for everyone.

Why a winter World Cup?

First things first: yes, you are correct if you feel like this is the wrong time of year for a World Cup. The tournament is usually a June-July event, but it’s being hosted by Qatar this year, which has “fry an egg on the road” weather in the summertime. Originally, Qatar’s bid promised that they could completely air-conditioned stadiums and create artificial flying clouds that would shade entire matches. Seriously. The mockups looked like giant anime war aircraft.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

All of those promises did not come to fruition in a way that would negate an average summer temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and so the World Cup is taking place in November and December. Even then, the stadiums are still going to need air conditioning for temperatures that will likely reach into the 80s. The timing of the tournament also means most major soccer leagues around the world are pausing for a month in the middle of their seasons.

Is Qatar ready to host the World Cup?

Mark Ogden reports from outside the Lusail Stadium, which will host the World Cup final.


Put your coffee or tea on. During the group stage, which goes from Nov. 20 to Dec. 2, the games are played at 5 a.m., 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. ET. USMNT fans, the stars and stripes play all of their group-stage matches at 2 p.m. ET, and with a few exceptions, such as Argentina vs. Saudi Arabia on Nov. 22, most of the 5 a.m. games fail to get the pulse really racing, if you need some extra sleep and want to binge the feisty games later on in the day.

Games in the round of 16, quarterfinals and semifinals will take place at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. ET, and the final will start at 10 a.m. on Dec. 18.

Keep your eyes on these players

This World Cup seems like it will finally be the last hurrah for several players who have defined and dominated the game for the past decade and beyond. At the same time, plenty of players are waiting to step into the voids they’ll inevitably leave, and there’s no better place to do that than the World Cup.

The aging stars: The two most obvious players to mention here are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. They’re both at the World Cup, but their chances at hoisting a final trophy don’t seem equal.

While Ronaldo has languished on the bench at Manchester United and Portugal had to sneak into the World Cup through the playoffs, Argentina is coming off of Messi’s first ever major international trophy at last year’s Copa America. Argentina are unbeaten in 35 matches and also have the emotional boost of Messi saying that this is his last World Cup, while Ronaldo … well, it’s Ronaldo. He’s probably got some cyborg strength and conditioning coach, and we wouldn’t bet against seeing him in 2026 when the World Cup comes to the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Portugal also have a much tougher group than Argentina, which doesn’t bode well for Ronaldo’s hopes of winning his first World Cup.

Outside of the big two, there are plenty more icons likely taking their final World Cup bows. Luka Modric will undoubtedly feature for Croatia at 37 years old. Brazil is bringing along Dani Alves (39) and Thiago Silva (38). Uruguay will lean into their pair of 35-year-olds in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.

Laurens likes Argentina & Messi’s chances of World Cup glory

Gab & Juls preview Group C at the 2022 World Cup, with Argentina expected to cruise into the knockout rounds.

The young guns: A new generation of talent is ready to make their mark. There’s a cavalcade of young Englishmen who would love to get the country its first World Cup since 1966, such as Jude BellinghamPhil FodenDeclan Rice, and Bukayo Saka. Bellingham will be of most interest, as his exploits for Borussia Dortmund have many Premier League fans putting him on their club’s wishlist for the January transfer window.

Spain also have a pair of young stars in Pedri and Gavi who’ll be making their way from Barcelona to the World Cup. Both teenagers are skilled on the ball, as befits the traditions of their club. If they see the field in Qatar, they’ll undoubtedly produce highlights.

There’s also the interesting case of Jamal MusialaBayern Munich‘s German winger by way of England. Musiala, born in Germany but raised since age 7 in England, finally decided to represent Germany at the senior level last year, becoming an integral part of manager Hansi Flick’s set-up.

One bummer for this World Cup: the world’s most electric young player, Erling Haaland, won’t be making an appearance after Norway failed to qualify.

A point to prove: This group is interesting because it includes several players at very different stages of their careers. Kylian Mbappe has been the “next big thing” for almost his entire life, and announced himself to the world at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where France won. But he has yet to dominate the game like a Messi or Ronaldo, and some have even questioned his status amongst the world’s best players in light of him staying in France with PSG, where the competition isn’t as strong as it is in LaLiga and the Premier League, for example.

Yes, Mbappe’s clearly good. But he has stayed in a cushy role with PSG, who routinely outshine all domestic competitors. After the Real Madrid transfer debacle and subsequent tendencies to look lackadaisical and dissatisfied in Ligue 1, will Mbappe reestablish himself as the heir apparent to Messi in this World Cup?

Meanwhile, Christian Pulisic is just trying to prove that he deserves more respect than he seems to get at Chelsea. His playing time with his club has been infrequent at best, he has been prone to long cold streaks and he has struggled with injuries ever since he joined the club. Pulisic has questions to answer in this World Cup if the USMNT want to make it out of the group stage.

Southgate: Pulisic isn’t where he wants to be yet

England manager Gareth Southgate gives his thoughts on Christian Pulisic as a player ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.

Vinicius Junior has proven himself worthy of the £38 million fee Real Madrid spent to bring him several years ago, becoming a staple member of their first team and one of LaLiga’s feared wingers. Now, it’s time for him to leave his stamp for Brazil as well. For the last two World Cups, Brazil have gone as Neymar has gone, and it’s great news for them that he has been in vintage form for PSG lately. The standard quality of the team rarely wavers from year to year, but it’s often been up to Neymar to give Brazil the special sauce they need to get over the hump.

Obviously, that hasn’t been enough to bring the most successful country in history back to World Cup glory (they won their fifth World Cup title in 2002, making the 20-year title drought one of the country’s longest), and it’s time for Brazil to get themselves a new talisman attacker. Enter Vinicius Junior, or Vini for short.

Breakout candidates and comeback stories: Qatar will also be an excellent chance to put faces to names you may have heard but haven’t seen play, and also spot new talent. 23-year-old Rafael Leao is a known quantity to fans of Portugal and Serie A, but the AC Milan man has a tendency to pull off the stupendous that could considerably raise his profile in Qatar.

Even less well-known is Australian wunderkind Garang Kuol, an 18-year-old who has already signed an agreement to join Newcastle in 2023. Kuol is undeniably green, but he’s a dynamic attacker who makes things happen when he gets on the ball.

Then there are players whose mere presence at the World Cup is a distillation of joy and relief. Christian Eriksen will most likely feature for Denmark, a little more than a year after suffering cardiac arrest at Euro 2020. He has since staged a remarkable comeback to become a vital part of Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United squad. If he features in the World Cup, it’ll be a welcome sight to fans around the world.

A World Cup of firsts

This is the first World Cup in the Middle East, and the first World Cup staged in the winter. But that doesn’t mean coats and scarves.

Temperatures in Qatar are still going to be toasty during the day, which means 2022 will be the first air-conditioned World Cup. Outdoor air conditioning in the desert probably sounds like a monstrous task with massive energy consumption, but Qatar is trying to use the sun to their advantage. These air-conditioned stadiums will run off of solar power. It’s practical, and it’s also part of FIFA’s attempt to make this tournament the greenest World Cup to date. Both FIFA and Qatar have pledged to make this World Cup carbon-neutral. However, carbon analysts and climate advocates have cast doubt on Qatar’s claims and say that major sources of emissions are being ignored in their calculations.

Naturally, with air conditioning and carbon-neutral promises, Qatar 2022 will be the most expensive World Cup ever staged. It’s estimated that Qatar will end up spending well over $200 billion on stadiums, hotels and other vital infrastructure. By comparison, Russia spent about $14 billion to stage the 2018 World Cup.

Must-watch games

While so much of the drama of the World Cup happens in the knockout stage, the group stage will have plenty of juicy games that fans and neutrals alike can enjoy.

Qatar vs. Ecuador (Nov. 20): It’s the first match of the tournament, and many people’s first time watching Qatar play. While they’re not expected to go particularly far in this tournament, as the 50th best team in the world according to FIFA’s rankings, their first match against Ecuador (FIFA ranking: 44) will be an excellent barometer to gauge their strengths and weaknesses.

Senegal vs. Netherlands (Nov. 21): Senegal finally broke through on the international stage last year, winning their first Africa Cup of Nations. Now, Aliou Cisse’s men will look to prove they’re one of the best teams in the world against the Netherlands to start their tournament.

Senegal are routinely one of the world’s most entertaining squads to watch, and this match between Group A’s heavyweights looks like it will be a crowd-pleaser, but the Lions of Teranga will also hope against all hopes that their best player, Sadio Mane, will have recovered from injury in time for it. The game also carries the added weight of being the opener for Louis van Gaal’s third and likely final World Cup as manager for the Dutch, especially as he has spent the year battling health issues while guiding the Netherlands to a 15-game unbeaten run.


Brazil vs. Serbia (Nov. 24): Brazil enter the World Cup as favorites to win it all, and they’re bringing nine forwards with them. Nine. It seems to us like they plan on scoring a lot of goals, and they’ll need to given how light they are in defense. They kick off their tournament against Serbia (and their forward tandem of Luka Jovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic).

England vs. United States (Nov. 25): Celebrate Black Friday with some good old fashioned imperialist dread. Group B is a tricky one for everyone involved, with Iran and Wales rounding out the group. And while it won’t be do-or-die for either of these teams as the second match, the U.S. have a winning record against England in FIFA competitions. The Three Lions will look for revenge after finishing second in their group behind the Americans in 2010.

Argentina vs. Mexico (Nov. 26): On one side, Messi is hoping to win his first World Cup. On the other is Mexico, a team that haven’t managed to crack through to the quarterfinal stage since they were the hosts in 1986. Former Argentina manager and current Mexico manager Tata Martino gives this match an interesting wrinkle, too.

Why should I watch if the U.S. go out?

Let us break it to you, friend: the U.S. almost certainly will go out. Only one team of the 32 gets to win, and the U.S. are not considered a favorite. They failed to qualify for 2018 and this squad is high on youthful energy but low on experiences, with almost every player competing in their first World Cup. No worries, however: there’s plenty of tension and drama elsewhere.

Brazil enter the World Cup as betting favorites to win the whole thing, which would be massive for the country. While they are the most decorated country in all of international soccer, it’s been 20 years since their last World Cup triumph. After the infamous loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup and being bested by Belgium in 2018, Brazil are desperate for another triumph.

Defending champions France are also worth watching if for no other reason than you never know what you’re going to get. They’re a strong squad, which could net them consecutive titles. They’d be the first team to win back-to-back men’s World Cups since Brazil in 1962. Then again, France have a habit of imploding when it comes to World Cups (remember the player revolt in South Africa in 2010?). Never far from crisis or glory, France are a must-watch.

And did we mention Messi? Because man, does that guy deserve a break in the international game. Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986, but have often faltered at the last possible moments with Messi in the team. After finally winning a Copa America last year, can he end his World Cup career at an all-time high and secure GOAT status over Ronaldo?

Or course, you can always root for some underdogs. Only eight teams have ever won the men’s World Cup to begin with, leaving a decent chance that the tournament might see a first-time winner.

Marcotti raises doubts over France’s World Cup prospects

Gab Marcotti says he has no idea what to expect from defending champions France at the 2022 World Cup.

Who are you betting on?

If you’re looking to make the games even more interesting, you can always take a look at some of the most popular betting lines from Caesars Sportsbook and DraftKings heading into the tournament. (All odds are from Caesars Sportsbook unless noted otherwise.)

Golden Boot

  • Harry Kane +800: He may do it just by virtue of England going far in the tournament, but the team has played far too conservatively lately for me to like betting on Kane here.
  • Kylian Mbappe +900: It’s difficult not to bet on Mbappe, all things considered. If there is one reason that I wouldn’t, however, it’s because I’m betting on his teammate, the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner.
  • Karim Benzema +1100: Benzema scores oodles of goals, and he scores them in the biggest moments. This line is probably our favorite right now.
  • Neymar +1200: The upside of betting on Neymar for the Golden Boot is that Brazil will likely be one of the highest-scoring teams in the tournament. The downside is that those goals will likely come from many different sources.
  • Lionel Messi +1200: Messi is a decent shout here, as he’ll likely be in charge of penalties and free kicks for Argentina, but he often turns into a facilitator and orchestrator first for Argentina with the attention that he draws from defenders.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo +1400: Ronaldo also draws lots of attention from defenders, but there’s the simple fact that he hasn’t really looked like Ronaldo in a very long time.

Why Brazil are World Cup favorites

Alejandro Moreno explains why Brazil are the clear-cut favorites to win the World Cup in Qatar.

To win World Cup

  • Brazil +375: If you’re going to throw your money at a country, this Brazil team are as good as any. And if you want to bet on a “favorite,” this seems like the bet to make.
  • France +650: France are another favorite, but maybe not enough of a favorite for odds this low on them. Betting on a winner of the World Cup being a crapshoot anyway, you’re probably looking for smaller bets with better odds.
  • England +1000: England have a great team and nearly won the 2020 Euro, but they’ll likely have to defeat talented squads right out of the group stage if they advance.
  • Argentina +500: I don’t think Argentina will win the World Cup. But they’ve got Messi. So who’s to say?
  • Spain +850: This actually feels like a very good line for Spain, who I think should be favored a bit more than their current betting line suggests.
  • Germany +1000: This line reflects Germany’s current place amongst European squads. They’re good, but they’ve lost their way a bit in the last four years.
  • Belgium +1600: Tempting, especially given this may well be Belgium’s last hurrah for their golden generation. There are far worse teams you could throw money at here.
  • Netherlands +1400: It’s the same odds as Belgium, but if things work out close to the way they look like they will on paper, Netherlands will have a much tougher draw to worry about.
  • Portugal +1400: I know there are Portugal truthers out there, but I think they’re more likely to exit in the group stage than they are to win the World Cup.

And a few more fun ones

  • Brazil under 9.5 goals +120 (DraftKings): This one goes out to all the haters. Do you think Brazil will crumble and not be nearly as prolific in goals as everyone is making them out to be? +120 on the under for the tournament isn’t bad.
  • First time winner +175 (DraftKings): Hey, only seven teams playing in this tournament have won the World Cup before. Most of those teams constitute the favorites, sure, but this bet might give you some extra inventive on rooting for the underdog.
  • A hat trick scored in the final +2500 (DraftKings): We know this looks like a lucky shot, because it is one. But Geoff Hurst did pull this off for England in 1966, so it’s not impossible. And it’s great odds for a fun long shot bet.

Closing in on milestones and records

  • Messi looks to overtake Maradona: Diego Maradona holds the record for most individual appearances in World Cup matches at 21. Messi is hot on his tail at 19, and will almost surely overtake him this World Cup.
  • Five World Cups, Part 1: Four men’s players in history have scored at four different World Cups: Pele, Miroslav Klose, Uwe Seeler and Cristiano Ronaldo. If Ronaldo scores in Qatar, he’ll be the only man ever to score in five.
  • Five World Cups, Part 2: The record for most World Cups won by a single country is five, which only Brazil has managed to accomplish. On the other hand, Germany could equalize Brazil’s record of five if they win in Qatar.
  • The Long Shot: The record for most goals in a World Cup was set by France’s Just Fontaine in 1958, recording an incredible 13 goals. The last time any player even got to double digits was Gerd Muller in 1970 with 10. This record doesn’t seem to be in particular danger of falling.

Sleeper teams

Senegal: We’ve already sung their praises in this guide, but Senegal are a great team that will punish you if you don’t give them the respect they’ve earned. They know their system back-to-front and are led by longtime coach and former player Aliou Cisse.

They just won AFCON, then had to qualify for the World Cup through one of Africa’s most difficult paths to the tournament, drawn in the final round with Mohamed Salah and Egypt. Their only major question mark is Sadio Mane’s health, and whether the Bayern Munich attacker will be able to play in the tournament or not.

Canada: Canada haven’t been to the World Cup since 1986, but they’ve emerged from CONCACAF as the team to beat, with a crop of talent featuring some of the best young players in the world in Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David.

Iran: Much attention has been given to the matchups in Group B between England, the United States and Wales. But Iran has a legitimate shot at winning the group. Their friendly results from September indicate they’re certainly up for it, playing Senegal to a 1-1 draw and beating Uruguay 1-0. They’re a tough team to play against at all times, and that’s the type of team that can cause upsets at a World Cup.

Denmark: The Danes are part of the World Cup furniture at this point, but the way they went through the Euros last year was something to behold, even while dealing with the traumatic events surrounding Eriksen. Eriksen is back and leads a solid midfield consisting of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Thomas Delaney. They’re a team that can pour on the attacking verve when they need to, and they have one of the easiest groups in the entire competition. Look out for them in the knockout rounds.

How to watch the 2022 World Cup

FOX holds the rights to the 2022 World Cup, and matches will be spread across FOX and FS1 for English-language viewers in the United States. Telemundo will carry Spanish-language coverage of games.

Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and others to bring you the latest highlights and debate the biggest storylines. For those looking to stream games, a wide variety of options will be open to you. You should be able to catch games on Fubo, Peacock TV, YouTube TV, Sling TV, and Vidgo.The World Cup final will take place on December 18th starting at 10 a.m. ET, and will be broadcast on FOX’s main network channel.

Tune into ESPN FC

During the tournament, you can keep up with all of ESPN FC’s analysis, reaction and news via YouTubeTwitter and Instagram. We’ll also have the Gab & Juls podcast where Gabriele Marcotti and Julien Laurens dive into the latest news and gossip, analyze matches with special guests, and give their unique perspective.

World Cup predictions: Winner, Golden Boot – and which big team will disappoint?

Daniel TaylorCarl Anka and more ov 18, 2022

Qatar 2022 is the most controversial World Cup ever staged, but it might also be the most unpredictable.

European teams have been crowned champions at every tournament since 2002, with the trophies shared among Italy, Spain, Germany and France, but expectations are swelling in Argentina and Brazil that the time has come again for one of the two South American powerhouses.



There are plenty more sub-plots to occupy us: can Harry Kane become the first player to win two Golden Boots? Has Denmark replaced Turkey as everyone’s favourite dark horse? And which youngster will make the stage his own?

Our experts offer their verdicts on the big issues that will dominate the football agenda over the next six weeks.

Daniel Taylor, senior writer and a four-time Football Journalist of the Year

Argentina are the romantic choice’

Winner: Listen, before we go any further, can I just point out that when I was asked this question in 2014 I picked Spain — the holders, the winners of Euro 2012, not exactly a terrible team, huh? — to do it. They went out at the group stage and Alastair Campbell, that bastion of football knowledge, wrote a blog on the strength of it to point out how stupid football journalists could be. So I’m tempted to pick Spain again, purely to upset him again. Argentina would be my choice, though, simply as I’m a bit of a football romantic and, oh, I’d love Lionel Messi to do it.

The team who will surprise us… Without wishing to be pedantic, it wouldn’t really be a surprise if I could predict it now. I do have a soft spot for Denmark, though, and they surprised a lot of people at Euro 2020. True story: my first-ever trip to the bookmakers, with nothing better to spend my pocket money on, involved a £1 bet on Denmark at 100-1 to win the 1992 European Championships. Now that was a proper surprise.

The team who will disappoint us… It has already happened. The World Cup feels worse already without Italy. I love the Azzurri, their shirts, their wild-eyed defending, their national anthem, their style. Plus I will always have a soft spot for Roberto Mancini because of his days at Manchester City when he would take out the football writers every Christmas, explain the art of making good gnocchi and then leave his credit card behind the bar. A rule really ought to be passed that Italy get mandatory entry to future World Cups.

Breakthrough young player: Can I say Phil Foden? I mean, everyone who watches the Premier League knows all about him. But his international career hasn’t really ignited yet. Maybe this will be the competition when he plays for England like he does Manchester City.Golden Boot winner: Harry Kane of England, with five goals (three penalties).

Golden Ball winner: Remember when FIFA gave Messi this award in 2014? I do and, let’s be honest, there were a lot more worthy winners. If Argentina get far into the competition, I would expect it will be the same again, though. Messi, on form, could light up this tournament. Though we have said that in a few World Cups.

The game I cannot wait to watch… The final, of course. It’s genuinely an occasion like no other. I can still vividly remember getting the ticket in my hand for the Maracana, 2014, and the Luzhniki, 2018, and just thinking: bloody hell, this is what it’s all about. For Brazil, in particular, I’ve never got to a game earlier, just to take it all in. Yes, I know that’s a bit schmaltzy and this tournament is going to be… well, different in all sorts of ways. But the final is still the biggest occasion in football.

Carl Anka, Manchester United reporter and author

‘Don’t let me down, Netherlands…’

Winner: Three attempts through various ‘World Cup Predictor’ apps/websites saw me come up with a Brazil triumph. I have a working theory that the first two World Cups you remember watching have an effect on which nations you think will be good at World Cups for the rest of your life. I would be pleased if there were both Germany vs Brazil and a Brazil vs France matches in the coming weeks.

The team who will surprise us: Hello! It is me! One of the fools who predicted Turkey to be a dark horse at Euro 2020! I will now tell you that the Netherlands are unbeaten in their 15 games under Louis van Gaal! I will tell you they have a fun squad with multiple centre-back options! I will ignore the amount of space Denzel Dumfries vacates when he runs forward from right wing-back to say they are likely to play Argentina in the quarter-finals! I will also handwave how important a 32-year-old Daley Blind is to their ball progression!

The team who will disappoint us: England cannot disappoint me as I’ve spent the last year mentally preparing myself for Southgate’s sad demise. France cannot disappoint me as implosions are part of their footballing history. Belgium cannot disappoint me as they’ve never had the full-backs to take their ‘golden generation’ to the next level. I think this World Cup will catch Croatia between cycles; too early for the newer generation that will likely peak at Euro 2024. They’ll start brightly, mind you.

Breakthrough young player: I really like Cody Gakpo. The 23-year-old Dutch winger is fast approaching ‘Too Good For The Eredivisie’ status at PSV and bigger clubs around Europe are sniffing. Gakpo will play as the No 10 for the Netherlands in this tournament. If he has a good one, he’ll probably start getting quoted with silly numbers in the transfer market.

Golden Boot winner: The Golden Boot is won by the forward who takes penalties for his country. Nearly all the goals scored by said player will come in the group stages. Memphis Depay! Come on down! (I also predicted this for Euro 2020.)

Golden Ball winner: The last two World Cup Golden Balls have been won by the best player on the losing finalist. I’m predicting Vinicius Junior to buck that trend.

The game I cannot wait to watch: No group-stage game matters more to me than Ghana vs Uruguay. Ghana have scratched and clawed (and maybe even dived to get a penalty) to get to this World Cup and they will go all out in order to get some payback for 2010 here. I really, really, really want to see Argentina vs Netherlands in a quarter-final match, too.

World Cup 2022 team guides: Everything that you need to know

Amy Lawrence, Arsenal and France expert

‘It’s time for Brazil to rise again’

Winner: Brazil. So here’s the thing about predictions. Every World Cup Brazil are a potential winner, yet every World Cup since they last conquered in 2002 thanks to the beautiful, goofy-smile-triangle-haircut tale of redemption tale written by O Fenomeno Ronaldo, they have fallen flat. Three quarter-final exits and a semi-final that felt even worse (1-7). Anyway, with these forwards and more, it’s time to rise again.


The team who will surprise us: Uruguay. It is a really nasty group, one of those where you can make a case for any team beating any other. But if Uruguay emerge safely, they will have the confidence to go with their quality. In front of an ageing but street-smart defence is the quality of the wondrous Federico Valverde helped by Rodrigo Bentancur, the creativity of Giorgian de Arrascaeta and the presence of Darwin Nunez. A dark horse with bite, if you pardon the expression.

The team who will disappoint us: Oh, France. Merde. What appalling luck to lose so many important players. It has really decimated what would have been the central block of the team at the back and in midfield. The loss of N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Presnel Kimpembe is worrisome. The attacking class led by Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema may not be enough to compensate.

Breakthrough young player: Pedri, whose experience at the age of 19 dwarfs that of your average teenager, is ready to ease onto the World Cup stage with aplomb. As an outsider, if Borussia Dortmund’s 17-year-old striker Youssoufa Moukoko gets some minutes for Germany he could cause a stir.

Golden boot winner: Lautaro Martinez. Having backed Brazil, as evidence of the dilemma between the two South American heavyweights, there’s a good case for Argentina to flourish at this World Cup. If so, in-form Martinez has the capacity to plunder goals, and plenty of them.

Golden ball winner: Messi. Oh please. All the hopeless football romantics out there surely want him to win this, his last World Cup (and if he does that, inevitably this individual honour will follow). Having said that, I felt the same about Zinedine Zidane in 2006 and look where that ended up…

The game I cannot wait to watch: Sorry group stage, but coming to terms with the conflicting feelings about this World Cup as a whole will take some getting used to. By the time it gets to the knockouts, I guess it will feel different.

James Horncastle, Italy expert (but they didn’t qualify so now he’s leaning into his extensive South America knowledge)

‘Luis Enrique needs to prove he’s the best’

Winner: Form suggests Argentina. They’re on the longest unbeaten run in international football and destroyed Italy in the Finalissima, and it’s Messi’s last World Cup. My only doubt is a 20-year trend in this competition. The World Cup keeps getting passed around Europe. Spain coach Luis Enrique has declared himself the best-ever national team manager. I want to see him prove it, especially now he’s going to brief us regularly on Twitch during the tournament.

The team who will surprise us… I probably need to stop imagining Graham Potter left Brighton to take the Ecuador job rather than the Chelsea one. Why I can’t is the career trajectory: Ostersunds, Swansea, Brighton, Ecuador. It feels so right — so early 20th century. But I digress.

More or less everyone here is going to say Denmark, a team England needed extra time to beat in a European Championship semi-final played at home. So I’m sticking with Ecuador even without Potter. They held Brazil and Argentina to draws in Quito and Guayaquil and though Doha probably isn’t at the same altitude, I don’t care. It’s Moises Caicedo. It’s Pervis Estupinan. They have a guy called Djorkaeff por el amor di dios and for that reason, they get my vote. SOMOS ECUADOR.

The team who will disappoint us… No one has retained the World Cup since Brazil in 1962 and the holders always go out in the group stage so au revoir, Les Bleus. In all seriousness, I suspect France will buck this trend regardless of the absences of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. They beat Spain in the last Nations League final, for goodness sake, and we all know the Nations League was launched as a predictor of World Cup winners. Inevitably there’ll also come a point in the tournament when we ask ourselves: how can a team with as much talent as Portugal be so…

Breakthrough young player: Benfica’s teenage centre-back Antonio Silva has been outstanding this season and Pepe’s age and recent injury problems give him a chance of playing. But no one talks about defenders. His compatriot Rafael Leao is the reigning Serie A MVP and, on his day, goes past players with the same ease as Kylian Mbappe. It’s between him and Cody Gakpo who is bound to send Premier League Twitter into meltdown with a hat-trick against Qatar.

Golden Boot winner: He can be streaky but Lautaro Martinez goes to Qatar in excellent form. He was Argentina’s top scorer in qualifying and brings the best out of whoever he’s partnered with up front. So it’ll be Lauti or Messi.

Lautaro Martinez will be setting his sights on the Golden Boot (Photo: Giuseppe Cottini/Getty Images)

Golden Ball winner Providing Argentina don’t go out to Denmark or France in the first knockout stage, it’ll be Messi.

The game I cannot wait to watch… Any game involving Iran’s Mehdi Taremi. He’s got a quality I love in a striker: the ability to wind defenders and commentators up. A dive here, a cheeky penalty there, the controversy often gets in the way of what talented player he is. Taremi scored five goals in the Champions League group stage and I suspect he’s going to upset England or the US.

Other than that, it’s going to be the moment Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi’s World Cup legacies are decided. One has won the Euros. The other has won the Copa America. This is their last World Cup. Messi goes into it with the better shot. If he wins it, it’s another differentiator (as if one were necessary). Messi will then return to PSG and probably take Ronaldo’s record as the all-time top scorer in the Champions League if not this season then next.

Liam Tharme, tactics and data expert

‘Argentina have quality everywhere’

Winner: This is a tough split between Brazil and Argentina but I’m going for the latter. They are 35 games unbeaten because of Lionel Scaloni’s tactical flexibility and have quality across the pitch, even without factoring in the sheer brilliance of Lionel Messi. Argentina controlled European champions Italy for 90 minutes in the Finalissima but more importantly, got the better of Brazil in their recent meetings, most notably last summer’s Copa America final.

The team who will surprise us: Serbia! They didn’t qualify for the Euros last year so will naturally be overlooked. But they went unbeaten in qualifying, beating Portugal in Lisbon to secure top spot and then won their Nations League group too. Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic offer different options to break down defences and Filip Kostic provides a crossing threat from the left.

The team who will disappoint us: Belgium. Perhaps this just feels like a repeat of previous tournaments when they had high expectations but it does not feel like the squad has evolved sufficiently and Roberto Martinez is not the most tactically flexible.

Breakthrough young player: Scoping wider than Europe, Lee Kang-in (provided Paulo Bento plays him). Now 21, he shone at the under-20 World Cup in 2019, winning the Golden Ball. He is a diminutive, creative No 10 who could find space in a phone box. Lee brings a goal threat from distance and can split a defence with a through ball, as well as offering a set-piece threat.

Could this be Lee Kang-in’s breakthrough tournament? (Photo: Cristian Trujillo/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Golden Boot winner: Harry Kane. He did it four years ago and is in even better form and shape now. Say what you like about Gareth Southgate’s tactics but they generate crossing and cutback situations for Kane to score one-touch finishes. His 10 major tournament goals are tied with Gary Lineker as England’s best, but score three in Qatar and he becomes England’s all time top scorer across all competitions, usurping Wayne Rooney.

Golden Ball winner: Predicting Argentina to make the final, I would be heavily surprised if Messi does not play a key role in their success. His to lose.

The game I cannot wait to watch: As an England fan, I’m excited about all three group games from a tactical perspective, but narrative-wise Ghana facing Uruguay for the first time since 2010 feels like it has all the ingredients to be an all-timer.

Dominic Fifield, senior writer who covered England across five tournaments

‘Beware Denmark’

Winner: It is tempting to pinpoint Qatar as this ‘golden generation’ of Belgian players’ last last chance but, instead, I will be delivering the kiss of death to Brazil’s hopes of securing a first World Cup in 20 years. The tournament does not appear to have one outstanding favourite but, rather, plenty of fine contenders. Yet the attacking resources available to Tite do feel exceptional. Whether he can mould them into a coherent unit, and overcome Argentina at some stage en route, remains to be seen, but they can aspire to end two decades of European dominance at this level.

The team who will surprise us… Denmark. That may not constitute much of a surprise given they reached the semi-finals at Euro 2020, but the Danes have only made it into the last eight at the World Cup once, and that was back in 1998. They bullied the French home and away in their Nations League section earlier this year and will be relishing taking on Les Bleus again in their group in Qatar. Their quarter-final opponents (possibly England) should beware.

The team who will disappoint us… France. This is virtually a guarantee Didier Deschamps’ side will now win it, but France’s build-up to the defence of their trophy has hardly been serene. They have been denied their first-choice midfield from 2018 through injury, with fitness issues eating into defensive options, too. Their form in the Nations League was slack, controversy swirls around the FFF, and Deschamps already looks rather tetchy in his media briefings. There is a nagging sense that they arrive primed for a World Cup implosion, rather like in 2002 and 2010 — both tournaments that followed French appearances in the final.

Breakthrough young player: Jamal Musiala. I mean, he already plays for Bayern Munich so his impact should not catch people entirely unawares yet, even if he has to impress initially in cameos to earn his opportunity, Musiala boasts all the talent to impress in Qatar. The teenager could end the tournament as Germany’s young inspiration.

Golden Boot winner: Neymar. The Brazilian has been irrepressible with Paris Saint-Germain of late and arrives at the tournament having scored in four of his last five club appearances. Brazil have so many forward options from which to choose, but they should create plenty of opportunities and Neymar — with 75 goals in 121 caps, the 30-year-old is only two shy of Pele’s Brazilian record — will probably take their penalties and plenty of their free kicks.

Golden Ball winner: Thiago Silva. If Brazil are going to win it, then they must provide their attacking talents with a foundation upon which to perform. Establishing that will fall upon Thiago Silva. The 38-year-old remains a force of nature, and will feel he still has something to prove when it comes to the World Cup. It will be intriguing to see how Tite eases the veteran through the tournament.

The game I cannot wait to watch… A meeting between Brazil and Argentina, potentially in the semi-final, will be mouth-watering. Germany against Spain in the group stage feels like a knockout tie played early. But the third round of games in the section tends to hog the drama, so Ghana against Uruguay — no one mention Luis Suarez — or Tunisia against France might provide some drama.

Tim Spiers, London football correspondent and Portugal expert

‘It’s coming home (yes, really)’

Winners: Well, football sure won’t be the winner, am I right?! Head says Argentina partly because of their crazy unbeaten record, heart says Brazil because they picked nine attackers. Shame they probably won’t meet in the final. Either way, it would be nice to end the two-decade hegemony of European winners with an overdue South American triumph.

The team who will surprise us… Not sure if you can call World Cup 2018 semi-finalists and Euro 2020 finalists England a surprise package, but everyone apart from Lionel Messi seems to be writing them off and I’m really not sure why. Yes, they have obvious weaknesses, but those weaknesses were there last year when they reached the Euros final and it’s basically the same squad and manager. They know how to progress deep into tournaments — something England haven’t had for a very long time.

There seems to be a general consensus that England are quarter-finalists at best, but if the groups go to plan they’ll play France — whose impending failure to retain their crown is another general consensus — in the quarters. Basically what I’m saying is forget my previous answer: it’s coming home and I’ll see you in Trafalgar Square on December 18 for the coldest party of all time.

The team who will disappoint us… Like you, perhaps, I tend to support the World Cup’s home nation as a second team. I showed love for South Korea with their shrieking, uniformed fans and their brilliant referees in 2002. I shared sorrow with Brazil when they were humiliated in 2014. And in 2006 I cheered on Germ… no that’s just not true.

I’ll be disappointed if Qatar do well as it’ll be painted as justification for taking the best tournament in sport there despite the hundreds of reasons that it’s a very bad idea. I’ll also be disappointed if Qatar, as expected, do very badly and will paint it as further justification for my belief that the best tournament in sport shouldn’t be played there. Qatar will disappoint me.

Breakthrough young player: He’s yet to win a cap for Portugal but given the struggles of his fellow forwards (Joao Felix took 16 games to get off the mark this season, Diogo Jota is injured and Cristiano Ronaldo appears more on TalkTV than the Old Trafford pitch these days) 21-year-old Benfica striker Goncalo Ramos could end up front and centre of Portugal’s attack.

Ramos is a man bang in form — nine goals in 11 league games for Benfica, plus 14 in 18 for Portugal Under-21s in the past couple of years. His movement, finishing and goalscoring instincts are his greatest strengths. As former team-mate Carlos Vinicius said recently: “With him (around) there are no loose balls in the box.”

Goncalo RamosGoncalo Ramos has the ability to eclipse Cristiano Ronaldo in Qatar (Photo: Gualter Fatia/Getty Images)

Golden Boot winner: The top-scoring player in European football who’s going to Qatar is Robert Lewandowski on 13 goals. I’ll go with the guy tied in second with Kylian Mbappe on 12 goals, the soon-to-be Sir Harry Edward Kane. Having watched a lot of Spurs this season I’m here to tell you that more often than not they’ve been about as creative as an obese sloth on a two-day hangover, yet Kane has still scored a dozen goals. He’s bang in form, he’ll play every minute for England and he takes penalties. Next.

Golden Ball winner: The Golden Ball hasn’t been handed to a World Cup winner since 1994 (Brazil’s Romario). In five of the last six editions, it’s gone to a player from the losing finalists. Ergo, if I’m predicting probably Brazil to win the tournament then the Golden Ball winner comes from their final opponents, who will be… (checks wallchart)… Belgium! In fact maybe they should be my surprise team. No, it’s too late for that now. Anyway, the Golden Ball winner will be Leander Dendoncker Kevin De Bruyne.

The game I cannot wait to watch… This might be ruined by getting used to the probable muted atmospheres and general weirdness of the tournament’s location but it’s the first round of group games for me, especially watching the tournament favourites in action for the first time. It’s that moment the towels come off and everyone has to show what they’ve got, sometimes, understandably given the hideous nature of what’s underneath, with nervous trepidation and sometimes with extreme and fully justified confidence. Let the games begin. 

Stuart James, senior writer and former professional footballer

‘Messi’s glory would cap Ronaldo’s year’

Winner: My predictions for Euro 2020 were dismal, so let that be a warning to you. Apart from comparing Sophie-Ellis Bextor to Denmark (both unfancied, and I fancied them both), I got everything else wrong, starting with saying that France would win it. So apologies in advance to Argentina – I’ve got you down to triumph in Qatar. Right now, Argentina are international football’s ‘invincibles’. On top of that, Lionel Messi holding the World Cup is surely the way that 2022 ends for Cristiano Ronaldo.

The team who will surprise us… Heart not head with this one – I really hope Canada do well. I say ‘heart’ because I’m so taken by John Herdman’s story and the way the Canada coach has transformed the fortunes of the national team. But – and this is a problem – Canada have a really tough group (in with Belgium, Croatia and Morocco). As an aside, Denmark isn’t an acceptable answer – you can only surprise us once.

The team who will disappoint us… What a category – egg-on-your-face territory here. On the face of it – and I don’t mean the egg – there are some strong candidates, with Belgium and France among them. As for England, I already feel like there’s been a lifetime of World Cup disappointment (to varying degrees – Italia 90 was a lot of fun before the penalties). Thankfully the office sweepstake has come to my rescue on this one: I pulled out France.

Breakthrough young player: The days of a relative unknown taking the World Cup by storm are gone. Clubs can’t even be bothered to scout major tournaments (partly because they know they can ring The Athletic hotline and ask Liam Tharme to give them the lowdown on anyone and everyone). Anyway, I’m going for Jude Bellingham. And before you ask, he definitely qualifies – he’s a teenager and he’s played 55 minutes of tournament football for his country. Oh, and I think he’s fantastic. Let him do his thing, Gareth.

Golden boot winner: No disrespect to some of the past winners, but the bar has not been set that high in recent years – six goals in 2018 and 2014 and five in the two World Cups before that. On that basis a hat-trick in the group stage against a weak opponent could go a long way – Harry Kane against Panama in Russia comes to mind. After trawling through the list of No 9s and feeling slightly underwhelmed, I ended up being drawn to Messi… especially if he fills his boots against Saudi Arabia.

Golden ball winner: A part of me is tempted to say Kevin De Bruyne, but that’s more a reflection of what I think of him rather than any faith I have in Belgium going far, if that makes sense. So I’ll go with Messi.

The game I cannot wait to watch… For me, there’s still a fascination about the South American nations. Yes, we watch their players all the time in Europe, but seeing them representing their country is totally different. For that reason, I hope we get the Brazil-Argentina semi-final that’s on the cards. Memories of Diego Maradona wriggling through a posse of Brazil players before releasing Claudio Cannigia in 1990 spring to mind – right foot assist too. As for the group stage, Ghana v Uruguay should be fun. England v Wales will be, too, if either team needs a result to qualify. Let’s not sugarcoat it, the Welsh hate the English – which, talking from personal experience, can be a tricky situation for an Englishman who supports a Welsh club.

George Caulkin, senior writer, World Cup veteran and expert on North-East England

‘England will surprise me — and disappoint me’

Winner: England. There, I’ve said it (unlike anybody else, the cowards). I haven’t said it because I have even the minutest amount of logic to back it up, but I’m also not sure that logic is going to be one of the prevailing themes of this World Cup. Domestically, it’s already shaping up to be a weird season and with no preparation time, no build-up, no warm-up games, no anything at all except peculiarity and heat, why would form or injuries or the manager being too safe or any of that stuff matter very much? And nothing would be weirder than England actually winning something.

The team who will surprise us… If England win it I’d be absolutely astounded!

The team who will disappoint us… England, because of course they’re not going to win it. But — groping blindly for a serious point — I’m convinced this will be a tournament where a few outsiders coalesce, pull off a shock win and get momentum behind them and a few bigger teams absolutely fall flat. It’s just difficult to predict which ones.

Breakthrough young player: I’ve been very tempted to answer “Nick Pope” to all of these question in honour of the bizarre moment from earlier this season when a Burger King Twitter poll was hijacked by Newcastle fans (hello @ToonPolls) and the goalkeeper’s name was trending everywhere. However, let’s go for Garang Kuol. He hasn’t started a professional league game and has only played once for Australia, but he has been scoring goals off the bench for Central Coast Mariners and is quite a talent. He joins Newcastle — and Nick Pope — in January.

Garang Kuol, recently signed for Newcastle, could cause a stir with Australia (Photo: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

Golden Boot winner: Harry Kane. And that could actually happen. Nobody has won two before, but he has his eyes on the prize (check out his forthcoming interview with Alan Shearer), and has been in good form for Spurs. If he starts quickly, you could see him going on a run, winning three penalties and building an unassailable lead before the quarter-finals.

Golden Ball winner: Yeah, I know. If I say Messi I’m just copying everybody else and I’m conforming to Argentina being one of the favourites which completely undermines the whole ‘this will be an illogical World Cup’ thesis, but I am an old softie and I do love a nice happy ending. He’s been so good for so long — let him have the stage.

The game I cannot wait to watch: I don’t know yet. Honestly, I don’t feel like we’ve had time to look forward to any of this, to really savour it (or to start filling in my sticker album). It’ll be great when it gets going and I’ll watch everything, but at this point, my head is still full from the last round of Premier League fixtures. I hate feeling like that, but it’s a total nonsense, isn’t it?

A brief history of modern soccer: Or, how to understand the World Cup

Nov 18, 2022

f you want to sound like a smart soccer fan, here’s your word: gegenpressing. If you don’t want to alienate your friends and loved ones, then perhaps peel back the accent and just go with: pressing or even counter-pressing.

Whatever language you land on, the broader concept is the defining feature of the modern version of the world’s most popular sport. For the majority of the sport’s history, the most important player was the No. 10 — the attacking midfielder who would be positioned at the top of the penalty area, between the opposition defensive and midfield lines, and play balls into the penalty area or score the goals himself. These are the geniuses, the artists, the players who’d frequently be referred to in magical terms: Pele, Maradona, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho all wore 10.

Eventually, though, as clubs became modernized, started raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue, and thus grew their coaching and analysis staffs, they got really good at destroying the magic. In response to the dominance of the No.10, coaches simply began to pack extra players into the areas where the attacking midfielders once flourished. The position is now all but extinct.

What followed was a brief period where most of the best teams in the world were reactive and destructive. Jorge Valdano, a teammate of Maradona on the World Cup-winning Argentina side in 1986, famously described a match between English sides Liverpool and Chelsea as such: “Put a s— hanging from a stick in the middle of this passionate, crazy stadium and there are people who will tell you it’s a work of art. It’s not: it’s a s— hanging from a stick”.

Thankfully, that, uh, “era” was quickly overtaken by the “Pressing Era. The best teams now push all their defenders high up the field and try to win the ball back in the attacking third. While there was no space at the top of box for the creative geniuses anymore, these teams created all kinds of new spaces for themselves by swarming their opponents as soon as they lost the ball, winning it back, and attacking the gaps in the now-unsettled defense. “No playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter-pressing situation,” according to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

The major stylistic lever — the pre-planned strategy that most affects what you see in a given game on a given Saturday — is the press: how aggressive both teams are in trying to win the ball back, and how successful they are at doing so.

Got it? OK, now forget it all, because the first step toward understanding what you’re about to see in Qatar is accepting that it’s going to look very different from the soccer you might’ve seen over the past four years.

Why not press?

Although Cristiano Ronaldo recently claimed to have never heard of him, there’s perhaps no single person who’s had more of an impact on the modern game than a tiny, bespectacled German nerd named Ralf Rangnick.

While managing at then-third-division club Hoffenheim back in 2006, Rangnick came across a piece of research that suggested goals are most often scored within eight seconds of winning possession back from your opponent. Eight years prior, while coaching a tiny club called Ulm, Rangnick had appeared on a national talkshow called Das aktuelle Sportstudio. Among other things, he suggested that teams could be more proactive in attempting to win the ball back from their opponents. By saying this on national TV in a massively successful and very traditional soccer-playing nation, Rangnick earned the mocking nickname of “football professor.”

However, there was a virtuous connection between the two ideas. Rangnick became convinced that his teams should pressure the ball high up the field and then attempt low-probability passes quickly toward the opposition goal because if those passes failed, they could just start the cycle up again. “We are prepared to play risky passes, at the danger of them going astray, because that opens up the possibility to attack the second ball,” he’s said.

– World Cup 2022: Schedule, how to watch

Fully committed to these ideas, Hoffenheim quickly were promoted through the lower leagues and up to the Bundesliga, Germany‘s first division.

Swayed by his style, Red Bull — yes, that Red Bull — gave Rangnick the keys to their soccer project, and he helped to define the style for what would become their network of clubs across the globe: lots of energy, forward passing and chasing after loose balls. It’s mostly worked because Red Bull are able to recruit across the world and find players who fit their ideas, and are then trained toward them through their network of teams. The same goes for all of the big clubs across Europe that have adopted their own version of the press: They can sign whoever they want and then coach them up, day after day after day.

Who will captain USMNT at the World Cup?

Sam Borden joins Futbol Americas to talk the USMNT captaincy situation as well as the latest on injury news.

You know who can’t just sign anyone and who doesn’t get to train every week? National teams. For even the best national teams, the player pool is constantly changing, and the teams only get together a few times per year to train.

When I asked him about the occasional high-profile breakdowns that come from playing an aggressive high-press, current Leeds manager and former Red Bull coach Jesse Marsch said: “Most of those times that it looks bad is a tactical breakdown where the players behind the ball, when we lose a ball, are not in tactically sound positions. Then the game looks more open than it should be. It’s aggressive. There’s no doubt, but it’s also intelligent. The goal is to not be wild; the goal is to still be in control.”


To play an aggressive press, the players need to have the physical capacity, and then they need to know how to move in concert with one another. Otherwise, a couple of simple passes and boom: The other team is in on goal. Unfortunately, international sides don’t get to pick who was born where, and they really just don’t have the training time necessary to play in such an aggressive way without constantly getting torn to shreds.

– World Cup rank: The top 50 players in Qatar

France are the defending champs and the current third-favorites to win the whole thing, according to the betting markets. Brazil, meanwhile, are the favorites. According to a collection of projections combined together by Jan Van Haaren, a data scientist for a Champions League club in Belgium, Neymar & Co. have a 20% chance of winning the whole thing, while no one else is above 10%. In all competitive matches played since the beginning of last August, Brazil have allowed their opponents to complete 83% of their passes. Only two teams in the World Cup field were easier to pass against: Costa Rica … and France.

That doesn’t mean everyone is going to abandon the press, though. Since last August, Germany have won possession 7.4 times per game in the final-third — second among all 32 teams, behind just Japan. In addition to those two, a pair of other teams have both held their opponents to a completion percentage of 75% or lower and won at least six possessions per game in the attacking third: Spain and the United States.

In the club game, the full-season success rate of pressing makes it a good risk-reward bet in the long run. But at the World Cup, you play no more than seven games, and the risk of a leaky press is way higher. So, the defining strategic facet of modern soccer I talked about in the intro? It’ll mostly be absent from its most popular modern event.

So what will we get instead?

On soccer’s journey toward analytical enlightenment, the sport has gotten really good at measuring what happens around the goal.

Throughout the World Cup, you’ll no doubt hear “expected goals” mentioned. Abbreviated as xG, it’s just an estimated probability that a given chance will be converted based on a number of historical characteristics. For example, a tap-in on the goal line would be worth something like 0.99 expected goals (99%) because Eric Choupo-Moting exists:https://www.youtube.com/embed/qc1rXDbWQ9s?wmode=transparent

Meanwhile, a shot from 50 yards out would be worth something like 0.01 xG. And then there’s everything in between. Why do we care about this? Well, xG is more predictive of future performance than any other single statistic. In the short term, anyone can turn two or three low-probability shots into goals, but in the long run, the best teams are the ones that create lots of high-quality chances and concede very few of them.

On an individual level, though, the same thinking applies. The best goal-scorers are the ones who get on the end of the largest collection of great chances, not the ones who are most likely to turn a particular shot into a goal. Lionel Messi actually is better than everyone else at converting shots into goals, but per Stats Perform data going back to 2010, he’s scored 533 goals in competitive club games over that stretch from chances worth about 435 expected goals. In other words, more than 80% of his scoring can be predicted from a number of factors recorded before he ever kicks a ball:

From expected goals, you can then take a step to expected goals assisted: Reward the passer with whatever the xG his pass created is. This strips out the quality of the shooter and instead rewards the passer for the quality of his passes, rather than what happened after he passed the ball. Leading all players across Europe’s Big Five leagues in expected goals assisted this season is Messi’s teammate at Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil’s Neymar:

From there, you can take another step back and see who’s playing the pass before the pass — or, say, the pass into the penalty area. Messi, who’s fourth in expected goals assisted, leads all players in Europe with 68. Next best is Manchester City and Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, with 50:

Take a step back from there, though, and things start to get really murky.

Luke Borrn, who was the head of analytics at Italian giants Roma before leaving to become the vice president of Strategy and Analytics with the Sacramento Kings, and is now a co-owner (along with Billy Beane) of French club Toulouse and Italian powers AC Milan, described the state of our objective knowledge of what’s valuable on a field as such: “It’s like the equivalent of if we only had data on dunks.”

What happens in the midfield — from a valuation standpoint — mostly remains a mystery. When you look at actions that increase or decrease a team’s likelihood of scoring a goal, everything that happens in the middle of the field pales in comparison to what happens near both goal mouths.

– Ranking every single World Cup: Which one is No.1?

Is this a calculation issue? Or does it require a re-imaging of the hierarchy of what happens on the field? It’s probably a bit of both, but because of the patterns of play we’re likely to see in Qatar, these players are going to have a much bigger influence on proceedings than they do in a given weekend across Europe.

Can ESPN beat Phil Foden in a shooting challenge?

Manchester City and England star Phil Foden takes on ESPN in a special shooting challenge ahead of the World Cup.

At the most recent European championships in the summer of 2021, passes were completed 84% of the time. In the Premier League season that followed, the number dropped down to 81%. On top of that, the ball moved toward the opposition goal at an average speed of 1.27 meters/second at the Euros, then leapt up to 1.39 meters/second in the Premier League. These seem like small differences, but with close to 1,000 passes occurring per game and around 200 total possessions per match, those differences really start to add up. There are fewer turnovers, and the game simply moves to a different rhythm.

With there being less pressure on the ball and with the ball moving upfield at a slower pace, the players in the middle have more time and space to make decisive plays. If you’ve only watched international soccer, you probably think that France’s Paul Pogba is the best soccer player in the world.https://www.youtube.com/embed/iUf9Zt3s8Ic?wmode=transparent

If you’ve only watched club soccer, you probably think that Paul Pogba is one of the most inconsistent and hard-to-fit players in the world. That difference is due, in no small part, to the dysfunction of his former club Manchester United, but it’s also due to the context in which he’s performing. On the international stage, midfielders have more room and more opportunities to influence play near the opposition goal. With Pogba and his midfield partner N’Golo Kante out injured for France, that might spell trouble for what’s been the heart of an uber-talented and successful team.

Germany lost Toni Kroos, one of the great midfielders of the 21st century, to retirement, while Spain opted not to select Thiago, who, when healthy, might just be the best midfielder in the world right now. Of course, a world-class midfielder is born every 15 seconds in Spain, so they’re not wanting for depth. Croatia, meanwhile, made a run to the finals in 2018 behind a world-class midfield, and that group might be equally as good this time around. And if you’re looking for a reason to be bullish about the USMNT, perhaps it’s here: midfield is one of their strengths. With Tyler Adams (a destroyer and ball-winner), Yunus Musah (a vertical ball-carrier), and Weston McKennie (an off-ball runner and goalscorer), the pieces fit really nicely together.

Where does it all come together?

It used to be that coaches bemoaned set-piece practice: corners, free kicks, throw-ins, etc. Some, including Spain’s Luis Enrique, still do.

Paul Power, now the director of Artificial Intelligence with the data company Skill Corner, used to work as a consultant with the Premier League club Everton. At the time, their manager was current Belgium manager, Roberto Martinez.

“There’s this whole perception that scoring from set pieces is almost cheating,” Power said. “You know, like it’s not part of the beautiful game. Roberto Martinez just didn’t practice set pieces. He wanted to know everything about open play: synchronization between players, how to create space through intricate movements. But if you looked at a set piece, there was no interest. This still kind of plagues soccer, from top to bottom.”

How do you pronounce Qatar?

Professor of Islamic history Jonathan Brown gives the definitive pronunciation of Qatar with Gio Reyna, Reggie Cannon and Sam Vines.

In addition to the stigma around the set-piece goal — as if it were an unfair or impure way to win games — coaches would claim that any time spent practicing set pieces would take away from practice time elsewhere. In other words, if you started scoring more goals from set plays due to more practice, it would be canceled out by the decline in open-play goals caused by the decline in open-play practice time.

It’s a sound-enough theory; it’s also dead wrong, and proof of its invalidity came in the Danish first division.

FC Midtjylland, the most forward-thinking soccer club on the planet, scored 25 set-piece goals in the 2014-15 season en route to their first-ever first-division title. Eventually everyone else caught on and started to copy the champs. And a funny thing happened: Everyone else started scoring a ton of set piece goals, too, but their open-play goal-scoring remained unchanged. Despite spending more time on set-piece practice, their ability in open-play remained the same.

“It pointed to a huge under-exploited tactical wrinkle in the game that could help teams score enough goals to win a title,” said Ted Knutson, who used to work for Midtjylland and now runs the data company Statsbomb. “And it’s repeatable across the entire sport. That’s a pretty big deal.”

– Is Qatar’s World Cup about “sportswashing” or something more?

Both Knutson and Power estimate that a good set-piece program can add somewhere around 15 goals in a given 38-game season. Why do they work so well? As the previous 2,000 words suggest, a lot of what happens on a soccer field is either random, difficult to quantify, impossible to comprehend, or all of the above. While you can’t really pre-practice any specific open-play patterns, a set piece is the only time in the game the ball stops moving and a team can execute an exact plan: a chosen kicker, a pre-selected ball-flight, and then a collection of routes not unlike an NBA in-bounds play or any given NFL play.

According to research from Power, the average open-play possession leads to a goal 1.1% of the time while the mostly-still-poorly-performed set pieces lead to a goal 1.8% of the time. On corners, out-swingers lead to shots more often than in-swingers (20.9% vs. 18.6%), but in-swingers are more likely to lead to goals: 2.7%, compared to 2.2%. While much of the success comes down to the creativity of the play design, Power also pointed to the effectiveness of a ball flicked-on by a near-post header compared to one that’s simply served into the “meat” of the box. Flick-ons are scored 4.9% of the time, while shots directly from the corner have a 2% success rate.

Pedri? Bellingham? Valverde? Who will have the best World Cup?

The ESPN FC crew debate who will have the best World Cup out of Jude Bellingham, Federico Valverde and Pedri.

While there hasn’t been a full-scale adoption of those ideas, the landscape is shifting, and quickly. Some groups, including Midtjylland and England manager Gareth Southgate, have even consulted with NBA and NFL teams on how best to create space in these situations. At the 2018 World Cup, there were 70 set-piece goals — 43% of all the goals scored at the tournament. England themselves scored nine, breaking the record set by Portugal in 1966.

In Qatar, don’t expect any drop-off in set-piece scoring. Hell, there might even be an increase. Given the limited training time afforded to national teams and the difficulty creating the kinds of cohesive creative structures that can conquer open-play, set-piece practice is even more time-effective at the international level. In 2018, the average team scored 1.3 goals per game. In a tournament that, at most, features seven total games for a given team, a couple extra set piece goals could be the difference between an early exit and a run all the way to the end.

There’s bound to be plenty of uncertainty over the next month, but I feel pretty confident in making at least one prediction: At least one important game is going to be decided in the moments after the ref blows his whistle, when all that chaotic and dynamic movement briefly comes to a halt.

Who am I rooting for? — A newcomer’s guide to the USMNT

A look at the players representing the USA at this year’s World Cup.By jcksnftsn  Nov 19, 2022, 8:00am PST  

United States v Mexico: Championship - CONCACAF Nations League Finals

So you’re relatively new to the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) or even the World Cup? Welcome to the party, whether this is your first time or you’re a regular we’re not doing any gatekeeping around here, the more the merrier. We can’t exactly blame you for showing up late either, the USMNT hasn’t played on the world’s largest stage in over eight years, having missed out on the tournament four years ago in embarrassing fashion. But we aren’t here to dwell on the past either, we’re here to look forward and celebrate the players that are representing the U.S. of A in Qatar in 2022.

The information below probably isn’t going to make you sound any smarter if you’re discussing the team or players with your soccer-head friends but hopefully it will help give you a good introduction to the team – it’s always more fun to feel like you can connect with the players representing your colors. What you’ll see below is that we have an incredibly youthful, but also diverse, melting pot of a team. Players from around the world, whose paths to get to this point have been incredibly varied, some of whom play at historic clubs across the globe, and some who have taken a harder path. Here’s an introduction to who you are cheering for in Qatar.


Ethan Shea Horvath, 27, Luton Town – 27-year-old Ethan Horvath who was born and raised on the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, Colorado. As a teenager Horvath had interest from European sides but in order to meet visa requirements and sign with Norwegian side Molde his parents were required to move to Norway where they took jobs as janitors for the club. After Norway Horvath spent time in Belgium and most recently in England where he currently starts for Luton Town, a team in the English Championship (one step below the English Premier League). Horvath seems to be the perfect second goalkeeper as he has shown the willingness, as well as the ability to come off the bench mid-match and put in an outstanding performance. The most recent example of this was his substitute appearance against Mexico (our biggest soccer rival) in the National League Final in June of 2021. Horvath, put in an outstanding performance, leading the US to victory, including stopping a game tying penalty.


Sean Everet Johnson, 33, New York City FC – At 33 years old Sean Johnson is one of the senior most members of this year’s USMNT. Born in Georgia to parents of Jamaican descent, Johnson is one of the many players who is considered a dual national, that is he had opportunities to play for two (or in some cases three) national teams but has chosen to represent the USA. Johnson has played his entire career in MLS, first with the Chicago fire and for the past five years with New York City FC where he led the team to the MLS Cup in 2021.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Matt Charles Turner, 28, Arsenal – Growing up soccer was an afterthought to Matt Turner, who picked up the sport to stay in shape for basketball and baseball and had dreams of being a professional pitcher. However, Turner ended up in goal due to an injury to his high school teammate but though didn’t immediately vault him to success either. Tuner was initially a walk on at Fairfield University in Connecticut before going undrafted in the MLS Super Draft and signing a contract with the New England Revolution. It would take Turner two more years to make his MLS debut for the Revolution in 2018. In 2021 he was named the MLS Goalkeeper of the year and in June of this year he moved to English Premier League side Arsenal where he is the backup keeper at one of London’s most historic clubs.


Cameron Carter-Vickers, 24, Celtic – Born in England, playing in Scotland, but eligible to represent the US as he is the son of an American, Cameron Carter-Vickers (CCV) is one of four center backs to make the 2022 World Cup squad. Carter-Vickers father Howard was a professional basketball player who played two years in the NBA before a long career overseas that included meeting CCV’s English mother while playing in Greece. Carter-Vickers grew up primarily with his mother in England with visits to his father, who he remains close with, in Louisiana. CCV grew up playing soccer in the Tottenham Hotspurs academy and went out on a series of loans to clubs in the English Championship before being loaned to Scottish side Celtic who made the loan permanent this summer signing Carter-Vickers to a long term contract.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Sergiño Gianni Dest, 22, AC Milan – The son of a Surinamese-American father and a Dutch mother, Sergiño Dest surprised many when he spurned pursuit from the Dutch national team and committed to representing the USMNT. Dest is the type of modern defender who believes the best defense is a good offense and will unleash some random skill just for the fun of it. He might also be the most chill player on the team, he nearly missed Lionel Messi’s farewell press conference at Barcelona and showed up in a fake Chicago Bulls jersey because he was playing soccer on the beach with a bunch of kids. Dest came up through the Ajax system in the Netherlands, spent two years with Barcelona, and moved to Italy’s AC Milan in September.

Aaron Ray Long, 30, New York Red Bulls – A coast-to-coast American and late bloomer, Aaron Long was born in California, he took the college route and graduated from UC Riverside before being drafted by the Portland Timbers. However, it wasn’t until he was transferred to the New York Red Bulls in 2016 that Long started to break through. Long ruptured his Achilles tendon in 2021 but has worked his way back from the injury in time to be included in the World Cup squad.

Japan v United States - International Friendly

Shaquell Kwame Moore, 26, Nashville SC – A native of Powder Spring, Georgia, Shaq Moore moved to Spain ahead of his 18th birthday and spent the next seven seasons playing in several divisions, including a season with Levante in La Liga, at the time becoming just the fourth American to play in Spain’s top division. Moore also spent three years in the Canary Islands with CD Tenerife who play in Spain’s second division. In June of this year Moore move back stateside, taking a role at right-back with Nashville SC.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Timothy Michael Ream, 35, Fulham – The elder statesman of this year’s team is Tim Ream who hadn’t been called up for a national team game in over a year and at 35 had made peace with saying goodbye to the dream of playing World Cup soccer. However, a hot start to the season with Fulham in the English Premier League was apparently enough to catch the eye of Gregg Berhalter who called Ream up. Fulham are a “yo-yo club” that typically see themselves relegated straight back to the Championship on the occasions that they’ve been promoted to the EPL for a season. The 2022-23 season has had a bit of a different feel thus far though as the side, captained by Ream, currently sit in 9th place in the standings. Ream is in his eighth season with Fulham, after four years spent with the Bolton Wanderers.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Antonee Robinson, 25, Fulham – Arguably the best Left-back in USMNT history, Antonee Robinson (or Jedi as he prefers) is an Englishman whose father was also English but gained US Citizenship while being raised in White Plains, New York. USMNT eligible through his father’s citizenship Robinson elected to represent the US and there’s been no looking back as he started eleven of the fourteen qualifying matches for the team. Robinson is a speedster who seems to come flying out of nowhere to make his presence felt for club and country. Robinson pairs with Tim Ream on the left side of defense for Fulham so is likewise contributing to a surprising start for the club this Fall. If that weren’t enough he’s also a bit of a magician and back flip expert.

Joseph Michael Scally, 19, Borussia Monchengladbach – Just 19 years old, Joe Scally is already in his second season in the Bundesliga, Germany’s topflight of football, where he’s regularly matching up against the likes of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Scally is a native of Lake Grove, New York who became the second youngest professional soccer player in United States history when he signed with New York City FC just a few months after his 15th birthday. After just seven appearances with NYCFC across three years Scally moved to Germany late in 2020 and would make his first appearance for Gladbach last Fall. Scally appeared in thirty matches for Gladbach last season, including twenty starts, and has started every match for his team this year. Scally is also close friends with Giovanni Reyna as the two spent time together in the NYCFC system.

DeAndre Roselle Yedlin, 29, Inter Miami – The only member of the 2022 World Cup squad with previous World Cup experience is DeAndre Yedlin who eight years ago was a 20-year-old backup right back making his ascent. Yedlin appeared in three matches off the bench and following the tournament would make a move from his hometown Seattle Sounders to Tottenham in the EPL. Yedlin made just one appearance for Tottenham and played the following season on loan with Sunderland before transferring to Newcastle United and playing five seasons with the Magpies. In 2020 Yedlin moved to Turkey and spent two seasons playing with Galatasaray before coming back to MLS in 2022 to play for Inter Miami. Most importantly Yedlin’s middle name, Roselle, is presumably a nod to the Women’s National Team’s Rose Lavelle and thus Yedlin is a very, very good human being. Seriously though, in addition to providing some much-needed World Cup experience, Yedlin has been described as a “vibes” guy who is close friends with Timothy Weah.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Walker Dwain Zimmerman, 29, Nashville SC – Perhaps the most surprising revelation of the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle has been Walker Zimmerman who was a bit of an afterthought as the cycle started but has become one of the first names written down on the team sheet. Zimmerman is a native of Georgia, who started his professional career with FC Dallas, before a move to LAFC, and now he plays for Nashville SC with teammate Shaq Moore. While “Captain America” is the most overused nickname for the US team, Zimmerman looks to have laid sole claim to the American Thor throne.


Brenden Russell Aaronson, 22, Leeds United – Hailing from Medford, New Jersey and a product of the Philadelphia Union academy, Brenden Aaronson joined RB Salzburg in January 2021 at the age of 20. Aaronson played a year and a half with RB Salzburg, scoring nine goals in 46 appearances before moving to Leeds United in the English Premier League this summer where he joined forces with Tyler Adams (more on him below) and American manager Jesse Marsch. Aaronson is a little buzzing, bundle of energy, who channels that energy into causing chaos for the opponent.

Japan v United States - International Friendly

Kellyn Kai Perry-Acosta, 27, Los Angeles FC – The USMNT is filled with dual nationals but one that might fly under the radar is Kellyn Acosta whose father was born in Japan making Acosta (whose surname comes from his Mexican step-grandfather) eligible to represent Japan or the USA. Acosta will be the first Japanese-American to represent the US at a men’s World Cup. Acosta started his career in the FC Dallas system before being traded to the Colorado Rapids. This year he was traded to LAFC where he would help the club to finish the regular season in first place and capture their first MLS Cup title, including scoring the opening goal in the Final.

Tyler Shaan Adams, 23, Leeds United – There are approximately fifty-seven “Captain America” nicknamed players on this roster but the one that seems most likely to actually be the captain is Tyler Adams whose demeanor, intelligence, and communication make him a natural for the role, whether he is wearing the armband or not. A native of Wappinger Falls, New York, Adams grew up in the Red Bulls Academy which he joined at the age of 12. Adams would make his senior team debut shortly after his 17th birthday and would go on to play three years with NY Red Bulls before moving to RB Leipzig early in 2019. Adams moved to Leeds United this summer where he reunited with his former coach Jesse Marsch and fellow USMNT teammate Brenden Aaronson. Adams has been at his best this season against the EPL heavyweights such as Liverpool and Chelsea where he has been a menace all over the field, shutting down attacks.

Luca Daniel de la Torre, 23, Celta Vigo – Born and raised in San Diego, Luca de la Torre moved to London shortly after his freshman year of highschool to join the Fulham academy. Luca spent seven years in the Fulham system, seeing little playing time at the senior level before moving to the Netherlands in 2020 to join Heracles Almelo. de la Torre spent two years at the club and made enough of an impression to start seeing callups to the senior US side and make a move to his father’s home country of Spain and join La Liga side Celta Vigo this past summer.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Weston James Earl McKennie, 24, Juventus – A youth product of the FC Dallas system, Weston McKennie chose to bet on himself, declining a homegrown contract with the club to make a move to the German Bundesliga and join FC Schalke in 2016 shortly after his eighteenth birthday. McKennie played with Schalke for four years in the Bundesliga, showing himself to be a versatile piece as he was played all over the pitch. Then in 2020 as Schalke was being relegated and experiencing extreme financial issues McKennie joined the Italian giants Juventus. Now in his third season with the club McKennie is a clear favorite of manager Massimiliano Allegri though rumors of a move to the EPL continue to swirl. McKennie is a real set piece threat with an ability to get his head through a ball to smash it home. If you see the Harry Potter fan whip out his magic wand celebration than something has gone well for the USMNT.

Yunus Dimoara Musah, 19, Valencia – It’s possible that no one represents the melting pot of America better than Yunus Musah whose nationality options are outpaced only by his enormous smile. Musah is the son of Ghanian parents, who were living in Italy but visiting family in New York City when he was born, thus making him eligible to represent the US. In addition to Ghana, Italy and the US Musah was also eligible to represent England after his family moved there when he was nine. In fact, Musah came up through England’s national team system and it wasn’t until March of 2021 that he committed to playing for the US. Musah joined the Arsenal academy when he was nine and his family moved to England but he made the move to Spain and La Liga to join Valencia when he was 16, making his debut a year later. Don’t take your eyes off of Musah, who can change the game in a moment.


Cristian Roldan, 27, Seattle Sounders – Speaking of dual national experiences Cristian Roldan has had the unique experience of suiting up against his brother in international competition. Cristian and his brother Alex were both born in the US and play together for the Seattle Sounders but were both eligible to represent the United States, El Salvador, or Guatemala in International competition. The Roldan’s father is Guatemalan while their mother is from El Salvador. While the younger brother Alex chose to represent El Salvador, Cristian has chosen to represent the United States. While he has not seen much playing time in qualifying Cristian is lauded by teammates as being an exemplary teammate and he has been known to pull out the occasional banger for his club.


Jesus David Ferreira Castro, 21, FC Dallas – Born in Colombia, Jesus Ferreira moved to Texas when he was 10 and his father signed a contract with FC Dallas. Fast forward 11 years and it’s Jesus who is scoring goals for club and country. Ferreira led FC Dallas with 18 goals in the 2022 season, ironically this was made possible in part by Ricardo Pepi moving to Germany in January which led to Dallas signing Ferreira to a long-term contract. Ferrira was named the 2022 MLS Young Player of the Year and named to the MLS Best Eleven.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Jordan Perry Morris, 28, Seattle Sounders – Born and raised in Seattle, Jordan Morris has found himself living the dream of playing for his hometown Sounders where his father is also employed as the team’s Chief Medical Director. Still a student at Stanford University when he was first called up to the USMNT in 2014, Morris became the rare type of player to be called up to the senior team while still playing at the collegiate level. Morris is also a rarity in that he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of nine and has become one of the few professional athletes to play through the condition. The challenges don’t stop there, Morris has recovered from two separate ACL tears, the most recent occurring while on loan with Swansea City in the Championship League in February of 2021.

Christian Mate Pulisic, 24, Chelsea FC – If you’ve heard of just one USMNT player it’s probably Christian Pulisic. Pulisic, a native of Hershey, Pennsylvania was able to acquire a European passport at the age of 16 thanks to his Grandfathers Croatian citizenship. Pulisic signed for perennial Bundesliga contenders Borussia Dortmund at 16 and made his debut for their first team when he was 17. After four seasons with Dortmund Pulisic moved to Chelsea FC in the English Premier League in 2019 for the largest fee ever paid for an American soccer player. In 2021 Pulisic would help Chelsea to win the Champions League, in the process becoming the first American to score in the tournaments semi-final with a goal against Real Madrid, and the first American to play in the final.

Mexico v United States: 2022 World Cup Qualifying

Giovanni Alejandro Reyna, 20, Borussia Dortmund – If this name rings a bell, it could be because Giovanni Reyna is US Soccer royalty. The son of USMNT legend Claudio Reyna and Danielle Egan, who played for the US Women’s national team, Reyna’s ascent to the USMNT has seemed like a foregone conclusion. Reyna is a part of the U.S. crew that was actually born in England, Reyna while his father was playing for Sutherland. Giovanni was raised in New York City and played for the New York City FC academy until 2019 when he moved to Borussia Dortmund as a 16-year-old in 2019. In early 2020 Reyna would become the youngest American to make their Bundesliga, just two months after turning 17. While he certainly has the pedigree the path hasn’t always been easy for Reyna, who’s story includes tragic family loss, and more recently a series of highly frustrating injuries that have kept him out of action. When he’s on the field Reyna shows the ball control and finishing skills to be a true difference maker for the US.

Joshua Thomas Sargent, 22, Norwich City – A native of O’Fallon, Missouri, Josh Sargent joined Bundesliga side Werder Bremen on his eighteenth birthday in 2018. He would play in Germany for three season before moving to EPL side Norwich City in 2021. It was a rough season for player and club as Sargent scored just two goals in twenty-six appearances and Norwich were relegated to the English Championship. Sargent stuck with the club and things have gotten back on track this fall as Sargent has banged in nine goals already in nineteen appearances for his club.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Timothy Tarpeh Weah, 22, Lille – Actual soccer royalty, Timothy Weah is the son of the President of Liberia who also happens to be former Ballon d’Or winner George Weah (the award given annually to the best soccer player on the globe). Tim was born in Brooklyn in 2020 and was actually eligible to represent four different countries: Jamaica, Liberia, France, and the U.S. Weah has represented the US through various Youth Levels, starting at the age of 12 on the Under 14 team and has said the decision to represent the U.S. at the senior level was an easy one based on his love of the country and his teammates. Weah’s professional career has been based in France where he started with Paris Saint-Germain and has now spent the past four seasons with Lille.

Haji Amir Wright, 24, Antalyaspor – Another product of the U.S. youth national teams Haji Wright played for the youth sides beginning at the U-15 level and continuing throughout to the U23 level where he has developed friendships with a number of his senior side teammates including Christian Pulisic who reportedly argued for Wright to get his first callup to the senior side in May of this year. Wright’s professional career has been a bit more unconventional and has included stops in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and most recently in Turkey where he signed a three-year deal with Antalyaspor in July.

Uruguay v USMNT

Predicting the entire 2022 World Cup, from Qatar vs. Ecuador to the final

Nov 16, 2022

  • Ryan O’HanlonESPN.com writer

When I first did this, seven months ago, I wrote the following“Players can get injured, players can play poorly, players can appear out of nowhere, managers can quit their jobs — the list of complicating factors is endless.” And yet, I still went ahead and made a prediction for all 64 of the matches scheduled to be played in Qatar.

Since then, the final two slots in the tournament were confirmed. (Sorry, Peru!) And so have the 26-man rosters for all 32 teams. (Sorry, Paul PogbaN’Golo KanteDiogo JotaReece James, and on and on.) We now know who’s playing, both at a micro and macro level, in a way I did not, back in April. Players have been injured, players have played poorly, players have appeared out of nowhere, and managers have left their jobs.

So, with this added information, we’re running it back and predicting all the matches from Nov. 21 through Dec. 18 — again. Some of the predictions and analysis from the first time around will not change, while other parts will read very differently. Like last time, all of the stats mentioned in the piece come from Stats Perform, but unlike last time, we are only looking at data from competitive matches played since August 1, 2021..

And also like last time, I’ve employed the help of the consultancy Twenty First Group, which has built a model that combines individual player ratings and team performance to create a rating for every international team. With international soccer, there aren’t enough games to truly judge a team based on its recent results, and the rosters are always changing, so this player-based method attempts to address those problems. I’ll reference their ratings throughout this journey; it’s just another tool to help guide us from start to finish.

All right, let’s get to it — again!

The group stage

Nov. 20

Qatar vs. Ecuador (Group A): One big thing that’s changed since the first go-round? The date of and participants in the opening game! SenegalNetherlands was supposed to be the opener, but tournament organizers have since bumped up this match a day to ensure the host nation gets Game 1. Does the fact that no one had thought about this until a couple of months ago bode well for the general logistical success of a massive global event taking place in a tiny desert nation? It does not, but we’ve already lost the thread here. Back to the games …

There’s no other way to say it, really: Qatar are the worst host nation team in the history of the World Cup, and the Qataris are only in the tournament because of the incredibly dubious process that led to their country being awarded the tournament.

– Is Qatar’s World Cup an attempt at sportswashing, or something more?

They’re 50th in the FIFA rankings, and Twenty First Group’s model rates them as the worst defensive team in the tournament by a good margin. Per the ratings, the gap between them and the 31st-ranked defensive team (Costa Rica) is bigger than the gap between Costa Rica and No. 17 Senegal. Qatar can play some nice possession soccer at times (see: their match against the United States at the 2021 Gold Cup) — but it’s hard to see them not getting overpowered by bigger and stronger teams.

Despite some fun talent, Ecuador don’t seem all that good — they barely eked out a positive goal differential in qualifying — but they should cruise in this one.

Result: Qatar 0-2 Ecuador

Laurens tips Group A’s Senegal to be the surprise package

Gab & Juls preview Group A at the 2022 World Cup, which contains hosts Qatar, Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador.

Nov. 21

England vs. Iran (Group B): England have been awful ever since I wrote those first predictions. They were relegated from the first tier of the Nations League and haven’t won any of their past six games. Since 1998, teams that made the semifinals of the World Cup have, on average, won better than 60% of their final five games before the tournament. Gareth Southgate’s team, of course, have won 0%.

After Spain, England are the slowest team in the tournament, moving the ball upfield at a crawl’s pace of 0.96 meters per second. And while Iran can’t score, they’ve always been tough to score against. This one, especially the first half, could be a slog for the Three Lions.

Result: England 2-0 Iran

Senegal vs. Netherlands (Group A): OK, now that we’ve reached what should be the first competitive game of the tournament, it’s time for some ground rules, base rates, what have you. Over the past two World Cups, 80% of the matches were won by one team or another, with the remaining 20% ending in draws. And there have been an average of 2.6 goals scored per game.

When a team wins, they score 2.3 goals and concede 0.6. When it’s a draw, the scores, very nicely, add up to 1.0 goals for and 1.0 goals against. So roughly, the average win at the World Cup is a 2-1 margin, and the average draw is 1-1.

Among teams that have appeared in the past two tournaments, France have averaged both the most goals scored (2.0) and conceded the fewest (0.8). At the other end of the spectrum, among teams with appearances in both events, Iran have scored the fewest goals (0.5 per game), while Australia have allowed the most (2.3). If we limit it to teams who have made at least one appearance, then Panama have allowed the most goals (3.7), while Cameroon and Honduras (0.3) have scored the fewest.

While they missed out on Russia 2018, Netherlands have scored the most goals (2.1) and conceded the second fewest (0.6, behind Denmark‘s 0.5) among teams to appear in at least one of the previous two tournaments. Their manager in 2014? Louis van Gaal. Their manager in 2018? One Louis van Gaal.

Befitting what is widely considered the worst group in the tournament, Netherlands are the eighth-best team, according to the Twenty First Group model, while Senegal rank 18th. One stylistic indicator to keep an eye on: Senegal have moved the ball upfield faster (1.73 meters per second) than any team in the tournament other than Morocco. In contrast, LVG’s teams have a history of slow-moving, sideways possession. Should be a fun one, and it’s a nice matchup for Sadio Mane & Co. The winner of this likely wins the group.

Result: Senegal 1-1 Netherlands

United States vs. Wales (Group B): The U.S. had a really hard time with teams that could effectively sit back and counter during qualifying; and with a supposedly fit and healthy Gareth Bale leading the way, the Welsh have been one of the most effective sit-back-and-counter teams in international soccer over the past decade. Of course, we have seen Bale sprint approximately one time since April, and that was after he scored the tying goal in the dying minutes of the MLS Cup for Los Angeles FC against the Philadelphia Union. He sure can dunk; can he still run?

The U.S. truly do have more talent than Wales, but their Day 1 opponents will present a tactical puzzle that Gregg Berhalter’s team haven’t yet solved.

Result: U.S. 1-1 Wales

Has Southgate learned from England’s recent heartbreaks?

Gab & Juls preview Group B at the 2022 World Cup, with Marcotti wondering if England can finally go all the way.

Nov. 22

Argentina vs. Saudi Arabia (Group C): The vibes around Argentina are as good as they’ve ever been right now, and the Saudis just match up terribly with them — and frankly, with most teams in the tournament. They like to possess the ball, so there should be plenty of space for Argentina’s dynamic attackers to run into as Lionel Messi continues to drop deeper and deeper as he gets older, pinging pinpoint passes up and across the field. Their 35-game unbeaten streak continues apace.

Result: Argentina 3-0 Saudi Arabia

Denmark vs. Tunisia (Group D): In international soccer, everyone knows you’ve got the Big Nine. (Actually, don’t use this term; I just made it up, and people will look at you funny if you try to drop it in conversation.) There’s Brazil and Argentina from South America, along with the European septet of France, Spain, England, GermanyPortugalBelgium and the Netherlands. But after that group, Denmark have the shortest odds to win the whole thing. They made the semis of the Euros, and it wasn’t a fluke.

– World Cup 2022 team-by-team previews

The level of coaching at this tournament and at international soccer in general will vary widely, but Kasper Hjulmand showed an ability to build a really fun, interesting and flexible side last summer. The Danes are still lacking a truly standout goal scorer, but they’re one of the more cohesive and well-thought-out teams in the event. They’ll smash the set-piece button, too.

Result: Denmark 2-0 Tunisia

Mexico vs. Poland (Group C): Yes, Poland do have Robert Lewandowski, the red-hot best striker in the world. But also: Poland have had Robert Lewandowski for over a decade at this point and never really accomplished anything of note at the international level. I don’t see much of a difference in these two teams overall.

Result: Mexico 1-1 Poland

France vs. Australia (Group D): Sure, France lost the entire midfield that made this team go, but there’s still no need to overcomplicate this. Despite attempting to qualify out of a comparatively easy region, Australia produced an expected-goal differential of plus-0.22 per 90 minutes in their competitive matches since last August. Only Uruguay, Costa Rica and Ghana were worse — with the latter two somehow making it into the tournament despite consistently getting buried under great chances by their opponents.

France will probably play this more conservatively than they should, but hey, it worked last time, didn’t it?

Result: France 1-0 Australia

Laurens likes Argentina & Messi’s chances of World Cup glory

Gab & Juls preview Group C at the 2022 World Cup, with Argentina expected to cruise into the knockout rounds.

Nov. 23

Morocco vs. Croatia (Group F): These are two teams that illustrate the dual beauty and curse of international soccer: some global superstars playing with some guys from the Croatian and Moroccan first divisions. In April, I wrote, “It would be a massive boost for Morocco if Chelsea‘s Hakim Ziyech decides to unretire before the World Cup, but we’re counting him out for now.” Guess what? Ziyech is back, baby! Croatia, meanwhile, are essentially just a worse, older version of the unlikely team that made the World Cup final last time around.

Among tournament sides, Croatia rank 10th according to Twenty First Group, while the Moroccans sit 17th. INCREDIBLY MINOR UPSET ALERT.

Result: Morocco 2-1 Croatia

Germany vs. Japan (Group E): Don’t sleep on this game — metaphorically, that is. For some of you, this game will be played while you literally are sleeping, but DVR it if you have to because it could be a lot of fun.

In the sample of games mentioned in the intro, Germany had the best expected-goal differential per game, while Japan were sixth. By hiring former Bayern manager Hansi Flick, the Germans have basically doubled down on the push-everyone-forward high-wire act that saw them get dumped out in the group stages in 2018; all of their matches are a must-watch.

Result: Germany 3-2 Japan

Spain vs. Costa Rica (Group E): Time for some introspection. I stand by the phrase, uttered in April, “Spain have the best coach in the tournament.” But Luis Enrique is really testing my resolve here and making me wonder what “coaching” even means. He left the likes of Liverpool‘s Thiago and PSG’s Sergio Ramos off his roster, and he recently admitted that he thought practicing set pieces was a waste of time. Despite, you know, some people (me) writing whole chapters of whole books about how set-piece practice is the most cost- and time-effective way to score goals.

That being said, Spain mopped the floor with Italy in the semifinals of the Euros only to lose in a shootout, and the team is built around a core of young, dynamic, flexible winger/attacker/midfielder/whatever types that have produced some really intricate and club-team-like possession play.

Costa Rica, meanwhile, might be the oldest team at the tournament. I’m not buying their late surge in CONCACAF or their win over New Zealand, either.

Result: Spain 2-0 Costa Rica

Belgium vs. Canada (Group F): This is just an awful matchup for Belgium. They’re weak at the back and can’t really defend in space, but Roberto Martinez has the team playing in a way that requires his aging slew of center backs to sometimes still do that. Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David are both one-man counterattacks … and they play on the same team.

The Belgians might overwhelm Canada with possession, but it’s really hard to imagine any pattern to this game that doesn’t involve David and Davies streaking up the field into wide-open space at least a couple of times.

Result: Belgium 1-2 Canada

Which CONCACAF stars make ESPN FC’s top 50 World Cup players?

Sebastian Salazar and Herculez Gomez take a look at which CONCACAF players make ESPN FC’s World Cup rank.

Nov. 24

Switzerland vs. Cameroon (Group G): Will Xherdan Shaqiri finally take off all of his clothes during a World Cup match? Tune in on Thanksgiving morning as we begin our collective journey.

Result: Switzerland 1-0 Cameroon

Uruguay vs. South Korea (Group H): I must repent.

April me: “Sorry, but I just can’t get excited about a team that (A) is managed by a coach who was fired by the worst club in MLS, (B) conceded as many goals as it scored in qualifying and (C) still relies on a pair of 35-year-old strikers. This will be South Korea’s last World Cup with Son Heung-Min somewhere near his peak. I like that a little better.”

– World Cup vignettes: People in Qatar talk about what it means to them

November me: Darwin Nunez is the most exciting player in world soccer. He’s averaging more than a goal or an assist per 90 minutes. He frequently looks like he doesn’t know how to tie his shoes, let alone walk and chew gum at the same time, let alone play professional soccer for one of the best teams in the world. He will, on a single play, dribble the ball 60 yards, beat three defenders, and then somehow shoot the ball … backward. He’s complete chaos — and he’s likely going to be paired with a mild-mannered veteran named … LUIS SUAREZ. Throw in midfielders Federico Valverde and Rodrigo Bentancur, neither of whom can stop scoring, then add in a recent injury to Son Heung-Min, and we’re taking Uruguay this time.

Result: Uruguay 1-0 South Korea

Portugal vs. Ghana (Group H): Remember all those Ghana teams the U.S. had trouble with? Good, now wipe that from your memory. Although they’ve added some new, nationalized talent like Inaki Williams and Tariq Lamptey, the Black Stars limped into the tournament off a lucky Thomas Partey goal in a match that Nigeria dominated. This team didn’t get out of its group at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Result: Portugal 2-0 Ghana

Brazil vs. Serbia (Group G): When they played four years ago, the match ended 2-0. When they play while you’re falling asleep on your couch from too much turkey …

Result: Brazil 2-0 Serbia

Nov. 25

Wales vs. Iran (Group B): It probably won’t happen, but this match could consist of 90 minutes of both teams staring at the ball while it sits in the middle of the center circle, daring the other side to take the initiative. With both sides at their best without the ball, this feels like a terrible matchup for everyone, especially those who decide to wake up early to watch it.

Result: Wales 0-0 Iran

Qatar vs. Senegal (Group A): Senegal soaks up possession from Qatar, the hosts can’t break down the likes of Everton‘s Idrissa Gueye and Chelsea’s Kalidou Koulibaly, the ball turns over and all of a sudden, it’s Sadio Mane breaking into the penalty area — over and over and over again.

Result: Qatar 0-2 Senegal

Netherlands vs. Ecuador (Group A): The Netherlands have been on fire over the past few months. The Elo ratings get updated each time a team plays a game based on the result and the competitiveness of the match, and only Brazil, Argentina and Spain are currently ahead of the Dutch. But this roster … just doesn’t make much sense. They have a bunch of good center backs who can’t all play together and a bunch of gigantic strikers who can’t all play together. Beyond that, the midfield feels very light, and then it’s a bunch of wide attackers who all like to occupy the same spaces and not many guys who can stretch a defense.

Top stories of the week from 

Get exclusive access to more than 3,000 premium articles a year from top writers.
• O’Hanlon: World Cup predictions »
• Doolittle/Schoenfield: 2023 MLB picks »
• Barnwell: Lucky, unlucky NFL teams »
• Lowe’s 10 things: Golden State issues »
More ESPN+ content »

It can work when all the players are world class — elite players can figure out the fit on the fly — but the standard of the Dutch attackers this cycle is a couple of ticks below the Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben generation. The lack of talent is why the Twenty First Group model isn’t so high on them, either.

This could be a tricky match for LVG’s side.

Result: Netherlands 2-1 Ecuador

England vs. United States (Group B): The “It’s Called Soccer, Lads” derby!

Despite all of the exciting attacking talent on both sides, both teams are much better defensively than they are going forward. It’s a weird matchup, and that’s going beyond the anxieties and emotional complexes both nations have developed against, and in concert with, each other over the past 300 years. England should be able to dominate with the ball more than they typically do, while the USMNT have typically fared better without the ball despite wanting the ball more often. Am I talking myself into both teams swapping managers before the tournament starts? I asked this question in April, and I’m still asking it today.

– Borden: Introducing the USMNT’s “Class of 2022” for the World Cup

This is also a matchup between perhaps the two most out-of-form teams in the tournament; England have dropped eight spots in the Elo ratings over the past year, while the U.S. tumbled nine places. There are still all kinds of ways to overthink this one, but despite a pretty volatile seven months for both sides, I’m sticking with the reasoning I went with back in April: “The more talented team wins.”

Result: England 2-1 U.S.

Marcotti raises doubts over France’s World Cup prospects

Gab Marcotti says he has no idea what to expect from defending champions France at the 2022 World Cup.

Nov. 26

Tunisia vs. Australia (Group D): Based on the Twenty First Group ratings, this would be the worst game of the tournament: No. 25 vs. No. 29.

Result: Tunisia 1-1 Australia

Poland vs. Saudi Arabia (Group C): This feels like one of those “guy wins the Golden Boot in one game” type matches, doesn’t it? Would the over/under on Lewandowski goals be 1.5? Maybe even 2?

Result: Poland 4-1 Saudi Arabia

Argentina vs. Mexico (Group C): The last time Tata Martino coached an international match involving the greatest soccer player of all time, Lionel Messi immediately retired after the game. Let’s all hope that’s not the case this time around! I’m skeptical that Martino’s familiarity with the Argentina setup will provide too much of an edge, but it certainly can’t hurt.

Result: Argentina 2-1 Mexico

France vs. Denmark (Group D): The holders against the Euro semifinalists makes for a fun group stage rematch. They drew 0-0 when they played in the group stages in 2018. Denmark have definitely improved since then, and although Pogba and Kante are gone, Karim Benzema is back.

Result: France 1-1 Denmark

Nov. 27

Japan vs. Costa Rica (Group E): It’s time for the transitive property of analysis. Japan pummeled the USMNT in their tuneup friendly a couple of months ago. Despite the score lines over their matches, the U.S. were clearly a better team than Costa Rica over the course of qualifying. Therefore …

Result: Japan 1-0 Costa Rica

Belgium vs. Morocco (Group F): In April, I said, “This is a much better matchup for Belgium than Canada, I think.” I’m proud of myself for absentmindedly inserting “I think” there because it suggested some trepidation. And while I do think Morocco are a slightly better matchup, I no longer think they’re a much better matchup. After all, as mentioned earlier, the Moroccans are the fastest team in the tournament. This is a less talented, and much older, Belgium team than the one we saw at the last World Cup, and the situation hasn’t improved much since April. Eden Hazard has essentially fallen off the face of the earth but is expected to play a prominent role, while Romelu Lukaku has scored a whopping one goal in Serie A this season. He’s on pace to score fewer goals for Inter than he did during last season’s disastrous stint at Chelsea.

– What big European clubs are doing during the World Cup

Remember: A favorite goes out early in every tournament …

Result: Belgium 1-1 Morocco

Croatia vs. Canada (Group F): Against Canada in Canada, the U.S. dominated possession, pressed well and put together some really nice combinations, but it rarely ever led to a quality shot on goal. Croatia should be able to control this game in the same way, and with more midfield talent than the Americans can offer, they also should be able to turn that possession into some more dangerous chances.

If they can’t, they’ll just bop crosses into the box and shoot from range — two specialties of Ivan Perisic — opting for a more industrial Plan B the U.S. never resorted to.

Result: Croatia 2-1 Canada

Spain vs. Germany (Group E): With Nos. 2 and 7 in the Twenty First Group ratings, this is, theoretically, the Game of the Group Stages. But more often than not, the Game of the Group Stages ends in disappointment because both sides have more to lose than to gain by going all-out for the win. Hell, and even when they do, like with Spain and Portugal in 2018, the match can still end even.

Result: Spain 1-1 Germany

How do you pronounce Qatar?

Professor of Islamic history Jonathan Brown gives the definitive pronunciation of Qatar with Gio Reyna, Reggie Cannon and Sam Vines.

Nov. 28

Cameroon vs. Serbia (Group G): This just isn’t a good group for Cameroon. Brazil might be the best team in the tournament, while Serbia and Switzerland both rank within the top 15 of the Twenty First Group rankings. As such, TFG gives the Indomitable Lions just an 11% chance of reaching the knockout rounds. Only Qatar (9%) and Costa Rica (8%) have a smaller chance of advancing.

Result: Cameroon 1-2 Serbia

South Korea vs. Ghana (Group H): Among all the teams in the tournament, Ghana are the only ones who were outscored in all of their competitive matches since last August. This isn’t a vintage South Korea side by any means, but they should be alive come the final Matchday.

Result: South Korea 1-0 Ghana

Brazil vs. Switzerland (Group G): They tied 1-1 in the group stages last time around, but Brazil totally dominated the shot count 21-6. There’s no good reason to suggest any different this time around, and there’s no good reason to expect the bounces to fall Switzerland’s way a second time.

Result: Brazil 2-1 Switzerland

Portugal vs. Uruguay (Group H): Funnily enough, the Twenty First Group model rates Uruguay as exactly the same as Serbia. And that Serbian team beat and drew Portugal en route to winning the World Cup qualifying group and forcing Fernando Santos’ team into a playoff. Portugal lost Diogo Jota since I first wrote this thing, and Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be rapidly declining and killing the vibes at every possible opportunity, while Uruguay have a bunch of ascending soon-to-be-if-they’re-not-already superstars. But even without Jota and with a big question mark over Ronaldo’s performance up top, Portugal still have way more talent up and down the roster.

Uruguay knocked Portugal out in the round of 16, but these two teams are in very different places four years later — even if the headline names remain the same.

Result: Portugal 2-1 Uruguay

Nov. 29

Netherlands vs. Qatar (Group A): One of those classic World Cup matchups between one team that’s already eliminated and another team that’s trying to score as many goals as possible in order to win the potential goal-differential tiebreaker atop the group.

Result: Netherlands 4-1 Qatar

Ecuador vs. Senegal (Group A): While the incentives tend to be uniform over the first two matches of the group stages — win as many points as you can — by the third game, you’re just trying to do whatever you think maximizes your chances of qualifying. While a win would put Ecuador through, a draw or a win would be good enough for Senegal.

It was the same exact situation when Senegal played Colombia in the final group stage game in 2018 — and lost. Four years later, they’ve learned their lesson.

Result: Ecuador 1-1 Senegal

Wales vs. England (Group B): Based on the prior outcomes, England will have already clinched first place in the group through the first two matches. That, theoretically, bodes incredibly well for Wales … until you remember that England’s second-choice team is likely to be nearly as good as its first. Southgate rotated his squad during the group stages of the Euros without much issue, and the same should be true this time around.

Result: Wales 1-1 England

Iran vs. United States (Group B): Another team that doesn’t want the ball.

In April, I wrote: “Hopefully you’re sensing a theme here … and hopefully Gregg Berhalter is too. While, paradoxically, it seemed like the U.S. might match up better against better competition come the World Cup — less of the ball, but more transition opportunities, and more space in the attacking third — they’ve drawn a collection of teams who also function better without it. Figuring out how to break these teams down — hint, hint, set pieces! — should be the goal of the next seven months.”

Spoiler: They did not figure it out over the next seven months. However, I am now dangerously close to proclaiming, “The USMNT is better against good teams than bad teams,” and that’s step too cute, even for me. This seems likely to be a very frustrating three-match slate for American fans, but after a tense first half, the U.S. breaks through — and then breaks through again as Iran now have to push forward to stay alive.

Result: Iran 0-2 U.S.

Berhalter: USMNT to continue ‘Be the Change’ message at World Cup

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter says he and his team will continue to push the team’s “Be the Change” message while in Qatar.

Nov. 30

Tunisia vs. France (Group D): Finally, a decisive win for the defending champs.

Result: Tunisia 0-3 France

Australia vs. Denmark (Group D): Australia would have to win this by a large margin in order to advance and so we’ll say that they get a goal, but then leave themselves open at the back over the full 90 minutes. Denmark and France both finish the group with seven points and the same goal differential, but the Danes top the standings thanks to the goals-scored tiebreaker.

Result: Australia 1-3 Denmark

Poland vs. Argentina (Group C): A chance for Lewandowski to avenge Messi for stealing his Ballon d’Or? Or not. When both teams benefit from a draw, I expect both teams to — ultimately — benefit from a draw.

Result: Poland 1-1 Argentina

Saudi Arabia vs. Mexico (Group C): Feels like the right way for Tata Martino’s reign as Mexico manager to come to an end, right? A decisive win gets them to four points, but thanks to a schedule quirk, Argentina doesn’t have as much to play for against Poland, so Poland gets an extra point from the final match to send El Tri packing.

Result: Saudi Arabia 1-3 Mexico

Dec. 1

Croatia vs. Belgium (Group F): The Belgium attackers finally click, as Croatia controls possession but leave the Red Devils too much space to play into on the counter. Will it be enough?

Result: Croatia 1-2 Belgium

Canada vs. Morocco (Group F): What did I say earlier? When a draw suits both parties, don’t be surprised when both parties end in a draw. Morocco tops the group, and Canada and Belgium finish tied on points, on goal differential, and on goals scored. The next tiebreaker? Head-to-head, and so the second- and third-place finishers from 2018 both get dumped out before the round of 16.

Result: Canada 1-1 Morocco

Japan vs. Spain (Group E): The way to frustrate Spain is to limit space in your defensive third and force them to circulate the ball from side to side. The issue with that in this particular situation? Japan need to win, not just grind out a draw. The incentives are against them in this one.

Result: Japan 0-2 Spain

Costa Rica vs. Germany (Group E): The Costa Rica of two World Cups ago would have given Germany some problems. The problem with this year’s Costa Rica is that they have many of the same players as the Costa Rica of two World Cups ago. Four players on the roster have 100-plus caps; that’s not a good thing.

Result: Costa Rica 1-3 Germany

Will Germany or Spain take top spot in Group E?

Gab & Juls preview Group E at the 2022 World Cup, home to heavyweights Germany and Spain.

Dec. 2

South Korea vs. Portugal (Group H): I fear that the scheduling really works against the Koreans here. Playing the most important group match — against Uruguay — first isn’t ideal with Son only just coming back from injury in time to kick things off. We don’t know how effective he’ll be in his first game back. And then, to wrap, they get to play a frustratingly conservative Portugal team who are incentivized to be conservative in this one, as they only need a draw to top the group.

Result: South Korea 1-1 Portugal

Ghana vs. Uruguay (Group H): Originally, I projected this to be the only meaningless game of the group stages, based on how everything shook out. Instead, we get a rematch of the time Luis Suarez punched a ball off the goal line in extra time of a World Cup quarter final — and it worked. Suarez was sent off, Asamoah Gyan missed the ensuing penalty and Uruguay won in a shootout.

– World Cup kit rankings: Every nation ranked from 32 to 1

While typically Uruguay would benefit from playing an already-eliminated team, Ghana should be up for this one with the opportunity to eliminate the team that eliminated them, tragically, 12 years ago. I see this one getting really weird and emotional. It ends with lots of goals — just enough for Uruguay to sneak past South Korea via tiebreaker.

Result: Ghana 2-2 Uruguay

Cameroon vs. Brazil (Group G): Just a brutal draw for Cameroon. They were also in Brazil’s group — in Brazil — in 2014. Sorry, guys!

Result: Cameroon 1-2 Brazil

Serbia vs. Switzerland (Group G): Serbia vs. Switzerland was the best game of the group stages in 2018, and it’s setting up for that to be the case again in 2022. Switzerland would just need a draw, Serbia would need a win. Last time, Shaqiri got naked from the waist up after his 90th-minute winner and he and Granit Xhaka were charged by FIFA for politically charged celebrations.

Switzerland has the slightly better — and more balanced — team, but this would be an electric match.

Result: Serbia 1-1 Switzerland

OK, here we go: the round of 16

Dec. 3

Netherlands vs. United States: Ah, yes, finally a matchup that might suit the USMNT’s strength. As we already went over, the Dutch might be the worst best team from the group stages, so this part of the draw worked out well for Berhalter’s team. Only Germany and Spain had a higher percentage of the final-third possession in their matches than the Dutch did, and they’ll likely look to do the same against the Americans. However, they also don’t have the devastating attacking talent of other top teams to turn that possession into goals. Tim Ream and Walker Zimmerman should be able to hang with the likes of Wout Weghorst and Luuk De Jong.

Of course, on the other end, is it hard to imagine a team without a true striker scoring against a team with Virgil van Dijk? Sure, but hey, Christian Pulisic always plays well against Liverpool, doesn’t he?

Result: Netherlands 1-2 U.S.

Can Belgium finally live up to their potential in Qatar?

Gab & Juls wonder if 2022 is finally the year for Belgium’s “golden generation” to come good.

Argentina vs. France: Argentina’s reward for winning their group? A game against France, who, in 2018, were rewarded for winning their group with a game against Argentina. The Albiceleste are way better equipped to handle France this time around, but it’s just a brutal draw for them.

So much of winning the World Cup comes down to good fortune, and unfortunately, Lionel Messi knows that as well as anyone. I have this sneaking suspicion that one of Argentina’s talented but volatile center backs — Nicolas OtamendiCristian Romero or Lisandro Martinez — is going to do something silly at the wrong moment, and it’s going to cost them the tournament.

Result: Argentina 1-2 France (after extra time)

Dec. 4

Denmark vs. Poland: Poland have the best player; Denmark have the better team. It might seem like an unlikely outcome for either side to reach the quarterfinals, but based on Twenty First Group’s projections, there’s about a 5042% chance that at least one of them does.

Result: Denmark 1-0 Poland

England vs. Senegal: This would be a fun one, huh? A colossal battle between Sadio Mane and The Narrative That Trent Alexander-Arnold Can’t Defend. Just kidding; I doubt TAA will be out there, unless multiple other players get hurt. This could be a difficult one for England, but I just don’t think they’ll concede the same kind of space Senegal are likely to see during the group stages.

Result: England 2-0 Senegal

Dec. 5

Laurens backs ‘best Neymar ever’ to take Brazil far

Gab & Juls explain what we can expect to see from Neymar and Brazil at the 2022 World Cup.

Spain vs. Canada: Now this could be a really tricky matchup for Luis Enrique’s team. Canada are the exact kind of team that has historically given Spain trouble, and there’s just no one in their squad who can handle Alphonso Davies. But Spain are just going to have so much of the ball in this one, and they’re better equipped than just about anyone else in the tournament to convert all that ball control into high-quality chances.

Result: Spain 1-0 Canada

Brazil vs. Uruguay: Brazil outscored Uruguay 6-1 in their two qualifying matches and outshot them 22-10. While Uruguay do have Darwin, Suarez, Bentancur and Valverde, Brazil have NeymarThiago SilvaAlissonCasemiroEdersonMarquinhosVinicius JuniorFabinho, Bruno GuimaraesGabriel MartinelliGabriel JesusRaphinhaRodrygoRicharlison …

Result: Brazil 2-0 Uruguay

Dec. 6

Morocco vs. Germany: While Argentina finish first in their group and land France, Germany finish second in theirs and luck out with a matchup against Morocco. Germany’s big problem under Hansi Flick is that they haven’t really played well against any big teams but they’ve absolutely pummeled any team they’ve had the definitive talent advantage against. While Morocco handled Belgium in our tournament, the Germans are essentially a much better version of the same team: Push the attack dials up to 100 and deal with the fallout.

Result: Morocco 1-3 Germany

Portugal vs. Switzerland: The Swiss are the kind of organized, know-who-we-are team that Portugal have struggled with over the years. I think the same thing probably happens here, much like with France at the Euros. Each team grabs a goal, it goes to penalties and, well, it’s pretty much a coin flip from there.

Result: Portugal 1-1 Switzerland, Portugal advances on penalties


Dec. 9

Spain vs. Brazil: Wow. These teams were circling each other during the late aughts and early 2010s, with Spain dominating Europe, Brazil doing the same in South America but neither team ever meeting on the world’s biggest stage. These seriously might just be the two best teams in the tournament.

Tite has turned Brazil into the best defensive team on the globe, and that’s been true for the better part of a decade. Since he took over as coach, they’ve allowed 3.7 goals — per year. Meanwhile, Luis Enrique has Spain playing like an elite club team: pressing high and dominating games with complex positional rotations in possession. This would be a title fight, but I think this is where Enrique’s refusal to mine for edges — leaving talented veterans off the squad, laughing away set pieces — comes back to bite him.

Result: Spain 1-2 Brazil (after extra time)

Pedri? Bellingham? Valverde? Who will have the best World Cup?

The ESPN FC crew debate who will have the best World Cup out of Jude Bellingham, Federico Valverde and Pedri.

United States vs. France: Yep, that’s going to do it for the Americans. Could they theoretically pull off the upset here? Yes, sure, but just because North Macedonia beats Italy doesn’t mean you should predict that it’ll happen. It’s close to impossible for me to imagine the U.S. scoring against France. And at the other end, who’s going to slow down Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema, Ousmane DembeleKingsley Coman and on and on and on?

Result: U.S. 0-2 France

Dec. 10

Germany vs. Portugal: We saw Germany absolutely annihilate Portugal at the Euros in 2021, and outside of the retirement of Toni Kroos, they’re now a better — and better coached — team. Flick manages in a way that attempts to raise his team’s ceiling, while Portugal’s Fernando Santos opts to pull up his team’s floor.

The latter gets you out of the group stages; the former gets you to the World Cup semifinals.

Germany 2-1 Portugal

England vs. Denmark: It’s a day of Euro 2020 rematches!

Denmark really were worthy semifinalists in the summer of 2021, dominating the balance of chances in every match they played … until England showed up.

Although it went to extra time, England outshot the Danes 20-6, putting nine on target to their opponent’s three. The game was in England, of course, but England might have even more talent in Qatar than they had at the Euros. They overwhelmed Denmark last time, and the bounces didn’t quite go their way until extra time.

The big difference this time — beyond the match not being at Wembley Stadium? The tournament is happening in the middle of the season and most of the England roster falls into one of two camps: (1) those who have played an absurd number of minutes over the past 18 months or (2) those who have not played an absurd number of minutes over the past 18 months only because their club managers dropped them due to poor performance. When I looked in mid-September, England had 10 players who had logged at least 5,000 minutes over the previous 365 days, while Denmark only had one: Tottenham’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

For a number of reasons, this World Cup is going to be unlike anything we’ve seen, and so I think we should all just be way less confident in our predictions, in general. He says, after predicting every game in the tournament? Rather, I mean that I think there’s more room for an underdog run and for big teams going down early than there has been in any other modern edition of the tournament. And so, the Danes get their revenge.

Result: England 1-2 Denmark (after extra time)

E60 Qatar’s World Cup

In 2014, E60 went to Qatar to report on the plight of migrant workers there. This spring, they went back, to see what has changed, and not changed, in the last eight years.


France vs. Brazil (Dec. 13): Whenever these two teams play, it feels like you’re watching history unfold in real time. You know the things you’re seeing are things people will be talking about in 50 years, and you know it while they’re happening: Roberto Carlos violating every law of physics with a free kick; Zinedine Zidane looking like he escaped one of the four mendicant orders to come dominate the 1998 World Cup final; Zidane turning back the clock to knock Brazil out in 2006 round of 16.

This one shouldn’t be any different. It’ll be decided by a single moment or two that everyone in both countries will remember forever. Since it hasn’t really happened for them since 2002, Brazil seems due for a few of those to go their way.

Result: France 1-2 Brazil

Denmark vs. Germany (Dec. 14): This would be as close as we’ll come to a Bundesliga game breaking out in Qatar. Most of the top teams in this tournament like to play slowly and carefully. They grind through games that don’t feature many turnovers. Not these two, though.

Among qualifiers from Europe, Denmark’s matches featured the most possessions per team (93.5), while Germany were essentially the same (93.4). They both won roughly seven possessions per match in the attacking third — both ranking behind only Japan in that regard. And they both moved the ball upfield at almost exactly the same speed: Denmark at 1.24 meters per second, Germany at 1.23.

We can be more specific than just “a Bundesliga game” — this might actually look like a Bayern Munich game, if they were to play themselves. The main reason Bayern Munich have won 10 league titles in a row is their large financial advantage over the rest of the league; but another — very minor — reason is that most of the league tries to go toe-to-toe with them whenever they play. It makes for a great spectacle, and this theoretical matchup would present the same possibility, but it typically just doesn’t work. When you try to press and unsettle Bayern Munich, you’re essentially trying to beat them at their own game, and you’re typically not going to be able to do that because Bayern Munich will always have better players than you.

This match might feature a similar dynamic.

Result: Denmark 2-3 Germany

Gab & Juls have high expectations for a thrilling Group H

Gab & Juls preview Group H at the 2022 World Cup, with Portugal, Uruguay, Ghana and South Korea fighting to qualify.

Third-place game

France vs. Denmark (Dec. 17): Out of principle, I am not going to analyze an imaginary soccer game that shouldn’t even exist in the first place. BAN THE THIRD-PLACE GAME. THE PLAYERS DON’T CARE. THE FANS DON’T CARE. THIS TOURNAMENT IS HAPPENING IN THE MIDDLE OF A DOMESTIC SOCCER SEASON. WE DON’T NEED THIS, FIFA. REFUND YOUR SPONSORS.

The 2022 World Cup final

Brazil vs. Germany (Dec. 18): The main story, of course, would be the 7-1. Can Brazil get revenge for perhaps the most embarrassing defeat in the history of the World Cup? Neymar, theoretically, would be playing, which also would mean that his teammates wouldn’t be in tears, moments before kickoff, while they held up his jersey during the national anthem. Also, theoretically, Thiago Silva wouldn’t be suspended. Meanwhile, the current German squad features only three holdovers from 2014: Manuel NeuerThomas Muller and Mario Gotze.

It’s 1 vs. 2 in the Twenty First Group ratings; it’s the best defense vs. the best attack.

However, there’s also a larger narrative at play in this one: Influenced by a number of innovations that began or were popularized in the Bundesliga, the European club game has become the global epicenter of the world’s most popular sport. The best players and coaches and trainers and executives all tend to work in Europe. Pressing is Germany’s major tactical export, and the national team does it as aggressively as anyone. Only Morocco and Senegal held their opponents to a lower pass-completion percentage than Flick’s team (72.5%). Brazil, meanwhile, stand in refutation of the dominant trend, as they’ve allowed 82.7% of opposition passes to be completed — a higher number than everyone in the tournament other than Costa Rica and France.

While there was supposed to be a global leveling in the international game, it seems like it’s actually going in the other direction, with European sides becoming ever more dominant thanks to their proximity to the highest echelon of the sport. Among the past 12 top-three finishers at the World Cup, just one (Argentina, in 2014) comes from outside of Europe.

A win for Brazil would be a welcome, if temporary, reversal of where the game is going. Of course, if they do win, they’ll be doing it with a roster composed almost completely of players who all work in the same place: Western Europe.

Result: Brazil 2-0 Germany

USMNT Wahl -World Cup Daily, Day 5

It’s not about the beer. It’s about Qatar’s rulers running this World Cup, and FIFA can’t do anything about it.

On Friday, Qatar’s rulers quashed the sale of alcoholic beer inside and outside of World Cup stadiums (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

DOHA, Qatar — Do you really think Qatar’s authoritarian rulers just decided today—two days before the start of the World Cup—that they weren’t going to allow alcoholic beer to be served in World Cup stadiums? I sure don’t.

But what I do know is the big take-away isn’t about beer at all. It’s that FIFA is not in control of this World Cup. Qatar’s rulers are, and that makes anything we’ve heard from FIFA or national federations speaking about, say, how Qatari security forces will treat LGBTQ visitors here should be regarded as meaningless.

So, FIFA and national federations: Don’t speak about how you’re told that everything will be OK. You really don’t know for sure, and the Qataris go out of their way not to be reassuring.

GrantWahl.com is reader-supported. Free and paid subscriptions are available. This is how I make a living, and quality journalism and traveling to Qatar require resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now.

Upgrade to Paid

Give a gift subscription

We’re two days away from the opening game of the World Cup (Qatar-Ecuador). By all expectations, the soccer should start to take center stage with four games a day beginning on Tuesday. But the truth is that I’m less confident than ever that security forces here will avoid escalating interactions with fans—gay fans, drunk fans, protesting fans—that turn into significant incidents.

This is the trend in Qatar: People can say there are codified laws and rules, but then they don’t get observed on the ground. Qatar can pass new worker-protection laws, but as I found out speaking to workers here, many of them aren’t enforced. FIFA can develop PowerPoint presentations about how security forces should avoid escalating situations with visitors, but they can’t guarantee that will happen.

The only people truly in control here are the Qatari royal family, and that is a certifiably opaque group. The default in this country is for security people to demand that you delete a picture from your phone, even a totally innocuous picture, because that’s what happens with the people who live here, most of them migrants, when it’s not in the fantasyland of WorldCup-ville.

On Wednesday, the day after I wrote about my small incident with the phone-deletion-demanding security guard at the media center, I had a strange thing happen. I was in my house here doing a live video event with Front Office Sports, and a random person walked straight in through the door. He looked at me. I looked at him. Remember, it’s a live video event.

The most likely scenario was that he was a neighbor who had just walked into the wrong house, since all of our townhouses here look the same. But there was just enough doubt planted in my head by my own incident, the Qatari record and what we have been seeing this week that I asked myself if this guy was the police coming to my door. I hate that seed of doubt.

So what’s it going to be, Qatar? Is the soccer going to be the dominant story starting Sunday? Or are we going to keep seeing the control of this World Cup ceded to this country’s rulers?

11/10/22  USWNT lose 3rd in a row face Germany Sun 5 pm ESPN, US Men Roster Set, GK Jordan Farr in USL Champ Tonight 9 pm ESPN2, World Cup in 2 weeks

US Men’s World Cup Roster is Set

So the Roster has been named for the US World Cup team going to Qatar in just 11 days – Berhalter stayed true to his normal rotation but did have a few surprises.  First and foremost is the omission of Zach Steffan – I feel bad for Zach that his injuries and poor form have come over the past year – but the 26 year old is simply not up to snuff right now in Europe and in my opinion should not be on this roster.  I am relieved to think that baring injury Arsenal GK Matt Turner our BEST shotstopper will be between the pipes.  I believe he’s got great games in him and will have to have a game changing performance along the way if the US is to advance to the Knockout Rounds.  (love this snippet on Turner from ESPN). The other huge omissions were #9s Ricardo Pepi and Jordan Pfok for Haji Wright who is playing fantastically in Turkey and grew up playing with Pulisic, Adams & McKinney on US Youth National teams.  (don’t discount that relationship he has had since childhood with the heart and soul of this young team).  I am still not convinced he shouldn’t bring a 4th striker in Pfok but he hasn’t been as hot the last month in Germany as Wright and Josh Sargent have been in Europe. Thrilled to see Tim Ream in Defense he should start between Robinson on the left and Zimmerman on the right in my mind.  He starts for Fulham who is 10th in the EPL and has faced many of the players for England and Wales. (He gets the nod in game 1). Also thrilled Joe Scally from M’Gladbach – he can play either wingback and should start if Dest is not ready to go on the right. I am a little disappointed to see Cristian Roldan/Jordan Morris rather than Paul Arriola.  I know he’s MLS – but Paul bleeds Red /White and Blue and would have represented the US

Full U.S. Men’s roster for 2022 World Cup:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8 appearances for U.S./0 goals), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach/GER; 3/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0)

FORWARDS (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1) 

USA Women LOSE 2-1 to Germany play again Sun 5 pm on ESPN

So the all the new players for the US were there – but it took the old guard of Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe to weave some magic to bring the US to a tie with Germany 1-1 in the 85th minute – in what should have been a disappointing tie.  But instead Germany struck late in the 88th minute on a breakaway were the German forward Julie Brand destroyed our weak center back Alana Cook who owned her on the way to an easy pass to Krumbiegel for the tap in goal.  (high-lights) I thought the team looked good with multiple shots off the post, but once again the final 3rd let them down – the US had tons of chances in the first 60 minutes and scored ZIP.  Nothing – NADA.  The young new stars – the Sophie Smith’s and the Malory Pugh’s are all cute until they play good teams and then its NADA.  NO GOALS.  The new young defenders are ok until again good team – and NADA.  The Center back pair of Cook and Girma were split and exposed all night long.  And only a solid stint in goal by new favorite GK Casey Murphy kept it close  This is 3 consecutive loses for the first time since 1993.  I know we have injuries – and literally no longer have a #6 (oh Julie Ertz – please come back).  But Coach Andownzovski’s continued use of Alana Cook – should have him looking over his shoulder.  SHE IS NOT THE ANSWER – please give me Veteran Centerback Becky Sauerbrunn back until we get more healthy center backs – because Cook has once again cost us a game vs a European foe.  The US is not the #1 Team in the World anymore – We have played 3 teams ranked in the Top10 and been beaten by all of them now.  Lets see what happens on Sunday at 5 pm on ESPN – but at this rate – the US will not be ranked #1 anymore.


GOALKEEPERS (3): 21-Adrianna Franch (Kansas City Current), 18-Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), 1-Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (7): 3-Alana Cook (OL Reign), 19-Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), 23-Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), 12-Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), 8-Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), 5-Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (7): 14-Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC), 10-Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA), 20-Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), 16-Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), 22-Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), 2-Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), 17-Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

FORWARDS (7): 7-Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), 13-Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), 9-Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), 15-Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), 6-Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), 11-Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), 25-Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

 Indy 11 & USL Sun 8:30 pm ESPN2

Great to see former Carmel FC GK Coach and Indy 11 Goalie Jordan Farr is headed to the USL Finals with his #1 Seed In the Western Division San Antonio vs Louisville City FC – Sunday night on ESPN2 at 8:30 pm.  Farr was named USL Goalkeeper of the Year.  San Antonio beat Colorado Springs 2-0 (highlights) to advance to the finals  USL Playoff Bracket  

LAFC Wins MLS Cup over Philly in Best Ever MLS Final 4-3 in PKs as over 2 million watched on Fox Sat

So I must admit I traveled to Texas AM to see my Florida Gators win in College Station so I missed the MLS Finals – did watch some on the plane home.  What a game I missed. If you missed it too – check out the hi-lights of what many are calling the Best Ever MLS Final.  LAFC GK Crepo was carted off in the 116th minute on a red card before Philly took the lead in the 118th minute.  But LAFC late sub Gareth Bale for a 10 man LAFC tied it in the last seconds of Extra Time(128th minute) leading to a Penalty shootout where the backup goalie John McCarthy (a former Philly Union GLK) and pentalty specialist saved 2 for the win as LAFC won it 4-3 on PKs.  Wow !!  Check out the 3252 section behind the goal in LA – tons of stories below. 

Games Overseas to Watch This Weekend

The last weekend of league play before the World Cup features an American matchup as US defender Joe Scally and Borussia M’Gladbach will host fellow American WC bound forward Gio Reyna and Dortmund at 2:30 pm Friday on ESPN+.  Leeds United fresh of this 4-3 thriller last weekend kicks things off Sat at 10 am on Peacock with American Manager Jesse Marsch taking his US World Cup participants Tyler Adams and Brendan Aaronson to Tottenham, while Liverpool hosts Southampton on USA.  Sat at 12:30 pm on NBC Chelsea and Pulisic travel to top 3 contender Newcastle United, while league leaders Arsenal travel to Wolverhampton at 2:$5 p on USA.  Sun American’s Jedi Robinson and Tim Ream (who should start together in the WC) and Fulham host Man United at 11:30 am on USA.  Of course the US Ladies play at 5 pm Sunday on FS1 vs Germany followed by the USL Championship game and former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr for San Antonio vs Indy 11’s hated rival Louisville FC at 8:30 pm on ESPN2. Also Sunday Indiana U is playing @ Rutgers in the Big 10 Finals Sunday at noon on the Big 10 Network. 

Carmel FC Goalkeepers Training – We’ll start Indoor Training at the Badger Fieldhouse on Wednesday nights in December

U11 5:30, U12 & U13 6:30 and U14/Highschool 8:30 pm. 

Carmel FC Goalkeeper Coach Noelle Rolfsen (blue) has led her Marion University Knights to 16-0-2 mark clinching the Crossroads League Regular Season title. The #2 Ranked Knights won Wed night 3-2 and will host the League Finals Sat at home. Sat 2:00 pm — #2 MU vs Spring Harbor (at Marian U) on MyIndy TV 23 — Video ($) | Live Stats Tickets just $8


Thur, Nov 10

12:30 pm Para+                 Hellas Verona vs Juventus

3 pm ESPN+                        Man United vs Aston Villa

7 pm FS1                              USWNT vs Germany

Fri, Nov 11

2:30 pm ESPN+                  Borussia M’Gladbach (Scally) vs Dortmund (Reyna)  

Sat, Nov 12

7:30 am USA               Man City vs Brentford

10 am USA                  Liverpool vs Southampton

10 am Peacock                        Tottenham vs Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson)

12:30 pm NBC                        Newcastle United vs Chelsea  (Pulisic)

2:45 pm USA               Wolverhampton vs Arsenal

12:30 pm ESPN+         Schalke vs Bayern Munich

Sun, Nov 13

6:30 am CBSSN                  Atalanta vs Inter Milan

7 am beIN Sport               PSG vs Auxerre

9 am USA                             Brighton vs Aston Villa

11:30 am                              Freiburg vs Union Berlin (Pefok)

11:30 am USA                     Fulham (Robinson, Ream) vs Man United

12 noon BTN              Rutgers University vs Indiana University Men

5 pm ESPN                          USWNT vs Germany

8:30 pm ESPN2         San Antonio (Jordan Farr GK) vs Louisville City

Sun, Nov 20

11 am Fox                            World Cup Starts Qatar vs Ecudor

Mon, Nov 21

8 am FS1                              England vs Iran

11 am Fox                            Senegal vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox             USA vs Wales (Bale)

Tues, Nov 22

5 am Fox Sport 1               Argentina (Messi) vs Saudi Arabia

11 am Fox                            Mexico vs Poland 

2 pm Fox                              France vs Austrailia

Wed, Nov 23

5 am Fox Sport 1               Morroco vs Croatia

7 am Fox Sport 1              Germany vs Japan

11 am Fox                            Spain vs Costa Rica  

2 pm Fox                              Belgium vs Canada

Thur, Nov 24  –                   Thanksgiving

5 am FS1                              Switzterland vs Cameroon

8 am FS1                              Uruguay vs Korea

11 am Fox                            Portugal (Renaldo) vs Ghana

2 pm Fox                              Brazil (Neymar) vs Serbia

Fri, Nov 25

5 am FS1                              Wales vs Iran

8 am FS1                              Qatar vs Senagal

11 am Fox                            Ecuador vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox             USA vs England

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

CARMEL FC PLAYERS : Winter Players League (WPL) – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse
As the fall season comes to a close over the next month, we wanted to let you know that we will be launching an indoor soccer league over two six week sessions within our new Badger Fieldhouse. Games will be played on either Friday night ( 6pm to 10pm) or Sunday afternoon (1pm-5pm) depending on age groups: U8s, U9&U10, U11&U12, U13-U15 and U16+ (Coed Teams allowed). Referees for each game, 50 minute games, 5v5, 7v7 and 9v9 matches.
Session One (6 weeks): Jan 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th / Feb: 3rd, 10th
Session Two (6 weeks): Feb 17th, 24th / Mar 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th

===================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ====================== 


Try out the Best BarBQ in Town right across the street (131st) from Northview Church & Badger Field on the corner of Hazelldell & 131st. RackZ BBQ

Save 20% on your order 

(mention the ole ballcoach) 

Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

=====================RackZ BAR BBQ ======Save 20% ======================

US Ladies  

USWNT vs. Germany, 2022 friendly: What to watch for Stars and Stripes By Donald Wine II

USWNT Friendly: Scouting Germany By Brendan Joseph Stars and Stripes  

Coach V talks Sophia Smith

USWNT is not just Womens Soccer Any More – Says Englands Bronze
For NWSL players, there’s work, play, and the things not in the job description

US Men

 US Roster Complete – Stars and Stripes  

Berhalter names his 26 players for Qatar: a deep ASN breakdown

USMNT World Cup 3 biggest Snubs – the 18


Crystal Palace Defender Chris Richards to Miss World Cup
From refugee camp to World Cup: Davies relishing Canada mission

USL Final San Antonio vs Louisville  Sun 8:30 pm

 USL Final San Antonio vs Louisville City

USL Goalkeeper of the Year – Jordan Farr former Indy 11 GK & Carmel FC GK Coach



The MLS Cup Final had everything, including Will Ferrell drinking beer out of the trophy

Analysis: Bale & McCarthy lift LAFC to MLS Cup over Philly in an all-time classic
MLS Cup: Ranking every Major League Soccer championship game

World Cup

World Cup team previews: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea ESPN
World Cup 2022 kit ranking: Who has the best jerseys in Qatar?
  ESPN Austin Lindberg

Qatar is housing World Cup fans in shipping containers in the middle of the desert

Ex- FIFA Prez Calls Qatar World Cup a Mistake
Messi and Ronaldo look set for final shot at World Cup glory

World Cup 2022 rankings: Who are the favorites?

Belgium’s golden generation face last stand at World Cup

Tite brings back Brazil aura with sixth World Cup win in sights

Dani Alves in, Firmino out as Brazil name World Cup squad

Neymar ready to carry the weight of a nation on his shoulders

Argentine soccer fans deplete savings for World Cup

African soccer still trying to fulfil promise at World Cup

Spurs boss Conte ‘confident’ Son will play at World Cup

World Cup 2022: The problem with Qatar’s ‘carbon neutral’ promise

Champions & Europa League 

 UCL draw predictions as Real Madrid play Liverpool and Bayern meet PSG ESPN

Liverpool handed Real Madrid rematch in Champions League last 16, PSG draw Bayern
Barcelona draw Manchester United in Europa League


 USL Goalkeeper of the Year – Jordan Farr former Indy 11 GK & Carmel FC GK Coach

US Starting GK Matt Turner – his Story from Playground in 2002 to the World Cup and Playing for Arsenal


World Cup has 3 women set to referee matches in Qatar

USWNT vs. Germany, 2022 friendly: What to watch for

The final window for the USWNT begins in what could be a wild, rainy affair. Stars and Stripes

By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Nov 9, 2022, 7:00am PST  

The United States Women’s National Team are slated to take on Germany this weekend in a pair of friendlies, the first being tomorrow at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. As the USWNT enter the final international window of the year, they have another incredible test against the #3 ranked team in the world. However, it’s not a given whether tomorrow’s test will proceed as scheduled, as Tropical Storm Nicole bears down on the Sunshine State and is expected to hit somewhere along the eastern shore as a hurricane tomorrow.

It’s probably irresponsible to play the match in those conditions, so we’ll keep an eye on the skies and U.S. Soccer’s social media feeds to see if this match will be determined, but if it does, we shall hopefully see a spirited friendly match against two teams that want to prove they’re the team to beat when the 2023 Women’s World Cup begins next summer.


USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski has called in 24 players for this window, most of whom we’ve continued to see on the team over the last few months since the Concacaf W Championship.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Adrianna Franch (Kansas City Current), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (7): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

FORWARDS (7): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

What To Watch For

Nicole will be a disruptive fan. When a tropical storm is bearing down on you, you need to prepare. If the game is played, expect it to be windy and rainy, and that will truly affect the play on the field. The USWNT need to prepare to have short passes and really work on maintaining possession in the midst of a torrential downpour.

Keep Germany on their heels. Germany is going to try and push the USWNT to the brink, but it’s the USWNT that needs to take the game to the Germans. Keeping them on their back feet is the key, as it will neutralize any instincts Germany have to counter.

Production, production, production. Last month, the USWNT were not able to generate a ton of production, and it’s something that should be a point of emphasis. You can’t win the games if you don’t put the ball in the net, and they need to focus on their execution inside the attacking third.


The real prediction is that this match isn’t played, and we move onto New Jersey. If it does proceed as scheduled, it’s a 1-1 draw.




The U.S. Women’s National Team is set to play its penultimate match of 2022, taking on Germany at 7 p.m. ET on Nov. 10 at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The match will be broadcast on FS1 and is the first of two meetings in a four-day span between the USA and Germany. The USWNT, ranked No. 1 in the latest FIFA World Rankings, will take on Germany, runners-up at this summer’s Women’s EURO and the third-ranked team in the world, to close out the calendar year.

The games against Germany continue a highly competitive fall for the USWNT, which will play its final eight games of the year against teams that have qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which kicks off in just over eight months. Since the knockout rounds of the Concacaf W Championship, the USA has played Costa Rica and Canada, both of whom will also represent the region in New Zealand and Australia, played two games against perennial African power Nigeria and traveled to Europe for matches against England and Spain, both of whom are amongst the favorites to win the tournament. The USA, which has won a record four FIFA Women’s World Cup titles, enters Thursday’s game in Florida on a 71-game home unbeaten streak, the second-longest such streak in program history.

Following the match on Thursday night, the teams will travel to Harrison, N.J. where they will play again on Sunday, Nov. 13 at Red Bull Arena (5 p.m. ET on ESPN). Fans will also be able to follow the action via Twitter (@USWNT)Instagram (@USWNT)Facebook and the official U.S. Soccer App.


GOALKEEPERS (3): 21-Adrianna Franch (Kansas City Current), 18-Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), 1-Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (7): 3-Alana Cook (OL Reign), 19-Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), 23-Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), 12-Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), 8-Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), 5-Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (7): 14-Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC), 10-Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA), 20-Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), 16-Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), 22-Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), 2-Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), 17-Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

FORWARDS (7): 7-Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), 13-Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), 9-Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), 15-Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), 6-Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), 11-Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), 25-Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

The 24-player roster for these matches against Germany features 20 players who took part in the European Tour in October, including now 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who made her international debut on Oct. 7 against England to become the youngest player to earn a first cap for the USWNT since 2016. Thompson, who became the 70th teenager all-time to appear for the USWNT, celebrated her 18th birthday on Monday. Returning to this roster are forwards and NWSL MVP candidates Alex Morgan and Mallory Pugh, both of whom were unable to participate in the October camp but bring a wealth of international experience and attacking flair to this roster. Taylor Kornieck is back in the midfield while goalkeeper Adrianna Franch earns her first call-up since October 2021 after a stellar season with the Kansas City Current in which she collected NWSL Best XI Second Team honors while leading the club to the NWSL Championship Game. Defender Emily Fox is also back in the squad after suffering an injury in the opening stages of the Oct. 7 match against England that kept out of action for the Oct. 11 game in Spain. 

ALEX 200

Alex Morgan heads into these matches against Germany on 198 career caps, two away from becoming just the 13th player in USWNT history to reach the 200-cap milestone. Since making her international debut in March 2010, Morgan has tallied 119 goals and 46 assists in her 198 international appearances, good for fifth on the USA’s all-time scoring charts and 11th in assists. Should Morgan appearance in both matches against Germany, she could reach the milestone in the Nov. 13 match at Red Bull Arena and become just the sixth active player in the world with 200 caps, joining her USWNT teammate Becky Sauerbrunn, who reached the milestone in February of this year, along with Canada’s Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt, Sweden’s Caroline Seger and Sherida Spitse from the Netherlands.


After a pair of hard-fought defeats in Europe, the USWNT looks to return to its winning ways on home soil, where it is working on a 71-game home unbeaten streak and has gone over five years without a home loss. This is the second-longest home unbeaten streak in USWNT history, the longest lasting 104 games from December of 2004 to December of 2015.

During this home unbeaten streak, the USA has outscored its opponents 266-29, including a 136-5 margin during its last 33 matches at home, all of which have been wins save for the 0-0 draws with Czech Republic on Feb. 17 and with Korea Republic on Oct. 21, 2021.

Thursday’s match in Fort Lauderdale will be the 38th game all-time for the USA in the state of Florida, where it holds an all-time record of 33-3-1. The United States has won 19 consecutive matches in Florida, outscoring opponents, 60-6, in those games and will be playing its first match in the state since the 2021 SheBelieves Cup in Orlando.


The USA and Germany have played 33 times previously with the USWNT leading the overall series 22-4-7. Despite the long history between the teams – which dates back to 1988 – this will be the first meeting between the sides since 2018, when the teams met on March 1 in the SheBelieves Cup. The USA won 1-0 behind a 17th minute goal from Megan Rapinoe on a snowy and windy night in Columbus, Ohio on the first match day of the tournament.The gap of more than four years between meetings is the longest in the history between the two countries. The last three meetings between the USA and Germany all came during the SheBelieves Cup, with the teams meeting during the 2016, 2017 and 2018 editions of the tournament. The USA won all three matchups – and is unbeaten in the last 15 head-to-head meetings with Germany – though all three games were decided by just one goal. In 2016, the USA won 2-1 behind goals from Alex Morgan and Samantha Mewis, followed by a 1-0 victory in 2017 behind a game-winner from Lynn Williams.

Thursday’s game in Fort Lauderdale will be the 17th meeting between the teams on U.S. soil, where the USA has a record a 11-2-3 in the previous 16 meetings. Germany will be the fifth different European opponent the USA has faced this year and the ninth since the start of 2021, having played Sweden twice during that span and the Netherlands, Portugal, France, Czech Republic, Iceland, England and Spain once each.

Ranked No. 3 in the world in the latest FIFA rankings, Germany is the highest-ranked opponent the USA has faced this year and the highest-ranked foe for the top-ranked Americans since playing third-ranked France in April of 2021. The USA won that match in Le Havre on April 13, 2021, 2-0, behind goals from Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe.


  • The loss to England Oct. 7 snapped a 13-game winning streak for the USA, which dated back to its second match of the year against New Zealand. The loss against Spain on Oct. 11 marked the first time the USA had lost back-to-back games in over five years.
  • The two goals allowed in both games in Europe were the most allowed by the USA this year – having conceded just two goals total through the first 14 matches of the year.
  • Since the start of 2020, the USWNT has played 31 matches in the United States and 18 outside the country. The USA is 29-0-2 in domestic matches and has outscored the opposition 127-3 (+124) at home and is 10-4-4 with a 35-16 goal margin (+19) when playing outside the USA.
  • The most capped player on this roster is Becky Sauerbrunn at 210, followed Alex Morgan (198), Megan Rapinoe (196), Crystal Dunn (125) and Lindsey Horan (120) while the least capped players are Casey Murphy (10), Adrianna Franch (10), Trinity Rodman (9), Naomi Girma (8), Hailie Mace (7), Taylor Kornieck (5), Sam Coffey (3) and Alyssa Thompson (2).
  • Becky Sauerbrunn is the oldest player on the roster (37 years old) while Thompson (18) is the youngest.
  • Through 16 games in 2022, the USWNT has had 27 goals scored by players under the age of 24. Over the course of 2019, 2020 and 2021 – a total of 57 games – the USWNT had a combined total of 10 goals scored by players under the age of 24.
  • Morgan is the top scorer on the roster in international play with 119 goals while Rapinoe has 62. Lindsey Horan has 26. Dunn and Pugh both have 24 goals for the USWNT while Rose Lavelle has 22. Smith has 11, including a team-high 10 goals in 2022.
  • Smith comes into the National Team after a trophy-laden month in which she became the youngest NWSL MVP in history after scoring 14 regular season goals, then scored in the NWSL title game to earn Championship Game MVP honors while leading Portland Thorns FC to its third league title.
  • With 10 international goals so far this year with the USWNT, the 22-year-old Smith will be looking to become the youngest player to lead the WNT in scoring in a calendar year since a 21-year-old Mia Hamm led the USA with 10 goals in 1993, seven years before Smith was born.
  • Sixteen different players have scored for the USWNT so far in 2022 – Smith (10), Mallory Pugh (6), Catarina Macario (5), Alex Morgan (4), Rose Lavelle (4), Kristie Mewis (3), Ashley Sanchez (3), Ashley Hatch (2), Trinity Rodman (2), Midge Purce (2), Kelley O’Hara (1), Jaelin Howell (1), Andi Sullivan (1), Taylor Kornieck (1), Emily Sonnett (1) and Lindsey Horan (1).
  • The USA’s other six goals this year came via own goals, the most ever in a calendar year in program history with three on Feb. 20 vs. New Zealand, and one each on April 12 vs. Uzbekistan, June 28 vs. Colombia and Sept. 6 vs. Nigeria.
  • Fourteen different players have tallied an assist for the USWNT soc far in 2022 – Pugh (7), Lavelle (6), Sanchez (3), Alana Cook (2), Sofia Huerta (2), Megan Rapinoe (2), O’Hara (2), Purce (1), Hatch (1), Naomi Girma (1), Macario (1), Smith (1), Sullivan (1) and Emily Fox (1).
  • Andonovski is 41-4-6 in 51 games and went unbeaten (22-0-1) in his first 23 matches in charge of the USWNT, setting a record for the best start for a head coach in USWNT history. The USA opened the Andonovski era on a 16-game winning streak.
  • Of Andonovski’s first 51 games, 33 have been at home and 20 have been against teams ranked in the top-13 in the world.
  • With Alyssa Thompson’s debut on Oct. 7, Trinity Rodman’s debut on Feb. 17, Naomi Girma and Aubrey Kingsbury’s first caps on April 12, Taylor Kornieck’s debut on June 25, Carson Pickett’s first cap on June 28 and Sam Coffey’s first cap on Sept. 6, 17 players have now earned their first cap under Andonovski, with seven debuts coming in 2022.
  • Nine of the 12 NWSL clubs are represented on this roster, along with 2021-22 UEFA Women’s Champions League winners Olympique Lyon and Los Angeles youth club Total Futbol Academy, for whom Alyssa Thompson plays. Four players are from the 2021 NWSL Champions Washington Spirit, 2022 NWSL Shield Winners OL Reign and 2022 NWSL Champions Portland Thorns FC.


Current FIFA World Ranking: 3

UEFA Ranking: 2

FIFA Country Code: GER
World Cup Appearances: 8 (1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019)

Best World Cup finish: Champions (2003, 2007)

Record vs. USA: 4-22-7
Last Meeting vs. USA: March 1, 2018 (1-0 win for USA in Columbus, OH)
Head Coach: Martina Voss-Tecklenburg (GER)


GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Merle Frohms (VfL Wolfsburg), 12-Almuth Schult (Angel City FC, USA), 30-Ann-Katrin Berger (FC Chelsea, ENG)        

DEFENDERS (10): 2-Carolin Simon (FC Bayern München), 3-Kathrin Hendrich (VfL Wolfsburg), 4-Sophia Kleinherne (Eintracht Frankfurt), 5-Jana Feldkamp (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim), 8-Maximiliane Rall (FC Bayern München), 17-Felicitas Rauch (VfL Wolfsburg), 23-Sara Doorsoun (Eintracht Frankfurt), 24-Sjoeke Nüsken (Eintracht Frankfurt), 25-Nicole Anyomi (Eintracht Frankfurt), 28-Joelle Wedemeyer (VfL Wolfsburg)

MIDFIELDERS (9): 6-Lena Oberdorf (VfL Wolfsburg), 9-Svenja Huth (VfL Wolfsburg), 14-Lena Lattwein (VfL Wolfsburg), 16-Linda Dallmann (FC Bayern München), 20-Lina Magull (FC Bayern München), 22-Jule Brand (VfL Wolfsburg), 26-Chantal Hagel (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim), 27-Paulina Krumbiegel (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim), 31-Janina Minge (SC Freiburg) 

FORWARDS (4): 10-Laura Freigang (Eintracht Frankfurt), 11-Alexandra Popp (VfL Wolfsburg), 19-Klara Bühl (FC Bayern München), 33-Melissa Kossler (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim)


  • The USA and Germany have won 11 out of the 15 world championships that have been contested in women’s soccer history. The USA has won four Women’s World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals while Germany has two Women’s World Cup titles and one Olympic gold medal.
  • On Sept. 3, Germany qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a 3-0 victory over Turkey (followed by an 8-0 trouncing of Bulgaria on Sept. 6) and topped Group H in UEFA qualifying with a 9-0-1 record while scoring 47 goals and allowing five.  Germany is one of seven countries to have qualified for every Women’s World Cup that has been staged. The other six are USA, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Brazil and Nigeria.
  • At the end of July, Germany made an impressive run to the title game of the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro, but fell in overtime to host England, 2-1, in front of a record crowd at Wembley Stadium. Midfielder Lina Magull scored Germany’s lone goal in the final, which was played without star forward Alexandra Popp, who was injured during warmups and could not add to her six tournament goals, which tied for most in the competition.
  • Seventeen of the 26 players on this roster for the matches against the USA were a part of Germany’s roster for the 2022 EURO.
  • Popp is the most-capped player on this roster with 122 international appearances and has 61 career goals, good for fifth all-time in the history of the Germany Women’s National Team.
  • Midfielder Svenja Huth is the next most experienced player on the roster with 75 caps while Magull has 22 goals in 66 international appearances, the second-most goals by any player on this roster.
  • Midfielder Lena Oberdorf is another standout on this German roster. The 20-year-old was named the EURO 2022 Young Player of the Tournament and has 33 caps already in her young career.
  • With the Women’s Bundesliga long being one of the world’s top leagues, most of the German players stay home to play professionally and 24 of the 26 players on the roster play for top German clubs. Twenty-two players come from just four clubs: eight from VfL Wolfsburg, the defending league champions, five players turn out for FC Bayern Munich and five for Eintracht Frankfurt.
  • Germany head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg is a former Germany Women’s National Team great who played 125 times for her country. She played three FIFA Women’s World Cups (1991, 1995, 1999), one Olympics (1996) and five UEFA Women’s Championships (1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997). Before taking charge of her home country, Voss-Tecklenburg took Switzerland into the upper echelon of European women’s soccer as head coach from 2012-2018.

USMNT 2022 World Cup roster led by Pulisic, McKennie; Pepi, Steffen miss out

5:18 PM ET Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

United States manager Gregg Berhalter announced his 26-player roster for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Wednesday, amid much fanfare in New York City.The roster is headlined by players who have become familiar names to U.S. fans, including Chelsea attacker Christian PulisicJuventus midfielder Weston McKennieBorussia Dortmund midfielder Giovanni Reyna and Leeds United midfielder Tyler Adams.The biggest shock was the exclusion of Middlesbrough goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

When healthy, Steffen had been locked in a battle with Arsenal‘s Matt Turner for the starting spot during World Cup qualifying, with Berhalter usually picking Steffen for the bigger matches.His loan move to Boro from Manchester City was done for him to get more first-team minutes, and he largely achieved that goal, playing in 16 of the club’s 20 matches in England’s second-tier Championship.But it wasn’t enough to make the roster, with Turner, Luton Town‘s Ethan Horvath and New York City FC‘s Sean Johnson preferred.”In some of the cases it’s more about what we have than what we don’t have,” Berhalter told ESPN during Wednesday’s roster reveal show. “With the three goalkeepers listed on the roster, we feel great, we feel really good about it. We saw a lot of progress with Matt Turner in this last six months, we know Ethan Horvath has been competing at a good level at Luton in the Championship, and Sean Johnson has been a mainstay in this group since day one.”Berhalter added that “the lean is toward” Turner starting in goal, though noted that “he had a slight injury that he has been working on so we will get him into camp and see exactly how he is.”

Every World Cup roster has its share of near misses, and this one was no different, with injuries playing a role in the makeup of the roster. Center backs Miles Robinson of Atlanta United and Crystal Palace‘s Chris Richard both missed out because of Achilles and hamstring ailments, respectively.However, other players healed up in time — including McKennie, Turner and Norwich City forward Josh Sargent — at least ahead of this weekend’s last round of club fixtures before players are released.In terms of surprise inclusions, Fulham defender Tim Ream was among the biggest.The opening World Cup qualifying fixture against El Salvador in September 2021 was the only qualifier Ream played in. But the injuries to Robinson and Richards, plus his fine form for the Cottagers this year in the Premier League, paved the way for him to be selected.The center forward position has been an area of focus for almost the entire cycle, with none of the candidates really staking their claim to a starting spot.That said, the inclusion of Antalyaspor forward Haji Wright at the expense of Groningen FC striker Ricardo Pepi was something of a surprise.Both players had been in excellent form of late for their clubs, with Wright scoring nine goals on the season — and four in his past four games — while Pepi had five goals and two assists since moving to the Dutch side on loan in September.Yet it is Wright who got the nod alongside Sargent and FC Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira.”In the case of Ricardo, that was a really difficult conversation that I had to have with him,” Berhalter said. “It’s always difficult when a guy helps you get to the World Cup, he scores three goals in World Cup qualifying, and isn’t going to be a part of the program.”And again, it’s more about who we did add that we felt good about.”Josh is competing in the Championship, he played in the Premier League last year. We’re playing Wales and England; both teams are stocked with players from those leagues.”Haji Wright is in great form with his team in Turkey, scoring nine goals so far. And Jesus has been good for us and a guy who really understands the game plan and how to execute it.”

Shaq Moore is another player who seemed to be on the outside looking in, but with Sergino Dest dealing with an adductor issue, Berhalter opted for additional cover at right back and selected Moore over Boavista‘s Reggie Cannon.

The 26-player roster will be the second-youngest USMNT roster at a World Cup, with an average age of 25 years, 175 days at the time of its opening World Cup game against Wales on Nov. 21. Only the 1990 squad (24 years, 24 days) was younger.After the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, DeAndre Yedlin is the only player selected with previous World Cup experience, having been a part of the USMNT’s run to the round of 16 in 2014.After taking on Wales, the U.S. will face England (Nov. 26) and Iran (Nov. 29) in Group B.

Full U.S. roster for 2022 World Cup:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8 appearances for U.S./0 goals), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach/GER; 3/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0)

FORWARDS (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1)

Grant Wahl Thoughts on the USMNT World Cup Roster

Steffen left off the 26-man squad, while Ream makes his first national team roster since October 2021. In: Wright, Sargent, Moore, Roldan, Morris. Out: Pepi, Pefok, Cannon, Arriola, Tillman.


Christian Pulisic, Matt Turner, Tyler Adams and DeAndre Yedlin all made the U.S. World Cup team. Turner is in pole position to start with Zack Steffen being dropped from the squad (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

NEW YORK CITY — USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter released his 26-player World Cup roster on Wednesday at an event here at Brooklyn Steel attended by several U.S.-based players.

GrantWahl.com is reader-supported. Free and paid subscriptions are available. This is how I make a living, and quality journalism requires resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now.

Upgrade to Paid Give a gift subscription

There are more surprises than expected, given that Berhalter usually is pretty conservative about sticking with “his guys.” The biggest news is that Berhalter has left goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who is not injured, completely off the roster and chosen instead Matt Turner, Sean Johnson and Ethan Horvath. Steffen started six of the U.S.’s 14 World Cup qualifying games, splitting duties with Turner.

Based purely on Steffen’s performance for club and country for a while now, you can make the case that he shouldn’t be on the roster as one of the top three U.S. goalkeepers. But it’s stunning that he’s not even on the World Cup squad of Berhalter, who has favored Steffen over Turner as the starter when both are healthy, citing Steffen’s ability to play out of the back. Even heading into this week I would have suspected that Steffen would start in Qatar if healthy based on Berhalter’s decision-making process.

Also making news is centerback Tim Ream, who is on the World Cup roster for his first national team call-up since October 2021. (Ream ended up declining that invitation for family reasons, giving a chance to Walker Zimmerman, who was called up to replace Ream and eventually won a starting job.) Ream had obviously been left off for a while, but he has played well in the Premier League this season while serving as Fulham’s captain. His inclusion makes total sense.

The other position that seemed the most in flux was the centerforward spot. In the end, Berhalter chose Jesús Ferreira, Josh Sargent and Haji Wright. It’s a big call to leave out Jordan Pefok, who has started this season for Union Berlin, the surprise team in the Bundesliga. While Pefok may not be a great fit for Berhalter’s system, he appeared to be a smart choice if the U.S. was desperate for a goal late in the game.

And it’s also surprising that Berhalter chose to leave off Ricardo Pepi. The 19-year-old was called up for the September games and has started producing more goals and assists while on loan with Groningen in the Netherlands.

Here are the roster (club/country; caps/goals; hometown) and my thoughts on the selections and omissions:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8/0; Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Sean Johnson (New York City; 10/0; Lilburn, Ga.), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0; Park Ridge, N.J.).

Notable Omissions: Steffen.

My Thoughts: See above. I fully expect Turner to start for the U.S. in Qatar, as long as his recent minor injury troubles subside. Turner was in uniform for Arsenal again over the weekend, suggesting that he’ll be fine for the World Cup.

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0; Southend-on-Sea, England), Sergiño Dest (Milan/ITA; 19/2; Almere, Netherlands), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3; Oak Hills, Calif.), Shaq Moore (Nashville; 15/1; Powder Springs, Ga.), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1; St. Louis, Mo.), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2; Liverpool, England), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 3/0; Lake Grove, N.Y.), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami; 75/0; Seattle, Wash.), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville; 33/3; Lawrenceville, Ga.)

Notable Omissions: Reggie Cannon, Mark McKenzie, Erik Palmer-Brown, James Sands.

My Thoughts: My guess is the starting back line will be Dest, Zimmerman, Long and Robinson. With Chris Richards’s inability to go due to injury, Ream is the headline addition in the central defense corps. He actually looked pretty good against Erling Haaland over the weekend, which is a positive sign. Long will enter the tournament as the most questioned U.S. player who’s likely to start. But I think Ream has a chance to replace him, and Ream’s club familiarity with Robinson isn’t a bad thing, either.

The biggest surprise among the fullbacks is that Moore has been selected, while Cannon has not. But this was for the third-string spot at right back, so it’s not that big of a deal.

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6; Medford, N.J.), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2; Plano, Texas), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1; Wappingers Falls, N.Y.), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0; San Diego, Calif.), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9; Little Elm, Texas), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0; London, England), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 32/0; Pico Rivera, Calif.)

Notable Omissions: Malik Tillman, Djordje Mihailovic.

My Thoughts: My expected starters in the central midfield are Adams, McKennie and Musah. McKennie’s injury for Juventus is not believed to be serious enough to prevent him from playing at the World Cup, but it could be a tight squeeze with the short turn-around time.

It’s also interesting that Aaronson is listed as a midfielder when he has always ben listed as a forward/winger before. An indication that he might have a greater chance of playing an attacking midfield role?

De La Torre appears to have recovered from an injury, and Berhalter clearly has some trust in him, even though he has played little at club level. Roldan has recovered enough from his groin surgery to make the team, which will be met with criticism from some fans, but he has been a stalwart in Berhalter’s roster when healthy.

And while Tillman appeared to be making a run to the roster earlier in the club season, his performances declined noticeably for Rangers.

FORWARDS (8): Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7; McKinney, Texas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11; Mercer Island, Wash.), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21; Hershey, Pa.), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4; Bedford, N.Y.), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5; O’Fallon, Mo.), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3; Rosedale, N.Y.), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1; Los Angeles, Calif.)

Notable Omissions: Pefok, Pepi, Paul Arriola, Brandon Vázquez.

My Thoughts: If I had to name a starting front line right now from Berhalter’s perspective, the only lock would probably be Pulisic. I think Berhalter will lean toward Reyna on the other wing (he started him in both September games), but it could also be Weah (who has produced for the national team) or Aaronson (who’s in good form at club level). Just having all those guys healthy for the World Cup is a positive.

Starting centerforward? That’s a tougher call than ever. Ferreira seemed to be Berhalter’s guy, but he had a rough time down the stretch in MLS. Maybe Sargent or Wright? Who knows?

Wright looked like he had played himself off the roster in June and wasn’t called up in September, but he’s the second-leading scorer in the Turkish Super Lig and clearly did enough to be chosen over Pepi and Pefok. And while Morris might not have made the roster if it was 23 players instead of 26, that doesn’t matter now. He’s here.

You have to feel for Arriola, who has been a regular contributor during qualifying but has now been left off the team for Qatar. One source told me he recently picked up an injury.

U.S. men’s World Cup team full of surprises: Haji Wright and Tim Ream in, Zack Steffen out 

U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter picked Ethan Horvath over Steffen, and Wright over Ricardo Pepi.  by Jonathan Tannenwald  Philly Star

Striker Haji Wright (left) was a surprising inclusion on the U.S. men’s World Cup team. Jeff Dean / AP

NEW YORK — The U.S. men’s soccer team’s World Cup roster unveiled by manager Gregg Berhalter on Wednesday had a lot of surprises — including one that stung one of the Philadelphia area’s top players.While Medford’s Brenden Aaronson and Hershey’s Christian Pulisic made the team, Downingtown’s Zack Steffen was perhaps the biggest omission from the 26-player group.Berhalter made a late turn away from a goalkeeper he has known and trusted for years. Ethan Horvath was picked instead, alongside the expected pair of presumed starter Matt Turner and Sean Johnson.Steffen went on loan from English power Manchester City to second-tier Championship team Middlesbrough this season so he could get regular playing time. He has gotten it, but it hasn’t always gone well.Horvath also made a loan move, from the Premier League’s Nottingham Forest to the second division’s Luton Town, and it has gone better for him: 19 goals conceded and eight shutouts in 19 games, to Steffen’s 19 goals conceded and four shutouts in 16 games.Berhalter took a slew of questions from reporters and ESPN’s broadcasters during the roster announcement about why he dropped Steffen, and never gave a direct answer.“Me and Zack go way back,” said Berhalter, who coached Steffen on the Columbus Crewfrom 2016-18. “Zack’s been there for me a bunch of times, and to tell him he’s not going to be a part of the World Cup team was heartbreaking for me. But those are the decisions that we made as a staff.”Beyond that, Berhalter spent a lot of time aiming to redirect the conversation.“Sean Johnson [has] been with this program since Day 1, and we think he’s a really valuable piece of the team,” he said. “Ethan is a guy that always responds when his number’s called. … He’s a guy that’s Johnny-on-the-spot — if you need him, he’s ready, and I think that’s valuable in a World Cup-type of competition.”Berhalter noted that Horvath came in as a sub for Forest in the win last season that clinched promotion to the Premier League; and starred as a sub for the U.S. in last year’s Concacaf Nations League final win. He told ESPN that “the lean is toward Matt being the No. 1.″Left unsaid was that Horvath subbed in for an injured Steffen in the latter game; and that Steffen withdrew from this summer’s set of games because of family issues, giving Johnson and Horvath the games Turner didn’t play.

The rest of the defense

Among defenders, there were two surprises: Shaq Moore over Reggie Cannon at right back, and veteran Tim Ream as the last of four centerbacks. Ream has been playing well for Fulham in England’s Premier League, including games against powerhouses Liverpool and Manchester City, and that earned him a return to the national team for the first time since September of last year.“Have you watched any Fulham games lately? Then you know why we brought him in,” Berhalter quipped. “It’s really hard to ignore stuff like that. … I think Tim, based on what we’re seeing, the level he’s playing at, he’s ready to play in a World Cup for sure.”It wasn’t too surprising that former Union centerback Mark McKenzie — who grew up in Bear, Del. — didn’t make the cut, because he had some high-profile struggles in national team games over the last year and a half. But a recent run of good form at Belgium’s Genk raised hope that he might get the spot opened by Chris Richards’ injury, or that Berhalter might take five centerbacks instead of four.In the end, Berhalter stuck with four: presumed starters Walker Zimmermanand Aaron LongCameron Carter-Vickers, and Ream.

In the midfield

The midfield had not so much a surprise as a gamble: the inclusion of Luca de la Torre, who suffered a muscle tear in his left leg in late October.“He was training, he’s up to 95% of his top speed, he’s doing a bunch of fitness work,” Berhalter said of the 24-year-old from Spanish club Celta de Vigo. ”I would say now, my guess would be he wouldn’t be 90 minutes fit [for] Game 1, and he’s a guy that we’re going to have to ramp up during the tournament.”The closest thing to a true surprise was Cristian Roldan over Malik Tillman, but Tillman has had a rough time lately at Scotland’s Rangers. Roldan might not play much in Qatar, but he can play multiple positions and is a strong locker room presence. With 26 players on World Cup squads now instead of the 23 of the past, there’s space for such a player.Among the wingers, Roldan’s Seattle Sounders teammate Jordan Morris edged FC Dallas’ Paul Arriola. It seemed that Berhalter picked Morris’ versatility across the front line over Arriola’s solid history as a defensive closer.“For one reason or another, we haven’t always had our wingers fit and available, and now as we lead up to the World Cup, every one of those players is fit and available,” Berhalter said. “And it just made [it] that Paul was the odd man out. … It’s the worst thing to have to tell him that we feel that there’s other players, there’s other wingers that are ahead of him.”After the announcement, Arriola wrote on social media: “I am heartbroken to not be included on the final World Cup roster … This year my goal was to put myself in the best position possible to get to this point and I believe I did, unfortunately it wasn’t enough.”

» READ MORE: Cristian Roldan earned his shot at the U.S. World Cup team  

» READ MORE: Zack Steffen looks beyond the World Cup to his community service goals

Striker shocker

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all came at forward: Ricardo Pepi didn’t make the cut after being one of Berhalter’s most trusted players in World Cup qualifying. Pepi moved from Germany’s Augsburg to the Netherlands’ Gronigen on loan this summer to regain his scoring form, and he seemed to have found it with six goals and two assists in nine games.But Berhalter chose otherwise: Haji Wright, a 6-foot-3 target striker who made his senior national team debut this past June after being a big-time teenage prospect. He played with current U.S. stars Pulisic and Weston McKennie back then, but he didn’t make it to the big time until going to Turkish club Antalyaspor last year. Wright has scored 24 goals in 47 games there, including nine in 12 games this season.Wright, Josh Sargent, and Jesús Ferreirawill be the three strikers — and it turns out Wright wasn’t judged directly against Pepi. He was judged against Jordan Pefok, a fellow target forward who plays for Germany’s Union Berlin. Pefok shot out of the gates in the Bundesliga season with four goals and two assists in the first month and a half, but he hasn’t scored since Sept. 18.“When we were looking at this as coaches, we were evaluating Haji vs. Jordan Pefok, and that’s what it came down to,” Berhalter said. “They’re both physical strikers, Jordan maybe a little more so. But Haji has pace, he’s got the ability to go one-v-one, he’s got finishing with his head [and] both feet, and he’s performing really well in the Turkish league.”

» READ MORE: How Haji Wright earned a return to the U.S. national team this past summer   

READ MORE: Last year, Ricardo Pepi was the USMNT’s hotshot rising star

He also revealed that not calling in Pefok since last March was not in fact a sealing of the player’s fate.“If we would have made the decision [in] mid-September, Jordan Pefok would have probably been a lock to be in based on his form at Union Berlin,” Berhalter said. “But since then, it’s a different story.”And if this was a normal World Cup with a full training camp before games, he added, Pefok might have been brought in to regain form and chemistry.As for Pepi, Berhalter said he was judged against Ferreira and Sargent. Ferreira has been a lock to make the squad for months. Sargent got bonus points for playing on English second-tier club Norwich City — and thus facing some of the players the U.S. will see in group stage games against Wales and England. “The Dutch league, I think, is a great league, but it doesn’t bring the same physicality that the Premier League brings and the [second-tier] Championship brings,” Berhalter said.However many people were involved in picking the roster, Berhalter knows the ultimate responsibility lies with him. And the ultimate verdict will be rendered when the U.S. takes the field in Qatar, starting Nov. 21 against Wales (Fox29, Telemundo 62).“These may not be the right choices — these are the choices that we picked,” he said. “Ricardo Pepi could have a great argument for why he should be there, and I can understand that argument. But we had to choose, we chose to bring three strikers, and these are the three that we chose.”

USMNT 2022 World Cup squad analysis: The surprises and biggest takeaways

By Paul Tenorio and Sam Stejskal The Athletic

Much of the U.S. men’s national team’s 26-man roster for the 2022 World Cup turned out as expected. Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams are the main headliners, with Brenden Aaronson, Sergiño Dest, Yunus Musah, Gio Reyna, Antonee Robinson, Matt Turner, Tim Weah and Walker Zimmerman also expected to play significant roles in Qatar. But there were a few surprise decisions, too.On Wednesday, the U.S. Soccer Federation hosted a group of VIPs, sponsors and select fans at concert venue Brooklyn Steel in New York City for the announcement of the full roster.The event provided a touch of the absurd to an important occasion. Pre-announcement festivities included a playlist of clubby electronic tracks and the USMNT’s very own, very enthusiastic hype man — a middle-aged guy named Devin who was also at every home World Cup qualifier. The buildup wrapped with a sizzle reel narrated by rapper Jack Harlow. Then, ESPN’s Kay Murray, Taylor Twellman and Jermaine Jones took the stage to reveal the team that head coach Gregg Berhalter will bring to Qatar. Among the more surprising inclusions was Fulham center back Tim Ream, who was recalled to the team after more than a year away, making the squad ahead of Mark McKenzie and Erik Palmer-Brown. At striker, Antalyaspor’s Haji Wright was included over Ricardo Pepi, who had been a regular call-up since the start of qualifying. At goalkeeper, Middlesbrough’s Zack Steffen, the U.S.’s No. 1 keeper for most of the last four years, was left off of the roster entirely. Luca de la Torre was also deemed healthy enough to make the team after he recently suffered an injury in training with Spanish club Celta de Vigo.The other controversial inclusions came further down the roster and involved players who probably won’t make a big impact at the tournament. Seattle winger Jordan Morris and Nashville right back Shaq Moore made the team ahead of Paul Arriola and Reggie Cannon, respectively, despite the fact that Morris and Moore were less involved in qualifying than Arriola and Cannon. Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan was called into the team over young German-American Malik Tillman, who was involved in the last two U.S. camps.Berhalter and several players spoke about the roster with reporters in Brooklyn on Wednesday night, while several of the Europe-based members of the team called in for video press conferences. We have a quick glimpse at how the team might line up in Qatar here; a piece on realistic expectations for the U.S. in Qatar will be out on Thursday. We’ll have plenty, plenty more over the coming days and weeks, as both of us head to the Middle East this weekend ahead of the full USMNT arrival on Monday. Until then, here are our our main takeaways from the announcement:

Ream returns at center back

Just a few weeks ago, Ream making the final roster felt like an extreme long shot. 

Though the 35-year-old was excellent for Fulham in the Championship last season, has been solid for the club thus far in the current Premier League campaign and has spent the last two seasons forming a good on-field relationship with U.S. and Fulham left back Antonee Robinson, Berhalter had not called Ream up since last October. He had to withdraw from that camp due to personal reasons, then wasn’t brought back to the USMNT in any of the subsequent five international windows.Berhalter was consistent in his reasoning for excluding the St. Louis native, leaving him out not because of form, but because of fit. Berhalter prefers to use a high defensive line. As such, he wants his center backs to be relatively mobile and strong in the air. Those aren’t Ream’s best qualities, which Berhalter pointed out after leaving him off the roster for the September friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia.Ream’s strengths and weaknesses didn’t change over the last two months, but the circumstances shifted at center back for the U.S. Chris Richards, who Berhalter said in September would’ve been selected for Qatar if healthy, didn’t recover from a hamstring injury in time to make the World Cup squad. Mark McKenzie was given a chance in September, but he, like Aaron Long, performed relatively poorly that window. Berhalter said Wednesday night that Ream’s convincing form in the Premier League made it easy to include him in the roster.“In Tim’s case, you know, he was in the Premier League (two) years ago, and he struggled,” Berhalter said. “The whole team struggled. And he went to the Championship and he started performing better and they got promoted, and now he’s in the Premier League and he’s a top performer for his team. It’s really hard to ignore stuff like that. And by the way, he’s been a guy that’s been with us since day one. So to me, all the pieces were aligned to bring him back into the squad. And there is, in my opinion, a difference between qualifying in CONCACAF and playing in the World Cup. And I think Tim, based on what we’re seeing, the level he’s playing, he’s ready to play in a World Cup for sure.”

Long and McKenzie struggled with their distribution in September, an area in which Ream excels compared to the other U.S. center backs. Their struggles on the ball hindered the U.S.’s ability in possession against both Japan and Saudi Arabia. With the Americans set to face two teams during the World Cup group stage in Wales and Iran who will likely sit in organized, compact blocks, that quality could become particularly important to the U.S.’s chances of advancing out of Group B.“To be there representing the U.S, 300 million people, the pressure is immense but it’s what I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid,” Ream told Fulham’s website about his selection. “It’s a dream come true and something that I’m proud of. I’m proud that I’ve earned it.”

Of course, Ream still has his limitations. He has won 57.6 percent of his aerial duels this season, according to TruMedia, and ranks in the 18th percentile of center backs in the top five leagues this season in that area, according to FBref.com. Playing him alongside Zimmerman would probably prevent the U.S. from using as high of a line as Berhalter likes. For that reason, it’d be a surprise to see him start every game in Qatar. Long, who has started the last six games for the U.S., and Carter-Vickers offer more athletically than Ream and will no doubt be in contention to start alongside Zimmerman. 

Regardless of how much he plays, Ream should bring a calm, veteran presence to an otherwise overwhelmingly young U.S. team. He only played one match in qualifying, starting and performing solidly in the opener at El Salvador last September, but he seemed like a positive influence throughout that up and down first window, going as far as to get up off the bench repeatedly in the U.S.’s 1-1 draw with Canada in Nashville to offer instruction to different defenders. That’s a small thing, but World Cup rosters — and games — are often decided by fine margins. 

Ream’s inclusion is a great capstone to his career, as well. He made his debut for the U.S. all the way back in November 2010, before some of his teammates in Qatar had even turned 10, but wasn’t selected for the 2014 World Cup squad. Now, at 35, he’s set for what will likely be a lifetime highlight.

McKenzie will no doubt be feeling quite different. He was the center back left off the roster at the expense of Ream. He’s been playing quite well for Genk and, while he’s had a bit of a bumpy ride with the U.S., it seemed like a decent bet that he would make this squad.

In one way, it’s puzzling that he didn’t. Despite the unsettled nature of the position, Berhalter chose to only bring four center backs to the World Cup. He brought five fullbacks instead, even though Robinson and Sergiño Dest are likely locked-in as starters at those spots. Not included in those five fullbacks was Reggie Cannon, who has experience playing center back and could have provided depth in a pinch.That could loom large in what is a troubling position for the Americans. The U.S. center backs will have difficult tests at the World Cup, facing a Wales team that will include Gareth Bale in the opener, then a dangerous England attack spearheaded by Harry Kane, then an Iran team likely to include a trio of big-time forwards in Porto’s Mehdi Taremi, Bayer Leverkusen’s Sardar Azmoun and PSV’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh. If they falter, it’ll more than likely be a short stay in Qatar for the U.S.

USMNT World Cup 2022 squad

GKMatt TurnerArsenal2820
GKEthan HorvathLuton Town278
GKSean JohnsonNYCFC3310
DEFAntonee RobinsonFulham2529
DEFJoe ScallyBorussia M’gladbach193
DEFSergiño DestAC Milan2219
DEFShaq MooreNashville SC2615
DEFDeAndre YedlinInter Miami2975
DEFCameron Carter-VickersCeltic2411
DEFAaron LongNY Red Bulls3029
DEFTim ReamFulham3546
DEFWalker ZimmermanNashville SC2933
MIDKellyn AcostaLAFC2753
MIDTyler AdamsLeeds United2332
MIDLuca de la TorreCelta Vigo2412
MIDWeston McKennieJuventus2437
MIDYunus MusahValencia1919
MIDCristian RoldanSeattle Sounders2732
MIDBrenden AaronsonLeeds United2224
FWDJordan MorrisSeattle Sounders2849
FWDChristian PulisicChelsea2452
FWDGio ReynaDortmund1914
FWDTim WeahLille2225
FWDJesus FerreiraFC Dallas2115
FWDJosh SargentNorwich City2220
FWDHaji WrightAntalyaspor243

A surprise at the No. 9

Over the last year there has been plenty of debate and speculation about which strikers Berhalter would bring to Qatar. For months, that was because none of the options were scoring with any regularity. Then, suddenly, it was because all of them were scoring.

After all that debate, Berhalter still somehow managed to surprise with his picks.

Most considered it to be a four-forward race for the final three spots: Jesús Ferreira, Ricardo Pepi, Josh Sargent and Jordan Pefok. In the end, two of those four did not make the roster. Berhalter opted instead to bring Haji Wright, who is in fine form in the Turkish Süper Lig, over both Pepi and Pefok.

Pefok started the season excellently with Bundesliga club Union Berlin, recording three goals and two assists in his first six appearances, but he’s fallen off more recently, not scoring in his last 10 games across all competitions. Berhalter confirmed on Wednesday that Wright, who has nine goals in Turkey this season, was taken over Pefok. Berhalter also noted that Belgium forward Michy Batshuayi has five goals this season in the Turkish league, four fewer than Wright.

“In this particular case we felt like Haji is in a great goalscoring form,” Berhalter said. “They’re both our physical strikers — Jordan, maybe a little more so, but Haji has pace, he’s got the ability to go one-v-one, he’s got finishing with his head, both feet, and he’s performing really well in the Turkish league.”

Pepi had a brutal goalless run from October 2021 through this September, but has rebounded nicely since he began his loan at Dutch club Groningen this fall, tallying five goals and two assists in eight appearances in the Eredivisie. He was also part of the U.S. squad in September and has been a consistent call-up since the start of qualifying; his exclusion was one of the biggest surprises. Berhalter said Pepi was in competition with Sargent and Ferreira for a role. He believed Sargent’s success in the more physical Championship would translate better against Wales and England than Pepi’s success in the Netherlands.

“These may not be the right choices, right?” Berhalter said. “These are the choices that we picked and you know, Ricardo Pepi could have a great argument for why he should be there and I can understand that argument. But we chose to bring three strikers and these are the three that we chose.”

The debate now pivots to which striker should start in Qatar. 

Berhalter has quite clearly favored Ferreira in the months leading into the tournament, but things have changed since the U.S. last met up in September. The FC Dallas forward had scored six goals in six games leading into that international window. Ferreira now heads into the World Cup having failed to score in his last five games of the season. He also hasn’t played since FCD was eliminated from the MLS playoffs on Oct. 23, though he did recently participate in a USMNT fitness camp with other out-of-season MLS players in Texas. 

Sargent has eight goals this season for Norwich, but he hasn’t scored since Oct. 15. The St. Louis-area native was able to get back into the picture with his strong early form in the Championship, however, and despite getting just 45 minutes across the two friendlies in September, he clearly did enough to show Berhalter he deserves a spot in Qatar.

Wright, meanwhile, is the hottest striker in the pool. The 6-foot-3 forward has scored in a variety of fashions recently. He has three goals from headers off crosses, found space with runs in behind the back line, has capitalized off of pressing and turnovers and has also netted two penalties. 

In tournament play, Wright should be able to bring something different than both Sargent and Ferreira: a target up top for more direct play who will also be valuable on crosses and set pieces. That style of striker could be particularly useful if the U.S. is in need of a goal late in a game. 

Steffen left off roster

The biggest surprise of the day wasn’t a player who is going to Qatar, it was a player left off the list.

Steffen, who had been the USMNT’s No. 1 for most of the last few years, was excluded entirely. The 27-year-old has a long history with Berhalter, playing for him in 2017 and 2018 with the Columbus Crew and starting under him 23 times with the national team. 

He missed a good number of matches in qualifying because of injury but, when healthy, he was typically the starter in the Octagonal round. Though Turner probably outperformed him in qualifying, Steffen never seemed completely out of the picture.

Steffen missed the June camp due to “family reasons,” however, and then was left out of the September camp. Despite taking several questions about Steffen, Berhalter did not directly address why he left him out of the picture except to say that he was comfortable with the goalkeepers he was bringing to Qatar.

“Me and Zack go way back, and Zack’s been there for me a bunch of times and to tell him he’s not going to be a part of the World Cup team was heartbreaking for me,” Berhalter said.

Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson were the two other goalkeepers who made the team ahead of Steffen. Berhalter said that Johnson has been an important member of the squad as a respected veteran. He noted that Horvath has shown an ability to step into games and perform at a high level — both for Nottingham Forest late in a promotion playoff last season and for the U.S. in the Nations League final in June 2021, when he entered as a sub and stopped a penalty against Mexico.

Notably, Berhalter did not commit to starting Turner in Qatar, citing the injury that he recently suffered with Arsenal as a potential hindrance to his making the XI against Wales. Turner missed three games for Arsenal because of the knock, but returned to the bench for their match against Chelsea on Sunday and the Carabao Cup contest against Brighton on Wednesday.

De la Torre recovers in time

De la Torre had a major question mark around his status going into Wednesday’s roster announcement. Celta de Viga announced on Oct. 28 that he suffered a hamstring injury that would hold him out for at least three weeks. That pegged his earliest possible return as Nov. 20, just one day before the U.S. takes the field against Wales.

The Spanish club has since posted multiple videos of De la Torre working out and running in the last week, and clearly Berhalter felt confident enough that the midfielder could get fit in time for the tournament. It’s a crucial inclusion. De la Torre is one of the few options on the roster capable of providing a similar skill set to Yunus Musah in his ability to pick up the ball, carry it forward and distribute and link up with the forward lines. 

There are still some major concerns, however. In addition to the fact that De la Torre is working back from injury, he also hasn’t featured much since moving to Celta de Vigo in the summer. He has played just 50 minutes in La Liga this season and did not look sharp in his minutes with the U.S. in September.

Berhalter said De la Torre is running at about 95 percent of his full speed, and while he will not be 90 minutes fit for the first game, Berhalter said they could ramp him up as the tournament goes on.

Arriola, Cannon, Tillman out; Morris, Moore, Roldán in

Berhalter also made some tough calls in some areas deeper down the depth chart.

Among the more surprising decisions was the omission of FC Dallas winger Paul Arriola. Arriola was one of the few carryovers from the pool of players who had failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2018. He played in five qualifiers for the U.S. in the Octagonal round of this cycle, starting three times and scoring once. 

Berhalter said cutting Arriola was among his more difficult decisions, but that the health of the other wingers — Jordan Morris, Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna and Tim Weah; Brenden Aaronson is listed as a midfielder — simply meant that Arriola was the odd man out.

Making the team is a huge moment for Morris, who most certainly had doubts about his future after tearing an ACL for a second time in February 2021 while on loan at Swansea. Morris worked his way back into the national team picture and made six appearances in World Cup qualifiers, including a start in a 3-0 win over Honduras in February.

Roldan, Morris’s club teammate and close friend, had a similar experience more recently as he worked to come back from groin surgery to try to get back into form ahead of the World Cup. The 27-year-old was able to get back on the field for the Sounders at the end of the regular season, is well-liked by his teammates and valued by U.S. coaches for his attitude and work ethic in training.

“I was pushing to get back for the Sounders to make the playoffs, and obviously the United States, and making the World Cup squad was part of the bigger picture, as well,” Roldan said. “There’s always doubt in your mind, whether you’ll make it or not when you’re going through so much pain and rehabbing and at times, not even getting better. Jordan has dealt with it plenty of times. It puts life into perspective. … That was going through my head, thinking that if I can give myself a chance to find my way back and work extremely hard and give every ounce of energy into rehab and getting back onto the field, I was going to give myself the best chance to make the squad.”

Berhalter also opted to bring Nashville right back Shaq Moore at right back over Cannon, who has featured regularly for the U.S. during the head coach’s tenure. Berhalter said Moore’s one-v-one defending ability gave him an edge, especially when they considered some of the opponents they would face at the tournament.

On the whole, Wednesday was a pretty festive evening for the USMNT. There were a few surprises, but nothing approaching the shock of the U.S.’s last World Cup roster announcement, when manager Jurgen Klinsmann left Landon Donovan out for the 2014 World Cup. Berhalter certainly seemed loose, cracking jokes on stage with the ESPN crew and looking incredibly relaxed in his press conference with reporters after the team was revealed. He’ll fly to Qatar later Wednesday night. The entire team will arrive in Doha no later than Monday. From there, they’ll have just a week to prepare for their opening match against Wales on Nov. 21. Wit the group that will be available for that match set, it’s now time to really gear up for it.

Meet the USMNT’s Class of 2022: Introducing Gregg Berhalter’s World Cup squad

5:19 PM ET Sam Borden ESPN Senior Writer

It has been a long four years for the U.S. men’s national team, but finally — finally — graduation day is here.On Nov. 21, these young American students (of the game) will walk across the biggest stage (in sports). They’ll leave behind their classrooms and confront the harsh realities of the real world (of international soccer).Those weak performances in the September friendlies? Nothing more than some senioritis, perhaps. Because now, with everyone watching, these graduates are ready — ready to make an impact, ready to make themselves heard, ready to shine.Here, then, is your team: The USMNT Class of 2022, grouped, of course, according to their “majors.”


These are the “money” players for the U.S., the ones responsible for delivering currency (that is, goals). A World Cup isn’t about long-term investments, either. In a four-week tournament, these are the players whom the U.S. need to go on a heater.

Christian Pulisic

Age: 24
Club: Chelsea (England) | Position: Forward
Debut: Mar. 29, 2016 vs. Guatemala
Appearances: 52 (21 goals)

Look for him to … Create goal-scoring chances and attack from the edge of the field (he prefers it to be from the left). Pulisic has struggled to find regular minutes with Chelsea under two different managers this season, but he remains the American linchpin.

Notable or Quotable: “[It’s] a team that no one loves to play against — it’s that American spirit, that we can always win. That we can beat anyone.” — On the identity of this USMNT

Weston McKennie

Age: 24
Club: Juventus (Italy) | Position: Midfielder
Debut: Nov. 14, 2017 vs. Portugal
Appearances: 37 (nine goals)

Look for him to … Perpetually be around the ball, pushing it forward into dangerous areas, as well as offer a stout presence in the defensive midfield. McKennie’s work rate makes him a game-breaker for the U.S., the player most capable — if he’s on — of disrupting the opposition.

Notable or Quotable: Frequently celebrates goals by waving an imaginary wand, in homage to Harry Potter. (For the record, McKennie says he would be a Gryffindor.)

Timothy Weah

Age: 22
Club: Lille (France) | Position: Forward
Debut: March 27, 2018 vs. Paraguay
Appearances: 25 (three goals)

Look for him to … Show speed on the outside, frequently from the right, and deliver penetrating crosses. Weah, who missed seven games of the club season with an ankle injury, also likes to get on the ball and interchange with the wide defender on his side of the field.

Notable or Quotable: “My dad is in the history books so I just have that fire in me all the time.” — On his father, George Weah, who is the president of Liberia and one of the greatest African players in soccer history

Jesus Ferreira

Age: 21
Club: FC Dallas (USA) | Position: Forward
Debut: Feb. 1, 2020 vs. Costa Rica
Appearances: 15 (seven goals)

Look for him to … Score, likely by using his speed (Second Spectrum data showed he was the second-fastest player in MLS in 2022). Ferreira isn’t the prototypical No. 9, but he scored 18 goals for Dallas this season and has a unique skill set among U.S. striker candidates.

Notable or Quotable: “Cheetah — cheetah is my favorite animal of all time.” — On what kind of animal he’d like to be if he wasn’t a human (Ferreira wants to become a zoologist after retiring).

Josh Sargent

Age: 22
Club: Norwich City (England) | Position: Forward
Debut: May 28, 2018 vs. Bolivia
Appearances: 20 (five goals)

Look for him to … Provide versatility, as he can play both as a central striker and in the wider role he is often used in at Norwich. Sargent can be streaky — six of his eight goals this season came in a six-game stretch from mid-August to mid-September.

Notable or Quotable: “There will be hundreds of comments saying how great you are, how amazing you are. And that one comment that says you’re the worst player will stay in your head all night.” — On why he’s one of the few USMNT players who stay off social media entirely

Haji Wright

Age: 24
Club: Antalyaspor (Turkey) | Position: Forward
Debut: June 1, 2022 vs. Morocco
Appearances: 3 (one goal)

Look for him to … Be a total X factor offensively, as he hasn’t featured much with the USMNT but is their most dangerous No. 9. After scoring 14 goals last season, he has already scored 9 in 12 matches this year.

Notable or Quotable: Wright comes from an athletic family; one of his cousins is Joseph Addai, the former NFL running back who won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007.


Safety. Stability. Reliability. These are the guys charged with protecting U.S. assets. Gregg Berhalter needs them to keep things under control in the most fraught moments, and especially when being threatened by a rogue striker.

Matt Turner

Age: 28
Club: Arsenal (England) | Position: Goalkeeper
Debut: Jan. 31, 2021 vs. Trinidad & Tobago
Appearances: 20

Look for him to … Start in goal for the U.S. after the surprise omission of Zack Steffen. A relative latecomer to the sport, Turner’s shot-stopping ability is top-shelf, but he does struggle to offer as much as other keepers when it comes to playing with the ball at his feet.

Notable or Quotable: “I decided to join soccer just to meet some new people and sort of integrate myself and stay in shape for basketball and baseball.” — On why, at age 16, he decided to play on the soccer team at his new high school

Walker Zimmerman

Age: 29
Club: Nashville SC (USA) | Position: Defender)
Debut: Feb. 3, 2017 vs. Jamaica
Appearances: 33 (three goals)

Look for him to … Stabilize the backline, with the rare trip forward on a set piece or corner. Unlike the many young phenoms on the team, Zimmerman is a bit of an international late bloomer, but he has become a defensive mainstay under Berhalter.

Notable or Quotable: “I think it comes with a lot of responsibility. You’re expected to kind of do the right thing, say the right thing. I took a lot of pride in that, and I think it helped develop me as a person.” — On growing up with a father who was the pastor of a Baptist church

Aaron Long

Age: 30
Club: New York Red Bulls (USA) | Position: Defender
Debut: Oct. 16, 2018 vs. Costa Rica
Appearances: 29 (three goals)

Look for him to … Be safe and sturdy in defense, generally taking a conservative approach to marking. Like Zimmerman, Long is a veteran who has been overlooked (and sidelined by various injuries) for much of his career but now seems to finally have found his chance.

Notable or Quotable: “I think I led the league in interceptions that year — we went to the state finals, too.” — On moonlighting as a cornerback and kicker on the high school football team his senior year

Cameron Carter-Vickers

Age: 24
Club: Celtic (Scotland) | Position: Defender
Debut: Nov. 14, 2017 vs. Portugal
Appearances: 11

Look for him to … Be assertive in duels and use improved passing skills to push for playing time at center-back. CCV is a quiet leader, too — when Callum McGregor got injured, Celtic turned to Carter-Vickers to stand in as their team captain.

Notable or Quotable: Was loaned by Tottenham to seven different teams over five years — Sheffield United, Ipswich, Swansea, Stoke, Luton, Bournemouth and Celtic — before finally signing a new permanent deal with Celtic in June

Tim Ream

Age: 35
Club: Fulham (England) | Position: Defender
Debut: Nov. 17, 2010 vs. South Africa
Appearances: 46 (one goal)

Look for him to … Defend fiercely and intelligently (which offsets a lack of speed). Ream isn’t necessarily a perfect fit in Berhalter’s preferred high-line system, but he’s thriving at Fulham, and a slew of injuries to other U.S. defenders pushed him back onto the radar.

Notable or Quotable: Ream has lived through a series of emotional swings with Fulham: Over the past five years, he has been part of two relegations and three promotions.

Ethan Horvath

Age: 27
Club: Luton Town (England) | Position: Goalkeeper
Debut: Oct. 7, 2016 vs. Cuba
Appearances: 8

Look for him to  Compete for time as the backup to Matt Turner. With Steffen not selected, Horvath — who has been in excellent form for Luton and is particularly skilled at long-range ball distribution — will battle Sean Johnson for the No. 2 spot.

Notable or Quotable: Despite having only 8 caps, Horvath has already had a historic USMNT moment: in June 2021, he replaced an injured Steffen in the second half and made four critical saves, including a dramatic penalty save, as the U.S. beat Mexico 3-2 to win the Nations League final.

Sean Johnson

Age: 33
Club: New York City FC (USA) | Position: Goalkeeper
Debut: Jan. 22, 2011 vs. Chile
Appearances: 10

Look for him to … Provide a reliable pair of hands if the U.S. get into an emergency goalkeeper situation. Third keepers are (by definition) rusty whenever they’re called on, but it’s especially true for Johnson: Playing in MLS means his last game action came on Oct. 23.

Notable or Quotable: “I think I got my first cap when some of these guys were 10 or even younger.” — On what it’s like to be an older player on a young team


What does the foundation of the U.S. team look like? It’s these players, the ones who build the American infrastructure, the ones who create the framework for the team’s success. They’re thoughtful and purposeful, dedicated to the system that could (should?) take the U.S. into the knockout rounds.

Tyler Adams

Age: 23
Club: Leeds United (England) | Position: Midfielder
Debut: Nov. 14, 2017 vs. Portugal
Appearances: 32 (one goal)

Look for him to … Be the engine for the U.S., with wide defensive field coverage and a steady sense for moving the ball. Adams embodies the “gritty midfielder” label, but he also shows the occasional flair for a colorful interchange with the wingers.

Notable or Quotable: “I do some of the dirty work that not everyone wants to do.” — On what distinguishes him as a midfielder

Sergino Dest

Age: 22
Club: AC Milan (Italy) | Position: Defender
Debut: Sept. 6, 2019 vs. Mexico
Appearances: 19 (two goals)

Look for him to … Wear out the right wing, making penetrating runs to link the U.S. defense and attack. Dest, who has battled injuries and muscle soreness, remains indispensable to the U.S. even as he has struggled to get the regular playing time he wants at Milan.

Notable or Quotable: “Orange chicken and fried rice — I always get that at Panda Express. The sweet chicken is just perfect.” — On his favorite meal when he’s in the United States

Kellyn Acosta

Age: 27
Club: LAFC (USA) | Position: Midfielder
Debut: Jan. 31, 2016 vs. Iceland
Appearances: 53 (two goals)

Look for him to … Be a steady hand off the bench in the midfield, particularly when it comes to set-piece delivery. Berhalter has talked often about the importance of intangibles with a young team, and Acosta is the embodiment of the idea.

Notable or Quotable: “I thought my national-team career was done. And it was a sad feeling because I experienced a lot but I felt like I still had a lot to give.” — On going more than two years between call-ups before getting another opportunity in 2020

Cristian Roldan

Age: 27
Club: Seattle Sounders (USA) | Position: Midfielder
Debut: July 12, 2017 vs. Martinique
Appearances: 32

Look for him to … Read the game as well as any player on the field, allowing him to be serviceable off the bench in a variety of roles, either in midfield or on the wing. Throughout qualifying, Berhalter raved often about Roldan’s tactical awareness and energy.

Notable or Quotable: Roldan had a choice when it came to which country he would represent internationally. While he chose the U.S., his younger brother, Alex, plays for the El Salvador national team.

Antonee Robinson

Age: 25
Club: Fulham (England) | Position: Defender
Debut: May 28, 2018 vs. Bolivia
Appearances: 29 (two goals)

Look for him to … Push forward (a lot) on the left, helping to create chances as well as attacking at the back post when the ball comes from the opposite side. Robinson is also a robust defender. Over the past year, he’s been statistically top-level in blocks, clearances and aerials won.

Notable or Quotable: Often goes by the name Jedi, which he has been called since he was young because of his love for the Star Wars movies.

DeAndre Yedlin

Age: 29
Club: Inter Miami (USA) | Position: Defender
Debut: Feb. 1, 2014, vs. South Korea
Appearances: 75

Look for him to … Add versatility off the bench either as an attacking wing-back or in a more defensive role. Yedlin is the only player who has previously been on a U.S. World Cup roster: He played in three games during the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

Notable or Quotable: “We were just too complacent in the last game, too complacent going into it. So every game I play in, I try to just be in the moment. Because if you get too far ahead of yourself, things that are happening in the present will pass by you. And all of a sudden, you have like the situation what happened to us in 2018.” — On the crushing feeling of failing to qualify for the World Cup four years ago

Joe Scally

Age: 19
Club: Borussia Monchengladbach (Germany) | Position: Defender
Debut: June 1, 2021 vs. Morocco
Appearances: 3

Look for him to … Offer insurance at full-back as a player who is stout in defense and likes to push forward, while also serving as an option at center-back. If he sees an opening in the attacking third, too, be ready: Scally has shown a penchant for shooting from distance.

Notable or Quotable: “I feel like the Europeans always think they’re better in all these ways just because they’re from Europe. So that’s definitely one perception I’ve taken when I came over here: that they think we’re just like NFL players running with the ball.” — On how he feels European players see American players

Jordan Morris

Age: 27
Club: Seattle Sounders (USA) | Position: Forward
Debut: Nov. 8, 2014, vs. Republic of Ireland
Appearances: 49 (11 goals)

Look for him to … Give the starters on the wing a break and offer needed energy late in a game. Even at 27, Morris is still a speedster and can finish when given the chance: He scored seven goals for Seattle this season.

Notable or Quotable: The tattoo on his right forearm is of the caduceus, a medical symbol, with the characters T1D above it; it’s there to let medics know, in case of an emergency, that Morris has Type 1 diabetes.


Inventive. Whimsical. Innovative. These are the creatives, the maestros for the U.S. They’re the ones charged with unlocking the Americans’ flair, the ones who will use their talents to showcase the beauty that lies within the U.S. team.

Gio Reyna

Age: 19
Club: Borussia Dortmund (Germany) | Position: Midfielder
Debut: Nov. 12, 2020, vs. Wales
Appearances: 14 (four goals)

Look for him to … Run with the ball at his feet, creating space and opening lanes for his teammates. Injuries have been regrettably constant for Reyna, but if he can stay healthy for the whole tournament, he figures to be a legit candidate for the team’s most valuable player.

Notable or Quotable: Reyna’s father, Claudio, was a USMNT legend, and his mother also represented the U.S. Danielle Egan, as she was known then, made six appearances (and scored one goal) for the USWNT in 1993.

Gio Reyna opens up about mental health while sidelined with injuries

Sam Borden chats with USMNT midfielder Gio Reyna about dealing with his mental health and his injury struggles.

Yunus Musah

Age: 19
Club: Valencia (Spain) | Position: Midfielder
Debut: Nov. 12, 2020, vs. Wales
Appearances: 19

Look for him to … Be assertive, both on the ball and defensively, as a critical piece of the McKennie-Adams-Musah midfield trio. Musah is one of the team’s most complete players: In LaLiga, he’s statistically strong among midfielders in everything from assists and dribbles to tackles and clearances.

Notable or Quotable: “I feel like we want to be on the field and express ourselves, and when you’re on the field and trying to express yourself, I think the best version of yourself comes out.” — On what he likes about the USMNT’s philosophy

Brenden Aaronson

Age: 22
Club: Leeds United (England) | Position: Forward
Debut: Feb. 1, 2020, vs. Costa Rica
Appearances: 24 (six goals)

Look for him to … Never stop running, whether on the wing or centrally (and he may be used in both spots). Aaronson, whose energy has made him a quick fan favorite at Leeds, finds ways to open up the opponent: He’s in the 94th percentile among midfielders when it comes to delivering key passes.

Notable or Quotable: “The way I would describe myself is just energetic — I like to get after it, I’m relentless. Anybody I’ve ever talked to says I’m like a little pest.” — On how he tries to impact a game

Luca de la Torre

Age: 24
Club: Celta Vigo (Spain) | Position: Midfielder
Debut: June 2, 2018, vs. Republic of Ireland
Appearances: 12

Look for him to … Make good decisions, utilizing excellent field awareness, when used as a rotational starter or substitute, though inactivity could be a concern. De la Torre hasn’t played more than 20 minutes in a game for Celta Vigo this season.

Notable or Quotable: “I think I have a skill set where I try to put players around me in better positions. So, I think I can make other players better.” — On his role with the USMNT

Shaq Moore

Age: 26
Club: Nashville SC | Position: Defender
Debut: June 2, 2018 vs. Republic of Ireland
Appearances: 15 (one goal)

Look for him to … Be an option off the bench at outside back, where he’s a very strong tackler and aggressive in creating chances. After bouncing around Spanish clubs since 2015, he joined Nashville this summer for the late-season MLS playoff push.

Notable or Quotable: Moore has just a single international goal, but it’s a memorable one: In the 2021 Gold Cup, Moore scored after just 14 seconds against Canada, setting the record for the fastest goal in USMNT history.

Leaving Zack Steffen out of World Cup was ‘heartbreaking’ – Gregg Berhalter

8:22 PM ET ESPN Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

United States manager Gregg Berhalter said it was “heartbreaking” to tell goalkeeper Zack Steffen that he had been left off the World Cup squad for Qatar.Steffen was thought to be a lock to make the team after featuring regularly for the U.S. during this World Cup cycle and battling Arsenal‘s Matt Turner for the starting spot during World Cup qualifying.Steffen was also viewed as a favorite of Berhalter’s given that the two worked together at the Columbus Crew from 2016-18.But when the squad was announced on Wednesday Steffen was left off the team, with Turner, Luton Town’s Ethan Horvath and New York City FC‘s Sean Johnson preferred.”Me and Zach go way back, and Zach’s been there for me a bunch of times,” Berhalter said of Steffen during Wednesday’s press conference after the squad announcement. “And to tell him he is not going to be part of the World Cup team was heartbreaking for me.”But those are decisions that we made as a staff and we move forward and now it’s about, ‘Well, who do we have in camp and how are we going to be successful?'”

When asked from a technical perspective what went into the decision, Berhalter said: “I think it’s more about who we do have, and the comfort level with the guys that are on the roster. We felt really comfortable with [Turner, Horvath and Johnson], and that’s the direction we decided to go.”Berhalter was also questioned about this choice of central strikers, with FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira, Norwich City striker Josh Sargent, and Antalyaspor forward Haji Wright chosen.The U.S. coach lauded Ferreira’s link play, movement in the box, and ability to initiate the team’s press. As for Sargent, Berhalter said the forward “does a lot of things well” and valued his physicality and familiarity with English and Welsh opposition, who will make up the U.S. team’s first two opponents in Qatar.

Wright, who was something of a surprise selection given that he didn’t play in a single World Cup qualifier, was praised for his aerial threat on set pieces, ability in transition and finishing. The striker selections came at the expense of FC Groningen forward Ricardo Pepi — scorer of three goals in CONCACAF qualifying — and Union Berlin’s Jordan Pefok.”I think when we were looking at this as coaches, we were evaluating Haji versus Jordan Pefok and that’s what it came down to,” Berhalter said. “And in this particular case we felt like Haji is in a great goal-scoring form.”They’re both are physical strikers. Jordan may be a little more, but Haji has pace. He’s got the ability to go one-v-one, he’s got finishing with his head, both feet and he’s performing really well in the Turkish league.”Berhalter added that timing also played a part in the Wright-Pefok decision.”If we would’ve made the decision mid-September, Jordan Pefok would’ve probably been a lock to be in based on his former with Union Berlin,” Berhalter said. “But since then, it’s a different story now. Now Haji has come on more. So that was the tricky thing about it.”As for Pepi, Berhalter said he lost out in a competition against Ferreira and Sargent.”We felt it was valuable that Josh was playing in that competition where two of our three opponents are coming from,” the U.S. coach added. “We think that that brings value. The Dutch League I think is a great league, but it doesn’t bring the same physicality that the Premier League brings and the Championship brings.”The U.S. begins play in Group on Monday, Nov.21, against Wales, followed by matches with England and Iran in its first World Cup since 2014.

San Antonio FC’s Jordan Farr Voted Championship’s Goalkeeper of the Year

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 11/08/22, 11:30AM EST


Former Carmel FC GK Coach & Indy 11 GK is named GK of the Year in USL for San Antonio – who plays in the Finals Sun 8:30

TAMPA, Fla. – San Antonio FC’s Jordan Farr was on Tuesday named the 2022 USL Championship Goalkeeper of the Year, honoring a career-best season for the 28-year-old that saw him equal the league’s single-season shutout record and finish second in the race for the Championship Golden Glove while helping San Antonio earn the best record in the 2022 regular season and a first trip to the USL Championship Final.

Farr is the second San Antonio FC goalkeeper to have claimed the award, following Diego Restrepo’s award in the 2017 USL Championship season.Farr signed with San Antonio this offseason having served as an emergency loanee for the club last postseason after an injury to starter Matt Cardone saw him acquired from Indy Eleven. A run to the Western Conference Final under SAFC Head Coach Alen Marcina before the side fell in a penalty shootout made a big impression on Farr. “I remember going into the coach’s office at the end of the Orange County game last year, and I didn’t know if I was going to see them again, I didn’t know what the future held,” he said. “But I remember seeing [Marcina’s] disappointment, and seeing how much he wanted it, and in that short month how much I felt that I was ingrained into the fabric of the team and to feel those feelings of sorrow and closeness to achieving something great.”Farr wasn’t initially San Antonio’s starter to begin the 2022 campaign, but after the early-season departure of Cristian Bonilla after three games, he grabbed his opportunity. That’s the way it’s often had to be for the Salem, Oregon native, who played at NAIA program Corban College and in USL League Two prior to finding an opportunity with Indy prior to the 2018 season.

“For guys like me, coming from where I’ve come from, don’t normally get recognized at this level or even get a chance to play at this level,” he said. “This means a lot for not only me but my family. Every coach and teammate that believed in me. This goes to my wife, I can’t do anything without her. And for us as a family, it validates a lifelong dream of being a professional soccer player playing at one of the highest levels.”Off the field, 2022 has been a memorable one as well for Farr and his wife, Ale, who in October welcomed daughter Evie Jean Farr to their family. “It’s amazing to look back and see how much can change in one year,” he said. “It’s crazy how God works, and we kind of have to pinch ourselves every once-in-a-while to make sure we’re not dreaming.”

Next for Farr is the chance to cap his year in this Sunday night’s 2022 USL Championship Final (8:30 p.m. ET | ESPN2 | ESPN Deportes | SiriusXM FC) in which San Antonio looks to become the first team to lift the trophy after ending the regular season with the best record since the New York Red Bulls II side that featured current United States Men’s National Team players Tyler Adams and Aaron Long in 2016. “We’re just really proud as a family to represent ourselves well but also represent San Antonio well,” said Farr. “And I credit that to our team. This award’s impossible to win on your own, and I couldn’t be happier to play on a team like this.”Farr earned 48 percent of the ballot to claim the award, while Louisville City FC’s Kyle Morton took second place with 39 percent, and Phoenix Rising FC’s Ben Lundt took third place on 12 percent.The 2022 USL Championship Awards were voted on by team technical staffs and executives and a league-wide media panel that included representation from every USL Championship market. Voting was conducted following the conclusion of the 2022 Championship regular season.

LAFC finds Hollywood ending, beats Philadelphia on penalty kicks for first MLS Cup title

Nov 5, 2022; Los Angeles, California, US; Los Angeles FC forward Gareth Bale (11) celebrates with Los Angeles FC midfielder Ryan Hollingshead (24) after scoring a goal in overtime against Philadelphia Union at Banc of California Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

By Sam StejskalNov 5, 2022 athletic

LAFC beat the Philadelphia Union to win its first MLS Cup in unbelievable fashion Saturday at Banc of California Stadium. Here’s what you need to know:

  • LAFC got a 128th-minute equalizer from Gareth Bale to bring the game level at 3-3 and force penalties, where backup goalkeeper John McCarthy, a former Union player and Philadelphia native, made two saves to lead the Black and Gold to an unreal win.
  • McCarthy, who was named MVP, was substituted on after starting keeper Maxime Crepéau was carted off with an injury — and got a red card — late in extra time.
  • LA is the eighth team in MLS history to win both the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in a single season.

How it happened

The two teams traded goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation and in stoppage time of the second period of extra time, which was extended by nine minutes because of the brutal injury suffered by Crépeau. Crépeau was shown a red card for his role in the play, on which he brought down Philadelphia forward Cory Burke, who otherwise would’ve been alone on goal.Center back Jack Elliott scored his second goal of the match to put the Union ahead 3-2 in the 124th minute, tapping home a rebound from close range following an incredible initial save by McCarthy. Bale, who arrived this summer to huge fanfare but came nowhere near living up to expectations this season, somehow answered four minutes later, rising above Elliott to head home a cross to make it 3-3. It was the latest goal in MLS history, breaking the record set four minutes earlier by the same man he beat to the equalizing cross.McCarthy, who was born in Philadelphia, went to college in Philadelphia and spent the first four seasons of his MLS career in Philadelphia, stole the show in the shootout. Both teams missed their first attempt, with Union goalkeeper Andre Blake saving Cristian Tello’s weak effort before Philadelphia midfielder Daniel Gazdag slipped on his runup and sent his shot over the bar. McCarthy then saved the Union’s next two attempts, denying Jose Martinez and Kai Wagner, while Denis Bouanga and Ryan Hollingshead converted the subsequent two attempts for LAFC to make it 2-0 heading into the fourth round of kicks.Ilie Sanchez took it from there, narrowly beating Blake with a penalty to the bottom right corner to give LAFC the title.

The match, as MLS commissioner Don Garber said just before he presented the trophy to LAFC captain Carlos Vela, was “Major League Soccer at its very best.” It was one of the best in league history, an incomprehensibly dramatic battle between the two best teams in the league this season in front of a raucous crowd at a state-of-the-art stadium. It was far from the prettiest game of soccer, but what it lacked in beauty it more than made up for in excitement, with LAFC eventually emerging as champions.

While LA ended the day on top, Philadelphia was actually the better team for most of the opening half hour, comfortably playing over and around LAFC’s pressure and tilting the field toward the Black and Gold’s goal. LAFC still managed to score first, however, taking the lead against the run of play in the 28th minute.Martinez committed a sloppy turnover in the Union half, then chopped down LAFC striker Chicho Arango to give the hosts a dangerous free kick 25 yards from goal. Midfielder Kellyn Acosta stepped up to the free kick, firing a shot that deflected off the head of Union midfielder Jack McGlynn, flew past a wrong-footed Blake and went into the bottom corner to make it 1-0.LAFC improved after going ahead, nearly making it 2-0 in the 39th minute. Vela created the chance, playing a gorgeous ball directly into the path of an onrushing Diego Palacios in the left side of the area. Palacios attempted to play the ball back across the face of goal and into the path of a teammate, but Blake made a tremendous play to deflect the ball out of danger.LAFC had another good look in the 41st minute, when Acosta nearly picked out Vela at the right post with a driven cross. Vela couldn’t quite reach the ball with his outstretched leg, otherwise he would’ve had a tap-in goal.The Union’s best chance of the first half came a couple of minutes later. Bouanga played an errant back pass directly to Philadelphia forward Julian Carranza, who quickly played fellow forward Mikael Uhre into the penalty box. Uhre beat center back Sebastian Ibeagha, but defender Jesus Murillo and Crépeau quickly converged to prevent him from putting a shot on target.

Philadelphia equalized in the 59th. Martinez collected a recycled set piece and attempted an ambitious shot from about 35 yards out, but didn’t get much power on the effort. That ended up working in Philadelphia’s favor, with the ball rolling directly into the path of Gazdag, who collected, turned and calmly slotted his shot past Crépeau to make it 1-1Neither club was able to generate much else until the 83rd minute, when Murillo headed home a Vela corner to retake the lead for LAFC. Vela curled in an inswinger from the right side, with Murillo beating Martinez to the ball and heading home from six yards out at the near post.With the clock winding down and Philadelphia struggling to generate chances, LAFC looked like a safe bet to hold on for the title, but Elliott stunningly pulled the Union level in the 85th. Wagner, who tied for second in the league with 15 assists in the regular season, whipped a free kick into the box from the left sideline. The 6-foot-6 Elliott lost his mark, got on the end of the cross at the near post and powered a header in from 10 yards. Crépeau actually got a hand to the shot, but the ball had too much pace for him to keep it out.All four goals in regulation came directly from or immediately after set pieces, appropriate for a game in which both teams struggled to string together sustained attacks.The Union had a scary moment in the second minute of extra time. Blake came out of the box to sweep up a Vela through ball, but Bouanga blocked his attempted clearance. The ball redirected toward the goal, but Bouanga couldn’t quite get to it before it trickled over the line and out for a goal kick.Philadelphia had a chance in the 104th. Wagner curled in a cross from the left that popped high into the air after it was deflected by an LAFC defender.Carranza maneuvered himself underneath it in the right side of the area, heading a looping shot toward that far post that only narrowly missed the top corner.The second half of extra time was marred by the brutal collision between Crépeau and Burke in the 110th minute. Union right back Olivier Mbaizo played a long clearance out of his own box to midfield. Burke challenged for it, but the LAFC center backs appeared to have it handled, with Murillo running onto the ball and playing a pass back to Crepéau. He underhit the pass, however, and Burke continued his run. Crepéau came out of the box in a desperate attempt to clear the danger, but slid in late and fouled Burke, who would’ve been in on goal had he not been brought down.Referee Ismail Elfath initially only gave Crepéau a yellow card for the challenge, but changed it to a red after review, bringing LAFC down to 10 men for the remainder of the match.Both players went down injured, with Crepéau appearing to suffer a serious leg injury; neither Fox nor Univision showed replays of the incident in an apparent attempt to avoid showing the gruesome collision. The game was stopped for nearly eight minutes as both Burke and Crepéau received treatment. Crepéau was eventually taken off on a golf cart, replaced by McCarthy. Burke attempted to continue playing, but he had to be subbed out shortly after play resumed.The delay led to a remarkable nine minutes of stoppage time, which, even more remarkably, included two more goals.Elliott scored the first in the 124th. LAFC initially dealt with a Philadelphia corner, but the Union kept them pinned in the final third, serving ball after ball into the box. Wagner had the final delivery, hitting a cross from the right side that Carranza and Sanchez contested at the back post. McCarthy made an incredible reaction stop to keep out the redirected shot, but Elliott pounced on the rebound, tapping home from close range to give the Union a 3-2 advantage.That should’ve been it. It wasn’t. LAFC somehow hit back, with Bale, who had been so quiet all season, getting the crucial finish in the 128th. That set up the shootout, where McCarthy took over, leading LAFC to their first-ever league title directly in front of the club’s supporters’ section.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Gareth Bale #11 of Los Angeles FC lifts the championship trophy as he celebrates with teammates during the 2022 MLS Cup Final at Banc of California Stadium on November 5, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

How Gareth Bale and a backup goalkeeper contributed to the greatest ever MLS Cup match

Jeff RueterNov 6, 2022

As the second half of MLS Cup progressed, it looked like Gareth Bale wouldn’t play a part in the biggest match in Los Angeles FC’s five-year history.Bale was brought in over the summer after his contract with Real Madrid expired, and he arrived with every intention to play enough minutes to prepare for the upcoming World Cup after making just a handful of appearances last season for his previous club. He worked with the club’s staff to build a load management plan that would simultaneously benefit the Welshman and the Western Conference leaders. However, he followed infrequent availability during the regular season with a knock that kept him from participating as LAFC began its quest to win a first postseason title.By the week of MLS Cup, Bale and the staff agreed he could play 25 to 30 minutes — if LAFC needed a goal, that is.“I knew if the game was close, then yeah, I’m obviously a good player to call upon,” Bale said with a self-aware smirk after the match, and who can blame him?

To chronicle Bale is to document more goals in big moments than many clubs experience in a century. There was his levitation act in the 2014 Champions League final against Atlético Madrid and his lung-busting run in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona the same year, then a pair — including an overhead stunner — against Liverpool in 2018. There have been a slew of vital goals for Wales as they made Euro 2016 and the 32-team field for Qatar, and Tottenham fans have a whole catalog from which to choose their favorite.LAFC signed Bale with every hope that he had an iconic goal or two left to contribute. Unfortunately, he entered Saturday with just 347 minutes played to show for his $2.39 million salary.As fate would have it, he needed just 23 more to make clear that he was, in fact, priceless.“You see there’s so many players that are dropping out, and now they are missing the World Cup,” Bale said of his infrequent availability. “It’s been difficult mentally, and I’m sure it has been for a lot of players going into the World Cup. For sure it’s been in the back of my mind, trying to make sure I’m 100 percent fit. Today, obviously, I felt good enough to come on the pitch and help the team.”When Bale entered for Carlos Vela in the seventh minute of extra time, he was given a singular focus. The match was still level at 2-2, and surely it would just take one connection with the ball to send the home faithful into rapture. However, an already excellent match took a turn for the unforgettable, and by the 128th minute, it appeared that Los Angeles would once again fall short of their desperate push to win MLS Cup.Then came the Bale-out in the form of the latest goal in MLS history to equalize at the very end of extra time and send the match to a shootout.“It’s always nice to score in finals, and I seem to have a knack for doing that,” Bale said. “It’s big. It’s important for the club. It’s important for the fans.”The emphatic header was vintage Gareth Bale — needing just one opportunity to come through in the clutch. Still, the game wasn’t yet won for LAFC as Bale ran to the corner flag to celebrate with the fans. It was just another stunning moment in the most incredible game in the history of MLS.

The overshadowed excellence of Jack Elliott

Fans spent their Saturday morning milling about outside of Banc of California Stadium before the 1 p.m. kick off. The smell of bacon-wrapped hot dogs and fajitas on the grill narrowly powered through that of some other California greenery being ignited. Dozens of vendors prepared identical tubular entrées while beckoning fans to order another cerveza.

While the Black and Gold were out in full force, they weren’t alone. Three sections worth of Philadelphia Union fans were also in attendance, though many steered clear of the tailgate. One embraced his heel turn by walking down the street that had been blocked off for the occasion, holding his Union scarf high as he was booed by most he passed. Another quintet of fans kept just outside of the congregation, each wearing jerseys with the No. 3 on the back.When asked if they’d come all the way from Philadelphia, one of them, a six-foot-tall blonde man, replied: “No, I’m from London,” he said, looking confused. “I’m Jack Elliott’s brother.”It was five years ago, also in Los Angeles, when the center back was selected 77th overall in the MLS SuperDraft. By the time the West Virginia University defender was taken by the Union, three teams had passed on the opportunity to make a pick — deciding they were better off not taking any player than getting the rights to Elliott or another collegiate player at that point.

His brother predicted a 5-1 win; another in the group asked if 7-0 was a reasonable guess. While both were bullish ahead of the biggest game of Elliott’s career, neither could have imagined him playing as crucial of a role as he would. The defender drew the match’s first yellow card in the 14th minute, forcing him to take a more conservative approach in front of goalkeeper Andre Blake. Fortunately for the Union, he was able to avoid a second yellow throughout the rest of the match, keeping him on the field to score a set piece equalizer in the 85th minute — just two minutes after LAFC thought they’d won it in similar style to go up 2-1.As the match extended into extra time, Elliott stayed out there, tracking both Vela and Bale as they led the line. Then, in the fourth minute of added time in extra time, Elliott scored his second goal of the day to give Philadelphia what seemed like an untouchable 3-2 lead.It’s bound to be one of MLS’ great forgotten goals — for a few moments, it was the latest goal in the league’s history. Four minutes later, both the lead and that distinction were cruelly taken away from him thanks to Bale’s gilded forehead. While Blake, Kai Wagner and Jakob Glesnes (who also won defender of the year) represented the Union defensive corps on the league’s year-end best XI, head coach Jim Curtin took Elliott’s performance as an opportunity to highlight the importance of Philly’s SuperDraft steal.“​​I thought Jack Elliott is a guy that maybe flies under the radar,” Curtin said. “So many others got individual accolades this year, and sometimes they can’t choose so many players from one team, and I understand that. Maybe he got overlooked quite a bit. An incredible final from Jack, a great performance.”And as incredible as it was, it will likely still fly under the radar given everything else that happened in this match.

Crépeau puts MLS Cup above the World Cup (sort of)

Since making his debut for Canada’s national team in 2016, goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau has earned only 15 caps due to Milan Borjan’s firm grip on the position, but he has remained a regular inclusion in John Herdman’s rosters and was all but guaranteed to make the roster for this month’s World Cup.

Although Crépeau’s international standing has been secure, he struggled throughout much of Saturday’s match. By the time Elliott scored the equalizer that sent the match to extra time, Crépeau had failed to stop either of Philadelphia’s only two shots on target.

As the 110th minute neared, Crépeau was determined to redeem himself. Center back Jésus Murillo had underhit a pass toward the Canadian, and the Union’s Cory Burke eagerly ran onto the ball as Crépeau darted out of his box. It was a high-stakes chase between two players hunting for glory. Unfortunately, Crépeau came a bit later than the speedy Jamaican, and was eventually shown a red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.

However, by the time he was shown that red card, he was being loaded onto a cart since the collision with Burke left him in excruciating pain with a fractured leg.

Despite some miscues earlier, Crépeau was there when his team needed him, sacrificing his body and so much more. Granted, the sweeping act left his team a man short for the final three minutes plus eight minutes of stoppage time, but he kept Burke from scoring before Elliott or Bale played their final part in the action. Ultimately, it kept his team in the game at the expense of his World Cup trip.

“He made a big-time decision by coming out and making that play,” McCarthy said after the game. “I’m absolutely devastated for him because it seems like it’s a pretty serious injury and he’s going to miss the World Cup. I don’t know the extent of it, but if you come out of a game in that situation, you’re not coming out for a Band-Aid.”

McCarthy faces old friends 

When McCarthy woke up on Saturday, he didn’t expect to take the field.

The LAFC backup goalkeeper had featured just twice in competitive action during his first year with the club. The first appearance was a U.S. Open Cup third-round match against second-division Orange County SC on April 20 that resulted in a 5-1 victory, and the other came a few weeks later in a loss at Colorado. Still, he knew two scenarios could bring him into the game.

“It was crazy to talk to family and friends the past three weeks,” McCarthy said of the postseason run. “‘Hey, if PKs come around, I might have an opportunity to play.’ Or if something tragic happened, which it did, I might have an opportunity to play.”

Just moments after the Fox commentators discussed McCarthy’s previous success in penalty shootouts and how LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo might opt to substitute him in near the end of extra time for that reason, the injury to Crépeau forced the manager’s hand.

But where did Cherundolo get the idea to use McCarthy as a shootout specialist? From the Philadelphia Union, McCarthy’s hometown club. McCarthy played parts of four seasons for the Union, and in the 2015 U.S. Open Cup final against Sporting Kansas City, Curtin made the bold move to pull Blake for McCarthy at the end of extra time so he could be in goal for the shootout.

Back in the present, LAFC’s Cristian Tello started the shootout with a tame penalty attempt that was smothered by Blake. It seemed like McCarthy would need to bail his team out.

Fortunately for him, Philadelphia’s Gazdag slipped and sent his follow-up attempt into the supporters section. Then McCarthy saved the ensuing penalty taken by José Martínez after the Venezuelan attempted a stutter-step approach. When Wagner stepped up next, McCarthy again dove to parry the penalty away from goal. LAFC went on to win the shootout and McCarthy became the fifth goalkeeper to win MLS Cup MVP, needing just 13 minutes to do it. It was such a whirlwind that McCarthy had begun to walk back to the goalmouth for a fourth shot from the Union that wasn’t meant to come. Only when midfielder Ilié Sanchez converged on him did he realize his shift was over.

“To be put in that moment and come on, I just was hoping we find a way to keep it clean and then save a PK and hopefully something good happens,” McCarthy later said. “ But it’s a dream come true. And I had no idea when Ilié scored that it was done. I had no clue. I was walking towards the goal, and Ilié scared the (expletive) out of me.”After the match, McCarthy played the role of reluctant hero as he gnawed on a corner piece of a tavern-cut pizza. It wasn’t just false modesty or a subdued celebration due to the sequence which had led to his inclusion in the game, though.

“To be a Philly kid and play against my hometown team in their first MLS Cup, it’s something special,” McCarthy said. “I would root for them any day of the week besides today, and I genuinely mean that. There’s a lot of good people in that organization, and they mean a lot to me. From that aspect, they have a lot of meaning in my heart, but there’s something that the group of people there actually taught me: when you cross a white line, (it) doesn’t matter who you are playing against. You play to win.”

It was going to take something remarkable for anybody but Bale to win the MVP honor. As it turned out, no player was better prepared to outdo the global superstar than a backup goalkeeper.

After the game, cameras caught McCarthy FaceTiming with Crépeau in the middle of the celebrations, repeatedly expressing his love for his absent teammate. In Steve Cherundolo’s post-match press conference, a team employee brought his phone to the front of the room, where the injured goalkeeper was able to see his coach and the assembled media for a congratulations on the triumph.If Crépeau is able to recover and return to starting status, he should still be in line to challenge for playing time when Canada co-hosts the World Cup in 2026. For now, however, he’ll have to make due with wearing his MLS Cup winners’ medal in his hospital bed.

Cherundolo instantly proves himself

While Curtin was forced to take a gradual approach to becoming one of MLS’ great coaches, his the man leading the opposition on Saturday cut right to the chase.Just 12 months ago, Cherundolo hadn’t been preparing for LAFC’s 2022 season. He was still toiling in the second division.“I was preparing for the USL season with the Las Vegas Lights again, to be honest with you,” Cherundolo said on Friday, “finishing their roster and was partaking in the MLS roster for LAFC, as well. Then obviously, things changed pretty quickly.”On November 18, 2021, Bob Bradley resigned from his post as the only head coach in LAFC’s brief history to try turning Toronto FC around. Bradley had been among the earliest sporting hires made by LAFC, and his departure left many outside of the club wondering if they’d need a rebuilding phase after missing the playoffs for the first time since joining the league in 2018.

When Cherundolo was interviewing for the job, he didn’t want to propose a clean slate. In fact, he hardly even saw a need to take an eraser to the club’s longtime plan.“What’s working, hold onto, and what’s not working, change,” Cherundolo said after the triumph. “That was my approach in the interview process and I was able to convince the right people to give me a shot, and I think they are happy with their decision now.”The former U.S. national team defender took the pragmatic approach to revitalizing the Black and Gold, preaching balance and an aversion to the concept of pressure. It galvanized the newcomers to the team and the old guard alike, bringing an air of confidence back into a humbled locker room.Three years ago, Cherundolo was out of a job. He had left his longtime home at Hannover and a brief pair of roles in 2018 with Stuttgart and the U.S.’s senior team under then interim manager Dave Sarachan. In early 2021, Cherundolo told media he had interviewed for multiple MLS vacancies before heading up Las Vegas in the USL. On Saturday, he added an MLS Cup triumph to the season’s prior Supporters’ Shield capture.So much for a rebuild.“Yeah, it’s pretty wild,” Cherundolo said. “This business as a coach or as a player is not plannable. Things happen. You need to be ready for them. The worst thing you can do as a coach is jump into a situation you’re not prepared for. So during those times when you are looking for the right job or looking for a job, it’s about preparing yourself when it does come.“I felt very well prepared for this job, and I think maybe (winning) two titles speaks for itself.”

Vela gets a taste for silverware 

After the 2021 season, Bradley wasn’t the only franchise mainstay to wonder what other opportunities he might find. Carlos Vela was the team’s first signing and first designated player. In 2019, he won MVP with arguably the greatest individual campaign in league history, scoring a league-record 34 goals and adding 15 assists. By 2022, he had begun to slow a bit, as Second Spectrum data showed he had lost half a meter per second on his sprint speed.With his contract set to expire at the end of June this season, he mulled over his options. Ultimately, however, he found his desire to deliver an MLS Cup to LAFC too strong to overlook.“Everything in life needs to change sometimes,” Vela said on Saturday. “When something is not getting the way you want, you have to move things. You have to try something different, and that is what the club did. In my case, I was not thinking of Bob Bradley — I was thinking about myself. I finished my contract and (was) thinking about if I (should) stay here or not. In the end, we talk about the future, and say, ‘Come on, we need the trophy before I can leave the club or I can retire. Give me the chance.’”While he may not be the same pacey winger he once one, Vela was still impactful in 2022. Still the club’s captain, he made his third MLS best XI since 2018 with a 12 goal, 11 assist campaign. In his first full season since that record-shattering display, he helped quickly bring fellow global stars Bale and Giorgio Chiellini (who didn’t feature on Saturday after suffering a muscle injury against Austin last week) into the fold.

Vela wasn’t a 90-minute player for much of the home stretch, and his attempt to play on into extra time was cut short for Bale’s cameo. But he finally won the first true league title (not counting the Supporters’ Shield) of a career that also included stints with Arsenal and Real Sociedad. He compared watching Crépeau’s injury from the sidelines as “a Halloween film” before Bale’s goal and McCarthy’s heroics turned it into a “Hollywood movie.” When asked what his future held, he quickly suggested he test his luck with a trip to Las Vegas.After months spent in a contract standoff, he’s now locked in for 2023. After finally lifting the Philip F. Anschutz trophy on Saturday, he may stay even longer.“I want to still be here,” Vela said of his future. “I want to enjoy the CONCACAF Champions League, the new (Leagues) Cup is coming — and win more. When you get a trophy, you want more. Maybe it’s a bit selfish, but ah, how cool it is. So I want more. … This is special, the first one, but if you get more, you can say ‘okay, I can retire now.’ So maybe one more, two more and I retire. So take me for a couple of years.”

Glitz, glamor and growing respect

For a league that sometimes operates with an unhealthy inferiority complex, this MLS Cup was a perfect combination of drama and spectacle worthy of the Hollywood matinee it was set up to be. LAFC co-owner Magic Johnson addressed the crowd before kickoff, Rob McElhenney and Colin Hanks brought out the trophy and, throughout the game, cameras highlighted the stars among the 22,384 in attendance: Justin Bieber, LAFC co-owner Will Ferrell, Wiz Khalifa and Sia, to name a handful.That’s not to say a league is undeniably respected if Justin Bieber can be found sitting pitchside with a mystery beverage in hand, but how many leagues in the world can claim such a hybrid of entertaining play and celebrity endorsements?MLS is in a very different place than it was even when LAFC first began play in 2018. Its teams are getting more adept at nimbly operating within the league’s wonky roster rules, building greater depth and bringing in top talent beyond their three designated players. Coaches are getting increasingly diverse with their tactical approaches, and the days of most teams playing in similar styles and formations are fortunately behind us.On Saturday, MLS played its final game of the pre-Apple broadcast deal era with its two greatest teams of the year squaring off. They delivered arguably the league’s wildest and most unforgettable contest, and while neither team was flawless — the teams’ combined 71.6 percent passing rate was only better than New York Red Bulls’ putrid 66.6 percent clip this year — they both came through to exceed any reasonable expectation for this year’s MLS Cup.In total, this myriad of storylines only affirms MLS’ growing stature — and they combined for an amount of showtime glamor even Magic Johnson had to admire.

Leeds United and chaos: Why Jesse Marsch’s side have embraced high-risk, high-reward soccer

Nov 8, 2022 EPSN+ Ryan O’Hanlon

If you’ve watched a single Leeds United match this season, you’ve likely had one of two reactions: “OH MY GOD, WHY DOESN’T EVERY TEAM PLAY THIS WAY?” Or: “OH MY GOD, WHY WOULD ANY TEAM PLAY THIS WAY?” And, well, if you watched Leeds United play AFC Bournemouth on Saturday, you likely had both of those reactions before you had lunch.

Amid the chaos, it seemed like Jesse Marsch‘s job was on the line two weeks ago. Hell, the Leeds manager even said as much after a 3-2 loss to Fulham on Oct. 23. That marked four defeats in a row, and the result pushed the club into the relegation zone.

“I’m not done here,” Marsch said. “But I’m not dumb. … I understand that, if we don’t win, I put the board in a difficult position.”

If you wanted to read into body language, you could’ve said the players seemed defeated. And if you wanted to read into the history of the relegation battle, you could’ve said that a team that continued to insist on pressing high and trying to score lots of goals was doomed. From a certain, traditional vantage point, it certainly looked like Leeds had to make a change. They were, in an overused word, naive.Since then, they’ve won twice, and in increasingly thrilling fashion. First, a 2-1 win at Anfield, thanks to an 89th-minute goal from 21-year-old Charles Dickens protagonist Dutch winger ​​Crysencio Summerville. Then, at home to Bournemouth, they blew a 1-0 lead, were down 3-1 by minute 50, and won the match, 4-3, thanks to another Summerville goal in the 84th minute. All of a sudden, they’re all the way up in 12th place.Winning games this way might still feel unsustainable, but that’s to misunderstand what this team is trying to do. When I talked to Marsch for my book, “Net Gains: Inside the Beautiful Game’s Analytics Revolution,” he told me: “I love scoring goals way more than I love giving them up. If we’re winning 2-0, I’m always thinking about 3-0 and rarely thinking about protecting 2-0.”The volatility of these first few months? That’s the whole point.

Leeds are normal

Despite everything you’ve seen and everything you just read, Leeds United are basically an average Premier League team.Through 13 games, they’ve scored 1.5 goals per game (10th in the league) and conceded 1.7 (tied for 14th) for a per-game differential of minus-0.2 (tied for 11th). They’ve been slightly better than their goals or points suggest, too. They’ve created 1.5 expected goals per game (7th) and conceded 1.4 (tied for 10th). Their cumulative xG difference is plus-1.3 — eighth in the league, one spot behind Liverpool and better than Manchester United and Chelsea.

All things considered, this is quite good. While the salary data from the site FBref requires lots of estimates, it’s still a useful ballpark number. And according to FBref, Leeds are carrying the second-lowest wage bill in the league after Brentford. Meanwhile, the data provider Off the Pitch has wage data for two seasons ago; it’s for all personnel at a club — not just players — but the only teams that paid lower wages were three teams that have since been relegated (Burnley, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United) plus a fourth, Newcastle United, that has since been purchased by a nation state with a comparatively unlimited amount of money.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (U.S.)

Either way, in a sport in which wages tend to be destiny, a positive xG differential or league-average performance across 38 games would be a massively successful season for a team with the second-lowest wage bill. Throw in the fact that Leeds sold Raphinha to Barcelona and Kalvin Phillips to Manchester City over the summer, and the consternation over Marsch’s credibility starts to seem absurd. Some of that comes down to the fact that most soccer watchers still haven’t come to grips with how random the sport is on a game-to-game basis. Leeds had impressive underlying numbers even before the wins against Liverpool and Bournemouth. A team that’s playing well and not getting the bounces being dubbed “in crisis” is nothing new, but the way Leeds got there and then got it out of it? That’s different.

Leeds are abnormal

The history of coaching across all sports is a slow march away from conservative decision-making. Baseball teams have all but abandoned the sacrifice bunt, in favor of swinging for the fences despite the risk of a strikeout. NBA teams have only recently discovered that three-pointers are worth more than two-pointers. And you’re seeing the same trend play out in real time across the NFL every weekend, as coaches grapple with fourth-down decisions, over and over and over again.While this has all been driven by “analytics,” it’s really just an increased understanding of probabilistic thinking. The more conservative decision is more likely to succeed in the short-term. The sacrifice bunt is probably gonna work out. The midrange 2-pointer will go in more often than the 3. The punt or the field goal is less likely to end in catastrophic failure than the attempted fourth-down conversion.However, in the long run, the conservative decisions actually make you more likely to lose. If a 2-point shot is converted 50% of the time, but a 3-pointer has a 35% make rate, you’re going to score more points by replacing all those 2s with 3s, even though you’re also more likely to have more individual possessions that end with zero points, too. It’s the same calculus across all the other sports. In a strange way, to increase your chances of long-term success, you also have to increase your chances of immediately failing — and then dealing with all the inevitable fall-out that comes with it.

According to data provided by Seth Walder from ESPN’s fourth-down decision-making model, which accounts for all kinds of contextual factors to suggest the option that most increases a team’s chances of winning a game, coaches have made the “correct” decision in what we call “non-obvious situations” 79% of the time this season. There’s data going back to 2001, and the all-time low was 68% in 2008.If other sports have seen similar trajectories, but remain a ways away from anywhere near an optimized level of aggression, why shouldn’t soccer? And while the sport’s dynamic nature mostly eschews this kind of analysis, I think the risk-reward nature of a high-press comes closest to mirroring the evolutions we’ve seen across the major American sports.

“We’re pretty sure that pressing is the most high expected-value system,” said Ted Knutson, CEO of the consultancy StatsBomb. “But it’s got the highest costs.”Pressing not only demands a heroic physical output from your players; it’s also more likely to produce more high-profile, demoralizing breakdowns. Marsch’s teams both try to win the ball back high up the field as soon as they lose it, and then they try to immediately take advantage of the gaps in the defense by playing difficult vertical passes. They currently have the most aggressive pressing rate (measured by passes per defensive action (PPDA) in the league, and they complete the second-lowest percentage of their passes:

As such, their matches feature 101 possessions per team — more than anyone else in the Premier League. The bet is that they are both better than opposition at living in the chaos, and that most of the turnovers are happening in the other team’s half. But there’s also an obvious downside that doesn’t exist if a team plays in a conservative, low-block shell. More turnovers simply mean more opportunities for your opponent to break you down, but then on top of that, Leeds are pushing all 11 players high up the field so they’re way more prone to egregious-looking breakdowns, where the opponent beats the press and creates an easy-to-convert chance at the other end.Like any good manager, Marsch didn’t admit to me that a few terrible goals a season were a natural byproduct of playing this way. “Most of those times that it looks bad is a tactical breakdown where the players behind the ball, when we lose a ball, are not in tactically sound positions,” he said. “Then the game looks more open than it should be.”In reality, no players are perfect across 90 minutes, and so no unit can be tactically bulletproof for an entire season, let alone an entire match.”It’s aggressive,” he said. “There’s no doubt. But it’s also intelligent. The goal is to not be wild; the goal is to still be in control.”

It’s intelligent because it’s based on a number of relatively sound assumptions. Despite the downsides, the idea is that you’re ultimately going to concede fewer chances across a whole season because the ball spends most of its time in the opposition half. And you’re going to score more goals because you’re creating thousands of moments where the opposition defensive structure is unsettled. For a team with the resources of Leeds, it’s a lot easier to find athletic, hard-running players who can create and thrive in these transitional situations than to land the dominant in-possession players that only the best teams in the world can afford. But it works only if you fully commit to it.”You have to be willing to either enforce that across your whole club and say this is our ethos even if you don’t like it,” Knutson said. “This is what we’re going to be as a club, so it’s not the head coach’s fault.”Leeds appear to be committed to playing this way. You don’t replace the Argentine godfather of the high press, Marcelo Bielsa, with Marsch in the middle of a relegation fight, as they did last season, if you’re not fully bought into pressing high. And you also don’t cut bait when the bounces don’t go your way because you know, by design, you’re playing in a way that invites as many bounces as possible. They didn’t, and things have finally started to even out.Now, could a more traditional defend-deep-and-counter approach have produced a similar level of results for Leeds and maybe a roughly equivalent level of performance? Perhaps. But what would you rather watch?

Champions League draw: Real Madrid play Liverpool and Bayern meet PSG

Nov 7, 2022 Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC


With the 2022 World Cup due to kick off in less than two weeks, the focus of the game is now beginning to be fixed on international football’s biggest tournament. But there will be no time for a World Cup hangover with the Champions League returning in mid-February with a series of outstanding ties.

While Liverpool-Real and PSG-Bayern are the standout fixtures, there are some finely balanced ties between AC Milan and TottenhamBorussia Dortmund and Chelsea, and Club Brugge and Benfica.

Manchester City and Napoli, two of the strongest teams in the group stage, will also face RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively. So how will it all play out, and which teams will make it to the quarterfinals?

Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

The tie that neither side would have wanted. Liverpool’s failure to finish top of Group A left them vulnerable to facing a big hitter in the round of 16, and they don’t come any bigger than defending champions Real Madrid, who would also have preferred to avoid Jurgen Klopp’s team at this stage.

Liverpool’s mixed form this season make Real favourites to extend their hold over Klopp’s side, having beaten them in their last three Champions League ties. In fact, aside from winning the Champions League against Tottenham in Madrid in 2019, Liverpool’s hopes in the competition have been extinguished by either Real or Atletico in 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022, so the omens are with Carlo Ancelotti’s team.

Liverpool have lost five of their last six encounters with Real, dating back to October 2014, but they are capable of ending that miserable run. Real are unbeaten in LaLiga this season, however, and can go top by winning their game in hand on leaders Barcelona, so they are in impressive form and will be favourites to beat Liverpool.

WINNERS: Real Madrid

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Bayern Munich

A repeat of the 2020 final, when Bayern beat PSG in Lisbon in the French club’s first appearance in the Champions League final. But having been eliminated in the round of 16 by Real Madrid last season, PSG face a daunting challenge if they are to overcome that disappointment against Bayern.

Kylian MbappeNeymar and Lionel Messi have delivered in the competition this season, with PSG unbeaten after six games, but Bayern qualified with six wins from six in a group containing Inter Milan and Barcelona.

It will be a huge clash over two legs, and the winners could go on to lift the trophy in Istanbul next June. Bayern are as tough an opponent as PSG could have faced.


Juls devastated as PSG draw Bayern Munich

Gab & Juls look ahead to a mouthwatering Champions League clash between PSG and Bayern Munich.

RB Leipzig vs. Manchester City

Pep Guardiola’s City will be strong favourites to win this tie, but Leipzig are a dangerous outsider and their 3-2 win against Real Madrid in Group F proved crucial in their qualification for the round of 16.

If Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne are fit, it is tough to see past a City victory over the two legs, but Marco Rose’s club have quality in their squad, and it all depends on whether they can hold onto the likes of Christopher Nkunku and Josko Gvardiol — both of whom are Chelsea targets — during the January transfer window.

If Leipzig can keep their best players and if forward Timo Werner can recover from the ankle ligament injury that has forced him out of Germany’s World Cup plans, they could pull off a shock. Make no mistake, City are outstanding favourites to go through; they just need to respect this opponent.


Borussia Dortmund vs. Chelsea

Chelsea duo Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Christian Pulisic will get the chance to return to former club Dortmund in this tie, and there will also be a huge focus on Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham against one of the many clubs who want to sign him next summer.

Both teams are struggling for consistency this season, but they are also packed with top-level experience, so it will be a case of which side has enough players who can rise to the occasion. Dortmund have the likes of Mats HummelsMarco Reus and Niklas Sule; Chelsea boast Thiago SilvaRaheem Sterling and N’Golo Kante.

There is also the battle between U.S. teammates Pulisic and Gio Reyna, so there is no shortage of storylines in this tie.

WINNERS: Chelsea

AC Milan vs. Tottenham

An intriguing tie between two teams that have been inconsistent in the Champions League this season but are both capable of going deep into the competition. It also hands Spurs boss Antonio Conte the chance to return to San Siro, where he guided Milan’s rivals Inter to the Serie A title in 2021, so there will be plenty of noise off the pitch as well as on it.

This one could come down to a battle of the forwards. Will Harry Kane and Son Heung-min blow Milan away with their quality, or will former Chelsea and Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud return to haunt Spurs again? And does 41-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic still have one big goal in him?

A tough tie to call, and it will be a fascinating battle between Conte and Milan coach Stefano Pioli.


Burley: Spurs make life so difficult for themselves

Craig Burley doesn’t understand how Tottenham continue to start games so poorly after they came back from 1-0 down to win 2-1 vs. Marseille.

Inter Milan vs. FC Porto

Inter made it into the round of 16 by edging out Barcelona, but Simone Inzaghi’s team go into this tie as outsiders.

Domestically, Inter are struggling for form, with Inzaghi’s position under threat due to five defeats in 13 games, leaving the club in seventh spot. Romelu Lukaku’s return on loan from Chelsea has yet to work out, too, with injuries restricting the former Manchester United striker to just five appearances.

Porto qualified as winners of Group B, beating Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen along the way, and Sergio Conceicao’s team have bags of Champions League experience. It will be a closely fought tie, but Porto are the favourites at this stage.


Club Brugge vs. Benfica

Two of the surprise teams of the Champions League so far this season. Benfica beat Juventus twice in Group H, forcing the Italian giants into the Europa League, while a 6-1 win against Maccabi Haifa on Matchday 6 was enough to snatch top spot, and a place among the seeded teams, from PSG.

Brugge, meanwhile, made a flying start in Group B with three straight wins and only eased off after qualification had been confirmed — a loss of focus which saw them surrender top spot to Porto.

Carl Hoefkens’ squad has a blend of youth and experience, including ex-Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet and former Benfica forward Roman Yaremchuk, along with youngsters such as Abakar Sylla. But Benfica possess the greater Champions League experience, reaching last season’s quarterfinals, so the Portuguese giants will be favourites.

WINNERS: Benfica

Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Napoli

Two of the most exciting teams in this season’s Champions League, but runaway Serie A leaders Napoli look more of the finished article than Eintracht, who qualified for the competition by winning last season’s Europa League.

Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli destroyed Liverpool 4-1 at home in their Group A opener and dominated at Anfield until two late goals consigned them to defeat. But Victor OsimhenKhvicha Kvaratskhelia and Giovanni Simeone give Napoli the attacking threat to make life very tough for Eintracht.

Oliver Glasner’s Eintracht showed incredible spirit to win at Barcelona and West Ham in last season’s Europa League, and they have grown into the Champions League. They have pace in attack and will score goals, but Napoli might just be too strong for them in February.


World Cup 2022 team previews: United States, England, Iran, Wales GROUP B

Nov 8, 2022

ESPN is previewing each of the World Cup’s 32 teams ahead of the tournament. Here’s what you need to know about the four sides set to do battle in Group B.

Jump to: United States | England | Wales | Iran
Also read: Group A | C | D | E | F | G | H

United States

Manager: Gregg Berhalter
Nickname: The Stars and Stripes
FIFA Rank: 16

How they qualified

The U.S. were fairly well positioned throughout the eight-team final round in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but the failure to reach the 2018 event hung on the team like a weighted vest. Every stumble brought back nightmarish memories of the night in Trinidad when the U.S. squandered qualification. The Americans also seemed to lack a killer instinct on the road to get results that would have eased the path to Qatar.

But ultimately, the U.S. got the job done. A road win in Honduras that concluded the first qualifying window settled nerves. Consecutive home wins over Costa Rica and Mexico created some momentum. There was still work to be done heading into the last trio of games, but a priceless road draw against El Tri and a 5-1 rout of Panama effectively clinched qualification.

Style of play

Early in his tenure, manager Gregg Berhalter had the U.S. playing out of the back almost to a fault. But the dogmatic approach eventually morphed into something more pragmatic, with the U.S. aiming to press the opposition and create chances that way. Berhalter also aimed to get full-backs Antonee Robinson and Sergino Dest into the attack and utilize the likes of Christian Pulisic, Brenden Aaronson and Tim Weah on the flanks.

Biggest strength

The U.S. enjoy significant attacking depth on the wings. Beyond Pulisic, Aaronson and Weah, there’s also Giovanni Reyna. All four players are skillful on the ball in their own ways. Aaronson is all energy, and his ability to initiate the press often kickstarts the U.S. attack. Weah’s pace gives the American side a different element, and Reyna — when healthy — has the kind of close control and vision that can torment defences. Pulisic’s dynamism is vital as well (more on him later.)

Biggest weakness

Both the striker position and the center-backs are causes for worry. No center-forward has really made the position their own, with Jesus Ferreira, Josh Sargent, Jordan Pefok and Ricardo Pepi all being given ample opportunity. Just four of the U.S. team’s 20 goals in 14 qualifying matches came from a center-forward. All four have been finding the net of late for their clubs, but the extent to which that translates to a World Cup is a massive unknown.

The center-back slot was once a strength for the Americans. Walker Zimmerman was solid throughout qualifying. But this area of the field has been hit hard by injuries. Miles Robinson suffered a torn Achilles back in May and will miss the World Cup. Chris Richards has been slow to recover from a hamstring injury and is ruled out. John Brooks has long been out of favor, despite his experience. That leaves one of Aaron Long, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Mark McKenzie to duke it out now Richards can’t recover. Given the way the U.S. struggled to play through Japan’s press in a recent friendly, this position is a huge area of concern.

Star player: Christian Pulisic

Pulisic is still the main man when it comes to the U.S. attack, with his ability to run at defenses, score goals and set up chances all critical elements. His ability to win free kicks — he was by far the most fouled U.S. player during qualifying with 26 fouls suffered, despite missing four games — is another important asset in a tournament where games are often decided by set pieces.

But is Pulisic up to the task of carrying the load? It’s a responsibility that has, at least outwardly, weighed heavy. The U.S. certainly have more talent playing beside him in Aaronson, Weah and Reyna than there has been in the past. But if the U.S. are to make to the group stage, Pulisic will need to be at his best.

Projected starting XI

(4-3-3) Steffen; Dest, Zimmerman, Long, Robinson; McKennie, Adams, Musah; Weah, Ferreira, Pulisic.

What the stats say

– Best World Cup finish: Semifinals (1930)

– The U.S. are the youngest team to qualify to this World Cup, by average age of players used in qualifying.

FiveThirtyEight SPI: 53% chance to make the round of 16, 11% to make semifinals

Betting odds: +10000 (via Caesars Sportsbook)

Prediction: Group B is deceptively difficult. At No. 21 in the FIFA rankings, Iran are the worst-ranked team. And while those rankings have to be taken with some skepticism, every other group has a team ranked at least 30th or worse. For that reason, the U.S. team’s odds are 50-50 in terms of advancement. Based on recent form, their odds don’t look to be improving. Health will be a huge factor, but at this stage, it looks like the U.S. will fall just short. — Jeff Carlisle


Manager: Gareth Southgate
Nickname: The Three Lions
FIFA Rank: 5

How they qualified

England were unbeaten in qualification and scored more goals (39) than any other team in Europe. However, 24 of those were against minnows San Marino and Andorra, suggesting the team’s potency was perhaps slightly inflated. They needed a late Harry Maguire goal to see off Poland 2-1 at Wembley in their first meaningful test in March 2021. Gareth Southgate’s side recovered quickly from their Euro 2020 final disappointment by beating Hungary 4-0 at the Puskas Arena last September, but a 1-1 draw in Poland later that month and the same scoreline at home to Hungary in October raised more questions than answers. Two facile wins against Albania and San Marino in November ensured England ended their campaign on a high, but the Nations League campaign that followed is a different matter entirely (more of that later).

Style of play

Pragmatic. One of the widespread criticisms of Southgate is that England should be more expansive given the attacking talent they have at their disposal. However, he is more calculated as a result of concerns over England’s habitual struggle to retain possession in tournaments and a lack of top-class centre-back options. England can switch between systems and they may play with a back four at some point in Qatar, but the recent Nations League matches strongly suggest 3-4-3 is his preferred formation.

Biggest strength

The sheer number of attacking options. Although Harry Kane is clearly England’s first-choice centre-forward, Southgate has an embarrassment of attacking riches to call on with Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount among those vying for two attacking positions either side. And that’s not to mention Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and James Maddison, who all might not make the squad at all. England have an exciting and dynamic blend of forwards, many of whom will be more acclimatised to the demands of tournament football after last year’s run to the delayed Euro 2020 finals. The emergence of Jude Bellingham is also an exciting prospect to inject some flair into England’s central midfield. If it all clicks, England could be very good.

Biggest weakness

There are a few concerns, but the biggest is at centre-back. Maguire’s form has fallen off a cliff at Manchester United yet Southgate continues to select him on past performance for England. That is both a reflection of his importance in 2018 and 2021 but also the lack of top-class options at centre-back. England, still, do not keep the ball well enough in major finals. The pattern of the matches against Croatia (semifinal in 2018) and Italy (final, 2020) was markedly similar in that England started well before giving the ball away too often, conceding control of the game to their opponents. Bellingham is England’s big hope there. Injuries have also mounted in recent weeks with Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kalvin Phillips all major doubts for the finals while form in general is a problem: England have not won for six matches, and although there were mitigating factors, they were relegated from the Nations League as they failed to win any of six matches against Italy, Germany and Hungary.

Star player: Harry Kane

Kane won the Golden Boot at the past World Cup and will likely target the same outcome in Qatar. The 29-year-old is two goals short of equalling Wayne Rooney’s England record of 53, but he hasn’t netted from open play since November 2021, when scoring four against San Marino. He remains England’s talisman, however, and any injury or loss of form would be a major blow given he is Southgate’s best centre-forward option by such a big margin. The Tottenham striker will also attract attention of a different kind as one of several captains to wear a “OneLove” armband during matches — even if it is prohibited by FIFA — as part of an anti-discrimination initiative.

Projected starting XI

(3-4-3): Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire; Trippier, Bellingham, Rice, Shaw; Foden, Kane, Sterling.

What the stats say

– Best World Cup finish: Champion (1966)

– England enter the tournament on poor run of form, as they were winless in the 2022 UEFA Nations League (0-3-3.)

FiveThirtyEight SPI: 47% chance to make the quarterfinals, 6% to win title.

Betting odds: +700 (via Caesars Sportsbook.)


England will expect to get out of Group B, but the draw quickly gets tricky. A last-16 tie — most likely against either the Netherlands or Senegal — looks tough before a possible quarterfinal against France or Argentina. England simply have not defended well enough, often enough, for anybody to have a high degree of confidence they could win back-to-back matches against elite opposition. If they benefitted from more inviting knockout draws in 2018 and 2021, the same cannot be said this time. — James Olley


Manager: Robert Page
Nickname: The Dragons
FIFA Rank: 19

How they qualified

Wales reached their first World Cup since 1958 after a dramatic and emotional playoff against Ukraine. By their own admission, Wales had the will of the world against them in September given the war in Ukraine, but a Gareth Bale free kick was enough to snatch a 1-0 win and a place in Qatar. Prior to that, Wales finished second in a group containing Belgium (winners) and Czech Republic (third), winning four of their eight matches and losing only once (to Belgium in March 2021). Head coach Robert Page was rewarded for qualification with a new four-year contract in September.

Style of play

Counter-attacking. Wales averaged 45.1% possession in their World Cup qualification group and that figure dropped to 40.9% in their six UEFA Nations League games against Poland, Netherlands and Belgium (five of which they lost). Wayne Hennessey is a fine goalkeeper, and Wales will try to stay defensively compact before hitting teams on the break through the pace of Dan James, the guile of Aaron Ramsey and the star quality of Bale.

Biggest strength

Team spirit. This is not intended to be patronising, especially given Wales possess several talented individuals including most obviously Bale and Ramsey, but this is a team whose recent history has proved time and again they can become more than the sum of their parts. Reaching the semifinals of Euro 2016 was a truly remarkable feat, subsequently backing up their presence on the biggest stages by qualifying for Euro 2020 and now a first World Cup in 64 years. The presence of old rivals England in Group B will only multiply that collective stirring of the soul; England were heavy favourites to beat Wales six years ago in France but needed a stoppage-time winner to snatch a 2-1 victory.

Biggest weakness

A lack of strength in depth. An injury to Bale or Ramsey would be a hammer blow to Wales’ hopes. Joe Allen is already a doubt with a hamstring problem and has seen a specialist in recent days to try to ensure he is fit in time. Although younger talents have emerged to bolster Page’s options — for example, defender Ethan Ampadu is 22 but already has 37 caps to his name — Wales are reliant on their smattering of big-name stars for goals, in particular. Bale was top scorer in qualifying (with five) while the absence of an elite centre-forward is a problem. Kiefer Moore scored twice for Bournemouth against Tottenham recently, but the 30-year-old has plied his trade outside the Premier League until this season and has just nine international goals to his name.

Star player: Gareth Bale

Rumours persist that the 33-year-old has delayed his retirement just for this World Cup. Bale signed a one-year contract with LAFC in June, and although there is an option to extend to 2024, it remains possible Bale could choose to bow out shortly after Qatar depending on what happens. His club career might have all but ground to a halt at Real Madrid, but Bale has always been Wales’ talisman, amassing 40 goals in 108 appearances. Don’t be fooled by his mixed form in MLS — Bale retains the capacity to rise to the occasion like few other players and he revels in the role of carrying a nation’s hopes on his shoulders.

Projected starting XI

(3-4-3): Hennessey; Ampadu, Rodon, Davies; Roberts, Allen, Ramsey, Williams; Bale, Moore, James.

What the stats say

– Best World Cup finish: Quarterfinals (1958).

– The 64-year gap between appearances is the longest in World Cup history.

FiveThirtyEight SPI: 32% chance to make the round of 16, 13% to make quarterfinals

Betting odds: +10000 (via Caesars Sportsbook.)


Wales face a tough task to replicate their recent tournament heroics. Nevertheless, although England are clear favourites to top the group, Page’s side will expect to be competitive for one of the top two spots, and the fact they play England last could help in that regard. It might be only the first game, but United States vs. Wales already feels huge for both team’s prospects. The round of 16 might be the best they can hope for.


Manager: Carlos Queiroz
Nickname: Team Melli
FIFA Rank: 20

How they qualified

Having made their World Cup debut in 1978, Iran return for a sixth time, and a third in a row, having exited at the group stage at each of the previous attempts. An 18-match AFC qualification journey that started all the way back in September 2019 saw Iran win 14 matches, draw once and lose just three times on route to Qatar. An early hiccup in the form of back-to-back defeats to Bahrain and Iraq proved insignificant as Team Melli topped their group in the second round. In the decisive third round, they were as clinical as ever, winning eight of their 10 matches to book their place at the World Cup with three games to spare, finishing ahead of South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

Style of play

The reappointment of Carlos Queiroz as head coach at the start of September signalled a return to the familiar for Iran. The Portuguese coach had led them for eight years between 2011 and 2019, including at the two previous World Cups. Under the former Real Madrid boss, Team Melli play a 4-3-3 system relying on compact defence and a hardworking midfield, while the attacking burden is largely left for their target man flanked by two out-and-out wingers.

Biggest strength

Iran’s approach under Queiroz has always been defined by an exceptional defensive solidity. The side did not concede a single goal in their first five games at the AFC Asian Cup 2019, and their record in international tournaments under the Portuguese coach includes an impressive 10 clean sheets in 16 games. At Russia 2018, they conceded only twice in a group that featured the past two European champions at the time: Spain and Portugal. Expect more of the same in Qatar. Iran will make it difficult for the likes of Pulisic, Kane and Bale to find a way through.

Biggest weakness

Key to Queiroz’s “defence-first” method is to remain focused for the full 90 minutes under opposition pressure and, while his players are adept at the tactical and physical aspects of the game, it can be the mental side that lets them down. In 2014, they earned a 0-0 draw against Nigeria and lost to Argentina only thanks to a last-minute Lionel Messi wondergoal, but then capitulated in a 3-1 defeat to Bosnia & Herzegovina. Their five-game clean sheet run in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 came to an end in a spectacular 3-0 collapse against Japan, while at Russia 2018, they failed to stay composed to take any of their chances against Portugal, which could have sent them through to the round of 16.

Star player: Mehdi Taremi

Any of Iran’s front three could lay a claim to being the side’s talisman. For the best part of seven years, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi formed an undroppable trio for Team Melli, but it is the latter who has reached new heights in recent years. With 18 goal contributions in 16 matches across all competitions this season so far, Taremi has been in impressive form for Portuguese giants FC Porto, where he had already netted 20+ goals in each of the past three seasons.

Projected starting XI

(4-3-3): Beiranvand; Moharrami, Kanaani, Hosseini, Hajsafi; Ezatolahi, Amiri, Ansarifard; Jahanbakhsh, Taremi, Azmoun.

What the stats say

– Best World Cup finish: Group stage (all five times).

– Queiroz was hired as coach in September (his third World Cup with the team) and won 60 of his 100 games in his first spell from 2011 to 2019.

FiveThirtyEight SPI: 40% chance to make the round of 16, 18% to make quarterfinals

Betting odds: +50000 (via Caesars Sportsbook.)


In 2014, Iran picked up just one point from their group. Four years later, that tally was up to four points despite a more difficult draw. With years of experience under their belts and a coach who knows the ins and outs of this team, it might finally be time for Iran to reach the round of 16 at the sixth time of asking. — Wael Jabir.

World Cup 2022 team previews: Group A Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea

ESPN is previewing each of the World Cup’s 32 teams ahead of the tournament. Here’s what you need to know about the four sides set to do battle in Group H.

Jump to: Portugal | Ghana | Uruguay | South Korea
Also read: Group A | B | C | D | E | F | G


Manager: Fernando Santos
Nickname: Selecao (The Selection)
FIFA Rank: 9

How they qualified

“Nothing to see here” was the Portugal mantra as the Euro 2016 champions edged their way to within 180 minutes of direct qualification — a 2-2 draw in Serbia tucked tidily under their belt. Then, a road bump. A 0-0 draw against Republic of Ireland in Dublin left Portugal needing to beat Serbia at Estadio Da Luz but, leading from the second minute, they fluffed their lines and lost in the 90th minute to finish second in the group. Frustrating, but the beginning of some notable spirit. Beating Turkey 3-1 in Porto in the playoff semifinal was heart-stopping — Burak Yilmaz missed a late penalty to make it 2-2 — but taking Italy’s conquerors North Macedonia to the same stadium five days later for the final was a walk in the park as Bruno Fernandes scored twice to send Portugal to Qatar.

Style of play

Four clean sheets in the qualifying group and another when it really counted in the playoffs should, theoretically, bring pride and praise. But fans and analysts alike seem unified in the idea that coach Fernando Santos isn’t just too defensive-minded but significantly too conservative in maximising a terrifically talented emerging generation of quick, creative footballers.

Biggest strength

In qualifying it was arguably Diogo Jota as he had a far better goal-per-minute ratio than Cristiano Ronaldo, more assists, a big goal in the playoff semifinal (plus one of those assists in the final) … but he’s not fit to make it to Qatar. Can it be goalkeeper Diogo Costa? One of three keepers used in qualifying, the 23-year-old Porto player has a penchant for saving penalties and now looks to have made himself No. 1. Or, let’s face it, is it still Ronaldo? Troubled at club level with Manchester United, but the 37-year-old was born to compete when the curtain raises.

Biggest weakness

The Fernando Santos factor. Having won Portugal their first major international trophy at Euro 2016, he is lucky enough that there are high quality players bursting through in every position, so he should really be presiding over a golden era. Instead he has been castigated for a poor Euro 2020 and failed to qualify for the Nations League final four, despite only requiring a draw in their last qualifying match at home to Spain. On the positive side, Santos knows how to win a tournament. On the negative are the growing, but unconfirmed, reports that his players feel mutinous about the team’s lack of flair, daring and “front-foot” attitude.

Star player: Rafael Leao

Why wouldn’t midfielder Bernardo Silva be in the team of the tournament come the end of the World Cup? Or centre-back Ruben Dias? Some will say Ronaldo, of course, because there’s few who have been a bigger star anywhere in the world over the last 20 years. But AC Milan forward Rafael Leao has the capability of surprising everyone.

Projected starting XI

(4-2-3-1): Diogo Costa: Mendes, Dias, Danilo Pereira, Cancelo; Carvalho, Neves; Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Leao; Ronaldo.

What the stats say

– Best World Cup finish: 3rd place (1966.)

– Ronaldo is looking to become first player to score in five different World Cups.

FiveThirtyEight SPI: 43% chance to make the quarterfinals, 7% to win the title.

Betting odds: +1200 (via Caesars Sportsbook)


Not only do Portugal need to cope with an interesting and disparate group but they’ve got to be canny. Few teams have greater variety of styles and philosophies than Portugal-Ghana-Uruguay-South Korea. But should Santos’ team finish second then, almost certainly, it’s Brazil next in the round of 16. Too much, you might say. So if they win the group they may get to face Serbia, who forced them into the playoffs for this tournament in the first place. Life ain’t easy. — Graham Hunter.


Manager: Otto Addo
Nickname: Black Stars
FIFA Rank: 61

How they qualified

Ghana pipped South Africa — against a backdrop of refereeing controversy — to top Group G of CAF’s qualification campaign, losing just once. This set up a mouth-watering double-header against fierce rivals Nigeria, by which point optimism was low after they finished bottom of their group at the Africa Cup of Nations. However, buoyed by the appointment of Otto Addo, the Black Stars held their nerve to advance on away goals. A 0-0 draw in Kumasi was followed by a 1-1 draw in Abuja, with Thomas Partey’s 10th-minute opener ultimately securing progression.

Style of play

Midfield is key, where Partey will attempt to control the play alongside the more defensive-minded Iddrisu Baba. In-form Mohammed Kudus offers a goal threat through the middle, with the Ayew brothers Andre and Jordan and likely Inaki Williams, who was born in Spain but made the switch to represent Ghana earlier this year. Whether playing with a back four or a back three, full-backs such as Denis Odoi, Tariq Lamptey and Abdul Rahman Baba can offer a threat from out wide.

Biggest strength

The new arrivals — particularly Lamptey and Williams — have raised Ghana’s quality and given them new energy, helping the Black Stars turn the page after the miserable AFCON campaign. The pair’s technical attributes, coupled with the tactically astute Addo, should give Ghana the flexibility to switch between a 3-4-3 and a 4-2-3-1 formation, depending on the demands of each fixture.

Biggest weakness

While Ghana demonstrated resilience and maturity to edge past Nigeria in the qualifiers, that showing was an anomaly for this squad. It remains to be seen if Addo has truly eradicated the brittleness that has affected them in the past; witness Andre Ayew’s petulant behaviour at the conclusion of Ghana’s AFCON draw with Gabon, his inflammatory comments after that match or his early red card when the Black Stars needed him most in their subsequent fixture against Comoros. Partey’s fitness is similarly fragile — he withdrew from a friendly against Brazil in September just moments before kick-off — and both mentally and physically there remain serious questions about Ghana’s durability.

Star player: Mohammed Kudus

Kudus has replaced Partey as Ghana’s great hope for the World Cup following a sensational start to the season with Ajax. It’s been a remarkable turnaround for the 22-year-old, who was reportedly pushing for an exit from the club in the summer transfer window, skipping training in a bid to force a move having struggled for game time. It’s been all change since, as Kudus has had a hand in nine goals in the Eredivisie and Champions League since the start of September, including a stunner scored against Liverpool. Ajax’s use of him as a false No. 9 could be an interesting blueprint for Addo to explore.

Projected starting XI

(4-2-3-1): Wollacott; Baba, Djiku, Amartey, Odoi; Iddrisu, Partey; A Ayew, Kudus, J Ayew; Williams

What the stats say

– Best World Cup finish: Quarterfinals (2010.)

– Ghana are the last African team to reach the quarterfinal stage of a World Cup and were the 3rd all-time to do so.

FiveThirtyEight SPI: 12% chance to make the round of 16, 2% to make quarterfinals.

Betting odds: +15000 (via Caesars Sportsbook)


The 3-0 thumping by Brazil in September has dampened expectations, prompting a reality check after the euphoria of their playoff triumph. A tough group means they’re up against it, and a first round exit looks likely. However, Ghana may be quietly confident that in grudge matches against ageing Portugal and Uruguay teams, their youth and vitality can cause an upset. — Ed Dove, ESPN Africa.


Manager: Diego Alonso
Nickname: La Celeste (The Sky Blue)
FIFA Rank: 14

How they qualified

With problems … and with a late change of coach. With four rounds to go, the epic, and hugely successful, 16-year reign of Oscar Washington Tabarez came to an end and in came Diego Alonso for the last few rounds. Tabarez could not resist the urge to stay on after Russia 2018, for obvious reasons. His young midfielders — now the best part of the team — would come of age and the old guard — the likes of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin — would still be around for a fourth World Cup. But Tabarez never managed to get the balance right. More than anything, though, he was undone by a combination of injuries and a nightmare run of fixtures. Uruguay’s World Cup place was at risk with four defeats on the bounce until Alonso, with the benefit of much easier fixtures against Paraguay, Venezuela, Peru and Chile, saw them over the line.

Style of play

Variable. Alonso likes to prepare on a game-by-game basis, and his team have already used a number of different formations and approaches, with the capacity to change during matches. They are more likely to sit deep and create space for a counter attack, but can also push up higher if necessary.

Biggest strength

Uruguay can count on centre-backs such as Jose Maria Gimenez and Ronald Araujo (assuming he wins his fitness battle), midfielders like Federico Valverde and Rodrigo Bentancur, and Darwin Nunez, Suarez and Cavani up front. That is an inspiring array of talent from a country with a population of little more than three million. Over the last two decades, Uruguay have done splendid work at U20 level, which has provided them with a conveyor belt of talent with which to refresh their senior side. And if Alonso can get the balance of the side right, then, with individual ability backed up by Uruguay’s fighting spirit, no one will relish facing them.

Biggest weakness

A spate of recent injuries has not helped, but it is still not clear how the team will line up. Coach Alonso has some big decisions to take, both about personnel and about formation. Playing to the side’s current strength almost certainly means a trio in the centre of midfield. But that makes it hard to have two up front (unless perhaps there is a move to a back three, which could be the best way to fit in 36-year-old centre-back and captain Godin). But if there is only room for one out-and-out striker, then should it still be Luis Suarez? And does the side have enough attacking pace to stop them being pinned back?

Star player: Federico Valverde

Valverde was the first of Uruguay’s new generation of midfielders to be promoted to the senior side, but then succumbed to injury and was forced out of Russia 2018. He is no longer the new boy. The Real Madrid man is now the beating heart of the Uruguay side with his stamina and versatility. Becoming an important part of the Madrid first team has done wonders for his confidence, giving him the self-belief to quietly proclaim himself as the most important member of the Uruguay side, desperate to go to Qatar and make up for the disappointment of missing out on Russia.

Projected starting XI

(4-3-3): Rochet; Suarez, Araujo, Gimenez, Olivera; Vecino, Bentancur, Valverde; Pellistri, Suarez, De Arrascaeta

What the stats say

– Best World Cup finish: Champion (1930, 1950).

– Changed head coaches in January and still made tournament by rattling off four straight CONMEBOL qualifying wins.

FiveThirtyEight SPI: 66% chance to make the round of 16, 15% to make semifinals.

Betting odds: +5000 (via Caesars Sportsbook)


Uruguay are one of the hardest teams to predict, because of their own dilemmas and also the ferociously balanced nature of the group. Alonso says the team are aiming to win the trophy, but if he fails to get the balance right, it could be a case of elimination at the group stage. However, it is worth recalling that, statistically at least, Uruguay have been South America’s best team in two of the last three World Cups. — Tim Vickery.

South Korea

Manager: Paulo Bento
Nickname: Taegeuk Warriors
FIFA Rank: 28

How they qualified

South Korea were hardly troubled as they maintained their impressive record of qualifying for every World Cup since 1986 — with this year’s tournament set to be their 10th consecutive appearance. Entering the Asian qualifiers in the second round, the Taegeuk Warriors topped a fairly comfortable Group H with five wins and a draw, scoring 22 goals and conceding just once. Things expectedly got trickier in the third round but they were arguably handed a favourable draw and were always expected to claim a top-two finish alongside Iran, which duly proved to be the case as South Korea finished a comfortable 11 points ahead of third-placed United Arab Emirates.

Style of play

Since finishing fourth at the 2002 World Cup under Guus Hiddink, South Korea have been associated with a brand of high-octane football where they rarely give their opponents time and space in their defensive third. Under current coach Paulo Bento, they tend to be a little more conservative but boast plenty of penetration to hurt teams in transition.

Biggest strength

Without trying to make this all about one player, South Korea’s greatest strength arguably lies in the fact that they have a genuine world-class player at their disposal — which is not something many of the other 32 teams can lay claim to. After a stunning season with Tottenham that saw him share the Premier League golden boot with Mohamed Salah, Son Heung-min has already stated his determination to do well at this World Cup, especially after a disappointing group-stage exit last time out, but has to recover from facial surgery first. There is also a capable supporting cast of fellow Europe-based names, including Kim Min-jae (Napoli), Hwang Hee-chan (Wolves) and Lee Kang-in (Mallorca.)

Biggest weakness

Of course, the fact that the Taegeuk Warriors boast such a talismanic star also means they run the risk of being overly reliant on Son. But perhaps the greater weakness is that, apart from Napoli defender Kim, the South Korea backline will hardly strike fear in the hearts of opposition attackers. It is perhaps for this very reason that Bento tends to adopt a conservative approach and his insistence on deploying an anchorman to shield the defence — usually Jung Woo-young — usually prevents South Korea from deploying their three most creative playmakers together, with Hwang In-beom, Lee Jae-sung and Lee Kang-in usually vying for just two berths.

Star player: Son Heung-min

It is impossible to look past Son as South Korea’s star player. But given his fitness is in doubt and the side will be coming up against some formidable opposition attackers — including Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez — the man who could have the biggest influence on how far the Taegeuk Warriors go might just be Kim. Standing at 6-foot-3 and strongly built, Kim is perfectly equipped to handle any striker he comes up against and it is hardly a surprise that he has already emerged as one of Serie A’s leading centre-backs just months after joining Napoli from Fenerbahce in the summer.

Projected starting XI

(4-2-3-1): Kim Seung-gyu; Kim Tae-hwan, Kim Min-jae, Kim Young-gwon, Kim Jin-su; Jung Woo-young, Hwang In-beom; Hwang Hee-chan, Lee Jae-sung, Son Heung-min; Hwang Ui-jo.

What the stats say

– Best World Cup finish: 4th place (as hosts in 2022.)

– South Korea’s 10 straight World Cup appearances are the longest by a team outside of Europe or South America.

FiveThirtyEight SPI: 45% chance to make the round of 16, 16% to make quarterfinals.

Betting odds: +25000 (via Caesars Sportsbook)


Games against Portugal and Uruguay, two teams perennially expected to reach the knockout round, will not be easy — and Ghana are no slouches either. But if Son is fit and firing, South Korea could stand a chance. Victory over Ghana is a must and, should they manage to get a point off either Portugal or Uruguay, a round-of-16 berth could be on the cards. — Gabriel Tan, ESPN Asia.

World Cup 2022 team previews: Group D – France, Denmark, Australia, Tunisia

Nov 8, 2022

ESPN is previewing each of the World Cup’s 32 teams ahead of the tournament. Here’s what you need to know about the four sides set to do battle in Group D.

Jump to: France | Denmark | Australia | Tunisia


Manager: Didier Deschamps
Nickname: Les Bleus (The Blues)
FIFA Rank: 4

How they qualified

France finished top of their group and unbeaten to qualify for Qatar 2022. However, they struggled and drew with Ukraine (home and away) and Bosnia & Herzegovina (at home), so it was not the most convincing journey ever. Their mini-drop in form happened on the back of the disappointing end to Euro 2020, as they were knocked out against Switzerland on penalties in the round of 16, which really hurt the squad. But wins against Finland (twice) and Kazakhstan were enough to get the job done.

Style of play

Deschamps has tried to play a more proactive style of football since winning the 2018 World Cup. To fit Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann in the team, he moved to a 3-4-1-2 formation which had mixed results for Les Bleus. But while the French are more attacking and press a bit higher, Deschamps is still a defensive-minded coach so he might revert to what worked well years ago if things don’t go as planned.

Biggest strength

The talent and depth in the squad are what make it so special. Even with a host of injuries, the names on show are impressive. From the genius of 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Benzema, to Mbappe, and top young stars such as Aurelien Tchouameni and William Saliba, France are packed in every position with so many options to choose from. They also have experience, having been there and done it in 2018. They know how to control the game and want to use the disappointment of Euro 2020 to bounce back in style like they did at Russia 2018 after losing to Portugal in the Euro 2016 final.

Biggest weakness

Ideally, France would have gone to Qatar to retain their crown with all their best players who are available and fit. Instead, there will be no Paul Pogba, no N’Golo Kante and maybe no Raphael Varane either, which is a huge blow. Pogba and Kante will be hard to replace in midfield and have been so important for this team. There will be a slight lack of experience too as the 2022 version of France will be younger than the 2018 one. There are question marks over Deschamps as well regarding his ability to make this team play better and win again. With the likes of Benzema, Mbappe and other attacking talents such as Griezmann, Christopher Nkunku, Kingsley Coman and Ousmane Dembele, the coach’s conservatism could be a problem.

Star player: Karim Benzema

After a six-year exile from the national team, Benzema has had to wait eight years to play in a World Cup again. He missed the win in 2018 and now wants to make up for lost time. The Real Madrid striker has had an incredible few years, winning the Champions League and LaLiga with his club as well as the Nations League with France and the individual prize of the 2022 Ballon d’Or. Now, Benzema has his eyes set on delivering the World Cup. The 34-year-old’s partnership with Mbappe up front — and their ability to gel with Griezmann — will be one of the keys to France’s success. Les Bleus have a real chance of winning the tournament again, but only if Benzema performs at his best.

Projected starting XI

(3-4-1-2): Lloris; Kounde, Varane, Kimpembe; Pavard, Tchouameni, Rabiot, Theo Hernandez; Griezmann; Mbappe, Benzema.

What the stats say

– Best World Cup finish: Champion (1998, 2018), the side have two titles and three finals since 1998 (the most in that span).

– No defending World Cup champion from Europe has advanced past the group stage of the next tournament since Germany in 1994.

FiveThirtyEight SPI: 50% chance to make the quarterfinals, 9% to win the title.

Betting odds: +600 (via Caesars Sportsbook)


It is very hard to retain a World Cup. The fact that the last time it happened — Brazil in 1962 — was so long ago shows it. However, France have the qualities to do it: incredible talent, experience and a team spirit to bring them together. If Mbappe and Benzema are at their best, France will be hard to stop. — Julien Laurens.


Manager: Kasper Hjulmand
Nickname: De Rod-Hvide (The Red and Whites)
FIFA Rank: 10

How they qualified

Kasper Hjulmand’s side steamrolled through a fairly straightforward qualification group. In fact, the Danes were so dominant they didn’t even concede a goal before the penultimate round of games — Austria, Israel and Moldova were all brushed aside, with the latter suffering an 8-0 defeat in Herning — when the Faroe Islands grabbed a late consolation score. Their only defeat, and loss of points, came at the hands of Scotland in the final round of games.

Style of play

Whether deploying his preferred 3-4-3 (3-4-2-1) formation — which can either appear with two auxiliary attackers wide or tucked in behind the centre-forward, or even two central attackers with Christian Eriksen operating in the spaces behind — or lining up in a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 shape, Hjulmand remains true to his principles of high pressing, a compact midfield and quick transitional play. While hurrying the opposition into making mistakes, and then capitalising quickly, has proved particularly efficient, the Danes are also capable of controlling games, often with Barcelona’s centre-back, Andreas Christensen, playing the first pass out of defence.

Biggest strength

The collective. While not short of high-quality players performing in top European leagues, Denmark remain a team rooted in rigid organisation, loyally deployed match plans and an evenly matched squad. They have plenty of quality in depth, dependable options across the field with clearly defined roles, and are a cohesive unit (which was evident in how they rallied together in the wake of Eriksen’s cardiac arrest during Euro 2020). While such an approach can appear ambitious at the international level — where proper training groundwork is a luxury for the head coach — Hjulmand has made it click to the extent that he’s considered one of the most meticulous and astute head coaches on the European circuit.

Biggest weakness

With an average of three goals per game — and having beaten France home and away in the Nations League during the past five months — the lack of a high-scoring centre-forward won’t necessarily give Hjulmand issues, as it’s not essential for the way he sets up his team. However, going into the tournament he would want his striking options — the likes of Kasper Dolberg, Martin Braithwaite, Andreas Cornelius (if picked) or Jonas Wind (if picked) — to register better recent tallies than they have been doing from club level. Winger Mikkel Damsgaard is also struggling to regain the momentum that saw him emerge as one of the most exciting attacking prospects of Euro 2020, while in goal, Kasper Schmeichel has faced adverse periods of form since he left Leicester for Nice in the summer, though his performances have picked up in recent weeks.

Star player: Christian Eriksen

Given Denmark’s “team before individuals” ethos, the need for a standout profile is secondary. However, based on pure footballing talent, pedigree, the dramatic nature of his comeback and positive displays for Manchester United — let alone nearly 120 caps — Eriksen remains the most obvious candidate. From a more advanced midfield role than he plays at club level (more akin to the position he played at Spurs), Eriksen was excellent during the home win against France in September. The No. 10 dictated the rhythm of the game (70 passes over 90 minutes), identified the right spaces between the French defensive lines and orchestrated waves of attacks.

Projected starting XI

(3-4-1-2): Schmeichel; Christensen, Kjaer, Andersen; Skov Olsen, Hojbjerg, Delaney, Maehle; Eriksen; Braithwaite, Poulsen.

What the stats say

– Best World Cup finish: Quarterfinals (1998.)

– Denmark have reached the round of 16 in four of their previous five appearances at a World Cup.

FiveThirtyEight SPI: 56% chance to make the round of 16, 28% to make the quarterfinals.

Betting odds: +2800 (via Caesars Sportsbook)


No matter how well they perform in qualifiers or previous championships, Denmark are never mentioned in the same breath as the traditional European or South American heavyweights. The Danes won’t mind though; they’ll embrace their underdog status and enter the World Cup as possibly the trickiest opponents to face. They have already shown they can compete with France, while with Australia and Tunisia as their two other Group D adversaries, Denmark should be confident of advancing to the round of 16. In fact, nobody should be surprised to see this well-balanced, diligent side make the latter stages and possibly even repeat last summer’s feat of reaching a semifinal. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen.


Manager: Graham Arnold
Nickname: Socceroos
FIFA Rank: 38

How they qualified

In short, an absolute rollercoaster. At its commencement, the Socceroos looked like they were cruising through AFC qualification when they became the first nation to register 11-straight wins in a single FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. However, the underlying weaknesses that were papered over by this streak eventually began to show and, as results began to align with performances, coach Graham Arnold slowly came under pressure. But wins over the UAE in the AFC fourth round and Peru in the intercontinental playoff — the latter in a dramatic 5-4 penalty shootout — secured the side a place at a fifth-straight World Cup.

Style of play

After starting his tenure by declaring that his side would play like Liverpool, Arnold has settled into a much more familiar and pragmatic style more attuned to his dominant Sydney FC sides. In Qatar, the Socceroos’ approach will be built on principles of containment, physicality, mental battles and seeking to hit sides on the counter.

Biggest strength

The Socceroos are at their most threatening when they are able to get out in transition and run at their opponents — particularly when they win the ball high up the pitch on the few occasions they utilise a high press. As qualifying wore on and his side’s position became more fraught, however, Arnold increasingly identified “Aussie DNA” as his side’s biggest asset: a nostalgic call to the supposed spirit of a bygone age where “you kick, you fight, you scratch, you run till you drop and leave nothing on the park and have no regrets.”

Biggest weakness

Given that they are at their best when getting out in transition and exploiting the physicality that Arnold has identified, it should perhaps come as no surprise that, like a great many nations around the world, the Socceroos struggle during extended periods in possession, particularly against a low block. Fortunately for them, this likely won’t be too much of a problem against group opponents France and Denmark — the conundrum instead is the sheer disparity in the number and depth of top-end talent. The Socceroos have also at times proved wobbly defending against transition, which could play into their game against Tunisia.

Star player: Ajdin Hrustic

The Socceroos’ preparations for the World Cup have been blighted by a wave of injuries and a dearth of minutes, none more concerning than those experienced by creative dynamo Ajdin Hrustic. One of the few Socceroos playing in one of Europe’s Big Five leagues, their most skilled attacker and an important reference point in possession, Hrustic has seen a lack of game time at Eintracht Frankfurt — where he won a Europa League in 2021-22 — resulting in a move to Serie A side Hellas Verona in September. He was just beginning to find form only to suffer an ankle injury in late October. The Socceroos are bullish that he will be ready for Qatar, but any absence would constitute a major blow.

Projected starting XI

(4-1-4-1) Ryan; Behich, Souttar, Rowles, Karacic; Mooy; Irvine, Hrustic, Mabil, Boyle; Duke.

What the stats say

– Best World Cup Finish: Round of 16 (2006.)

– The Socceroos have been eliminated in the group stage in four of their previous five tournament appearances.

FiveThirtyEight SPI: 18% chance to make the round of 16, 6% to make quarterfinals.

Betting odds: +40000 (via Caesars Sportsbook)


True to form, Arnold has presented a publicly optimistic outlook, telling ESPN in August: “My expectation is the second round.” However, delivering on that target would be one of the shocks of the tournament and a more realistic target would be a first World Cup win since 2010. What is certain, though, is that predictions such as that will likely be used as motivation by this group. — Joey Lynch.


Manager: Jalel Kadri
Nickname: Eagles of Carthage
FIFA Rank: 30

How they qualified

Tunisia rode their luck to qualify, at no point giving an indication that they are a team who can make a big impact in Qatar. They won all three of their home games and away at a dysfunctional Zambia side to progress from their group, losing in Equatorial Guinea in the process, and were drawn in the third round of qualifying against Mali — the only one of the eight playoff qualifiers never before to reach a World Cup. Moussa Sissako‘s bizarre own goal in Bamako ultimately proved decisive, with the Eagles of Carthage largely content to neutralise their opponents at home having nabbed that fluke away goal.

Style of play

Tunisia will sit deep, absorb pressure, give little away and attempt to eke out every available minor advantage possible. Fans call the team’s battling spirit “grinta,” which is true for this particular generation, whose combative, workaholic midfield will need to compensate for ageing legs up top.

Biggest strength

Tunisia’s reputation as being defensively stout and tough to break down may well be re-evaluated after their recent 5-1 demolition by Brazil, although it is worth noting that they didn’t concede a single goal in their previous seven games, stretching back to the Nations Cup. Indeed, the Eagles of Carthage had only let in three goals in 12 matches throughout 2022 to that point, and they’ll be looking to lean (heavily) on this infamous resolve during the tournament. Ageing legs also mean experienced heads, and the underdogs won’t be overawed by the task ahead of them.

Biggest weakness

All of Tunisia’s star attackers, with the exception of Seifeddine Jaziri, are the wrong side of 30, and it remains to be seen whether the likes of Youssef Msakni or Naim Sliti still have enough zip to truly express themselves against a higher level of opposition at the World Cup. Beyond the forward unit, there’s also a lack of the kind of top-level quality and experience that both Denmark and France will bring to the table in Group D.

Star player: Wahbi Khazri

Msakni may be the more flashier of the forwards — and has a point to prove having missed Russia 2018 through injury — but it’s Wahbi Khazri whose performances will likely be decisive in determining what Tunisia can achieve in Qatar. He’s had a strange career, evolving from a creative midfielder who struggled to establish himself at Sunderland into a consistent goal threat and regular line-leader for club and country. He struck 10 goals for relegated Saint-Etienne last term, and Tunisia lost a dimension after he was missing with COVID-19 during the AFCON. He is struggling under new management at Montpellier, but he netted twice during the last World Cup, and from set pieces or open play he can trouble Tunisia’s Group D opponents.

Projected starting XI

(4-3-3): Dahmen; Drager, Talbi, Ifa, Maaloul; Laidouni, Skhiri, Sassi; Khazri, Jaziri, Msakni

What the stats say

– Best World Cup finish: Group stage

– Tunisia have five group-stage eliminations, which is tied for 2nd most by a team that have never advanced. Scotland have 8.

FiveThirtyEight SPI: 47% chance to make the round of 16, 20% to make quarterfinals

Betting odds: +30000 (via Caesars Sportsbook)


On paper, Tunisia don’t have enough quality to progress. Australia represent eminently beatable opponents, but Denmark were among the toughest teams in Pot Two and could be tournament surprises. Even though confidence has been dented by that demolition by Brazil, Tunisia’s defensive solidity gives them optimism of neutralising the Danes and troubling France, but realistically, neither side will be too concerned. — Ed Dove, ESPN Africa.

World Cup has 3 women set to referee matches in Qatar

Soccer WCup Female Referees  

STEPHEN WADE n Tue, November 8, 2022

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese referee Yoshimi Yamashita knows that being one of three women picked to officiate matches at the World Cup — the first time a woman will be in charge on the game’s biggest stage — is not simply about soccer.

Stephanie Frappart of France and Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda must be of the same mind. They are in a pool of 36 referees listed for Qatar — the rest are all men. FIFA has also named three female assistant referees in a pool of 69: Neuza Back of Brazil, Karen Diaz Medina of Mexico and Kathryn Nesbitt of the United States.Yamashita is aware that her selection put the focus on Japan’s low ranking on most measures of equal pay for women, and in global studies of gender equality.“I would be very happy if women could play an active role in sports in this way, and if sports and especially soccer could lead this,” Yamashita said in an interview with The Associated Press. “In Japan, there is still a long way to go in the world of soccer (regarding participation of women), so it would be great if this could connect to the promotion of female participation in different ways, not only in soccer or in sports.”All three have worked men’s matches, and their World Cup debut comes in a Middle Eastern country where the role of women is closely prescribed.Frappart is the best known and has already worked men’s games in World Cup qualifying, and the Champions League. She also handled the 2019 Women’s World Cup final, and refereed this year’s men’s French Cup final.Yamashita has worked games in Japan’s men’s league, and has also been in charge of the Asian equivalent of the men’s Champions League. She was also a referee at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.Earlier this year, Mukansanga became the first woman to referee an Africa Cup of Nations match, leading an all-female officiating team.“As always, the criteria we have used is ‘quality first’ and the selected match officials represent the highest level of refereeing worldwide,” said FIFA referees committee chairman Pierluigi Collina, who worked the 2002 World Cup final. “In this way, we clearly emphasize that it is quality that counts for us and not gender.“I would hope that in the future the selection of elite women’s match officials for important men’s competitions will be perceived as something normal and no longer as sensational.”Yamashita said the difference in the men’s and women’s game was, of course, speed. But not simply that some men might run faster.“It’s the speed, but not just the players’ speed,” she told the AP. “Not the ball speed. It’s just the game speed. It means for me I have to make quicker decisions — more speed.”Then there’s the stress, the largest stage, and the attention she is certain to generate at the World Cup.“Of course, I think the pressure is huge,” she said, “and I think I have a lot of responsibility. But I am really happy to take this duty and pressure, so I try to take it positively and I try to be happy.”Though it’s likely that all three will be in charge of games, it’s not a given. They could alsobe used as “fourth referees” on the sideline. However, they cannot be used as assistants.Like many referees, Yamashita said her job was to stay out of the way and let the game shine.“One of the big goals as a referee is to bring out the the attractiveness of soccer,” she said. “I do my best for that, and I will do what I should at that time toward that end. So if I need to communicate with the players, I will do that. If I need to show a card, I will show a card. Rather than control, I’m thinking about what to do toward the big goal of bringing out the appeal of soccer.”Yamashita conducted most of the interview with the AP in Japanese, but said she would use English and “facial gestures, body gestures” when communicating with players in Qatar.“Usually when I give a card, I say nothing,” she said, shifting to English. “But when I give a warning, I just tell them I’m not happy. They understand.”

11/4/22  MLS Playoff Final LAFC vs Philly Sat 4 pm Fox, USL Semis Sat/Sun, USWNT vs Germany Thur, World Cup in 3 weeks, Carmel FC’s JD Slivinski signs w/College

MLS Finals LAFC vs Philly Union Sat 3:30 pm FOX

The participants in the 2022 MLS Cup final are set, and for the first time since 2003, the top seed in each conference the 2 best records in MLS– the Philadelphia Union in the East and LAFC in the West — will square off.   MLS Finals Preview really comes down to one team that bought its players LAFC (Carlos Vela, Crisitan Arango, Kellyn Acosta, Chiellini, Gareth Bale) with former US National Team defender and German taught coach Steve Cherundolo vs a Philly Union team led by the best new American coach in the game -2 time MLS Coach of the Year Jim Curtin and a Philly team that has been built mostly using home-grown players that have come from their academy system.  (Remember Brenda Aaronsson is a Philly Union homegrown as is his younger brother.  Philly also has the best GK in the game and 3 time Goalkeeper in the League in Andre Blake. MLS GK of the year Andre Blake working out in LA before Sat’s Championship game (see GK section below in the OBC.)  As for a pick –  I love LAFC especially at home as I have experienced the 3252 cheering section and it can be intimidating.  But I just have this feeling that its Philly’s time – and part of me really wants to see the MLS team that builds from within (thusly helping to grow American’s via their Academy) and that’s Philly.  So I am picking a 2-1 Philly win.  Though I am hoping its 3-2 Philly. 

Indy 11 & USL Sun 8:30 pm ESPN+

Great to see former Carmel FC GK Coach and Indy 11 Goalie Jordan Farr is headed to the USL Conference Finals with his #1 Seed In the Western Division San Antonio vs Colorado Switchbacks Sunday night on ESPN+ at 8:30 pm.  In the East what else – longtime rivals Louisville will face the Tampa Bay Rowdies Sat at 7:30 pm on ESPN+.  The finals are next Thurs night on ESPN2.   USL Playoff Bracket

Games Overseas to Watch This Weekend

So Leeds United had a huge win at Liverpool last weekend here is the response from Leed’s beleaguered American Manager Jesse Marsch who well may have saved his job with the the win  here’s the great saves by Leed’s GK Illan Meslier to be Liverpool at Anfield to   to protect help that win.  The next to the last weekend of league play before the World Cup features Leeds United hosting Bournmouth at 11 am Sat on Peacock, while Man City is hosting American’s Jedi Robinson and Tim Ream (who should be on the US World Cup team by the way) and Fulham at 11 am on USA Network.  Sunday we get Chelsea and Pulisic hosting league leader Arsenal at 7 am on USA, followed by Tottenham hosting Liverpool at 11:30 on USA.  American Jordan Pefok (who should also be on the US squad) and German League leaders Union Berlin travel to Bayer Leverkusen at 10:30 am Sun on ESPN+, while Juventus minus the injured McKinney will host Inter Milan at 2:45 pm on CBSSN or Para+.  Of course the US Ladies play Germany Thurs at 7 pm on FS1 and next Sun 5 pm on ESPN before the USL Championship game at 8 pm next Sun on ESPN2.   

USA Women Play Thur/Sun vs Germany, US Men Roster Reveal Thurs

USWNT 24-player roster vs. Germany

Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Kansas City Current), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Alana Cook (OL Reign), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC).

Midfielders: Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).

Forwards: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy).

NWSL Final Has Record TV Audience.

The largest audience to ever watch an NWSL game almost 1 million viewers watched Saturdays Championship game on Sunday afternoon a 71% increase on last year.  Hopefully this will lead CBS to put more games on CBS and CBS Sportsnetwork rather than just Paramount plus next year. Especially leading into World Cup year where the most of the US players play.  NWSL League MVP Sophia Smith lands the Winner for Portland as they beat Kansas City 2-0 on CBS Sat night to win the NWSL Championship in front of nearly 18K in Washington DC.  See stories in the OBC.

Champions League Draw Mon

Wow Champions League never disappoints. We are down to the final 16 with the draw for the knockout stages on Monday.  Some huge games on the final matchday as Tottenham came from behind late to top Marsielle.  Napoli romped over supposed group favorites Liverpool and Ajax by a combined 14-4 over three matches, quickly clinching top spot in Group A. Club Brugge were nearly as exciting and creative in winning their first three matches and quickly clinching advancement.  LaLiga crashed and burned, with three of its four teams failing to advance — including not only Atletico Madrid but also Barcelona, who laid down huge chunks of future revenue to upgrade their team and contend again. In solidarity with their Super League brethren, Juventus fell apart as well.

World Cup – 3 Weeks

Can you believe it – -the World Cup in Qatar is just 3 weeks away now!   Tons of guys getting hurt here late – including some American’s like McKinney and Luca De La Torre and Matt Turner.  While defending Champs France’s Kante and Pogba are out.


Carmel FC Director Juergen Sommer congratulates JD Slivinski on signing his letter of intent to play college soccer for The University of Saint Francis Ft. Wayne. Huge congrats JD !!

Carmel FC Goalkeepers Training – We’ll start Indoor Training at the Badger Fieldhouse on Wednesday nights in December

U11 5:30, U12 & U13 6:30 and U14/Highschool 8:30 pm. 

Carmel FC Goalkeeper Coach Noelle Rolfsen (blue) has led her Marion University Knights to 15-0-2 mark clinching the Crossroads League Regular Season title. She made 6 saves in the Final game Wednesday. The #2 Ranked Knights host the League Quarter Finals Sat at home. Sat 7:00 pm — #1 MU v #8 GO (at Marian U) on MyIndy TV 23 — Video ($) | Live Stats


Sat, Nov 5 (Americans in parenthesis)

9:30 am ESPN+          Bayern Muchen vs Mainz

10:30 am ESPN+         Dortmund (Reyna) vs Bochum

11 am USA                  Man Cty vs Fulham (Robinson, Ream)

11 am Peacock            Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson, Marsch) vs AFC Bournemouth

4 pm ESPN+              Barcelona  vs Almeria

4 pm FOX                  LAFC vs Philly Union  MLS Finals 

7 pm My Indy TV 23 Marion U (GK Noelle Rolfsen) vs

7:30 pm ESPN+        Louisville City vs Tampa Bay Rowdies

Sun, Nov 6

7 am USA                    Chelsea (Pulisic)  vs  Arsenal

8 am ESPN+                Atletico Madrid vs Espanyol

10:30 am ESPN+         Bayer Leverkusen vs Union Berlin (Pefuk)

11:30 am USA                        Tottenham vs Liverpool 

2:45 pm Para +                        Juventus vs Inter Milan

8:30 pm ESPN+         San Antonio (Jordan Farr GK) vs Colorado Springs

Thur, Nov 10

7 pm FS1                              USWNT vs Germany

Sun, Nov 13

5 pm ESPN                          USWNT vs Germany

8 pm ESPN2                        USL Finals

Sun, Nov 20

11 am Fox                            World Cup Starts

Mon, Nov 21

8 am FS1                              England vs Iran

2 pm Fox                              USA vs Wales 

Mon, Nov 22

11 am Fox                            Mexico vs Poland 

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

CARMEL FC PLAYERS : Winter Players League (WPL) – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse
As the fall season comes to a close over the next month, we wanted to let you know that we will be launching an indoor soccer league over two six week sessions within our new Badger Fieldhouse. Games will be played on either Friday night ( 6pm to 10pm) or Sunday afternoon (1pm-5pm) depending on age groups: U8s, U9&U10, U11&U12, U13-U15 and U16+ (Coed Teams allowed). Referees for each game, 50 minute games, 5v5, 7v7 and 9v9 matches.
Session One (6 weeks): Jan 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th / Feb: 3rd, 10th
Session Two (6 weeks): Feb 17th, 24th / Mar 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th
Registration Information coming shortly, gather teammates and be ready to play!

Also get your Game Picking Skills sharpened as Carmel FC might have an official World Cup Pool.

===================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ====================== 


Try out the Best BarBQ in Town right across the street (131st) from Northview Church & Badger Field on the corner of Hazelldell & 131st. RackZ BBQ

Save 20% on your order 

(mention the ole ballcoach) 

Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

=====================RackZ BAR BBQ ======Save 20% ======================

MLS Finals Sat 4 pm Fox

10 big questions ahead of MLS Cup 2022

 Bandwagon guide to MLS Cup: To root for Philadelphia Union or LAFC?


How LAFC & Philadephia Union built MLS Cup-Rosters

Final Bracket MLS

Power Rankings: Where did your team end the 2022 regular season?
LA Galaxy defender Julián Araujo talks World Cup, humble beginnings

Another El Tráfico? USC football blocks parking for LAFC fans attending MLS Cup

MLS Cup: Ranking every Major League Soccer championship game

MLS Cup playoffs: Philly, LAFC advance to championship game as top seeds prevail
23hJeff Carlisle

– Report: LAFC reach first MLS Cup after thrashing Austin

– Report: Philly come back to defeat NYCFC, win Eastern Conference title

Top Seed Philly Advances to Finals – Yahoo Sports

What’s driving MLS’ reported playoff revamp? 4dESPN

2022 MLS Cup playoffs: Fixtures, results and more 7dESPN
LAFC vs Philadelphia Union set for MLS Cup Final

Three big questions following Austin FC’s 2022 season

USL Semis Sat/Sun night ESPN+

    Playoff X Factors with 4 teams left – Backheeled.com


Congrats and Good Luck Sunday 8:30 pm ESPN+ Former Carmel FC GK Coach and Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr


USMNT, Crystal Palace defender Chris Richards opens up on his fight against racism

Chelsea vs Arsenal: How to watch live, stream link, team news

Leeds vs Bournemouth: How to watch live, stream link, team news


USMNT Injuries Mount as WC Nears  Henry Bushnell 

USA Women

USWNT getting some of its familiar names back, starting with Alex Morgan and Mallory Pugh

Harvard-Westlake senior Alyssa Thompson, Alex Morgan highlight USWNT roster

Morgan eyes 200th USWNT cap vs. Germany
Jeff Carlisle /ESPN FC

US Injury Updates
Key figure in NWSL abuse investigation, Mana Shim, named chair of US Soccer’s safety taskforce

U.S. women’s national soccer team to play two pre-World Cup friendlies in New Zealand


great saves by Leed’s GK Illan Meslier to be Liverpool at Anfield

MLS GK of the year Andre Blake working out in LA before Sat’s Championship game

Chelsea’s GK Kepa is Player of Month

GKE in NSWL Champ Game as US Backup AD Franch Gives up an Easy

NWSL Finals


Portland Thorns ride the rise of Sophia Smith to an NWSL title Yahoo Soccer Henry Bushnell

GKE in NSWL Champ Game as Franch Gives up an Easy