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

Adams

Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Scally

Turner

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.

Oh and England – NO US TEAM HAS EVER LOST TO ENGLAND IN A WORLD CUP BY THE WAY – Men or Women’s !!

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

WORLD CUP GAMES ON TV

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!

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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

GK


‘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

 Reffing


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.


Vibes

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+


Substitutions

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.


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ON THE FIELD

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.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN IRAN

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.

Image

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

KLINSMANN AND QUEIROZ

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.

Image

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.

carlosqueiroz_

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

9


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.

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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.

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