12/1/22 USA vs Dutch Sat 10 am Fox, WC Final Group Games Th/Fr, CFC World Cup Pool, Great WC Saves, All Lady Ref Crew Today

USA vs Holland 10 am Sat on Fox – 9 am coverage starts

Wow – so after 8 years of suffering the US Men are back in the Round of 16 knockout stages for third time in the last 4 World Cups. Captain America Pulisic was brilliant scoring the team’s only goal on a sprinting effort into the Goalkeeper injuring himself in the process.  He gutted out the final 10 minutes before being subbed a the half and heading to the hospital.  Word is contusion on his hip-listing his status for the next game as day-to-day.  On the day the US played brilliant football in the first 40 minutes as they possessed almost 80% of the ball during the first half – outshooting Iran 8-0 in the process.  Center forward Josh Sargent returned to the starting line-up and was helpful in control and build-up even if he himself did not get  a shot on goal before retiring on what looks like a tourney ending ankle injury in the 2nd half.  Centerback Cameron Carter-Vickers also showed started in the back for Zimmerman as Berhalter was looking for better distribution from the back.  Zimmerman did come on late and had 13 clearances in the final 20 minutes as the US bunkered down to protect the lead.  I thought the gameplan by Berhalter was fantastic and even his 1 for 1 sub Aaronson for the injured Pulisic was perfect.  But his refusal to use Gio Reyna in at the midfield perplexes me – when we brought Acosta on for McKinney – the US basically signified we were going to bunker in rather than try to score the 2nd and decisive put-away goal.  I thought Vickers was lucky not to get called on 3 potential fouls in the box – that could have cost us the game especially the one in the final minute.  Honestly the last 20 minutes was excruciating as the US held on as ball after ball was sent in against our 5 man backline bunkering.  I had faith that Turner would protect his net – and he did fantastically late as Zimmerman and Ream headed ball after ball out.  I still think the bunker mentality subs at the 82 minute mark were wrong – and why Shaq Moore over Scally at wing back continues to perplex me.  Did Scally and Reyna get busted smoking in the boys room – I have no idea what Berhalter is thinking there.  Lets be honest though in the past the last 20 minutes and the angst that joined it was entire halfs if not entire games for the US when we would bend but no break and counter.   But credit where credit is do – Berhalter has his team in the Knock-out stages with a team that out-possessed Wales and Iran in this tourney and was literally 50-50 with England.  This is not the way the US has ever played in past World Cups – yes we have the players to do it now – but they are YOUNG.  Musah is 20, Weah, Dest and Adams are 22, Mckinney and Jedi 24, these are young players who need to get this taste of World Cup play as long as they can – if we expect to make a Final 4 run when we host in 2026.  Everything is right there for the taking we have a decent match-up with a good but not great Netherland’s team on Saturday.   GO GO USA!   So my prayer – US 2-1.  Reality – US and Dutch tie 1-1 we go to PKs and ???               

US Men Sat 10 am vs Netherlands on Fox – Winner Advances

Shane’s Starters for Sat

Pulisic, Weah, Reyna

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 especially with Sargent out. 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 (if he can go) 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 with Centerbacks Ream and and Carter Vickers playing together of course Zimmerman can in as the center of the back 3 with 20 min to play and had 13 (yes 13 clearances). I thought Carter Vickers had 3 chances where he could have drawn a PK – I think Zimmerman flips back in as a starter. Of course Turner while making us nervous with his feet was still solid in the back.  Shane likes the the US to tie the Netherlands 1-1 and go to shootout where the US will win on penalty kicks.  I hope!!  

Oh and England – NO US TEAM HAS EVER LOST TO ENGLAND IN A WORLD CUP BY THE WAY – Men or Women’s !!   US vs Iran highlights   US vs England Hilights  Your US Captain Tyler Adams Story  US Defender Carter-Vickers Story    US Goalkeeper Matt Turner  these 26 stories on our 26 players going to Qatar its awesomeLove this answer by our Captain Adams

World Cup News The Bracket

Wow the Sweet 16 is getting closer – Mexico and Belgium are out?  Wow – the DRAMA was dripping as both Mexico and Belgium pushed for late goals to advance only to have their dreams die.  Nothing like World Cup Drama !!   How About 3 Women reffing a World Cup Game for the First time ever  – love it – today’s 2 pm game Germany vs Costa Rica. 

The World Cup commercials are out – which ones do you like best?  Nike  Addidas  check them all out hereIts Called Soccer – Classic Commercial   

I am going to continue to add stories daily thru kickoff on Saturday morning so check back in for new stories. Below

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

Carmel FC GK Coach Headed to National Championship Game Sat

Carmel FC GK Coach Noelle Rolfsen  GK for the Marian University Lady Knights in Indianapolis is headed to the NAIA National Championship game. Sat, Dec 3 at 5 pm after defeating Tennessee Southern 4-1 behind a hat trick for Naomi Walters. ALSO Congrats to IU Men’s Soccer off to their 28th Elite 8 on Saturday at UNC Greensborough. IU Manages Marshall, Moment in Sweet 16 Win

American Outlaws Watch Party Sat 10 am Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple. https://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

WORLD CUP GAMES ON TV

Thur, Dec 1 –                        

2 pm  Fox                             Japan vs Spain 

2 pm Fox                              Costa Rica 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                Holland vs USA  

 2 pm  Fox                            Argentina vs Australia

6 pm ??                                Indiana U Men vs UNC Greensboro Elite 8

Sun, Dec 4 –                       

10 am Fox                            1D France vs 2C Poland

 2 pm  Fox                            1B England? vs 2A Senegal

Mon, Dec 5 –                     

10 am Fox                            1E Spain? vs 2F Croatia

 2 pm  Fox                            1G Brazil? vs 2H Ghana?

Tues, Dec 6–                      

10 am Fox                            1F Moracco vs 2E Germany?

 2 pm  Fox                            1H Portugal?  vs 2G

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!

US Men

·Pulisics Injury ouch  

What We Learned US vs Iran – Stars and Stripes

 Scouting the Dutch

Analysis: USMNT defeats Iran 1-0 in a grueling battle to advance to knockouts ASN

Dest has Date with Destiny Against his Birth Country ESPN Jeff Carlisle

5 Things to Know USA vs Netherlands  
USA’s win over Iran a relief for Berhalter amid a tense and bizarre build-up
dSam Borden

Injured Pulisic: ‘I’ll be ready’ to face Netherlands 20hESPN

Pulisic punches US into World Cup knockouts, but injury adds to attack concerns  Jeff Carlisle

Inserting Cameron Carter-Vickers into lineup helped propel USMNT
USWNT to earn more from men’s WC than 2019
22hAssociated Press

World


Mexico coach ‘Tata’ Martino out after WC exit
18hCesar Hernandez

FIFA investigate Mexico anti-gay chants again  3hCesar Hernandez

Milan Borjan howler perfectly sums up Canada’s nightmare World Cup campaign

Romelu Lukaku distraught after his series of terrible misses eliminates Belgium

When is the 2022 World Cup final? Date and kick-off time in the USA

‘El Diablo’ Luis Suárez refuses to apologize for role in Ghana’s 2010 exit ahead of rematch

Netherlands need to show they’re not all talk against USA in round of 16

The Pat McAfee Show have the funniest reaction to Christian Pulisic’s goal against Iran

FOX World Cup commentary teams, ranked

Mexico is out of the World Cup, but at least they scored a goal of the tournament contender

Mexico is out of the World Cup on goal difference!

Goalkeeping

Best World Cup Saves Round 2

Best World Cup Saves Round 1

Check this Save 

Great World Cup Saves

‘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

US Goalkeeper Matt Turner 

 Reffing

So this was the coldest I have EVER reffed a game- in the teens just above zero Wind Chill Nov 11 at Grand Park – snow on the fields. Here with Dmitry Z and Phrosini and the Ole Ballcoach Shane.

All Female Ref Crew to do Germany vs Costa Rica WC Game first time ever
Offsides rules at 2022 World Cup: Explaining how VAR technology impacts referee calls

World Cup Refs

Reffing at the World Cup

Was this ball in or Out? Japan scored a goal on this play knocking Germany out of the Cup.

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USMNT World Cup Daily, Day 18

Pulisic says he’ll do everything in his power to play Saturday against the Netherlands

GRANT WAHLDEC 2∙PAID
 
 
Christian Pulisic seems in good spirits despite his physical issues ahead of USA-Netherlands (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

DOHA, Qatar — Christian Pulisic, the U.S. World Cup goal-scoring hero who came off with a “pelvic contusion” after providing the game-winner against Iran, said today that he will “do everything in my power to be out there on the field Saturday” in a Round of 16 match against the Netherlands. 


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And Pulisic made a statement of intent that he wants the U.S. not just to surprise the Dutch but to make a deep run in this tournament. When asked if he now had his “World Cup moment” to match Landon Donovan’s 2010 goal against Algeria, the 2020-21 UEFA men’s Champions League winner said: “I’m hoping I haven’t had that moment yet, to be honest. I’m hoping it’s in front of me. So it feels great to be where we’re at right now, but there’s still more to come.”

For a guy who has been dealing with a painful ailment, Pulisic seems like he’s in a much better mood in general than he was during the September window, when the U.S. was playing poorly and Pulisic’s funk was deep enough that I wrote about it. The joy on his face was palpable as he welcomed the U.S. players back to the team hotel on Tuesday, and Pulisic’s demeanor today was full of smiles and confidence. Forget the injury. He looks like a man reborn.

Pulisic welcoming his teammates back to the hotel on Tuesday after the victory over Iran (Photo courtesy U.S. Soccer)

Speaking publicly for the first time since the injury, Pulisic took us through what happened from the moment he scored his first World Cup goal and instead of celebrating ended up keeled over in the Iranian goalmouth with his worried teammates gathering around him.“I realized the ball went in,” Pulisic said. “I was a bit confused because the guys around me, I think they were just trying to keep their distance and make sure I was okay. But it didn’t really feel like a celebration, so I was worried I was offside. You never know nowadays. So I wasn’t sure what was going on.”After a few minutes on the side of the field receiving treatment, Pulisic made his way back into the game for the final minutes of the first half. But in the halftime locker room the decision was made to remove him from the game and send him to the hospital as a precautionary measure.“It was a crazy kind of experience for me,” Pulisic said. “Obviously the emotions were running so high, so I was doing everything I could to continue playing, and it all was kind of a blur to be honest. But then once I was told I was being taken to the hospital, I was able to follow it because a guy with me had it on his phone. It was the hardest thing. They were checking my blood sugar and it was flying through the roof, but it was just me stress-watching the game. But once I got through that and the final whistle blew, I was obviously very happy.”

Pulisic was helpful in explaining a bit of his injury situation when asked what a “pelvic contusion” actually meant. “Like, I didn’t get hit in the balls,” he explained sheepishly. “I’m all right. It was very painful. That bone is there for a reason to protect you, I think, and I hit it.”There was a time not that long ago—a bit more than a year maybe—when Pulisic didn’t seem to trust his U.S. teammates very much. It would cause him to overdribble in attacking situations and often lose the ball. But he has come to rely on the other U.S. players more often since then. That has been a process of growth on a young team.“This team helps me so much to take the pressure off of me,” he said today. “More so a couple years ago, there were times where maybe I felt like I needed to do more. But with these guys, I don’t feel that way at all, to be honest. I know they have my back. I know when I went down and I see Brenden [Aaronson] running on the pitch, I’m not worried at all.”Sometimes it’s good to see things from the perspective not just of the hardcore soccer fan (which I know most of you are), but rather from that of the Americans who are just falling in love with this team. We’re a growing soccer country still, and so many new USMNT fans are being created every day now. Pulisic is aware of that as well, that a not insignificant number of Yanks will now find out when he’s playing on Boxing Day after this World Cup is over and seek him out. Those people are already in for World Cup 2026 in North America. “I hope that they can see just the unity and the team spirit that we display,” he said today. “I hope that’s what’s helping us gain fans. I hope people watching, especially back home in the States, can see, wow, these guys would really give everything for each other, for this country. And that’s what really makes us special. You can see all the individual talent. You have guys playing at top clubs across the world, but without the brotherhood, without this family aspect, we wouldn’t be in this position.”

There’s something about Pulisic’s commitment to the national team, to the national idea, that is special. Certain athletes have it, this devotion to playing for their country. For all of Diego Maradona’s otherworldly talents, his overwhelming feelings for the national team were remarkable. The same was the case for John McEnroe when he represented the U.S. in the Davis Cup. Pulisic is in that realm, and it’s rare, and it’s exciting to see it revealed in the crucible of the World Cup. On Saturday, we find out if the U.S. journey continues. I expect Pulisic to play a significant role.

IN OTHER NEWS

• Germany is out. Mexico is out. Belgium is out. And all of those things should remind everyone that the U.S.’s advancement to the knockout rounds was never guaranteed. This is a big deal. A new tournament starts now.

• I wrote a new USMNT mailbag column for CBS. You can read it here

• Things at our Doha townhouse are fine. I’m a little worried that with Germany’s elimination my housemate Rafa Honigstein might go home, but I’m hoping he gets a reprieve. Last night at 3:30 am water suddenly started coming through my bedroom ceiling. I think it’s fixed, but not sure. And it’s my birthday today. Never thought I’d spend a birthday at the World Cup, but here we are. 

Have a good evening!

Dutch-born USMNT star Sergino Dest has date with destiny vs. Netherlands at World Cup

11:43 AM ET Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

DOHA, Qatar — The United States are set to square off against Netherlands on Saturday in a World Cup round-of-16 match, and while it’s an occasion that will be special for all involved, for defender Sergino Dest, it will carry extra significance.Dest was born in the Dutch town of Almere, about 12 miles east of Amsterdam. He came through the famed Ajax academy and turned professional there. But thanks to his American father, Kenneth, Dest has played his international soccer with the US, so when the two sides line up on Saturday, he’ll see plenty of familiar faces.”I know almost every single guy over there,” Dest said through a team spokesperson following Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Iran that secured the US’s passage into the knockout rounds. “Yeah, it’s going to be fun of course. I was born there, I speak the language, I know all these guys. They want to go through, but we have the same dream. It’s going to be a fight again.”Dest featured prominently against Iran. The Group B standings heading into the final round of games meant the US had to win to advance, while Iran required only a draw. As such, Iran were content to sit back and soak up pressure and try to strike through counterattacks. And for the first 35 minutes or so of Tuesday’s match, the US were banging their collective heads against Team Melli’s defense. The approach work was fine, but then the US seemed content to play it safe. It was going to take something a bit special to break Iran down.That’s where Dest came in. The US right-back began taking initiative, creating havoc in the 17th minute with a low cross that goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand could only push away, and later with a dynamic run that ended with his shot getting blocked. But the pathway to goal had been established, and it was with the help of Dest that the breakthrough finally occurred in the 38th minute. Weston McKennie‘s lofted pass out to Dest was headed across goal by the defender, allowing Christian Pulisic to knife in and finish from close range.

EDITOR’S PICKS

The US had to do more defending in the second half, and endured tense moments, but a collective effort allowed them to see the game out and clinch a massive victory that sealed the second spot in Group B.

“I’m really proud of the guys,” Dest said. “The way we played all the three games, we really fought for each other. We have a brotherhood. Iran was pressing us a little bit in the second half, but we got the job done. We are happy. We can relax now.”

That Dest was involved in the goal isn’t a surprise. His attacking instincts have long been his greatest asset. And he’s shown a knack for popping up for big plays in important games, such as his goal against Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier.

But heading into the World Cup, there were issues. Dest has logged just 373 minutes for AC Milan in all competitions since being loaned from Barcelona in September. The move came about as Barcelona struggled to balance their books. And in terms of his playing time at Milan, it didn’t help that his competition at the position, Davide Calabria, is Milan’s captain. Even without the worry about accumulated rust, Dest’s defending hasn’t always been consistent, with his positioning also a concern. During his Barca days, then-manager Ronald Koeman stressed that Dest would too often switch off in games.

“He needs to be more aggressive, he needs to be more concentrated,” Koeman said in February of 2021, following a Champions League encounter with Paris Saint-Germain‘s Kylian Mbappe. “He had too many periods in the game where he’s not 100% focused.”

That hasn’t been an issue in Qatar. Dest has been impressive on both sides of the ball at this World Cup, including instances when he was isolated against Iran’s attackers. It’s been noticed by the man with the best seat in the house to judge defenders: US goalkeeper Matt Turner.Herculez Gomez and Sebastian Salazar debate the biggest storylines and break down the best highlights that soccer in the Americas has to offer. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only)“He was unbelievable, free flowing up and down the field,” Turner said. “I think what I’ve noticed the most about Sergino is he always seems to show up defensively in the big moments, and he’s tracking runners in the box really, really well.”The same could be said about the entire US defense, which conceded just one goal and none from open play in its three group-stage matches. For US manager Gregg Berhalter, it’s been a collective effort, although the backline has excelled. And full-backs Dest and Antonee Robinson have been giving the manager what he wants.”The full-backs have been doing a good job,” Berhalter said. “We want them to be a little bit more offensive today. And we got an assist from [Dest]. So it’s a good thing. We need our full-backs to be aggressive, and it was good that they showed that today.”The Dutch have a talented team, finishing atop Group A with seven points, although there is a sense that Louis van Gaal’s side haven’t hit top gear yet. The same can be said for a US team that scored only twice. But for now, Dest and his teammates can look forward to taking on former Ajax teammates like Frenkie de Jong and Jurrien Timber.”I can’t wait to play the next match because it’s going to be a pretty fun one, playing against the country I was born in,” he said. “I have full confidence.”

Christian Pulisic reveals extent of pelvic injury, says he ‘didn’t get hit in the balls’

Henry BushnellThu, December 1, 2022 at 10:33 AM

DOHA, Qatar — Christian Pulisic said Thursday that he is “feeling better” after suffering a “pelvic contusion” in the U.S. men’s national team’s Tuesday win over Iran, but did not commit to playing in Saturday’s knockout-round game against the Netherlands.

He also explained what, exactly, a “pelvic contusion” is. After a team spokesman suggested that “it’s what it sounds like,” Pulisic said: “No, but at the same time, it’s not.”“Like, I didn’t get, like, hit in the balls,” he said with a laugh. Tim Weah and others in the room chuckled as well.“It was very painful,” Pulisic continued. “You know, that bone is there for a reason, to protect you, I think. And I hit it well. And it was sore, but like I said, I’m getting better.”Pulisic suffered the injury while scoring the only goal of the USMNT’s must-win game against Iran. “I took a knee … to a nice pelvis area — it was not nice,” he said Thursday. He stayed down in the mouth of the goal for minutes while receiving treatment. He returned to the game and gutted out a few minutes until halftime, but winced in pain while he moved gingerly. Head coach Gregg Berhalter later said that Pulisic was feeling some “dizziness.” Berhalter removed him from the game, and trainer Harris Patel accompanied him to a nearby hospital.While en route, Pulisic followed the game on Patel’s phone, “and it was like the hardest thing,” he said. Medics checked his “blood sugar and everything, and it was flying through the roof,” but not because there was anything wrong with him; “it was me stressed watching the game,” Pulisic said.A USMNT spokesman also said that Josh Sargent, who left Tuesday’s game in the second half with an ankle injury, was “day to day.”If Sargent can’t play, Haji Wright or Jesús Ferreira would likely start in his place up top.

If Pulisic can’t, Brenden Aaronson would be the most analogous replacement on the left wing. Aaronson has started in the past when Pulisic hasn’t been fit — including against Mexico last November in World Cup qualifying — and replaced Pulisic at halftime of Tuesday’s game. Gio Reyna would also be an option, but has only played eight minutes off the bench all tournament.

Pulisic and Sargent will likely remain “day to day” until lineups are announced within 90 minutes of kickoff on Saturday. U.S. Soccer has no incentive to give the Netherlands a jumpstart on preparing as if either player will or won’t start. After initially saying that the first 15 minutes of Thursday’s training session would be open to media, it closed training entirely.

USMNT to Face a European Hurdle It Hasn’t Cleared in 20 Years

European teams in the World Cup have largely been kryptonite to the U.S., and another, the Netherlands, stands in between the Americans and the quarterfinals.

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — The American men have won a single World Cup knockout game in 92 years, and make no mistake, the opponent on that famous day mattered. 

There was next to no anxiety when the U.S. kicked off the 2002 World Cup’s round of 16 against Mexico. There wasn’t a team in that tournament that was more familiar, or less intimidating and venerated. The U.S. arrived in Jeonju, South Korea, having beaten El Tri in four of their previous five meetings. And then the Americans won again, 2–0, to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the first and only time in the modern era.There, in that rarified air, a team featuring current U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, GM Brian McBride and sporting director Earnie Stewart lost to Germany, a three-time (and now four) world champion. That defeat, albeit by a one-goal margin, became another data point in a long-term trend even more reliable than “dos a cero.” The U.S. struggles mightily to beat European sides at the World Cup.To be fair, lots of teams do—especially lately. As more and more TV and sponsorship money flows from around the world into Europe, especially Western Europe, the clubs and federations there have widened the developmental gap with the rest of the planet. From the inaugural World Cup in 1930 until the 2002 edition won by Brazil, South America had won nine titles compared to Europe’s eight. But then the tide turned emphatically. The past four tournaments were won by four different UEFA nations, along with 11 of the 12 medals (Argentina’s 2014 silver is the only outlier.)

Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie celebrate the USA’s win over Iran
Adams and McKennie celebrate the USMNT’s win over Iran.Ashley Landis/AP

Meanwhile, the U.S.’s record against Europe has been a stark reminder of its place in the global pecking order. The 3–2 defeat of Portugal that catapulted the Americans to the 2002 knockouts is the only World Cup win over European opposition in 19 tries since the U.S. men returned to the World Cup in 1990. The record is 1-11-7, and the winless streak is now 11 following the two group stage draws against Wales and England here in Qatar.

You don’t need to beat a European team to get out of the group. The U.S. leveraged wins over Algeria (2010), Ghana (2014) and then Monday’s dramatic 1-0 decision against Iran to book a second-round berth. But you do have to beat a European team—probably teams—to go on a deep World Cup run. And so the test begins Saturday against Group A winner Netherlands here in Al Rayyan. This Dutch side isn’t considered one of the country’s best, but it’s still loaded with talent and the sort of experience and pedigree that has proven so difficult for the U.S. to overcome. Its coach, Louis van Gaal, managed the Netherlands to the bronze medal at the 2014 World Cup and has won major trophies at the helm of Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United.

“Traditionally European teams are very strong and that’s just how it is,” Berhalter said following the World Cup draw. “So when you play them in a World Cup, it means they got through European qualifying, which means they’re a very good team. I can see a lot of teams struggling with that.“That’s a great opportunity,” he said of facing UEFA opposition. “There’s always opportunities to be the first team or do something that teams haven’t done and for us, we just look at each opponent, we analyze their strengths and weaknesses and we try to figure out how to beat them.”The Americans will feel good about the fact that they outplayed both England and Wales for significant stretches of those group-stage contests. The two points earned helped the U.S. (1-0-2) finish second in what was, statistically, the toughest group at this World Cup. The Netherlands won the tournament’s easiest group based on average ranking with wins over Senegal (minus Sadio Mané) and lowly Qatar and a draw with Ecuador. The Oranje’s efficient but unconvincing run has been sparked by breakout World Cup star Cody Gakpo, a 23-year-old PSV Eindhoven attacker who’s scored in all three games.“It’s huge opportunity for us,” U.S. captain Tyler Adams said after beating Iran. “It’s gonna be an amazing game, I think. We’ve obviously played against good competition here like England, [and the] Netherlands could be another favorite to win the World Cup.”Berhalter has significant exposure to the country. He left the University of North Carolina after his junior season and spent six years playing professionally in the Netherlands with PEC Zwolle, Sparta Rotterdam and Cambuur Leeuwarden. The bonds with Saturday’s opponent don’t end there. Sporting director Stewart and right back Sergiño Dest are Dutch natives. U.S. striker Haji Wright and midfielder Luca de la Torre also played in the Netherlands.

Sergiño Dest will play against his birth country in the World Cup
Dest was born in the Netherlands and chose to play for the USMNT over his birth country.Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

The U.S. will be banking on the hope that its increased familiarity with European soccer—17 of the 26 men on Berhalter’s team play there—will help UEFA teams feel less foreign.“We play in Europe, so we played against a lot of these guys, week-in, week-out,” Adams said ahead of the England game. “It’s not easier to play against European teams, but you’re more familiar with how they’re gonna play probably than Concacaf teams. So it is what it is. You have to be prepared for all the teams that you can play against.”This U.S. team, the second youngest here in Qatar (and it’s fielded the three youngest starting lineups), isn’t burdened by predecessors’ shortcomings or global trends older than they are. Almost all grew up as immersed in soccer as their Dutch counterparts, and they’ve worked their way into an echelon of the sport that was out of reach for so many compatriots who came before. Berhalter’s squad is full of men with Champions League experience. There’s a measure of confidence with this group that may be unprecedented.https://0c5c726ab65d35ea87a4c77c8529966e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html

“I came here saying to everybody in the media and everybody [else], that we’re coming here to try to win,” forward Brenden Aaronson said. “We may be the underdog. The Dutch are a world power and they’ve been that for many, many tournaments. So I think for us, it’s just going in there with no fear and playing the way we have been this entire tournament, and I think good things will come out of it.”Midfielder Weston McKennie added, “We’re here for a reason. … We know that a lot of people have [the Dutch] as the favorites. But a lot of people didn’t think that we would make it out of the group as well. This team is young [and] has a lot of energy, and this team has a lot of people that doubted us. But we continue to prove them wrong. So we’re just looking forward to going out against the Netherlands and playing a good game.”

Since sealing qualification in March, Berhalter has talked about splitting the World Cup into two tournaments. The first, the group stage, was about navigating three matches in nine days, managing form and fitness and playing for points. The second tournament starts Saturday, and it’s one where he’s said repeatedly that “anything can happen.” It’s just one game, which can be decided by one play, one bounce, one inch. There’s a sample size that suggests those small margins will still somehow fall the European team’s way. But no UEFA nation has played this specific U.S. team on this stage.“It’s great to be in this knockout format. We relish this. It’s an opportunity for our guys to keep grinding and to stick together and enjoy this experience,” Berhalter said Tuesday.“It’s a great opportunity, but it’s not something that we’re going into it thinking it’s an honor,” he continued. “We deserve to be in the position we’re in and we want to keep going. And we don’t want to be home on [Sunday]. So for us, it’s about how do we recover from [the Iran] game and prepare to play against a very, very good Dutch team—very, very well coached, a ton of quality all over the field. And we have to come up with an idea of how to beat them.”

World Cup last 16: Why every team that escaped the group stage will, won’t win it all in Qatar

6:22 PM ET Bill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer

A typical World Cup can feel like a marathon, but this one feels like a sprint. After a nonstop, 13-day group stage ends on Friday, there are no days off before the round of 16 begins with Netherlands vs. USA and Australia vs. Argentina on Saturday.

Therefore, we shouldn’t wait to preview the knockout rounds. While the dance card continues to fill in, let’s talk about each qualifying team’s biggest strengths and weaknesses: basically, the reasons they advanced, the reasons they could make a run and the fatal flaws that will probably trip them up at some point.

Let’s go!


Argentina (first place, Group C)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 12%
Round of 16 opponent: Australia (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET)

Why they will win it all: They’ve recovered from losing to Saudi Arabia. As incredible as the Saudis’ 2-1 win was last Tuesday, it was a clear and obvious “sports are dumb sometimes” outcome. Argentina attempted 15 shots worth 2.3 xG, and Saudi Arabia attempted three worth 0.2, but the latter trumped the former, and the Saudis — to their credit — defended wonderfully down the stretch.

– Marcotti: The seven tendencies of Messi vs. Poland

That match almost ruined two matches; manager Lionel Scaloni made a ton of lineup changes for what turned out to be a dire and unimpressive performance against Mexico. Somehow a lineup with Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria attempted only five shots worth 0.3 xG, but Messi’s wonderful long-range goal in the 64th minute allowed them to relax. They saw off Mexico, then dominated Poland 2-0 in a match that was closer to about 4-0 than 2-1.

There was tension and there were unforced errors, but they finished the group stage atop Group C, with the second-best xG differential in the tournament to date (behind only France). Their defense barely allowed any decent looks over three matches, and they looked the part of the contender they were supposed to be all along.

Why they won’t: Boy, the vibes got dark for a minute, didn’t they? Indeed, despite the fluky nature of the Saudi Arabia loss, Scaloni made five changes to his lineup to bring a performance boost to a side that probably didn’t actually need one. They played far worse, according to both the stat line and the eyeballs. Messi bailed them out, and they may have gotten a long-term boost with how well younger guys like Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez played against Poland. But another bout with that sort of panic likely won’t be rewarded.

Australia (second place, Group D)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: <1%
Round of 16 opponent: Argentina (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET)

Why they will win it all: They take their chances. If we were being particularly cynical (or perhaps realistic), we would call the Socceroos lucky. In three group stage matches, they attempted 21 shots worth just 1.8 xG but pulled three goals from them and stole a pair of 1-0 victories from Tunisia and Denmark. They attempted fewer than half the number of shots (21) as their opponents (50) in the group stage, but advanced

Dawson: Nobody will want to play Australia in World Cup knockouts

Rob Dawson reacts to Australia’s 1-0 win over Denmark and speaks about their chances in the World Cup knockout stages.

However, one man’s lucky is another’s clinical. All three of their goals — Craig Goodwin’s counter-strike against France, Mitchell Duke’s flick of a header against Tunisia and Mathew Leckie’s weaving counter against Denmark — were beautifully taken. Against both Tunisia and Denmark, they cluttered shooting lanes and left their opponents with low-percentage opportunities while maximizing the danger they created from minimal looks. If you don’t need many chances to score, you don’t need many chances to pull an upset.

Why they won’t: Okay, fine, they’re lucky. You don’t get outshot more than 2-to-1, with the second-worst xG differential (per-match) of the 32 teams, and advance very far. They got their doors blown off by France, they allowed Tunisia to attempt three of the match’s four most high-value shots (per xG) while scoring on a low-percentage flick, and they have completed just 73% of their pass attempts, second lowest in the competition (ahead of Iran, who still attempted way more shots and created far more shot value). The upsets were awesome to watch, as was the giddy reaction of Australia fans both in the stands and back at home. But this run of fortune isn’t going to last four more matches.

Brazil (qualified from Group G)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 25%
Round of 16 opponent: TBD

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Why they will win it all: Party in the front (eventually), veterans in the back. Hiring a conservative coach (Tite) to lead a squad full of flamboyant attackers can easily backfire without the right balance and man management. You play away from your strengths, the attackers get frustrated, and things fall apart.

In his six-plus years in charge of the Selecao, Tite has mostly found said balance. Brazil have allowed just 27 goals and lost only five times in his 78 matches in charge. Four of the five losses were by one-nil margins — which hints at how things look when they go wrong, but they don’t go wrong often.

The veteran base of defenders Thiago Silva (38) and Marquinhos (28) and midfielder Casemiro (30) was an unsolvable puzzle for both Serbia and Switzerland, who combined to attempt just 11 shots worth 0.48 xG, putting none on target. And as both opponents grew tired and frustrated, the Brazilian attack eventually kicked in, and they booked their last-16 spot with two wins. What has worked for six years under Tite has worked in Qatar.

Why they won’t: The attack runs through Neymar (who’s hurt once again). Brazil overwhelmed Serbia with 19 shots and two goals in the second half. The ball was constantly at Neymar’s feet — he had the most touches of any non-defender — and the eventual goals, both from Richarlison, felt inevitable.

Neymar left the match after 80 minutes, however, after suffering damaged ankle ligaments. Without their focal point, Brazil resorted to aimless crossing against Switzerland (25 of them, with only a 16% completion rate) and attempted only 13 shots. They eventually took control with a scruffy late goal from Casemiro, but the attack wasn’t nearly as smooth without its center of gravity, whose return to the competition is unknown.

England (first place, Group B)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 9%
Round of 16 opponent: Senegal (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET)play

0:40

England fans erupt as the Three Lions score two quick goals

England fans at Boxpark by Wembley Stadium celebrate the two goals early in the second half.

Why they will win it all: Set pieces. They were England’s secret weapon in the 2018 World Cup, where the team scored six set-piece goals (four from corners) in seven matches, two of which put them ahead in both the quarterfinals and semifinals.

They’ve only got two such goals so far — one from Bukayo Saka on a corner against Iran and one from a scorching Marcus Rashford free kick that opened the scoring against Wales — but it remains a clear advantage as they’ve created 10 shots from set pieces, and opponents have yet to attempt one. (The US created seven corner-kick opportunities but got no quality looks from them.)

When you’ve got as much talent as anyone in the competition, and you’ve got a cheat code for creating solid scoring chances, you’re in great shape.

EDITOR’S PICKS

Why they won’t: The subs are doing too well? It’s an odd critique, admittedly, but the England attack is in a strange place at the moment. The Three Lions scored nine goals in the group stage with Gareth Southgate’s first-choice attacking trio of Harry Kane, Saka and Raheem Sterling performing relatively well, scoring three goals and creating a combined 2.18 expected goals (xG) and expected assists (xA) in a total of 512 minutes. That’s a rate of 0.38 combined xG+xA per 90 minutes. The trio of Rashford, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish, however, combined for a torrid five goals and 3.37 xG+xA in just 271 minutes, 1.12 per 90.

History suggests Southgate will stick to his guns when it comes to lineup selections, and having prolific bench players who are commanding a higher workload is a great problem to have. But it can still be a problem if you aren’t putting your most in-form and effective lineup on the pitch as the matches increase in importance. The last thing you want to do is leave available goals unclaimed while trying to bring the World Cup trophy home.

France (first place, Group D)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 11%
Round of 16 opponent: Poland (Sunday, 10 a.m. ET)

Why they will win it all: Kylian Mbappe. France quickly secured advancement to the knockout rounds by taking care of Australia and Denmark by a combined 6-2 — which allowed them to field an extremely rotation-heavy squad against Tunisia — but that score line doesn’t do justice to the levels of domination in those two matches. They outshot their opponents by a combined 44-14 and created 6.8 xG while allowing just 1.2; while Australia were obviously outmanned, Denmark were considered a World Cup sleeper by many and could manage just two shot attempts in the first 67 minutes.

At the heart of France’s success, of course, has been Mbappe, the FIFA Young Player Award winner at the last World Cup and the current front-runner for Golden Ball winner at this one. As ESPN’s Ryan O’Hanlon laid out after two matches, the best player in the world is playing some of his best-ever ball at the best possible time.

Furious Laurens lets rip on ‘disgraceful’ France performance

Julien Laurens doesn’t hold back as he rips into Didier Deschamps and the French players after their 1-0 loss to Tunisia in Qatar.

Why they won’t: The wrong kind of conservatism. The modern game is one of pressing and possession, and it would make sense that most of the tournament favorites do those things well. There are currently eight teams with betting odds of +1400 or better to win the World Cup, and six of them currently rank in the top eight in passes allowed per defensive action (PPDA, a common measure of defensive intensity), all averaging under 12.0 PPDA. Brazil (12.2, 11th in the competition) is close. France (18.5, 26th) is not.

For all of their absurd talent, they were downright passive against Denmark, allowing the Danes to average 6.4 passes per possession and end 50% of their possessions in the attacking third. This opened up space for transition attacks — something that the impossibly fast Mbappe and his teammates can thrive in at times — but it also raised a question: How will the French fare among the best possession teams in the field if they can’t (or won’t) take the ball away from them?

Netherlands (first place, Group A)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 5%
Round of 16 opponent: USA (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET)

Why they will win it all: They turn you over. Louis van Gaal’s Dutch team is active. They lead the competition with the fewest passes allowed per defensive action (9.3) and despite leading for the majority of each group stage match, they started 29 possessions in the attacking third to opponents’ 17. Midfielder Frenkie de Jong leads the team in ball recoveries, but the pressure is a full-team effort: Netherlands have commanded 57% of overall touches in the attacking third with a 57% possession rate.

They’ve got the raw defensive talent — Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Ake, Jurrien Timber, Matthijs de Ligt — to safeguard them while pressing heavily (goalkeeper Andries Noppert has been excellent, too), and they put the ball in more dangerous areas than opponents.

Ogden names Senegal, not Netherlands, the best in Group A

Mark Ogden explains why he think Senegal are the stronger of the two sides to advance from Group A at the World Cup.

Why they won’t: No creativity. For such an active team, the Dutch sure are stolid in attack. Despite all that possession in dangerous areas, they managed just 10 shots worth 0.7 xG against Senegal and two worth 0.1 against Ecuador; they were fortunate to win the former match and draw the latter, and if Cody Gakpo hadn’t scored with his only shot in each match, they wouldn’t have.

Gakpo, the increasingly sought-after PSV Eindhoven attacker, has scored three goals from four shots worth just 0.3 xG. The rest of his teammates have scored just two goals from 21 shots worth 2.5. They neither create high-quality or high-volume shots — they averaged just 0.3 big chances created (“a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score,” as defined by Stats Perform) in the group stage; only two teams averaged fewer, and that will eventually become a clear issue if it does not change.

This makes their matchup with the United States an interesting one: the teams have a lot of the same strengths and same weaknesses.

Poland

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: <1%
Round of 16 opponent: France

Why they will win it all: They’ve got the hottest goalkeeper in the competition. Stat Perform’s Goals Prevented measure compares the goals you’ve allowed to the post-shot xG value of the shots opponents put on your goal. Based solely on that xG figure, Poland should have allowed about six goals in the group stage; they allowed only two because Wojciech Szczesny stood on his damn head. He stopped penalties from both Messi and Saudi Arabia‘s Salem al-Dawsari, he stopped close-range efforts from al-Dawsari and Argentina‘s Rodrigo De Paul, and he saved 18 total shots on goal in three matches.

Allow even three goals instead of two — which would have still been overachieving — and Poland would be on a plane home right now.

Why they won’t: They can’t create opportunities for one of the best strikers in the world. In 19 matches with Barcelona this season, Robert Lewandowski has averaged 4.5 shots, 0.8 xG and 1.1 goals per 90 minutes. In three World Cup matches, he has averaged 2.3 shots, 0.6 xG and 0.3 goals. He scored his first ever World Cup goal against Saudi Arabia, but missed on a late chip in the same match and had a penalty saved against Mexico. Those were his only three shots on goal in three matches. He barely touched the ball against Argentina and attempted zero shots.

Lewandowski isn’t Poland’s only high-level player, of course — 14 other members of the roster play for clubs in Europe’s Big Five leagues — but when your headliner is neither getting the service he needs nor taking advantage of the opportunities he gets, your ceiling isn’t going to be very high. He could unleash a hat trick at any time, but if he couldn’t do it against Saudi Arabia, it’s fair to assume the odds aren’t high that he will do it against France.

Portugal (qualified from Group H)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 8%
Round of 16 opponent: TBD

Why they will win it all: Where passing is harder, Portugal is better. One would assume that a squad featuring Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Raphael Guerreiro and Joao Cancelo would be one of the more creative in the competition, and that has played out thus far. They have been fortunate in the finishing department — they created shots worth 3.3 xG in their first two matches but scored five goals from them, and they scored one of their goals when Cristiano Ronaldo whiffed on a Fernandes cross (which fooled the Uruguayan goalkeeper) — but they still created plenty of chances, and they made sure that they were the only team regularly completing passes into dangerous areas.

Pass completion rate into the attacking third:

  • Portugal 81%, Ghana 57% (Portugal won 3-2)
  • Portugal 79%, Uruguay 64% (Portugal won 2-0)

Fernandes and Silva have both completed 40 passes into the final third (with a ridiculous 86% completion rate), and the stalwart Portuguese defense, led by cent-backs Ruben Dias along with veterans Danilo Pereira (31) and Pepe (39), has fended off most threatening buildups. Even one of Ghana’s goals came on a cross that a defender deflected.

Why they won’t: You have to hold onto leads to win it all. When their first two matches were tied, Portugal dominated, controlling 69% of possession, attempting 19 shots worth 2.0 xG, allowing just six shots worth 0.7 and scoring three times. Dominant.

Once they were ahead, however, they sacrificed a dangerous amount of control. They allowed two goals to Ghana (one to tie the match at 1-1, one to make it 3-2), and in those two matches their possession rate fell to 45% with opponents attempting 14 shots to their seven. While Brazil’s Tite has pulled off a solid balance of conservatism and attacking flair, one could argue that Portugal’s Fernando Santos hasn’t quite found that same balance.

Ogden: Portugal means more than Cristiano Ronaldo

Mark Ogden gives his analysis on the 2-0 win over Uruguay in Group H that takes Portugal into the round of 16 at the World Cup.

Senegal (second place, Group A)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 1%
Round of 16 opponent: England

Why they will win it all: Transition. Tuesday’s Senegal vs. Ecuador match pitted two of the best transition teams in the competition. In their first two matches, Ecuador had scored two of their three goals from what I call “transition possessions” — possessions beginning outside of the attacking third and lasting 20 or fewer seconds — and had not allowed opponents a single shot in those possessions. But against Senegal, the shoe was on the other foot. Senegal created two early high-quality transition opportunities and allowed Ecuador none.

That’s been the story of the competition for Senegal. Their xG differential in transition possessions is +0.8, fourth best among teams in the knockout rounds, and while they were decent in transition attack (one goal, 0.96 xG), their primary strength was in completely snuffing out opponents’ opportunities. The defensive spine of keeper Edouard Mendy, center-backs Kalidou Koulibaly and Abdou Diallo and defensive midfielder Nampalys Mendy is as stout as just about any in the World Cup.

Why they won’t: You’ve got to finish. When the news came down that star Sadio Mane was going to miss the World Cup because of injury, it was fair to wonder how the heck Senegal was going to put the ball in the net.

It’s still fair to wonder, too. While they handled Qatar with ease, and they attempted plenty of shots against higher-level opponents Netherlands and Ecuador, the finishing indeed lacked. They attempted 28 non-penalty shots worth 2.14 xG in those two matches but scored just once from them, via a deflection to Koulibaly on a free kick. (They also scored on an Ismaila Sarr penalty against Ecuador.) They have been decent at generating set-piece opportunities, but in open play they are creating almost no threat against solid opposition.

United States (second place, Group B)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 1%
Round of 16 opponent: Netherlands

Why they will win it all: The midfield is relentless. Wales couldn’t move the ball through the midfield, so they started booting long balls to a tall forward. Jude Bellingham had 10 touches in the first 13 minutes but only 40 thereafter as England found passing lanes through the midfield hard to come by. (Mason Mount had only 45 total touches in 90 minutes.) Iran only created 60 total touches in the attacking third until Weston McKennie went off the field in the 65th minute. (They created 64 in the final 25 minutes.)

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

Relentless running and pressing from the trio of McKennie (24), Yunus Musah (20) and captain Tyler Adams (23) and fullbacks Sergino Dest (22) and Antonee Robinson (25) have made advancing the ball into dangerous areas almost impossible and allowed the US to control large portions of games — granted, without generating a large number of quality scoring opportunities — against not only Wales and Iran but also England. And if they were able to control Bellingham and Mount, they can control most of the midfields in this competition.

Why they won’t: Matches are 90 minutes long. One problem with relentless running and pressing: It wears you out, especially when some of your most important players came into the World Cup with recent injuries and fitness concerns. McKennie is only averaging 69.3 minutes per match, Dest 78.0. And as these players begin to tire, the Americans’ effectiveness vanishes.

  • xG, first 60 min: USA 2.19, opponents 0.91 (actual score: US 2-0)
  • xG, last 30 min: opponents 2.23, USA 0.35 (actual score: opponent 1-0)

Fatigue has indeed limited certain key players, and manager Gregg Berhalter’s substitution decisions (both timing and personnel) have been, to put it diplomatically, shaky. When things move into game management mode, the US quickly fray. The fatigue isn’t going to suddenly get better as the tournament progresses.

TIL: The World Cup soccer ball needs to be charged before games

By Luis VidalDecember 1, 2022

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It’s a new era.

Getty Images

Technology has taken the reins in the soccer world. The VAR system is the clearest example of the takeover, but it’s not the only one. Al Rihla, the soccer ball created by adidas for the 2022 World Cup, incorporates chips and sensors that are revolutionizing the game. 

And it also brings a new reality: soccer balls that need to be plugged in before a game.

Does the World Cup ball need to be charged before games? Why?

The idea is weird. However, you can find pictures online showing the Al Rihla ball connected to a power source, charging up before the game as you would with your phone.Yeah, it’s a new dawn.But why? Because of that chip and those sensors, of course.

The combo captures different types of relevant data about the game. The chip is connected to cameras around the stadium and, according to adidas, “contributes to FIFA’s semi-automated offside technology and offers Video Assistant Referees instantaneous information to help optimize decision-making.”Recently, the sensors also determined that Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t touch the ball in one of the two goals scored by Bruno Fernandes against Uruguay, despite CR7 claiming he did. 

All this info requires energy, thus the need to be charged.

According to an adidas press release, the system “in the center of the ball hosts and stabilizes a 500Hz inertial measurement unit (IMU) motion sensor, which provides unprecedented insight into every element of the movement of the ball, while making this technology unnoticeable for players and not affecting its performance whatsoever”. 

The document also says “the sensor is powered by a rechargeable battery,” which now makes total sense. 

The ball doesn’t have a USB port or something like that. It is charged up by induction, which means it needs a tray or pedestal to complete the process.

Grant Wahl 3 Thoughts on USMNT-Iran

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Matt Turner celebrated Christian Pulisic’s first-half goal that ended up making the difference in the U.S. advancing to the World Cup Round of 16 (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

DOHA, Qatar — The USMNT beat Iran 1-0 on Matchday 3 of the World Cup on Tuesday. The win gave the U.S. (five points) a second-place finish in Group B behind England (seven points) and set up a Round of 16 clash on Saturday between the U.S. and the Netherlands. Here are my three thoughts on the game:


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• Christian Pulisic delivered in a game he’d been waiting his entire life for. This was a must-win game for the U.S. to stave off elimination and advance to the World Cup knockout rounds, and the U.S.’s best player scored the difference-making goal when his team needed it most—and with significant bodily sacrifice. With Iran playing 10 men behind the ball and needing only a tie to advance, the U.S. finally broke through in the 38th minute when Weston McKennie sent a gorgeous ball over the top to Sergiño Dest, whose delicate header across the goalmouth was met by an onrushing Pulisic in time to direct it past goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand. The goal was reminiscent of the one Pulisic scored against Mexico in Cincinnati 12 months ago, in which he also anticipated the ball’s location more quickly than defenders and barely beat them to the ball. Unfortunately for Pulisic, he couldn’t celebrate his goal because he took a blow to the midsection from Beiranvand while sacrificing his body and ended up being attended to for several minutes before returning to cheers from U.S. fans. (Pulisic came off for the second half and was replaced by Brenden Aaronson.) The U.S. has been struggling to score goals this World Cup. It needed its superstar to do superstar things, and Pulisic most definitely did in a career-defining game.

• Even when the U.S. gets a goal, they don’t make it easy afterward. In an ideal world for U.S. fans, the Yanks would have pushed to score again and make things less stressful, much like England poured it on over Wales in a 3-0 victory after breaking through the first time. But just as it did against Wales in Game 1, the U.S. wasn’t able to add to its lead and risked paying the price. Tim Weah had a gorgeous goal disallowed for offside at the end of the first half, but scoring chances came few and far between for the U.S. in the second 45 minutes. The game changed in the second half. With Iran now needing a goal, Team Melli stopped time-wasting (it was getting bad even in the first half) and keeping 10 men behind the ball, started to try and create some attacks on the counter and eventually threw everyone forward as the U.S. played the last 20 minutes with a five-man back line. (Walker Zimmerman came on and seemed to win every ball in the air, though he had to make a scary clearance in the final moments of a ball that had squirted behind goalkeeper Matt Turner.) But the U.S. had a major advantage in athleticism in this game and a slight one in skill and possession, and Iran found it difficult to break through a U.S. defense that has been solid in this tournament with the exception of the penalty conceded to Wales. Which brings us to….

• The U.S. defense is putting the team in a position to succeed here. Not conceding a single goal during the run of play in three World Cup games is phenomenal and better than anyone would have expected entering the tournament. U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter made a surprise choice opting for Cameron Carter-Vickers in the central defense against Iran, replacing Zimmerman, but the idea made sense. While I’m always a little queasy about changing up centerback tandems in the middle of a tournament, Carter-Vickers is faster than Zimmerman, and the U.S. was pushing forward in the attack more this game and thus leaving itself more exposed to counterattacks. CCV showed that speed in a couple important moments. Who would have thought a month ago that Tim Ream and Carter-Vickers would be the starting centerbacks for the U.S. in a must-win World Cup game? Not me. And now Ream and Tyler Adams have been the best U.S. players of the tournament. But beyond the centerbacks, the overall 11-man team defending by the States has been exemplary. If you can post clean sheets at the World Cup, you give yourself a chance to advance against any team in the tournament. And you know what? The U.S. will be an underdog against the Netherlands, but I think they’ve got a real shot to advance based on what I have seen here so far. This was a great day for U.S. soccer.

Analysis: USMNT defeats Iran 1-0 in a grueling battle to advance to knockouts

The U.S. national team defeated Iran on Tuesday in a 1-0 win that was a hard-fought test of wills. The U.S. prevailed after Christian Pulisic delivered his biggest international goal and the U.S. defense closed the game out as a desperate Iran searched for an equalizer. The U.S. is now in the knockouts and ASN’s Brian breaks the game down with his thoughts and analysis.

BY BRIAN SCIARETTAPOSTED
NOVEMBER 29, 2022
3:05 PM

THE UNITED STATES national team is through to the knockout stages of the 2022 World Cup after a hard fought 1-0 win over Iran on Tuesday night in Qatar. While the U.S. team did not need the last-minute heroics of 2010 or the fortunate results in other games to break their way like they did in 2002 and 2014 to qualify for the knockouts, this game ended with a grueling final 20 minutes to close it out.

Gregg Berhalter started with a similar starting lineup to England with the only two changes coming with Cameron Carter-Vickers replacing Walker Zimmerman in central defense to partner with Tim Ream and Josh Sargent replacing Haji Wright at center forward.

The U.S. team was strong to start the game and had the better of chances. Tim Weah had the first two very good opportunities of the game with the first coming in the 28th minute when a deflected shot from Sargent popped up to him. Instead of taking a volley, he headed it weakly to Iranian keeper Alireza Beiranvand. Then in the 35th minute, Weah hit an open 12 yard shot over the goal.

Then in the 39th minute, the U.S. team moved in front when a long sequence touched eight players and it ended with Sergino Dest heading the ball to Christian Pulisic for a close-range goal.

The goal came at a huge price to the U.S. team as Pulisic collided with Beiranvand and was down with an abdominal injury. He tried to play through it and made it to the half but was subbed out to start the second half for Brenden Aaronson.

In the second half, the U.S. saw Iran grow into the game albeit not to the degree Wales did in the group stage opener.

The last 20 minutes of regulation and the 10 minutes of injury time went by slowly and Iran sent a few dangerous balls into the box that came to nothing. They had two weak penalty appeals (one on a handball to Shaq Moore and a second for a foul on Carter-Vickers) but Spanish referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz quickly called for play to continue.

Here are some thoughts on the game.

Advancement caps a huge year

Advancing to the knockout stages was the minimum goal for success for the U.S. team in Qatar. They could soon turn this into a monumental success if they advance past the Dutch, but they won’t leave Qatar without pointing to moderate success.

But there is no way that the greater American soccer community can’t point to 2002 as being a very successful year on the men’s side. The resume is impressive

  • The Seattle Sounders became the first MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions League.
  • The U.S. team qualified for the 2022 World Cup
  • The U.S. U-20 team qualified for the U-20 World Cup
  • The U.S. U-20 team then ended the 16-year Olympic drought to qualify for Paris 2024
  • Americans abroad continued to have a big presence in Europe’s “Big 5” leagues
  • MLS playoffs were a success and MLS Cup was arguably the best edition ever
  • The U.S. team defeats Iran to advance to the knockout stages of the 2022 World Cup.

The World Cup success is not necessarily groundbreaking. The U.S. team has now advanced out of the group stages in four of the last five World Cup in which it has participated. That’s no small accomplishment.

But after the disappointments of the World Cup qualifying failure in 2017 and then trying to rebuild the team with an extremely young group of players, this success is, to many fans, as sweet as the wins over Portugal and Mexico in 2002 or the Landon Donovan heroics against Algeria in 2010.

Regardless of how the knockouts play out, this tournament will set the stage well for the upcoming cycle where the U.S. team will co-host the World Cup in 2026.

Adams was immense

It sounds like a broken record, but Tyler Adams put in yet another incredible performance. It’s no overstatement that he’s been perhaps the best defensive midfielder at the tournament, so far. Against Iran, he had perhaps his best outing. His numbers were eye-opening.

Tyler Adams: raw numbers in 1-0 win vs. Iran
90 mins
84 touches
62/69 passing
7/8 long balls
12 recoveries
3/3 tackling
6/9 ground duels won
1/2 aerials
1 clearance
11 passes into the final third
2x fouled
1 foul also a YC.
– WOWzers— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) November 29, 2022

But beyond his stats, it was the eyeball test. Just by watching him, he kept the game under control for the U.S. team on both sides of the ball. He broke up plays. He was key in the transition between the defense and the attack. He covered so much ground to get back into the defense and cover the entire field. He rarely touched the ball into the attacking third, but he was everywhere.

Adams’ touchmap is below (attacking left)

Adams has been one of the tournament’s breakout players and for long-time American fans it has been fun to watch as he has gone through so many of the country’s modern developmental channels: U.S. U-17 World Cup, MLS homegrown, USL Championship (winning the title with the Red Bulls II), MLS (winning the Supporters Shield), the U.S. U-20 World Cup team, the Bundesliga, Champions League semifinals, the Premier League, and the U.S. World Cup team where he’s been the captain.

When you list it all, it’s remarkable. When you realize he still hasn’t turned 24 yet, it’s incredible.

Pulisic’s big moment

There has been so much written about Christian Pulisic and when it comes down to his club career, it isn’t always pretty. While he is at a huge club in Chelsea, we’ve seen him move in and out of the lineup under various managers. The British press has been on him about missing chances. There is speculation about whether he will get sold or replaced in the lineup.

But lost in all of this is that he is finding a way to deliver regularly when the U.S. team needs him. He is regularly there to deliver big goals or hit big assists – against Mexico in Cincinnati or the Nations League final in Denver. His assist to Weah against Wales was monumental. But he delivers the most for the U.S. team when needed and this was his big moment in the 39th minute when he risked injury on a dangerous play to ensure the U.S. team found a goal against Iran.

Pulisic puts it away! ????

???? » @FOXSoccer
pic.twitter.com/HPId4hsu4a— U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (@USMNT) November 29, 2022

It was his “Landon Donovan” moment and it resembled how Donovan was always there for the U.S. team when needed, scoring in two World Cup group stages and knockouts along with the Confederations Cup and Gold Cup wins.

But this was a moment where Pulisic stepped into being an all-time U.S. player. Yes, his club career has been groundbreaking for an American. But in terms of delivering for the U.S. team, he needed goals at the highest of stages and he did that here.

Christian Pulisic sends a message of support to his USMNT teammates ??????????

(via @AreaSportsNet@Adimitri24pic.twitter.com/Vk0yculZfA— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 29, 2022

Dest and Robinson

The U.S. team’s fullbacks were a big source of the attack. The U.S. clearly felt most comfortable going out wide. While the wingers in Weah and Pulisic often would cut into the middle, it was Antonee Robinson and Sergino Dest who pushed forward and stayed out wide. For the first 60-70 minutes, they helped stretch Iran’s defense and open the game up.

For Dest, what has been important regarding him has been his defense. His offense has always been first-rate, but his defense has been in question. Against Iran, was beaten a few times but otherwise had a great defensive performance.

Dest’s touchmap is below (attacking left)

For Robinson, his engine and work-rate were among the best in the tournament. The left-back position has historically been an Achilles Heel for the U.S. team, but Robinson is using this tournament to be the best natural left back the program has had. His crossing still needs to be better, but his pure athleticism requires so much attention that it opens doors.

Robinson’s touchmap is below (attacking left)

Against Iran, Robinson’s crossing was scattered but he had nine recoveries, won 4/6 of his total duels, and had nine passes into the final third. He also had 70 touches in 90 minutes. Meanwhile, Dest had 4/5 successful dribbles, had 76 touches in 82 minutes, was 37/42 passing with seven passes into the final third. Then, of course, Dest had the assist on Pulisic’s goal via a header.

Both players had Iran at their heels but according to the stats, Robinson was 1/8 in crossing and Dest was 0/4. If these two can find a way to complete more than 1/12 combined crossing, the U.S. team would be even more dynamic offensively.

Yes, the team needs to get better in set pieces to score more. But having better fullback crossing would also pay big dividends. It doesn’t change the fact, however, that both have been big net positives for the team.

Closing out the game

Closing out the win was tough for the U.S. team and if the team scores the opener against the Netherlands, it will need to be better controlling the tempo or else a good Dutch team will find an equalizer.

Losing a player like Pulisic puts Berhalter to the test but Berhalter made substantial changes to mixed results.

The injury replacement for Josh Sargent in the 77th minute was Haji Wright, and Wright struggled immensely to connect with players, to shoot properly, or even to take the ball to the corner to seal out the win at the end of stoppage time.

The decision to replace Dest might have been necessary as Dest is not in the best fitness given the time he missed in October and early November at AC Milan with his injury. He has rarely gone 90 minutes in a game this season. Shaq Moore is seen as a defensive 1v1 replacement but he was out of synch with his team getting forward.

The change in formation starting in the 82nd minute (for a total of 18 minutes, including stoppage time) was the toughest decision. When he brought Walker Zimmerman into the game, it was not a like-for-like sub and he went to five in the back. Iran had resulted to sending hopeful balls into the box to find a shot.Zimmerman did what Berhalter wanted in that he was clearing balls out of danger by winning headers. But a five-man backline left the U.S. team out-manned in the midfield. Kellyn Acosta came into the game in the 65th minute and he won some important duals and defensively forced Iran outside, but the U.S. team ceded a lot of possession and was too weak on its counterattack in missing open runners and not executing passes that create good chances.The U.S. ended up making this much harder than it had to be.

Looking ahead to the Netherlands

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game against the Netherlands in the Round of 16, Berhalter will likely want to continue to keep most of his lineup in-tact. Their chemistry is an asset at this point.But will he be able to?The good news is that the U.S. team has no suspensions, but it has two injuries with Sargent and Pulisic.Following the game, it was announced that Pulisic went to the hospital for observation for a pelvic contusion. Pulisic has said that he will be ready for Saturday, but a little bit of perspective is necessary in that players are typically unreliable when talking about their own health for huge games. Players often say they are 100% or will be 100% for big games but this will come down to how Berhalter, his staff, and the U.S. medical team views him.

The injury to Sargent is not yet clear and he left the game holding his ankle/leg. Unlike Pulisic, he was unable to continue for even a brief period.

If Pulisic can play, he starts in this game. If he can’t, Berhalter will have to make decisions. Does he go with Aaronson again or does he try someone else like Gio Reyna or Jordan Morris? For Aaronson, if he starts out wide for Pulisic, it removes the most important backup midfielder from the bench. Aaronson has begun to thrive in the midfield (his natural position) after playing as a winger for Berhalter.It also raises the question over Reyna’s health who did not play against Iran and has only made one brief appearance (against England) in this tournament. He’s one of the most talented players on the team, but if he is not playing right now the likely assumption is that there are questions over his fitness and health. He has suffered numerous reinjuries since his original September 2021 injury and last just a half in his recent game before the break with Borussia Dortmund. If he is not coming off the bench in must win game against Iran, it seems like a stretch he will start four days later against the Netherlands.

Another area where Berhalter will have to decide is in central defense. Ream has been excellent in Qatar but Berhalter has played him with Zimmerman and then Carter-Vickers. One of the reasons why Berhalter started Carter-Vickers against Iran is that he expected Iran to sit back similar to how Scottish opponents sit back against Celtic. But against the Netherlands, the U.S. will be back on its heels more. Does that then make Zimmerman the preferred option as he was against England?

Finally, what does Berhalter do about center forward? Sargent worked very hard against Iran, connected with his wingers, and was an asset in defense. He could be a good option against the Netherlands if he is healthy.

But if Sargent isn’t healthy (which is a real concern), then it will come down to either Haji Wright or Jesus Ferreira. Wright hasn’t played well in Qatar either off the bench against Wales and Iran or when he started against England. Because of that, Ferreira could have a realistic chance to start against Holland. He presses well, connects well with his teammates, and moves well. He had a great season with FC Dallas but struggled in the final weeks. Still, Berhalter might be looking for a different look.

Against the Netherlands, Berhalter is facing some serious decisions and ways to get the most out of his squad amid serious concerns over the health and form of several key players. If the U.S. team plays up to its ability, an upset is realistic.

Gregg Berhalter report card: How USMNT coach fared in World Cup win against Iran

By Jeff RueterNov 30, 2022120


The United States men needed all of their collective resolve to see out a 1-0 win over Iran, securing a place in the round of 16. 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 and a B+ against England, let’s take a look at the decisions Gregg Berhalter made against Iran. You’ll get brief first-take reactions from during the action before longer insight from the hours following the match.And, for your peace of mind as you get beyond the first section: no, the Vibes grade does not impact his weighted final average, just as it didn’t against England. Reframe your inevitable jokes accordingly. 


Line-up/initial tactics

First impression: Long derided as “an MLS coach” by his critics among the fanbase, Berhalter broke from tradition by playing a line-up devoid of players from the domestic league. The final MLS regular, Walker Zimmerman, made way for Celtic defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, while Josh Sargent returned to the starting striker role after Haji Wright had played against England. 

It’s oddly assuring to see so much of the line-up unchanged for a third straight game. It’s clear that Berhalter has established (most of) his first-choice team and the cohesion showed in their interplay and pressing against England. Sargent will need to do better than he did against Wales (when he was largely ineffective beyond early build-up) and it’s a big call to trust Carter-Vickers for his World Cup debut in this spot.

Lasting impression: Throughout qualifying, the theme was that Berhalter entered a game with one idea and, too often, needed to make radical changes at the break. For a third straight match in this World Cup, it was his first impression which proved stronger than what was to come.Line-up consistency has been a major advantage for the U.S. in close games — use Iran for contrast, as only six starters from their win against Wales began the match on Tuesday. International soccer is often less tactically astute than its club alternative due to the lack of training these teams get before a tournament.Still, cementing a (high-level) midfield trio of Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie has ensured the United States don’t get caught up in overly stretched games. The game management approach may make close contests intensely stressful in the final minutes, but it has lulled all three Group B opponents into playing as a worse version of their usual selves.

The real gambit was unleashing Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson in the first half. Held in a more defensive mindset against Wales, the two were vital to keeping Iran from settling into a compact low block as they had intended. It stretched Iran’s defense and forced marking shifts which unsettled their shape in the first half, allowing for several great scoring opportunities. It was just dessert that Dest got credit for the assist for Christian Pulisic’s decisive goal, even if McKennie ought to get his flowers for an impeccable ball from deep.Out of possession, Berhalter kept the 4-4-2 shape which nullified England, but this time it was Musah moonlighting as a right midfielder rather than McKennie. The defensive awareness of the midfielders helped buy Dest and Robinson some time as they returned to their defensive positions and kept the relatively slow center-backs Carter-Vickers and Tim Ream from being overrun on the break.That first half was as sturdy as it was sexy. I can’t think of a much more encouraging way to approach a must-win game.

Grade: A+


Vibes

We got a good omen early on, as Berhalter managed his first televised behind-the-back bounce pass of the tournament in the fourth minute. It came with some poetic justice, as Ream — who played just once in qualifying but has been beyond dependable in Qatar — was the recipient of his coach’s standby gimmick.Berhalter was on his A-game for an elimination match. He stuck with a T-shirt, this time pairing a black shirt with black pants. Respected kicks artist The Surgeon gave a crucial assist by making some custom red-white-and-blue Air Jordan 1s for the occasion.

(Photo: Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

I agree with colleague Caoimhe O’Neill’s assessment that the underdressed approach can often do his shoe game a disservice. Personally, a tee-and-blazer look would up that ante. Still, The Surgeon recognized the moment and came through.

Grade: If I say F, will you hold your comments?


Tactical tweaks/half-time adjustments

First impression: Once again, Berhalter took a pretty reserved approach to in-game management. If anything, the U.S. played a more conservative approach to the second half after Pulisic gave his body up for a goal late in the first. They created fewer clear-cut chances and were trying to control the match to avoid letting Iran back in. The big pivot came as stoppage time neared, leaving the team with just one true attacker and running out the prevent defense. 

Lasting impression: I’ve got to show my hand here for posterity: I’m not a proponent of throwing in extra defenders and embracing a flurry of crosses. I’ve seen far too many examples of a team absorbing that pressure and wilting, losing points in the process. It would’ve been one thing if a draw would have taken the U.S. through but when a single goal would’ve turned triumph into tragedy, it was a gamble that seemed unnecessary to make.

Look, Iran waited a long time to turn the temperature up. Pulisic’s injury and the related delay may have eliminated any chance of a quick response but the U.S. was as responsible as Iran in dictating the tempo of events for the first 20 minutes or longer of the second half. It wasn’t until Timothy Weah (who was excellent again on the right and nearly added the second goal if it weren’t for the finest of offside margins) and Dest made way for Nashville SC duo Zimmerman and Shaq Moore in the 82nd minute that Iran really put Matt Turner under duress.

There were ways to avoid this and nearly all of them will be more relevant in the next section. It still seemed like an unnecessary risk, the scale of which could have been lessened with a slightly less fortifying approach.

Grade: D


Substitutions

First impression: The first chance was one of necessity but I like the call for Brenden Aaronson in Pulisic’s place. The Leeds United man is an expert at pressing and brings interplay potential with his midfielder’s mentality, which could free up McKennie even more in attack. Kellyn Acosta makes sense to keep the engine room whirring in McKennie’s stead and is the U.S’s best set-piece specialist. It’s unfortunate to see Sargent — whose hold-up play was invaluable on Tuesday — leave due to injury but Wright does offer better hold-up play than Jesus Ferreira. 

But the bunkering in… must we?

Lasting impression: There are three mentalities of substitutions made in this game, so let’s separate them accordingly.

The first is the most obvious: those necessitated by injuries. It was downright heroic to see Pulisic limp across the field until half-time to ensure Berhalter didn’t need to use one of his three sub windows and Sargent was similarly dinged up by the time his number graced the fourth official’s board. Aaronson made an immediate impact with his pressing, nearly creating a chance off a defender’s heavy touch within the first two minutes of play resuming. Wright did little to change the game up top but became a vital outlet once stoppage time began. 

The only example of the second type — that is, a coach being free to choose who comes off and who replaces him — was when McKennie made way for Acosta. The Juventus midfielder had started to look leggy as the second half progressed. Given how vital his work rate is to his overall effectiveness, a tired McKennie is undeniably a worse version of himself. Acosta kept up the intensity that the U.S. needed to carry them through the next 20 minutes.

The third came from a place of desperation, yearning to see out a 1-0 result when a single conceded goal would have knocked the United States out. Zimmerman made up for his gaffe against Wales with a result-saving clearance inside the six-yard box and was mostly imperious at heading away crosses.

As for Moore… I’ll leave it up to U.S. legend and The Athletic columnist Clint Dempsey, working as a FOX analyst: “I saw him raise his arm saying, ‘My bad’ more than he completed a pass.”

Grade: C+


Final marks

It was effective but it’s easy to envision that a stronger attacking team would have done better with the chances Berhalter’s side handed Iran late in the match.

The Iran manager Carlos Queiroz will understandably be wishing that Alireza Jahanbakhsh had kept himself free of suspension as the Feyenoord winger could have done wonders to help his team’s attack in the second half. Queiroz worked with who he had. Even if they were clearly chasing a goal, it didn’t seem effective until the U.S.’s response.

The decision to go for a prevent defense doesn’t instil me with much confidence, especially when the U.S. had created so many chances for the opening hour of the match. 

Ultimately, the U.S. didn’t seem overpowered by Iran until Berhalter’s changes let the opposition back in. It worked out this time and he’s had a pretty good tournament to date, but one has to wonder if we really needed to bite through so many fingernails late in the game.

Grade: B

The key U.S. talking points you may have missed at the World Cup…

By Sam Stejskal 6h ago


The U.S. men’s national team’s dramatic 1-0 win against Iran on Tuesday will likely go down as one of the most memorable victories in their history: A must-win game, an intense atmosphere, a white-knuckle period of stoppage time and, ultimately, relief.We looked at the big picture of what the win meant for the World Cup here in Qatar and for a squad that is meant to grow together before a 2026 World Cup to be played largely on home soil.There were so many pieces to the Iran victory that, when looking back, were crucial in how the game played out. Walker Zimmerman’s standout substitute performance, Cameron Carter-Vickers’ solid first start of this entire World Cup campaign, including the qualifiers, at center-back, Sergino Dest’s continued good play, and the U.S.’s inability once again to take full advantage of their attacking moments.There were also some controversial decisions from head coach Gregg Berhalter that dropped the U.S. into a more defensive posture in the second half. But the coach has had a very good tournament on the whole…


Berhalter’s bold move at center-back paid off

Berhalter made a significant change to his starting XI on Tuesday, dropping Zimmerman and inserting Carter-Vickers alongside Tim Ream at center-back.Zimmerman has been one of the U.S.’s steadiest players since October, when he was called into the squad and inserted into the line-up after Ream and fellow center-back John Brooks withdrew from that window of qualifiers.He captained the U.S. in their final qualifier in March, then again in their second to last game before the World Cup in September. As expected, he then started the first two matches here in Qatar.

 cameron-carter-vickersCameron Carter-Vickers battles for the ball against Iran (Photo: John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

For the most part, he played well, but he had a few shaky moments, including the costly penalty he gave up against Wales and a few errant passes and giveaways against England.To see Zimmerman benched for such a crucial game was still surprising. Berhalter said he felt Carter-Vickers’ extensive experience playing against low blocks in the Scottish Premiership with champions Celtic would help the U.S. in its distribution against an Iran team that figured to sit deep. He was right. Carter-Vickers put in a solid shift and looked comfortable on the ball, completing 58 of his 65 attempted passes and, crucially, not committing any dangerous turnovers.Berhalter said it was difficult to let Zimmerman know he was being benched, but they spoke about an important role he could play in the late stages. “We talked to him beforehand about the plan to come into a back five,” Berhalter said. “And we said it was gonna be really important for him to win the aerial duels — he did just that.”Indeed, he did. Zimmerman came on with eight minutes of the 90 to play and was immense in the middle of the back five, dominating aerially and crucially clearing the ball off the line after it popped toward goal following a 98th-minute challenge between goalkeeper Matt Turner and Iran striker Mehdi Taremi. Zimmerman said after the match that he was naturally saddened when Berhalter told him on Monday he wasn’t starting, but that he quickly shifted his approach to being as good a team-mate as he could while remaining focused on the job he might have to do off the bench to help the U.S. close out the match.That kind of mindset is critical in a tournament setting. It is natural for players to be disappointed when they are not on the field, especially those such as Zimmerman, who have been a big part of a team for so long, but being able to positively contribute from a reserve role can still make a difference. His performance did not go unnoticed by his colleagues.“Obviously, he played well in the first game but gives away a penalty, then bounces back against England, has a really good game, keeps a clean sheet,” said left-back Antonee Robinson.“After that, he would have been disappointed to not be starting, but he comes on and I just remember seeing him jumping up and winning about three or four headers in a row and thinking, you know, ‘That’s someone not thinking about himself, that’s someone giving everything, putting his body on the line for the team’.“That’s what’s got us through — the overriding feeling that it’s just everyone giving their all for the team.”

Along with Turner, full-backs Robinson and Dest and midfielders Tyler AdamsYunus Musah and Weston McKennie, the center-backs once again put in a top-tier defensive performance.The U.S. has defended excellently all tournament, with two clean sheets and only conceding through that Gareth Bale penalty.According to FBref.com, they have only allowed 2.3 expected goals in the group stage — the third-lowest total among the eight teams who had played all three group matches as of Wednesday morning. That number is also lower than 10 of the 24 teams who had played just twice. It has been impressive.

Are USMNT’s World Cup last 16 opponents called Holland or the Netherlands?


Dest continues to dazzle

Entering the World Cup, there were zero doubts about Dest’s talent, but there was a question about whether he would play with enough discipline to get the most out of his substantial gifts.

For club and country, Dest has a tendency to freelance. The right-back, on loan at AC Milan from Barcelona, is a skilled attacker but can sometimes become a bit too enamoured with that side of the game, dribbling into trouble or neglecting his defensive responsibilities in a manner that can cost his team.None of that has shown up in Qatar. Dest has been rock solid defensively, doing a good job of remaining organized and in touch with his fellow defenders and winning key challenges.

“He was unbelievable,” goalkeeper Turner said after the win over Iran. “Free flowing, up and down the field. And what I’ve noticed the most about him is he always seems to show up defensively in big moments. He’s tracking runners in the box really, really well.”

Dest has also contributed plenty to the attack, teaming up with McKennie and Timothy Weah to control the right side against England before being involved in a few chances on Tuesday.His most notable involvement came with the goal. Dest made an excellent run in behind the left side of the Iran defense. McKennie played a lovely ball over the top that Dest got on the end of in the area. Instead of heading the ball toward goal, he smartly angled it towards the onrushing Christian Pulisic at the opposite post, allowing the winger to bury the chance from a few yards out for what turned out to be the winner which brought qualification for the knockout phase.It came through different players but, remarkably, the goal was a carbon copy of one the U.S. scored way back in the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup.It was a move the U.S. worked on explicitly ahead of the Iran match. They have drilled it repeatedly, drawing Iran to one side of the field, then dropping the ball back to a midfielder who has enough time to pick his head up and hit a diagonal ball to an advancing full-back on the opposite side.“We talked about it before the game. That exact, exact play was how we were going to score,” Ream said. “Credit to Serg, seeing that he could hit the ball back across. And Christian was told before the game. ‘Crash that back post’. That’s exactly what he did and it happened. Perfect, perfect, perfect setup.”


Chances need to be taken in attack

The U.S. got themselves into some excellent positions against Iran. As The Athletic’s Ahmed Walid outlined in his tactical breakdown on Wednesday, the Americans worked extremely well down the left flank, with the wide rotations between Pulisic, McKennie and Robinson unbalancing Iran.

Those rotations helped create space for McKennie to find Dest in the build-up to the goal.

 TIM-WEAH-USAWeah was one of the forward players guilty of missing a good chance (Photo: Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Despite all of that, the U.S. still struggled once they arrived in the final third. That has been a common theme throughout their World Cup campaign. They have done well to control the run of play but have largely struggled to turn their pressure into chances and goals.Some of that is understandable — it’s difficult for just about every team to score goals at a World Cup. Some of it, though, has been down to poor decision-making and execution in the most important areas on the field. We saw that again versus Iran.

The misfires started in the second minute, when Pulisic squandered an opportunity to play Josh Sargent through into the box, instead dribbling and losing the ball after a lengthy run forward.

There was another poor decision in the 19th minute, when McKennie did not see and failed to play a relatively easy through ball that would have put Pulisic in for a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Weah had a chance that should have been far more dangerous in the 28th minute, heading a weak attempt on goal when he had the time and space to take the ball down and hammer a shot.

The U.S. made all the right choices five minutes later, but an open Weah missed the target entirely from about 12 yards. He and Sargent also failed to even attempt a shot on a two-on-two break they had on the stroke of half-time.

That came just before some excellent combination play between Weah, Musah and McKennie ended with Musah dribbling into trouble instead of playing a simple square pass that would have put an onrushing Weah into the area.

Excluding the Weah goal disallowed for offside, that’s six different moments in the first half alone where the U.S. was in a great spot to attack, but failed to capitalize because of poor choices, poor execution or a combination of the two.

No team is ever going to finish every solid attacking movement, but the U.S. would have had a much, much less anxious evening had they been just a little bit more efficient against Iran.

If they want to make a run in the knockouts, they will need to be more clinical.

USA vs. Iran, 2022 World Cup: Man of the Match

One performance soared above all the others. By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Dec 1, 2022, 10:11am PST  Stars and Stripes

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

The United States Men’s National Team qualified for the knockout stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Iran in their final group stage match on Tuesday. Christian Pulisic’s first half goal was the difference in a match that had USMNT fans everywhere pacing with anxiety for much of the match.

The only chance for the USMNT to advance to the knockout stage was with a win, so it was important that Pulisic was able to score, and give up his body in the process. He left the match at halftime with what was diagnosed as a pelvic contusion, after he collided with Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand while scoring the game-winning goal. His performance in the first half was enough for the SSFC community, who voted him the Man of the Match with an average 8.40 rating.

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

*no actual science was used, your mileage may vary

The full set of community ratings:

Christian Pulisic – 8.40

Tyler Adams – 8.19

Sergiño Dest – 7.97

Tim Ream – 7.62

Yunus Musah – 7.49

Matt Turner – 7.35

Weston McKennie – 7.15

Josh Sargent – 7.15

Cameron Carter-Vickers – 6.94

Walker Zimmerman – 6.72

Tim Weah – 6.71

Antonee Robinson – 6.68

Brenden Aaronson – 6.45

How USA’s left-side rotations wreaked havoc against Iran

By Ahmed Walid Nov 30, 2022 54


Perhaps the biggest compliment a national team can get nowadays, from a technical perspective, is for them to look like a domestic team.This winter World Cup has meant there is little preparation time; most countries only had a week before the tournament started. Therefore, it doesn’t look out of place that we are witnessing poor attacking solutions with mid-blocks and off-ball organisation taking over.However, there are a few sides who do look like a domestic team. One of those is the United States, who are not only showcasing their organisation off the ball, but on it, too.

A feature of Gregg Berhalter’s side in possession is their rotations out wide, and this aspect of their attacking game was essential in their win against Iran to secure a place in the round of 16.

The U.S. started in their regular 4-3-3, while Iran’s shape without the ball was initially a 4-4-1-1.

Throughout the first half, it was common to see Weston McKennie in a left-back position with Christian Pulisic moving inside and Antonee Robinson, the actual full-back, ahead of both down the touchline.

Robinson is so high, below, that he isn’t even in the frame.

McKennie regularly notified Robinson about these rotations, constantly signalling to the Fulham left-back to push forward so they could switch positions…

… and this disrupted Iran’s right side. With Robinson pushing forward and Pulisic on that side, Ali Gholizadeh, Iran’s right-winger, was unaware whether he should drop or keep his positioning…

… and Pulisic’s movement inside into the half-space just added more confusion regarding who should pick up who.

Ahmad Nourollahi’s movement towards McKennie could have created a gap in the centre of the midfield because Iran played with only two central midfielders.

That is why McKennie was always signalling for Robinson to push forward, so he could drop into that free left-back position (Berhalter, below, can be seen pointing for Robinson to push up).

Because of the threat of Pulisic in the half-space, Ramin Rezaeian, Iran’s right-back, and Gholizadeh were dragged out of position…

… Nourollahi had to drop to defend the centre of the pitch, which allowed McKennie free reign.

Here, the Juventus midfielder signalled for the ball to be played into him because Nourollahi was dropping and Gholizadeh was dragged away by Robinson’s movement up the pitch…

… but the ball isn’t played into him and Tim Ream decides to go for the longer pass towards Robinson.

In the first half, McKennie was orchestrating the U.S. build-up, providing instructions to Robinson and telling his back line where he wanted the ball.

Once Robinson’s movement forward dragged Gholizadeh away, McKennie became free to receive the ball…

… as Nourollahi couldn’t leave the centre of the pitch; his starting position was often too far from the ball.

So, a pass from Tyler Adams into McKennie here was collected easily by the latter with room to take his time and pick the pass. These rotations didn’t only allow McKennie more time and space, they created space out wide, with Pulisic’s movement dragging Rezaeian inside the pitch as Robinson pushed forward.

Nourollahi’s starting position in the centre of a midfield four positioned him too far from McKennie when the American dropped into that left-back position.

This meant McKennie had all the time he needed to ping those long passes.

And when the Iran midfielder pushed up, the smart movement from Pulisic and Robinson forced his right-back, Rezaeian, and right-winger, Gholizadeh, into uncomfortable positions…

… so he had to drop and protect the centre of the pitch, which meant McKennie was free to receive the ball.

In this attack, Adams played the pass first into Ream…

… who then found McKennie with Gholizadeh unable to move up because of the threat of Robinson and Nourollahi being too far from the American midfielder.Another effect of these rotations was that with Pulisic dragging Rezaeian with him…

… it created a gap in the Iranian defensive block, which McKennie played passes through.

Carlos Queiroz and his staff probably identified the problem as the switch to a 4-5-1 made sense. In this shape, Nourollahi moved up freely to press McKennie as there was now central cover behind him.

The problem for Iran was that Mehdi Taremi was late to arrive in the press on one occasion. So the five-man midfield became a four-man midfield and the U.S. rotations kicked in.

In the attack that led to the winner, Pulisic’s inside positioning dragged Rezaeian with him. Out wide, Gholizadeh dropped even before Robinson did to fill the gap created because of Rezaeian’s movement. This forced Nourollahi to retreat, especially with Taremi’s late recovery making it a four-man midfield…

… which increased the distance between the Iranian midfielder and McKennie.

Adams’ pass into Robinson dragged Nourollahi further away to support his right-winger…

… so the quick pass backwards from Robinson meant Adams and McKennie had more time on the ball without any pressure.

After McKennie received the pass from Adams, he plays it over the Iranian defence to the advancing Sergino Dest. While that was occurring, Pulisic’s position in the left half-space allowed him to put himself in a good scoring position when Dest heads the ball into his path…

… and he eventually scored the priceless winner.

The U.S.’ wide rotations have been a key theme for Berhalter’s side during the World Cup and it helped in breaking down the Iranian defence.

Now the question is, can it help the Americans reach their first World Cup quarter-final in 20 years?

How Sergiño Dest, a ‘different’ sort of Dutchman, was drawn to the USMNT

How Sergiño Dest, a ‘different’ sort of Dutchman, was drawn to the USMNT

Sam Stejskal Nov 14, 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.


“Art for the sake of art,” bestselling Dutch author Auke Kok once said, means nothing in the Netherlands.

“It’s not appreciated,” Kok told David Winner in “Brilliant Orange,” Winner’s seminal work on the intersection of Dutch football, history and culture. “Art must have a goal. We say: What is the function? That’s a very deep Dutch principle. What’s the use? What’s the purpose? What’s it for?”That sort of mindset is borne of the Netherlands’ geography. A full 26 percent of the country’s land mass is below sea level. Most of that terrain was man-made, reclaimed from the water and now kept dry by a massive network of canals, pumping stations and dikes. It’s a small and crowded nation, with nearly 18 million people squeezing into an area not much larger than the state of Maryland. The never-ending fight with the sea and the sheer number of humans in such a tiny country mean space is at a premium. Every slice of land must be accounted for, every building and public area meticulously designed and planned. “The Dutch are pragmatic, right? That’s in our history,” said New England Revolution assistant coach Dave van den Bergh, a native Amsterdammer who came up through the famed Ajax academy and earned one cap for the Netherlands before ending his playing career and beginning his coaching journey in the U.S. “We had to be pragmatic with space, with architecture. We had to be pragmatic in our battle with the water, to find new land, all that stuff.”When Van den Bergh was growing up, that pragmatism governed the country’s football. He graduated from Ajax’s academy to its first team in 1995. That squad, which had won the UEFA Champions League weeks before Van den Bergh was promoted, is still considered one of the best in the history of the sport. But while the group was immensely talented, it didn’t play with too much flair. Manager Louis van Gaal built the team more around clever solutions than fantastical visions. “Everything was very, very functional,” Van den Bergh said. “There was not a whole lot of, let me say, YouTube-worthy moves. As a team, the soccer was really good, the spacing was good, everything was good about that team. They were world champions for a reason. But you do not go and watch that team to go for an individual highlight reel.” Things have of course changed over the years, but Ajax, understandably, still broadly sticks with the same approach. With few exceptions, players are expected to understand their position and those of their teammates, to really think about their movements and actions, to play quickly and simply. It’s largely the same for the Dutch national team, which is now led by Van Gaal. In Holland, in both soccer and life, function generally dominates form and egalitarianism usually takes precedence over individuality.Sergiño Dest never fit with that mindset. Perhaps that’s part of why the Ajax product won’t be suiting up for his native Netherlands at the World Cup. Instead, he will represent the homeland of his father, the United States.In 2016, Van den Bergh, then the head coach of the U.S. U-15 team, led the initial effort to bring Dest into the U.S. program in 2016 after a contact at Ajax told him about an academy player who happened to be an American citizen.“He’s different,” said Van den Bergh. “That’s a strength of his. Hopefully it doesn’t become a weakness.”


Dest’s hometown of Almere. (Photo: Sam Stejskal)

Dest’s story began in Almere, a city of slightly more than 200,000, about 25 miles east of central Amsterdam. Almere is the Netherlands’ newest city. The land on which it sits wasn’t reclaimed (through damming off portions of a body of water and then pumping all of it out) until the late-1960s. The first residents didn’t move in until 1976. Where old Amsterdam is tight, cramped and vertical, with the tall, narrow buildings on some of the inner city’s cobbled streets seeming to lean in toward each other, Almere is spread out, modern and colorful. The buildings here have an almost whimsical quality to them. Some of the homes wouldn’t look out of place in a Dr. Seuss book. Almere has served as a fascinating laboratory for city planning, a destination for architecture enthusiasts and an illustration of how municipalities can successfully integrate nature into an urban environment. It’s experimental — residents are regularly encouraged to give input and make choices about land use and infrastructure design. Politicians, architects and planners from every corner of the globe travel here to look at and learn from the city.The core of town, though, is a bit antiseptic. The exit from the central train station deposits riders into what amounts to an outdoor mall populated with international chains like Zara, H&M and Burger King. There are still canals and bikes everywhere. It’s still Dutch. It’s just a bit different than the norm.“It was built up more or less like an American city, with suburbs,” said Van den Bergh. “It’s like suburbia, almost.”Things get a little bit more interesting once you move out of downtown. De Fantasie, a cluster of about a dozen homes located across a small lake from central Almere, became reality through a contest commissioned by the city to build the simplest houses imaginable. There were a few parameters, including a rule banning the use of any foundations in construction.One of the most well-known homes there was designed in 1982 by architect Jan Benthem, who was responsible for modernizing Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. It consists of four tiny, windowless box rooms and one large, open living space encased in glass walls overlooking a canal. It’s held up by a latticework of radiant green steel triangles. It’s a striking, modern home, a monument to simplicity. Benthem, whom Winner interviewed in “Brilliant Orange,” still lives in it.

Architect Jan Benthem’s home in De Fantasie. (Photo: Sam Stejskal)

“I think it is very Dutch to look for a simple solution,” Benthem told Winner. “And the biggest thrill in our work is to find an even simpler solution. That is what we like. In the end the most satisfying solution is the one where you have cleared everything away and there is no solution at all any more but, at the same time, the problem has been solved.”

Dest grew up not far from De Fantasie. His father Kenneth, now 74, was born in Suriname, which at the time was a Dutch colony, but he moved with his family to Brooklyn as a youngster. After playing soccer at SUNY Canton in upstate New York, the elder Dest was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the Vietnam War. He remained in the military after Vietnam, and was eventually stationed in Germany. While there, he’d occasionally travel to Amsterdam for leisure time. He met Sergiño’s mother, a Dutchwoman of Surinamese origin, on one such trip. They began dating, broke up due to the strains of long distance, but later ended up back together, with the couple ultimately settling in Almere, where they had Sergiño. At school, Dest stood out to his teachers from a young age — not because of any special talent, but for the way he held himself apart from the group.“They always noticed that whenever the students had to do things together, he always was outside the circle a bit, observing the people, not really in the middle of it,” said Kenneth Dest. “That was his nature. Seeing what type of individuals they were, not always jumping in, a bit quiet.” Although he kept some distance at school, Dest was always comfortable with a ball at his feet. But even his football preferences were a bit unusual for a Dutch kid coming of age in the 2000s. Growing up, he didn’t idolize Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie or the other stars who led the Netherlands to a runner-up finish at the 2010 World Cup. Rather, he latched on to a trio of big-name, flashy Brazilians.“I watched little movies from Ronaldinho, from good soccer players — Robinho, Ronaldo Lima — and I was always practicing them outside of my home,” Dest said from outside Zonnewiel in a video produced by U.S. Soccer in 2020. “I trained myself really hard, I tried to do every trick and I couldn’t go inside ’til the trick worked out.”

To anyone who has seen Dest play for Ajax, Barcelona, AC Milan or the U.S., the fact that he spent a good chunk of his youth trying to emulate Ronaldinho will come as no surprise. The 22-year-old, who spent part of his youth career as a winger, is masterful with the ball, capable of sublime tricks uncommon for any player, nevermind a right back. 

Read more: England 0-0 USA: All-action McKennie, retreating Kane and how USMNT dominated right side

It’s a special talent, but it’s also antithetical to the classic Dutch approach. Dest can play simple, one- and two-touch soccer. Watching some of his better performances, it’s clear that he understands tactics and knows how to play the role that his coach asks of him. But the strong undercurrent of individualism in his game rises to the surface fairly often. Dest sometimes looks uninterested in playing the role that his team requires of him. Occasionally, he’ll neglect his defensive duties or dribble into trouble. His game is rarely simple. Sometimes that works in his favor, other times it burns him. Either way, Dest is decidedly not pragmatic.

“He works his ass off every single day, whether it’s on the field, whether it’s off the field, he does a lot of stuff for himself,” said Van den Bergh. “Now, whether it is always the right thing? He loves to do tricks and all that kind of stuff, sometimes I think coaches would like to see him put a little bit more effort into the tactical part of his game, or functional technique instead of the tricks. When you’re a right back, maybe you don’t want to do too many of those in your own 18-yard box.” 

That kind of approach made things difficult for Dest at Ajax. He joined the club’s academy from the youth system of second-division side Almere City FC in 2012 at the age of 12. He didn’t start regularly for the club until he reached the U-17s, though. Part of the reason that Ajax staffer tipped Van den Bergh off to Dest in 2016 was because, as a reserve in the Ajax academy, Dest wasn’t seen as a legitimate prospect for the Dutch youth national team setup. To them, his unpredictable style made him expendable. 

Dest ended up joining and sticking with the U.S., in part because of the pride that both he and his father, who served in the U.S. military for roughly 25 years before retiring from the Army in 1994, feel in their Americanness, and in part because the program prioritized him in a way that the Dutch national team never did.

“He felt a sense of loyalty,” said Kenneth Dest. “He played in the youth World Cup with the U.S. He got his chances with the U.S., not with the Netherlands. Only after he started growing as a player, then all of a sudden they had an eye for him. But you could always see the steady line with the U.S. The loyalty, that matters to him.”

Dest with Ajax’s U-19 team. (Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images)

His freewheeling tendencies weren’t the only thing that put him at a disadvantage at Ajax. Dest, to this day, has a habit of questioning everything. His queries extended well beyond trying to understand tactics and his role in the team. Every drill, every task and every gym session at De Toekomst would be accompanied by him asking why he had to perform it, no matter how much the inquiries broke protocol or annoyed staffers.

In small doses, that curiosity is a great trait for a kid. It shows a natural desire to understand more about one’s surroundings. But to do so every hour of every day? In an environment that puts as much emphasis on adherence to systems as Ajax? It wore on people.

“They’re looking at you like you’re here to learn, and you’re not to question why,” said Kenneth Dest. “You’re just to do what we ask. Sergiño is not that. Maybe it’s like me, his mother, we’re both kind of headstrong, too. And in the States, the question in the States, when I went to school, you always ask ‘why?’ And the teacher gave you an answer. But not in the Netherlands. They don’t like it if younger people are asking questions. And he did it in a naive way, which brought him into trouble with some of them at Ajax.”

Dest, of course, didn’t let anyone’s negative perception of him close any doors. The bullheadedness that so aggravated some of his coaches at Ajax is the same quality that kept him working so hard when it seemed as if he didn’t have much of a chance of making it to the big time. “He literally does not care about what anyone thinks of him,” Van den Bergh said. “That is a really good trait to have, because he was told no a million times when he was younger at Ajax. ‘No, you’re not good enough. No, you’re not a starter. No, no, no.’ And he just didn’t care. He kept on going. That’s a great quality to have.

“The downside of that, what I hope doesn’t become his downfall — he can be, how shall I put this politely, he can be difficult to deal with when he feels treated unjustly. That’s a little bit of a Dutch trait in him, I think. The part where his mentality can work to his benefit, the part where he never gives up, is an American trait.”

Up until now, Dest has gotten the balance mostly right. He stuck with it at Ajax, broke through with the club’s reserve side early in the 2018-19 season, then, after well-regarded academy product and current Bayern Munich defender Noussair Mazraoui suffered an injury later that fall, Dest emerged with the first team. He was a regular starter as Ajax finished first in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 Eredivisie season, performing well enough to secure a €21 million transfer to Barcelona in October 2020. 

It was a dream move for Dest, a longtime Barcelona fan who, according to fellow U.S. defender Chris Richards, showed up to one of his first training camps with the U.S. U-20s wearing a full Barça tracksuit despite the fact that he hadn’t even yet made his senior debut with Ajax. 

Things didn’t go all that smoothly for him in Spain, however. He played 30 up-and-down matches in his first campaign, had a famously weird moment in August 2021 in which he showed up to Leo Messi’s farewell press conference straight from the beach and wearing a knockoff Chicago Bulls basketball uniform, then fell out of favor last season after Dutchman Ronald Koeman was fired as manager and replaced by Xavi. 

This summer, with the club in financial turmoil, Barça made clear to Dest that he wasn’t in their plans and that they would look to move him elsewhere. For a while, according to a source briefed on the situation, Dest was determined to stay in spite of that stance. He understood that he probably wouldn’t play, but he’s building a house in Spain and enjoyed life in the country. He eventually opted for a season-long loan to Milan that was sealed on the final day of the transfer window, but the fact that he even considered remaining at Barça after the club told him that he wasn’t in line for any minutes was bizarre. For most players, that would have been completely out of the question, particularly in a World Cup year.

Dest, of course, isn’t most players. Though he grew up in a country that prizes functionality and simplicity, he was born and raised in a town that’s different from the national standard. To borrow the line from Kok, on the field, Dest creates art just for the sake of it. To him, there’s plenty of meaning in that. 

That approach probably fits better with the U.S. national team than it would with the Netherlands, but it doesn’t mean Dest’s style is a perfect match with that of U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter, who spent much of his playing career in the Netherlands. He has a system, too, and he’d no doubt like Dest to not stray too far outside of it. 

When his freewheeling style works, Dest can be transcendent, generating moments of brilliance like the thunderbolt he scored in the U.S.’s win against Costa Rica during World Cup qualifying last October. When it backfires, like it did in a disengaged performance he had in the U.S.’s qualifier at El Salvador last September, it can cause problems. At the World Cup, where the U.S. could very well end up playing the Netherlands if they advance to the round of 16, the Americans will be hoping Dest finds a way to do what the best players do: Effectively blend his creativity with just a little bit of pragmatism so that he’s both secure and electric. 

Dest, Van den Bergh said, is “atypical, regardless of nationality. He’s not typical American, he’s not typical Dutch. You can’t characterize him fully either way. He’s his own person, and he’s in his own world.” 

Playing for Louis van Gaal: What USMNT can expect from a unique Netherlands coach

Playing for Louis van Gaal: What USMNT can expect from a unique Netherlands coach

Nick Miller and Daniel TaylorDec 1, 2022 45

You don’t get away with much under Louis van Gaal.Not even if you’re literally the best player in the world.In 1999, during Van Gaal’s first spell as Barcelona coach, Rivaldo had just won the Ballon d’Or, partly down to his performances in Catalonia, and partly down to his performances just behind Ronaldo in the Brazil side that reached the World Cup final. Thus, Rivaldo thought he could throw his weight around a bit: he made an oblique reference to being “abused” after collecting the Ballon d’Or and demanded that he play as a No 10 for his club, rather than on the left of a front three as Van Gaal’s system dictated.No dice. Rivaldo was told that no such positional switch would take place and he was promptly dropped. The Camp Nou crowd took the side of their manager, whistling the planet’s top player when he next appeared.“He hates it if you are an individualist and only think about yourself,” says Ronald de Boer, who was in that Barca team and first worked with Van Gaal in the late 1980s when they were both at Ajax.“The newspapers were saying, ‘He’s the best player in the world, he should be playing No 10′. Louis thought, ‘He’s a No 10, but not in my team’. He’s very strong against that: even if you’re a star, he doesn’t want you just to do your own thing.”

Louis van Gaal, RivaldoVan Gaal with Rivaldo in happier times in 1997 (Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)

Cut to 2002 and after an unsuccessful first spell as coach of the Netherlands, Van Gaal was back at Camp Nou, which was the Brazilian’s cue to leave. “Van Gaal is the main cause of my departure,” Rivaldo said. “I don’t like Van Gaal, and I am sure that he doesn’t like me either.”

Van Gaal confirmed the latter statement. “He lacked commitment to the club, he was only interested in making more money and playing less… he had illusions about Barca and was requesting to take holidays when important Champions League games were approaching. He then hides back home in Brazil.”

This is the man whose Netherlands team will face the USMNT in a World Cup round-of-16 game on Saturday. Van Gaal is older, now 71, and perhaps more aware of his own mortality after disclosing he has been treated for an aggressive form of prostate cancer. He is still, however, as uncompromising as ever.

Tim Krul will know the feeling Rivaldo once had. One of the stars the last time the Netherlands were at the World Cup under Van Gaal, he might have expected to be in Qatar even though he’s playing in the second tier for Norwich. Not so.

Van Gaal invited Krul to what was essentially a penalty training camp but the Norwich keeper, not selected in the main squad, declined. Van Gaal recognised that was Krul’s prerogative while explaining his own: “There is no future for him with the Oranje. That is the consequence of his decision.”

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This ruthlessness has not come with age. Nor is it a tactic to take egos down a peg or two. Just ask Bryan Roy. He was a fan and media darling when Van Gaal took charge of the Ajax first team in 1991 — fast, technical and perfectly suited to the front three that Cruyffian fundamentalists demand in Amsterdam.

Van Gaal was not convinced. By the summer of 1992, Roy was out. “I feel pain when I see that Roy is not working on things he should be working on,” said Van Gaal as the winger was waved off to Foggia. “I have tried to improve his effectiveness. But I do not see any improvement. I no longer believe in Roy.”

Louis van GaalVan Gaal shows his, er, eccentric side at Ajax in 1995  (Photo: Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images)

It’s easy to conclude that the popular image of Van Gaal is correct: an intimidating, semi-authoritarian figure who will not take anything approaching s*** from anyone, whether Ballon d’Or winner or academy graduate. He is the hard-nosed autocrat Luca Toni once accused of treating “players like interchangeable objects”.

And yet, for every story you can find to back that up, there are two others about him being a big cuddly softy.

“He’s a demanding coach, but if you know him he’s a lovely man,” says De Boer. “On TV, sometimes he looks like a stubborn man who hates talking to the press, but overall he’s a very warm person, a family person.

“He came for dinner at my house a couple of months ago. My partner has nothing to do with football. If you asked her where Louis was a coach she probably wouldn’t know, but she loves him. It’s an aspect people don’t see. On the outside, he puts on a hardness, to maybe protect himself from the angry press.”

Boudewijn Zenden, who played under Van Gaal for Barcelona and the Netherlands, agrees: “He’s the type of manager who is really interested in the person behind the player. He will know when it’s your missus’ birthday, or your kids’ birthdays, or if there’s a problem on a personal level — he will always be there and support you, give you a day or two off if you need it. He’s definitely not the same as the image you have from the outside.”

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“I’ve seen how it genuinely affects him when he has to disappoint players,” said Arjen Robben in a recent documentary about Van Gaal. “He believes in his principles. What you see is what you get. And he’s not going to go behind your back and slag you off to one of his assistants or hide behind a mask. In football, people often put on a show. But he’ll tell you things face to face because he’s straightforward and he’s genuine.”

Maarten Martens, one of the key men in what was arguably Van Gaal’s greatest domestic success, winning the Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar in 2009, backs that up. “Sometimes he was really hard. He was not always friendly. But what I really liked is that he was as much interested in his two- or three-star players as his No 18 or No 19 from the squad. The No 19 is also a human he wants to improve, or feel good, or make better if it’s not good enough.”

Thomas Muller, who was given his senior debut by Van Gaal at Bayern, was even more succinct: “Van Gaal and I have a relationship that goes beyond that which is normal between a player and a coach.”

Thomas Muller, Louis van GaalVan Gaal comforts Thomas Muller after Bayern lost to Inter Milan in the Champions League final in 2010 (Photo: Sascha Schuermann/DDP/AFP via Getty Images)

One element of his public image that does seem right is the size of his ego. “Louis is damned arrogant and we like arrogant people here,” was how Ajax chairman Ton Harmsen introduced his new appointment to the media back in 1992. Former Bayern president Uli Hoeness, who sacked Van Gaal in 2011, said: “His problem is that Louis doesn’t think he’s God, but God the Father. Before the world came into existence, Louis was already there.”

De Boer offers another story: “We were in the kit room when I was about 17. He looked at me and said: ‘Ronald, are you going to be a good footballer?’ He said it in that way, right in your face, like you could not dare to say no. ‘Because I know I’m going to be a great coach’.”

But there’s a subtle difference between arrogance and iron-clad self-assurance. The former is difficult to warm to, the latter is easier to respect. “I sat in my car and suddenly I realised, ‘I am trainer of Ajax’. I began sweating profusely,” he once said, of the moment he stepped up to his first big job. “That lasted for only one minute. Afterwards, I never again had that feeling.” In the mid-1990s, Van Gaal said he wanted to become the national team manager, commenting: “Even if it were just to prove my way is right, I would like to give it a try.”

There are also eccentricities: complaining that Robert Huth pulling Marouane Fellaini’s hair was an act only acceptable in “sex masochism”; throwing himself to the ground at Manchester United to illustrate an apparent dive; the infamous story of him taking a literal approach to showing his Bayern Munich players he had the balls to drop all of them, undoing his trousers during a team meeting to display the goods.

Louis van GaalVan Gaal takes a dive while managing Manchester United against Arsenal in 2016 (Photo: Simon Stacpoole/Mark Leech Sports Photography via Getty Images)

To call him demanding is an understatement. “He would see every small detail,” says Martens. “He would not accept a lack of concentration or a lack of intensity. He would expect this from everyone — staff, players, everybody.”

Detail is a word that keeps coming up. “He makes you really aware of everything — all aspects of the game,” offers Zenden. “He always has a proper game plan, and whenever you face an opponent, I can assure you there will be no surprises.”

“Behind each exercise, there is an idea,” said Daniel van Buyten, who played under him at Bayern. “We have worked well and we have had fun doing it.”

De Boer adds: “I once said, ‘Coach, I did my best’. He said, ‘What? Doing your best is what you should do always. You have to do more than only doing your best. Doing your best is nothing. It’s what you should bring along always. I expect more. I want more. I demand more’. That was typical Louis.”

That sort of thing can lead to friction, and you won’t struggle to find players who dislike him. Brazilian defender Lucio, who was sold to Inter Milan as one of Van Gaal’s first acts as Bayern coach, said that he “hurt me more than anyone else in football”. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was at Ajax when Van Gaal returned for a brief and relatively ill-advised spell as technical director, called him a “pompous ass” who “wanted to be a dictator”.

There are two places you’re most likely to find criticism of Van Gaal, one of which is among the non-Dutch players from his spells at Barcelona. You’ve already heard what Rivaldo thought of him, Hristo Stoichkov called him “mediocre” and centre-back Oleguer said that “when the performances declined, there was only attention for his image”. But the spiciest take came from Brazilian forward Giovanni.

“My life with him was horrible,” he said, shortly after leaving Barcelona for Olympiacos. “The Brazilians did not want him; he put me down and also fought with Rivaldo and Sonny Anderson. He always gave us the excuse that we were not training well. I know that he must have some trauma. He has no idea of football, does not know anything. In the time I was with him he always did the same training. He’s crazy.” On another occasion, Giovanni said Van Gaal was “the Hitler” of the Brazilian players.

Giovanni, Louis van GaalVan Gaal with Giovanni during training at Barcelona in 1998 (Photo: Matthew Ashton/EMPICS via Getty Images)

The other is from his spell at Manchester United, where his restrictive tactics and abrasive nature were not well received. His edict that first-time shots were not allowed baffled players, a symbol of how he — in the view of the players there at the time — completely stripped all semblance of individuality from them. The ‘straitjacket’ he placed on players was seen as one of the reasons Angel Di Maria failed in Manchester.“He hated tricks,” said Rafael da Silva in The Sunshine Kids, a book written with his brother Fabio. “He hated instinct. Everything had to be done by instruction. It felt like everything positive was being undone in these moments. Under Sir Alex, the emphasis had been on moving quickly. If you could go in one touch, go in one touch. Van Gaal hated that. He hated it. ‘No, no, control the ball.’ The difference seems so small but it had an incredible impact on the way we played. It slowed it down so much that it was unrecognisable.”Even more unpopular was Van Gaal’s habit of harshly criticising players in team meetings in front of their team-mates: it reached the point where some senior players met the manager to protest, which worked to a point, but led to a slightly comic to and fro. He took to emailing his criticism, complete with clips and extensive notes, but the players were so sick of his hectoring by this point that many of them would ignore the emails. However, Van Gaal got wise to this, so put a tracker on the emails that told him who did and didn’t open them. So the players would just open the emails and just leave their phone for 20 minutes or so. Few tears were shed when he left Old Trafford after two seasons.There’s little doubt that Van Gaal believes he’s right about most things, but those who have worked with him suggest he’s a little more open to feedback than you might expect.“I always found a manager that was open for discussion,” says Zenden. “If you thought that something was wrong, you could knock on his door, which was already open. You could have a conversation about the whole idea you have. He’s the type of manager who is more likely to convince you that he’s got it right, but it’s not like he will be against you because you have a different opinion.”Although, come prepared, warns Martens: “You had to have good arguments if you wanted to come to him with something or persuade him of something. You could not bring bullshit.”That openness perhaps feeds into his willingness to select young players, often ahead of established stars. The list of youngsters to whom he gave senior debuts is impressive: Xavi, Muller, Edgar Davids, Carles Puyol, David Alaba, Clarence Seedorf, Marcus Rashford. Granted, some were so talented he can hardly claim to have spotted something everyone else missed, but Muller wasn’t especially heralded before Van Gaal threw him into the Bayern team, and Alaba was a midfielder in their youth system before being told in no uncertain terms he was a defender. Van Gaal, it turned out, had a point.He’s continued this approach even now. Twenty-year-old Kenneth Taylor has barely established themselves in the Ajax first team but was handed a place in the Dutch squad for Qatar.He’s not averse to the new. “He’s definitely a coach that listens,” says De Boer, “and sees where he can make improvements, whether that’s with a penalty coach, or with new technology, or a throw-in coach. The details can make a huge difference, and he’s always open to that. He trusts his gut feeling, but he listens also.”So what’s it like to play for Louis van Gaal? Demanding, surprising, potentially stressful, occasionally unpleasant, happier and more light-hearted than you might think, frequently rewarding, rarely boring. It feels like it should be a players’ rite of passage, something everyone should experience just for a bit.

This World Cup is his last hurrah. He had retired before being tempted back for one last job, and Ronald Koeman will replace him as the Netherlands’ ‘bondscoach’ after Qatar. We’ll miss him when he’s gone.

It’s over: Three thoughts as Mexico fails to qualify for the World Cup knockout round

Jon Arnold 

November 30, 2022 7:18 pm ET

It’s over. Mexico’s World Cup. El Tri’s streak of making it out of the group stage. Tata Martino’s time leading the group.

A 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia wasn’t enough for Mexico to secure passage to the round of 16, which saw El Tri’s coach announce immediately after the game that his time in charge had come to an end.

“I’m the one responsible for this terrible disappointment we have,” Martino said. “I totally take on the responsibility for this huge failure.

“My contract expired when the referee ended the match, and there’s nothing more to do.”

It will now be a long winter for Mexican soccer fans, even as Liga MX teams play a friendly tournament in December and rumors begin to emerge about who will replace Martino as the head of the men’s national team.

But before thinking about the future, let’s take a look at three things from Wednesday’s match that sends Mexico home from Qatar:

Mexico’s elimination was of its own making

It’s easy to say results didn’t go right for Mexico after El Tri nearly pushed into the second spot in the group with a convincing victory Wednesday. The North Americans were smashing Saudi Arabia essentially from the opening kickoff, creating chances and keeping the Saudi attack from seeing any of the ball.

But Mexico also put itself in this situation. It didn’t convert any opportunities against Poland and settled for a draw in the opening game that always was going to be key.

In addition, Mexico conceded late to Argentina, failing to close down Enzo Fernandez as the Argentine scored a wondergoal in the 87th minute. That, combined with a 82nd-minute Robert Lewandowski goal against Saudi Arabia, meant Mexico was going to need a huge win and some help on the last day to get out of the group.

It almost happened, but the fact that it didn’t doesn’t come down to anyone other than Mexico for its approach and results from the first two matches.

“There’s a lot of frustration. The first two games we didn’t do enough, and that’s what leaves us out. We didn’t do what we’d been doing normally,” Mexico midfielder Luis Chávez said after Wednesday’s match.

Mexico’s elimination was confirmed Wednesday, but it’s not because of how it played against Saudi Arabia. It’s out because the Poland game wasn’t good enough for Mexico to get the result and the tactics were wrong against Argentina.

“We accept the failure we had in this World Cup. With Poland we couldn’t show the superiority we had and with Argentina we could’ve faced the second half in our typical way,” Martino said. “During tonight’s match you saw Mexico was better all game.”

Though Mexico got its only win of the tournament against the Saudis, Martino still pointed to this game to explain why advancement slipped from Mexico’s reach.

“It was lost today. Tonight it was lost. Tonight was the day we played best, that we most were able to beat the opponent, we created the most chances and I dare to say we could’ve scored the quantity of goals we needed to not depend on the other result,” he said. “But we failed. I don’t find the elimination in the other games. I find it tonight.”

Maybe so, but the job could’ve been so much easier by doing the needed work in the first games.

(Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Mexico still missed those attacking stars

We knew Jesús “Tecatito” Corona wouldn’t make it to the World Cup because of his summer ankle injury. We thought Diego Lainez and Santi Giménez might be there, but Martino didn’t select them. And we’ve known for a while Carlos Vela and all-time leading scorer Javier “Chicharito” Hernández simply aren’t in the picture for their own reasons.

And we knew Raúl Jiménez’s injury that kept him out of action for more than a month before the tournament meant he only would be able to make cameos.

Henry Martín did what he could, getting two starts at this World Cup, while Hirving Lozano may end up feeling that he had too much asked of him. Alexis Vega started hot but failed to be the perfect replacement for Tecatito that Mexico needed him to be.

Mexico exits the tournament having scored only two goals. It doesn’t take a tactical genius to say something might be wrong in the attack.

It’s hard not to think that had a few of the players who were missing — whether because of injuries, manager’s decision or external circumstances — been there, it would’ve been a huge boost for Mexico and maybe even made the difference between elimination and going through.

Luis Chávez is that dude, but who will help him in 2026?

For a player who wasn’t in the Mexico picture until this year, it’s remarkable just how crucial midfielder Luis Chávez ended up being for the national team. Chávez played the full 90 minutes of all three matches and in addition to showing strength both defending and getting forward, added one of the goals of the tournament with his free kick in the 52nd minute.

Martino called him the best player on the field in Wednesday’s match, and he’s right. In addition to the goal, he also created a scoring opportunity, put four of five shots on target and made seven recoveries. Bayer Leverkusen was openly flirting with him during the contest.

AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Chávez is a late bloomer who surged this season as a 26-year-old helping Pachuca to a title. His 27th birthday is next month. Another Chávez may come from off the radar for Mexico in the next cycle.

But there is so little youth in this current Mexico team. Just four players on the roster are under 25.

Compared to North American rivals United States and Canada, who along with Mexico will host the World Cup in 2026, it’s a huge lack of players who now have the seasoning of a World Cup as they enter the primes of their careers.

“We’ll see what’s going to happen, who has to go from this national team because this can’t happen” Chávez said. “Mexico has to get out of the group. We put the quinto partido as the goal and we couldn’t do it. The goal and the result leaves me with a bittersweet feeling.”

One of the few sweet moments in this tournament is Chávez’s emergence. Mexico now needs to find a way to get the most out of Liga MX stars like him and get more talented young players to the top levels of the club game in Europe, or else it will once again be set up for disappointment.

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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.

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

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

US Men Friday 2 pm vs England on Fox

Shane’s Starters for Friday

Pulisic, Sargent, Weah

Musah, Reyna

Adams

Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Scalley

Turner

First off bench McKinney, Aaronson, Ferriera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WORLD CUP GAMES ON TV

Fri, Nov 25

5 am FS1                              Wales vs Iran

8 am FS1                              Qatar vs Senagal

11 am Fox                            Ecuador vs Netherlands

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

Sat, Nov 26

5 am FS1                              Tunisia vs Australia

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

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

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

Sun, Nov 27

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

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

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

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

Mon, Nov 28

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

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

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

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

Tues, Nov 29

10 am Fox                            Netherlands vs Qatar

11 am Fox Sport 1            Ecuador vs Senegal  

2 pm Fox                              USA vs Iran

2 pm FS1                              Wales vs England  

Wed, Nov 30

10 am Fox Sport 1            Tunisia vs Frane  

10 am Fox                            Australia vs Denmark  

2 pm FS1                              Poland vs Argentina

2 pm Fox                              Saudi Arabia vs Mexico  

Thur, Dec 1 –                        

10 am FS1                            Croatia vs Belgium

10 am Fox                            Canada vs Morroco

2 pm  Fox                             Japan vs Spain  

2 pm Fox                              Costa Riaca vs Germany  

Fri, Dec 2 –                            

10 am FS1                            Ghana vs Uruguay

10 am Fox                            Portugal vs South Korea

2 pm  Fox                             Cameroon vs Brazil  

2 pm Fox                              Serbia vs Switzerland

Sat, Dec 3 –                           Sweet 16 Knockout Rounds

10 am Fox                            1A vs 2 B  USA?

 2 pm  Fox                            1C vs 2 D

Sun, Dec 4 –                       

10 am Fox                            1D France vs 2C

 2 pm  Fox                            1B England? vs 2A

Mon, Dec 5 –                     

10 am Fox                            1E Spain? vs 2F

 2 pm  Fox                            1G Brazil? vs 2H

Tues, Dec 6–                      

10 am Fox                            1E Spain? vs 2F

 2 pm  Fox                            1G Brazil? vs 2H

Fri Dec 9

Fri, Dec 9                             Quarter Finals Final 8–                  

10 am Fox                           

2 pm                     

Sat Dec 10                           Quarter Finals Final 8–                  

10 am Fox                           

2 pm                     

Tues Dec 13                        Semis – Final 4                  

2 pm  Fox

Wed Dec 14                        Semis – Final 4                  

2 pm  Fox

Sat, Dec 17                          third Place                         

10 am  Fox

Sat, Dec 18                          FINALS                 

10 am  Fox

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US Men 

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

 


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GK

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

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

By Jacob Whiteheadh ago


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

Will they be through if they beat England?

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

Group B if USMNT win

TEAMWDLPOINTS
United States1104
England1013
Iran1013
Wales0111

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

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

What about a draw?

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

Group B if USMNT draw

TEAMWDLPOINTS
England1104
Iran1013
USMNT0202
Wales0111

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

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

Are the USMNT out with a loss?

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

Group B if USMNT lose

TEAMWDLPOINTS
England2006
Iran1013
USMNT0111
Wales0111

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

Who could the USMNT play in the knockouts?

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

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

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

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

Predicted US line-up

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

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

The big one’s here.

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

74 Comments / 74 New

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

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

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

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

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USA

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

D (0-0) – Saudi Arabia – Friendly

L (0-2) – Japan – Friendly

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

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

England

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

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

L (0-1) – Italy – UEFA Nations League

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

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

What To Watch For

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

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

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

Lineup Prediction

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

Predicted Lineup vs. England

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

Prediction

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

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

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

By David OrnsteinNov 24, 2022


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

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

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

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

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

Liam TharmeNov 23, 202227

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


(1) Shape and wide area battles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(3) England’s build-up play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… and he can cross for Sterling to score.

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


(4) Set pieces

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

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

And this video works in the USA:

https:

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

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

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

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

By Sam Stejskal Nov 24, 2022 32


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Tenorio and Michael Walker Nov 24, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GO DEEPER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Cup Daily, Grant Wahl Day 11

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

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

In this column:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Photos by Grant Wahl

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

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


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

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

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

• How does Adams see the England game playing out?

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

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

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

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

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


In other news:

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

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

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

Get ready for USA-England at the World Cup!

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

Phil Hay and Sam StejskalNov 24, 2022

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

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

Tyler Adams(Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images) 

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

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

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

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

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

GO DEEPER My game in my words. By Tyler Adams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A mathematics professor explains why USMNT might be undervalued against England

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

By David Sumpter

Nov 23, 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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🐟 DECEMBER 13 – SEATTLE @ SHOWBOX SODO 🐟

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

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

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

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

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

Shane’s Starters for Friday

Pulisic, Sargent, Weah

Musah, Reyna

Adams

Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Scally

Turner

First off bench McKinney, Aaronson, Ferriera

Matt Turner Save

 US Goal by Tim Weah

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Cup News

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

Shane’s Starters for Friday

Pulisic, Sargent, Weah

Musah, Reyna

Adams

Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Scalley

Turner

First off bench McKinney, Aaronson, Ferriera

Matt Turner Save

 US Goal by Tim Weah

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Cup News

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

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

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

8 am FS1 Tunisia vs Denmark

11 am Fox                            Mexico vs Poland 

2 pm Fox                              France vs Austrailia

Wed, Nov 23

5 am Fox Sport 1               Morroco vs Croatia

7 am Fox Sport 1              Germany vs Japan

11 am Fox                            Spain vs Costa Rica 

2 pm Fox                              Belgium vs Canada

Thur, Nov 24  –                   Thanksgiving

5 am FS1                              Switzterland vs Cameroon

8 am FS1                              Uruguay vs Korea

11 am Fox                            Portugal (Renaldo) vs Ghana

2 pm Fox                              Brazil (Neymar) vs Serbia

Fri, Nov 25

5 am FS1                              Wales vs Iran

8 am FS1                              Qatar vs Senagal

11 am Fox                            Ecuador vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox                     USA vs England

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World Cup Schedule

US Men


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My 4 Thoughts on USMNT 1, Wales 1

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

GRANT WAHLNOV 21∙PAID
 
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Tim Weah kept his composure and scored for the U.S. off a brilliant ball from Christian Pulisic (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

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


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

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

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

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

tournament.

Grant Wahl Unexpected Detention by World Cup Security

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

GRANT WAHL  NOV 21  

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

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

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

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

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

By Connor FlemingNovember 21, 2022

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

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

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

USA player ratings vs Wales 

Manager Gregg Berhalter: 7/10

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

Matt Turner: 6/10

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

Antonee Robinson: 6/10

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

Tim Ream: 8/10 

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

Walker Zimmerman: 3/10

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

Sergiño Dest: 6/10

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

Tyler Adams: 8/10

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

Weston McKennie: 5/10 

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

Yunus Musah: 6/10

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

Christian Pulisic: 7/10

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

Timothy Weah: 8/10

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

Josh Sargent: 6/10 

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

Subs

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

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

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

By Bruce Arena

Monday, Nov 21, 2022, 05:33 PM

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

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

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

Group B impact

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

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

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

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

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Matt Turner

Goalkeeper · USA

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

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Jedi Robinson

Defender · USA

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

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Tim Ream

Defender · USA

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

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Walker Zimmerman

Defender · Nashville SC

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

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Sergiño Dest

Defender · USA

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

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Tyler Adams

Midfielder · USA

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

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Weston McKennie

Midfielder · USA

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

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Yunus Musah

Midfielder · USA

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

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Christian Pulisic

Forward · USA

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

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Joshua Sargent

Forward · USA

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

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Timothy Weah

Forward · USA

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

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Gregg Berhalter

Head coach

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

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

Substitutes

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Brenden Aaronson

Midfielder · USA

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

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Haji Wright

Forward · USA

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

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DeAndre Yedlin

Defender · USA

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

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Kellyn Acosta

Midfielder · USA

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

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Jordan Morris

Forward · USA

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

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

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

Paul Tenorio Nov 21, 2022

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

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

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

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

The reaction

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

Before the tackle

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

The other tackle

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

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

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

By Sam Stejskal


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Stuart JamesPaul Tenorio and more Nov 21, 2022


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

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

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

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


Bale steps up when it matters

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

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

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


Pulisic delivered in his first World Cup game

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

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


Page got his tactics wrong

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

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

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

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

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


Weah’s vertical movement paid off

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

(Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images)

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


Midfield battle

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

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

By MLSsoccer staff @mls

Monday, Nov 21, 2022, 07:23 PM

22WC-US-clinch-scenarios

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

Scenarios

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

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

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

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

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

Tiebreakers

In order of priority:

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

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

Chance of advancing

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

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

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

By The Athletic UK Staff


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


What happened on the opening day?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So who is left needing what?

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

Who are the favourites to progress?

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

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

By Charles Boehm @cboehm

  • Monday, Nov 21, 2022, 07:51 PM
22WC_us_wal_reyna_sider

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

Berhalter, Reyna explain

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

England awaits

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

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

Anne M. Peterson

Mon, November 21, 2022 at 2:57 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shane’s Starters for Monday

Pulisic, Ferriera, Reyna

Musah, Mckinney

Adams

Robinson, Ream, Zimmerman, Dest

Turner

First off bench Aaronson, Weah, Wright

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Cup News

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

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

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

MARIAN PUNCHES TICKET TO NAIA National Championships WITH 1-0 WIN

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

BOX SCORERECAPPHOTOS

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

WORLD CUP GAMES ON TV

Sun, Nov 20

10 am FS1                            World Cup Opening Ceremonies  

11 am FS1                            World Cup Starts Qatar vs Ecudor

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

Mon, Nov 21

8 am FS1                              England vs Iran

11 am Fox                            Senegal vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox                     USA vs Wales 

Tues, Nov 22

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

11 am Fox                            Mexico vs Poland 

2 pm Fox                              France vs Austrailia

Wed, Nov 23

5 am Fox Sport 1               Morroco vs Croatia

7 am Fox Sport 1              Germany vs Japan

11 am Fox                            Spain vs Costa Rica 

2 pm Fox                              Belgium vs Canada

Thur, Nov 24  –                   Thanksgiving

5 am FS1                              Switzterland vs Cameroon

8 am FS1                              Uruguay vs Korea

11 am Fox                            Portugal (Renaldo) vs Ghana

2 pm Fox                              Brazil (Neymar) vs Serbia

Fri, Nov 25

5 am FS1                              Wales vs Iran

8 am FS1                              Qatar vs Senagal

11 am Fox                            Ecuador vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox                     USA vs England

World Cup Schedule

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

US Men

 26 Stories See How our 26 Players Made it to Qatar

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

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

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

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US Men

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

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

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

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

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

🇶🇦🇪🇨🇸🇳🇳🇱 Group A

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

SOURCE: DEAN MOUHTAROPOULOS/GETTY IMAGES

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

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

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

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

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

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿🇮🇷🇺🇸🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 Group B

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

SOURCE: VISIONHAUS/GETTY IMAGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

🇦🇷🇸🇦🇲🇽🇵🇱 Group C

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

SOURCE: RICH GRAESSLE/ICON SPORTSWIRE VIA GETTY IMAGES

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

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

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

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

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

🇫🇷🇦🇺🇩🇰🇹🇳 Group D

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

SOURCE: TNANI BADREDDINE/DEFODI IMAGES VIA GETTY IMAGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 17, 202 Adam Snavel

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

Why a winter World Cup?

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

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

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

Is Qatar ready to host the World Cup?

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

Schedule

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

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

Keep your eyes on these players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A World Cup of firsts

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

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

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

Must-watch games

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

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

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

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

EDITOR’S PICKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marcotti raises doubts over France’s World Cup prospects

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

Who are you betting on?

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

Golden Boot

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

Why Brazil are World Cup favorites

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

To win World Cup

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

And a few more fun ones

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

Closing in on milestones and records

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

Sleeper teams

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

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

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

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

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

How to watch the 2022 World Cup

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

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

Tune into ESPN FC

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

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

Daniel TaylorCarl Anka and more ov 18, 2022

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

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

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

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


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

Argentina are the romantic choice’

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

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

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

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

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

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


Carl Anka, Manchester United reporter and author

‘Don’t let me down, Netherlands…’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Amy Lawrence, Arsenal and France expert

‘It’s time for Brazil to rise again’

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

https://theathletic.com/report/podcast-clip?clip_id=6186

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Liam Tharme, tactics and data expert

‘Argentina have quality everywhere’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dominic Fifield, senior writer who covered England across five tournaments

‘Beware Denmark’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tim Spiers, London football correspondent and Portugal expert

‘It’s coming home (yes, really)’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goncalo RamosGoncalo Ramos has the ability to eclipse Cristiano Ronaldo in Qatar (Photo: Gualter Fatia/Getty Images)

Golden Boot winner: The top-scoring player in European football who’s going to Qatar is Robert Lewandowski on 13 goals. I’ll go with the guy tied in second with Kylian Mbappe on 12 goals, the soon-to-be Sir Harry Edward Kane. Having watched a lot of Spurs this season I’m here to tell you that more often than not they’ve been about as creative as an obese sloth on a two-day hangover, yet Kane has still scored a dozen goals. He’s bang in form, he’ll play every minute for England and he takes penalties. Next.

Golden Ball winner: The Golden Ball hasn’t been handed to a World Cup winner since 1994 (Brazil’s Romario). In five of the last six editions, it’s gone to a player from the losing finalists. Ergo, if I’m predicting probably Brazil to win the tournament then the Golden Ball winner comes from their final opponents, who will be… (checks wallchart)… Belgium! In fact maybe they should be my surprise team. No, it’s too late for that now. Anyway, the Golden Ball winner will be Leander Dendoncker Kevin De Bruyne.

The game I cannot wait to watch… This might be ruined by getting used to the probable muted atmospheres and general weirdness of the tournament’s location but it’s the first round of group games for me, especially watching the tournament favourites in action for the first time. It’s that moment the towels come off and everyone has to show what they’ve got, sometimes, understandably given the hideous nature of what’s underneath, with nervous trepidation and sometimes with extreme and fully justified confidence. Let the games begin. 


Stuart James, senior writer and former professional footballer

‘Messi’s glory would cap Ronaldo’s year’

Winner: My predictions for Euro 2020 were dismal, so let that be a warning to you. Apart from comparing Sophie-Ellis Bextor to Denmark (both unfancied, and I fancied them both), I got everything else wrong, starting with saying that France would win it. So apologies in advance to Argentina – I’ve got you down to triumph in Qatar. Right now, Argentina are international football’s ‘invincibles’. On top of that, Lionel Messi holding the World Cup is surely the way that 2022 ends for Cristiano Ronaldo.

The team who will surprise us… Heart not head with this one – I really hope Canada do well. I say ‘heart’ because I’m so taken by John Herdman’s story and the way the Canada coach has transformed the fortunes of the national team. But – and this is a problem – Canada have a really tough group (in with Belgium, Croatia and Morocco). As an aside, Denmark isn’t an acceptable answer – you can only surprise us once.

The team who will disappoint us… What a category – egg-on-your-face territory here. On the face of it – and I don’t mean the egg – there are some strong candidates, with Belgium and France among them. As for England, I already feel like there’s been a lifetime of World Cup disappointment (to varying degrees – Italia 90 was a lot of fun before the penalties). Thankfully the office sweepstake has come to my rescue on this one: I pulled out France.

Breakthrough young player: The days of a relative unknown taking the World Cup by storm are gone. Clubs can’t even be bothered to scout major tournaments (partly because they know they can ring The Athletic hotline and ask Liam Tharme to give them the lowdown on anyone and everyone). Anyway, I’m going for Jude Bellingham. And before you ask, he definitely qualifies – he’s a teenager and he’s played 55 minutes of tournament football for his country. Oh, and I think he’s fantastic. Let him do his thing, Gareth.

Golden boot winner: No disrespect to some of the past winners, but the bar has not been set that high in recent years – six goals in 2018 and 2014 and five in the two World Cups before that. On that basis a hat-trick in the group stage against a weak opponent could go a long way – Harry Kane against Panama in Russia comes to mind. After trawling through the list of No 9s and feeling slightly underwhelmed, I ended up being drawn to Messi… especially if he fills his boots against Saudi Arabia.

Golden ball winner: A part of me is tempted to say Kevin De Bruyne, but that’s more a reflection of what I think of him rather than any faith I have in Belgium going far, if that makes sense. So I’ll go with Messi.

The game I cannot wait to watch… For me, there’s still a fascination about the South American nations. Yes, we watch their players all the time in Europe, but seeing them representing their country is totally different. For that reason, I hope we get the Brazil-Argentina semi-final that’s on the cards. Memories of Diego Maradona wriggling through a posse of Brazil players before releasing Claudio Cannigia in 1990 spring to mind – right foot assist too. As for the group stage, Ghana v Uruguay should be fun. England v Wales will be, too, if either team needs a result to qualify. Let’s not sugarcoat it, the Welsh hate the English – which, talking from personal experience, can be a tricky situation for an Englishman who supports a Welsh club.


George Caulkin, senior writer, World Cup veteran and expert on North-East England

‘England will surprise me — and disappoint me’

Winner: England. There, I’ve said it (unlike anybody else, the cowards). I haven’t said it because I have even the minutest amount of logic to back it up, but I’m also not sure that logic is going to be one of the prevailing themes of this World Cup. Domestically, it’s already shaping up to be a weird season and with no preparation time, no build-up, no warm-up games, no anything at all except peculiarity and heat, why would form or injuries or the manager being too safe or any of that stuff matter very much? And nothing would be weirder than England actually winning something.

The team who will surprise us… If England win it I’d be absolutely astounded!

The team who will disappoint us… England, because of course they’re not going to win it. But — groping blindly for a serious point — I’m convinced this will be a tournament where a few outsiders coalesce, pull off a shock win and get momentum behind them and a few bigger teams absolutely fall flat. It’s just difficult to predict which ones.

Breakthrough young player: I’ve been very tempted to answer “Nick Pope” to all of these question in honour of the bizarre moment from earlier this season when a Burger King Twitter poll was hijacked by Newcastle fans (hello @ToonPolls) and the goalkeeper’s name was trending everywhere. However, let’s go for Garang Kuol. He hasn’t started a professional league game and has only played once for Australia, but he has been scoring goals off the bench for Central Coast Mariners and is quite a talent. He joins Newcastle — and Nick Pope — in January.

Garang Kuol, recently signed for Newcastle, could cause a stir with Australia (Photo: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

Golden Boot winner: Harry Kane. And that could actually happen. Nobody has won two before, but he has his eyes on the prize (check out his forthcoming interview with Alan Shearer), and has been in good form for Spurs. If he starts quickly, you could see him going on a run, winning three penalties and building an unassailable lead before the quarter-finals.

Golden Ball winner: Yeah, I know. If I say Messi I’m just copying everybody else and I’m conforming to Argentina being one of the favourites which completely undermines the whole ‘this will be an illogical World Cup’ thesis, but I am an old softie and I do love a nice happy ending. He’s been so good for so long — let him have the stage.

The game I cannot wait to watch: I don’t know yet. Honestly, I don’t feel like we’ve had time to look forward to any of this, to really savour it (or to start filling in my sticker album). It’ll be great when it gets going and I’ll watch everything, but at this point, my head is still full from the last round of Premier League fixtures. I hate feeling like that, but it’s a total nonsense, isn’t it?

A brief history of modern soccer: Or, how to understand the World Cup

Nov 18, 2022

f you want to sound like a smart soccer fan, here’s your word: gegenpressing. If you don’t want to alienate your friends and loved ones, then perhaps peel back the accent and just go with: pressing or even counter-pressing.

Whatever language you land on, the broader concept is the defining feature of the modern version of the world’s most popular sport. For the majority of the sport’s history, the most important player was the No. 10 — the attacking midfielder who would be positioned at the top of the penalty area, between the opposition defensive and midfield lines, and play balls into the penalty area or score the goals himself. These are the geniuses, the artists, the players who’d frequently be referred to in magical terms: Pele, Maradona, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho all wore 10.

Eventually, though, as clubs became modernized, started raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue, and thus grew their coaching and analysis staffs, they got really good at destroying the magic. In response to the dominance of the No.10, coaches simply began to pack extra players into the areas where the attacking midfielders once flourished. The position is now all but extinct.

What followed was a brief period where most of the best teams in the world were reactive and destructive. Jorge Valdano, a teammate of Maradona on the World Cup-winning Argentina side in 1986, famously described a match between English sides Liverpool and Chelsea as such: “Put a s— hanging from a stick in the middle of this passionate, crazy stadium and there are people who will tell you it’s a work of art. It’s not: it’s a s— hanging from a stick”.

Thankfully, that, uh, “era” was quickly overtaken by the “Pressing Era. The best teams now push all their defenders high up the field and try to win the ball back in the attacking third. While there was no space at the top of box for the creative geniuses anymore, these teams created all kinds of new spaces for themselves by swarming their opponents as soon as they lost the ball, winning it back, and attacking the gaps in the now-unsettled defense. “No playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter-pressing situation,” according to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

The major stylistic lever — the pre-planned strategy that most affects what you see in a given game on a given Saturday — is the press: how aggressive both teams are in trying to win the ball back, and how successful they are at doing so.

Got it? OK, now forget it all, because the first step toward understanding what you’re about to see in Qatar is accepting that it’s going to look very different from the soccer you might’ve seen over the past four years.

Why not press?

Although Cristiano Ronaldo recently claimed to have never heard of him, there’s perhaps no single person who’s had more of an impact on the modern game than a tiny, bespectacled German nerd named Ralf Rangnick.

While managing at then-third-division club Hoffenheim back in 2006, Rangnick came across a piece of research that suggested goals are most often scored within eight seconds of winning possession back from your opponent. Eight years prior, while coaching a tiny club called Ulm, Rangnick had appeared on a national talkshow called Das aktuelle Sportstudio. Among other things, he suggested that teams could be more proactive in attempting to win the ball back from their opponents. By saying this on national TV in a massively successful and very traditional soccer-playing nation, Rangnick earned the mocking nickname of “football professor.”

However, there was a virtuous connection between the two ideas. Rangnick became convinced that his teams should pressure the ball high up the field and then attempt low-probability passes quickly toward the opposition goal because if those passes failed, they could just start the cycle up again. “We are prepared to play risky passes, at the danger of them going astray, because that opens up the possibility to attack the second ball,” he’s said.

– World Cup 2022: Schedule, how to watch

Fully committed to these ideas, Hoffenheim quickly were promoted through the lower leagues and up to the Bundesliga, Germany‘s first division.

Swayed by his style, Red Bull — yes, that Red Bull — gave Rangnick the keys to their soccer project, and he helped to define the style for what would become their network of clubs across the globe: lots of energy, forward passing and chasing after loose balls. It’s mostly worked because Red Bull are able to recruit across the world and find players who fit their ideas, and are then trained toward them through their network of teams. The same goes for all of the big clubs across Europe that have adopted their own version of the press: They can sign whoever they want and then coach them up, day after day after day.

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Sam Borden joins Futbol Americas to talk the USMNT captaincy situation as well as the latest on injury news.

You know who can’t just sign anyone and who doesn’t get to train every week? National teams. For even the best national teams, the player pool is constantly changing, and the teams only get together a few times per year to train.

When I asked him about the occasional high-profile breakdowns that come from playing an aggressive high-press, current Leeds manager and former Red Bull coach Jesse Marsch said: “Most of those times that it looks bad is a tactical breakdown where the players behind the ball, when we lose a ball, are not in tactically sound positions. Then the game looks more open than it should be. It’s aggressive. There’s no doubt, but it’s also intelligent. The goal is to not be wild; the goal is to still be in control.”

EDITOR’S PICKS

To play an aggressive press, the players need to have the physical capacity, and then they need to know how to move in concert with one another. Otherwise, a couple of simple passes and boom: The other team is in on goal. Unfortunately, international sides don’t get to pick who was born where, and they really just don’t have the training time necessary to play in such an aggressive way without constantly getting torn to shreds.

– World Cup rank: The top 50 players in Qatar

France are the defending champs and the current third-favorites to win the whole thing, according to the betting markets. Brazil, meanwhile, are the favorites. According to a collection of projections combined together by Jan Van Haaren, a data scientist for a Champions League club in Belgium, Neymar & Co. have a 20% chance of winning the whole thing, while no one else is above 10%. In all competitive matches played since the beginning of last August, Brazil have allowed their opponents to complete 83% of their passes. Only two teams in the World Cup field were easier to pass against: Costa Rica … and France.

That doesn’t mean everyone is going to abandon the press, though. Since last August, Germany have won possession 7.4 times per game in the final-third — second among all 32 teams, behind just Japan. In addition to those two, a pair of other teams have both held their opponents to a completion percentage of 75% or lower and won at least six possessions per game in the attacking third: Spain and the United States.

In the club game, the full-season success rate of pressing makes it a good risk-reward bet in the long run. But at the World Cup, you play no more than seven games, and the risk of a leaky press is way higher. So, the defining strategic facet of modern soccer I talked about in the intro? It’ll mostly be absent from its most popular modern event.

So what will we get instead?

On soccer’s journey toward analytical enlightenment, the sport has gotten really good at measuring what happens around the goal.

Throughout the World Cup, you’ll no doubt hear “expected goals” mentioned. Abbreviated as xG, it’s just an estimated probability that a given chance will be converted based on a number of historical characteristics. For example, a tap-in on the goal line would be worth something like 0.99 expected goals (99%) because Eric Choupo-Moting exists:https://www.youtube.com/embed/qc1rXDbWQ9s?wmode=transparent

Meanwhile, a shot from 50 yards out would be worth something like 0.01 xG. And then there’s everything in between. Why do we care about this? Well, xG is more predictive of future performance than any other single statistic. In the short term, anyone can turn two or three low-probability shots into goals, but in the long run, the best teams are the ones that create lots of high-quality chances and concede very few of them.

On an individual level, though, the same thinking applies. The best goal-scorers are the ones who get on the end of the largest collection of great chances, not the ones who are most likely to turn a particular shot into a goal. Lionel Messi actually is better than everyone else at converting shots into goals, but per Stats Perform data going back to 2010, he’s scored 533 goals in competitive club games over that stretch from chances worth about 435 expected goals. In other words, more than 80% of his scoring can be predicted from a number of factors recorded before he ever kicks a ball:

From expected goals, you can then take a step to expected goals assisted: Reward the passer with whatever the xG his pass created is. This strips out the quality of the shooter and instead rewards the passer for the quality of his passes, rather than what happened after he passed the ball. Leading all players across Europe’s Big Five leagues in expected goals assisted this season is Messi’s teammate at Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil’s Neymar:

From there, you can take another step back and see who’s playing the pass before the pass — or, say, the pass into the penalty area. Messi, who’s fourth in expected goals assisted, leads all players in Europe with 68. Next best is Manchester City and Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, with 50:

Take a step back from there, though, and things start to get really murky.

Luke Borrn, who was the head of analytics at Italian giants Roma before leaving to become the vice president of Strategy and Analytics with the Sacramento Kings, and is now a co-owner (along with Billy Beane) of French club Toulouse and Italian powers AC Milan, described the state of our objective knowledge of what’s valuable on a field as such: “It’s like the equivalent of if we only had data on dunks.”

What happens in the midfield — from a valuation standpoint — mostly remains a mystery. When you look at actions that increase or decrease a team’s likelihood of scoring a goal, everything that happens in the middle of the field pales in comparison to what happens near both goal mouths.

– Ranking every single World Cup: Which one is No.1?

Is this a calculation issue? Or does it require a re-imaging of the hierarchy of what happens on the field? It’s probably a bit of both, but because of the patterns of play we’re likely to see in Qatar, these players are going to have a much bigger influence on proceedings than they do in a given weekend across Europe.

Can ESPN beat Phil Foden in a shooting challenge?

Manchester City and England star Phil Foden takes on ESPN in a special shooting challenge ahead of the World Cup.

At the most recent European championships in the summer of 2021, passes were completed 84% of the time. In the Premier League season that followed, the number dropped down to 81%. On top of that, the ball moved toward the opposition goal at an average speed of 1.27 meters/second at the Euros, then leapt up to 1.39 meters/second in the Premier League. These seem like small differences, but with close to 1,000 passes occurring per game and around 200 total possessions per match, those differences really start to add up. There are fewer turnovers, and the game simply moves to a different rhythm.

With there being less pressure on the ball and with the ball moving upfield at a slower pace, the players in the middle have more time and space to make decisive plays. If you’ve only watched international soccer, you probably think that France’s Paul Pogba is the best soccer player in the world.https://www.youtube.com/embed/iUf9Zt3s8Ic?wmode=transparent

If you’ve only watched club soccer, you probably think that Paul Pogba is one of the most inconsistent and hard-to-fit players in the world. That difference is due, in no small part, to the dysfunction of his former club Manchester United, but it’s also due to the context in which he’s performing. On the international stage, midfielders have more room and more opportunities to influence play near the opposition goal. With Pogba and his midfield partner N’Golo Kante out injured for France, that might spell trouble for what’s been the heart of an uber-talented and successful team.

Germany lost Toni Kroos, one of the great midfielders of the 21st century, to retirement, while Spain opted not to select Thiago, who, when healthy, might just be the best midfielder in the world right now. Of course, a world-class midfielder is born every 15 seconds in Spain, so they’re not wanting for depth. Croatia, meanwhile, made a run to the finals in 2018 behind a world-class midfield, and that group might be equally as good this time around. And if you’re looking for a reason to be bullish about the USMNT, perhaps it’s here: midfield is one of their strengths. With Tyler Adams (a destroyer and ball-winner), Yunus Musah (a vertical ball-carrier), and Weston McKennie (an off-ball runner and goalscorer), the pieces fit really nicely together.

Where does it all come together?

It used to be that coaches bemoaned set-piece practice: corners, free kicks, throw-ins, etc. Some, including Spain’s Luis Enrique, still do.

Paul Power, now the director of Artificial Intelligence with the data company Skill Corner, used to work as a consultant with the Premier League club Everton. At the time, their manager was current Belgium manager, Roberto Martinez.

“There’s this whole perception that scoring from set pieces is almost cheating,” Power said. “You know, like it’s not part of the beautiful game. Roberto Martinez just didn’t practice set pieces. He wanted to know everything about open play: synchronization between players, how to create space through intricate movements. But if you looked at a set piece, there was no interest. This still kind of plagues soccer, from top to bottom.”

How do you pronounce Qatar?

Professor of Islamic history Jonathan Brown gives the definitive pronunciation of Qatar with Gio Reyna, Reggie Cannon and Sam Vines.

In addition to the stigma around the set-piece goal — as if it were an unfair or impure way to win games — coaches would claim that any time spent practicing set pieces would take away from practice time elsewhere. In other words, if you started scoring more goals from set plays due to more practice, it would be canceled out by the decline in open-play goals caused by the decline in open-play practice time.

It’s a sound-enough theory; it’s also dead wrong, and proof of its invalidity came in the Danish first division.

FC Midtjylland, the most forward-thinking soccer club on the planet, scored 25 set-piece goals in the 2014-15 season en route to their first-ever first-division title. Eventually everyone else caught on and started to copy the champs. And a funny thing happened: Everyone else started scoring a ton of set piece goals, too, but their open-play goal-scoring remained unchanged. Despite spending more time on set-piece practice, their ability in open-play remained the same.

“It pointed to a huge under-exploited tactical wrinkle in the game that could help teams score enough goals to win a title,” said Ted Knutson, who used to work for Midtjylland and now runs the data company Statsbomb. “And it’s repeatable across the entire sport. That’s a pretty big deal.”

– Is Qatar’s World Cup about “sportswashing” or something more?

Both Knutson and Power estimate that a good set-piece program can add somewhere around 15 goals in a given 38-game season. Why do they work so well? As the previous 2,000 words suggest, a lot of what happens on a soccer field is either random, difficult to quantify, impossible to comprehend, or all of the above. While you can’t really pre-practice any specific open-play patterns, a set piece is the only time in the game the ball stops moving and a team can execute an exact plan: a chosen kicker, a pre-selected ball-flight, and then a collection of routes not unlike an NBA in-bounds play or any given NFL play.

According to research from Power, the average open-play possession leads to a goal 1.1% of the time while the mostly-still-poorly-performed set pieces lead to a goal 1.8% of the time. On corners, out-swingers lead to shots more often than in-swingers (20.9% vs. 18.6%), but in-swingers are more likely to lead to goals: 2.7%, compared to 2.2%. While much of the success comes down to the creativity of the play design, Power also pointed to the effectiveness of a ball flicked-on by a near-post header compared to one that’s simply served into the “meat” of the box. Flick-ons are scored 4.9% of the time, while shots directly from the corner have a 2% success rate.

Pedri? Bellingham? Valverde? Who will have the best World Cup?

The ESPN FC crew debate who will have the best World Cup out of Jude Bellingham, Federico Valverde and Pedri.

While there hasn’t been a full-scale adoption of those ideas, the landscape is shifting, and quickly. Some groups, including Midtjylland and England manager Gareth Southgate, have even consulted with NBA and NFL teams on how best to create space in these situations. At the 2018 World Cup, there were 70 set-piece goals — 43% of all the goals scored at the tournament. England themselves scored nine, breaking the record set by Portugal in 1966.

In Qatar, don’t expect any drop-off in set-piece scoring. Hell, there might even be an increase. Given the limited training time afforded to national teams and the difficulty creating the kinds of cohesive creative structures that can conquer open-play, set-piece practice is even more time-effective at the international level. In 2018, the average team scored 1.3 goals per game. In a tournament that, at most, features seven total games for a given team, a couple extra set piece goals could be the difference between an early exit and a run all the way to the end.

There’s bound to be plenty of uncertainty over the next month, but I feel pretty confident in making at least one prediction: At least one important game is going to be decided in the moments after the ref blows his whistle, when all that chaotic and dynamic movement briefly comes to a halt.

Who am I rooting for? — A newcomer’s guide to the USMNT

A look at the players representing the USA at this year’s World Cup.By jcksnftsn  Nov 19, 2022, 8:00am PST  

United States v Mexico: Championship - CONCACAF Nations League Finals

So you’re relatively new to the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) or even the World Cup? Welcome to the party, whether this is your first time or you’re a regular we’re not doing any gatekeeping around here, the more the merrier. We can’t exactly blame you for showing up late either, the USMNT hasn’t played on the world’s largest stage in over eight years, having missed out on the tournament four years ago in embarrassing fashion. But we aren’t here to dwell on the past either, we’re here to look forward and celebrate the players that are representing the U.S. of A in Qatar in 2022.

The information below probably isn’t going to make you sound any smarter if you’re discussing the team or players with your soccer-head friends but hopefully it will help give you a good introduction to the team – it’s always more fun to feel like you can connect with the players representing your colors. What you’ll see below is that we have an incredibly youthful, but also diverse, melting pot of a team. Players from around the world, whose paths to get to this point have been incredibly varied, some of whom play at historic clubs across the globe, and some who have taken a harder path. Here’s an introduction to who you are cheering for in Qatar.

Goalkeepers:

Ethan Shea Horvath, 27, Luton Town – 27-year-old Ethan Horvath who was born and raised on the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, Colorado. As a teenager Horvath had interest from European sides but in order to meet visa requirements and sign with Norwegian side Molde his parents were required to move to Norway where they took jobs as janitors for the club. After Norway Horvath spent time in Belgium and most recently in England where he currently starts for Luton Town, a team in the English Championship (one step below the English Premier League). Horvath seems to be the perfect second goalkeeper as he has shown the willingness, as well as the ability to come off the bench mid-match and put in an outstanding performance. The most recent example of this was his substitute appearance against Mexico (our biggest soccer rival) in the National League Final in June of 2021. Horvath, put in an outstanding performance, leading the US to victory, including stopping a game tying penalty.

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Sean Everet Johnson, 33, New York City FC – At 33 years old Sean Johnson is one of the senior most members of this year’s USMNT. Born in Georgia to parents of Jamaican descent, Johnson is one of the many players who is considered a dual national, that is he had opportunities to play for two (or in some cases three) national teams but has chosen to represent the USA. Johnson has played his entire career in MLS, first with the Chicago fire and for the past five years with New York City FC where he led the team to the MLS Cup in 2021.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Matt Charles Turner, 28, Arsenal – Growing up soccer was an afterthought to Matt Turner, who picked up the sport to stay in shape for basketball and baseball and had dreams of being a professional pitcher. However, Turner ended up in goal due to an injury to his high school teammate but though didn’t immediately vault him to success either. Tuner was initially a walk on at Fairfield University in Connecticut before going undrafted in the MLS Super Draft and signing a contract with the New England Revolution. It would take Turner two more years to make his MLS debut for the Revolution in 2018. In 2021 he was named the MLS Goalkeeper of the year and in June of this year he moved to English Premier League side Arsenal where he is the backup keeper at one of London’s most historic clubs.

Defenders:

Cameron Carter-Vickers, 24, Celtic – Born in England, playing in Scotland, but eligible to represent the US as he is the son of an American, Cameron Carter-Vickers (CCV) is one of four center backs to make the 2022 World Cup squad. Carter-Vickers father Howard was a professional basketball player who played two years in the NBA before a long career overseas that included meeting CCV’s English mother while playing in Greece. Carter-Vickers grew up primarily with his mother in England with visits to his father, who he remains close with, in Louisiana. CCV grew up playing soccer in the Tottenham Hotspurs academy and went out on a series of loans to clubs in the English Championship before being loaned to Scottish side Celtic who made the loan permanent this summer signing Carter-Vickers to a long term contract.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Sergiño Gianni Dest, 22, AC Milan – The son of a Surinamese-American father and a Dutch mother, Sergiño Dest surprised many when he spurned pursuit from the Dutch national team and committed to representing the USMNT. Dest is the type of modern defender who believes the best defense is a good offense and will unleash some random skill just for the fun of it. He might also be the most chill player on the team, he nearly missed Lionel Messi’s farewell press conference at Barcelona and showed up in a fake Chicago Bulls jersey because he was playing soccer on the beach with a bunch of kids. Dest came up through the Ajax system in the Netherlands, spent two years with Barcelona, and moved to Italy’s AC Milan in September.

Aaron Ray Long, 30, New York Red Bulls – A coast-to-coast American and late bloomer, Aaron Long was born in California, he took the college route and graduated from UC Riverside before being drafted by the Portland Timbers. However, it wasn’t until he was transferred to the New York Red Bulls in 2016 that Long started to break through. Long ruptured his Achilles tendon in 2021 but has worked his way back from the injury in time to be included in the World Cup squad.

Japan v United States - International Friendly

Shaquell Kwame Moore, 26, Nashville SC – A native of Powder Spring, Georgia, Shaq Moore moved to Spain ahead of his 18th birthday and spent the next seven seasons playing in several divisions, including a season with Levante in La Liga, at the time becoming just the fourth American to play in Spain’s top division. Moore also spent three years in the Canary Islands with CD Tenerife who play in Spain’s second division. In June of this year Moore move back stateside, taking a role at right-back with Nashville SC.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Timothy Michael Ream, 35, Fulham – The elder statesman of this year’s team is Tim Ream who hadn’t been called up for a national team game in over a year and at 35 had made peace with saying goodbye to the dream of playing World Cup soccer. However, a hot start to the season with Fulham in the English Premier League was apparently enough to catch the eye of Gregg Berhalter who called Ream up. Fulham are a “yo-yo club” that typically see themselves relegated straight back to the Championship on the occasions that they’ve been promoted to the EPL for a season. The 2022-23 season has had a bit of a different feel thus far though as the side, captained by Ream, currently sit in 9th place in the standings. Ream is in his eighth season with Fulham, after four years spent with the Bolton Wanderers.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Antonee Robinson, 25, Fulham – Arguably the best Left-back in USMNT history, Antonee Robinson (or Jedi as he prefers) is an Englishman whose father was also English but gained US Citizenship while being raised in White Plains, New York. USMNT eligible through his father’s citizenship Robinson elected to represent the US and there’s been no looking back as he started eleven of the fourteen qualifying matches for the team. Robinson is a speedster who seems to come flying out of nowhere to make his presence felt for club and country. Robinson pairs with Tim Ream on the left side of defense for Fulham so is likewise contributing to a surprising start for the club this Fall. If that weren’t enough he’s also a bit of a magician and back flip expert.

Joseph Michael Scally, 19, Borussia Monchengladbach – Just 19 years old, Joe Scally is already in his second season in the Bundesliga, Germany’s topflight of football, where he’s regularly matching up against the likes of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Scally is a native of Lake Grove, New York who became the second youngest professional soccer player in United States history when he signed with New York City FC just a few months after his 15th birthday. After just seven appearances with NYCFC across three years Scally moved to Germany late in 2020 and would make his first appearance for Gladbach last Fall. Scally appeared in thirty matches for Gladbach last season, including twenty starts, and has started every match for his team this year. Scally is also close friends with Giovanni Reyna as the two spent time together in the NYCFC system.

DeAndre Roselle Yedlin, 29, Inter Miami – The only member of the 2022 World Cup squad with previous World Cup experience is DeAndre Yedlin who eight years ago was a 20-year-old backup right back making his ascent. Yedlin appeared in three matches off the bench and following the tournament would make a move from his hometown Seattle Sounders to Tottenham in the EPL. Yedlin made just one appearance for Tottenham and played the following season on loan with Sunderland before transferring to Newcastle United and playing five seasons with the Magpies. In 2020 Yedlin moved to Turkey and spent two seasons playing with Galatasaray before coming back to MLS in 2022 to play for Inter Miami. Most importantly Yedlin’s middle name, Roselle, is presumably a nod to the Women’s National Team’s Rose Lavelle and thus Yedlin is a very, very good human being. Seriously though, in addition to providing some much-needed World Cup experience, Yedlin has been described as a “vibes” guy who is close friends with Timothy Weah.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Walker Dwain Zimmerman, 29, Nashville SC – Perhaps the most surprising revelation of the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle has been Walker Zimmerman who was a bit of an afterthought as the cycle started but has become one of the first names written down on the team sheet. Zimmerman is a native of Georgia, who started his professional career with FC Dallas, before a move to LAFC, and now he plays for Nashville SC with teammate Shaq Moore. While “Captain America” is the most overused nickname for the US team, Zimmerman looks to have laid sole claim to the American Thor throne.

Midfielders:

Brenden Russell Aaronson, 22, Leeds United – Hailing from Medford, New Jersey and a product of the Philadelphia Union academy, Brenden Aaronson joined RB Salzburg in January 2021 at the age of 20. Aaronson played a year and a half with RB Salzburg, scoring nine goals in 46 appearances before moving to Leeds United in the English Premier League this summer where he joined forces with Tyler Adams (more on him below) and American manager Jesse Marsch. Aaronson is a little buzzing, bundle of energy, who channels that energy into causing chaos for the opponent.

Japan v United States - International Friendly

Kellyn Kai Perry-Acosta, 27, Los Angeles FC – The USMNT is filled with dual nationals but one that might fly under the radar is Kellyn Acosta whose father was born in Japan making Acosta (whose surname comes from his Mexican step-grandfather) eligible to represent Japan or the USA. Acosta will be the first Japanese-American to represent the US at a men’s World Cup. Acosta started his career in the FC Dallas system before being traded to the Colorado Rapids. This year he was traded to LAFC where he would help the club to finish the regular season in first place and capture their first MLS Cup title, including scoring the opening goal in the Final.

Tyler Shaan Adams, 23, Leeds United – There are approximately fifty-seven “Captain America” nicknamed players on this roster but the one that seems most likely to actually be the captain is Tyler Adams whose demeanor, intelligence, and communication make him a natural for the role, whether he is wearing the armband or not. A native of Wappinger Falls, New York, Adams grew up in the Red Bulls Academy which he joined at the age of 12. Adams would make his senior team debut shortly after his 17th birthday and would go on to play three years with NY Red Bulls before moving to RB Leipzig early in 2019. Adams moved to Leeds United this summer where he reunited with his former coach Jesse Marsch and fellow USMNT teammate Brenden Aaronson. Adams has been at his best this season against the EPL heavyweights such as Liverpool and Chelsea where he has been a menace all over the field, shutting down attacks.

Luca Daniel de la Torre, 23, Celta Vigo – Born and raised in San Diego, Luca de la Torre moved to London shortly after his freshman year of highschool to join the Fulham academy. Luca spent seven years in the Fulham system, seeing little playing time at the senior level before moving to the Netherlands in 2020 to join Heracles Almelo. de la Torre spent two years at the club and made enough of an impression to start seeing callups to the senior US side and make a move to his father’s home country of Spain and join La Liga side Celta Vigo this past summer.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Weston James Earl McKennie, 24, Juventus – A youth product of the FC Dallas system, Weston McKennie chose to bet on himself, declining a homegrown contract with the club to make a move to the German Bundesliga and join FC Schalke in 2016 shortly after his eighteenth birthday. McKennie played with Schalke for four years in the Bundesliga, showing himself to be a versatile piece as he was played all over the pitch. Then in 2020 as Schalke was being relegated and experiencing extreme financial issues McKennie joined the Italian giants Juventus. Now in his third season with the club McKennie is a clear favorite of manager Massimiliano Allegri though rumors of a move to the EPL continue to swirl. McKennie is a real set piece threat with an ability to get his head through a ball to smash it home. If you see the Harry Potter fan whip out his magic wand celebration than something has gone well for the USMNT.

Yunus Dimoara Musah, 19, Valencia – It’s possible that no one represents the melting pot of America better than Yunus Musah whose nationality options are outpaced only by his enormous smile. Musah is the son of Ghanian parents, who were living in Italy but visiting family in New York City when he was born, thus making him eligible to represent the US. In addition to Ghana, Italy and the US Musah was also eligible to represent England after his family moved there when he was nine. In fact, Musah came up through England’s national team system and it wasn’t until March of 2021 that he committed to playing for the US. Musah joined the Arsenal academy when he was nine and his family moved to England but he made the move to Spain and La Liga to join Valencia when he was 16, making his debut a year later. Don’t take your eyes off of Musah, who can change the game in a moment.

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Cristian Roldan, 27, Seattle Sounders – Speaking of dual national experiences Cristian Roldan has had the unique experience of suiting up against his brother in international competition. Cristian and his brother Alex were both born in the US and play together for the Seattle Sounders but were both eligible to represent the United States, El Salvador, or Guatemala in International competition. The Roldan’s father is Guatemalan while their mother is from El Salvador. While the younger brother Alex chose to represent El Salvador, Cristian has chosen to represent the United States. While he has not seen much playing time in qualifying Cristian is lauded by teammates as being an exemplary teammate and he has been known to pull out the occasional banger for his club.

Forwards:

Jesus David Ferreira Castro, 21, FC Dallas – Born in Colombia, Jesus Ferreira moved to Texas when he was 10 and his father signed a contract with FC Dallas. Fast forward 11 years and it’s Jesus who is scoring goals for club and country. Ferreira led FC Dallas with 18 goals in the 2022 season, ironically this was made possible in part by Ricardo Pepi moving to Germany in January which led to Dallas signing Ferreira to a long-term contract. Ferrira was named the 2022 MLS Young Player of the Year and named to the MLS Best Eleven.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Jordan Perry Morris, 28, Seattle Sounders – Born and raised in Seattle, Jordan Morris has found himself living the dream of playing for his hometown Sounders where his father is also employed as the team’s Chief Medical Director. Still a student at Stanford University when he was first called up to the USMNT in 2014, Morris became the rare type of player to be called up to the senior team while still playing at the collegiate level. Morris is also a rarity in that he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of nine and has become one of the few professional athletes to play through the condition. The challenges don’t stop there, Morris has recovered from two separate ACL tears, the most recent occurring while on loan with Swansea City in the Championship League in February of 2021.

Christian Mate Pulisic, 24, Chelsea FC – If you’ve heard of just one USMNT player it’s probably Christian Pulisic. Pulisic, a native of Hershey, Pennsylvania was able to acquire a European passport at the age of 16 thanks to his Grandfathers Croatian citizenship. Pulisic signed for perennial Bundesliga contenders Borussia Dortmund at 16 and made his debut for their first team when he was 17. After four seasons with Dortmund Pulisic moved to Chelsea FC in the English Premier League in 2019 for the largest fee ever paid for an American soccer player. In 2021 Pulisic would help Chelsea to win the Champions League, in the process becoming the first American to score in the tournaments semi-final with a goal against Real Madrid, and the first American to play in the final.

Mexico v United States: 2022 World Cup Qualifying

Giovanni Alejandro Reyna, 20, Borussia Dortmund – If this name rings a bell, it could be because Giovanni Reyna is US Soccer royalty. The son of USMNT legend Claudio Reyna and Danielle Egan, who played for the US Women’s national team, Reyna’s ascent to the USMNT has seemed like a foregone conclusion. Reyna is a part of the U.S. crew that was actually born in England, Reyna while his father was playing for Sutherland. Giovanni was raised in New York City and played for the New York City FC academy until 2019 when he moved to Borussia Dortmund as a 16-year-old in 2019. In early 2020 Reyna would become the youngest American to make their Bundesliga, just two months after turning 17. While he certainly has the pedigree the path hasn’t always been easy for Reyna, who’s story includes tragic family loss, and more recently a series of highly frustrating injuries that have kept him out of action. When he’s on the field Reyna shows the ball control and finishing skills to be a true difference maker for the US.

Joshua Thomas Sargent, 22, Norwich City – A native of O’Fallon, Missouri, Josh Sargent joined Bundesliga side Werder Bremen on his eighteenth birthday in 2018. He would play in Germany for three season before moving to EPL side Norwich City in 2021. It was a rough season for player and club as Sargent scored just two goals in twenty-six appearances and Norwich were relegated to the English Championship. Sargent stuck with the club and things have gotten back on track this fall as Sargent has banged in nine goals already in nineteen appearances for his club.

USA Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Timothy Tarpeh Weah, 22, Lille – Actual soccer royalty, Timothy Weah is the son of the President of Liberia who also happens to be former Ballon d’Or winner George Weah (the award given annually to the best soccer player on the globe). Tim was born in Brooklyn in 2020 and was actually eligible to represent four different countries: Jamaica, Liberia, France, and the U.S. Weah has represented the US through various Youth Levels, starting at the age of 12 on the Under 14 team and has said the decision to represent the U.S. at the senior level was an easy one based on his love of the country and his teammates. Weah’s professional career has been based in France where he started with Paris Saint-Germain and has now spent the past four seasons with Lille.

Haji Amir Wright, 24, Antalyaspor – Another product of the U.S. youth national teams Haji Wright played for the youth sides beginning at the U-15 level and continuing throughout to the U23 level where he has developed friendships with a number of his senior side teammates including Christian Pulisic who reportedly argued for Wright to get his first callup to the senior side in May of this year. Wright’s professional career has been a bit more unconventional and has included stops in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and most recently in Turkey where he signed a three-year deal with Antalyaspor in July.

Uruguay v USMNT

Predicting the entire 2022 World Cup, from Qatar vs. Ecuador to the final

Nov 16, 2022

  • Ryan O’HanlonESPN.com writer

When I first did this, seven months ago, I wrote the following“Players can get injured, players can play poorly, players can appear out of nowhere, managers can quit their jobs — the list of complicating factors is endless.” And yet, I still went ahead and made a prediction for all 64 of the matches scheduled to be played in Qatar.

Since then, the final two slots in the tournament were confirmed. (Sorry, Peru!) And so have the 26-man rosters for all 32 teams. (Sorry, Paul PogbaN’Golo KanteDiogo JotaReece James, and on and on.) We now know who’s playing, both at a micro and macro level, in a way I did not, back in April. Players have been injured, players have played poorly, players have appeared out of nowhere, and managers have left their jobs.

So, with this added information, we’re running it back and predicting all the matches from Nov. 21 through Dec. 18 — again. Some of the predictions and analysis from the first time around will not change, while other parts will read very differently. Like last time, all of the stats mentioned in the piece come from Stats Perform, but unlike last time, we are only looking at data from competitive matches played since August 1, 2021..

And also like last time, I’ve employed the help of the consultancy Twenty First Group, which has built a model that combines individual player ratings and team performance to create a rating for every international team. With international soccer, there aren’t enough games to truly judge a team based on its recent results, and the rosters are always changing, so this player-based method attempts to address those problems. I’ll reference their ratings throughout this journey; it’s just another tool to help guide us from start to finish.

All right, let’s get to it — again!


The group stage

Nov. 20

Qatar vs. Ecuador (Group A): One big thing that’s changed since the first go-round? The date of and participants in the opening game! SenegalNetherlands was supposed to be the opener, but tournament organizers have since bumped up this match a day to ensure the host nation gets Game 1. Does the fact that no one had thought about this until a couple of months ago bode well for the general logistical success of a massive global event taking place in a tiny desert nation? It does not, but we’ve already lost the thread here. Back to the games …

There’s no other way to say it, really: Qatar are the worst host nation team in the history of the World Cup, and the Qataris are only in the tournament because of the incredibly dubious process that led to their country being awarded the tournament.

– Is Qatar’s World Cup an attempt at sportswashing, or something more?

They’re 50th in the FIFA rankings, and Twenty First Group’s model rates them as the worst defensive team in the tournament by a good margin. Per the ratings, the gap between them and the 31st-ranked defensive team (Costa Rica) is bigger than the gap between Costa Rica and No. 17 Senegal. Qatar can play some nice possession soccer at times (see: their match against the United States at the 2021 Gold Cup) — but it’s hard to see them not getting overpowered by bigger and stronger teams.

Despite some fun talent, Ecuador don’t seem all that good — they barely eked out a positive goal differential in qualifying — but they should cruise in this one.

Result: Qatar 0-2 Ecuador

Laurens tips Group A’s Senegal to be the surprise package

Gab & Juls preview Group A at the 2022 World Cup, which contains hosts Qatar, Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador.


Nov. 21

England vs. Iran (Group B): England have been awful ever since I wrote those first predictions. They were relegated from the first tier of the Nations League and haven’t won any of their past six games. Since 1998, teams that made the semifinals of the World Cup have, on average, won better than 60% of their final five games before the tournament. Gareth Southgate’s team, of course, have won 0%.

After Spain, England are the slowest team in the tournament, moving the ball upfield at a crawl’s pace of 0.96 meters per second. And while Iran can’t score, they’ve always been tough to score against. This one, especially the first half, could be a slog for the Three Lions.

Result: England 2-0 Iran

Senegal vs. Netherlands (Group A): OK, now that we’ve reached what should be the first competitive game of the tournament, it’s time for some ground rules, base rates, what have you. Over the past two World Cups, 80% of the matches were won by one team or another, with the remaining 20% ending in draws. And there have been an average of 2.6 goals scored per game.

When a team wins, they score 2.3 goals and concede 0.6. When it’s a draw, the scores, very nicely, add up to 1.0 goals for and 1.0 goals against. So roughly, the average win at the World Cup is a 2-1 margin, and the average draw is 1-1.

Among teams that have appeared in the past two tournaments, France have averaged both the most goals scored (2.0) and conceded the fewest (0.8). At the other end of the spectrum, among teams with appearances in both events, Iran have scored the fewest goals (0.5 per game), while Australia have allowed the most (2.3). If we limit it to teams who have made at least one appearance, then Panama have allowed the most goals (3.7), while Cameroon and Honduras (0.3) have scored the fewest.

While they missed out on Russia 2018, Netherlands have scored the most goals (2.1) and conceded the second fewest (0.6, behind Denmark‘s 0.5) among teams to appear in at least one of the previous two tournaments. Their manager in 2014? Louis van Gaal. Their manager in 2018? One Louis van Gaal.

Befitting what is widely considered the worst group in the tournament, Netherlands are the eighth-best team, according to the Twenty First Group model, while Senegal rank 18th. One stylistic indicator to keep an eye on: Senegal have moved the ball upfield faster (1.73 meters per second) than any team in the tournament other than Morocco. In contrast, LVG’s teams have a history of slow-moving, sideways possession. Should be a fun one, and it’s a nice matchup for Sadio Mane & Co. The winner of this likely wins the group.

Result: Senegal 1-1 Netherlands

United States vs. Wales (Group B): The U.S. had a really hard time with teams that could effectively sit back and counter during qualifying; and with a supposedly fit and healthy Gareth Bale leading the way, the Welsh have been one of the most effective sit-back-and-counter teams in international soccer over the past decade. Of course, we have seen Bale sprint approximately one time since April, and that was after he scored the tying goal in the dying minutes of the MLS Cup for Los Angeles FC against the Philadelphia Union. He sure can dunk; can he still run?

The U.S. truly do have more talent than Wales, but their Day 1 opponents will present a tactical puzzle that Gregg Berhalter’s team haven’t yet solved.

Result: U.S. 1-1 Wales

Has Southgate learned from England’s recent heartbreaks?

Gab & Juls preview Group B at the 2022 World Cup, with Marcotti wondering if England can finally go all the way.


Nov. 22

Argentina vs. Saudi Arabia (Group C): The vibes around Argentina are as good as they’ve ever been right now, and the Saudis just match up terribly with them — and frankly, with most teams in the tournament. They like to possess the ball, so there should be plenty of space for Argentina’s dynamic attackers to run into as Lionel Messi continues to drop deeper and deeper as he gets older, pinging pinpoint passes up and across the field. Their 35-game unbeaten streak continues apace.

Result: Argentina 3-0 Saudi Arabia

Denmark vs. Tunisia (Group D): In international soccer, everyone knows you’ve got the Big Nine. (Actually, don’t use this term; I just made it up, and people will look at you funny if you try to drop it in conversation.) There’s Brazil and Argentina from South America, along with the European septet of France, Spain, England, GermanyPortugalBelgium and the Netherlands. But after that group, Denmark have the shortest odds to win the whole thing. They made the semis of the Euros, and it wasn’t a fluke.

– World Cup 2022 team-by-team previews

The level of coaching at this tournament and at international soccer in general will vary widely, but Kasper Hjulmand showed an ability to build a really fun, interesting and flexible side last summer. The Danes are still lacking a truly standout goal scorer, but they’re one of the more cohesive and well-thought-out teams in the event. They’ll smash the set-piece button, too.

Result: Denmark 2-0 Tunisia

Mexico vs. Poland (Group C): Yes, Poland do have Robert Lewandowski, the red-hot best striker in the world. But also: Poland have had Robert Lewandowski for over a decade at this point and never really accomplished anything of note at the international level. I don’t see much of a difference in these two teams overall.

Result: Mexico 1-1 Poland

France vs. Australia (Group D): Sure, France lost the entire midfield that made this team go, but there’s still no need to overcomplicate this. Despite attempting to qualify out of a comparatively easy region, Australia produced an expected-goal differential of plus-0.22 per 90 minutes in their competitive matches since last August. Only Uruguay, Costa Rica and Ghana were worse — with the latter two somehow making it into the tournament despite consistently getting buried under great chances by their opponents.

France will probably play this more conservatively than they should, but hey, it worked last time, didn’t it?

Result: France 1-0 Australia

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

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


Nov. 23

Morocco vs. Croatia (Group F): These are two teams that illustrate the dual beauty and curse of international soccer: some global superstars playing with some guys from the Croatian and Moroccan first divisions. In April, I wrote, “It would be a massive boost for Morocco if Chelsea‘s Hakim Ziyech decides to unretire before the World Cup, but we’re counting him out for now.” Guess what? Ziyech is back, baby! Croatia, meanwhile, are essentially just a worse, older version of the unlikely team that made the World Cup final last time around.

Among tournament sides, Croatia rank 10th according to Twenty First Group, while the Moroccans sit 17th. INCREDIBLY MINOR UPSET ALERT.

Result: Morocco 2-1 Croatia

Germany vs. Japan (Group E): Don’t sleep on this game — metaphorically, that is. For some of you, this game will be played while you literally are sleeping, but DVR it if you have to because it could be a lot of fun.

In the sample of games mentioned in the intro, Germany had the best expected-goal differential per game, while Japan were sixth. By hiring former Bayern manager Hansi Flick, the Germans have basically doubled down on the push-everyone-forward high-wire act that saw them get dumped out in the group stages in 2018; all of their matches are a must-watch.

Result: Germany 3-2 Japan

Spain vs. Costa Rica (Group E): Time for some introspection. I stand by the phrase, uttered in April, “Spain have the best coach in the tournament.” But Luis Enrique is really testing my resolve here and making me wonder what “coaching” even means. He left the likes of Liverpool‘s Thiago and PSG’s Sergio Ramos off his roster, and he recently admitted that he thought practicing set pieces was a waste of time. Despite, you know, some people (me) writing whole chapters of whole books about how set-piece practice is the most cost- and time-effective way to score goals.

That being said, Spain mopped the floor with Italy in the semifinals of the Euros only to lose in a shootout, and the team is built around a core of young, dynamic, flexible winger/attacker/midfielder/whatever types that have produced some really intricate and club-team-like possession play.

Costa Rica, meanwhile, might be the oldest team at the tournament. I’m not buying their late surge in CONCACAF or their win over New Zealand, either.

Result: Spain 2-0 Costa Rica

Belgium vs. Canada (Group F): This is just an awful matchup for Belgium. They’re weak at the back and can’t really defend in space, but Roberto Martinez has the team playing in a way that requires his aging slew of center backs to sometimes still do that. Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David are both one-man counterattacks … and they play on the same team.

The Belgians might overwhelm Canada with possession, but it’s really hard to imagine any pattern to this game that doesn’t involve David and Davies streaking up the field into wide-open space at least a couple of times.

Result: Belgium 1-2 Canada

Which CONCACAF stars make ESPN FC’s top 50 World Cup players?

Sebastian Salazar and Herculez Gomez take a look at which CONCACAF players make ESPN FC’s World Cup rank.


Nov. 24

Switzerland vs. Cameroon (Group G): Will Xherdan Shaqiri finally take off all of his clothes during a World Cup match? Tune in on Thanksgiving morning as we begin our collective journey.

Result: Switzerland 1-0 Cameroon

Uruguay vs. South Korea (Group H): I must repent.

April me: “Sorry, but I just can’t get excited about a team that (A) is managed by a coach who was fired by the worst club in MLS, (B) conceded as many goals as it scored in qualifying and (C) still relies on a pair of 35-year-old strikers. This will be South Korea’s last World Cup with Son Heung-Min somewhere near his peak. I like that a little better.”

– World Cup vignettes: People in Qatar talk about what it means to them

November me: Darwin Nunez is the most exciting player in world soccer. He’s averaging more than a goal or an assist per 90 minutes. He frequently looks like he doesn’t know how to tie his shoes, let alone walk and chew gum at the same time, let alone play professional soccer for one of the best teams in the world. He will, on a single play, dribble the ball 60 yards, beat three defenders, and then somehow shoot the ball … backward. He’s complete chaos — and he’s likely going to be paired with a mild-mannered veteran named … LUIS SUAREZ. Throw in midfielders Federico Valverde and Rodrigo Bentancur, neither of whom can stop scoring, then add in a recent injury to Son Heung-Min, and we’re taking Uruguay this time.

Result: Uruguay 1-0 South Korea

Portugal vs. Ghana (Group H): Remember all those Ghana teams the U.S. had trouble with? Good, now wipe that from your memory. Although they’ve added some new, nationalized talent like Inaki Williams and Tariq Lamptey, the Black Stars limped into the tournament off a lucky Thomas Partey goal in a match that Nigeria dominated. This team didn’t get out of its group at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Result: Portugal 2-0 Ghana

Brazil vs. Serbia (Group G): When they played four years ago, the match ended 2-0. When they play while you’re falling asleep on your couch from too much turkey …

Result: Brazil 2-0 Serbia


Nov. 25

Wales vs. Iran (Group B): It probably won’t happen, but this match could consist of 90 minutes of both teams staring at the ball while it sits in the middle of the center circle, daring the other side to take the initiative. With both sides at their best without the ball, this feels like a terrible matchup for everyone, especially those who decide to wake up early to watch it.

Result: Wales 0-0 Iran

Qatar vs. Senegal (Group A): Senegal soaks up possession from Qatar, the hosts can’t break down the likes of Everton‘s Idrissa Gueye and Chelsea’s Kalidou Koulibaly, the ball turns over and all of a sudden, it’s Sadio Mane breaking into the penalty area — over and over and over again.

Result: Qatar 0-2 Senegal

Netherlands vs. Ecuador (Group A): The Netherlands have been on fire over the past few months. The Elo ratings get updated each time a team plays a game based on the result and the competitiveness of the match, and only Brazil, Argentina and Spain are currently ahead of the Dutch. But this roster … just doesn’t make much sense. They have a bunch of good center backs who can’t all play together and a bunch of gigantic strikers who can’t all play together. Beyond that, the midfield feels very light, and then it’s a bunch of wide attackers who all like to occupy the same spaces and not many guys who can stretch a defense.

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It can work when all the players are world class — elite players can figure out the fit on the fly — but the standard of the Dutch attackers this cycle is a couple of ticks below the Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben generation. The lack of talent is why the Twenty First Group model isn’t so high on them, either.

This could be a tricky match for LVG’s side.

Result: Netherlands 2-1 Ecuador

England vs. United States (Group B): The “It’s Called Soccer, Lads” derby!

Despite all of the exciting attacking talent on both sides, both teams are much better defensively than they are going forward. It’s a weird matchup, and that’s going beyond the anxieties and emotional complexes both nations have developed against, and in concert with, each other over the past 300 years. England should be able to dominate with the ball more than they typically do, while the USMNT have typically fared better without the ball despite wanting the ball more often. Am I talking myself into both teams swapping managers before the tournament starts? I asked this question in April, and I’m still asking it today.

– Borden: Introducing the USMNT’s “Class of 2022” for the World Cup

This is also a matchup between perhaps the two most out-of-form teams in the tournament; England have dropped eight spots in the Elo ratings over the past year, while the U.S. tumbled nine places. There are still all kinds of ways to overthink this one, but despite a pretty volatile seven months for both sides, I’m sticking with the reasoning I went with back in April: “The more talented team wins.”

Result: England 2-1 U.S.

Marcotti raises doubts over France’s World Cup prospects

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


Nov. 26

Tunisia vs. Australia (Group D): Based on the Twenty First Group ratings, this would be the worst game of the tournament: No. 25 vs. No. 29.

Result: Tunisia 1-1 Australia

Poland vs. Saudi Arabia (Group C): This feels like one of those “guy wins the Golden Boot in one game” type matches, doesn’t it? Would the over/under on Lewandowski goals be 1.5? Maybe even 2?

Result: Poland 4-1 Saudi Arabia

Argentina vs. Mexico (Group C): The last time Tata Martino coached an international match involving the greatest soccer player of all time, Lionel Messi immediately retired after the game. Let’s all hope that’s not the case this time around! I’m skeptical that Martino’s familiarity with the Argentina setup will provide too much of an edge, but it certainly can’t hurt.

Result: Argentina 2-1 Mexico

France vs. Denmark (Group D): The holders against the Euro semifinalists makes for a fun group stage rematch. They drew 0-0 when they played in the group stages in 2018. Denmark have definitely improved since then, and although Pogba and Kante are gone, Karim Benzema is back.

Result: France 1-1 Denmark


Nov. 27

Japan vs. Costa Rica (Group E): It’s time for the transitive property of analysis. Japan pummeled the USMNT in their tuneup friendly a couple of months ago. Despite the score lines over their matches, the U.S. were clearly a better team than Costa Rica over the course of qualifying. Therefore …

Result: Japan 1-0 Costa Rica

Belgium vs. Morocco (Group F): In April, I said, “This is a much better matchup for Belgium than Canada, I think.” I’m proud of myself for absentmindedly inserting “I think” there because it suggested some trepidation. And while I do think Morocco are a slightly better matchup, I no longer think they’re a much better matchup. After all, as mentioned earlier, the Moroccans are the fastest team in the tournament. This is a less talented, and much older, Belgium team than the one we saw at the last World Cup, and the situation hasn’t improved much since April. Eden Hazard has essentially fallen off the face of the earth but is expected to play a prominent role, while Romelu Lukaku has scored a whopping one goal in Serie A this season. He’s on pace to score fewer goals for Inter than he did during last season’s disastrous stint at Chelsea.

– What big European clubs are doing during the World Cup

Remember: A favorite goes out early in every tournament …

Result: Belgium 1-1 Morocco

Croatia vs. Canada (Group F): Against Canada in Canada, the U.S. dominated possession, pressed well and put together some really nice combinations, but it rarely ever led to a quality shot on goal. Croatia should be able to control this game in the same way, and with more midfield talent than the Americans can offer, they also should be able to turn that possession into some more dangerous chances.

If they can’t, they’ll just bop crosses into the box and shoot from range — two specialties of Ivan Perisic — opting for a more industrial Plan B the U.S. never resorted to.

Result: Croatia 2-1 Canada

Spain vs. Germany (Group E): With Nos. 2 and 7 in the Twenty First Group ratings, this is, theoretically, the Game of the Group Stages. But more often than not, the Game of the Group Stages ends in disappointment because both sides have more to lose than to gain by going all-out for the win. Hell, and even when they do, like with Spain and Portugal in 2018, the match can still end even.

Result: Spain 1-1 Germany

How do you pronounce Qatar?

Professor of Islamic history Jonathan Brown gives the definitive pronunciation of Qatar with Gio Reyna, Reggie Cannon and Sam Vines.


Nov. 28

Cameroon vs. Serbia (Group G): This just isn’t a good group for Cameroon. Brazil might be the best team in the tournament, while Serbia and Switzerland both rank within the top 15 of the Twenty First Group rankings. As such, TFG gives the Indomitable Lions just an 11% chance of reaching the knockout rounds. Only Qatar (9%) and Costa Rica (8%) have a smaller chance of advancing.

Result: Cameroon 1-2 Serbia

South Korea vs. Ghana (Group H): Among all the teams in the tournament, Ghana are the only ones who were outscored in all of their competitive matches since last August. This isn’t a vintage South Korea side by any means, but they should be alive come the final Matchday.

Result: South Korea 1-0 Ghana

Brazil vs. Switzerland (Group G): They tied 1-1 in the group stages last time around, but Brazil totally dominated the shot count 21-6. There’s no good reason to suggest any different this time around, and there’s no good reason to expect the bounces to fall Switzerland’s way a second time.

Result: Brazil 2-1 Switzerland

Portugal vs. Uruguay (Group H): Funnily enough, the Twenty First Group model rates Uruguay as exactly the same as Serbia. And that Serbian team beat and drew Portugal en route to winning the World Cup qualifying group and forcing Fernando Santos’ team into a playoff. Portugal lost Diogo Jota since I first wrote this thing, and Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be rapidly declining and killing the vibes at every possible opportunity, while Uruguay have a bunch of ascending soon-to-be-if-they’re-not-already superstars. But even without Jota and with a big question mark over Ronaldo’s performance up top, Portugal still have way more talent up and down the roster.

Uruguay knocked Portugal out in the round of 16, but these two teams are in very different places four years later — even if the headline names remain the same.

Result: Portugal 2-1 Uruguay


Nov. 29

Netherlands vs. Qatar (Group A): One of those classic World Cup matchups between one team that’s already eliminated and another team that’s trying to score as many goals as possible in order to win the potential goal-differential tiebreaker atop the group.

Result: Netherlands 4-1 Qatar

Ecuador vs. Senegal (Group A): While the incentives tend to be uniform over the first two matches of the group stages — win as many points as you can — by the third game, you’re just trying to do whatever you think maximizes your chances of qualifying. While a win would put Ecuador through, a draw or a win would be good enough for Senegal.

It was the same exact situation when Senegal played Colombia in the final group stage game in 2018 — and lost. Four years later, they’ve learned their lesson.

Result: Ecuador 1-1 Senegal

Wales vs. England (Group B): Based on the prior outcomes, England will have already clinched first place in the group through the first two matches. That, theoretically, bodes incredibly well for Wales … until you remember that England’s second-choice team is likely to be nearly as good as its first. Southgate rotated his squad during the group stages of the Euros without much issue, and the same should be true this time around.

Result: Wales 1-1 England

Iran vs. United States (Group B): Another team that doesn’t want the ball.

In April, I wrote: “Hopefully you’re sensing a theme here … and hopefully Gregg Berhalter is too. While, paradoxically, it seemed like the U.S. might match up better against better competition come the World Cup — less of the ball, but more transition opportunities, and more space in the attacking third — they’ve drawn a collection of teams who also function better without it. Figuring out how to break these teams down — hint, hint, set pieces! — should be the goal of the next seven months.”

Spoiler: They did not figure it out over the next seven months. However, I am now dangerously close to proclaiming, “The USMNT is better against good teams than bad teams,” and that’s step too cute, even for me. This seems likely to be a very frustrating three-match slate for American fans, but after a tense first half, the U.S. breaks through — and then breaks through again as Iran now have to push forward to stay alive.

Result: Iran 0-2 U.S.

Berhalter: USMNT to continue ‘Be the Change’ message at World Cup

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter says he and his team will continue to push the team’s “Be the Change” message while in Qatar.


Nov. 30

Tunisia vs. France (Group D): Finally, a decisive win for the defending champs.

Result: Tunisia 0-3 France

Australia vs. Denmark (Group D): Australia would have to win this by a large margin in order to advance and so we’ll say that they get a goal, but then leave themselves open at the back over the full 90 minutes. Denmark and France both finish the group with seven points and the same goal differential, but the Danes top the standings thanks to the goals-scored tiebreaker.

Result: Australia 1-3 Denmark

Poland vs. Argentina (Group C): A chance for Lewandowski to avenge Messi for stealing his Ballon d’Or? Or not. When both teams benefit from a draw, I expect both teams to — ultimately — benefit from a draw.

Result: Poland 1-1 Argentina

Saudi Arabia vs. Mexico (Group C): Feels like the right way for Tata Martino’s reign as Mexico manager to come to an end, right? A decisive win gets them to four points, but thanks to a schedule quirk, Argentina doesn’t have as much to play for against Poland, so Poland gets an extra point from the final match to send El Tri packing.

Result: Saudi Arabia 1-3 Mexico


Dec. 1

Croatia vs. Belgium (Group F): The Belgium attackers finally click, as Croatia controls possession but leave the Red Devils too much space to play into on the counter. Will it be enough?

Result: Croatia 1-2 Belgium

Canada vs. Morocco (Group F): What did I say earlier? When a draw suits both parties, don’t be surprised when both parties end in a draw. Morocco tops the group, and Canada and Belgium finish tied on points, on goal differential, and on goals scored. The next tiebreaker? Head-to-head, and so the second- and third-place finishers from 2018 both get dumped out before the round of 16.

Result: Canada 1-1 Morocco

Japan vs. Spain (Group E): The way to frustrate Spain is to limit space in your defensive third and force them to circulate the ball from side to side. The issue with that in this particular situation? Japan need to win, not just grind out a draw. The incentives are against them in this one.

Result: Japan 0-2 Spain

Costa Rica vs. Germany (Group E): The Costa Rica of two World Cups ago would have given Germany some problems. The problem with this year’s Costa Rica is that they have many of the same players as the Costa Rica of two World Cups ago. Four players on the roster have 100-plus caps; that’s not a good thing.

Result: Costa Rica 1-3 Germany

Will Germany or Spain take top spot in Group E?

Gab & Juls preview Group E at the 2022 World Cup, home to heavyweights Germany and Spain.


Dec. 2

South Korea vs. Portugal (Group H): I fear that the scheduling really works against the Koreans here. Playing the most important group match — against Uruguay — first isn’t ideal with Son only just coming back from injury in time to kick things off. We don’t know how effective he’ll be in his first game back. And then, to wrap, they get to play a frustratingly conservative Portugal team who are incentivized to be conservative in this one, as they only need a draw to top the group.

Result: South Korea 1-1 Portugal

Ghana vs. Uruguay (Group H): Originally, I projected this to be the only meaningless game of the group stages, based on how everything shook out. Instead, we get a rematch of the time Luis Suarez punched a ball off the goal line in extra time of a World Cup quarter final — and it worked. Suarez was sent off, Asamoah Gyan missed the ensuing penalty and Uruguay won in a shootout.

– World Cup kit rankings: Every nation ranked from 32 to 1

While typically Uruguay would benefit from playing an already-eliminated team, Ghana should be up for this one with the opportunity to eliminate the team that eliminated them, tragically, 12 years ago. I see this one getting really weird and emotional. It ends with lots of goals — just enough for Uruguay to sneak past South Korea via tiebreaker.

Result: Ghana 2-2 Uruguay

Cameroon vs. Brazil (Group G): Just a brutal draw for Cameroon. They were also in Brazil’s group — in Brazil — in 2014. Sorry, guys!

Result: Cameroon 1-2 Brazil

Serbia vs. Switzerland (Group G): Serbia vs. Switzerland was the best game of the group stages in 2018, and it’s setting up for that to be the case again in 2022. Switzerland would just need a draw, Serbia would need a win. Last time, Shaqiri got naked from the waist up after his 90th-minute winner and he and Granit Xhaka were charged by FIFA for politically charged celebrations.

Switzerland has the slightly better — and more balanced — team, but this would be an electric match.

Result: Serbia 1-1 Switzerland


OK, here we go: the round of 16

Dec. 3

Netherlands vs. United States: Ah, yes, finally a matchup that might suit the USMNT’s strength. As we already went over, the Dutch might be the worst best team from the group stages, so this part of the draw worked out well for Berhalter’s team. Only Germany and Spain had a higher percentage of the final-third possession in their matches than the Dutch did, and they’ll likely look to do the same against the Americans. However, they also don’t have the devastating attacking talent of other top teams to turn that possession into goals. Tim Ream and Walker Zimmerman should be able to hang with the likes of Wout Weghorst and Luuk De Jong.

Of course, on the other end, is it hard to imagine a team without a true striker scoring against a team with Virgil van Dijk? Sure, but hey, Christian Pulisic always plays well against Liverpool, doesn’t he?

Result: Netherlands 1-2 U.S.

Can Belgium finally live up to their potential in Qatar?

Gab & Juls wonder if 2022 is finally the year for Belgium’s “golden generation” to come good.

Argentina vs. France: Argentina’s reward for winning their group? A game against France, who, in 2018, were rewarded for winning their group with a game against Argentina. The Albiceleste are way better equipped to handle France this time around, but it’s just a brutal draw for them.

So much of winning the World Cup comes down to good fortune, and unfortunately, Lionel Messi knows that as well as anyone. I have this sneaking suspicion that one of Argentina’s talented but volatile center backs — Nicolas OtamendiCristian Romero or Lisandro Martinez — is going to do something silly at the wrong moment, and it’s going to cost them the tournament.

Result: Argentina 1-2 France (after extra time)


Dec. 4

Denmark vs. Poland: Poland have the best player; Denmark have the better team. It might seem like an unlikely outcome for either side to reach the quarterfinals, but based on Twenty First Group’s projections, there’s about a 5042% chance that at least one of them does.

Result: Denmark 1-0 Poland

England vs. Senegal: This would be a fun one, huh? A colossal battle between Sadio Mane and The Narrative That Trent Alexander-Arnold Can’t Defend. Just kidding; I doubt TAA will be out there, unless multiple other players get hurt. This could be a difficult one for England, but I just don’t think they’ll concede the same kind of space Senegal are likely to see during the group stages.

Result: England 2-0 Senegal


Dec. 5

Laurens backs ‘best Neymar ever’ to take Brazil far

Gab & Juls explain what we can expect to see from Neymar and Brazil at the 2022 World Cup.

Spain vs. Canada: Now this could be a really tricky matchup for Luis Enrique’s team. Canada are the exact kind of team that has historically given Spain trouble, and there’s just no one in their squad who can handle Alphonso Davies. But Spain are just going to have so much of the ball in this one, and they’re better equipped than just about anyone else in the tournament to convert all that ball control into high-quality chances.

Result: Spain 1-0 Canada

Brazil vs. Uruguay: Brazil outscored Uruguay 6-1 in their two qualifying matches and outshot them 22-10. While Uruguay do have Darwin, Suarez, Bentancur and Valverde, Brazil have NeymarThiago SilvaAlissonCasemiroEdersonMarquinhosVinicius JuniorFabinho, Bruno GuimaraesGabriel MartinelliGabriel JesusRaphinhaRodrygoRicharlison …

Result: Brazil 2-0 Uruguay


Dec. 6

Morocco vs. Germany: While Argentina finish first in their group and land France, Germany finish second in theirs and luck out with a matchup against Morocco. Germany’s big problem under Hansi Flick is that they haven’t really played well against any big teams but they’ve absolutely pummeled any team they’ve had the definitive talent advantage against. While Morocco handled Belgium in our tournament, the Germans are essentially a much better version of the same team: Push the attack dials up to 100 and deal with the fallout.

Result: Morocco 1-3 Germany

Portugal vs. Switzerland: The Swiss are the kind of organized, know-who-we-are team that Portugal have struggled with over the years. I think the same thing probably happens here, much like with France at the Euros. Each team grabs a goal, it goes to penalties and, well, it’s pretty much a coin flip from there.

Result: Portugal 1-1 Switzerland, Portugal advances on penalties


Quarterfinals

Dec. 9

Spain vs. Brazil: Wow. These teams were circling each other during the late aughts and early 2010s, with Spain dominating Europe, Brazil doing the same in South America but neither team ever meeting on the world’s biggest stage. These seriously might just be the two best teams in the tournament.

Tite has turned Brazil into the best defensive team on the globe, and that’s been true for the better part of a decade. Since he took over as coach, they’ve allowed 3.7 goals — per year. Meanwhile, Luis Enrique has Spain playing like an elite club team: pressing high and dominating games with complex positional rotations in possession. This would be a title fight, but I think this is where Enrique’s refusal to mine for edges — leaving talented veterans off the squad, laughing away set pieces — comes back to bite him.

Result: Spain 1-2 Brazil (after extra time)

Pedri? Bellingham? Valverde? Who will have the best World Cup?

The ESPN FC crew debate who will have the best World Cup out of Jude Bellingham, Federico Valverde and Pedri.

United States vs. France: Yep, that’s going to do it for the Americans. Could they theoretically pull off the upset here? Yes, sure, but just because North Macedonia beats Italy doesn’t mean you should predict that it’ll happen. It’s close to impossible for me to imagine the U.S. scoring against France. And at the other end, who’s going to slow down Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema, Ousmane DembeleKingsley Coman and on and on and on?

Result: U.S. 0-2 France


Dec. 10

Germany vs. Portugal: We saw Germany absolutely annihilate Portugal at the Euros in 2021, and outside of the retirement of Toni Kroos, they’re now a better — and better coached — team. Flick manages in a way that attempts to raise his team’s ceiling, while Portugal’s Fernando Santos opts to pull up his team’s floor.

The latter gets you out of the group stages; the former gets you to the World Cup semifinals.

Germany 2-1 Portugal

England vs. Denmark: It’s a day of Euro 2020 rematches!

Denmark really were worthy semifinalists in the summer of 2021, dominating the balance of chances in every match they played … until England showed up.

Although it went to extra time, England outshot the Danes 20-6, putting nine on target to their opponent’s three. The game was in England, of course, but England might have even more talent in Qatar than they had at the Euros. They overwhelmed Denmark last time, and the bounces didn’t quite go their way until extra time.

The big difference this time — beyond the match not being at Wembley Stadium? The tournament is happening in the middle of the season and most of the England roster falls into one of two camps: (1) those who have played an absurd number of minutes over the past 18 months or (2) those who have not played an absurd number of minutes over the past 18 months only because their club managers dropped them due to poor performance. When I looked in mid-September, England had 10 players who had logged at least 5,000 minutes over the previous 365 days, while Denmark only had one: Tottenham’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

For a number of reasons, this World Cup is going to be unlike anything we’ve seen, and so I think we should all just be way less confident in our predictions, in general. He says, after predicting every game in the tournament? Rather, I mean that I think there’s more room for an underdog run and for big teams going down early than there has been in any other modern edition of the tournament. And so, the Danes get their revenge.

Result: England 1-2 Denmark (after extra time)

E60 Qatar’s World Cup

In 2014, E60 went to Qatar to report on the plight of migrant workers there. This spring, they went back, to see what has changed, and not changed, in the last eight years.


Semifinals

France vs. Brazil (Dec. 13): Whenever these two teams play, it feels like you’re watching history unfold in real time. You know the things you’re seeing are things people will be talking about in 50 years, and you know it while they’re happening: Roberto Carlos violating every law of physics with a free kick; Zinedine Zidane looking like he escaped one of the four mendicant orders to come dominate the 1998 World Cup final; Zidane turning back the clock to knock Brazil out in 2006 round of 16.

This one shouldn’t be any different. It’ll be decided by a single moment or two that everyone in both countries will remember forever. Since it hasn’t really happened for them since 2002, Brazil seems due for a few of those to go their way.

Result: France 1-2 Brazil

Denmark vs. Germany (Dec. 14): This would be as close as we’ll come to a Bundesliga game breaking out in Qatar. Most of the top teams in this tournament like to play slowly and carefully. They grind through games that don’t feature many turnovers. Not these two, though.

Among qualifiers from Europe, Denmark’s matches featured the most possessions per team (93.5), while Germany were essentially the same (93.4). They both won roughly seven possessions per match in the attacking third — both ranking behind only Japan in that regard. And they both moved the ball upfield at almost exactly the same speed: Denmark at 1.24 meters per second, Germany at 1.23.

We can be more specific than just “a Bundesliga game” — this might actually look like a Bayern Munich game, if they were to play themselves. The main reason Bayern Munich have won 10 league titles in a row is their large financial advantage over the rest of the league; but another — very minor — reason is that most of the league tries to go toe-to-toe with them whenever they play. It makes for a great spectacle, and this theoretical matchup would present the same possibility, but it typically just doesn’t work. When you try to press and unsettle Bayern Munich, you’re essentially trying to beat them at their own game, and you’re typically not going to be able to do that because Bayern Munich will always have better players than you.

This match might feature a similar dynamic.

Result: Denmark 2-3 Germany

Gab & Juls have high expectations for a thrilling Group H

Gab & Juls preview Group H at the 2022 World Cup, with Portugal, Uruguay, Ghana and South Korea fighting to qualify.


Third-place game

France vs. Denmark (Dec. 17): Out of principle, I am not going to analyze an imaginary soccer game that shouldn’t even exist in the first place. BAN THE THIRD-PLACE GAME. THE PLAYERS DON’T CARE. THE FANS DON’T CARE. THIS TOURNAMENT IS HAPPENING IN THE MIDDLE OF A DOMESTIC SOCCER SEASON. WE DON’T NEED THIS, FIFA. REFUND YOUR SPONSORS.


The 2022 World Cup final

Brazil vs. Germany (Dec. 18): The main story, of course, would be the 7-1. Can Brazil get revenge for perhaps the most embarrassing defeat in the history of the World Cup? Neymar, theoretically, would be playing, which also would mean that his teammates wouldn’t be in tears, moments before kickoff, while they held up his jersey during the national anthem. Also, theoretically, Thiago Silva wouldn’t be suspended. Meanwhile, the current German squad features only three holdovers from 2014: Manuel NeuerThomas Muller and Mario Gotze.

It’s 1 vs. 2 in the Twenty First Group ratings; it’s the best defense vs. the best attack.

However, there’s also a larger narrative at play in this one: Influenced by a number of innovations that began or were popularized in the Bundesliga, the European club game has become the global epicenter of the world’s most popular sport. The best players and coaches and trainers and executives all tend to work in Europe. Pressing is Germany’s major tactical export, and the national team does it as aggressively as anyone. Only Morocco and Senegal held their opponents to a lower pass-completion percentage than Flick’s team (72.5%). Brazil, meanwhile, stand in refutation of the dominant trend, as they’ve allowed 82.7% of opposition passes to be completed — a higher number than everyone in the tournament other than Costa Rica and France.

While there was supposed to be a global leveling in the international game, it seems like it’s actually going in the other direction, with European sides becoming ever more dominant thanks to their proximity to the highest echelon of the sport. Among the past 12 top-three finishers at the World Cup, just one (Argentina, in 2014) comes from outside of Europe.

A win for Brazil would be a welcome, if temporary, reversal of where the game is going. Of course, if they do win, they’ll be doing it with a roster composed almost completely of players who all work in the same place: Western Europe.

Result: Brazil 2-0 Germany

USMNT Wahl -World Cup Daily, Day 5

It’s not about the beer. It’s about Qatar’s rulers running this World Cup, and FIFA can’t do anything about it.

GRANT WAHLNOV 19∙PAID
 
S
 
On Friday, Qatar’s rulers quashed the sale of alcoholic beer inside and outside of World Cup stadiums (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

DOHA, Qatar — Do you really think Qatar’s authoritarian rulers just decided today—two days before the start of the World Cup—that they weren’t going to allow alcoholic beer to be served in World Cup stadiums? I sure don’t.

But what I do know is the big take-away isn’t about beer at all. It’s that FIFA is not in control of this World Cup. Qatar’s rulers are, and that makes anything we’ve heard from FIFA or national federations speaking about, say, how Qatari security forces will treat LGBTQ visitors here should be regarded as meaningless.

So, FIFA and national federations: Don’t speak about how you’re told that everything will be OK. You really don’t know for sure, and the Qataris go out of their way not to be reassuring.


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We’re two days away from the opening game of the World Cup (Qatar-Ecuador). By all expectations, the soccer should start to take center stage with four games a day beginning on Tuesday. But the truth is that I’m less confident than ever that security forces here will avoid escalating interactions with fans—gay fans, drunk fans, protesting fans—that turn into significant incidents.

This is the trend in Qatar: People can say there are codified laws and rules, but then they don’t get observed on the ground. Qatar can pass new worker-protection laws, but as I found out speaking to workers here, many of them aren’t enforced. FIFA can develop PowerPoint presentations about how security forces should avoid escalating situations with visitors, but they can’t guarantee that will happen.

The only people truly in control here are the Qatari royal family, and that is a certifiably opaque group. The default in this country is for security people to demand that you delete a picture from your phone, even a totally innocuous picture, because that’s what happens with the people who live here, most of them migrants, when it’s not in the fantasyland of WorldCup-ville.

On Wednesday, the day after I wrote about my small incident with the phone-deletion-demanding security guard at the media center, I had a strange thing happen. I was in my house here doing a live video event with Front Office Sports, and a random person walked straight in through the door. He looked at me. I looked at him. Remember, it’s a live video event.

The most likely scenario was that he was a neighbor who had just walked into the wrong house, since all of our townhouses here look the same. But there was just enough doubt planted in my head by my own incident, the Qatari record and what we have been seeing this week that I asked myself if this guy was the police coming to my door. I hate that seed of doubt.

So what’s it going to be, Qatar? Is the soccer going to be the dominant story starting Sunday? Or are we going to keep seeing the control of this World Cup ceded to this country’s rulers?

11/10/22  USWNT lose 3rd in a row face Germany Sun 5 pm ESPN, US Men Roster Set, GK Jordan Farr in USL Champ Tonight 9 pm ESPN2, World Cup in 2 weeks

US Men’s World Cup Roster is Set

So the Roster has been named for the US World Cup team going to Qatar in just 11 days – Berhalter stayed true to his normal rotation but did have a few surprises.  First and foremost is the omission of Zach Steffan – I feel bad for Zach that his injuries and poor form have come over the past year – but the 26 year old is simply not up to snuff right now in Europe and in my opinion should not be on this roster.  I am relieved to think that baring injury Arsenal GK Matt Turner our BEST shotstopper will be between the pipes.  I believe he’s got great games in him and will have to have a game changing performance along the way if the US is to advance to the Knockout Rounds.  (love this snippet on Turner from ESPN). The other huge omissions were #9s Ricardo Pepi and Jordan Pfok for Haji Wright who is playing fantastically in Turkey and grew up playing with Pulisic, Adams & McKinney on US Youth National teams.  (don’t discount that relationship he has had since childhood with the heart and soul of this young team).  I am still not convinced he shouldn’t bring a 4th striker in Pfok but he hasn’t been as hot the last month in Germany as Wright and Josh Sargent have been in Europe. Thrilled to see Tim Ream in Defense he should start between Robinson on the left and Zimmerman on the right in my mind.  He starts for Fulham who is 10th in the EPL and has faced many of the players for England and Wales. (He gets the nod in game 1). Also thrilled Joe Scally from M’Gladbach – he can play either wingback and should start if Dest is not ready to go on the right. I am a little disappointed to see Cristian Roldan/Jordan Morris rather than Paul Arriola.  I know he’s MLS – but Paul bleeds Red /White and Blue and would have represented the US

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

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

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

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

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

USA Women LOSE 2-1 to Germany play again Sun 5 pm on ESPN

So the all the new players for the US were there – but it took the old guard of Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe to weave some magic to bring the US to a tie with Germany 1-1 in the 85th minute – in what should have been a disappointing tie.  But instead Germany struck late in the 88th minute on a breakaway were the German forward Julie Brand destroyed our weak center back Alana Cook who owned her on the way to an easy pass to Krumbiegel for the tap in goal.  (high-lights) I thought the team looked good with multiple shots off the post, but once again the final 3rd let them down – the US had tons of chances in the first 60 minutes and scored ZIP.  Nothing – NADA.  The young new stars – the Sophie Smith’s and the Malory Pugh’s are all cute until they play good teams and then its NADA.  NO GOALS.  The new young defenders are ok until again good team – and NADA.  The Center back pair of Cook and Girma were split and exposed all night long.  And only a solid stint in goal by new favorite GK Casey Murphy kept it close  This is 3 consecutive loses for the first time since 1993.  I know we have injuries – and literally no longer have a #6 (oh Julie Ertz – please come back).  But Coach Andownzovski’s continued use of Alana Cook – should have him looking over his shoulder.  SHE IS NOT THE ANSWER – please give me Veteran Centerback Becky Sauerbrunn back until we get more healthy center backs – because Cook has once again cost us a game vs a European foe.  The US is not the #1 Team in the World anymore – We have played 3 teams ranked in the Top10 and been beaten by all of them now.  Lets see what happens on Sunday at 5 pm on ESPN – but at this rate – the US will not be ranked #1 anymore.

USWNT DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)

GOALKEEPERS (3): 21-Adrianna Franch (Kansas City Current), 18-Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), 1-Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (7): 3-Alana Cook (OL Reign), 19-Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), 23-Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), 12-Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), 8-Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), 5-Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (7): 14-Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC), 10-Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA), 20-Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), 16-Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), 22-Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), 2-Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), 17-Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

FORWARDS (7): 7-Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), 13-Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), 9-Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), 15-Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), 6-Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), 11-Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), 25-Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

 Indy 11 & USL Sun 8:30 pm ESPN2

Great to see former Carmel FC GK Coach and Indy 11 Goalie Jordan Farr is headed to the USL Finals with his #1 Seed In the Western Division San Antonio vs Louisville City FC – Sunday night on ESPN2 at 8:30 pm.  Farr was named USL Goalkeeper of the Year.  San Antonio beat Colorado Springs 2-0 (highlights) to advance to the finals  USL Playoff Bracket  

LAFC Wins MLS Cup over Philly in Best Ever MLS Final 4-3 in PKs as over 2 million watched on Fox Sat

So I must admit I traveled to Texas AM to see my Florida Gators win in College Station so I missed the MLS Finals – did watch some on the plane home.  What a game I missed. If you missed it too – check out the hi-lights of what many are calling the Best Ever MLS Final.  LAFC GK Crepo was carted off in the 116th minute on a red card before Philly took the lead in the 118th minute.  But LAFC late sub Gareth Bale for a 10 man LAFC tied it in the last seconds of Extra Time(128th minute) leading to a Penalty shootout where the backup goalie John McCarthy (a former Philly Union GLK) and pentalty specialist saved 2 for the win as LAFC won it 4-3 on PKs.  Wow !!  Check out the 3252 section behind the goal in LA – tons of stories below. 

Games Overseas to Watch This Weekend

The last weekend of league play before the World Cup features an American matchup as US defender Joe Scally and Borussia M’Gladbach will host fellow American WC bound forward Gio Reyna and Dortmund at 2:30 pm Friday on ESPN+.  Leeds United fresh of this 4-3 thriller last weekend kicks things off Sat at 10 am on Peacock with American Manager Jesse Marsch taking his US World Cup participants Tyler Adams and Brendan Aaronson to Tottenham, while Liverpool hosts Southampton on USA.  Sat at 12:30 pm on NBC Chelsea and Pulisic travel to top 3 contender Newcastle United, while league leaders Arsenal travel to Wolverhampton at 2:$5 p on USA.  Sun American’s Jedi Robinson and Tim Ream (who should start together in the WC) and Fulham host Man United at 11:30 am on USA.  Of course the US Ladies play at 5 pm Sunday on FS1 vs Germany followed by the USL Championship game and former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr for San Antonio vs Indy 11’s hated rival Louisville FC at 8:30 pm on ESPN2. Also Sunday Indiana U is playing @ Rutgers in the Big 10 Finals Sunday at noon on the Big 10 Network. 

Carmel FC Goalkeepers Training – We’ll start Indoor Training at the Badger Fieldhouse on Wednesday nights in December

U11 5:30, U12 & U13 6:30 and U14/Highschool 8:30 pm. 

Carmel FC Goalkeeper Coach Noelle Rolfsen (blue) has led her Marion University Knights to 16-0-2 mark clinching the Crossroads League Regular Season title. The #2 Ranked Knights won Wed night 3-2 and will host the League Finals Sat at home. Sat 2:00 pm — #2 MU vs Spring Harbor (at Marian U) on MyIndy TV 23 — Video ($) | Live Stats Tickets just $8

BIG GAMES ON TV

Thur, Nov 10

12:30 pm Para+                 Hellas Verona vs Juventus

3 pm ESPN+                        Man United vs Aston Villa

7 pm FS1                              USWNT vs Germany

Fri, Nov 11

2:30 pm ESPN+                  Borussia M’Gladbach (Scally) vs Dortmund (Reyna)  

Sat, Nov 12

7:30 am USA               Man City vs Brentford

10 am USA                  Liverpool vs Southampton

10 am Peacock                        Tottenham vs Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson)

12:30 pm NBC                        Newcastle United vs Chelsea  (Pulisic)

2:45 pm USA               Wolverhampton vs Arsenal

12:30 pm ESPN+         Schalke vs Bayern Munich

Sun, Nov 13

6:30 am CBSSN                  Atalanta vs Inter Milan

7 am beIN Sport               PSG vs Auxerre

9 am USA                             Brighton vs Aston Villa

11:30 am                              Freiburg vs Union Berlin (Pefok)

11:30 am USA                     Fulham (Robinson, Ream) vs Man United

12 noon BTN              Rutgers University vs Indiana University Men

5 pm ESPN                          USWNT vs Germany

8:30 pm ESPN2         San Antonio (Jordan Farr GK) vs Louisville City

Sun, Nov 20

11 am Fox                            World Cup Starts Qatar vs Ecudor

Mon, Nov 21

8 am FS1                              England vs Iran

11 am Fox                            Senegal vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox             USA vs Wales (Bale)

Tues, Nov 22

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

11 am Fox                            Mexico vs Poland 

2 pm Fox                              France vs Austrailia

Wed, Nov 23

5 am Fox Sport 1               Morroco vs Croatia

7 am Fox Sport 1              Germany vs Japan

11 am Fox                            Spain vs Costa Rica  

2 pm Fox                              Belgium vs Canada

Thur, Nov 24  –                   Thanksgiving

5 am FS1                              Switzterland vs Cameroon

8 am FS1                              Uruguay vs Korea

11 am Fox                            Portugal (Renaldo) vs Ghana

2 pm Fox                              Brazil (Neymar) vs Serbia

Fri, Nov 25

5 am FS1                              Wales vs Iran

8 am FS1                              Qatar vs Senagal

11 am Fox                            Ecuador vs Netherlands

2 pm Fox             USA vs England

World Cup Schedule

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

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

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

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

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US Ladies  

USWNT vs. Germany, 2022 friendly: What to watch for Stars and Stripes By Donald Wine II

USWNT Friendly: Scouting Germany By Brendan Joseph Stars and Stripes  

Coach V talks Sophia Smith

USWNT is not just Womens Soccer Any More – Says Englands Bronze
For NWSL players, there’s work, play, and the things not in the job description

US Men

 US Roster Complete – Stars and Stripes  

Berhalter names his 26 players for Qatar: a deep ASN breakdown

USMNT World Cup 3 biggest Snubs – the 18

USMNT WORLD CUP ROUNDTABLE: EXPERTS ASSESS THE USA’S STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, AND MORE BY BACKHEELED STAFF
DOES GREGG BERHALTER’S “SYSTEM” EXIST? AND HOW WILL THE USMNT PLAY AT THE WORLD CUP?
THE GOALS THAT DEFINE GREGG BERHALTER’S USMNT TENURE AHEAD OF THE WORLD CUP
 INTRODUCING “THE BACKHEELED SHOW”, OUR NEW AMERICAN SOCCER PODCAST BY BACKHEELED STAFF

Crystal Palace Defender Chris Richards to Miss World Cup
From refugee camp to World Cup: Davies relishing Canada mission

USL Final San Antonio vs Louisville  Sun 8:30 pm

 USL Final San Antonio vs Louisville City

USL Goalkeeper of the Year – Jordan Farr former Indy 11 GK & Carmel FC GK Coach

HOW MANAGERS DANNY CRUZ, ALEN MARCINA CAN INFLUENCE THE USL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL  

MLS

The MLS Cup Final had everything, including Will Ferrell drinking beer out of the trophy

Analysis: Bale & McCarthy lift LAFC to MLS Cup over Philly in an all-time classic
MLS Cup: Ranking every Major League Soccer championship game

World Cup

World Cup team previews: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea ESPN
World Cup 2022 kit ranking: Who has the best jerseys in Qatar?
  ESPN Austin Lindberg

Qatar is housing World Cup fans in shipping containers in the middle of the desert

Ex- FIFA Prez Calls Qatar World Cup a Mistake
Messi and Ronaldo look set for final shot at World Cup glory

World Cup 2022 rankings: Who are the favorites?

Belgium’s golden generation face last stand at World Cup

Tite brings back Brazil aura with sixth World Cup win in sights

Dani Alves in, Firmino out as Brazil name World Cup squad

Neymar ready to carry the weight of a nation on his shoulders

Argentine soccer fans deplete savings for World Cup

African soccer still trying to fulfil promise at World Cup

Spurs boss Conte ‘confident’ Son will play at World Cup

World Cup 2022: The problem with Qatar’s ‘carbon neutral’ promise

Champions & Europa League 

 UCL draw predictions as Real Madrid play Liverpool and Bayern meet PSG ESPN

Liverpool handed Real Madrid rematch in Champions League last 16, PSG draw Bayern
Barcelona draw Manchester United in Europa League

Goalkeeping

 USL Goalkeeper of the Year – Jordan Farr former Indy 11 GK & Carmel FC GK Coach

US Starting GK Matt Turner – his Story from Playground in 2002 to the World Cup and Playing for Arsenal

Reffing

World Cup has 3 women set to referee matches in Qatar

USWNT vs. Germany, 2022 friendly: What to watch for

The final window for the USWNT begins in what could be a wild, rainy affair. Stars and Stripes

By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Nov 9, 2022, 7:00am PST  

The United States Women’s National Team are slated to take on Germany this weekend in a pair of friendlies, the first being tomorrow at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. As the USWNT enter the final international window of the year, they have another incredible test against the #3 ranked team in the world. However, it’s not a given whether tomorrow’s test will proceed as scheduled, as Tropical Storm Nicole bears down on the Sunshine State and is expected to hit somewhere along the eastern shore as a hurricane tomorrow.

It’s probably irresponsible to play the match in those conditions, so we’ll keep an eye on the skies and U.S. Soccer’s social media feeds to see if this match will be determined, but if it does, we shall hopefully see a spirited friendly match against two teams that want to prove they’re the team to beat when the 2023 Women’s World Cup begins next summer.

Roster

USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski has called in 24 players for this window, most of whom we’ve continued to see on the team over the last few months since the Concacaf W Championship.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Adrianna Franch (Kansas City Current), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (7): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

FORWARDS (7): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

What To Watch For

Nicole will be a disruptive fan. When a tropical storm is bearing down on you, you need to prepare. If the game is played, expect it to be windy and rainy, and that will truly affect the play on the field. The USWNT need to prepare to have short passes and really work on maintaining possession in the midst of a torrential downpour.

Keep Germany on their heels. Germany is going to try and push the USWNT to the brink, but it’s the USWNT that needs to take the game to the Germans. Keeping them on their back feet is the key, as it will neutralize any instincts Germany have to counter.

Production, production, production. Last month, the USWNT were not able to generate a ton of production, and it’s something that should be a point of emphasis. You can’t win the games if you don’t put the ball in the net, and they need to focus on their execution inside the attacking third.

Prediction

The real prediction is that this match isn’t played, and we move onto New Jersey. If it does proceed as scheduled, it’s a 1-1 draw.

USWNT SET TO FACE GERMANY IN FORT LAUDERDALE

WATCH USA-GERMANY ON THURSDAY, NOV. 10 AT 7 P.M. ET ON FS1

NOVEMBER 9 2022 ON THE PITCH

The U.S. Women’s National Team is set to play its penultimate match of 2022, taking on Germany at 7 p.m. ET on Nov. 10 at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The match will be broadcast on FS1 and is the first of two meetings in a four-day span between the USA and Germany. The USWNT, ranked No. 1 in the latest FIFA World Rankings, will take on Germany, runners-up at this summer’s Women’s EURO and the third-ranked team in the world, to close out the calendar year.

The games against Germany continue a highly competitive fall for the USWNT, which will play its final eight games of the year against teams that have qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which kicks off in just over eight months. Since the knockout rounds of the Concacaf W Championship, the USA has played Costa Rica and Canada, both of whom will also represent the region in New Zealand and Australia, played two games against perennial African power Nigeria and traveled to Europe for matches against England and Spain, both of whom are amongst the favorites to win the tournament. The USA, which has won a record four FIFA Women’s World Cup titles, enters Thursday’s game in Florida on a 71-game home unbeaten streak, the second-longest such streak in program history.

Following the match on Thursday night, the teams will travel to Harrison, N.J. where they will play again on Sunday, Nov. 13 at Red Bull Arena (5 p.m. ET on ESPN). Fans will also be able to follow the action via Twitter (@USWNT)Instagram (@USWNT)Facebook and the official U.S. Soccer App.

USWNT DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)

GOALKEEPERS (3): 21-Adrianna Franch (Kansas City Current), 18-Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), 1-Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (7): 3-Alana Cook (OL Reign), 19-Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), 23-Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), 12-Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), 8-Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), 5-Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (7): 14-Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC), 10-Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA), 20-Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), 16-Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), 22-Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), 2-Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), 17-Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

FORWARDS (7): 7-Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), 13-Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), 9-Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), 15-Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), 6-Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), 11-Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), 25-Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)


The 24-player roster for these matches against Germany features 20 players who took part in the European Tour in October, including now 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who made her international debut on Oct. 7 against England to become the youngest player to earn a first cap for the USWNT since 2016. Thompson, who became the 70th teenager all-time to appear for the USWNT, celebrated her 18th birthday on Monday. Returning to this roster are forwards and NWSL MVP candidates Alex Morgan and Mallory Pugh, both of whom were unable to participate in the October camp but bring a wealth of international experience and attacking flair to this roster. Taylor Kornieck is back in the midfield while goalkeeper Adrianna Franch earns her first call-up since October 2021 after a stellar season with the Kansas City Current in which she collected NWSL Best XI Second Team honors while leading the club to the NWSL Championship Game. Defender Emily Fox is also back in the squad after suffering an injury in the opening stages of the Oct. 7 match against England that kept out of action for the Oct. 11 game in Spain. 

ALEX 200

Alex Morgan heads into these matches against Germany on 198 career caps, two away from becoming just the 13th player in USWNT history to reach the 200-cap milestone. Since making her international debut in March 2010, Morgan has tallied 119 goals and 46 assists in her 198 international appearances, good for fifth on the USA’s all-time scoring charts and 11th in assists. Should Morgan appearance in both matches against Germany, she could reach the milestone in the Nov. 13 match at Red Bull Arena and become just the sixth active player in the world with 200 caps, joining her USWNT teammate Becky Sauerbrunn, who reached the milestone in February of this year, along with Canada’s Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt, Sweden’s Caroline Seger and Sherida Spitse from the Netherlands.

BACK IN THE SUNSHINE STATE

After a pair of hard-fought defeats in Europe, the USWNT looks to return to its winning ways on home soil, where it is working on a 71-game home unbeaten streak and has gone over five years without a home loss. This is the second-longest home unbeaten streak in USWNT history, the longest lasting 104 games from December of 2004 to December of 2015.

During this home unbeaten streak, the USA has outscored its opponents 266-29, including a 136-5 margin during its last 33 matches at home, all of which have been wins save for the 0-0 draws with Czech Republic on Feb. 17 and with Korea Republic on Oct. 21, 2021.

Thursday’s match in Fort Lauderdale will be the 38th game all-time for the USA in the state of Florida, where it holds an all-time record of 33-3-1. The United States has won 19 consecutive matches in Florida, outscoring opponents, 60-6, in those games and will be playing its first match in the state since the 2021 SheBelieves Cup in Orlando.

SERIES HISTORY: USA VS. GERMANY

The USA and Germany have played 33 times previously with the USWNT leading the overall series 22-4-7. Despite the long history between the teams – which dates back to 1988 – this will be the first meeting between the sides since 2018, when the teams met on March 1 in the SheBelieves Cup. The USA won 1-0 behind a 17th minute goal from Megan Rapinoe on a snowy and windy night in Columbus, Ohio on the first match day of the tournament.The gap of more than four years between meetings is the longest in the history between the two countries. The last three meetings between the USA and Germany all came during the SheBelieves Cup, with the teams meeting during the 2016, 2017 and 2018 editions of the tournament. The USA won all three matchups – and is unbeaten in the last 15 head-to-head meetings with Germany – though all three games were decided by just one goal. In 2016, the USA won 2-1 behind goals from Alex Morgan and Samantha Mewis, followed by a 1-0 victory in 2017 behind a game-winner from Lynn Williams.

Thursday’s game in Fort Lauderdale will be the 17th meeting between the teams on U.S. soil, where the USA has a record a 11-2-3 in the previous 16 meetings. Germany will be the fifth different European opponent the USA has faced this year and the ninth since the start of 2021, having played Sweden twice during that span and the Netherlands, Portugal, France, Czech Republic, Iceland, England and Spain once each.

Ranked No. 3 in the world in the latest FIFA rankings, Germany is the highest-ranked opponent the USA has faced this year and the highest-ranked foe for the top-ranked Americans since playing third-ranked France in April of 2021. The USA won that match in Le Havre on April 13, 2021, 2-0, behind goals from Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe.


USA ROSTER NOTES

  • The loss to England Oct. 7 snapped a 13-game winning streak for the USA, which dated back to its second match of the year against New Zealand. The loss against Spain on Oct. 11 marked the first time the USA had lost back-to-back games in over five years.
  • The two goals allowed in both games in Europe were the most allowed by the USA this year – having conceded just two goals total through the first 14 matches of the year.
  • Since the start of 2020, the USWNT has played 31 matches in the United States and 18 outside the country. The USA is 29-0-2 in domestic matches and has outscored the opposition 127-3 (+124) at home and is 10-4-4 with a 35-16 goal margin (+19) when playing outside the USA.
  • The most capped player on this roster is Becky Sauerbrunn at 210, followed Alex Morgan (198), Megan Rapinoe (196), Crystal Dunn (125) and Lindsey Horan (120) while the least capped players are Casey Murphy (10), Adrianna Franch (10), Trinity Rodman (9), Naomi Girma (8), Hailie Mace (7), Taylor Kornieck (5), Sam Coffey (3) and Alyssa Thompson (2).
  • Becky Sauerbrunn is the oldest player on the roster (37 years old) while Thompson (18) is the youngest.
  • Through 16 games in 2022, the USWNT has had 27 goals scored by players under the age of 24. Over the course of 2019, 2020 and 2021 – a total of 57 games – the USWNT had a combined total of 10 goals scored by players under the age of 24.
  • Morgan is the top scorer on the roster in international play with 119 goals while Rapinoe has 62. Lindsey Horan has 26. Dunn and Pugh both have 24 goals for the USWNT while Rose Lavelle has 22. Smith has 11, including a team-high 10 goals in 2022.
  • Smith comes into the National Team after a trophy-laden month in which she became the youngest NWSL MVP in history after scoring 14 regular season goals, then scored in the NWSL title game to earn Championship Game MVP honors while leading Portland Thorns FC to its third league title.
  • With 10 international goals so far this year with the USWNT, the 22-year-old Smith will be looking to become the youngest player to lead the WNT in scoring in a calendar year since a 21-year-old Mia Hamm led the USA with 10 goals in 1993, seven years before Smith was born.
  • Sixteen different players have scored for the USWNT so far in 2022 – Smith (10), Mallory Pugh (6), Catarina Macario (5), Alex Morgan (4), Rose Lavelle (4), Kristie Mewis (3), Ashley Sanchez (3), Ashley Hatch (2), Trinity Rodman (2), Midge Purce (2), Kelley O’Hara (1), Jaelin Howell (1), Andi Sullivan (1), Taylor Kornieck (1), Emily Sonnett (1) and Lindsey Horan (1).
  • The USA’s other six goals this year came via own goals, the most ever in a calendar year in program history with three on Feb. 20 vs. New Zealand, and one each on April 12 vs. Uzbekistan, June 28 vs. Colombia and Sept. 6 vs. Nigeria.
  • Fourteen different players have tallied an assist for the USWNT soc far in 2022 – Pugh (7), Lavelle (6), Sanchez (3), Alana Cook (2), Sofia Huerta (2), Megan Rapinoe (2), O’Hara (2), Purce (1), Hatch (1), Naomi Girma (1), Macario (1), Smith (1), Sullivan (1) and Emily Fox (1).
  • Andonovski is 41-4-6 in 51 games and went unbeaten (22-0-1) in his first 23 matches in charge of the USWNT, setting a record for the best start for a head coach in USWNT history. The USA opened the Andonovski era on a 16-game winning streak.
  • Of Andonovski’s first 51 games, 33 have been at home and 20 have been against teams ranked in the top-13 in the world.
  • With Alyssa Thompson’s debut on Oct. 7, Trinity Rodman’s debut on Feb. 17, Naomi Girma and Aubrey Kingsbury’s first caps on April 12, Taylor Kornieck’s debut on June 25, Carson Pickett’s first cap on June 28 and Sam Coffey’s first cap on Sept. 6, 17 players have now earned their first cap under Andonovski, with seven debuts coming in 2022.
  • Nine of the 12 NWSL clubs are represented on this roster, along with 2021-22 UEFA Women’s Champions League winners Olympique Lyon and Los Angeles youth club Total Futbol Academy, for whom Alyssa Thompson plays. Four players are from the 2021 NWSL Champions Washington Spirit, 2022 NWSL Shield Winners OL Reign and 2022 NWSL Champions Portland Thorns FC.

IN FOCUS: GERMANY | FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

Current FIFA World Ranking: 3

UEFA Ranking: 2

FIFA Country Code: GER
World Cup Appearances: 8 (1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019)

Best World Cup finish: Champions (2003, 2007)

Record vs. USA: 4-22-7
Last Meeting vs. USA: March 1, 2018 (1-0 win for USA in Columbus, OH)
Head Coach: Martina Voss-Tecklenburg (GER)

GERMANY WOMEN’S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION

GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Merle Frohms (VfL Wolfsburg), 12-Almuth Schult (Angel City FC, USA), 30-Ann-Katrin Berger (FC Chelsea, ENG)        

DEFENDERS (10): 2-Carolin Simon (FC Bayern München), 3-Kathrin Hendrich (VfL Wolfsburg), 4-Sophia Kleinherne (Eintracht Frankfurt), 5-Jana Feldkamp (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim), 8-Maximiliane Rall (FC Bayern München), 17-Felicitas Rauch (VfL Wolfsburg), 23-Sara Doorsoun (Eintracht Frankfurt), 24-Sjoeke Nüsken (Eintracht Frankfurt), 25-Nicole Anyomi (Eintracht Frankfurt), 28-Joelle Wedemeyer (VfL Wolfsburg)

MIDFIELDERS (9): 6-Lena Oberdorf (VfL Wolfsburg), 9-Svenja Huth (VfL Wolfsburg), 14-Lena Lattwein (VfL Wolfsburg), 16-Linda Dallmann (FC Bayern München), 20-Lina Magull (FC Bayern München), 22-Jule Brand (VfL Wolfsburg), 26-Chantal Hagel (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim), 27-Paulina Krumbiegel (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim), 31-Janina Minge (SC Freiburg) 

FORWARDS (4): 10-Laura Freigang (Eintracht Frankfurt), 11-Alexandra Popp (VfL Wolfsburg), 19-Klara Bühl (FC Bayern München), 33-Melissa Kossler (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim)

GERMANY ROSTER NOTES

  • The USA and Germany have won 11 out of the 15 world championships that have been contested in women’s soccer history. The USA has won four Women’s World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals while Germany has two Women’s World Cup titles and one Olympic gold medal.
  • On Sept. 3, Germany qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a 3-0 victory over Turkey (followed by an 8-0 trouncing of Bulgaria on Sept. 6) and topped Group H in UEFA qualifying with a 9-0-1 record while scoring 47 goals and allowing five.  Germany is one of seven countries to have qualified for every Women’s World Cup that has been staged. The other six are USA, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Brazil and Nigeria.
  • At the end of July, Germany made an impressive run to the title game of the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro, but fell in overtime to host England, 2-1, in front of a record crowd at Wembley Stadium. Midfielder Lina Magull scored Germany’s lone goal in the final, which was played without star forward Alexandra Popp, who was injured during warmups and could not add to her six tournament goals, which tied for most in the competition.
  • Seventeen of the 26 players on this roster for the matches against the USA were a part of Germany’s roster for the 2022 EURO.
  • Popp is the most-capped player on this roster with 122 international appearances and has 61 career goals, good for fifth all-time in the history of the Germany Women’s National Team.
  • Midfielder Svenja Huth is the next most experienced player on the roster with 75 caps while Magull has 22 goals in 66 international appearances, the second-most goals by any player on this roster.
  • Midfielder Lena Oberdorf is another standout on this German roster. The 20-year-old was named the EURO 2022 Young Player of the Tournament and has 33 caps already in her young career.
  • With the Women’s Bundesliga long being one of the world’s top leagues, most of the German players stay home to play professionally and 24 of the 26 players on the roster play for top German clubs. Twenty-two players come from just four clubs: eight from VfL Wolfsburg, the defending league champions, five players turn out for FC Bayern Munich and five for Eintracht Frankfurt.
  • Germany head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg is a former Germany Women’s National Team great who played 125 times for her country. She played three FIFA Women’s World Cups (1991, 1995, 1999), one Olympics (1996) and five UEFA Women’s Championships (1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997). Before taking charge of her home country, Voss-Tecklenburg took Switzerland into the upper echelon of European women’s soccer as head coach from 2012-2018.

USMNT 2022 World Cup roster led by Pulisic, McKennie; Pepi, Steffen miss out

5:18 PM ET Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

United States manager Gregg Berhalter announced his 26-player roster for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Wednesday, amid much fanfare in New York City.The roster is headlined by players who have become familiar names to U.S. fans, including Chelsea attacker Christian PulisicJuventus midfielder Weston McKennieBorussia Dortmund midfielder Giovanni Reyna and Leeds United midfielder Tyler Adams.The biggest shock was the exclusion of Middlesbrough goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

When healthy, Steffen had been locked in a battle with Arsenal‘s Matt Turner for the starting spot during World Cup qualifying, with Berhalter usually picking Steffen for the bigger matches.His loan move to Boro from Manchester City was done for him to get more first-team minutes, and he largely achieved that goal, playing in 16 of the club’s 20 matches in England’s second-tier Championship.But it wasn’t enough to make the roster, with Turner, Luton Town‘s Ethan Horvath and New York City FC‘s Sean Johnson preferred.”In some of the cases it’s more about what we have than what we don’t have,” Berhalter told ESPN during Wednesday’s roster reveal show. “With the three goalkeepers listed on the roster, we feel great, we feel really good about it. We saw a lot of progress with Matt Turner in this last six months, we know Ethan Horvath has been competing at a good level at Luton in the Championship, and Sean Johnson has been a mainstay in this group since day one.”Berhalter added that “the lean is toward” Turner starting in goal, though noted that “he had a slight injury that he has been working on so we will get him into camp and see exactly how he is.”

Every World Cup roster has its share of near misses, and this one was no different, with injuries playing a role in the makeup of the roster. Center backs Miles Robinson of Atlanta United and Crystal Palace‘s Chris Richard both missed out because of Achilles and hamstring ailments, respectively.However, other players healed up in time — including McKennie, Turner and Norwich City forward Josh Sargent — at least ahead of this weekend’s last round of club fixtures before players are released.In terms of surprise inclusions, Fulham defender Tim Ream was among the biggest.The opening World Cup qualifying fixture against El Salvador in September 2021 was the only qualifier Ream played in. But the injuries to Robinson and Richards, plus his fine form for the Cottagers this year in the Premier League, paved the way for him to be selected.The center forward position has been an area of focus for almost the entire cycle, with none of the candidates really staking their claim to a starting spot.That said, the inclusion of Antalyaspor forward Haji Wright at the expense of Groningen FC striker Ricardo Pepi was something of a surprise.Both players had been in excellent form of late for their clubs, with Wright scoring nine goals on the season — and four in his past four games — while Pepi had five goals and two assists since moving to the Dutch side on loan in September.Yet it is Wright who got the nod alongside Sargent and FC Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira.”In the case of Ricardo, that was a really difficult conversation that I had to have with him,” Berhalter said. “It’s always difficult when a guy helps you get to the World Cup, he scores three goals in World Cup qualifying, and isn’t going to be a part of the program.”And again, it’s more about who we did add that we felt good about.”Josh is competing in the Championship, he played in the Premier League last year. We’re playing Wales and England; both teams are stocked with players from those leagues.”Haji Wright is in great form with his team in Turkey, scoring nine goals so far. And Jesus has been good for us and a guy who really understands the game plan and how to execute it.”

Shaq Moore is another player who seemed to be on the outside looking in, but with Sergino Dest dealing with an adductor issue, Berhalter opted for additional cover at right back and selected Moore over Boavista‘s Reggie Cannon.

The 26-player roster will be the second-youngest USMNT roster at a World Cup, with an average age of 25 years, 175 days at the time of its opening World Cup game against Wales on Nov. 21. Only the 1990 squad (24 years, 24 days) was younger.After the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, DeAndre Yedlin is the only player selected with previous World Cup experience, having been a part of the USMNT’s run to the round of 16 in 2014.After taking on Wales, the U.S. will face England (Nov. 26) and Iran (Nov. 29) in Group B.

Full U.S. roster for 2022 World Cup:

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

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

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

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

Grant Wahl Thoughts on the USMNT World Cup Roster

Steffen left off the 26-man squad, while Ream makes his first national team roster since October 2021. In: Wright, Sargent, Moore, Roldan, Morris. Out: Pepi, Pefok, Cannon, Arriola, Tillman.

GRANT WAHL NOV 9∙

 
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Christian Pulisic, Matt Turner, Tyler Adams and DeAndre Yedlin all made the U.S. World Cup team. Turner is in pole position to start with Zack Steffen being dropped from the squad (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

NEW YORK CITY — USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter released his 26-player World Cup roster on Wednesday at an event here at Brooklyn Steel attended by several U.S.-based players.


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There are more surprises than expected, given that Berhalter usually is pretty conservative about sticking with “his guys.” The biggest news is that Berhalter has left goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who is not injured, completely off the roster and chosen instead Matt Turner, Sean Johnson and Ethan Horvath. Steffen started six of the U.S.’s 14 World Cup qualifying games, splitting duties with Turner.

Based purely on Steffen’s performance for club and country for a while now, you can make the case that he shouldn’t be on the roster as one of the top three U.S. goalkeepers. But it’s stunning that he’s not even on the World Cup squad of Berhalter, who has favored Steffen over Turner as the starter when both are healthy, citing Steffen’s ability to play out of the back. Even heading into this week I would have suspected that Steffen would start in Qatar if healthy based on Berhalter’s decision-making process.

Also making news is centerback Tim Ream, who is on the World Cup roster for his first national team call-up since October 2021. (Ream ended up declining that invitation for family reasons, giving a chance to Walker Zimmerman, who was called up to replace Ream and eventually won a starting job.) Ream had obviously been left off for a while, but he has played well in the Premier League this season while serving as Fulham’s captain. His inclusion makes total sense.

The other position that seemed the most in flux was the centerforward spot. In the end, Berhalter chose Jesús Ferreira, Josh Sargent and Haji Wright. It’s a big call to leave out Jordan Pefok, who has started this season for Union Berlin, the surprise team in the Bundesliga. While Pefok may not be a great fit for Berhalter’s system, he appeared to be a smart choice if the U.S. was desperate for a goal late in the game.

And it’s also surprising that Berhalter chose to leave off Ricardo Pepi. The 19-year-old was called up for the September games and has started producing more goals and assists while on loan with Groningen in the Netherlands.

Here are the roster (club/country; caps/goals; hometown) and my thoughts on the selections and omissions:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8/0; Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Sean Johnson (New York City; 10/0; Lilburn, Ga.), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0; Park Ridge, N.J.).

Notable Omissions: Steffen.

My Thoughts: See above. I fully expect Turner to start for the U.S. in Qatar, as long as his recent minor injury troubles subside. Turner was in uniform for Arsenal again over the weekend, suggesting that he’ll be fine for the World Cup.

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0; Southend-on-Sea, England), Sergiño Dest (Milan/ITA; 19/2; Almere, Netherlands), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3; Oak Hills, Calif.), Shaq Moore (Nashville; 15/1; Powder Springs, Ga.), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1; St. Louis, Mo.), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2; Liverpool, England), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 3/0; Lake Grove, N.Y.), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami; 75/0; Seattle, Wash.), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville; 33/3; Lawrenceville, Ga.)

Notable Omissions: Reggie Cannon, Mark McKenzie, Erik Palmer-Brown, James Sands.

My Thoughts: My guess is the starting back line will be Dest, Zimmerman, Long and Robinson. With Chris Richards’s inability to go due to injury, Ream is the headline addition in the central defense corps. He actually looked pretty good against Erling Haaland over the weekend, which is a positive sign. Long will enter the tournament as the most questioned U.S. player who’s likely to start. But I think Ream has a chance to replace him, and Ream’s club familiarity with Robinson isn’t a bad thing, either.

The biggest surprise among the fullbacks is that Moore has been selected, while Cannon has not. But this was for the third-string spot at right back, so it’s not that big of a deal.

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6; Medford, N.J.), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2; Plano, Texas), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1; Wappingers Falls, N.Y.), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0; San Diego, Calif.), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9; Little Elm, Texas), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0; London, England), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 32/0; Pico Rivera, Calif.)

Notable Omissions: Malik Tillman, Djordje Mihailovic.

My Thoughts: My expected starters in the central midfield are Adams, McKennie and Musah. McKennie’s injury for Juventus is not believed to be serious enough to prevent him from playing at the World Cup, but it could be a tight squeeze with the short turn-around time.

It’s also interesting that Aaronson is listed as a midfielder when he has always ben listed as a forward/winger before. An indication that he might have a greater chance of playing an attacking midfield role?

De La Torre appears to have recovered from an injury, and Berhalter clearly has some trust in him, even though he has played little at club level. Roldan has recovered enough from his groin surgery to make the team, which will be met with criticism from some fans, but he has been a stalwart in Berhalter’s roster when healthy.

And while Tillman appeared to be making a run to the roster earlier in the club season, his performances declined noticeably for Rangers.

FORWARDS (8): Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7; McKinney, Texas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11; Mercer Island, Wash.), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21; Hershey, Pa.), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4; Bedford, N.Y.), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5; O’Fallon, Mo.), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3; Rosedale, N.Y.), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1; Los Angeles, Calif.)

Notable Omissions: Pefok, Pepi, Paul Arriola, Brandon Vázquez.

My Thoughts: If I had to name a starting front line right now from Berhalter’s perspective, the only lock would probably be Pulisic. I think Berhalter will lean toward Reyna on the other wing (he started him in both September games), but it could also be Weah (who has produced for the national team) or Aaronson (who’s in good form at club level). Just having all those guys healthy for the World Cup is a positive.

Starting centerforward? That’s a tougher call than ever. Ferreira seemed to be Berhalter’s guy, but he had a rough time down the stretch in MLS. Maybe Sargent or Wright? Who knows?

Wright looked like he had played himself off the roster in June and wasn’t called up in September, but he’s the second-leading scorer in the Turkish Super Lig and clearly did enough to be chosen over Pepi and Pefok. And while Morris might not have made the roster if it was 23 players instead of 26, that doesn’t matter now. He’s here.

You have to feel for Arriola, who has been a regular contributor during qualifying but has now been left off the team for Qatar. One source told me he recently picked up an injury.

U.S. men’s World Cup team full of surprises: Haji Wright and Tim Ream in, Zack Steffen out 

U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter picked Ethan Horvath over Steffen, and Wright over Ricardo Pepi.  by Jonathan Tannenwald  Philly Star

Striker Haji Wright (left) was a surprising inclusion on the U.S. men’s World Cup team. Jeff Dean / AP

NEW YORK — The U.S. men’s soccer team’s World Cup roster unveiled by manager Gregg Berhalter on Wednesday had a lot of surprises — including one that stung one of the Philadelphia area’s top players.While Medford’s Brenden Aaronson and Hershey’s Christian Pulisic made the team, Downingtown’s Zack Steffen was perhaps the biggest omission from the 26-player group.Berhalter made a late turn away from a goalkeeper he has known and trusted for years. Ethan Horvath was picked instead, alongside the expected pair of presumed starter Matt Turner and Sean Johnson.Steffen went on loan from English power Manchester City to second-tier Championship team Middlesbrough this season so he could get regular playing time. He has gotten it, but it hasn’t always gone well.Horvath also made a loan move, from the Premier League’s Nottingham Forest to the second division’s Luton Town, and it has gone better for him: 19 goals conceded and eight shutouts in 19 games, to Steffen’s 19 goals conceded and four shutouts in 16 games.Berhalter took a slew of questions from reporters and ESPN’s broadcasters during the roster announcement about why he dropped Steffen, and never gave a direct answer.“Me and Zack go way back,” said Berhalter, who coached Steffen on the Columbus Crewfrom 2016-18. “Zack’s been there for me a bunch of times, and to tell him he’s not going to be a part of the World Cup team was heartbreaking for me. But those are the decisions that we made as a staff.”Beyond that, Berhalter spent a lot of time aiming to redirect the conversation.“Sean Johnson [has] been with this program since Day 1, and we think he’s a really valuable piece of the team,” he said. “Ethan is a guy that always responds when his number’s called. … He’s a guy that’s Johnny-on-the-spot — if you need him, he’s ready, and I think that’s valuable in a World Cup-type of competition.”Berhalter noted that Horvath came in as a sub for Forest in the win last season that clinched promotion to the Premier League; and starred as a sub for the U.S. in last year’s Concacaf Nations League final win. He told ESPN that “the lean is toward Matt being the No. 1.″Left unsaid was that Horvath subbed in for an injured Steffen in the latter game; and that Steffen withdrew from this summer’s set of games because of family issues, giving Johnson and Horvath the games Turner didn’t play.

The rest of the defense

Among defenders, there were two surprises: Shaq Moore over Reggie Cannon at right back, and veteran Tim Ream as the last of four centerbacks. Ream has been playing well for Fulham in England’s Premier League, including games against powerhouses Liverpool and Manchester City, and that earned him a return to the national team for the first time since September of last year.“Have you watched any Fulham games lately? Then you know why we brought him in,” Berhalter quipped. “It’s really hard to ignore stuff like that. … I think Tim, based on what we’re seeing, the level he’s playing at, he’s ready to play in a World Cup for sure.”It wasn’t too surprising that former Union centerback Mark McKenzie — who grew up in Bear, Del. — didn’t make the cut, because he had some high-profile struggles in national team games over the last year and a half. But a recent run of good form at Belgium’s Genk raised hope that he might get the spot opened by Chris Richards’ injury, or that Berhalter might take five centerbacks instead of four.In the end, Berhalter stuck with four: presumed starters Walker Zimmermanand Aaron LongCameron Carter-Vickers, and Ream.

In the midfield

The midfield had not so much a surprise as a gamble: the inclusion of Luca de la Torre, who suffered a muscle tear in his left leg in late October.“He was training, he’s up to 95% of his top speed, he’s doing a bunch of fitness work,” Berhalter said of the 24-year-old from Spanish club Celta de Vigo. ”I would say now, my guess would be he wouldn’t be 90 minutes fit [for] Game 1, and he’s a guy that we’re going to have to ramp up during the tournament.”The closest thing to a true surprise was Cristian Roldan over Malik Tillman, but Tillman has had a rough time lately at Scotland’s Rangers. Roldan might not play much in Qatar, but he can play multiple positions and is a strong locker room presence. With 26 players on World Cup squads now instead of the 23 of the past, there’s space for such a player.Among the wingers, Roldan’s Seattle Sounders teammate Jordan Morris edged FC Dallas’ Paul Arriola. It seemed that Berhalter picked Morris’ versatility across the front line over Arriola’s solid history as a defensive closer.“For one reason or another, we haven’t always had our wingers fit and available, and now as we lead up to the World Cup, every one of those players is fit and available,” Berhalter said. “And it just made [it] that Paul was the odd man out. … It’s the worst thing to have to tell him that we feel that there’s other players, there’s other wingers that are ahead of him.”After the announcement, Arriola wrote on social media: “I am heartbroken to not be included on the final World Cup roster … This year my goal was to put myself in the best position possible to get to this point and I believe I did, unfortunately it wasn’t enough.”

» READ MORE: Cristian Roldan earned his shot at the U.S. World Cup team  

» READ MORE: Zack Steffen looks beyond the World Cup to his community service goals

Striker shocker

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all came at forward: Ricardo Pepi didn’t make the cut after being one of Berhalter’s most trusted players in World Cup qualifying. Pepi moved from Germany’s Augsburg to the Netherlands’ Gronigen on loan this summer to regain his scoring form, and he seemed to have found it with six goals and two assists in nine games.But Berhalter chose otherwise: Haji Wright, a 6-foot-3 target striker who made his senior national team debut this past June after being a big-time teenage prospect. He played with current U.S. stars Pulisic and Weston McKennie back then, but he didn’t make it to the big time until going to Turkish club Antalyaspor last year. Wright has scored 24 goals in 47 games there, including nine in 12 games this season.Wright, Josh Sargent, and Jesús Ferreirawill be the three strikers — and it turns out Wright wasn’t judged directly against Pepi. He was judged against Jordan Pefok, a fellow target forward who plays for Germany’s Union Berlin. Pefok shot out of the gates in the Bundesliga season with four goals and two assists in the first month and a half, but he hasn’t scored since Sept. 18.“When we were looking at this as coaches, we were evaluating Haji vs. Jordan Pefok, and that’s what it came down to,” Berhalter said. “They’re both physical strikers, Jordan maybe a little more so. But Haji has pace, he’s got the ability to go one-v-one, he’s got finishing with his head [and] both feet, and he’s performing really well in the Turkish league.”

» READ MORE: How Haji Wright earned a return to the U.S. national team this past summer   

READ MORE: Last year, Ricardo Pepi was the USMNT’s hotshot rising star

He also revealed that not calling in Pefok since last March was not in fact a sealing of the player’s fate.“If we would have made the decision [in] mid-September, Jordan Pefok would have probably been a lock to be in based on his form at Union Berlin,” Berhalter said. “But since then, it’s a different story.”And if this was a normal World Cup with a full training camp before games, he added, Pefok might have been brought in to regain form and chemistry.As for Pepi, Berhalter said he was judged against Ferreira and Sargent. Ferreira has been a lock to make the squad for months. Sargent got bonus points for playing on English second-tier club Norwich City — and thus facing some of the players the U.S. will see in group stage games against Wales and England. “The Dutch league, I think, is a great league, but it doesn’t bring the same physicality that the Premier League brings and the [second-tier] Championship brings,” Berhalter said.However many people were involved in picking the roster, Berhalter knows the ultimate responsibility lies with him. And the ultimate verdict will be rendered when the U.S. takes the field in Qatar, starting Nov. 21 against Wales (Fox29, Telemundo 62).“These may not be the right choices — these are the choices that we picked,” he said. “Ricardo Pepi could have a great argument for why he should be there, and I can understand that argument. But we had to choose, we chose to bring three strikers, and these are the three that we chose.”

USMNT 2022 World Cup squad analysis: The surprises and biggest takeaways

By Paul Tenorio and Sam Stejskal The Athletic


Much of the U.S. men’s national team’s 26-man roster for the 2022 World Cup turned out as expected. Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams are the main headliners, with Brenden Aaronson, Sergiño Dest, Yunus Musah, Gio Reyna, Antonee Robinson, Matt Turner, Tim Weah and Walker Zimmerman also expected to play significant roles in Qatar. But there were a few surprise decisions, too.On Wednesday, the U.S. Soccer Federation hosted a group of VIPs, sponsors and select fans at concert venue Brooklyn Steel in New York City for the announcement of the full roster.The event provided a touch of the absurd to an important occasion. Pre-announcement festivities included a playlist of clubby electronic tracks and the USMNT’s very own, very enthusiastic hype man — a middle-aged guy named Devin who was also at every home World Cup qualifier. The buildup wrapped with a sizzle reel narrated by rapper Jack Harlow. Then, ESPN’s Kay Murray, Taylor Twellman and Jermaine Jones took the stage to reveal the team that head coach Gregg Berhalter will bring to Qatar. Among the more surprising inclusions was Fulham center back Tim Ream, who was recalled to the team after more than a year away, making the squad ahead of Mark McKenzie and Erik Palmer-Brown. At striker, Antalyaspor’s Haji Wright was included over Ricardo Pepi, who had been a regular call-up since the start of qualifying. At goalkeeper, Middlesbrough’s Zack Steffen, the U.S.’s No. 1 keeper for most of the last four years, was left off of the roster entirely. Luca de la Torre was also deemed healthy enough to make the team after he recently suffered an injury in training with Spanish club Celta de Vigo.The other controversial inclusions came further down the roster and involved players who probably won’t make a big impact at the tournament. Seattle winger Jordan Morris and Nashville right back Shaq Moore made the team ahead of Paul Arriola and Reggie Cannon, respectively, despite the fact that Morris and Moore were less involved in qualifying than Arriola and Cannon. Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan was called into the team over young German-American Malik Tillman, who was involved in the last two U.S. camps.Berhalter and several players spoke about the roster with reporters in Brooklyn on Wednesday night, while several of the Europe-based members of the team called in for video press conferences. We have a quick glimpse at how the team might line up in Qatar here; a piece on realistic expectations for the U.S. in Qatar will be out on Thursday. We’ll have plenty, plenty more over the coming days and weeks, as both of us head to the Middle East this weekend ahead of the full USMNT arrival on Monday. Until then, here are our our main takeaways from the announcement:

Ream returns at center back

Just a few weeks ago, Ream making the final roster felt like an extreme long shot. 

Though the 35-year-old was excellent for Fulham in the Championship last season, has been solid for the club thus far in the current Premier League campaign and has spent the last two seasons forming a good on-field relationship with U.S. and Fulham left back Antonee Robinson, Berhalter had not called Ream up since last October. He had to withdraw from that camp due to personal reasons, then wasn’t brought back to the USMNT in any of the subsequent five international windows.Berhalter was consistent in his reasoning for excluding the St. Louis native, leaving him out not because of form, but because of fit. Berhalter prefers to use a high defensive line. As such, he wants his center backs to be relatively mobile and strong in the air. Those aren’t Ream’s best qualities, which Berhalter pointed out after leaving him off the roster for the September friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia.Ream’s strengths and weaknesses didn’t change over the last two months, but the circumstances shifted at center back for the U.S. Chris Richards, who Berhalter said in September would’ve been selected for Qatar if healthy, didn’t recover from a hamstring injury in time to make the World Cup squad. Mark McKenzie was given a chance in September, but he, like Aaron Long, performed relatively poorly that window. Berhalter said Wednesday night that Ream’s convincing form in the Premier League made it easy to include him in the roster.“In Tim’s case, you know, he was in the Premier League (two) years ago, and he struggled,” Berhalter said. “The whole team struggled. And he went to the Championship and he started performing better and they got promoted, and now he’s in the Premier League and he’s a top performer for his team. It’s really hard to ignore stuff like that. And by the way, he’s been a guy that’s been with us since day one. So to me, all the pieces were aligned to bring him back into the squad. And there is, in my opinion, a difference between qualifying in CONCACAF and playing in the World Cup. And I think Tim, based on what we’re seeing, the level he’s playing, he’s ready to play in a World Cup for sure.”

Long and McKenzie struggled with their distribution in September, an area in which Ream excels compared to the other U.S. center backs. Their struggles on the ball hindered the U.S.’s ability in possession against both Japan and Saudi Arabia. With the Americans set to face two teams during the World Cup group stage in Wales and Iran who will likely sit in organized, compact blocks, that quality could become particularly important to the U.S.’s chances of advancing out of Group B.“To be there representing the U.S, 300 million people, the pressure is immense but it’s what I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid,” Ream told Fulham’s website about his selection. “It’s a dream come true and something that I’m proud of. I’m proud that I’ve earned it.”

Of course, Ream still has his limitations. He has won 57.6 percent of his aerial duels this season, according to TruMedia, and ranks in the 18th percentile of center backs in the top five leagues this season in that area, according to FBref.com. Playing him alongside Zimmerman would probably prevent the U.S. from using as high of a line as Berhalter likes. For that reason, it’d be a surprise to see him start every game in Qatar. Long, who has started the last six games for the U.S., and Carter-Vickers offer more athletically than Ream and will no doubt be in contention to start alongside Zimmerman. 

Regardless of how much he plays, Ream should bring a calm, veteran presence to an otherwise overwhelmingly young U.S. team. He only played one match in qualifying, starting and performing solidly in the opener at El Salvador last September, but he seemed like a positive influence throughout that up and down first window, going as far as to get up off the bench repeatedly in the U.S.’s 1-1 draw with Canada in Nashville to offer instruction to different defenders. That’s a small thing, but World Cup rosters — and games — are often decided by fine margins. 

Ream’s inclusion is a great capstone to his career, as well. He made his debut for the U.S. all the way back in November 2010, before some of his teammates in Qatar had even turned 10, but wasn’t selected for the 2014 World Cup squad. Now, at 35, he’s set for what will likely be a lifetime highlight.

McKenzie will no doubt be feeling quite different. He was the center back left off the roster at the expense of Ream. He’s been playing quite well for Genk and, while he’s had a bit of a bumpy ride with the U.S., it seemed like a decent bet that he would make this squad.

In one way, it’s puzzling that he didn’t. Despite the unsettled nature of the position, Berhalter chose to only bring four center backs to the World Cup. He brought five fullbacks instead, even though Robinson and Sergiño Dest are likely locked-in as starters at those spots. Not included in those five fullbacks was Reggie Cannon, who has experience playing center back and could have provided depth in a pinch.That could loom large in what is a troubling position for the Americans. The U.S. center backs will have difficult tests at the World Cup, facing a Wales team that will include Gareth Bale in the opener, then a dangerous England attack spearheaded by Harry Kane, then an Iran team likely to include a trio of big-time forwards in Porto’s Mehdi Taremi, Bayer Leverkusen’s Sardar Azmoun and PSV’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh. If they falter, it’ll more than likely be a short stay in Qatar for the U.S.

USMNT World Cup 2022 squad

POSITIONPLAYERCLUBAGECAPS
GKMatt TurnerArsenal2820
GKEthan HorvathLuton Town278
GKSean JohnsonNYCFC3310
DEFAntonee RobinsonFulham2529
DEFJoe ScallyBorussia M’gladbach193
DEFSergiño DestAC Milan2219
DEFShaq MooreNashville SC2615
DEFDeAndre YedlinInter Miami2975
DEFCameron Carter-VickersCeltic2411
DEFAaron LongNY Red Bulls3029
DEFTim ReamFulham3546
DEFWalker ZimmermanNashville SC2933
MIDKellyn AcostaLAFC2753
MIDTyler AdamsLeeds United2332
MIDLuca de la TorreCelta Vigo2412
MIDWeston McKennieJuventus2437
MIDYunus MusahValencia1919
MIDCristian RoldanSeattle Sounders2732
MIDBrenden AaronsonLeeds United2224
FWDJordan MorrisSeattle Sounders2849
FWDChristian PulisicChelsea2452
FWDGio ReynaDortmund1914
FWDTim WeahLille2225
FWDJesus FerreiraFC Dallas2115
FWDJosh SargentNorwich City2220
FWDHaji WrightAntalyaspor243

A surprise at the No. 9

Over the last year there has been plenty of debate and speculation about which strikers Berhalter would bring to Qatar. For months, that was because none of the options were scoring with any regularity. Then, suddenly, it was because all of them were scoring.

After all that debate, Berhalter still somehow managed to surprise with his picks.

Most considered it to be a four-forward race for the final three spots: Jesús Ferreira, Ricardo Pepi, Josh Sargent and Jordan Pefok. In the end, two of those four did not make the roster. Berhalter opted instead to bring Haji Wright, who is in fine form in the Turkish Süper Lig, over both Pepi and Pefok.

Pefok started the season excellently with Bundesliga club Union Berlin, recording three goals and two assists in his first six appearances, but he’s fallen off more recently, not scoring in his last 10 games across all competitions. Berhalter confirmed on Wednesday that Wright, who has nine goals in Turkey this season, was taken over Pefok. Berhalter also noted that Belgium forward Michy Batshuayi has five goals this season in the Turkish league, four fewer than Wright.

“In this particular case we felt like Haji is in a great goalscoring form,” Berhalter said. “They’re both our physical strikers — Jordan, maybe a little more so, but Haji has pace, he’s got the ability to go one-v-one, he’s got finishing with his head, both feet, and he’s performing really well in the Turkish league.”

Pepi had a brutal goalless run from October 2021 through this September, but has rebounded nicely since he began his loan at Dutch club Groningen this fall, tallying five goals and two assists in eight appearances in the Eredivisie. He was also part of the U.S. squad in September and has been a consistent call-up since the start of qualifying; his exclusion was one of the biggest surprises. Berhalter said Pepi was in competition with Sargent and Ferreira for a role. He believed Sargent’s success in the more physical Championship would translate better against Wales and England than Pepi’s success in the Netherlands.

“These may not be the right choices, right?” Berhalter said. “These are the choices that we picked and you know, Ricardo Pepi could have a great argument for why he should be there and I can understand that argument. But we chose to bring three strikers and these are the three that we chose.”

The debate now pivots to which striker should start in Qatar. 

Berhalter has quite clearly favored Ferreira in the months leading into the tournament, but things have changed since the U.S. last met up in September. The FC Dallas forward had scored six goals in six games leading into that international window. Ferreira now heads into the World Cup having failed to score in his last five games of the season. He also hasn’t played since FCD was eliminated from the MLS playoffs on Oct. 23, though he did recently participate in a USMNT fitness camp with other out-of-season MLS players in Texas. 

Sargent has eight goals this season for Norwich, but he hasn’t scored since Oct. 15. The St. Louis-area native was able to get back into the picture with his strong early form in the Championship, however, and despite getting just 45 minutes across the two friendlies in September, he clearly did enough to show Berhalter he deserves a spot in Qatar.

Wright, meanwhile, is the hottest striker in the pool. The 6-foot-3 forward has scored in a variety of fashions recently. He has three goals from headers off crosses, found space with runs in behind the back line, has capitalized off of pressing and turnovers and has also netted two penalties. 

In tournament play, Wright should be able to bring something different than both Sargent and Ferreira: a target up top for more direct play who will also be valuable on crosses and set pieces. That style of striker could be particularly useful if the U.S. is in need of a goal late in a game. 

Steffen left off roster

The biggest surprise of the day wasn’t a player who is going to Qatar, it was a player left off the list.

Steffen, who had been the USMNT’s No. 1 for most of the last few years, was excluded entirely. The 27-year-old has a long history with Berhalter, playing for him in 2017 and 2018 with the Columbus Crew and starting under him 23 times with the national team. 

He missed a good number of matches in qualifying because of injury but, when healthy, he was typically the starter in the Octagonal round. Though Turner probably outperformed him in qualifying, Steffen never seemed completely out of the picture.

Steffen missed the June camp due to “family reasons,” however, and then was left out of the September camp. Despite taking several questions about Steffen, Berhalter did not directly address why he left him out of the picture except to say that he was comfortable with the goalkeepers he was bringing to Qatar.

“Me and Zack go way back, and Zack’s been there for me a bunch of times and to tell him he’s not going to be a part of the World Cup team was heartbreaking for me,” Berhalter said.

Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson were the two other goalkeepers who made the team ahead of Steffen. Berhalter said that Johnson has been an important member of the squad as a respected veteran. He noted that Horvath has shown an ability to step into games and perform at a high level — both for Nottingham Forest late in a promotion playoff last season and for the U.S. in the Nations League final in June 2021, when he entered as a sub and stopped a penalty against Mexico.

Notably, Berhalter did not commit to starting Turner in Qatar, citing the injury that he recently suffered with Arsenal as a potential hindrance to his making the XI against Wales. Turner missed th